Authors Note:This is the first part on my How to buy a second-hand guitar series of articles.

I’ve been sort of a guitar guide to newbie friends. I wouldn’t claim to be a guitar expert. I’ve just made and effort to combine my keen purchasing skills with my collective (meandering?) guitar knowledge. I’ve been able to point some guitar newbies to good initial investments without having to spend too much.

I’ve been a budget guitar player myself. My first axe is a second-hand Washburn Lyon which I’ve scored from eBay paired with a 25-watt Yamaha amp. Sure, tone-wise they sure sucked (compared to pricey fancy-branded guitars) but I got the guitar in an unused, practically mint condition for a low price.

With a few tweaks I know I can turn the guitar into a sound demon. But I haven’t done so since it’s just a practice guitar I use at home. The only gigs that I’ve used it for would be two company Christmas parties. I’m not gunning to turn pro or something so, as it is and for my use, the guitar’s a good catch. I always take pride in getting something good for a very reasonable price.

For the past few weeks, I’ve been getting a few requests from friends to help them score great buys. I’m not selfish about sharing how I do it. So I’ve decided to create my guide on buying a second-hand guitar. First off is answering the “why” question, so here we go!

Why buy a second-hand guitar?

A snappy comeback would be “Why the heck not?” But seriously, it’s a valid retort. Here are reasons why:

  • Brand new top-of-the-line guitars are expensive. A new Gibson Les Paul Standard could easily go up to $2,500. You don’t want to just buy one especially if you can’t even play three decent chords.
  • Brand new cheap starter kits suck. Forget that Behringer guitar pack (though the amp sounds okay for a 15-watter) or those other rebadged guitar starter kits from unknown brands. These usually have shoddy electronics and substandard wood.
  • A decent 2nd-hand guitar comes way cheap. Good 2nd-hand Made in Japan (MIJ) or Made in Korea (MIK) guitars are already quality ones. Fender, Gibson, and other makers have factories and luthiers based in those countries. For some reason, they retail lower than those made in the US. Lower priced (subsidiary?) brands like Squire (Fender) and Epiphone (Gibson) are beyond those cheap guitar packs in terms of quality. And at 2nd-hand they are almost the same in price if not, even cheaper.
  • You can find a high end on suicide sale. You can always spot a gem in the second-hand market. There are some people who sell their guitars out of need. I’ve witnessed people letting go of Paul Reed Smiths for half their value. You can always look out for those.
  • You’re just starting out. It’s like buying an Ferrari Enzo for practice driving. Not race practice but student’s permit practice driving for a total newbie. You can always work your way up with better equipment once you get to effectively string a good scale of notes.

Remember, with today’s rising prices, everything, including guitars, is an investment. You’ll be spending hard-earned money. So you better make it a wise decision.

Part I | Part II | Part III

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