A “Road Worn” Series stringed instrument by Fender is not a “Relic” and is a bit tough to describe, so I’ll use Fender’s own description, which states:

The popular Road Worn series presents 1950s- and 1960s-style Stratocaster, Telecaster, Precision Bass and Jazz Bass models bearing notably distressed touches—including worn finishes, aged parts and rusted hardware—that authentically impart the look, feel and vibe of years of well-played, battle-hardened wear and tear. A subsequent addition to the family, Road Worn Player guitars, offers modern features and lighter wear.

For those of you who would ask, “Isn’t Road Worn the same thing as Relic?” Yes and no. Yes, in the respect the instrument has been distressed to create an old look to it, and no in the respect that a lot more attention to detail has been put into Fender Custom Shop Relic guitars compared to Road Worn which – and I know this will sound weird – has “uniform distress” to it in many instances.

In other words, more often than not when you put two Road Worn guitars next to each other side-by-side, the distressing of the instrument is pretty much the same; the same scratching, puck marks, finish wearing/checking and so on will be in the same spots.

The Fender Road Worn 50s Precision Bass model isn’t new and has been around since 2009, so at this point it’s been around for 4 years. And Fender does continue to release new Road Worn models, such as the Mike Dirnt signature model in the video above.

The question, however, is this:

Is Road Worn still cool? Was it ever cool? Or is it time to give it the boot?

I tackled this issue before with Fender guitars that had “Relic” treatment given to them, and you guys and gals spoke loud and clear, saying Relic treatment was a lot to pay for just for something that looked beat up.

Road Worn isn’t nearly as expensive as Custom Shop Relic is. Not by a long shot. However, it is significantly priced higher than a Standard. And by Standard I mean Made-in-Mexico, which both the Standard and Road Worn models are.

It is important to note however that a Road Worn P-Bass will run you (at the time of this writing) almost $400 more compared to a Standard P. And again, remember, these are not American models we’re talking about here.

See for yourself:

Fender Standard Precision Bass

Fender Road Worn ’50s Precision Bass

Are there any practical advantages to a Road Worn guitar?

There are three.

First, a Road Worn guitar, while you do have to take proper care of it like any other instrument, is one where you simply don’t care how many dings or dents it gets since it already has them.

Second, you’ll notice the pick guard on the Road Worn Precision Bass does in fact have a few more holes in it compared to the Standard. Note the holes near the heel of the neck where you could install a thumb rest if you wanted one. It should also be noted the pick guard is in fact gold-anodized aluminum.

Third, because it’s a “50s”, the Road Worn does have a 7.25-inch radius fingerboard along with vintage-style skinny frets as well.

I state these things because it means the Road Worn P is not “a P that looks old and beat up”, but rather does have fairly significant differences compared to the Standard P.

On a final note, it should be said that the Fender Classic Series ’50s Precision Bass Lacquer:

(more info)

…is for all intents and purposes the same thing as a Road Worn ’50s without the distressing. Has a nitro finish, the 7.25-inch radius fingerboard, the skinny frets, the same pick guard with the extra holes, and so on.

It’s also the same price as a Road Worn and Made-in-Mexico, but with one extra added feature – it actually comes provided with a tweed hardshell case whereas the Road Worn only comes with a gig bag.

Which would you go with?

The beat-up look of a Road Worn? Or would you kick that to the curb and go with a Standard or Classic instead?

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82 Responses to “Is Fender “Road Worn” still cool or is it time to give it the boot?”

  1. Still cool. These are great basses and a good value for the money.

    August 26, 2013 at 1:05 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  2. If it hasn’t EARNED its stripes, it’s not worth it. I can dig an instrument that has been on the road and paid for its scars, but purposely distressing one to make it LOOK road-worn? Why don’t we go to the crafts store and get some antiquing gel and turn it into faux-distressed furniture? Not a fan.

    August 26, 2013 at 1:08 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  3. love them. i have four, and they play and feel great.

    August 26, 2013 at 2:20 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  4. I love mine. If Fender would make non-Road Worn P’s and J’s with the same thin almost finish-free necks with the similar wood/weight bodies, I would have bought one instead.

    August 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  5. Just plain stupid to pay for someone to rub your new bass with sanding paper.
    I’ll take a G&L any day. Way better quality for a much nicer price.

