Buying Guitars Online (Acoustic & Electric) – Tips from a Pro!

Updated on by Ross McLeod | Please note that there may be affiliate links on this page.

With so many options available to musicians looking to buy a guitar online, it can seem like a minefield sometimes. Once you’ve identified your new axe, it’s important to ensure that you’re getting the best deal and service available.

A self-confessed guitar addict, I’ve bought my fair share online over the years. Some of my experiences have been unanimously positive, and some left a lot to be desired. In this guide, I’ll share my knowledge I’ve gained through these experiences to save you the hassle and ensure that you get the best deal possible.

Sweetwater – the Gold Standard

When you buy a new guitar, several requirements must be met by the retailer. Some of the most important in my opinion are:

  • Expert knowledge
  • Detailed descriptions
  • Quick and efficient customer service
  • Willingness to answer any questions
  • Authentic customer reviews
  • Video demonstrations of the instruments
  • Competitive pricing

In my experience, the only online retailer that ticks all of these boxes is Sweetwater. That’s not to say there aren’t decent alternatives out there, but Sweetwater’s combination of expertise, pricing, and excellent customer service is unrivaled.

Their quality service isn’t just limited to guitars either. With an extensive range of instruments, effects pedals, recording equipment, and accessories, you can find anything you need on their website.

Video Demos

One of the best things about Sweetwater is the quality of video demonstrations they offer. Being able to see a guitar in action before you buy is of paramount importance, especially if you haven’t been able to play it in a store.

When I first delved into Sweetwater’s comprehensive range of videos, I was blown away by the level of detail and expertise offered. They feature credible musicians explaining the pros and cons of each guitar, with clear demos to help you make the right decision.

Not only are the videos useful for making your choice of which guitar to purchase, but I also found them to be quite educational. There are videos covering the history of certain manufacturers and the processes that go into producing world-class guitars.

Meeting All of Your Guitar Requirements

Another thing that sets Sweetwater apart from the competition is their commitment to making sure your guitar is in perfect condition and ready to play as soon as it arrives. They offer a free 55-point inspection for guitars over $299.

I’ve ordered guitars before from other sellers and been disappointed to find that I had to set them up before I could start playing.

Sweetwater takes care of it all for you. Firstly, they ensure that the action is perfect so that the guitar is comfortable to play. They test the pickups and all of the onboard switches too.

Once all of the electronic components have been tested and they are satisfied with the results, Sweetwater then makes sure that the tone and volume controls are working fine. You can expect your guitar to arrive ready to be plugged in right away.

Accurate Listings

In the age of purchasing instruments online, product descriptions are highly important. If you’re a guitar nerd like me, you’ll want to know the fine details of the instrument before buying.

Sweetwater lists the exact weight of your chosen model, dimensions, the combinations of woods used to construct the guitar, and the serial number so you can do your research.

There are usually a few detailed paragraphs written by the expert Sweetwater engineers, discussing what they like about each guitar. These writings cover everything from the dimensions, materials, and specialized features.

Display

As I previously stated, Sweetwater has a massive range of videos about specific guitars that demonstrate the capabilities and qualities of the instruments. Their attention to detail is carried over into their photographs, too.

With high-resolution pictures of all the guitars they sell, you can get close-ups on every section of the axe. These photos are taken from various angles to ensure that what you see is an accurate representation of the instrument.

Customer Service

When buying an acoustic or electric guitar, it’s natural to have some questions before committing to the purchase. With so many makes and models to choose from, it can be difficult to know the differences between them all.

Sweetwater’s team of experts is always on hand to answer any guitar-related queries you may have. There’s the option of emailing them, contacting by phone, or simply using live chat on their website.

In my experience, Sweetwater’s staff has always been more than happy to talk about an item I’m thinking of purchasing. They’re not pushy, and you can tell they have the ethos of really caring about musicians and making sure you get the right guitar and gear for your needs.

Warranty

It’s common for most online guitar manufacturers to offer some form of warranty, but sometimes it’s sold to you as an add-on and the small print can be deceptive. This is not the case with Sweetwater, though.

Their generous warranty policy covers you for 2 years – even if the manufacturer’s standard warranty is less than that. There’s no extra cost and they are very reasonable with the type of damage that your guitar is covered for.

The peace of mind provided by a good warranty package is essential when buying a new guitar. You want to be able to play it without constantly being paranoid about it malfunctioning or breaking due to wear and tear.

Customer Reviews

Because Sweetwater is run by musicians, it seems to be a place where dedicated musicians go to buy their instruments. This is reflected by the large number of genuine customer reviews that are listed with the guitars.

Reviewers on Sweetwater seem to go into real detail when stating their opinions on guitars and other instruments. I’ve personally gained some valuable knowledge by reading through the reviews, so much so that they have impacted my choice of purchase on occasion.

Shipping

Sweetwater’s shipping service is also impressive. They offer free shipping with no minimum purchase, unlike some other retailers who convinced you to spend more to get qualify for discounted delivery.

Most of the items are shipped first class, and are trackable. They usually arrive within a couple of days.

There are also a number or custom shipping options, such as FedEx Hold at a location of your choice, and next day deliveries for a small cost. You can check the status of your order on the Sweetwater website, and their customer service team are always on hand to answer any deliver related questions.

Alternatives to Sweetwater

As I’ve already stated, after years of shopping around for guitars I decided to use Sweetwater exclusively. If I had to recommend another online retailer, I’d suggest zZounds.

Although Sweetwater offers better service, in my opinion, zZounds are also a reputable guitar supplier. They don’t go above and beyond as Sweetwater does, but they do have a good range of guitars and decent customer service.

Dedicated Music Gear Retailers vs. Amazon

It’s common for people to use Amazon to buy just about everything nowadays, and although there’s no denying their qualities in many fields, I’d recommend steering clear from them when it comes to buying guitars and other musical equipment.

The reason for this is that they aren’t dedicated solely to instruments, so the items they sell are scattered. There are no detailed video product descriptions as there are on Sweetwater’s website, and their staff is not specifically trained on the subject of guitars.

It’s also common that guitars and musical instruments arrive from Amazon without being properly set up. They directly ship the boxes that they receive from the manufacturers. Again, this is because their staff isn’t experts in the field, so it’s up to you to get your guitar ready to play.

Dedicated music gear retailers are specialists. They have to go through certain levels of training to make sure they can answer any questions you may have about guitars, whereas Amazon relies mainly on their customer reviews, which are unreliable at the best of times.

Summary

When you’ve identified a few guitars that you are considering purchasing, you want to know that you’re getting the best deal possible. Sweetwater has long-standing relationships with the major manufacturers and ensures the lowest prices possible.

The fact that many top manufacturers are willing to endorse Sweetwater speaks volumes of the quality service that they offer. You only have to check out their YouTube channel to see the vast array of interviews, product reviews, and informational content they provide.

It’s that dedication to helping musicians that, in my option, put them head and shoulders above the competitors when it comes to buying guitars online. Sure, there are other good options, but they don’t seem to have that level of expertise.

I always encourage musicians to make up their minds, but this article has stated my opinion based on years of experience. It’s worth heading over to the Sweetwater website to see for yourself.

Whatever supplier you choose, I hope you find the perfect guitar that will be a trusted companion for many joyous years!

Ross McLeod

About Ross McLeod

Ross McLeod is a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer. His most recent project is named Gold Jacket, and he is the frontman and bassist of the garage rock band The Blue Dawns with whom he has released 4 EPs and toured extensively.

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