How To Ship an Electric Guitar (With and Without a Case)


ship an electric guitar

Shipping a guitar isn’t the best choice, but in some cases, it’s the most efficient option, especially if you’re moving or traveling far from home. However, some might wonder whether you can ship your electric guitar with and without a case. The good news is that you can do both as long as you follow a few steps.

You can ship your guitar by removing the strings, securing loose pieces, and padding the instrument in a secure box or a hardshell case. Better packaging reduces damage from poor handling. Packing the instrument in a gig bag or two boxes can also provide some extra protection.

This article will outline the mandatory steps to packing and shipping your electric guitar, with and without a case, to avoid worst-case scenarios. I’ll also suggest various inexpensive materials to use in the filling process, including ones you can find lying around the house! 

ship an electric guitar

How To Ship an Guitar Without a Case

Shipping your guitar without a case is doable but should be a last resort. Hardshell cases add durability to the package, especially so it can withstand the bumps and bangs accompanied by transportation. 

However, in situations where that isn’t possible, the steps below outline just what to do to keep your instrument safe for shipment when it doesn’t have a case.

1. Get a Box and Packing Materials

Since your guitar won’t have an added layer of protection by way of a case, you’ll need to gather lots of packing materials to ship your instrument, including:

  • A large box, big enough to hold your instrument (but not so big that the instrument will shift or move around during transport– especially when it is packed with filler)
  • Packing paper, bubble wrap, foam sheets
  • Furniture moving pads (you should purchase three or four, at least)
  • Box tape
  • A gig or padded bag

Most hardware and shipping services have these items in stock. However, you can also purchase complete guitar packing kits at your closest UHaul or USPS location.

2. Prepare Your Guitar

To prepare your guitar for packing, remember that the ultimate goal is to secure your instrument in place and prevent as much movement as possible. Since it will be packed tightly, remove or loosen the strings on the guitar, as well as any other part of the instrument that sticks out or could be knocked off. 

This includes loosening knobs (tuning or volume dials) and removing any other protruding components like the whammy bar or clip-on tuners.

If you’re removing things from your guitar, you can pack them in a separate, smaller box and secure them with tape. That box can sit inside the shipment box safely.

Finally, use a few sheets of packing paper to slip beneath and over top of your strings (if you’ve left them on) to prevent them from rubbing against the fretboard. You should also wrap the headstock with a few layers of bubble wrap and secure it with tape. You can also use craft paper or corrugated wrap to shield the headstock. Once this is done, you’re ready to move on to step three.

Eco Kraft Wrapping Paper Roll Wrapping Paper (available on Amazon.com) is an excellent, eco-friendly paper to protect your strings, fretboard, and guitar body.

3. Wrap the Guitar

Next, it’s time to lay out the furniture pads to wrap your guitar in them. One furniture pad should be enough to cover the guitar altogether. Lay the guitar in the center of the pad, and fold the sides over until the entire guitar is gone.

wrap the guitar

Once it’s secured, you’ll want to add extra protection by wrapping the padded guitar with bubble wrap. The guitar should be cushioned on every side, including the top and bottom, and then secured with tape.

If you want to double-box your instrument or put it in a gig or other padded bag, you’ll need to do that before wrapping it in bubble wrap. If you do decide to do this, make sure to fill the second box or bag with packing paper to keep it as immobile as possible, just as you’ll do in step four.

When you’re done, your guitar should be swaddled like a newborn baby with furniture pads and bubble wrap, and the packaging should be at least a few inches thick. You can buy uBoxes Large Bubble Roll (available on Amazon.com) in packs of two to accomplish this.

4. Package Your Guitar and Fill the Space

Once your guitar is wrapped up and ready to go, you can carefully slide it into the shipping box bottom-first. Furniture pads or a moving blanket should line the inside walls of the box, including the bottom, and any excess space in the box must be filled.

You can fold furniture pads or roll up moving blankets, like the US Cargo Control Moving Blanket (available on Amazon.com), to wedge in between the guitar and the box’s walls. These moving blankets are durable, thick, and easy to manipulate, so using them as a filler adds some extra protection.

