New or used guitar?
New or used guitar is the question that comes to the minds of all guitar beginners. A new electric or acoustic guitar might be your ideal choice when it comes to buying an instrument. After all, who wouldn’t prefer a shiny new guitar from the factory?
On the other hand, used guitars may have seen some fights on their journey before they found their way to you. But you can get a lot more if you choose wisely, and you may end up with a quality guitar that you just won’t be able to afford.
However, the used gear makes some people anxious, and that’s understandable. Knowing how to evaluate a guitar and whether to buy a new or used guitar is a skill that takes time to learn, and if you are a beginner, you may not have the knowledge or confidence to make an intelligent decision.
So, if you are a beginner, is it wise to buy a new guitar and get an instrument you can rely on right away? Furthermore, why choose a used guitar when there are so many high-quality beginner guitars on the market these days?
This article aims to help you answer these questions, overcome confusion, and decide whether you should have a new or used guitar.
Reasons to buy a new guitar
Truthfully, since I got started in the guitar world I’ve always preferred new guitars, and I’ve always been on the lookout for good ones. I tend to be overly emotional about guitars, and I want to pick a guitar off the wall at a guitar shop and keep it with me for the rest of my life.
Most guitars in my collection had only one owner: me.
Feelings aside, I also realize that there are some practical benefits to choosing a new guitar:
- New guitars usually come with warranties. If things go badly after you get home, you can generally have them repaired or replaced. Of course this usually does not happen with used guitars.
- New guitars have seen very little use. Even a used guitar in good condition may have some kind of deterioration in the neck and fretboard to some extent.
- You know what you’ll get with a new guitar. Fresh from the factory, that is, the guitar has not been tampered with from someone else. You don’t have to wonder if the previous owner switched pickups or made another modification without telling you.
- You should expect your new guitar to be absolutely perfect (although this is not a rule). A used guitar, on the other hand, may need some attention and a little extra care to reach your standards.
The reasons above are enough for some guitarists to avoid used guitars, but as you will see, there are also very strong reasons to buy used guitars.
Pros of used guitars
Here are the points in favor of choosing used guitars:
- For beginners and seasoned guitarists alike, you’ll save a lot of money when it comes to buying a second hand guitar. As your experience as a guitar player expands, and your tastes become richer, your savings will increase.
- Many experienced guitarists who choose second hand instruments, are not shy about hitting a screwdriver and soldering iron and putting their own stamp on the used guitar. If you are not comfortable with that, you can always take the guitar to a local guitar shop for an interesting errand and any other modifications you may need.
- There are some amazing guitars from notable brands like Gibson, PRS, Martin and Taylor. Unfortunately, many of the best guitars are priced way too high for an average budget.
However, if you’re willing to buy a used guitar, and if you’re willing to be patient, you might be able to buy one of these legendary guitars for a fraction of the cost of a new one (as I did with my Alhambra guitar).
- Old used guitars can have an antique look. Sometimes that’s all a guitarist can think of, and that’s okay. If you have the pleasure of owning a guitar from the 80s, there is nothing wrong with that. In other cases, you may stumble upon discovering an ancient masterpiece!
New or used guitar for beginners?
Many beginners think that they need to choose a used guitar because that means they will spend less when starting out. Maybe, but I think there are other considerations.
Unlike the old Les Paul Gibson, beginner guitars don’t improve with age. Beginners do not yet know enough about guitars to choose the best one for them.
So, why complicate matters by choosing a substandard guitar as your first instrument? While there are good quality and affordable beginner guitars these days? For beginners who are looking for guitars that will fit their budget in most cases, I would suggest going into a high-quality, affordable segment or a beginner segment with a warranty. Why inherit someone else’s disaster when you start your journey?
Of course, there are exceptions to this. If you have a family member or friend who knows a lot about guitars and would like to help you find a previously used guitar, you may want to take advantage of the help.
Or, if you are willing to do the homework yourself, as a beginner you can get a better quality instrument at the same price as a beginner guitar. The key is to be patient and spend some time reading about guitars so you know what you’re looking for.
The bottom line is: for a beginner looking for something a little better than the typical beginner guitar, second-hand guitars are best for you if you’re willing to put in the effort.
