You watch that Guns N' Roses concert for the hundredth time and you tell yourself you'd love to play the guitar like them.

Okay, but you don't know how to play the guitar!

You'd like to start learning and you feel totally capable of learning by ear instead of spending money on private guitar lessons, such as bass guitar lessons or guitar lessons online.

It's out of the question that you walk into the first music store you see and buy a new Stratocaster with flames on it--your budget won't allow that!

What if it was possible to find a used guitar without breaking the bank and being sure of its quality? How do you not get ripped off by the person selling you his or her instrument? How do you ensure that the fingerboard is of good quality, or the headstock is in good condition? How do you ensure that this acoustic electric would actually work if you plugged it into an amp? How do you make sure that the guitar pickups, the humbucker perhaps, works?

Well, we'd like to talk about the benefits of looking at second-hand electric guitars, acoustic guitars, and classical guitars. And we'd like you to trust the random guitarists that you are discussing buying from.

Ready to start up your career as a guitarist?

What price should the guitar be? Here is some advice on how to choose and buy your second hand instrument calmly while discovering the joys of being a rockstar (no guarantee on becoming a rockstar)!

The Advantages of Choosing a Second-Hand Guitar

But first off, why choose a second hand guitar instead of buying a new one?

A guitarist plays a second-hand guitar
Why buy a second-hand guitar?

As novices, people have a tendency to direct themselves to inexpensive beginner material that just doesn't have the quality to back up the price. This means you'll soon be tempted to resell your guitar in order to buy one that's better quality. However, you won't find any buyers...

Whether you want to purchase an electric guitar, an acoustic guitar, or an electro-acoustic guitar, one thing's for sure: for the same price, you'll have a better quality instrument if you buy a second hand one!

Consequently, your guitar's sound will be better and it will be easier for you to play it, especially if you're just starting.

Additionally, and as opposed to a new guitar, impairment loss is reduced when it comes to a second-hand guitar. If you would like to resell your musical instrument a few weeks or a few months later, you'll be able to do it at the same price you bought it.

And if you're looking for a rare gem, don't hesitate to turn to the second-hand guitar market: limited edition instruments, special colors and features, you name it...

Let your imagine run wild to the tune of your musical desires! If you want a high end musical instrument - a Les Paul or a Strat, a Gibson SG or a Paul Reed Smith, a Firebird or a Gretsch - with a little bit of effort, you might find one.

Do you know the price of a classical guitar? And do you know how much an electric guitar costs?

The Guitar's Brand and Model

It doesn't matter which guitar you choose: whether it's acoustic, electric, or electro-acoustic, you should always opt for a well-known brand.

Whether you want to play rock, jazz, or folk, to start out or to perfect your skills, you should buy a second-hand guitar from a famous brand such as Ibanez, Yamaha, Gibson, Epiphone, ESP Ltd, or Fender. That's for the electrics. For the acoustics, try Breedlove, Taylor Guitars, Alvarez, Seagull or Martin Guitars.

For classical guitars, try Yamaha or Cordoba.

options for secondhand guitars
Take your pick! There are thousands and thousands of guitars online.

You must verify and ask the seller what the guitar's brand, model, and year of manufacture is. This information is usually visible on the tag, which is visible through the mouth of the guitar.

Again, that's only for acoustics - both those with nylon string and those with steel string. Obviously an electric doesn't have a soundhole for you to look through, but you'll find a model usually on the back of the headstock.

This is important information in order to know the price of the new guitar and better estimate its second-hand price.

Acoustic guitar players will have to think what sort of body shape they will want: dreadnought, a parlor, a jumbo acoustic, a grand auditorium, or grand concert. You'll have to think if you want a cutaway or a single cutaway, whether you want it made of Sitka spruce, flame maple, rosewood - ie the tonewood.

All electric players will have to consider the issues of amplifiers and preamps and the inlays. Amps, remember, will cost as much as the guitar itself!

The Price of a Second-Hand Guitar

So, what price should we pay for a second-hand guitar?

Of course, as I said before, everything depends on the make and model of the guitar.

The price of a guitar usually decreases with the years unless it's a collector's guitar belonging to a great rock master.

To better estimate the price of a used guitar, stick to the value of the new instrument. You can find this information on many different websites throughout the web.

It is often said that a used guitar costs -20 to -50% of its original price. This is often the case but it is not always true. The price will heavily depend on supply and demand.

In order to get a good deal, there is no secret: COM-PARE!

your next secondhand guitar
Which guitar will strike your fancy?

Ebay is your friend! Have a look at past sales to know the real selling price of the guitar you are coveting. The price displayed is not always the real selling price.

And make sure to buy a guitar based on a possible resale price. Oh yes, and, always keep in mind good old supply and demand!

Where Can One Buy a Used Guitar?

There are several possibilities:

  • in a music store

You will benefit from advice, adjustments, and after-sale service. Sometimes some accessories will even be thrown in (the pick, some strings, tuners, a gig bag or guitar case). You can also get a few months' guarantee. You will also find good offers, sometimes even as good as those on the internet.