    August 26, 2013 at 4:10 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  6. 4 years ago I went shopping for a Fender Jazz bass the price was no object (with in reason) The guy at the store said “try this Road Worn jazz – they got it right” I was a little put off by the road worn thing at first but it was the best Fender jazz in the store. I’ve had it for 4 years now and play it all the time (it’s worked out so well that I sold my NYC Sadowsky jazz cus it was just collecting dust)

    August 26, 2013 at 4:14 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  7. I just bought a 50’s Precision, but I got the new version, not the Road Worn. It will look beat up soon enough, I’m afraid!

    August 26, 2013 at 8:58 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  8. I hate the whole “Road Worn” and “Relic” concept. However, I’m shocked at how good these insturments feel in your hands-very light and comfy. I don’t own one, but I’m “on -the-fence” about them, as it were.

    August 27, 2013 at 12:50 am - Reply or Post a new comment
  9. I would only want a true “road worn” bass not something faked

    August 27, 2013 at 7:02 am - Reply or Post a new comment
    • would it matter if it played better than a naturally aged jazz bass?

      August 28, 2013 at 3:29 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
    • You’d pay a lot more for a really old roadworn one. I wasn’t a fan of reliced Basses & guitars, until I tried mine. They had been talked up a lot on forums, and I have to say I’ve never played anything that is as good – even basses twice + three times the price. Don’t knock them till you’ve tried them. The relic may be considered “fake” – but there’s a real feeling of liberation, not minding too much if your bass takes a knock or bump – really liberating, unlike taking out a shiny new mint instrument

      September 7, 2015 at 8:25 am - Reply or Post a new comment
  10. I think the bottom lines are tone and play-ability. Fender could sell the Road Worn basses before they relic them and they would sell. Everyone seems to love the broken in feel and tone these basses provide.

    August 28, 2013 at 1:14 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  11. I also didn’t think much of them until I played one. The road worns I’ve played were consistently lighter than the new version. Also, the necks play great with the finish “worn” off. Not everyone can afford a real vintage bass. Keep em.

    August 28, 2013 at 1:15 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  12. But That Neck Feel on the Road Worn can’t be beat. Do that neck feel and thin finish and forget the scuffs, all would be good :o)

    August 28, 2013 at 1:18 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  13. Keep the light bodies and neck feel,

    August 28, 2013 at 1:19 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  14. Nut Width: Road Worn is 1.75″ (44.45 mm) and Standard is 1.625″ (41.3 mm)

    August 28, 2013 at 1:23 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  15. I have never understood the point of a brand new instrument being intentionally beat to hell – let alone paying a premium for it. Regardless of the fact that I prefer instruments to be in great condition, if you have an axe that got beat up because you were on the road with it all those years, you know that every bit of wear and damage is part of your history with it. When find a beat up old gem at a shop, part of the charm is knowing the damage came from countless gigs and unknown adventures – and that it should cost you less than one in nice shape. Buying it brand new looking like it has gone through the ringer has none of mystique, and no history.

    August 28, 2013 at 1:29 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  16. I would never pay money for a new guitar that simply LOOKS beat up. If I’m putting down a large sum of money, I want that sucker to look brand new. If I’m buying a “road-worn” guitar, it better be because it has history, is a collectible, and/or I’m getting it for cheap.

    August 28, 2013 at 1:30 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  17. Nut Width: Road Worn is 1.75″ (44.45 mm) and Standard is 1.625″ (41.3 mm). Still cool!

    August 28, 2013 at 1:31 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  18. I have.road worn jazz its a really good bass.You have to forget about the distressed look,it doesnt really matter more than its great playability,it should be overlooked.I had my bass setup good,put a wood shim in the neck now this bass is for sure a keeper.All in all out of the basses fender puts out these day,this one plays better than them all.

    August 28, 2013 at 1:32 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  19. true scars have stories you can’t buy

    August 28, 2013 at 1:33 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  20. If that’s what you’re into that’s cool. Personally, if I was aiming for the “distressed look” I’d do it myself (not that the other features of this bass should be ignored). Seems to me that Fender has been really splitting hairs and doing their best to expand lines without any real innovation -or at least variety. Give the consumer more options, neck styles and variations, coloring, and if you’re buying direct: string options. Personally, I’d like to see a Tina Weymouth signature Mustang bass or perhaps a bass in the Pawn shop series that I would actually buy (reversed P/J setup, Telecaster/P, lipstick pickups, etc.)

    August 28, 2013 at 1:35 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  21. Absolutely love my RW Jazz bass. Compared the sound and playability to a $3000 Custom shop bass and the biggest difference was the price. These are extremely well made basses. Great weight and feel. The necks are same as the CS ones. High recommend.

