Buying a used guitar: what pitfalls to avoid?

Did you find an ad for a cheap guitar? You think it’s a great deal and you won’t find more at that price? Maybe, but first think about it: not all guitars are equal and there are many criteria to consider before you take it under your belt and regret it later.


If you are a beginner and you are not sure if you are really interested in this instrument; or if you are experienced and want to move up the range, buying a used guitar can be very interesting, provided you choose it well.

So how do you choose a guitar and how do you differentiate between several models when you are not an expert?

Here are some tips that will make the difference in your purchase.

Criterion n°1: The quality of the handle

It is important that the handle is straight when you buy it. To be sure, you can carry the guitar in front of your eyes and place it like a shotgun. If the perspective is assured, it’s because it’s straight. If it is slightly curved, check that the guitar has a “truss rod”, which allows you to readjust the neck as you wish (preferably have your guitar adjusted by a luthier).

Over time, the handle bends slightly. Know that if this is not the case and you buy it anyway, you will have to repair it at a luthier, which will cost you about 60 €.

Criterion 2: The size of the nut

The saddle is the bar that holds all your strings at the end of the guitar neck. If it is a poor quality guitar, the saddle is too high and then moves the strings away from the wooden neck. This physical distance will make your practice difficult because you will have to put more effort into playing because of an abnormally strong pressure on your strings. This will eventually hurt your fingers and really tire you out.

The size of the saddle determines the “action” of the guitar. It is the famous guitar-string distance, but this time calculated from the strings themselves and not from the saddle.

If you plan to buy a classical guitar, the action should be between 4 and 5 mm maximum, however the closer you get to the rosette, the higher the action, which is normal for a classical guitar. If you prefer a folk guitar, it should be at least 2.5 mm long and not more than 3.5 mm.

Criterion number three: Freight condition

These are the small metal bars on the guitar neck. They may seem insignificant, but if the guitar has been used a lot, they may show significant wear and tear and small “hollows” may result because of the significant friction of the strings on them.

If the frets are not in perfect condition, your strings may “curl”, i.e. they will make a horrible sound like “bbzzzzzz”. Always remember that going through a luthier to change your frets will cost you 150 €!

Our advice

Finally, here are some little tips that we can give you in addition:

If you hesitate between several guitar brands, Yamaha, Ibanez, Gibson, Taylor, Ovation or Martin are good brands, generally quite reliable.

Ask about the price of the new guitar: if it is less than 80 €, go on your way! If possible, ask for the brand and exact reference of the guitar to see how much it is worth on the Internet and at the main online suppliers. The date of manufacture is also an important element. If the seller does not have it, know that it is often present on the label inside the mouth of the guitar.

Then try to estimate the price of your guitar to see if it’s a good deal. Be careful, the older the guitar, the lower its price. There is generally a discount of 20 to 50% compared to the new purchase price.

Another essential criterion is the sound it sends back! You’ll spend several hours playing songs on it, if the sound annoys you, it might be difficult!

Finally, if you are undecided or afraid of making a mistake, don’t hesitate to take your guitar teacher (or friend) with you when you buy a used guitar: he will know at first glance if the guitar sounds right, if it isn’t too degraded or scratched and if it’s finally a good deal!