For most people, buying a new guitar is a pretty big deal. It’s not something to be taken lightly.
You’re spending a pretty good amount of money on something you’re (ideally) going to be using to pour your heart and soul out, so finding the right instrument is crucial.
In today’s world, you can find just about anything you could ever want online and have it delivered to your front door within a few days – and even within hours in some places.
Long gone are the days of spending a few hours in a store talking to a salesperson to decide whether or not a vacuum cleaner is right for your home.
Now you can just get on Amazon, find the best deal, read some reviews, and have it in your home the next day, and the same is true for musical instruments.
If you’re not careful though, you could end up receiving your new guitar in less-than-desirable condition, and have to take it to a luthier for a setup (or repair in some cases), making your initial investment a little larger than expected
While this scenario is a pretty rare occurrence, it still happens. With that being said, I’m going to walk you through the best places to buy guitars online (new and used), so you know where to look, and can purchase your new guitar with confidence.
Table of Contents
- 10 Best Online Guitar Stores
- Is it better to buy guitars online or in a store?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Thoughts
10 Best Online Guitar Stores
- Guitar Center
- Sam Ash
- Musician’s Friend
- American Musical Supply
Sweetwater is arguably the best online store for all things music in the world. The company started out as a mobile recording studio in the back of Chuck Surack’s Volkswagen Bus way back in 1979.
He later began to establish himself as an expert in pro audio equipment and music production, and eventually became a musical instruments and gear retailer. Since then, Sweetwater has grown into one of the best, most reliable, and customer service-oriented music retailers in the world.
In terms of pricing, you won’t find much difference between any of the guitars from major manufacturers like Fender, Gibson, PRS, Taylor, etc.
On the other hand, you’ll find some variations in pricing when it comes to sales, payment plans, and combo deals. Sweetwater has several major sales throughout the year, with deals on specific items so make sure you keep an eye out -you might find something really cool that fits your budget!
The product variety is the name of the game in the world of music gear, and Sweetwater has a massive selection of everything for guitarists from the instruments themselves, to amps, to pedals. They cater to every musician, so even if you don’t play guitar, you’ll probably find something for yourself on Sweetwater.
I get excited when I start to talk about Sweetwater’s customer service. It’s easily the best in this business. Their sales representatives go through an intensive 13-week course in acoustic and electrical engineering, audio production, advanced recording techniques, and more before they ever speak to a customer.
Beyond that, the training is ongoing so they can keep up with new products and trends. So when you talk to a sales rep from Sweetwater, you’re actually talking to an expert.
Shipping is a big deal when you’re buying something as large as a guitar or an amplifier, so it’s amazing that shipping is free for just about every single product that Sweetwater offers.
Sweetwater also offers a 30-day no-hassle return policy, so you can get your money back if you decide that you don’t like whatever it is you purchased. The downside is that you have to pay return shipping, but it’s an even tradeoff!
2. Guitar Center
Guitar Center is the largest musical instruments retailer in the world, with 294 locations across the country. If you’re a guitarist, you’ve probably heard of Guitar Center even if you haven’t yet been to one.
As #2 on my list, Guitar Center offers just about everything that major guitar manufacturers produce – on top of their huge inventory of other items like drums, pro audio gear, DJ equipment, and more.
You won’t find much difference in pricing when it comes to major manufacturers, but Guitar Center always has promotional deals, so keep your eyes peeled for those!
Like Sweetwater (and most major musical instrument retailers), Guitar Center has an entire section of their website dedicated to used gear, so if you’re trying to buy a guitar online with a limited budget, be sure to check out the used gear section.
The biggest downside to Guitar Center is its customer service. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that bad. Sometimes it’s amazing!
But sometimes you end up speaking with someone who has no clue what they’re talking about. So the problem is simply inconsistency. So unless you have a gear-specific question, you’re likely to have a good experience.
