You can get fabulous deals buying a used guitar, if you know what to look for. This article is focused on how to find a good used acoustic or classical guitar.
A few years ago I was celebrating a friend’s birthday in a home with a wall of guitars. I spotted a nice Yamaha classical guitar and asked permission to play it. The owner proudly told me that she had purchased it for $5 at a garage sale.
I know guitars and this instrument originally sold for around $400. It was in excellent condition and around 20 to 30 years old.
On the other hand, I heard through the grapevine that a gentleman purchased a used Ramirez guitar and didn’t realize that the neck was warped. This instrument will never play in tune. He wasted his money. A good Ramirez costs around $5000, but if it’s always out of tune I certainly wouldn’t buy it at any price.
Here are seven items to check before buying a used guitar:
1. When looking at the guitar notice the overall condition. Dings are OK, but I would be wary of large cracks.
2. Check the neck for warping. You can look down the side of the neck, like a billiard stick. Another way to check for warping is to press down the 6th string at the 1st and 19th frets. A tiny gap is normal, but if you see 1/4” space or more between the neck and strings, don’t buy it.
3. Check the bridge. The bride is the piece of wood that the strings attach to and is located next to the sound hole. Take a business card and try to slide it under the bridge. If you can slide you card under it, then it may pop off. That will cost you $80 to $150 to fix.
4. Check the guitar bracing. Tap the top of the instrument and if the bracing is loose you will hear a sound like a snare drum. It’s expensive to repair.
5. Check the frets. Play each note of the guitar on every string to see if there are any buzzes.
6. Check the heel. The heel is located on the back of the guitar and usually connects the body and neck of the guitar. Is the neck still connected to the body? It can cost anywhere from $50 to hundreds of dollars to fix.
Most manufacturers assemble the guitar bodies separately from the necks. Then they are glued together later. Spanish guitars have what is called a Spanish foot. The whole guitar is assembled and glued at the same time. The neck actually protrudes inside the body and you can see the foot through the sound hole. The neck will not separate from the body.
7. Do you enjoy playing the instrument? Every guitar sounds different and you should buy one that is easy for you to play and has a sound quality that you like.
If you don’t have a lot of experience playing the guitar it’s a good idea to take a knowledgeable friend. Visiting guitar shops is helpful. It will expose you to many guitars. They often have specials and some even sell used instruments too.