FAQ: Should I Buy a New or Used Guitar?

Is it better to buy a new or a used guitar?

Once you’ve made your decision about which guitar you want to buy, a dilemma often presents itself to every potential guitar buyer: Should I buy a new or used guitar? It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for an electric guitar or acoustic guitar, the question remains the same.

The truth is that there’s really no “right answer” to the question as it all simply boils down to your preference and often what your budget allows, but there are some secrets that can help guide you to a much easier choice.

Below I want to share with you 5 tips to help you decide whether to buy a new or used guitar. These are based on my own personal experience of buying and selling both new and used guitars for over 10 years. Read through these tips carefully and if you have anything else you think is missing here, please leave a comment!

Tip #1 New Online, Used in Person

If you live in a large metropolitan city with an active Craigslist community, buying online is a hassle but possible. However, don’t consider buying used online if you don’t have the opportunity to play it first. Buying used off eBay, Amazon or other sites where the seller is potentially hundreds of miles away is asking for trouble.

Fortunately, buying new online doesn’t carry the same risks. You see, manufacturing techniques these days are such that if you walk into a guitar store in California during a vacation and pick up a guitar that sounds absolutely amazing, you can go home to New York and order that same guitar online with full confidence. It will sound exactly the same 99% of the time.

As a general rule: don’t buy used unless you will have the opportunity to play and inspect it first.

Buying new in a guitar store

Tip #2 Don’t Buy a Used Beginner Guitar

Used guitars are an excellent idea for the amateur, experienced guitar player but they present far-too great a risk for the average beginner guitarist.

This may seem like a terrible advice – and I’m sure there are some guitarists out there that might disagree with me here – but here are my two reasons why I don’t recommend a beginner to buy a used guitar:

  1. Beginners Don’t Know What to Look For: if you’ve never played guitar before, it’s likely you wouldn’t know the difference between a $300 guitar and a $1,000 if the price tag wasn’t on it. That’s ok. You’re not supposed to know and for that reason it’s just far too easy for a beginner guitarist to spend too much money for something that may not be as valuable as they think.
  2. New Beginner Guitars Aren’t Expensive: Don’t have a big budget? That’s really ok – nowadays you can get an excellent deal on a beginner acoustic guitar and there are hundreds of entry-level electric guitars available as well. Even with a budget of just $200, you’re going to walk away with a very nice beginner guitar.

Tip #3 Only Buy Used Quality Guitars

The question of “new vs used” should really only come into play when you’re looking at acoustic guitars or electric guitars that cost more than $500 new. Looking at used entry-level guitars (below $500) is just a waste of time in my opinion. Why? Primarily for resale value. Let me explain below.

If you’re considering a purchase of your first full-size Taylor guitar – guitars which usually start at over $1,000 – you’ll probably be pleased with both the price and playability of a used Taylor 100 Series or higher. Because of the quality construction you can be assured that it will last you a long time and because of the good name you’ll rest easy knowing you can sell it for pretty much the same amount you paid for it. Not that I think you’ll want to sell it, but perhaps you’ll want to upgrade someday. I did!

Buying an Acoustic Guitar

Tip #4 If Buying Used, Bring a Friend

Even if you’re an experienced guitarist, it’s definitely helps to have a second pair of eyes to catch what you may have missed. If you’re not an experienced guitarists then you’re going to want to bring somebody with you just to help guide you through the process.

I also promote the idea of having a friend come along whenever buying a guitar because I think it helps to ask somebody else to play the guitar while you sit back and listen to how it sounds from an audience perspective. You’d be surprised how much it helps.

Tip #5 Consider the Future

Finally, before you decide on whether to buy a new or a used guitar – a decision that is usually based on available budget – one of the most important things you need to ask yourself is this: do I see this guitar as an investment or an experiment?

I’ve known a lot of people who buy a crappy used guitar just because they want to get what they feel is the biggest bang for their buck, when the reality is that it just wasn’t what they needed. Perhaps it didn’t have electronics when there was a possibility that they would be playing on stage. Perhaps it the frets were so worn down that they would need to pay to have work done on it just a year down the road.

Whatever the case, you need to think long-term when you’re buying your guitar. Ask yourself: what do I need this guitar to do? Will I be playing this guitar 5 years from now? If so, what might I want then?

 

8 Responses to FAQ: Should I Buy a New or Used Guitar?

  1. jack says:

    think its great you take the time to do this, i have traded, bought, sold, for 30 yrs and you would think i should know it all, but still learning, thanks jack

  2. Saverio Martiradonna says:

    Hello Jack,

    I have been playing acoustic guitar since august 2014 and average about 2 to 4 hours a day. I play so much, that I am now having issues with my fingers etc. Anyway, I bought a Taylor 150 12 string several months ago and just love it.

    I now want to purchase another Taylor as my main squeeze and am considering a 1995 Taylor 912C that has after market fishman electronics added to it. This guitar is mint and has been at a guitar shop on consignment for over a year. Owner is asking $2800/3000 for it and of course turned down offer for $2000. I have bought older violins for my kids before and would like some tips on this guitar. Here are my questions:

    1) Would a guitar like this be worthwhile to purchase instead of maybe a new 800 series, I cant afford new 900 series.

    2) What would be a fair price?

    thanks

  3. natasha says:

    Im a beginner and was wondering, is it ok for me too buy a new guitar online? ik this should have answered my question but it confused me more. you see i dont live remotley near a store that sells them so ive been saving up to buy one online but after reading this i thought maybe i shouldnt.

    • Josh Summers says:

      I’m sorry it confused you, Natasha! The truth is that you’re perfectly safe buying a guitar online. Ideally, you’d be able to try the guitar out in a store first so you can see what you think of it, but since that’s not an option you shouldn’t worry too much about it.

      I recommend you check out the GuitarAdventures acoustic guitar guide or electric guitar guide (based on what kind of guitar you want to buy) and purchase a new guitar based on the recommendations there. I doubt you’ll be disappointed by what you get, no matter which one you end up purchasing!

  4. Leon Karl Strongman says:

    Hi,
    I’m completely new to guitar playing and have practiced now for two to three weeks a couple of hours a day.
    Sometimes I feel like there is real progress bordering on natural talent and other times like there is no hope.
    Is it normal to be so inconsistent this early on.
    I really want to learn guitar as this is a target I set myself many years ago but never followed through. Now I feel there are no excuses and need some enlightened input.
    BR
    Guitar Tadpole

    • Josh Summers says:

      Hey, thanks for the comment BR! I wouldn’t be discouraged – the oscillation between inspired and pathetic practice is quite normal. If you’ve been going at it for a while now, I suggest you connect with a guitar teacher or somebody else who can keep you accountable and give you objective feedback. It’s worth the cost, I guarantee you. 🙂

      Best of luck!

  5. Dan says:

    What are your thoughts on buying through ebay a “like new” guitar? By this I mean I found my dream guitar at a considerable discount that was on display at the store but is considered to be in new condition by the store? The store does have a 14 day return policy, so I could return the guitar if I find anything wrong with it after I’ve received it.

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