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Shipping a bass guitar does not have to be complicated or overly expensive. It can however become a major headache if you go about it the wrong way. Among the most common reasons for this are instrument damage, overpriced shipping options, and unhelpful insurance policies.
Luckily, these issues can mostly be avoided if you ship your bass the right way. At the very least, you can ensure that you are never liable if your bass gets lost or damaged during shipping, and minimize the chance of this happening in the first place.
This guide will teach you how much shipping a bass will cost, and what you should consider a fair price. You will also learn how to safely pack your instrument prior to shipping. Lastly, you will learn whether it`s worth insuring your bass, and what carriers are best suited for shipping bass guitars.
How much does it cost to ship a bass?
Depending on travel distance and carrier choice, shipping a bass guitar generally costs $30-$125 within the US. Shipping costs will greatly increase for overseas, express, or overnight shipping, with these services generally costing $200-$700.
For regular ground shipping, cost-effective carriers will commonly charge between $50 and 70$. If you ship the bass from coast to coast within the US, the cost can get upwards of $125.
However, there are several other factors than travel distance that can significantly bump up the cost of shipping.
Depending on how your bass is packaged, it is likely to be slightly smaller or slightly bigger than what carriers consider an oversized package. For example, shipping a 51″ package could easily cost $100 more than a 49″ package, if the carrier has set the limit for oversized at 50″.
Related reading: Why are Basses so Long?
Therefore, you want to see what guidelines the carrier you intended to use has prior to packing your bass for shipping. Luckily, most mainstream carriers have shipping calculators, that you can use to estimate this.
How quickly you want the bass delivered will also significantly impact the cost of shipping.
I used the FedEx calculator linked above to estimate the cost of shipping a bass from California to Texas. Ground shipping estimated the package to be delivered in 5 days, with a cost of $89.22. However, standard FedEx overnight delivery had a cost of $594.14. Having the bass delivered the morning of the next day was estimated to cost $638.46.
USPS estimated a cost of $94.55 for shipping the same package, with the bass arriving 1 day later than with FedEx. Their fastest delivery option was a 2-day delivery, which was estimated to cost $320.35.
Thus, if you are selling your bass, fast shipping options can quickly cut into your profits.
How to pack a bass for shipping
It is preferable to pack a bass inside an instrument case when preparing it for shipment. The case should be further packed inside a cardboard box. There should be no moveable parts within the case nor within the cardboard box, and no noticeable rattle when lightly shaking it.
Preparing a bass for shipment is not hard, but it is important that you go about it the right way. Here are the materials you are going to need:
- Packing paper – It is best to use paper that is specifically intended for packing. Using paper that has ink or other materials printed on it can end up staining the bass during shipment.
- Packing tape – Similar to the paper, it`s preferabe to use a packaging tape. This packaing tape is designed to keep big cartons compact and secured. Using this type of tape also ensures that you comply with your carriers guidlines for secure packaging.
- Cardboard Box – It is ideal to pack your case in a cardboard box that is just big enough to fit it. Thus, meassure the length, high and width of your case prior to purchasing a box. Shipping boxes can generally be found at post offices, music stores, or online through the link above. Alternatively, a carrier will generaly provide the box if they do the packaging.
Now that you got your materials, follow these steps to securely pack your bass:
- Loosen strings – First, loosen the strings on your bass to alleviate some of the tension on the neck. It is sufficient to tune the bass down about a half step to a whole step.
- Secure moving parts – Then, secure or remove any loose parts on the bass. This might for example be a somewhat loose tailpiece or pickup switch. Some basses will not have any loose parts at all.
- Secure neck – Place a long piece of packaging paper between your strings and your fretboard. This way, the strings will not file into the neck during shipment.
- Add packing paper – Ensure that your bass is surrounded by packing paper in a compact manner. Be especially mindful of the headstock and the neck-joint where the neck and body of your instrument meet. The bass should not rattle at all when you lightly shake the case if this has been done correctly.
- Secure the case – Put the case inside the cardboard box and make sure it is not able to move inside it. Depending on how well the case fits within the box, you might need to use a good bit of packaging paper. Make sure that there is sufficient amounts of paper above and on both sides of the bass. Again, you can tell whether the bass has been secured properly by lightly shaking the box to hear whether it rattles.
- Tape the box – Lastly, tape the box shut using package tape. Make sure that every slot on the box is taped tightly with multiple layers of tape. Aim to make the box as compact as possible without pushing the slots down.
You also want to make sure that the box is marked as fragile, and that it has clear arrows that mark which side is up. Also, make sure that any previous shipping labels are removed if there are any.
Is it safe to ship a bass guitar?
Given that a bass guitar is securely packed prior to shipping, it is relatively safe to ship the instrument. However, as there always is a risk for any type of cargo to become damaged or lost during shipment it is a best practice to insure the bass guitar prior to shipment.
It is rare for properly packaged basses to be damaged or lost during shipping. However, there is always a certain level of risk involved when shipping your bass.
This is because all types of packages get lost and stolen during shipment. While carriers are generally trained to handle packages carefully, leaving your bass in the hands of someone who is not familiar with the fragility of your instrument also poses a risk.
Therefore, it is paramount that your bass is packaged in a secure way that complies with a carrier’s requirements. Following the steps above complies with FedEx`s requirements, and will generally be sufficient for most carriers. However, it is a best practice to always check with your carrier, especially if you insuring through them.
