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6 Things To Know When Buying A Used Guitar

If you’re interested in buying a used guitar you need to make sure it’s in playable condition. Buying a used guitar can be fun, like a treasure hunt. We have gotten incredible steals when looking for used guitars at flea markets or yard sales. There are a few important things to keep in mind:

Small chips or nicks in the top, neck or body can be overlooked, because that is normal wear and tear. Belt buckles can really scratch up the back side of the guitar body, but just scratches or nicks should not affect the sound or playability of the guitar. When you’re buying a used guitar you need to avoid:

6 Things To Know When Buying A Used Guitar

1.) Cracks, big dents, surface damage.

You never want a guitar with cracks in the body or top, or dents that go through the surface. Scratches and nicks are normal wear and tear, but cracks are not acceptable. The top, whether flat or archtop, must be free of any cracks and should be flat and not warped or curved (note that an archtop has a contour; make sure the contour is even).
2.)  Buzzing.

Does the guitar buzz when played? Buzzing can come from a problem in the tuning pegs, the nut, too low an action, a warp in the neck, or an uneven bridge. Do not buy a used guitar that buzzes unless the store can have it fixed. Sometimes buzzing requires only slight adjustments, but sometimes it may indicate a major problem with the guitar that you don’t need to deal with. Make sure the buzzing doesn’t come from the way you press your finger down on the frets. Press cleanly and firmly with your knuckles bent and perpendicular to the board. If you don’t yet know how to play, ask the store clerk to play the guitar for you to make sure it doesn’t buzz.

3.) When you try the guitar out, do the strings stay in tune?

If not, there may be problems with the tuning machines. Play the guitar for several minutes in the store, or ask someone else to play it so that you can determine whether the strings stay in tune. A reputable guitar store will take care of problems with used guitars before they place them for sale. But pay attention if you are buying a used guitar: check the guitar out from headstock to bridge. If something seems amiss, look for another guitar! If you buy on eBay or another online vendor, make sure there is a return policy.

4.) Is the neck warped?

Take the guitar and sight down it from the headstock to the bridge. A very slight dip in the middle is normal, but make sure the strings are even from side to side, and that the fingerboard is too. Is there a steep dip or uneven curvature? Not a good sign. Also check the distance between the strings and the fingerboard at the 12th fret. Press them down. If there is a lot of tension or distance here, and if the neck looks curved, forget about this one. A warped neck is another headache you don’t need.

5.) How is the “action?”

That goes hand in hand with having a sturdy, straight neck and not a warped one. When you press the strings down against the fingerboard with the fingertips of your playing hand make sure there isn’t a lot of space between the strings and the fingerboard. The space between the upper fingerboard and the strings is called the “action,” and it affects the ease and speed of playing.

6.) Do the notes sound clear and have good resonance?

‘Don’t buy a guitar that makes cheap, tinny-sounding notes, because it won’t help you develop a good ear for music. You want a clear tone with ample volume.

If the guitar is otherwise comfortable, sounds good, fits your body size easily, and looks halfway decent, then it could be just the one for you. Follow your gut feeling on this: if the guitar feels really right, and has no major flaws, and you feel drawn to it. After all, the guitar is going to become your daily companion that you spend a lot of time with, so make sure you’re comfortable with it. If you’re buying a used guitar from a shop, ask if there is any return period, just in case you find something wrong with it when you begin to practice. Finally:

So you’ve decided to get a new guitar instead of buying a used guitar? Then just follow all the above guidelines and you’ll be in great shape. When buying a new guitar check the return policy, in case you don’t like it after you buy it. Reputable vendors will have one. We’ve got more suggestions for buying a guitar online!