Buying Guitars On Ebay – A Guide

Ebay is a very popular place to buy musical instruments these days. A huge number of all the guitars for sale in the UK at any given time will be listed on eBay, from private sellers AND retailers – especially second hand instruments. Buying from eBay can be a great experience, but it can also have its pitfalls. I wanted to write a blog to look in detail at buying from eBay, and I’ll probably add to this blog as time goes by.

There are many ways that you can reduce your chances of having a deal go bad when buying on eBay. many of them are pre-emptive – things that you need to check before bidding. it’s easy to get carried away with eBay, but if you do a little homework you can usually separate the good sellers from the bad, and the dodgy guitars from the good ones. In no particular order, let’s first look at the things to check.

Ebay Seller Feedback

A good seller on eBay who doesn’t sell hundreds of items should have as close to 100% feedback as possible. Sure, if someone sells thousands of new items (envelopes or whatever) they are always going to pick up negative feedback as the post office or courier services will inevitable let them down eventually and buyers will want to have a moan about this. However, somebody who just sells used items a couple of times a month should be able to keep their feedback very close to 100% without great difficulty.

First, check how many buying and selling transactions a seller has got. many scam artists will buy a few cheap items to build up some feedback, and then sell a bogus high price item before doing a runner. Good things to look for include:

  • 100% positive feedback
  • Account that is more than a year old
  • Good amount of sales AND purchases

If you read through their feedback (both as a seller and buyer) you should soon be able to get an idea of what makes them tick. Try to get a feel about the person behind the account and use your gut feeling. if all seems well after a little reading and digging around, you’re probably okay.

Top Tip: Google their ebay user name – see if anyone is moaning about them online!

Ebay Listing Photographs

If you’re selling a complicated piece of hardware like an electric or acoustic guitar, any sane person would take as many pictures as possible (eBay allows 12 for free) to show the instrument from all angles, and to show any wear and tear that the instrument has. This is especially true for expensive instruments – proper guitar enthusiasts will always take lots of pictures. Less pics can only really be excused for cheap guitars – perhaps somebody is having a clearout or selling something when they don’t really know what it is.

If a guitar is less than £100, and has two pictures taken on a mobile phone, it’s not necessarily dodgy – perhaps just a sign of ignorance or inexperience. This could be a good time to take a punt and perhaps get a bargain. The same cannot be said when selling an expensive instrument. If somebody is listing a 90’s PRS or 80’s Ibanez JEM, any sane individual will post as many pictures as possible, and you shouldn’t be even looking at listings that don’t have this. Again – use your common sense. If you were selling a vintage Ferrari online you would take as many pictures as you could. If you’re selling a bog basic Ford Focus, you’d probably get away with less.

How and where the pictures are taken also has a bearing on the way I look at an ebay auction. If the pictures are high res, well lit and composed well I can already tell that the seller has put time and effort into the sale and is thus more likely to be genuine. Also, take a look at other things in the photos other than the guitar itself. What can you see? their house? Is it tidy? Well decorated? Nice furniture? All these things count.

Ebay Listing Wording

Now we get onto what the seller has to say, and many of the above points are true again here. Cheap instruments will probably have a simpler listing, especially if the seller doesn’t really know what they’ve got. More expensive instruments, especially vintage ones, should have as much explanation, history and background as possible. What the person writes about the guitar should effectively answer all of your possible questions – if there’s anything missing I would want to know why.

There’s also the issue of neatness of layout, spelling and punctuation. While I appreciate that not everybody is a master wordsmith, one giant long sentence in block caps with no full stops or commas isn’t going to make me want to part with £2000 for a guitar I’ve never seen.

Contact Details

A genuine seller with nothing to hide will provide contact details so you can give them a call and ask questions about the guitar. They will also offer to show you the guitar if you want to go and see it before you bid (it will help if it’s local of course). No genuine seller will really expect anyone to spend a significant amount of money without at least having the opportunity to see the guitar in the flesh before bidding or buying. Of course, the guitar may be too far away for you to go and see, but they don’t know this so it should be offered anyway.

Payment Options

This is where dodgy sales go sour. Con men will ask you to pay via bank transfer, Western Union and god knows what else, and the reasons for them asking this will often be rather convoluted – out of town at the moment, paypal account playing up etc. Don’t believe a word of it.

The ONLY two payment options I have ever offered or used are cash on collection or Paypal if buying unseen. I pay cash on collection because I’m confident I can spot a dodgy guitar when i see it, and so need no further financial protection once the deal has taken place. Paypal vie ebay for guitars bought unseen is excellent as it offers a degree of buyer protection that you won’t get from any other payment method. If you’re not adept at judging a guitar’s condition from a quick check, I would pay with paypal even if i’m collecting in person, as you’ll still then be covered under paypal’s buyer protection scheme.

Packaging of Posted Guitars

If you’ve bought a guitar over eBay I would strongly recommend you ask the seller how they intend to package the guitar up and send it out. I have seen so many horror stories where guitars have just been stuck in a bin bag with a bit of sellotape around it – people sometimes have no idea. if you’ve done your seller homework with all the above stuff you’ll probably have minimised the chance of buying from a complete muppet, but it still happens.

Remember: Couriers want to kill your guitar

Okay, not really. But they certainly don’t give much of a shit. trust me – that ‘Fragile’ tape? Don’t waste your time. Guitars get no special treatment, and however a guitar is packed needs to be pretty bulletproof, including a strong outer shell and then plenty of padding around the guitar.

A decent hardcase is a great place to start. I have sold guitars in a standard plastic shell case with no troubles before. I pack the guitar solidly inside the case using clean rags, and make sure that all contact points (headstock etc) are very well padded. This will stop the guitar from moving about in the case. Secondly, once the guitar is packed in the case properly I would then wrap the whole lot with a couple of layers of strong cardboard and tape it all up well. As I say, ask the seller how they’re going to package it. If it doesn’t sound good enough to you, tell them. Many sellers don’t have much packaging material to hand so will do a poor job under the assumption that you’re in a rush to get the guitar. Tell them they can have a little more time to get better packaging together if you think it needs it. In my experience, they will do a better job. of course, you are covered under paypal if it turns up broken, but if that guitar you want so badly is a one-of-a-kind, getting your money back won’t be much consolation if it ends of knackered.


Don’t let gear lust get in the way of common sense. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is…. Would you like any more cliches? Thought not. be careful out there. 🙂

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