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Used Guitar Buyer’s Guide

If you have just started learning to play the guitar and are looking to get your first instrument, investing in a used guitar can be a good choice. Used guitars are more affordable than buying new and are available in a wide array of styles, colors, and configurations.

Use our used guitar buyer’s guide to determine the best guitar that suits your needs!

Understand Your Used Guitar Preferences

Here are some factors to consider when choosing a used guitar on Moore Guitars:

   Playing Habits

What style of music you want to play? How strong are your hand and fingers? Do you need a guitar with a lower action? Are you planning to play this used guitar at home or need something more suitable for live gigs?  These are some of the initial questions you should ask yourself to better understand what you need. In addition, you will know if you need to buy a guitar with a high-quality pickup system, hard case, etc.

   Guitar Type

Do you want an acoustic or electric guitar? If you want to experiment with folk or unplugged music, try an acoustic guitar. Alternatively, if you prefer rock, an electric guitar will be a better fit for you.

   Preferred Brand and Features

List out as many guitars as possible. Is it important for your guitar to feature a cutaway, tremolo bar, or be made from a certain brand, e.g., Gibson, Fender, or PRS? Chances are you will eventually have to adjust your expectations because of your budget, and you should not go all-in until you are absolutely certain that playing the guitar is a hobby you want to invest in.

Inspect and Test the Used Guitar

Once you have a rough idea of the type of used guitar you want, you should learn how to test and inspect an instrument before buying one:

1. Check the Age and Condition

Ask the seller if they have performed any maintenance and repairs on the used guitar and if there is a need to address other issues in the future.

Here are some tips for evaluating a used guitar’s condition:

Inspect the Surface, Joints, and Edges

Look for visible cracks and scratches on the surface, inspect the edges for dents, and check the body, head, and neck for any chipping. Avoid buying guitars with deep cracks that penetrate the finish. These issues indicate significant structural damage, which will lead to costly repairs.

In addition, look for stains and discoloration that can’t be polished away. Deep stains will need costly refinishing. Look at the joints and edges to ensure that there are no peeling seams.

Check the Neck and Neck Angle

Check the neck to ensure that it’s not pulling away from the body. Run your fingers over it to check for warping, twisting, and bowing. Ideally, the neck needs to be perfectly straight to produce the right intonation. If it’s bending excessively, it might mean that the truss rod is broken. If it slopes up toward the body, it might indicate the warping of the fretboard.

Make sure the neck angle is perfect as it will affect the tone, volume, and playability of the guitar. If it’s too low, it will have a high action. If it’s too high, it will have low action.

Check Fretboard for Abnormalities

Look down each side of the fretboard and note if there are signs of warping, which is caused by poor wood selection. Check each fret for dents or divots as replacing them will be costly. Damaged frets may also result in muted notes or rattling strings.

Inspect the Bridge and Headstock

Make sure the bridge is not loose and doesn’t have any cracks or bulges. Check for gaps by running a piece of paper along the seams. Examine the headstock joint near the neck for any ridges or wrinkles.

Check the Hardware

Watch out for corrosion and scratches on the nuts, adjustment screws, washers, plating, etc. If the springs are rusty, you replace them.

If you find costly problems, look for a different guitar. For smaller issues, ask the seller about the overall repair costs to make an informed decision.

2. Test the Used Guitar

If a guitar passes your visual assessment, plug it into an amp and start playing. If you’re a beginner, ask an expert player to test out all the guitar’s features and play a full range of notes.

Here are some steps to take to assess the used guitar’s tone and sound quality:

Test the Intonation

Test the intonation to ensure it remains in tune alone the entire fretting. Tune the guitar to concert pitch. Touch the first string at the twelfth fret and pluck it. Adjust it until it’s in tune. Press it down to pluck it again. If the pitch is different, you might need to get the intonation fixed.   

Play All the Frets

Play each fret and listen closely for muted tones, rattling, or unusual noises that suggest a broken winding or damaged fret.

Play the Guitar in Your Own Style

When testing a used guitar, make sure to play it in your specific style to figure out if it sounds and feels good. If you like to bend the strings or fingerpick them, do not hesitate to do so. Also, make sure the tuning keys are working properly.

Plug It In

When buying an electric guitar, plug it in to test the electronics. Check the switches and listen for noisy or scratchy pots while adjusting the tone knob and volume. Jiggle the cable gently to test the output jack. If the sound is noisy, scratchy, or intermittent, request to get them fixed before buying the guitar.

3. Assess the Comfort Level

Lastly, make sure that the guitar feels comfortable in your hands and fits in your arms. Make sure that it’s easy for you to play, allows you to reach each note without straining your fingers (scale length), and you enjoy playing it.

When it comes to buying a used guitar, choose one that fits your budget, is in decent condition, sounds great, and feels comfortable to play.