They will be pretty much guaranteed to be in a decent state. Probably, the fretboard will be in a good condition, a guitar pickup expert will have made sure the single coil microphones are working, and a reliable guitar player will have checked it for its playability. You should expect secondhand guitars to be all solid in a music store.

  • on the internet, from professional sellers

Take a look at vendors' ratings and choose reputable vendors. Here too, the settings will be decided by the seller. He or she has every interest in selling you a quality instrument to gain a loyal customer. Check the return policy to see if it does not suit you. And, so that you don't order something you don't end up wanting, think of doing an in-store test on the guitar of your choice before going to buy it on the internet.

Be careful, though. If someone is offering you a Gibson Custom, a Les Paul Standard, or a standard Stratocaster and its price looks too good to be true, then it might well be. If you can, if you live close or whatever, try any acoustic electric guitar or a fully electric one before you buy it - to ensure that the wiring works.

If you are looking for a flamenco guitar or some other acoustic hollow body guitar, ask for a comprehensive view of the instrument. Ask the seller to send detailed photos of any damage. The same applies for ukuleles or a mandolin.

  • on the internet with stock B

Stock B are instruments that can no longer be sold at the original retail price because of a defect: damaged packaging, scratches, dents, or simply because they were in-store demo instruments.

  • from individuals

Choose ads in your area and ask to test the instrument. Two sites where individuals regularly put instruments on sale are LetGo and Wallapop.

In all cases, have a look to see if the seller is offering anything with the instrument - hardshell guitar cases for instances - and whether the instrument is stringed or whether you will need to buy new accessories.

Think of music schools, too! You'll find ads posted on local music school boards, right near ads for musicians.

Check the Guitar's General State

That's it: you chose your guitar, found your ad, the price is right---and now you have to meet the seller.

a secondhand guitar in the woods
Make sure the guitar of your dreams is really the guitar of your dreams in real life!

If you are a beginner and this is your first purchase, have someone with more experience--like a talented guitarist or music teacher--help if possible.

There are three main guitar parts to check before buying your used guitar: the head, the neck, and the body.

The Head

Check the mechanics are not too worn. For this, tune the guitar and play it a little. If it quickly gets out of tune, it may be the result of bad mechanics.

Also check that the nut is not cracked. That said, this piece is inexpensive if you have to change it. You can find it for less than 5 USD.

The Neck

The handle should be straight and the frets flat and in good condition. Also check that the heel does not show any trace of glue.

Remember to check that the strings do not curl (do you know how much guitar strings cost?)--that is to say they do not touch the frets when you play. If they do touch the frets, either the nut is worn or the handle is damaged due to poor storage. In any case, this is a bad sign - it will affect the intonation and your ability to enjoy techniques like vibrato.

The Body

You can see when the varnish is in good condition. If it's not, you can use it as an element that will allow for price negotiation if there are some scratches present on the guitar, for example. Be careful there are no real cracks or dents in the wood.

There is a difference between signs of play wear around the rosette and sound hole and real problems due to unwanted falls and bangs into furniture. Hollow body guitars are delicate - and if they are broken, that's the end.

The most important thing is to check that the bridge is well glued to the soundboard. It plays a vital role in how the guitar sounds.

If you choose an electric guitar or electro-acoustic guitar, remember to check the status of the microphone and buttons: there should not be any strange or unwanted sounds.

Test Out Your New Guitar!

Test the guitar to be sure to find the one of your dreams! Besides the fact that you may find defects whilst playing it, this is the instrument you will spend countless hours with, and you have to be sure it is the perfect one for you!

Is the feeling good? Does the sound please you? Do your fingers fit well with it? Remember to test it in all playing positions: sitting and standing. How comfortable you will be whilst you play is very important. You will spend many hours on it, and it will depend on how pleasant it is for you to use.

Also consider your build: if you have small hands, the guitar size should be 1/2 or 3/4.

For sound, ask a more experienced guitarist or guitar teacher for advice if you are not sure.

Is the sound good? If it's an electric guitar, does it spit?

A Quick Guide to Buying Other Guitar Equipment Secondhand

By the way, you can perhaps negotiate some accessories with the guitarist seller:

  • a drum machine,
  • a pedal board (with individual reverb, resonator, tremolo, overdrive, synthesizer, mesa boogie, condenser effect pedal)
  • footswitch, fender,
  • a protective film or hard case
  • a charger,
  • a guitar cover
  • guitar amps?

It's up to you to see! However, you might want to just buy one of these straight up. As with the musical instrument itself, you might benefit from going second hand. The secondhand market is not all about vintage guitars - that Fender guitar or Gibson acoustic, that Fender American Standard or jazz guitar.

Rather, you can get anything you please - and as you long as you use the same shrewdness as you did with your guitar, there is no reason why you can't get a great deal too.

a secondhand amp with guitar
A vintage amp might be just the kind of thing you are looking to be thrown into your sale!

In conclusion, buy a second-hand guitar!
All you need is to check a few important points before the guitar will become an extension of yourself.

Now that you have all the information necessary, you just have to get started on finding the guitar of your dreams out there in the second-hand market.

And if it's your first time strumming your baby, don't forget that we offer guitar lessons everywhere in the U.S.A :-)

Need a Guitar teacher?

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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.