Are you a guitar player currently living in Australia and wondering why guitar prices are so high in your country?
Do you play guitar and happen to be in the country for holidays and find everything extremely expensive?
Are you a learning musician and find it impossible to take the leap and buy a good instrument? Well, the answer to all of these questions are in the post you are about to read.
Why are guitars so expensive in Australia?
There are two main reasons for that. First, Australia is far away. Most of the instruments are made far away from Australia, so they have to travel a long way. Shipping prices can get very high. Second, there are additional insurance taxes. Freight ships won’t transport instruments if they don’t have an adequate insurance policy.
Location & Shipping
This is the first reason why guitars are more expensive in Australia. Australia is a remote place. Most of the finest instruments in the world are made in the USA.
In order to get them to Australia, they have to travel 15,175 km. Yes, that is the distance that needs to be covered by ship to deliver your favorite Gibsons, Fenders, Martins, Taylors and such.
We can say that guitars are fragile instruments (the more expensive, the more fragile) and need to be transported with certain precautions that add to the overall cost too.
They have to go from the factory by land to the harbor where they are loaded into a huge transatlantic ship and then sail half the planet to get to a different harbor, get on another truck and then delivered to the music store. This multiple shipping and handling has a direct impact on the final price of the instrument.
This same scheme is applicable to guitars and parts coming from Europe. Let’s say that you want to have an amazing Flamenco guitar made in Spain.
It will have to travel almost 17,000km to get to your hands. This shipping will cost you sometimes the same amount of money as the guitar itself.
That is one of the reasons why the final price of the guitar in Australia is way higher than the price in Spain.
Insurance, Taxes and Customs
Adding to the shipping costs you have to pay for insurance. The freight ship that will take the merchandise to the country will not leave the shores without having a valid insurance policy on the load.
That insurance cost will be reflected on the final price of the guitar as well.
Let’s say that the guitar makes it to the shores of Australia. Then it has to go through customs, import taxes, insurance for the next trip and maybe a quarantine period because they are made of wood.
The GST, customs and insurance can add up to 30% of the instrument’s value. If we have a $1000 dollar guitar it already costs $1300 and it has only touched Aussie soil.
In Australian regulations economies of scale don’t make a difference and that percentage stays put with one or a hundred guitars.
While it is cheaper to take a full container of guitars and not just one, taxes and custom fees will be just the same for each. This means that for small retailers it is even more expensive than for large guitar stores like The Guitar Center and such.
The Middle Person
This is yet another add-on to the final price of the guitar. In countries like the US, guitars go straight from the factory to the retailer and all the costs involved are those of shipping and handling from point A to point B.
Shipping & Handling by land is also cheaper than by water because times are shorter and vessels are smaller.
When companies intend to ship goods from one country to another (in this case guitars), they get in touch and make exclusive agreements with import and distributing companies.
These companies are in charge of the shipping & handling from the factory to the retailer store and are another middle person that has to make money with their business.
For example, if an importer/distributor of Fender purchases a container with 100 Fender American Standard Telecasters, they have to pay the shipping, taxes, import fees, customs fees, quarantine and insurance.
To make numbers easy let’s say that the guitar was $1000 and after all that it is already $1300. This company has to add a percentage to that price in order to keep doing businesses and make a profit.
Let’s say that they add 20% to the price. That takes the guitar all the way to $1560 when it is in the final retailer.
Can retailers bypass the middle person and import instruments straight from the factory?
Well, the answer in most cases is no. That’s because manufacturers and importers/distributors have exclusive agreements. That way, no other company could import them but them.
The Final Price
The final price of the instrument is not over yet because the company selling that guitar to the final user has to make some money as well. So, they add their own percentage to the sum of charges.
Especially medium to big retailers have to pay for taxes, employee salaries, space rentals and many other things. Let’s say they add an extra 40% to the price.
Now that Fender American Standard Telecaster that started with a $1000 price tag has gone up to $2184.
The final price of an instrument is always what it costs to have it in your hands, and never what it costs in the country of origin.
This might be a misconception that can take you to being frustrated or angry with the wrong person.
Let’s be honest, the salesman or woman doesn’t have an input in this endless chain we just described. It’s just the last link.
Buying a guitar is such a beautiful moment. You shouldn’t let anything ruin it.
Understanding what it takes to bring that instrument to your hands and that there is no way around it should help you accept the facts of living in a modern world.
The one benefit that Australians have against the rest of the planet is that salaries are quite high compared to other latitudes. Economy is quite strong, so there are plenty of working opportunities.
If you don’t want to pay the extra for the imported guitars, you can always check out Maton Guitars. An Australian company building quality instruments since 1946.
I hope this article gave you an answer to a question from the headline.
Don’t forget to check out other interesting articles from this site!
Cheers, and rock on!