Suppose you don’t have either of these. In that case, you can use crumpled-up packing paper, foam pads, shredded cardboard, or any other material to cushion the instrument and the box’s walls. 

Use packing tape to close the box and secure it shut. Be generous with the packing tape. It’s better to need more tape than to have some extra tape and a damaged guitar.

Once you’re done with all of these steps, your guitar should be ready for safe shipment, even without a case.

You can read on to learn how to ship your guitar in its case, with suggestions for alternative packing materials to use on a budget!

How To Ship an Electric Guitar With a Case

Since guitars are so fragile (and cost so much of our hard-earned money), the best recommendation for safe shipping is to send them off in a case. The steps to shipping with a case are only slightly different; the shipping box will need to be bigger to accommodate the case size (20 x 8 x 50 inches [50.8 x 20.3 x 127 centimeters] is recommended). 

ship an electric guitar with a case

After gathering the box and other materials, you’re ready to prepare your guitar for packing.

1. Prep Your Guitar for Packaging

String removal and knob loosening are in order, just as before. It’s important to mention that you don’t need to remove the strings like you would without a case. Guitar cases are built specifically for guitars, so string damage is an unlikely possibility.

However, erring on the side of caution can be smart so consider at least loosening them to prevent possible snapping or rubbing. 

Here are a few more tips on prepping your guitar:

  • Whammy bars and tuners should be removed from the instrument and placed in a smaller box for travel. Again, this box can stay inside the main package, or you can slip them into one of the case’s inner pockets. (Be sure to store them in a Ziplock if you go this route).
  • Cover the loosened strings with folded packing paper if you haven’t removed them, and make sure to add paper between the strings and the fretboard, too. You can even cover the guitar’s body with paper if you are worried about scratching the instrument, but the most important pieces to protect are the strings, the frets, and the pickups.
  • Finally, make sure to secure the headstock with bubble wrap and tape. This will protect all of the tuning knobs. A good buy for covering the headstock is the Uboxes Bubble Out Bag (available on Amazon.com), a cushioned bubble wrap bag that you can slide over and secure in place with tape.

If bubble wrap isn’t available, you can slip a few layers of thick socks on– to the guitar, of course– and tape the opening tightly. Make sure not to apply the tape onto the instrument as this could ruin the neck and strings.

2. Secure the Guitar in Its Case

This is where things get a little bit different. When your guitar is ready, you must first secure it in its case and use packing paper, Nanuk Foam Inserts (available on Amazon.com), or other material to fill the empty spaces inside the case. You want the inside of the case to be just as snug as the case will be in its shipment box.

Another option to fill the space in your case is to use Mighty Gadget Thick Foam Sheets (available on Amazon.com), which are softer and have more cushion than packing paper does. You can purchase a pack of 100, which is more than enough for one shipment. Make sure to pack up the space underneath your instrument’s neck and the edges between the case and body.

A gig bag or a padded case would do fine if you don’t have a hardshell case. All of the same steps apply regardless of the case it’s in. After this step, your guitar should be tightly packed into its case. Close and lock the lid, and you’re ready for step three.

3. Wrap the Case

Instead of wrapping the individual instrument, this time, you need to cover the entire case in a furniture pad or a moving blanket and bubble wrap. However, double-boxing your guitar isn’t mandatory since it’s got a case. 

If you do go this route though, stand the case upright and layer the whole thing once or twice with bubble wrap. Don’t forget to wrap the tops and bottoms of the case as well. Once it’s fully covered, secure it with tape and prepare to load it into the shipping box.

If desired, you can first wrap the case in a blanket or pad before the bubble wrap. Even a thin bed comforter would do in a pinch. The more protection, the safer the guitar, after all! 

With that being said, though, this step isn’t completely necessary if you have a case, so that extra layer of protection is really more of a personal preference.

4. Pack It Up and Fill the Space

Finally, pack the case into the shipment box and fill the empty space with a furniture pad or a more accessible material if you don’t have a furniture pad. Although incredibly sticky and unpredictable, foam peanuts are a great alternative to furniture pads or other foam fillings. 

