There are plenty of reasons for you to be interested in used guitars for sale. Many such instruments sound better than new guitars, as the wood had plenty of time to mature. Many used guitars are like old wines or cigars: they get better with age.
Some people look for specific wood that is not available anymore today – because they want that vintage, unique flair new guitars do not feature. And while are looking for bargains, most are interested in getting their hands of veritable artworks which are handmade, precious, beautiful, and with a story to tell.
You may want to begin your quest for used guitars for sale for none or all the reasons above. However, before you venture into the world of secondhand guitars, auctions, and price comparisons, you need to have the ground rules very clear. It matters less if you are a beginner or a seasoned guitar player. You need to know what you want and how to get it. This is why we put together today used guitars for sale complete buying guide.
Check the Make and Model of the Guitar
No matter what you buy from the used or secondhand market, you need to rule out frauds first. Just like you check the serial number of a used car to see if it has a bad background, you should also check the make and model (and serial number) of the guitar you are planning to buy. Sometimes you will find the logo “accidentally” scratched from the headstock.
The worst-case scenario is when a con artist forges the brand name on the headstock. Before jumping at the opportunity of buying an incredibly cheap Gibson, Martin or Les Paul, check the serial number on the back of the guitar. An honest seller will have no issues in offering you the number.
Verify the Age and the Condition of the Guitar
This is one of the trickiest points in your quest for used guitars. If you buy them online, you will not be able to see dozens of flaws and problems. You can ask the seller and hope he is honest. This is why specialists recommend you buy the guitar only after you held it in your hands and looked at it for a good half an hour in perfect daylight. Here are some major issues you need to consider when you plan to compare used guitars for sale:
Previous repairs to the body
Look at the top, back and sides. If you see cracks or splits, do not despair, but ask if a professional made the repairs. If so, the guitar should sound and feel as good as new. The seller should volunteer in telling you when, why, and how he fixed the guitar in the past.
Online pictures will not reflect if the neck of a used guitar is flat. This is why you should test it before paying the price. If the guitar neck sports a very slight bow, you are on the right track, because you are simply looking at the guitar’s relief. However, if the neck shows a significant bow, your guitar will not offer you the experience you are looking for.
When you are checking the neck, make sure the guitar does not present signs of major physical damage (previously broken neck). If it is mahogany and professionally repaired, you might be lucky enough and get a guitar that sounds impeccably. However, other woods are harder to repair and an obvious past neck breakage is not a good selling point.
Check the Bridge
Look at the back of the bridge and see if it presents a slight lift. Look along the top of the guitar in the area immediately in front of the bridge to see if it started to get a belly or some distortions. If it does, it means that it endured prolonged string tension and the side effects are beginning to show.
Make sure you also measure the distance between the bottom of the sixth string and the top of the fret wire at the 12th fret. If there is a standard electric you want to buy, the distance should be under 2 millimeters. If you are interested in acoustic used guitars for sale, this distance should be 3 millimeters tops. At four millimeters in either electric or acoustic, you should walk away.
Fret, but don’t fret
Look at the frets to see if they are lifter or loose. You can do so by playing every note on every string. Loose frets sound unpleasantly and unnaturally loud, while lifted frets buzz or skip the note altogether. If the guitar comes with a prestigious name and overall good conditions and price, you should consider a professional refret and balance the cost of the operation against the price the seller asks.
Check the tuners
First, check for rust. Secondly, check if the tuners work at all. There is no major crime in a tuner working poorly or not working at all because professionals can take care of this, but add the repair on your list of added costs.
Plug it in
In case of a used standard electric guitar, ask the seller to plug it in and give it a spin. You should be able to get used guitars whose pickups work properly. Pay attention to any hum or unnatural sound or other related issues. You can sort the problem out just fine with professional help, but again, make sure you will not end up paying for the guitar more than it is really worth.
Does Your Guitar Come from a Loving Home?
Your guitar may look well, but you need to ask the seller about how he kept and preserved it. A solid case is your best bet. No case at all should make you consider other options. The story of the guitar is important here. Did the previous owner play it gently and safe? Did he take it to bars, stage gigs, and band tours? What did the guitar “experience” in its lifetime? When you go see the guitar, look at its environment: attic, garage, a warehouse is bad. Living room, bookshelf, a nice room corner with a blanket is good.
If you are looking exclusively for used Taylor guitars for sale and you will not settle for anything else, then spend as much time as necessary to find the right guitar for you. If you have multiple options, factor in the price, type of guitar (are you into jazz or rock, for instance?), sound, future repairs and replacements (time and costs), brand, features, specs, and so on. High-end used guitars are not cheap, even if they are cheaper than new ones. They need to be your faithful companions for a very long time – so look carefully and make the best possible choice.
Do not take Unnecessary Chances
Make your homework well. If you stumble upon some online offers that sound too good to be true, begin research. Talk to other guitar players, spend some time on the forums, and find more about the sellers’ trustworthiness and reputation. There are many horror stories out there and there are plenty of success stories as well. You need to filter everything and ask for an expert opinion when you lack information or experience in some domain. Pictures will not show you everything. Bring a seasoned guitar player with you when you go test-driving the short list of used guitars for sale you want to give a chance.
Are you interested in used guitars for sale? Where do you find them? Do you have a happy story to share with us about your newest used guitars acquisitions and experiences?
Image source: jasondkeys.com.