An Australian’s Guide to Shopping Online for Used Guitars

Acoustic and electric guitars are some of the most popular instruments played by children and adults alike. Buying cheap guitars has never been easier with all the classifieds websites built for consumers in Australia. Check out the helpful tips below to make sure you get the best price possible when shopping online for a used guitar.

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Expert Tips for Purchasing a Pre-owned Guitar Online

Learn the Age and Condition: If the seller does not list the age and condition of the guitar alongside the make and model, be sure to ask. A guitar owned by one person and kept in a climate-controlled environment is sure to be in much better condition than one owned by multiple people with unknown care. The seller should be honest with you and you should avoid sellers that refuse to provide this information.

Choose an Appropriate Size: Guitars come in a variety of sizes and shapes with different neck widths and depths. In order to play correctly, you must be able to place your hands and arms in the correct positions without overreaching or feeling crowded. Playing the guitar should not cause finger strain or fatigue, nor should the fretboard be so big that your fingers must stretch to the point of being uncomfortable as this could lead to tendonitis.

Consider the Cost: Most pre-owned guitars for sale require a least a little setup or repair after purchase. This only becomes a problem when the cost of repair exceeds the purchase price and that cheap, used guitar ends up costing you as much as a new one. Price may be an important factor when you decide what to buy, but do not let what seems like a great deal sway you unless you know for certain it will not cost you on the other side.

Test it in Person, if Possible: A seller may live close enough to you that you can give the guitar a once-over before you hand over any money. Look at the outside aesthetics and play the instrument. Bend the strings and listen to the sounds. Be on the lookout for strings that rattle or ring, this could indicate problems with the windings, the fretboard, or the bridge.

Inspect the Finish: Most used guitars come with some minor flaws within the finish. Small ones do not take away from the instrument’s value, but discolorations, stains, and cracks can significantly lower it. Thoroughly inspect the lacquer or paint for damage caused by chemicals or synthetic guitar straps. Although you can refinish the guitar, doing so ends up cutting the instrument’s value by half. You should never purchase a guitar with an obviously deep crack since it costs more than the guitar is worth to fix that kind of structural damage.

Examine the Head: Take a look at the space where the headstock and the neck meet. Damage often occurs here after the guitar is dropped since it is very vulnerable to damage. Check for ridges or wrinkles that could indicate a previous repair job. Even when well repaired, a guitar with a once broken headstock loses half its value.

Check the Fretboard: Carefully go over each individual fret to check for divots or dents worn down by the strings. Check the end of the neck, around the last five to eight frets, for a ramp or kick-up that indicates the fretboard is warped. Repairing these imperfections is expensive, about $150 for a single fret level and between $350 and $650 for a full fret replacement.

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Look at the Neck: The neck should be consistent from the first fret to the last one and the truss rod should allow for adjustments. If you notice the neck looks wavy or uneven, like a roller coaster, you can pretty much guarantee it will need a lot of work. The excessive backward or forward bowing usually indicates the truss rod is not in the right place, but it could also mean it is broken or stripped.

View the Neck Angle: One of the most overlooked issues that affects a guitar’s playability is the angle the neck attaches to the body. If the bridge saddles sit as low as they possibly can, but the instrument’s action is too high, the guitar likely has too low a neck angle. The inverse indicates the guitar has too high a neck angle. In either case, the neck must be reset. Check with your local musical instrument store.

Go over the Hardware (Electric Guitar): Inspecting the hardware should not take long if you know where to look. The plating should be fairly obvious and you need to more closely view the washers and nuts on the knobs, the adjustment screws on the bridge, neck mounting materials, and the nuts, washers, and screws that hold the tuning keys in place. Double check for missing screws, stripped threads, and rounded nuts. Rust is another big issue with hardware, but it can be removed with some effort.

Test the Electronics (Electric Guitar): Plug in the guitar and rotate the tone and volume knobs while listening attentively for any scratchy spots. The switches should all turn easily and the cable should enter and exit the output jack without getting stuck. Jiggle the cable a little to see if the signal continues to come out the amp clearly. If not, it may require additional testing or repair.

