The pandemic led to an explosion of hobbies and new home purchases, so you (or your company) might be at a connection between the two and wondering how to ship a guitar and amp. If that’s where you’re at, here’s our quick guide on the shipping process, how to protect your equipment, and keep on rocking.
A note on electric instruments
Electric guitars and amps are delicate, expensive equipment pieces that need to be packed with care. If you just put them in a box and ship them off thoughtlessly, shipping damages are inevitable. When shipping electric guitars and amps, it’s crucial to secure the equipment to restrict mobility and use the right dunnage and packing material. Some shipping services, like USPS, or DHL for international shipping, have or recommend adding special handling – ” fragile ” or ” handle with care ” stickers or labelling that can be affixed to the shipping box to signal that they need extra care.
You want to secure electronic components and exterior elements. Always review these for any equipment, whether you’re packing a table, laptop, or an electric guitar. Here, we’ll focus on things like protecting the frets and fingerboard, for example. So, to help you out, we put this guide together to pack and ship your electric guitar and amp.
How to pack and ship the guitar
There are two ways to ship a guitar: you can pack it in a hardshell case before securing it in a box or load it directly in your box. Cases are most common when you’ve got a set neck because of how fixed the musical instrument is. Some sellers also recommend cases when you need to detune the instrument, reducing the guitar neck strain.
When possible, ship in the hard case
A hard case makes your shipment heavier and can drive shipping costs up, but it’s still worth considering. A case provides an extra layer of protection against impact, protecting your electric guitar from damages; it’s almost as effective as the internal packing.
Here’s a quick rundown of how to pack your guitar inside the case:
- Use plain brown packing paper to fill empty spots between the electric guitar and its case to immobilize it during transit. The packing paper should fill the bottom, sides, and top of the case. If you don’t have packing paper on hand, newsprint or paper towels can do the trick.
- Slip paper or paper towels under the strings to protect your fingerboard and frets from dents and scratches.
- Use packing material like bubble wrap, and packing paper (or newsprint) to secure the peghead and protect it from impact. The headstock is vulnerable to whiplash during shipping, so it’s vital to secure it firmly in place. You can wrap it in bubble wrap and then use packing paper to pad the space between the case.
- Use packing tape to secure the bubble wrap and packing paper in place, where necessary.
Tip: When packing your electric guitar, loosening the strings reduces the risk of them snapping during transit. It also lessens the tension on the peghead.
Packing the box outside of the case
If you’ve secured the guitar safely inside a case, here’s a checklist to help you pack it in the box:
- Get the box dimensions right. Try to avoid oversized boxes, as they leave room for the guitar to move around and suffer from damage. At the same time, it’s also important to avoid using a box that’s too compact because the layer of protection is thinner than larger boxes, generally. If your guitar case is touching the box, consider using a larger container.
- Use suitable packing material. In general, brown Kraft paper works best, but you can use newspapers or bubble wrap too.
- Use the packing material in the right places. You want to start by lining the bottom of the box with crumpled packing paper and then lay the case inside. Then, fill in the remaining spaces with more packing material.
- Carefully pack around the entire instrument and under the strings. You may want to secure some infill around the pickups too.
How to ship a guitar without a case
If you aren’t shipping the guitar in its case, the general rules for packing it are the same. This is not recommended but sometimes happens in a pinch. If that’s the case, think about packing the guitar in two boxes. Follow the same step-by-step directions for your interior and exterior boxes:
- Pick a box with proper dimensions. The dimensions are even more critical if you’re not using a case because the guitar is more susceptible to impact damage.
- Create a protective bottom layer using packing paper.
- Secure the peghead using bubble wrap and packing material.
- Loosen the strings and slip packing paper under them.
- Fill the spaces between the box and the guitar using packing material, like brown Kraft paper.
Additionally, when shipping a guitar without a case, you should also:
- Consider using foam padding, which is expensive, but it helps protect the headstock and fretboard.
- Wrap your electric guitar in bubble wrap, and double wrap the headstock. You should still use packing paper to fill the spaces, but wrapping the guitar helps protect it.
- Consider double boxing the guitar as an added layer of security. If you choose to double-box, the principles for packing are the same: the guitar should not move inside the box, and the first box should be immobile inside the second.
Use packing material to prevent movement
When packing your guitar, it’s crucial to restrict mobility—both for the guitar itself and its case. Otherwise, during transit, your guitar might move around and suffer from impact damage.
To make sure your guitar doesn’t move around, use enough packing material to cushion it thoroughly. A good rule of thumb is to build a 2-inch cushion between the guitar/case and the box, using packing material like crumpled Kraft paper or bubble wrap. After packing your guitar (with or without a case), you can use the “shake test” to ensure it is adequately secured. This test involves shaking the box to check that the guitar doesn’t move around as the name gives away.