    August 28, 2013 at 1:46 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  22. Although the wear is clearly artificial, I prefer the feel of the Road Worns over new Fenders with thick poly finishes, which feel “plasticky” to me. The Road Worns sound good and are about the right weight, but generally they require some setup to play up to their potential.

    August 28, 2013 at 1:53 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  23. if someone has the bucks…..but really, i’d rather put the wear and tear on it myself. however they do sell jeans and other crap already beat up and they seem to cost more….who cares if the people sandblasting the denim get lung disease. i personally like to hotrod my own equipment, so my money goes for what i want. save your money and buy a REAL RELIC.

    August 28, 2013 at 1:58 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  24. Good day, I actualy have a roadworn p, but I replaced the mez pic-up with Seymour Duncan antiquity II, the pots and jack with CTS &Switchcraft and put TI Flat string on it, and the result is fantastic.
    Montréal Canada

    August 28, 2013 at 2:13 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  25. After 40 years of playing Fenders for a living I have to say that if you get a good lightweight Roadworn it will serve you very well. You may or may not want to change out the pickups, pots, etc. to suit your personal taste but the feel and tone are all there, these models feel like a well broken in instrument. I own several vintage Fenders and several Custom Shop Relics as well. They’re great but I leave them at home or only take them to the studio. A Roadworn is what I take to a live gig these days and if someone steals it off the bandstand I’ll replace it with another one in a heartbeat.

    August 28, 2013 at 2:44 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  26. It looks beat to hell and costs more than the American Standard? It’s a waste of money. I own real, old, worn Fender P and Jazz Basses and they do feel nice in the hands but, their age and the distress to finish and hardware was come by honestly. Everybody is so into this old guitar thing and I have to wonder why? If anybody out there is that into old and distressed I have the perfect GMC pickup and I’ll only charge you $5,000 above the blue book value. If you’re willing to pay more for a “Relic or Road Worn” Fender then the extra cost for a rust bucket pickup truck should be of no concern to you. Stupid idea. It made Kenny Wayne Shepherd look pretty dumb when he sanded his Strat.

    August 28, 2013 at 2:58 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  27. Earn Your Stripes, be it the player or the bass, better yet, both.

    August 28, 2013 at 3:05 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  28. I hate these basses. I love my Fender pbass, but it’s like cheating. I have no respect for anyone who doesn’t take the time to break in your bass (the worn look is a earned badge of honor and of time well spent). As for relics and the people who treats their interment like crap, they are, and who would want that. If you would like a well worn bass I suggest that you spend some time in the woodshed. Learning your bass and craft is the best part, so why fake it.

    August 28, 2013 at 3:15 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  29. As a former senior master builder in the custom shop,back in 2005 when I left, the RELIC nitro was different than NOS nitro. Both were McFadden , but formulated different. Also, the CC and NOS would have a WLS brand satin urethane undercoat sealing the bare wood . Urethane doesn’t breath like lacquer. As far as Mexico, I have no idea what there using. I see what Fender USA / CS and MIM producing these days. My opinion is that Fender doesn’t make guitars any more, they make money and guitars are the by product. Many of these models should remain USA made, and not cookie cutter assembly line. Wear and aged parts should be unique . More age takes a little more time, but not enough to charge more. Believe me, when you have no fall out due to finish flaws, no strip and re paint, or re buff ,you end up WAY ahead with little shop time to relic.

    August 28, 2013 at 3:16 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
    • I hate the fake wear etc…BUT!! these darn basses are absolutely amazing instruments. I found once I started playing my Jazz I soon forgot about the finish. It felt so good and sounded fantastic and Im gonna get it re-finished black one day which for me will make it a lifetime keeper.

      May 10, 2014 at 3:56 am - Reply or Post a new comment
  30. Not a fan of the Roadworn look, but I love how they sound and feel. Not sure if I’d spend my hard earned $$ on one, but they sure are nice players.

    August 28, 2013 at 3:16 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  31. the road worn is an awesome bass for the money.Purist need to forget the distressed because in a nut shell al the best fenders were made before CBS,took over.But the road worn is giving all the fenders after a run for their money.Awesome neck on this beast,plays like a dream!

    August 28, 2013 at 3:22 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  32. Junk it! If I want a “road worn” bass I am perfectly capable of abusing it myself thank you. Paying extra money for someone to sand off the finish and hit it with a hammer is a joke. What a scam!

