Guitar Buying: Negotiating Good Prices

Getting the Best Price Guitar Deal

Actual Messaging started as I wrote this article

You’ve found a promising guitar ad, but the seller wants $350 – a fair price but that’s also the price you would sell that same guitar for. So how do we go about buying this guitar at a much lower price?

Contact the Guitar Seller

  • Phone
  • Text (or FB Messenger)
  • Email

Telephone is the worst format for guitar buying negotiations. It is too personal and too immediate.

You have no idea what mood your seller is currently in (more about that later), and if he becomes irate over a perceived “low-ball” offer, that will be “The End” of your guitar negotiations.

The less personal and the more time allowed between receiving your message and replying – the better for you, the guitar buyer.

It’s obvious that you want the initial communication to be impersonal, lessening the chance of anyone feeling “slighted” or offended. But why would you want a time lag?

A time delay between receiving and responding an offer to buy a guitar gives the seller time to get over any initial negative emotions; allows the anchor number to take effect and gives the seller time to think about his response rather than shooting off an emotional response.

For that reason, I prefer email for an initial contact to buy a guitar, with messaging a close runner-up and telephone dead last.

But unless you have jet-powered thumbs, texting is slow and typo-prone (made worse with spell-check!). The solution is Google Voice! You can setup a free Google Voice account, choose your preferred phone number and text right from your keyboard – images and all!

You might even want to use your Google Voice number as your business number, routing calls through your phone, so you can tell personal calls from business calls.

Who Are You Dealing With?

Each seller has his own individual personality of course, but you need to understand that we really have a variety of “personalities” depending on the situation.

For instance, this seller may have just looked at other ads on Reverb, etc. and seen “pie-in-the-sky” asking prices of similar models of his guitar. Similar as in he is selling an Ibanez AS73 but going by prices for an AS93 or AS83, etc. He is excited, hopeful and already shopping for all the cool stuff he’ll buy with all the cash he’s about to get.

Obviously, this guy is going to be a lot less flexible than he’ll be three weeks later after not getting any serious offers or right after finding a guitar he wants but lacks the funds for.

But if you had hit him with a $250 offer – not served on a silver tray – on day-one, he may have responded in a less-than-polite way, effectively slamming the door on any future deal.

In fact, on Marketplace, he may even block you!

I immediately “Thumbs-Up”; waited awhile then..

So, notice how I ease my offer in by starting “If you don’t get your price..” Sometimes I’ll start with “Your price seems fair but it can take a long time to sell one of these. I buy to resell and I do a complete setup, new strings, intonation, etc. before selling, so of course I have to make some profit. So if you don’t sell it in the time frame you’re looking for, please consider my offer of $xxx (depending on inspection, of course).

By the way, this is actual, real-time, on-going Messaging shown in the images – a guitar buying negotiation I’m working on as I write this article!

So Step #1 is to get your offer in without offending the seller. Remember, the “seller” (their personality or mood) you’re conversing with now, may be completely different from the seller who you communicate with later today (or tomorrow or next week, etc.).

Another important factor in negotiating a great guitar purchase, is the “Anchor Number“.

What is the Anchoring Bias?

A well-known cognitive bias in negotiation and in other contexts, the anchoring bias describes the common tendency to give too much weight to the first number put forth in a discussion and then inadequately adjust from that starting point, or the “anchor.” We even fixate on anchors when we know they are irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

The first number you give will likely have an outsized affect on your negotiations. But you have to be careful using this psychological tool. Too low a number and you’re instantly labeled as a “low-baller” and likely blocked. Not low enough and you may be paying more than you otherwise might.

Use the criteria in my earlier article on setting your guitar prices, to set your low and high range for buying guitars.

To get the lowest possible, yet still reasonable anchor number, I removed the “case” from the deal. Since there was no photo of the “case”, I’m presuming it was just a cheap gig bag that I wouldn’t want anyway.

When I pickup the guitar, I can look at the case then and make an offer with cash in hand, if I want it.

Again, the messages shown on this page were actual, real-time messaging that was ongoing as I was writing this article!

More Later

I gotta get back on the workbench and do some customer setups and refurbs. I have a lot more to write on negotiating low guitar prices and I’ll add more to this article soon.