Avoid using packing peanuts to ship guitars as they generally do not provide enough support and may also get lodged into hard to remove places.
Where to find boxes to pack guitars
Finding boxes to pack your guitar in is easy. You can order them off eCommerce marketplaces or ask carriers or your preferred shipping company for the boxes that their stores have. The more commonly available guitar boxes are long, narrow, rectangular packages. However, you can also find boxes that are more specific to a guitar’s design. These boxes are usually triangular.
How to pack and ship the amp
Packing and shipping the amp (and guitar accessories such as: tuners, capos, a whammy bar) follows a similar procedure to the electric guitar. You need to:
- Pick a box with the correct dimensions. Again, be sure to avoid using oversized boxes or ones that are too compact. You need to leave enough room for cushioning, but too much space can lead to damages in transit.
- Secure the amp with protecting packing material. Consider covering the amp in bubble wrap and using packing tape to secure the wrap for extra protection. Afterward, you can use crumpled Kraft paper (it’s cheap and practical) to fill the bottom of the box before placing the guitar inside.
- After placing the amp inside, fill in the empty spaces with crumpled Kraft paper, and add some more on top before closing the box. Finally, secure the box with packing tape.
If you don’t have Kraft paper on hand, you can use newspaper instead. You might want to use an extra layer of bubble wrap, though, to offer enough protection.
Restrictions on hazardous materials
Some amps have lithium-ion batteries that power their onboard electronics because the batteries are powerful and rechargeable. However, lithium-ion batteries contain flammable substances that make them a hazard. Products that contain lithium batteries with a capacity of over 100wh (watt-hours) incur a hazmat fee, but amp batteries generally don’t have a capacity nearly this high. So, in that case, you just need to include a “hazard” warning on the box.
If the battery is damaged in transit, it can catch fire or even explode. Thus, lithium-ion batteries are a Class 9 hazardous material. So, if you’re using a 3PL to ship a lithium-ion battery amp, you may have less risk and better protection because experts are managing this concern for you.
Additionally, it’s essential to talk to your 3PL provider before the amp arrives at their warehouse. That ensures we know and protect your product, meet the strictest standards for storage, and always ship your goods appropriately.
How to find the right carrier / shipper
The shipping rates you pay will depend on the carrier you choose, the shipping distance, the parcel dimensions, the actual and dimensional weight, and whether you’re paying a discounted price. Red Stag Fulfillment has shipping discounts with major carriers for heavy and bulky items, which often applies when thinking about how to ship a guitar and amp.
Electric guitars generally weigh around 8lbs, although you can find lighter ones for 6 lbs. and heavier ones for 12 lbs. Additionally, if you’re shipping guitars in hard cases, the case can add up to another 4 lbs.
To get an idea of carrier costs, let’s consider a hypothetical electric guitar inside a hard case with a combined weight of 12lbs. Now, let’s pack the imaginary guitar in a long box with dimensions of 20 x 8 x 50. Then, plug the dimensions and actual weight in the Red Stag dimensional weight calculator. As you can see, FedEx and UPS charge more for the first few shipping zones. However, after Zone 4, shipping a guitar USPS charges significantly more. Why the stark difference?
The prices vary because USPS’s dimensional weight (DIM) policy is different from that of FedEx and UPS. FedEx and UPS bill your guitar according to its DIM weight or actual weight, whichever is larger. USPS only considers the actual weight for Zones 2-4 and then also factors in dimensional weight for Zones 5-8.
For Zones 2-4, USPS is charging according to 12lbs, but the carrier bills you for a 49lbs package for Zones 5-8. So, the “best” carrier depends on multiple factors, including weight and desired service. That’s why carrier diversification is vital for fast-growing eCommerce businesses.
It is also worth noting that when shipping a rare and very expensive guitar, it could be worthwhile to seek out specialty courier delivery services that specialize in transporting luxury and expensive items. Collectible guitars, such as Eric Clapton’s “Blackie” can easily be valued at nearly a million dollars, and warrant additional care and security than usual.
How Red Stag makes beautiful shipping music
Electric guitars are delicate, expensive products, so it’s essential to pack and ship them with great care. However, that can quickly get expensive when trying to do it yourself. If you’re selling instruments, we can help you learn more about packing delicate items or finding the right partner to secure your instruments.
Whether you want to learn how to ship a guitar, an electric bike, or other cool electronics, reach out to an experienced 3PLs like Red Stag. Our experts guarantee secure, safe, and reliable logistics support. As seasoned fulfillment experts, we also know how to ship your products at the lowest rates.
For the utmost peace of mind, if you need any more information about safely shipping electric guitars and amps or need expert advice, give us a call. We’d love to help.