How to Sell Your Guitar

how to sell a guitar

I buy off of Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp and from people just bringing their guitars into our store to sell. I’m constantly amazed by two things –

  • Many sellers expect to get 80% or more of what their guitar would cost new.
  • Guitars being offered that are filthy, missing strings, etc.

How Much Should You Ask For Your Guitar?

The Used Guitar Pricing Formula

I typically price my guitars at 60%-70% of what the same model is selling for new, if the guitar is in good to excellent condition. It’s really difficult to justify more than 75% even if a guitar is like-new, since most buyers would rather pay a little bit more and have a never-been-played guitar with a manufacturer warranty.

If a guitar shop is selling at 60% of new price, what price would they buy at? Retail stores typically need to make forty percent markup on goods sold, to cover overhead and expenses. That means we’re buying at about sixty percent of what we can sell the item for.

So, if a guitar is selling for $500 brand-new, I can sell one that is in “Good” condition (average) at $300 (with warranty), so I’m probably buying at around $180 to $200 depending on the items popularity, color, etc. and how fast I think it might sell. About half of our guitar inventory takes a year or more to sell!

So the guitar you paid $500 for when new, if in average condition, would now sell for $300 at a retail shop and likely somewhat less selling from your home. It’s unlikely a customer would have the same confidence buying from someone’s house as a brick-and-mortar retail shop, especially one that offers a warranty with guitar sales.

That same guitar would bring $180 to $200 just by bringing it into our shop, giving us three minutes to evaluate it and putting green cash in your hand.

That means you should sell for $200 plus whatever it’s worth to you to go through the aggravation, time (selling your guitar can take months!) and risk of dealing with strangers, but probably not more than $275.

A great place to compare prices is Reverb.com. Their ads show “asking prices”, which is often not the actual price the item will sell at. If you join (membership is free) you’ll have access to actual sales price histories.

Keep in mind that Reverb offers buyers some protection and that sellers must ask more than they would take in-person because of Reverb’s fees.

Your local online markets may not be great places to get pricing ideas since many sellers are quite ignorant of guitar values and may end up selling for half of their ad’s asking price.

Is It REALLY Excellent?

Before you slap that price tag on your guitar, consider a couple of things. What you consider to be “Excellent” condition, may not meet others’ standards.

I see ads every week that go like, “Excellent condition, just a few scratches, a missing string and bent tuner key!”. On the condition scale, below “Excellent”, there’s “Very Good”, “Good” and “Fair”. Can you imagine what this person would consider “Good”?

Excellent Condition typically means Like-New except minor signs of use.

It can be hard to fairly evaluate the condition of a guitar you’ve owned, played and loved. But unless you want to be renewing your ad for months and months, it’s best to be honest with yourself. Describe the guitar honestly and price it fairly if you really want to sell it.

Clean It & String It!

It’s quite rare to encounter a guitar being sold that is clean and shiny, properly strung and in tune. Would you put your car up for sale without washing it? Without airing that low tire? Without making sure the battery wasn’t dead?

At our shop, we don’t mind at all if a seller brings a guitar that has a missing string or has a layer of dust. But an individual guitar buyer will. Players hate restringing their guitars! I have many gigging professional guitar players bring their guitars in every few months for restringing. So I would imagine that most individuals don’t relish the idea of dealing with missing strings either.

If you really want to sell your guitar, be sure it has all its strings, take the effort to tune the guitar so it will sound pleasant when your buyer strums it and for goodness sake – clean the dang thing!

Most solid-body guitars have a poly finish that cleans up nicely with bottled car polish with a cream consistency, such as Nu-Polish. For other finishes, I recommend a liquid spray wax. After either, buff the finish with a clean micro-fiber cloth.

To remove dust under strings, try a clean paintbrush. To polish the body of the guitar under the strings, use a flat, wood popsicle stick with a cloth wrapped around it.

Say C-H-E-E-E-S-E!

After cleaning and stringing, great photos are the best way to bring the buyers in. You need good lighting. Avoid reflections and glare. Have simple, plain backgrounds.

Look at other guitar listings on the sites you intend to post your ads to. Take note of the photos you like and those you don’t. Emulate the former and avoid the mistakes of the latter.

Post Your Guitar Ad

Exposure is important. Don’t just post in one place. I try to post my ads on Craigslist, Marketplace and OfferUp

Renew your ads as needed. Thursdays and Fridays are good times to post and renew.

Within minutes of posting your ad, you’re likely to receive responses that appear to be made from a generic template and possibly from someone who’s first language isn’t English. These are scammers. Do not respond. Beware!

Low-Ballers – you’re gonna get them! Your posted price is $300 and they’ll offer $80. Don’t fire off an expletive-filled tirade! It could have been a typo or maybe they thought they were responding to a different ad. Just say “No”. If they become annoying, block them. It doesn’t pay to make online enemies.

Let’s Sum It Up!

  • Evaluate the guitar’s condition fairly
  • Be realistic with your pricing
  • Have ALL the stings on the guitar
  • Make the guitar look as good as possible
  • Take great photos
  • Post

Are You SURE You Want To Do This?

Selling a guitar takes quite a bit of effort, time and, honestly, a bit of risk. Be sure you feel it’s really worth it. A quick trip to Hank’s Guitar Shop can save you from all the hassles of selling a guitar yourself.