How To Buy A Guitar Without Getting Ripped Off In Seven Easy Steps

Buying a new guitar can be a great feeling. Maybe you’ve bought a few guitars in the past and you’re looking at adding another to your collection, or maybe you’re about to buy your first guitar and you’re not sure where to start. This guest post attempts to give would-be buyers some important tips on how to buy a guitar without getting sold a lemon.

Joe Bonamassa Guitar Collection

Joe Bonamassa Guitar Collection

What qualifies me to give anyone advice on buying music gear? I’ve owned, sold and traded a myriad of guitars over the past five years. Some were quite expensive vintage collectables and some were your run of the mill, off the shelf cheapies that I picked up on spur-of-the-moment purchases. At one point I was stashing so much gear, that when I took someone into my music room, I would always get asked if I was running a music store from home. Nope, I just had a severe case of GAS… So, let’s get started…

1. Do Proper Research… Check out guitar forums and user review sites like for reviews from people who own the particular guitar model you’re looking to purchase. Look at what prices your intended guitar will generally sell for and compare it to how much you’re being asked to pay. In particular, look for common problems that people have had with the particular guitar you’re looking to purchase.

2. Check Up On the Serial Number… Wherever possible ask the seller to provide you with the guitars serial number. If the gear has been stolen they may be reluctant to give it to you, this could be a sign to walk away. Getting the serial number can also give you a lot of useful information about the guitar, including the exact model, the year it was manufactured and the country it was manufactured in. Here’s a tip that might help you get the information about the guitar through its serial number, just type “Serial Check [Manufacturer’s Name]” into Google to find an appropriate database of serial numbers.

3. Be Willing to Negotiate… Sometimes the only thing you have to do to get a better deal is ask. This holds true for the buying of both new and used gear. But if the seller is already asking a fair price for the instrument, don’t get offended if they don’t accept your lower offer and be prepared to pay the full asking price. But, if you feel that the guitar should be cheaper and they refuse to take your offer then be prepared to walk away. Walking away from a deal can be really hard, but it can save you a lot of buyers remorse. Paying too much for a second-hand guitar can be a real bummer, believe me!

4. Enjoy It… Buying and selling gear is a great way to meet other guitarists (or serial killers, depending on where you look – always be careful when dealing with people!), but seriously, some of my best friends these days are people who I have met from buying either a new guitar or amp from them. Buying a new guitar can be a lot of fun, and by following these few simple tips it will help you enjoy the buying process. Doing your due diligence, checking out pictures of guitars online, reading through guitar forums, talking to people etc… all takes time, so don’t be in a panic to buy the first guitar that comes along, just enjoy the experience and the right guitar will always show up.

5. Play Before You Buy… I know this can be pretty hard in today’s online guitar trading scene, but when ever possible, always play the guitar before handing over your hard-earned. Some guitars will grow on you the more you play them, but on first impressions, make sure you enjoy the general appearance, feel and sound of the guitar. Look for any obvious flaws in the guitar that couldn’t be easily fixed.

Some things to look out for could be…

  • Major cracks – Headstocks and neck pockets are usually the most common areas to check.
  • Twists or bends in the neck.
  • Fret wear.
  • Lifting frets.
  • Missing parts – Truss rod covers, knobs, screws, etc…
  • Excessive string buzz.
  • Not staying in tune.
  • Non genuine parts.
  • Crackly wiring, etc…

6. Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions… Most people are happy to talk about the guitar they are selling. Try to find out as much of the guitars history as you can. A good idea is to make up a short list of questions that you can ask when ever dealing with someone selling a guitar. Stuff like, has the guitar had any major repairs or modifications, how long have you owned it, why are you selling, etc… People will sell a guitar for a multitude of reasons, just because they need some extra cash, they don’t play any more, they like to make a bit of extra cash through trading gear, they just didn’t bond with the instrument, and some people will try to offload a guitar that is a bit dodgy. By asking a few questions you should be able to get a good feeling about the person selling the guitar and their motives for selling, you really don’t want to inherit some one else’s problem!

7. Don’t rush it… Take your time and shop around for a good deal. Sometimes the best deals are hiding in the most unlikely places. Good places to check out are the small family run music store around the corner or pawn shops. Also keep an eye out in your local classifieds, sometimes people don’t know the value of an instrument, so you never know what you’re going to find there, and don’t forget eBay, lots of great deals to be had there, but you gotta be patient and don’t let your self get sucked into the excitement of auctions and spend more than you wanted to. Make sure you give your self a budget and don’t over spend.

Bonus tip: Do you really need another guitar? This one is mostly asked by the friends and family of those suffering from GAS. I’ll leave that up to you… Of Course You Do 😉

If you have anything else to add, just leave it in the comments below.

This Guest Post was brought to you by Alex J Coyne, a South African guitarist and writer, among other things. He can be found over at his blog…

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