I recommend packing your bass yourself, to ensure that it is packed in a safe manner. It is also preferable to insure the bass when shipping it, and doing so through a third-party insurance company. It is impossible to guarantee that your bass will be 100% safe when shipped, but this will ensure that it is as safe as it can be.
Insuring your bass before shipment
As a general rule, it is best to insure a bass guitar prior to shipping it. A best practice is to insure your bass using a third-party insurer, as carriers commonly only offer an increase in their liability, which differs from a regular insurance policy.
I am a bassist, not a lawyer. This is not legal advice.
If you decide to get insured through a carrier, make sure that they are responsible for packaging. If anything happens to the bass during shipment and you packaged it, the carrier can claim that it was not packaged properly. This can result in you not getting reimbursed for a lost instrument, even if you packaged it safely.
An often preferable option to this is to get your bass insured through a third-party insurance company. This holds especially true if you are shipping an expensive bass.
In general, insuring a bass prior to shipping will be more affordable with an insurance company that you already have a plan with. Thus, if you currently have an insurance plan, I recommend researching whether the insurance company has an insurance policy for shipping instruments as well.
If you do not currently have an insurance policy, I recommend using Heritage for insuring your bass. Heritage specializes in insuring musical instruments and is thus familiar with insuring shipped basses.
It`s not uncommon for Heritage`s shipping insurance to cost 0.5% of the cost of the instrument. At this rate, the cost of insuring a $3000 bass, would be $15. However, what quote you get will depend on a range of factors, such as instrument value and previous loss experience. You can get a quote for free on their website.
What carrier is best for shipping a bass?
Bassists who have shipped their basses domestically have been the most satisfied when using FedEx as their carrier. While most mainstream carriers were relatively even in terms of safety, FedEx`s ground shipping was the most cost-effective option a large majority of the time.
Mainstream carriers all have their own pros and cons. However, when it comes to shipping bass guitars specifically, some are better than others.
USPS is great for shipping small packages and shipping to PO boxes, but their strengths are largely inconsequential for bassists looking to ship their instruments. For example, USPS has free shipping insurance, but only up to $100, which will be of no use when shipping a bass.
UPS and FedEx both have package tracking. This is a big plus in terms of safety and for communicating with a buyer post-shipment.
Upon calculating different shipping costs and researching what experience other bassists have had with carriers, I found that FedEx generally beat out UPS in terms of cost. It was a common trend that the cost of shipping was similar between them, but that FedEx was slightly more affordable.
The same went for shipping times when using ground shipping. Shipping a bass from California to Texas was estimated to take 6 days for UPS, but 5 days for FedEx. From California to New York, FedEx estimated a 6-day delivery, whereas UPS estimated 8 days.
Where UPS betas FedEx out is the cost-effectiveness of 2 and 3-day shipping. If you want your bass to be shipped as quickly as possible, but can bear saving a couple of hundred dollars on waiting a day or two, UPS will generally be preferable to FedEx.
Therefore, I recommend using FedEx for shipping your bass. If you want a fast non-overnight delivery, consider UPS instead.
How can I ship a bass without a case?
While carriers such as FedEx discourage shipping without a case, it is possible to ship a bass without one. This can be done by securing your bass inside the shipping box using bubble wrap and packing paper.
Personally, I do not recommend shipping a bass without a case. This is because the bass will be less secure and could make you unqualified for an insurance policy.
If however, you are to ship your bass without a case, make sure to secure the instrument as thoroughly as possible. Follow the steps outlined above, but instead of packing your bass in a case, secure it using bubble wrap and packing tape inside the cardboard box.
Alternatively, you can ship your bag in a gig bag instead of a case. If you do this, treat the bag like a case and secure your bass tightly within it.
Another alternative is to make a DIY cutout out of cardboard to fit your bass in, which will serve the purpose of a case. This will take a good bit of work, but it does ensure that your bass is secured tightly. This is the safest, but also the most time-consuming out of these options.
If you ship you bass without a case, make sure to read your insurance policy and look at whether they cover shipping in this manner.
If they do not, I would advise getting a different policy, or avoiding shipping without a case altogether. This is because this could result in the buyer receiving an uninsured and broken instrument, which is a scenario you want to avoid at all costs.
As long as you take some crucial steps prior to shipping your bass, you will ensure that you are never liable for it if anything were to happen. You will also avoid paying unnecessary high costs by using the best-suited carrier, which will in most cases be FedEx.
Some carriers might offer to pack the bass for you, but it is a best practice to take care of the packing yourself. While carriers are generally knowledgeable about packing goods in a secure fashion, all handlers will not be familiar with how fragile your instrument is.
Unless you are shipping an excessively cheap bass that you can afford to lose, it is generally a good idea to insure your instrument. Using a third-party insurer ensures that you avoid a policy that favors the carrier if the bass is lost or damaged during shipment.
I recommend checking with your current insurer if they can offer an add-on for shipping your bass. Alternatively, you can use Heritage who specializes in insuring musical equipment.
If you follow these steps, you can be sure that your bass is as safe as possible during shipment. You also avoid liability and overpaying, which means you won`t lose any sleep while you are waiting for your bass to reach its destination.
Shipping a bass guitar always has some risks associated with it. But so can bringing your bass with you on your own as well. To learn more, read my guide on how to keep your bass safe when traveling by car.