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How to ship a guitar

Close-up of a woman's hand playing a guitar.

Whether you’re a touring musician gigging across the country or an acoustic enthusiast moving into your new dorm, you need your instrument to reach its destination in pristine condition. But the shipping challenges facing musicians can be daunting, especially if you play large, fragile instruments like guitars. To avoid cracks, splinters and even irreparable damage to your instrument, there’s a range of things to consider when learning how to ship a guitar for the first time.

Prepare your instrument for shipping

When you’re shipping a guitar, there are three elements that you need to consider: the instrument, the case and the box. First, let’s look at some of the ways you can protect the instrument itself.

  • Secure the instrument’s moveable parts. Begin by removing all the unnecessary parts, like the slide, capo and whammy bar. Basically, anything that doesn’t need to be in the case should go. This will help prevent scratches during transit, where loose objects have the potential to do serious damage.
  • Loosen the strings. You don’t have to remove the strings entirely—although if you’re shipping a guitar without a protective case you probably should—but detuning them a little will relieve some of the pressure from the headstock and reduce the risk of the strings snapping in transit.
  • Wrap the headstock. Covering the headstock with bubble wrap is an effective way of protecting the tuners from the case. You should also place a rubber band around the bubble wrap to keep it from coming loose while the guitar is in transit.
  • Place padding between the strings and the fretboard. By sliding a towel or a strip of folded newspaper between the frets and the strings, you can help keep them from smashing into each other during shipment.

Pack your guitar in an appropriate case

The right case is just as important as the internal packaging. When shipping a guitar, it’s always a good idea to pack the guitar inside its case, as this provides an extra layer of protection for the instrument.

  • Choose the right sort of case. Place your guitar in a hard, protective case, not a gig bag. While a gig bag can defend your instrument from some minor scratches when you tote it around, it doesn’t offer the same level of protection as a hard case during the more rigorous movements of shipping.
  • Fill in the holes around the guitar. Once you’ve packed your guitar in the case, there will naturally be a bit of empty space. You’ll want to reduce the chances of your instrument moving around inside the case during shipping by using cushioning material like bubble wrap or air cushioning to fill the gaps. It’s also important to pay attention to supporting the neck of the guitar, which can be easily damaged.
  • Do a “shake test.” Now that you’ve filled in all the empty gaps within the case, it’s time for a shake test. Gently shake the case, and if you hear any movement, you’ll know that you could still add a little more filling.

Choose the right outer packaging for your guitar

Finally, it’s important that you get the outer packaging—the box—right, as this is the first barrier against damage when shipping a guitar.

  • Choose a sturdy box. Make sure that you’re using the best outer packaging materials available for your instrument. If we assume that a guitar and case weigh around 12 lbs., the UPS® Packaging Advisor recommends shipping in a 200# or 250# burst strength box.
  • Fill the empty space. Just like you did for the case, you’ll need to fill in all the empty space within the box. Use at least two inches of inflatable air cushioning or bubble wrap as void fill, and ensure that the guitar case fits snugly within the box.
  • Do the final “shake test.” After you’ve sorted everything else out, it’s time for another “shake test”. Once again, if you hear the case moving around within the box, you need to go back and fill the gaps—foam planks are a good option for this. If you want to be extra cautious, you could even double-box your guitar case.
  • Seal the box with tape. After you’re satisfied that the case is secure within the box, it’s time to secure the box with packaging tape. Remember, it’s important not to use duct tape, masking tape or any other kind of tape.

If in doubt, turn to the experts at The UPS Store

For extra peace of mind, The UPS Store Certified Packing Experts® are here to help you pack and ship your guitar. Following established guidelines for packaging items, these shipping experts know exactly how to keep your instrument safe during transit.

 The UPS Store has a wide variety of shipping boxes available, so you can choose one that’s perfect for your needs. In addition, having The UPS Store Certified Packing Experts handle your packing and shipping qualifies it for the Pack and Ship Guarantee. This guarantees you automatic reimbursement of packing and shipping costs, as well as the declared value of the item, if the package is lost or damaged.*

For an extra layer of protection, all UPS shipments are automatically covered up to $100.** You can purchase additional Declared Value Coverage to equal the full replacement value of your shipment for a fee.

Want to find out more about shipping a guitar with UPS? Take a look at the UPS Packaging Advisor and discover exactly what packaging materials work for you. If you’ve followed these steps and your guitar is all packed and ready to go, you can ship now.


*Available at participating locations. See center for details. Restrictions and limitations apply. Items shipped by UPS are subject to UPS Tariff/Terms and Conditions.

**Subject to UPS Tariff/Terms and Conditions.

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