How would you rate a used guitar?
Regardless of your skill level as a guitarist, you will need to evaluate your used guitar to determine if it is worth your time and money. So, what should you look for?
It’s a good idea to apply the same steps for choosing a new guitar as for buying a used guitar. You want a chance to plug it in (if it’s an electric guitar) and play it. But a lot of people buy online, and that’s fine too, as long as you choose a reputable seller that gives you a good review of what the guitar is.
And you will want to learn basic information about the history of the guitar. You will want to know:
- What year was the guitar made?
- Were there any modifications or fixes?
- How many owners, one or more?
Some sellers may not have all of this information, and they sell the guitar as is. But the more you know, the better it will be to determine what you want to pay for the guitar.
Some guitar parts are harder than others and are worth a closer look:
- Adjustment knobs and any other mechanical parts such as knobs, switches, sound hole and bridge must be in good condition.
- Look for “scratch” marks on the neck of the guitar.
- The guitar should be checked for signs of rust.
- Check the seams where the pieces of wood are glued together and make sure they don’t come apart. This is especially important for acoustic guitars, as chipping or separating the wood is a sign that the instrument has not been well cared for.
- Check the fretboard. Depending on the age of the guitar, you might expect some wear. Lots of wear and your guitar will need to have the fretboard modified or replaced with a new fretboard.
- Blemishes and scratches may or may not interest you. Some players like the look of the ragged instrument.
After all, some people don’t mind getting a guitar that needs some work and putting a personal stamp on it. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this approach, as long as you know what you’re getting into.
Best place to buy used guitars
If you are lucky, there may be some music stores around you that deal in used guitars. Some companies deal exclusively in used equipment.
Or, you can choose to purchase online. Again, there is no “right” answer, as long as you choose a reputable seller.
But there are a few things to consider when making your choice:
- Never be afraid to politely bargain with the music store employee on a used guitar. It never hurts to ask for a better price, and in some cases they may have a guitar on their wall for a long time and are happy to get rid of it for a lower price.
- With classifieds and online auctions, you can do without the middleman and deal directly with the owner. This can often mean a better deal.
- Be aware of who you buy from as much as you buy them. If you choose to deal with people in private, you will never know what you are going to get. Most people are honest, but some are not.
So, should you go to the music store, or make a special deal with the guitar owner? I’ve done it both ways, as a buyer and a seller. Personally, I prefer dealing with a reputable music distributor or store. Even with a slight difference in prices, it is important to know that the transaction will be done in a professional and ethical manner. A few extra bucks are worth it to avoid potential drama.
So, new or used guitar which is best for you?
The decision to buy a used guitar is a choice that should not be made without a full understanding of what to look for and what to avoid.
A novice may be able to get a better guitar than a typical beginner’s guitar, but only if they have the time to figure out what makes it worth the asking price. Veteran players can get some great deals on guitars that will be off their budgets.
Some players like to own guitars that have an interesting history or story. Others would love to be the first and only owner of the guitar.
Some guitarists prefer a good guitar that is ready to use as soon as they get home. Many people are not afraid to get a guitar with some trouble and put in a little effort and add a distinctive touch to the guitar.
What is the right choice for you? I hope after reading this article you will be closer to finding out. Good luck finding the perfect new or used guitar for your budget and style!
FAQ about New or Used Guitars
Are old guitars better than new?
Some old guitars are way better than the new ones, yes. However, you should know what are you getting and consider taking an expert with you if you are still a beginner.
Should you buy refurbished guitars?
My advice is No. There are a lot of dishonest musicians out there, and lots of them my “hide” the flaws of the guitar with paint or graphics. Use your inner feelings on this one.
What’s a good price for a used guitar?
Depends on the brand of the guitar. My Alhambra guitar’s original price is $1750 but I bought it for $700 because the owner needed the money, and there were a few scratches on it. It might take some time and patience but hopefully, you will land on a bargain like mine.
When should a guitarist get a new guitar?
When he decides on which music he wants to play. If you have a classic guitar for example, and you are still learning how to play. If you decided that you want to continue with classical guitar, then you can upgrade and buy a new better model. On the other hand, if you want to switch to blues or rock, then you can buy a new acoustic or electric guitar.