Alright! So you’ve decided that getting a used guitar is the best option for you. But how do you go about buying it so you don’t make a disastrous mistake? In this article, we talk you through the thought process, as well as, give you tips and tricks about how best to buy a used guitar.
Why Do You Want A Used Guitar?
Before we even look at how to buy a used guitar, we have to first understand why you’re looking at a used guitar in the first place.
If you’re just a beginner looking into getting something cheap, then getting a used guitar might not be the best option for you.
This is because, for beginners, you don’t need really expensive high-end guitars. All you really need is something very basic. And you can get those, new, at really affordable prices.
On the other hand, if you’ve been playing the guitar for a while and you’re looking at moving from a beginner’s guitar to something more professional, then buying used is the way to go.
This is because there are many professional musicians who buy new instruments every other day. These guys sell off their older ones for a lot cheaper than their price, new. So, you get a really good bargain for a guitar that might have not been even played for so long.
Below are several reasons apart from price, why you might want a used guitar:
Most “Used” Guitars Haven’t Even Been Used Much
It would surprise you to find out the number of people who decide to become guitarists, rush out to buy their first guitar, and then just stop playing after a few weeks. A lot more people give up playing the guitar than people who actually keep on playing.
There is also another set of people who simply play the guitar once in a month for fun, or just drive it to church on Sundays. Whatever the case may be, there are a lot of people who have “used” guitars that haven’t been used a lot and you can get for about half the price of the original cost.
Guitars Are Still The Same
The basic design and build of the guitar haven’t exactly changed much in more than three decades. Yes, in electric guitars the electronics would have changed a bit. But apart from that, nothing else.
And in acoustic guitars? Those ones have maintained the exact same design and even the same type of wood used. In fact, some woods that were readily available in the past aren’t available now (like Brazilian rosewood). So, if you want to get a guitar with that wood, you would definitely have to pick something that’s been used.
Like Fine Wine
Guitars are made with wood and wood ages with maturity. Unlike cars, guitars are like wines, they definitely get a lot better with age.
This is why you see really old guitars being sold for crazy amounts of money, today. That maturity in the wood is something that only time can provide.
Most Of Them Were Hand-made
Technology wasn’t as good as it was then, so most really old guitars were hand-made. Hand-made guitars are a lot better than machine-made guitars because wood is natural.
Yes, the machine gives you laser precision and cuts everything accurately, but with nature, no two are ever exact. When hand-making the guitars, the luthiers are able to examine each piece of wood individually and figure out what’s best for each. This ultimately provides the best sound.
Why You Shouldn’t Buy Cheap
Even if you’re looking at buying a used guitar, don’t buy cheap guitars. If you see someone willing to sell a $1000 guitar for $300 used, chances are that the instrument is no longer in great working condition.
If you buy cheap, you will end up regretting the purchase and probably have to start searching for a new buy very soon. So, as much as you can, try to look for affordable bargains but stay away from cheap products.
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
What You Should Be Looking For — How To Buy Used Guitar
Alright! Now, we’ve clarified that we aren’t just looking to buy cheap, let’s find out what we should be looking for when buying a used guitar.
Yes, we know that this is a guitar and as such, the sound is a lot more important than its looks. However, in the case of buying used, the looks will give you the first understanding of the guitar.
If you’re buying in a brick and mortar store, then you should definitely pick it up, look around it, look again. Find any signs of cracks, breaks, or general wear and tear. If you find any, ask the employee what caused it and how it affects the guitar. If no information can be provided, drop it.
If you’re buying online, ask the seller for pictures. Pictures of the front, pictures of the back, multiple pictures and even videos, if possible. Get a good look at the whole guitar and then ask the necessary questions if anything is fishy.
Once you look at a guitar, you’ll know if the guitarist that used it took good care of it. The strings should not all be rusty, the fretboard shouldn’t look too dirty, and definitely, the box shouldn’t be broken.
This is why we often prefer you buy used instruments offline. Online, it would be difficult to hear what the guitar actually sounds like in an acoustic environment. Even if the person sends you a video, other things like the quality of the mic used to record can affect the sound of the guitar.
So, if you have the option, it’s best to go into a store and play the guitar yourself. Strike a few chords, play every fret, make sure that no fret is flat. Bend the strings, check the sound. Don’t just play some songs, do a thorough sound test.
Watch the video below for a brief idea on how to check the sound of a guitar:
So it looks good and it sounds great. That’s not all. You have to check that the hardware is complete and still working properly. Make sure it still has a truss rod, check out the action at the 12th fret of the guitar.
If the action at the 12th fret is not the way you want it to be, then check the saddle and the bridge. Can you adjust the action from there? If the bridge has been lowered to its lowest, that’s a huge red flag. Also, the saddle can have small grooves but not large grooves. Large grooves mean that the guitar needs a neck reset. Not worth it.
Finally, if there are any cracks on the guitar, that might not be such a huge issue. However, these must be little tiny cracks. Any huge cracks will cause drastic changes to the sound of the instrument. You definitely don’t want to be looking at those guitars.
Now refurbished products are used products but they are not exactly like the ones we’ve been talking about. So basically, a refurbished guitar is a guitar that has been used, collected by the company who made it, or other big retailers, and retouched to look like new.
They can also be called “factory seconds”. You can definitely find some good bargains at this price. You should know, though, that they are often more expensive than other used guitars. This is because of how much work is put in to make them look and sound new.
Most guitars that are picked to be refurbished are guitars that were returned or used in a swap deal. If you buy from reputable sellers, they often come with a warranty, just to show how good they are.
This is the safest way to buy used in our opinion. So, if you have the extra money, this is definitely something that you should check out.
Alright! So we’ve shown you when buying a guitar used is a better idea. We’ve also looked at the various things you need to look out for when buying a used guitar. We believe that with this information, you’re well equipped to buying your first used guitar.
If you’re buying used online, then it’s much better that you buy from a very trusted seller. Look at reviews, comments, and what other buyers are saying concerning that seller.
If you’re buying directly from a person, then ensure to meet at a public place, preferably a music shop where you can easily test out the guitar and get feedback from other musicians.
Until next time, Adios!