Based out of a small town called Fort Wayne in the US state of Indiana, Sweetwater is one of the top-rated online stores for musicians. The platform sells everything from instruments to mics, keyboards, DJ equipment, speakers, and more.
Unfortunately, Sweetwater does not offer shipping to Canada. The shipping and handling fees combined with long shipping wait times is a hassle that the online retailer doesn’t want to deal with.
That being said, there is a clever loophole you can use to get Sweetwater shipped to Canada from the US, despite there being no specific Sweetwater Canada division. Below, I’ll show you how.
Sweetwater Sound was founded in 1979 by musician, traveller, and entrepreneur Chuck Surack. He started the company by selling musical gear out of the back of his VW van.
Eventually, he built a solid reputation for himself and had a niche following of customers who knew that Chuck would never sell them a bad piece of gear.
Once the internet came into the picture, Chuck Surack wasted no time building Sweetwater’s website, which remains one of the top eCommerce sites for musicians today.
Although Mr. Surack stepped down from his role as CEO in 2021 (he wanted to pursue other ventures), he’s still the owner of the company, which is doing better than ever.
Some of the main reasons why people buy from Sweetwater Sound are:
- The site has a used gear exchange
- Free two-year warranty on all new purchases
- Low-interest 48-month financing
- 55-point guitar inspections, so you know you’re buying quality
- Free shipping (in the US, at least)
With deals and quality assurance like that, it’s easy to see why so many people like Sweetwater Sound. While I’m not a musician myself, I have several friends who either DJ or play live music, and they’ve both mentioned Sweetwater to me on multiple occasions.
Like many other US-based retailers, though, Sweetwater Sound doesn’t offer direct shipping to Canada.
Companies like Sweetwater that offer warranties, inspections, free shipping, and other guarantees on their products often stray away from international shipping.
Anytime that items are shipped cross-border, problems and speed bumps can arise, which would make it hard for the company to keep their quality assurance promises.
Although Sweetwater Sound doesn’t ship directly to Canada, they have no problem shipping your order to a US-based address. You can then ship your order from the US address across the border to your home in Canada.
This way, you’re the one taking on the liability of international shipping. If something happens to your order in transit, Sweetwater won’t be held liable for damage or delays.
The process I described is called package forwarding and is a service that’s often used when purchasing from international distributors and specialty retail brands. I recently wrote a post about how to get ASOS (a UK-based brand) shipped from Europe to Canada by using a similar process.
If you’ve never used a package forwarder before, here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to use package forwarding to get your Sweetwater order shipped to Canada.
Before you start shopping online with Sweetwater, you’ll need to establish a “virtual address” located in the United States. Once you sign up with a package forwarder, you’ll be assigned a virtual address within the forwarder’s warehouse (kind of like a P.O. box).
Here, you’ll need to do a bit of research, though. Firstly, you need to select a package forwarder that has warehouse locations in the US. The closer the warehouse is to the Canadian border, the better, as it can speed up your delivery.
There are a number of US and Canadian-based package forwarders with US warehouses that ship to Canada. Some of the most popular ones I’ve used or have heard about include:
- Planet Express
- NY Box
- Global Shopaholics
For a full list of virtual mailboxes, check out my list of the best package forwarders that ship from the US to Canada.
Each company has its own perspective benefits and drawbacks. Some offer quicker shipping (at a cost), while others offer perks like free package storage and package consolidation. Do a bit of research and figure out the company that best fits your needs.
After signing up with the forwarding company and creating your account, you’ll be given a virtual address that you can use to ship packages to. The address is based in the US, so you won’t encounter any problems when trying to order from Sweetwater in Canada.
Now, all you have to do is shop online with the Sweetwater Sounds website. You can add any item on the site to your cart and get it shipped to your package forwarder. Since Sweetwater offers free shipping in the US, you won’t have to pay to get it shipped to the forwarding company’s warehouse.
At this point, I do have a piece of advice, though – I recommend that you only buy brand-new instruments and gear from Sweetwaters site from Canada. Although Sweetwater thoroughly inspects the used gear it sells, there’s still a possibility for some flaws.
If there is a problem, shipping the gear back across the border to the US isn’t a headache you want to deal with.
Some of the sites (like Kohl’s) I’ve given similar tutorials about require international shoppers to use a VPN in order to access the site or process orders. Sweetwater’s site doesn’t appear to have these limitations, though.
Some online stores implement stricter geographic zoning restrictions to prevent out-of-country orders from being processed.
This is often because the retailer could get in trouble by violating trade restrictions imposed by their manufacturers, which often prohibit the retailer from selling their items in other countries.