Guitar Center doesn’t offer free shipping on everything like Sweetwater does, but they do offer free ground shipping on loads of items and will ship for free to a location near you – all you have to do is pick it up in the store.
When it comes to returns, Guitar Center is one of the best. They have a 45-day satisfaction guarantee, which allows you to return your newly purchased guitar without a problem (as long as it’s still in new condition).
What’s more, is that you can get around return shipping costs by simply returning the guitar to a Guitar Center location near you.
Overall, Guitar Center is one of the best, and you can certainly purchase a new guitar online from there with confidence!
zZounds is a relatively new musical instruments retailer. It was founded in 1996 and has since grown to become one of the best in the business. They offer guitars from many of the same major manufacturers as both Sweetwater and Guitar Center, and are becoming known for their impressive delivery times!
One pretty cool thing about zZounds is their lowest price guarantee. Not only will they offer a lower price than their competitors at the time of purchase, but if you purchase a new guitar from them and then find a better deal on that same guitar somewhere else within 45 days, they’ll refund you the difference!
They have one of the largest inventories in the business, so the only problem you’ll have while finding something you like will be when using their website – which is a little bit lacking in terms of search filters, but who would mind looking at more guitars anyway?
The zZounds customer service department seems to be the biggest issue with the company, as most people seem to have a negative experience, with long wait times and little help when finally getting someone on the phone.
When it comes to delivery times, you’ll likely find that zZounds provides some of the quickest. They have 4 warehouses across the country, allowing them to distribute orders in a timely manner, which is a major plus!
4. Sam Ash
If you’ve never heard of Sam Ash, you’re in for a treat. This company was founded in 1924, and is now the largest family-owned musical instrument retailer in the United States. Being family-owned, you can expect great customer service and consistent quality across the board.
Sam Ash offers a price-matching guarantee similar to that of zZounds. If you purchase a guitar (or any instrument) from them and find a better deal on the same instrument from a different vendor within 60 days of the date on your purchase receipt, Sam Ash will refund the difference.
You won’t find the same amount of variety as that of Sweetwater and Guitar Center, but Sam Ash is no small competitor when it comes to the quality of the instruments they’re selling.
At Sam Ash, you’ll find guitars from major manufacturers like Fender, Gibson, Gretsch, Schecter, and more – so you have plenty of high-level instruments to choose from.
Another great reason to shop at Sam Ash is their shipping prices. You’ll benefit from free shipping within the U.S. and on most orders over $49, and have 45 days to return any item if you’re not completely satisfied.
Alright, Amazon isn’t a musical instruments retailer, but they’re the largest online store in the world. You can purchase almost anything on Amazon, and that includes guitars! You may not find custom-shop guitars on Amazon, but it’s a great option if you’re in search of an entry-level instrument.
You’ll find that pricing will be similar to that of any of the previously mentioned online guitar shops, and shipping is guaranteed by Amazon – so you’re guaranteed to get your new guitar in a timely manner.
You almost certainly won’t get the same level of knowledgeable customer service from Amazon as you would from an online guitar shop like Sweetwater or Guitar Center, since many of the vendors selling guitars on Amazon are private vendors.
So if your order gets lost (hopefully not), it’ll be up to you to contact the private seller -which isn’t something I’d be comfortable with when buying a guitar online!
6. Musician’s Friend
Musician’s Friend was founded in 1983 and is currently owned by Guitar Center. That doesn’t make it the best place to purchase a guitar online though.
In fact, it isn’t a place I’d recommend purchasing a new guitar from at all. Most customers complain about customer service, and receiving their purchases in damaged or less-than-advertised condition.
They carry many of the same big brand names as the online musical instrument retailers mentioned above, but in my opinion, it’s not worth the risk of receiving your package and opening the box only to find your new guitar covered in scratches.
You’re probably better off just buying the same instrument from Guitar Center or Sweetwater.