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10 Tips for Buying Used Musical Instruments in Australia

Purchasing your first instrument may seem like a daunting and expensive task when you look at the huge variety of options available at local musical instrument stores. Even well-seasoned players want to find the best deals when adding to their extensive collections. Finding high-quality, cheap musical instruments has never been easier when you shop through one of the many online classifieds websites. To get the most out of your purchases, keep in mind the following tips.

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Ten Recommendations When Shopping Online for Used Musical Instruments

1. Do Not Underestimate the Value of Buying Used.

Musical instruments tend to maintain value as long as they have been properly cared for and maintained. Buying a used instrument then does not mean you need to sacrifice quality to get a great sounding instrument at a reasonable price. Some pieces even sound better after the previous owner has broken them in since it gives them more vibe.

2. Do Your Research. 

Even if you are familiar with the popular name brands of different instruments, do not forget that each one generally has several different designs or modifications that make them unique. Learn more about the options available to help narrow down your search faster and guarantee you get the sound you want from your instrument.

3. Verify Cost with a Price Guide.

Knowing what to pay when you have never purchased an instrument before can be difficult. Luckily, many price guides exist to help you navigate your way through. Check the going rates online through eBay’s Completed Listings, the Reverb Price Guide, etc. and try to negotiate.

4. Negotiate on Price. 

When buying a used instrument from a private seller, you have a much better chance of successfully negotiating the price down than if you buy from a music store or dealer. Sometimes you can even get away with it when dealing with a secondhand dealer or a music shop that sells pre-owned instruments. Do not be afraid to make an offer, the worst they can do is say no.

5. Review Multiple Photos.

If the seller only provides a few grainy pictures, request more. Ask them to photograph the instrument in natural light without a flash to get the best view of the piece and any visible wear, tear, or damage. Get photos of all sides of the instrument to ensure you do not miss something small, but important. Avoid sellers who refuse to take additional photos.

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6. Ask Lots of Questions. 

Looking at photos can only do so much, however, especially if you cannot see the instrument in person before you buy. Know what questions to ask about the condition of the instrument, like the wear on the frets of a guitar, or when the last time the bass was set-up, so you ask the right ones.

7. Learn the Instrument’s Story. 

Every pre-loved musical instrument has a story behind it, especially vintage or antique pieces. Ask the seller if they owned the instrument since it was new and, if not, whether they know anything about the history of it. If you do not ask, you may never know if a famous person once owned that particular piano, or if just sat in the back of someone’s house for 20 years. The story can tell you a lot about the condition and the value of the instrument.

8. Request the Seller’s Feedback History, if Available. 

When shopping on an online classifieds website, frequent sellers generally have a feedback history available through the site. Thoroughly review previous customer feedback for any red flags that may indicate you should find another seller. You can also ask them directly for feedback or referrals from previous purchasers.

9. Check for a Return Policy or Negotiate One.

Not all private sellers offer a return policy on their goods, but some do. Aim to buy used musical instruments from one of these sellers when possible. If they do not offer a return policy, ask them if they would be willing to negotiate one that makes you both feel satisfied. Avoid sellers that flat out refuse, unless you are confident in the quality of the instrument and feel comfortable taking the risk.

10. Consider Shipping Insurance. 

One of the other obstacles to buying used musical instruments online is ensuring it arrives to you without getting damaged. Even if you negotiate a good return policy, most sellers will not refund an instrument that arrives broken due to circumstances beyond their control. Once you establish how the seller plans to transport the instrument, consider buying additional shipping insurance and requiring a signature upon delivery. Most shippers like UPS, FedEx, or USPS automatically offer insurance on items over a certain value, but be sure you double check.

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Buying secondhand musical instruments not only saves you money, it keeps them out of landfills and helps to lessen humanity’s impact on the environment. Keep these tips in mind when you search for your first, or next, instrument online and get the piece you want at the best price possible.