If you’re like most musicians, you’re probably always keeping an eye out for the latest and coolest gear. Also if you’re like most musicians, you probably can’t afford to have all the gear you want.
We all do it, so don’t be ashamed… Sometimes you just have to make a few sacrifices to upgrade your rig. That means selling your old gear!
It can become a serious headache though, posting classified ads or even asking around to see if anyone is interested. And even when you do find a potential buyer, they usually try to hit you with a low ball offer to trade you something you don’t even want.
That’s when you may start to think — “does Guitar Center buy guitars and used gear?”. The answer is, yes! It’s a quick and easy way to make some cash or get store credit for your next guitar, bass, or amp.
But how much can you really get for your gear, and will it be worth it? After all, they will want to make money off of it too when they eventually resell it. Let’s take a look at what to expect from a Guitar Center trade-in.
Table of Contents
- Guitar Center Trade in – Will They Buy Your Gear?
- Selling Guitars to Guitar Center
- Does Guitar Center Pay Well for Used Gear?
- How Can I Make Sure I Get a Good Offer?
- Is It Wise to Buy Used Gear from Guitar Center?
- Should I Trade in My Gear at Guitar Center?
Guitar Center Trade in – Will They Buy Your Gear?
You may be wondering if GC will even want the gear you’ve got. Most of the time the answer will be yes, but there are some exceptions. They’re not interested in anything that’s broken, so leave your Les Pauls with broken headstocks at home.
There are some items that could be too big, cumbersome, or otherwise just too difficult to sell. Among these are large instruments such as full-size pianos or upright orchestral basses.
Likely due to sanitary reasons, they also won’t buy any wind instruments. Custom stuff like the rack mount system you put together, large mixing boards, or even MIDI switchers are also going to be really difficult to sell.
In most cases, parts (like pickups or amp casters) and stuff like drum hardware will make it to the “no” list as well. If you’ve got some really choice drum hardware you may be able to get by, but be prepared to get pennies on the dollar for what you paid for it.
What Guitar Center WILL buy are all your fully functional guitars, basses, keyboards, amps, pedals, acoustic and electronic drums, and most other similar items. You can also bring in microphones or studio monitors, and even PA systems or DJ gear, so long as it’s in good shape.
For more details about Guitar Center’s trade-in process, check out this dedicated page on their website.
Selling Guitars to Guitar Center
If you’re thinking about selling your guitar to Guitar Center, here’s everything you might want to know.
Does Guitar Center Buy Guitars?
Yes, absolutely. Guitar Center does buy used guitars, other instruments and gear, as long as they’re in a working condition. The trade-in process at Guitar Center for used guitars and gear is usually quite smooth.
I’ve personally sold around half a dozen used guitars in 2 different Guitar Center locations. They’re generally open to buying all types of guitars (electric, acoustic and even classical), provided they’re in a good, playable condition.
I’ve sold anywhere between $300 Epiphones to $1.5K PRS guitars. The overall experience was smooth, but of course, you can’t expect top dollar compared to taking the hassle of selling the guitar yourself to another willing buyer. And that brings me to…
How Much Does Guitar Center Pay for Used Guitars?
First, you need to understand the motivation of Guitar Center to even be willing to accept your used guitars. It’s not like the owners or employees would snap up a good deal from you and start playing it themselves!
Their basic business model involves buying second-hand guitars (and other instruments) at a price that’s lower than the current market price for the same equipment in the direct (consumer-to-consumer) second-hand market.
You can expect anywhere around 20-50% lower prices compared to what you’d get if you tried selling it to an interested buyer yourself.
You can browse the current price of the used version of your guitar across used guitar marketplaces like Reverb and Facebook Marketplace to get a better idea of its actual worth. Based on that, you can try negotiating a bit with the GC staff with the hope of getting a better price for it than what they offered initially.
Does Guitar Center Pay Well for Used Gear?
You’ll obviously want to get top dollar for your old gear. Who wouldn’t? But this is where things get a little strained when trading in at Guitar Center. There are two options for you — sell outright for cash or opt for store credit.
To cut right to the chase concerning cash vs store credit — if you’re planning on buying another piece of gear at the store (like that sweet MusicMan hanging on the wall), go for the store credit.
You will usually be able to get a little more in-store credit OR they will have a discount for you on your new item. Either way, you’ll be getting a little more for your trade this way, so it’s definitely worthwhile if your plan is to upgrade in store.
If you plan on just selling for cash, make sure the gear is not too expensive. Guitar Center will only pay up to $1,000 in cash, and that’s if there’s even that much in the store. Your local store may even have a different policy and a lower limit, so make sure you ask about it upfront.
Even if they can offer $1,000 on the spot, you may have to take store credit on top of that if your gear is worth more.