    August 28, 2013 at 4:00 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  33. In my opinion IS A WAIST OF MONEY.. Because you have to buy it new and then use it, then the bass will have a history, a character, you own DNA because you made it like that, then is going to be worth much more. That is my opinion.

    August 28, 2013 at 4:01 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  34. I find it strange that when buying new, the beat up appearance attracts a premium. When buying a genuine old bass, you would pay a premium for perfect condition! Madness.

    August 28, 2013 at 4:23 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  35. Lame, Fender should of kept the 22 and 24 fret deluxe jazz basses and the more modern p basses. I’ve played them, love them but didn’t buy. I missed the boat on those. IMHO, I’d rather buy a Squire instead.

    August 28, 2013 at 4:42 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  36. Gold Lame’ do the work yourself kids.

    August 28, 2013 at 5:13 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  37. If you don’t like it, then why would you even care? I mean really, it’s no different than ragging out about some color you don’t like.

    August 28, 2013 at 5:17 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  38. POSER !!!!! never was cool. never will be.

    August 28, 2013 at 5:31 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  39. I love mine, as long as folks like them and find a value, keep selling them. Those of you that don’t want them, the last time I looked, there was no one forcing anyone to take them. So before you call the people who find value in them, and call people stupid for having them, STFU!

    August 28, 2013 at 6:42 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  40. Yah. Gimme the lacquered USA bass.

    August 28, 2013 at 7:15 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  41. I purchased one about a year ago. Let me explain why. It wasn’t because of the relic aesthetic finish. It didn’t grab me. However, after playing a bunch of MIM pbass’s (yes, I’m on a budget), the roadworn had the best feel in my hands and the tone was awesome! This is why I own a roadworn.

    August 28, 2013 at 8:39 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  42. Its important to remember the Road Worn 50’s Precision bass is the Classic 50’s Precision bass with the distressing. Either one is a better instrument than the MIM Standard Precision bass. Much better.

    August 28, 2013 at 8:59 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  43. It’s frickin’ tacky! It’s the “acid-wash” of guitar cosmetics. We’re all musicians, right? We can wear out our own instruments without some fake pre-aging to help us along, no? As much as I admired Sting’s beat-up 50’s P-bass, I would rather have my instrument age on its own without having to fake it. Tacky, tacky, tacky!! Only a dork would want a fake “relic” instrument.

    August 28, 2013 at 9:58 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  44. I’m sure they are great players and all, but to me it’s the visual equivalent of lip-synching.

    August 28, 2013 at 11:25 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  45. Why would someone pay extra money for a beat up looking bass?Buy a new one go out put your own miles on it!!

    August 29, 2013 at 8:35 am - Reply or Post a new comment
  46. They look neat, but as someone said above, to faux distress an instrument sounds like jive. I’d rather buy a brand-new beauty and beat it up myself by using it for about 20 years.

    August 29, 2013 at 10:00 am - Reply or Post a new comment
  47. They are good basses but I prefer a ‘Road worn’ that comes by it’s wear & tear naturally. It took 44 years for me to get my 68′ Fender Jazz where it is today. The only bass I’ve ever bought and owned, will celebrate it’s 45 birthday this November. Will pass it on to my son when I pass on.

    August 29, 2013 at 10:12 am - Reply or Post a new comment
  48. I,ve had a roadworn Fender Jazz for 3 years and it plays better than any current American Fender Jazz. Ive also fitted Lindy Fralin pick ups and this takes to a whole new level with a sound to match the playabilty, I never like the tacky distressing so will be getting it refinished like new when i,ve got the money.
    The perfect Jazz bass for me.

    August 29, 2013 at 12:48 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  49. I have a 50’s Road Worn P-Bass. I use as my main bass on this cruise ship gig I currently am on. Love it…no real complaints. It sounds great on everything we do from the 60’s, 70’s 80’s and beyond. I usually roll off the tone knob for the Motown stuff and it sounds like the real deal to me! I need some foam to put under the strings near the bridge for even better results! I would buy the Jazz Bass version as well! Keep makin’ em! There will always be a market for these basses!

    August 29, 2013 at 1:28 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  50. I respect the tone and anybody’s personal preferences regarding the neck, feel etc…, but hey Fender don’t you think it’s time to risk some new design after 60 years? What’s going to be the next line…the sticker look?

    August 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  51. If you didn’t give it the wear, then why would you try to pass off one of these Piles…. I’ve got a ’77 Fullerton P-bass that I got new when I was 12, and it would clean one of these Steamin’ Piles up. Every nick and wear mark were EARNED!

