logo for cheapguitarguide.com

 Latest  |  Stores  |  Electrics  |  Acoustics  |  Bass  |  Travel  |  Amps  |  Pedals  |  Accessories  |  Advice  |  Your Gear  |  About  

How to Buy a Used Guitar

Buying used is the cheapest way to get a high quality guitar, but many people don't know how to buy a used guitar safely and effectively. Ebay isn't the be all and end all!

Now, don't get me wrong, Ebay is great, but there's a whole world of bargains out there that don't end up under the virtual hammer. There are often unbelievable deals occuring in your local area you can take immediate advantage of.

This article will hopefully open your eyes to the many ways in which you can acquire used gear and give you all the tips and bookmarks you need to start bargain hunting properly equipped.

Now, buying used gear is not risk free, but as long as you go through the right channels (which I'll show you), and you do your homework, your transaction should be smooth and pleasant, and you'll bag yourself a right bargain in the process.

Buying a used guitar on Ebay and Amazon

Ebay is probably the first place people think of to buy a used guitar online.

A word (well, several hundred of them) of warning

If you're planning to buy through an auction site, where the seller will likely courier the guitar rather than you collecting it in person, it's crucial that you know exactly what you're buying and that you can sniff out disingenuous and deceptive sellers.

Here are some key points to remember when buying a second hand guitar through auction sites. The higher the value of the guitar, the more likely there are to be fakes out there and the more scrutiny is required on your behalf.
  • Research the guitar (the specific model) you're thinking of buying - KNOW your instrument well.
  • Check the seller's feedback rating. I usually disregard any seller with less than 95% positive feedback, and always check any negative comments to see the seller's response (sometimes there has been a genuine misunderstanding).
  • Ask the seller as many questions as it takes for you to feel satisfied they are genuine.
  • Do not fulfill the transaction outside Ebay, for example through Western Union, wire transfer or other 3rd party processors. Ebay at least has a basic buyer protection policy and dispute center if things go tits up.
  • Ask for more pictures of the listed guitar if necessary - closeups of the headstock, bridge, pickups... if the seller won't provide them, walk away, it's not worth it. Post the pictures on a reliable guitarist forum for experienced scrutiny if unsure. This is more relevant for guitars that aren't mass produced today and carry a higher value.
  • Ask for a serial number if applicable and verify it with the manufacturer and even the police (again, this might not be so important for a 2010 Squier Bullet!)
  • Take your time to get as much info as you can. Don't rush because you "have to have it" or you're worried someone will snap it up before you.
  • Look for features that confirm the original guitar's spec. For example, if you're eyeing up a used American Standard Strat, look for a brushed steel bridge as opposed to shiny chrome (Mexican and Japanese Strats tend to use chrome).
  • Higher priced guitars will have sealed tuners as opposed to cheap, chrome covered tuners.
  • Professional looking logos are not a reliable indicator of a genuine guitar because it's easy enough to print a logo on a headstock!
  • Get a second opinion, ideally from a professional luthier or guitar trader (I know that's easier said than done, but many local store owners will be happy to help you with the prospect of future business, e.g. a setup, strings, picks etc.)
Don't be put off by this advised cautiousness. You just need to learn about whatever instrument you have your eye on before you hand over the cash.

Inspecting the guitar and speaking to the seller in person is generally a less risky way to buy a used guitar than basing your decision on pictures and emails.

Ebay guitar buying tips

When you've searched for the guitar you want, sort the listings by "Time: ending soonest". This way, you can see the listings that are ending in the next few hours or minutes that have fallen under the bidding radar (it's rare, but it happens!).

Filter your listings by auction as Buy it Now tends to be brand new items and/or at an inflated price.

Use Goofbay to find listings with misspellings and other poorly listed items. Of course, this doesn't mean the item itself is poor, just that the seller hasn't taken the time to make their listing as visible as it could be to regular searchers.

Amazon marketplace

Visit Amazon and search for any product. There will be a "new" and "used" link underneath the price of each listing. Clicking on "used" will take you to a marketplace of sellers, similar to Ebay (i.e. sellers are rated by previous buyers), but with each product sold at a fixed price.

The same cautiousness should be applied to buying used guitars through Amazon as with Ebay, but there are buyer protection measures in place for peace of mind.

Used guitars on classified listings and forums

Definitely my preferred way of buying a used guitar. This way, you get to meet the seller in person, inspect and play the guitar and save on shipping costs. Plus there's more room for haggling!

Remember, the further afield you're willing to travel, the better, as there may be few or no listings in your immediate area at that time.


Start at the Craigslist homepage and choose your region. On your city's page, search for your guitar using the box in the top left corner.


If you're a US resident, start searching on the Yakaz homepage, or for residents in other parts of the world, scroll to the bottom and choose your country.

Some more, busy classified ads sites to get you started...

US - FreeAdsCity - USFreeads - Locanto

UK -
Preloved - Gumtree - Ad TraderLoot - GuitarMart

Musician community forums

Some people prefer to check the musicians forums because you can get to know and trust the sellers more personally through their posts and profile. You will need to sign up to each forum to become a member and be able to message the sellers.

US - Harmony Central - Ultimate Guitar - Acoustic Guitar Forum - Strat-Talk

UK - Music Radar - Guitars

Local Forums

Many cities/states host their own online discussion forums that also allow for buying and selling items. Use Google to search "your city forum".

Check the used sections of online stores

Many online stores sell used and refurbished gear. The advantage of buying through a reputable dealer over a seller in a classified ad is that the store might offer warranties and free setups on the used item. There's also the piece of mind that the store would certainly not want to risk tarnishing its reputation, as a registered business, by selling dodgy gear.

Some good online stores that stock used/refurbished gear...

US - Zzounds - Musicians Friend - Guitar Center - Music 123

       Woodwind Brasswind  - Dave's Guitar Store

UK - GAK - GuitarGuitar - BadlandsDaydream Guitars

Don't forget your local guitar stores

 With the convenience and reach of the internet, it's easy to forget that you might have some amazing bargains sitting in one of your local music stores or pawn shops.

using Google maps to find local guitar storesUse Google Maps to locate the nearest stores. In the search box type "guitar store near" and then start typing your city or town, the auto-suggestion should then kick in and you can select your region from the list.

The great thing about buying in store is you get to play before you buy. You can also try and haggle some free strings and picks with your used guitar purchase. Guitars are typically checked over and even set up in store if the facilities are available, so there's more assurance that the guitars on display will have passed both the sellers and your scrutiny.

If you're looking for a specific model of guitar, it's probably best to call the store before you visit to see if they've got it and at what price.

Condition of used guitars

Obviously a used guitar won't be quite as immaculate as a brand new, factory fresh axe. However, whether you're buying online or in store, information on the condition of the instrument should be readily available.

The guitar may just have a few scratches, dings or blemishes. It may have purely cosmetic defects, which will still knock a hefty sum off the RRP but will not affect playability or tone.

For guitars that are significantly reduced in price, be sure to check exactly what defects it has or any repairs needed. These should be written down and declared by the seller before you hand over your hard earned. If buying online, the condition of the item should be clearly marked and described in detail. If not, give them a call to confirm this information.

Some used guitars may be sold "as seen", so spend good time playing and looking over the guitar to make sure you're happy with it. Bring a (ideally more experienced) friend along with you as they may spot things you don't. A second opinion is invaluable.

Was this page helpful? Please let others know, cheers...

blog comments powered by Disqus

^ Back to Top: How to Buy a Used Guitar

< Return to Cheap Guitar Guide