How to Buy a Fender Bass Online
Buying a bass on the Internet can be a risky and somewhat scary experience. Unfortunately there are many dishonest and unknowledgeable people online selling basses.
Some are outright scams, while others simply don't really know what there selling.
I've personally bought several Fender basses online over the years and have learned some valuable tips on what to look for and what to avoid.
Whether your searching for a vintage Fender on eBay or buying a new one from a dealer there are several things you should know before you jump in and commit to a purchase.The biggest problem with buying online of course is that you can't actually hold the bass and play it. You don't get a feel for the weight and balance and don't get to hear how it sounds. There will always be some risk buying this way but I've got a few great basses online and I've never gotten a dud.
The first thing you need is really good pictures and many of them. If the seller only has a couple of pics and they're blurry or far away that's a red flag. With today's technology there's no excuse not to provide good quality photos. Generally speaking you want good, clear pics of the entire body, neck, headstock, tuners, bridge, and electronics.
If the year and authenticity of the bass is important make sure you get pictures of the serial number, any code numbers on the pots and the date stamp on the neck heel and or neck pocket. If your unsure on how to read these dates and numbers you can send them to Fender for verification or use Fender's online forum.
Lots of Questions
Ask many questions about the bass. This is probably the one thing that most people fail to do. It's easy to assume that everything is perfect with the bass, especially if you've already decided you love it and want to buy it. Make sure you ask about the condition of the neck, is there any twisting or bowing? Be sure the frets are not worn down and the tuners are not bent.
If you have any doubts ask for more pictures, especially a shot from the headstock to the body to make sure the neck is nice and straight. Ask about the electronics, make sure there is no scratchiness in the pots and that the pickups are not micro-phonic (noisy when touched).
Ask about the history of the bass. Are they the original owner? Where did they get the bass? Has there been any repairs or modifications done? Some people are afraid to ask lots of questions, they might feel there being annoying but it's very important to get as much info as possible and in general the seller appreciates the interest, they know you're a serious buyer.
Do some research on the Fender model your interested in. Get a good idea on how much that bass and year is selling for and why.
Familiarize yourself with things like headstock shape, decal style, body contours, pickup placement, and finish colors for that particular model. This type of knowledge can be very helpful for spotting fake Fenders, refinishes, and modifications. The more you know about the bass model the better. A good overall understanding of the instrument can save you major headaches later on.
Always ask if there is any return policy offered. Almost all major dealers will have some sort of return policy available but most private buyers won't offer it. It doesn't hurt to ask though and some will offer at least a 24 hour approval period to inspect the bass. I strongly recommend Paypal as the payment method as they offer some buyer protection in case it goes horribly wrong.
Carefully read all the shipping information including the price and method of shipment. I've seen several cases where the seller is offering a great deal on the bass but is charging an astronomical fee for shipping.
Also make sure the bass is being sent by a known shipping company and is insured properly. If the bass is being sent via the Postal Service I would be very wary. Their package tracking is not very good and in my experience their much less reliable than FedEx and UPS.
The last thing I would recommend is just plain old common sense. If there's something about the bass or description that just doesn't feel right then move on. It's better to be safe and wait another day then to stress out over some good money or get ripped off.
If everything goes well and your happy with your Fender bass but then later want to sell it online, I've done quite a bit of that too....but that's for another article.