    August 29, 2013 at 6:55 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  52. It sounds like most fans of the road worn like the feel more than the look…that is a common result of the human touch, either by faking a smoothed, broken in feel or by actually buying an older, worn instrument (a method unfortunately more expensive than most of us can afford now days!). If that is the feel you want in your bass, I guess the Road Worn is a good choice. Or, you could go to a pawn shop, find a Jazz or P bass and get it cheap, then smooth it out with some 0000 steel wool, py special attention to polishing the fret ends and the pack of the neck. Nice!

    August 29, 2013 at 10:30 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  53. Everybody who hates these needs to chill out. They’re great basses that a lot of people actually love. Who cares if every mark wasn’t “earned.” You all sound jaded when you say that. Get off your high horse and appreciate a great instrument. Kids these days…

    August 30, 2013 at 11:57 am - Reply or Post a new comment
  54. It’s like a Kid putting on a Fake mustache and beard and NO ID to get in a club…”STUPID”…IMO

    August 30, 2013 at 1:31 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  55. hey I aged a $100.00 Austin Pbass with sand paper and brown shoe polish on the nd a set pick guard and lighter tone neck,put a set of lyndy fralins pick ups in it, and set fender oem strings on it,and guys I play with that have high $____.__ basses can’t believe it,but it’s not the bass or the amp at the end of the gig ,it’s the player.

    August 30, 2013 at 8:34 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  56. I’m not spending good money on something that looks like, well… you know what. If it’s going to be beaten, it’s going to be done naturally with my hands. Or… a *real* road worn instrument with personality.

    September 1, 2013 at 6:42 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  57. The look is not really important comparing to how that bass sounds. Also I was impressed by playability. The neck is amazingly comfortable to my hands. So I’ve just put my American RI ’75 on sale, really.

    September 3, 2013 at 10:09 am - Reply or Post a new comment
  58. These basses are great in my opinion.They feel and play very good.To all the bass snobs who want a real aged worn bass… say if you don’t like it,dont buy it

    September 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  59. very good jazz basses.I gigged with mines plenty of times,and always get good comments on how this bass sounds.Looks are not as important as how a bass plays to me.Just like these guys saying oh they rather have the years age the bass then it being put there intentionally,Basse still looks raggedy regardless,but they play great

    September 6, 2013 at 7:34 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  60. could you imagine buying a brand new road worn car? This whole concept is just a way to satisfy someones fantasy of playing a real vintage instrument….”Oh really?….YEA REALLY

    September 9, 2013 at 11:07 am - Reply or Post a new comment
  61. The looks are fake. I didn’t lile that at first. Unitil I picked some up at the local store en compared them tot American models. Just by playing and sound I boucht the Roadworn

    December 12, 2013 at 8:32 am - Reply or Post a new comment
  62. Gonba get one. They sound and play great. I want Fiesta Red in Lacquer. Where else can you get one for this price? Would gladly forgo road worn marks, but that would cost a bunch and take forever to get.

    December 25, 2013 at 11:56 am - Reply or Post a new comment
  63. I own many guitars and basses, among them are a RW Strat, RW Tele and now Im waiting on my RW PBass to be delivered. These instruments have an attractive physical playability that simply amazes me. Ive never found it so natural right out the gate on any other new instrument.

    November 27, 2014 at 10:18 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  64. I read somewhere they someone said buying a new road worn guitar is just like buying a new car with rust and dents in it. I agree and disagree with this. Some basses look much cooler with the RW while others not so much. Like in the video of Mike Dirnt’s Sig being made a RW the outside went up $300

    February 22, 2015 at 12:51 am - Reply or Post a new comment
  65. I bought my Roadworn Jazz a few years back, and I have to say, it’s the best bass I’ve ever played. So comfortable, such a great sounding, feeling instrument. Played 2 Sadowsky’s and they don’t come near my RW Jazz

    September 7, 2015 at 8:20 am - Reply or Post a new comment
  66. I have multiple 60’s and 70’s Fender basses. Yes, I put most of dings and scratches on them. Don’t think that improved or validated my playing. I can’t put my RW Jazz down.

    October 27, 2015 at 2:51 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  67. I found a used RW jazz that was taken to the next level by heavy gigging. It is stock except for the pots and looks like a fifty year old well loved bass. It is now beat and worn well past the original relic stage and feels,sounds and looks like the real deal. I have/had many other expensive jazz basses but play this one the most. Its awesome.

    November 9, 2015 at 11:13 am - Reply or Post a new comment

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