These are our official recommendations of where to buy guitars and guitar gear in 2021, addressing online options exclusively. We've put together this list based on several factors we believe are important when it comes to buying guitars, amps, pedals, and even bass guitars.
They include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Our own relationships and experience with manufacturers
- High number of used options
- Community engagement/user reviews
- Company culture
- Availability of technical team and sales reps that know guitars well
- Focuses exclusively on guitars and musical instruments
For example, one company I would not recommend would be Amazon. Not only do they not focus on musical instruments, but their company culture isn't one that we'd be willing to endorse.
But again, instead of telling you what we don't like, we'll go through our list of winners, starting with our own full list of the best places to buy guitar gear in 2021.
Let's jump in.
The Winners for 2021
These are our top overall picks for best places to buy guitars and guitar gear in 2021, focused entirely toward online retail. This particular table includes companies we've mentioned in this article along with Stewmac, which we didn't highlight specifically for a category.
Best Overall Places to Buy Guitar Gear
#3: Musician's Friend
#4: Pedal Genie
#6: Shop Goodwill
Best Places to Buy Electric Guitars
With most guitar gear, our primary concern is that the company be focused specifically on musical instruments. We do not recommend companies like Amazon or Target, aside from occasions where Amazon carries brands that some music retailers don't carry.
For electric guitars we want to see either a lot of used options or a high-degree of customer services and expertise for answering questions.
For 2021, we have a clear winner with a runner up:
Reverb makes their living from small guitar shops and dealers, with plenty of used options and a lots of setup expertise from the various third party sellers. Reverb connects people who sell electric guitars with the people who want to buy them, making a ton of used options available in the process. They're the best place to buy an electric guitar in 2021.
Runner Up: Sweetwater
Sweetwater only establishes relationships with certain brands, and they have a fantastic sales team. While they don't have much in the way of used gear, those that want to buy new are better off on Sweetwater because of their inspection process, warranties, and customer service.
Best Places to Buy Acoustic Guitars
We tend to shy away from acoustic guitars in the used market, putting Reverb at a disadvantage. However, that's not to say you can't go that route - it's just a little more likely to have wear and damage that will diminish playing quality.
Again, Sweetwater picks up the top spot here with Musician's Friend getting the runner up slot in the acoustic guitar category.
We have Sweetwater as our top pick for acoustic guitars because they have a ton of them, and once again the expertise/inspection process is important to us here. There's also a wide range of quality levels and plenty for every skill level and budget. Sweetwater does a great all around job with displaying their inventory and serving their customers - both current and potential - in the acoustic guitar space.
Runner Up: Musician's Friend
Musician's Friend has a similar system to Sweetwater with their acoustic inventory, which is similarly quite large and varied.
Best Places to Buy Amps
For amplifiers we have three entries and have broken ranks a bit to make room for used options. Some people prefer to avoid used amps because of the potential for a blown speaker, yet you can save so much money on amps by going used that it's worth the risk, especially when sites like Reverb and Shop Goodwill list any potential defects.
Here's our list, with Sweetwater taking the top spot yet again.
Sweetwater has established relationships with all the major amp manufacturers, including some of our favorite boutique companies. They're one of the few that carry Diezel and Mesa amps, especially at such a wide range of inventory. Again, customer service comes in handy here for new buyers or those with technical questions.
Runner Up: Reverb
Again, Reverb steps up because of their used options and third party retailers. They're also - by far - my top choice for finding older amps and models that have been discontinued.
Third Place: Shop Goodwill
For a curve ball third place, we love shopgoodwill.com for guitar amps. First, they're ridiculously cheap, running their products through an auction system. Second, they always seem to have a lot of amps laying around, even if you have to sift through to find something good. It's all about the thrill of the hunt on this one.
Best Places to Buy Guitar Pedals
In this section, we're giving out our awards (our picks) for the best place to buy guitar pedals in 2021. Keep in mind, we base this off personal experience, referencing companies that we actually use ourselves.
For pedals, we're looking for inventory, brand options, vintage/used options, and a generally wide range of mainline and boutique brands.
Again, Reverb takes the top spot here because they're the best place to find the vintage pedals and boutique pedal brands that you can't get from mainline retailers. Old DOD pedals, the old VOX wahs, and any other stompbox you can think of is going to be available on Reverb. It's basically eBay for guitar pedals.
Runner Up: Sweetwater
Though it lacks the same wide range of vintage and used options, Sweetwater has a solid relationship with a handful of guitar pedal creators that they support and sell exclusively. If you're buying new and looking for the most popular pedal brands, Sweetwater is where we'd recommend going first.
Third Place: Pedal Genie
For third place we've made room for a lesser-known company called Pedal Genie that we've been using at Guitar Chalk offices for a couple of years now. Basically, you pay a monthly fee and they send you either one or three pedals at a time. This allows us to try different effects, take pictures, and then send them back. If a pedal subscription is something that interests you, they're one of the few to actually set this up, and it's a lot of fun to get that pedal in the mail every couple of weeks.
Fourth Place: Shop Goodwill
Again, we love ShopGoodwill.com for pedals, mostly because you can find them for absolute dirt cheap, with some added "sport" in the auction element. You can't find anything you want (usually they just have a few at a time), but when you do catch them, you're going to get an amazing deal. Plenty of vintage and older pedals on here as well.
For bass guitars, we use the same rationale we used with electric guitars. We're looking for the main brands, good relationships with boutique vendors, customer service, good variation in price, and plenty of new/used options. Once again, Sweetwater is an easy top pick.
For buying new bass guitars, Sweetwater is an easy first choice as they have reliably low price points, plenty of brand inventory, and all the same features we like for electric guitars.
Runner Up: Reverb
If you don't want to buy new, Reverb is the next stop you should make and scour through the vast number of used options there. Remember, Reverb is comprised of third-party sellers, making it easier to get in touch with sellers if you have questions or problems with the bass you buy.
You might think there isn't a lot of difference between one reseller to another. But we've found that the culture surrounding these companies, and the way they do business does vary and change. While we partner with some of them - Sweetwater primarily - they're not all partners.
But we have definitely used all of them ourselves.
Otherwise, we wouldn't recommend them to you.
These are the resellers and retail companies that we use and trust most when it comes to guitars, pedals, amps, and music gear in general.
If you have thoughts, questions, or just want to share your own experience, drop them in the comments section below and we'll chat. See you then.