Everything should be as snug as a bug in a rug by the time you’re finished, which is why the pads are so convenient.

To test out your packing, give the box a shake and try to move it around in its packaging. If you hear it shifting, you’ll need to add more packing materials to the inside of the shipment box.

Here are some alternatives to bubble wrap that you can use to fill any of the box’s excess space, including items that you may be able to find around the house:

  • Air pillows
  • Corrugated bubble wrap
  • Kraft paper, crumpled up
  • Shredded cardboard
  • Foam peanuts
  • Guitar neck cutout (this isn’t a filler, but instead a cardboard cutout that slips over the neck of the guitar before it’s placed in the case, which prevents excessive shifting)
  • Socks rolled up pillowcases or bedsheets
  • Crumpled up newspaper

Secure the Box and Send It Off

Packing your guitar with and without a case is as simple as that! After the shake test, you can secure your shipment box up with packing tape, and it’s ready to go.

secure the box and send it off

Don’t send it off without telling it you love it, though, and that you’ll be reunited soon.

Tips To Consider When Shipping an Electric Guitar

There are a couple of other things you can do to ensure your guitar is shipped safely that have nothing to do with how you pack it.

To start, ship your package with one of the insured shipping services– USPS offers priority and standard shipping insurance, as do most postal services like FedEx, UPS, and Canada Post. If your package gets damaged, you’ll have a certain amount of coverage through shipping insurance.

Second, use Anylabel Fragile/Handle With Care Stickers (available on Amazon.com) on the package to let handlers know that its contents are delicate. You can also purchase these stickers at your local Walmart or office supply store. If you put one sticker on each side of the package, it’ll be a lot easier to spot.

Finally, write down the company’s contact information and your package tracking number. That way, if there are any problems, you’ll be able to contact customer service with the appropriate information to sort out any issues.

Why Is It Important To Pack a Guitar Properly For Shipping?

There is a common assumption that shipping and handling services sometimes mishandle our packages.

True or not, accidents do happen all the time, including packages being dropped, knocked around in delivery vehicles, squashed beneath other heavy boxes, and so much more. That seemingly overkill padding protects the guitar from any and all external impact.

If the box was knocked hard enough on the neck, for example, and there wasn’t any padding in the case beneath it, you might find yourself with a dented guitar neck on the other side of shipping. 

Too rough of a toss could also ding up the body if it didn’t have a filler between it and the case’s edges. While it’s nice to have insurance for these scenarios, taking preventative action is always the best thing to do.

It’s even more concerning when the instrument isn’t placed in a case and can sustain damage easier through the cardboard shipping box. The furniture pads and moving blankets are large and girthy; one or two of them will suffice to fill the box and cushion any potential blows from shipping.

It’s also worth mentioning that if you’re flying with your guitar, you can bring it onto the plane as a carry-on instead of checking it as luggage. 

Baggage carriers are also notorious for mishandling (and even losing) luggage, so pack your guitar up in its case or bag and bring it straight onto the flight with you for safekeeping. 

Similarly, you can bring your instrument onto a train to avoid possible damage from a luggage pile-up.

On the other hand, buses don’t have the space to accommodate a large instrument, so, in any situation where you need to pack your guitar away and let others handle it, following the above steps will help ensure your guitar is returned to you exactly how you left it.

pack a guitar properly for shipping

Final Thoughts

You can ship your electric guitar, whether it is in a case or not. The only requirement is significant packing– inside the case if your guitar has one and inside the shipping box if it doesn’t. Air cushions, packing peanuts, corrugated bubble wrap, and shredded cardboard are all excellent materials to fill the packaging with, but any material will do.

As long as your guitar is immobile in its box and surrounded by some form of cushion, it should arrive at its destination safely, and you’ll be able to play it once again!

David Sandy

Hey there! My name is David Sandy and I'm the founder of Sandy Music Lab. I've been playing guitar for several years now and created this site to be able to share and explore music with others. Check out my recommended guitar gear!

Recent Posts