This guide will provide you with a quick list of do’s and don’t when buying/selling/trading guitars online.  I have personally done hundreds of deals without getting scammed online.  Surprisingly, the only deal I’ve had go sour was when I bought a guitar locally and it turned out to be fake.  If I had bought it online, I could have done a PayPal dispute to get my money back, but such is life.

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Let’s Talk About Trades…
For the most part…don’t do them. Too much headache and almost never worth the risk. I only do trades with guys I have known for years and done a few deals with in the past.  The problem with trades is that you have no recourse if something goes wrong.  Sure you can report the guy that stole your guitar to his local police department, but they are unlikely to do anything and taking legal action usually costs more than the guitar involved in the trade.

Buying Guitars Online:
• Ask any and all questions you have up front. Ask for as many pictures as you need to feel comfortable about the transaction.  That being said, if you aren’t a serious buyer, don’t waste the seller’s time and ask for a million pictures, then proceed to tell him you’ll have the money next week.

• Follow up with references that people give you. People have used me as a reference before even though I have never done a deal with them – not acceptable!

• Research the seller. How? Google their name in quotations, followed by their state or the word “guitar.”  You’ll be surprised by what shows up with a quick Google search.

• Get as much of their personal information as possible. If something goes wrong, you have more recourse that way. Make sure you get the seller’s address & phone number plus consider taking the time to verify both. Take a peek at their friends list or people who have Liked their profile picture, and see if they look legitimate.

• Always use PayPal when possible as a buyer, it is the safest way to make a purchase online. Do not use PayPal gift. This voids PayPal Protection. When paying for something using PayPal, fund the actual transaction using a credit card. That way, if PayPal protection fails, you can do a charge-back via your credit card company.

Selling Guitars Online:
• Try to take bank wire if possible. If someone pays via bank wire, do not ship until the wired money actually lands in your account. Once money from a wire lands in your account, there is no way to reverse the transaction.  This is usually the only way I do deals worth $5000 or more.  Unless you are an established/reputable seller getting someone to pay you via bank wire may be difficult.

• If accepting payment via PayPal, make sure the buyer’s address is confirmed.

• Research your buyer using the methods outlined in the above section.

• If the buyer is someone who doesn’t seem like they should be buying what they are, do not do the transaction. This has saved me many times from scammers. For example, is some guy working at McDonalds living in a sketchy part of town really going to have $6800 to buy your PRS Private Stock?  Probably not.  Now, if they want to pay you via bank wire, where they literally can’t scam you, then let them. Otherwise, tell them no politely.

•Do not accept PayPal gift. You lose PayPal charge-back protection as a seller.  This is the number one way I see people fall for scams when selling a guitar.

• If you ship an item without proper insurance because the buyer asked you to under-declare, the onus is on you according to PayPal. For example, “Ken” the buyer, asks a seller to ship him a guitar and declare it as only being $600 to avoid tax when the guitar is really worth $3800.  The seller accepts and ships the guitar, but the guitar arrives damaged due to the shipping company’s mishandling. Instead of taking responsibility for trying to avoid taxes, Ken files a PayPal dispute and now the seller is in trouble. Do NOT ship with little to no insurance even if the buyer asks for it!  Don’t forget, it is also illegal to underdeclare items when shipping them, so don’t do it.

• Last, but most definitely not least…make sure you ship with tracking AND the signature option, or else the buyer can claim they never received the item and do a charge-back/dispute. You will lose the dispute.

Have your own tips for buying and selling guitars online?  Please share them below in the comment section.  Also, if you’re looking to nab a new guitar, or get rid of one you don’t play anymore, then check out our Gear Exchange on Facebook:

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