Reverb is pretty new to online musical instrument sales, but don’t let that deter you. The online platform was founded in 2013 by David Kalt and has become arguably the best place for musicians of all types to find new and used gear at an affordable rate. The marketplace is made up of private sellers, boutique shops, and small retailers.
Because most of the guitars you’ll find on Reverb are used, they’re priced fairly, which can definitely save you some money. Another perk to buying on Reverb is having the opportunity to make an offer on an instrument you’re interested in purchasing.
A seller will post their asking price, but if you send them a message along with a fair offer, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to seal the deal.
Since Reverb is essentially an open marketplace, what you see is what you get when it comes to variety, customer service, and returns (most vendors don’t allow returns).
Overall though, if you’re not worried about your new guitar having a little wear and tear already, you should definitely check out Reverb!
Last but not least is eBay. You’re probably already familiar with this platform, so I won’t go into too much detail. This platform is always a good place to check and see what is available. You might find something you like, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get the best deal on it.
Many eBay sellers purchase their goods wholesale and mark up the prices in order to make a larger profit, and some use misleading advertising to make you think you’re purchasing something that you’re really not. So make sure you cross-reference with other websites to make sure you’re not getting ripped off.
I’ve sold many times and even purchased guitars and amps on eBay. By no means is it not a good place to find guitars online. Just tread lightly!
Is it better to buy guitars online or in a store?
A pretty obvious question that comes to mind is, “Is it okay to buy a guitar without ever having played it?” The answer is most certainly, “no,” but that’s why most places offer some sort of return/refund.
Online guitar vendors are musicians too, so they know the risk associated with buying a guitar online. It’s like taking a shot in the dark.
You can read every review out there, know all of the specifications, and watch video reviews to get an idea of how it sounds, but until that guitar is in your hands, you’ll have no real idea of how you’re going to like it.
A few years ago, I ordered a brand new acoustic guitar online through Guitar Center’s website to be picked up in the store. I did all of the research I could possibly do and decided that it was the best option to fulfill my needs at that price point. When I finally picked it up, I took it home, tuned it up, and began to play, but I felt that it was lacking something significant.
The next day, I took the guitar back to Guitar Center and browsed through the guitars in the acoustic guitar room, doing side-by-side comparisons, until I found one for half the price that sounded (easily) ten times better.
So buying online can be risky, as you can end up with something you don’t actually like, but you can’t beat the convenience of it.
Realistically, there’s a much more diverse selection of instruments online than what you’ll find in any physical store (except for Sweetwater’s one location), so finding something you can afford is easier, but finding something you truly love requires that you play the thing.
So if you buy online, make sure that you can return it for a refund if you don’t like what you bought. Guitar Center was kind enough to offer me a partial refund in store credit to make up for the less expensive, better-sounding guitar I ended up taking home.
My advice: if you can get the opportunity to play the guitar before purchasing it, do it! If you can’t, make sure you can return it for a refund.
Most places will gladly do this, but make sure to read the fine print – especially if purchasing a used instrument online.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Guitar Center A Good Place To Buy A Guitar?
Guitar Center is one of the best places to buy a guitar. They offer a huge selection with a 45-day return policy, meaning you can purchase with complete confidence. You can even get around return shipping by returning your online purchase to a Guitar Center location near you.
Is Sweetwater A Good Place To Buy A Guitar?
Sweetwater is a fantastic place to buy a guitar. While they only have one physical location, their online inventory is massive. You can easily find what you’re looking for through their online search filters, or speak with a highly knowledgeable, expert sales representative, who’s the best in the business.
Is Musician’s Friend Owned By Guitar Center?
Musician’s Friend was purchased by Guitar Center in the year 2000 and is still owned as a subsidiary of Guitar Center today.
Of all the online guitar shops I’ve talked about in this article, I would recommend using either Sweetwater or Guitar Center before anything else.
Deals come and go though, so don’t limit your search to just these two. There’s no reason not to check out every website on this list and decide which deal best suits your needs!