Once you have your order ready to go in your cart, it’s time to ship it. For the billing address, use your normal Canadian address. However, you’ll want to use your virtual address (provided by the package forwarder) as the shipping address for the order.
Since Sweetwater offers free shipping in the US, you won’t have to pay any additional shipping fees for this leg of the journey.
Your Sweetwater order should arrive at the package forwarding warehouse within a week, provided there aren’t any delays. Once it arrives, your forwarder will contact you, letting you know that your package has arrived safely at the warehouse. Then, you’ll be prompted to ship it to its final destination.
Before you ship it internationally, though, I recommend verifying the condition of the package. Most package forwarders offer this service and may even send you pictures or videos of your package.
This ensures that it hasn’t been damaged before you waste time and money shipping it internationally.
As long as the package is in good condition, then you’re good to ship it to your address in Canada. You’ll typically have a few different shipping options to choose from, including lower-cost shipping (which takes longer) and expedited shipping options.
Here, you may also have the option to purchase additional shipping insurance on your package. If you’ve just ordered a significant amount of gear, I recommend paying extra for insurance. International shipping can often be destructive to packages.
It depends on the shipping method you choose. While Sweetwater offers free ground shipping within the US, forwarding the package from the US warehouse across the border to Canada can take some time.
Even the most expensive, expedited shipping service will generally take at least 10 to 14 days to arrive. If you opt for standard, lower-cost shipping across the border, then your order could take anywhere between 6 and 8 weeks to arrive.
Tax and Duty Considerations
When importing items into Canada, several layers of charges come into play:
- Customs Duties: These are levied on certain goods purchased abroad. The rate can vary widely depending on the type of product. Musical equipment, given its diverse range, can sometimes attract significant duty, especially if the item is not manufactured in a country with a preferential trade agreement with Canada.
- Goods and Services Tax (GST) or Harmonized Sales Tax (HST): Depending on your province in Canada, you may be liable to pay GST or HST on the imported goods, calculated on the item’s price, plus customs duties.
- Brokerage Fees: These are charges imposed by the shipping company for handling the customs clearance of your item. Not all package forwarders or couriers include this in their shipping fee, and it can sometimes be a hefty add-on.
Before going forward with the purchase, it’s advisable to use an online customs duty and tax calculator tailored for Canada.
Warranty and Insurance Options
The allure of Sweetwater’s warranty promises is undeniable, but using a forwarding service complicates matters:
- Voided Warranty: Many manufacturers’ warranties are region-specific. Using a forwarding service might technically change the product’s “purchased location”, potentially voiding the warranty.
- Service Centers: Even if the warranty remains valid, servicing an item might require sending it back to the US, incurring additional costs and prolonging the repair duration.
- Insurance Concerns: International routes expose packages to multiple handlers, increasing damage or loss risks. Opting for insurance means you’re compensated if things go sideways.
What is the estimated shipping cost for Sweetwater products to Canada?
The estimated shipping cost for Sweetwater products to Canada varies depending on several factors, including the weight and size of the package, the shipping method chosen, and any additional services like insurance. Get a quote directly from the forwarding service you choose. On average, you might expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $100 or more, depending on the size and value of your order.
Can I track my Sweetwater shipment to Canada?
Yes, you can track your Sweetwater shipment to Canada. Once you place an order with Sweetwater and it ships to the U.S.-based package forwarding service, Sweetwater typically provides a tracking number. This number allows you to monitor the package until it reaches the forwarding service’s warehouse.
Afterward, when the forwarder ships your package to Canada, they will usually provide another tracking number specific to their chosen courier (e.g., DHL, FedEx, or USPS). This allows you to track the package as it makes its way from the U.S. to your doorstep in Canada.
What is the backorder time for Sweetwater products being shipped to Canada?
If a product is back ordered at Sweetwater, it might take anywhere from a few days to several weeks (or even longer) for the item to be back in stock and ready for shipping.
Once the item is shipped to the U.S.-based forwarding service and then shipped from there to Canada, you’d add another 10 days to 8 weeks to the overall delivery time, depending on the shipping method you choose with the forwarding service.
Sweetwater is an excellent company to buy your instruments and music gear from… if you live in the US. Unfortunately, the headache and extra shipping fees to get it forwarded to Canada really aren’t worth it.
I’d recommend purchasing from a Canadian-based online music store like Tom Lee Music or Cosmo Music. The sites offer similar quality products and deals on shipping, and it will be far easier to make returns or warranty claims if the need ever arises.
Looking for a flexible job that will allow you to pursue your dream as a musician? Freelancing in the online gig economy could be the perfect fit. You’ll be able to work your own hours, set your own pay, and can work around your musical career.
To learn more, read my guide to getting started as a freelancer in Canada next!