What to Look for When Buying a Used Guitar (2024)

Finding the perfect instrument is an exciting journey, but one question that often arises is whether to buy a new or used guitar.

It’s true that you need to be extra cautious and do your due diligence when buying a used guitar. However, the potential money-saving opportunities and chances to purchase unique and vintage instruments mean that the used market can be an excellent resource. There are plenty of reasons to buy a used guitar over a new one. But the key to successfully navigating the used guitar marketplace lies in knowing what you’re looking for and making an informed decision.

In this article, we’ll offer a comprehensive guide on what to look for when buying a used guitar. We’ll discuss the benefits of buying second-hand, inspecting your potential purchase, and common mistakes to avoid. We’ll also look at the specifics of buying a used guitar online.

Benefits of Buying a Used Guitar

Buying a used guitar has many advantages, but one of the biggest plus points is the chance to save some serious money. Guitars, especially premium instruments, can quickly become expensive, and as a beginner, you might not want to invest a huge amount in a brand-new guitar. By buying a used guitar, you can stretch your money a bit further to get the guitar you really want without burning a hole in your pocket.

Secondly, used guitars often have a unique character. Vintage guitars might have a certain warmth and richness in tone that new guitars may not possess or an out-of-fashion style that’s right up your street. Many musicians prefer the unique tone and feel of an old instrument which has been ‘played in’ over time. This is particularly true for acoustic guitars, where tonewood plays a more critical role in sound production.

Moreover, used guitars often have a fascinating history and character that new ones lack, making them more appealing to the sentimental musician. Used guitars can sometimes be rare or vintage models no longer in production, making them valuable collectors’ items. For musicians interested in a particular era or style of music, owning an instrument from that period can add an extra level of authenticity.

Buying a used guitar could also be a more environmentally friendly option. By choosing a second-hand guitar, you are contributing to a more sustainable future by reducing the demand for new guitars and saving resources as a result.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, when you buy a used guitar, you often know exactly what you’re getting. Unlike new instruments that have never been played, used guitars have already been broken in, and any potential manufacturing defects are likely already known or have been addressed by previous owners.

Essential Tips for Buying a Used Guitar Online

Buying a used guitar online can be a rewarding experience if you know what you’re looking for. There are several key factors to consider before making your purchase, which can enhance the likelihood of finding a quality instrument that meets your needs.

Establishing your budget and understanding the market value of the guitar you’re interested in is crucial. Researching recent sales of similar models can provide a helpful benchmark for price negotiation. It’s also important to check the reputation of the seller. Look for reviews or feedback from previous customers to gauge their trustworthiness.

Next, scrutinise the pictures and descriptions provided by the seller carefully. Look for any signs of damage, such as scratches, dents, or cracks. If only a few images are available, don’t hesitate to ask the seller for more detailed photos. Ask about the guitar’s history, including any repairs or modifications that may have been made.

It’s also essential to consider the age of the guitar. Older guitars may have more wear and tear, affecting their sound quality and playability. However, some vintage guitars are highly sought after for their unique tone and character.

Another essential tip is to inquire about the return policy. Should you be unsatisfied with the guitar once it arrives, having the option to return it can provide peace of mind.

Finally, don’t rush into buying a used guitar online. Take your time to research and compare different options. Remember, buying a guitar is not just about aesthetics or price but also about how comfortable you feel playing it and how well it suits your musical style.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Used Guitars

When buying used guitars, it’s easy to get swayed by attractive deals and overlook potential issues. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:

  • Not doing enough research. It’s essential to know the market value of the guitar model you’re interested in and to understand the specific features that determine its value. This includes factors like the type of wood used, the quality of the hardware, and the guitar’s condition. Research can also help you identify potentially fraudulent listings.
  • Ignoring the importance of the guitar’s condition. While it’s common for used guitars to have some level of wear and tear, significant damage or modifications can greatly reduce the instrument’s value and playability. Always ask for detailed photographs and information about any known issues before purchasing. If a seller hesitates to provide this information, it may be a red flag.
  • Neglecting to consider the reputation of the seller. Buying from a reputable source can greatly reduce the risk of receiving a subpar or misrepresented instrument. Check seller ratings and reviews, and don’t hesitate to ask questions about their return policy.
  • Failing to consider additional costs. Additional expenses, such as shipping fees or potential repair costs, can quickly add up, making what seemed like a good deal into an expensive mistake!
  • Avoid impulse buying! Take your time, consider your options, and make an informed decision.

Steps to Take After Purchasing a Used Guitar

After purchasing a used guitar, there are several steps you should take to ensure that your new acquisition is in the best possible condition.

Clean Your Instrument

Your newly-purchased guitar may have been sitting idle in a shop or a previous owner’s home for some time, gathering dust and grime. Use a soft cloth and suitable guitar cleaning products to wipe down the guitar’s body, neck, and headstock. Be sure to clean the fretboard and bridge, as these areas can accumulate dirt and oils from frequent handling.

Replace the Strings

Next, consider replacing the strings. Used guitars often come with old strings that may be worn out or rusty. New strings will not only improve the sound of the guitar but also make it easier to play. Additionally, inspect the guitar’s neck to ensure it is straight. A warped or bent neck can greatly affect the playability and tone of the guitar.

Alter Your Guitar’s Action

It’s also important to check and adjust the guitar’s action - the height of the strings above the fretboard. If the action is too high, it will be difficult to press down on the strings, and if it’s too low, the strings may buzz against the frets. You can adjust the action by modifying the truss rod, a metal rod that runs along the neck of the guitar.


Finally, if you’ve bought a used electric guitar, check the instrument’s electronics. Plug it into an amplifier and test all switches and knobs to ensure they function correctly. Listen for any static or humming noises, which could indicate a problem with the wiring.

By following these steps, you can ensure that your used guitar is properly set up and ready for playing. Remember that maintaining a guitar involves regular cleaning and adjustments, so keep these tips in mind for future reference.

Final Thoughts on Buying a Used Guitar

Buying a used guitar can be a rewarding experience if you know what to look for. To make the most of buying a second-hand guitar, you’ll need to understand the instrument, do your research, and make an informed decision. Once you’ve found a guitar you like, carefully inspect the ad’s details and photos, ask questions, and avoid impulsive decisions. Happy hunting!

What to Look for When Buying a Used Guitar (2024)
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