Second-Hand Instruments – Buying a Used Guitar

Things To Know When Buying a Used Guitar or Other Second-Hand Instruments

Image of Acoustic Guitar With Broken String - Second-Hand Instruments - Buying a Used Guitar

Photo by jking / CC0 1.0

When on the hunt for that perfect axe, it is not imperative to search only for a new one. Buying a used guitar is always an option, and in many circumstances can be a much better solution. Never think that second-hand instruments are automatically inferior to new musical gear. I have seen the quality of many major brands deteriorate over the years. It is a bummer to see a company that once put out great guitars now manufacture less-than-stellar instruments. But the good news is… the second-hand instruments are still out there. And the internet has now made it possible to find just about any used guitar imaginable. Now, there is a downside to this, though. When buying a used guitar on the internet, you really do not know exactly what you will be shipped. The item may have had a fantastic description and beautiful pictures, but these guarantee nothing. The only real way to know what you are going to receive is to see it in person… and play it before you purchase it. This will limit the search unless you are readily available to travel around the country to search second-hand instruments for that perfect used axe. Most people are not. So the solution… pawn shops, Craigslist, local classifieds, word of mouth, etc. Now, at the pawn shops in my area, buying a used guitar usually choosing from a selection of over-priced second-hand instruments. The employees at these places are not music instrument specialists. They usually just use the internet as a resource to determine how they price guitars. But sometimes this can work in your favor. Being that these workers are not experts, sometimes they will price a guitar way less than it should be. So before setting out to buy a used guitar, or any other musical instrument for that matter, know what you are looking for before you begin your hunt.

Here are a few tips for buying a used guitar.

1. Firstly, know what makes a quality guitar. It is not the name. It is the construction and setup. When checking out the used instrument, check the condition of the neck? Is it warped or bowed? That can usually be easily corrected. However, check to see if the neck is twisted. If it is, this is would be a costly repair (usually a few hundred dollars). Check the frets. Are they extending too far off the fretboard? Are any of them raised and causing an obnoxious buzzing sound. Have the frets strings caused deep grooves? If the guitar needs to be re-fretted, this is also something to consider. Check the electronics. How is the soldering? Are the pickups working? If so, are they good? All of this is important and could become costly if ignored.

2. After looking at the guitar and playing it, then go do some more research. Do not just accept the seller’s price immediately. Scour the internet. Remember, second-hand instruments were once new, so there is most likely information waiting to be found. Check the serial number of the guitar to find out if there is anything special about the model that the owner might have overlooked. Check the brand’s reputation for longevity. Check completed auctions to see what the guitar usually sells for. Subtract any repairs that might be necessary. Become an expert and name the price yourself. The seller might not go for it, but at least you won’t be stuck with an overpriced guitar in need of a lot of attention.

3. Comfortability and Playability – These may be the most important things to consider. How does the guitar feel when you are holding it? Is it too light or too heavy? How does the neck feel? Some people like a thick neck, and some folks prefer a thinner, faster neck. What about the tone? I do believe that tone comes mainly from the fingers, but if the guitar is nearly unplayable because of bad action, intonation, etc., then this will need to be corrected. This is an easy fix for some people. I learned how to do it myself, and it has become a very handy tool.
Do not accept the owner’s opinion on the guitar.

Remember, honesty and retail do not always go hand in hand. So give these suggestions some consideration. There are a vast number of second-hand instruments floating around in the music world. You might just end up with a better guitar in your hands and more money remaining in your pocket.