Used Instrument Buyers Guide: What to Look For

Playing music can be a wonderful experience, and buying an instrument can be a whole lot of fun. It can also be nerve wracking though, especially if you’re on a budget or looking for something specific.

Shopping for a used musical instrument is often the way to go for beginners and experienced players. After all, there are things on the used market that you can’t get new, and in many cases, the prices are significantly lower.

The fact is that you can buy quality used instruments like electric guitars and electric bass guitars, but you have to know what you’re looking for. You also have to know how to tell the difference between an instrument that’s been cared for and one that’s been left to languish in a storage locker.

Use this guide to help you before you go shopping for the first or next instrument in your collection.

Look for Signs of Wear

It probably seems obvious to veteran musicians or people who know a lot about musical instruments, but when you’re shopping for something used, it is essential to look for any obvious signs of wear or damage. On guitars, you’ll want to inspect the body to look for fine cracks or damage first.

After the body, focus on the neck of the instrument. Does it appear to be straight? When you hold it in your hands, do you feel like the neck is crooked? If so, that could be an instrument that’s best avoided.

Don’t Forget to Play It

Another somewhat obvious suggestion is that you need to play any instrument you’re thinking about buying before leaving the store with it. Even if you’re not an expert player you can learn a lot about an instrument just by holding it in your hands.

Take 10 or 15 minutes to play an instrument even if you’re sitting in the middle of a pawn shop. If you don’t, you might find that you end up with something you really don’t like.

Get Your Instrument Inspected

If you’re spending more than $1,000 on a used instrument, having a luthier check it out is an excellent choice. They’ll be able to tell you about potential tuning issues or problems that a used instrument might have.

You won’t be able to spot everything with your naked eye, so an expert opinion can be very helpful.