Instruments and Amps
Guitar center trade in prices will depend a lot on what kind of gear you’re selling. Guitars, basses, amps, and drums are going to be the easiest to get a decent amount of cash for. They are easy inventory to move and are really the bread and butter of Guitar Centers sales.
Bringing something like this in is easy, and one of the staff will help you out in figuring out how much they can offer you.
Wondering how you arrive at the dollar amount for your old gear? Let’s say a guitar just like yours is selling on Reverb for $500 used. Guitar center researches that when you present your gear to them to trade. They look at what the items have SOLD for, not what they’re listed for, so keep that in mind when doing your own research beforehand.
Once the clerk checks a few different places to get an idea of the guitar’s value, they’ll generally offer 50%. Your $500 guitar just dropped to $250. At this point, you can see if you can haggle a bit, but depending on the clerk and the gear you may not get far.
This is a pretty general rule of thumb for most instruments and amps, but at the time this is being written, prices of literally everything (used AND new) have gone up substantially.
If the walls of your GC look bare, you may have some extra leverage. If they don’t have anything at all to sell, they’re definitely not making money. They may opt to make LESS money on your gear, rather than none at all.
Digital keyboard workstations are a bit of a special breed. Since technology is continually evolving, and companies keep coming up with new ways to add features to their products, keyboard workstation values are almost entirely dependent on how new they are.
True analog synthesizers are less affected by this, but even they will lose value to their newer counterparts until the circle completes and they become “vintage”.
Pedals and Other Small Electronics
Selling stuff like pedals, small mixers or other electronic items will yield even less money, unfortunately. Since a lot of times some of these items aren’t terribly expensive to begin with, most people opt to buy new.
This makes it harder for Guitar Center to resell the item in question. Naturally, they’ll offer less money for it, since it may be sitting on the shelf for a while before someone else scoops it up.
There’s a separate process in place for special vintage gear. Guitar Center has a special form on their website, where you can tell them about the piece of gear you’re looking to sell.
It’s probably a good idea to have some kind of documentation backing up your vintage stuff, they’ll likely want to confirm it’s legit.
Since all vintage gear is different and the prices can vary wildly, it’s difficult to say what GC may offer for your specific piece. Make sure you research what its true value is, and prepare yourself to be offered less than that.
Again, GC wants to make money off your gear, and the real advantage to you is the ease of the selling process.
How Can I Make Sure I Get a Good Offer?
Bear in mind that for your big-ticket items (guitars, amps, etc) the offers will almost always start around 50%. But there are a few ways you can give yourself room to try and drive that number upward.
Just like when you go to trade in a car, you want to make your gear as presentable as possible. Make it look new! Clean up your guitar and throw some fresh strings on it. Get the dust out from between the pickups. Wipe that coffee mug stain off the top of your amp, or maybe tighten up that loose screw for the handle.
Similarly, make sure your guitar or bass is set up nicely and plays well. Don’t forget, they’re going to test it out! If the control pots are scratchy when you turn them, spray some electronics cleaner in there to clean them up. DON’T do this on an amp unless you really know what you’re doing! There’s a lot of high voltage stuff inside.
For keyboards, reset the whole system and presets to factory defaults, so there’s a clean slate. The main point overall, for ANY item, is that it appears to be as close to “out of the box new” condition as possible.
Is It Wise to Buy Used Gear from Guitar Center?
By now, it should be clear to you that Guitar Center only accepts products in perfect working condition as part of their trade in program. They won’t accept anything more serious than minor cosmetic dings and scratches.
As a buyer, this is good news for you, especially if you’re concerned about the reliability of used instruments and gear.
Again, another point that I already discussed above comes at play here – that is the premium they charge for reselling gear. The used gear prices at Guitar Center tend to be at least around 10-20% higher than what you can usually find offline through direct sellers or on places like Reverb.
So, at least price wise, unless it’s a pretty hard to find item, I’d avoid buying second hand from Guitar Center. But if it’s something that really caught your eye and isn’t readily available elsewhere, feel free to give it a shot!
Should I Trade in My Gear at Guitar Center?
For many, the convenience of a trade-in at reputable stores like GC and Sam Ash far outweighs the extra money they may get by selling it themselves.
You can decide to get rid of what you have (for either cash or an upgrade), take it to the store, and make the transaction all on the same day. Compare this to weeks of waiting and responding to shady emails if you sell the gear yourself.
Then again, you may want to make sure you get as much value as you can from what you’re selling. If you don’t mind waiting (and doing the legwork it involves) it would definitely be worth it to get the extra cash. You could walk away with 25-50% more than what you’d get by selling it to Guitar Center.
So, you have two questions to ask yourself. Do you want to do the extra work of selling your gear yourself? And, more importantly, what kind of gear are you going to UPGRADE to?