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

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:


…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?

87 thoughts on “Is Fender “Road Worn” still cool or is it time to give it the boot?

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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)

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

    • 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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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)

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

    • what difference does it make if the bass plays great.True scars? Give me a break.scar is a scar,they were all put there by somebody some how

  13. 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.)

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

    • 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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!

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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!

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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!

  37. 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?

  38. 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!

  39. 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!

  40. 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…

      • This shit cracks me up. They show up on a topic they don’t like and spew hate. If you are into that sort of lifestyle i’m curious how you spend your time when you aren’t mad at people who found happiness in something. Do you just google random topics until you find one you don’t understand and then bash people who do. Also, the complaint is how the guitar looks and the intention or purpose in purchase. A couple things here:

        1. I’ve never seen anyone in the pro-road worn camp say anything about how awesome it looks or try to pass it off as vintage. They all uniformly say it’s due to the feel. Most even say they too were against it until they played it. So it seems the haters simply make up THEIR own reason for why YOU bought something and they hate on you for the reason THEY inserted, no matter how many times people correct them. You guys are stuck in an infinite loop of fake hating for what purpose?
        2. It’s incredibly ironic how the haters seem to be picking on people for being “vain” when the real reason has nothing to do with looks, yet they are the ones stuck on the way something looks. Seems to me than these folks are the vain ones who are obsessed with looks.
        3. Makes total sense by the way, that if you want a worn in look that you need to abuse your new bass for 20 years AND THEN you finally get the bass you want. Except now you have wasted 20 years playing one you didn’t like as much as the one sitting next to it, that feels good but isn’t actually abused. It wouldn’t even wear that way unless you got the right type of finish that would lend itself to wearing down like that. The “better” basses you are recommending do not however. Good point boys.

        Again, if someone buys one of these basses that we love to play and claims it makes them look cooler, that it’s vintage or that they worn it out like that, then by all means give them hell. But I’ve never heard someone say that. I would also probably put my computer to sleep and play my bass instead of judging someone for something they didn’t say or agree with. In the end, if you find enjoyment in harassing people for something because of their opinion and making personal comments about them as people I think you have some massive issues and I feel bad for your family for having to live with you, if they still do. Having your own opinion is one thing but being a crappy human because it makes you feel better about your shit life is another story all together.

        I’ll see you losers on a cooking forum talking about how going out to eat is smarter than cooking at home and we’re dumb for making our own spaghetti. Get bent.

  41. 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.

  42. 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.

  43. 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.

  44. 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

  45. 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

  46. 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

  47. 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

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

  50. 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

  51. 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

  52. 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.

  53. 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.

  54. I Am a Strat lover and I prefer American made, I even have a couple vintage Strats, but I will tell you that I was amazed at how good the Road Worn 60’s that I bought feels and sounds for a Mexican. At least the one the that I bought. I was pleasantly surprised it was so well made. overall I think they are worth the price.

  55. I am a proud owner of both road worn p and J basses. regardless of the relic look that some turn there noses up to you just can’t beat the feel,sound and playabilty that cost so much less then your custom made. yes it’s a mim but lets face it not all american made instruments top notch. As for thoughs who have a issue with the distress look and wanting there own relic history markings more power to you but i’m sure most of you have brought a used instrument or two that has someone elses history and markings. so with that being said Fender you did a good job, keep it up.

  56. Agree the relic thing is a joke but what isnt is just about everything else. I had a good look at one and.
    It was very lightweight.
    The body and headstock are thinner than any other model out there. From what Ive picked up the woods are heavily kiln died so it does seem that these models have a lot more production stuff going on than the standard models. And they do feel and play brilliant. I shall never sell mine.

  57. Stevie Rays strat was in a pawn shop for 400.00 when 8 of his friends chipped in 50.00 each to buy it for him. The instrument matters but think of the time spent playing and practicing that wore that finish to wood.
    You cant buy that, you should have to earn it

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