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.
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:
- 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.
- 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!
Tip #4 If Buying Used, Bring a Friend
Even for an experienced guitarist, it’s helps to have a second pair of eyes to catch what you may have missed. If you’re not experienced then you’re going to want somebody with you to help you through the process.
I also promote the idea of having a friend come along whenever buying a guitar. It helps to ask somebody else to play the guitar while you sit back and listen. This is to see how it sounds from an audience perspective. You’d be surprised how much it helps.
Tip #5 Consider the Future
Finally, before you decide to buy a new or a used guitar you need to ask yourself the following question. “Do I see this guitar as an investment or an experiment?” Because this is a decision that is usually based on available budget.
I’ve known people who bought a crappy used guitar because they want to get 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 if the frets were so worn down that they would need to pay to have work done.
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?