Should You Buy a New or Used Guitar? What You Need to Know

Choosing between a new and used guitar is an important decision to make. In this short guide, I will explain everything you need to know to make an informed decision on what type of guitar is best for you.

I’ve heard advice from some people and websites stating that you should always go for a new guitar. As you will learn in this guide, buying a new guitar isn’t always the best choice.

If you decide to buy a used guitar, follow this guide on Buying a Used Electric Guitar. It includes a checklist and helpful tips to ensure you get the best deal and avoid issues.

When Should You Buy a New Guitar

Let’s look at why you may decide to buy a new guitar and why it might make sense to avoid used guitars.

When you want a guitar with zero wear and tear

Many guitarists choose to buy brand new guitars because they know it will have zero wear and tear. The frets should be in perfect condition and there shouldn’t be any other issues.

While some people may think this is a good reason to always buy new guitars, there are many other factors worth considering.

When you don’t care about saving money

If you buy a brand new guitar, you will pay a premium for it. Even if you get a great discount at the shop, you will still be paying more than what it is worth. People put a mental premium on new things, so new guitars always cost more than used guitars in just-as-good condition.

If you don’t care that the value of the guitar will drop as soon as you walk it out of the shop (it will), then you may prefer buying a new guitar.

When you don’t want to deal with potential problems later on

Buying used guitars adds a risk that there may be something wrong with the guitar. Wear and tear or structural problems hidden from view may mean you have to make repairs or adjustments after you buy it.

If you buy a new guitar, you shouldn’t have to worry about these kinds of issues. If a problem does appear, you should be able to take the guitar back to the shop for them to fix if it is under warranty.

Buying a new guitar may suit you if you don’t know how to or want to deal with potential issues that sometimes show up in used guitars.

When you don’t know what you’re buying

If you’re just getting started learning guitar, buying a used guitar comes with extra risk. You may not notice a serious issue with the bridge and the seller may not want to point it out to you.

Buying a second-hand guitar without knowing what you’re buying could end up fine, or it could be like taking your car to a dodgy mechanic when you know nothing about cars.

Guitar for sale on eBay
Is this a good deal? If you don’t know, then don’t buy it

Being able to look at an ad like the above guitar on eBay and instantly knowing whether the price is fair or not is important when buying second-hand guitars. If you don’t know the true value of a guitar when you see an ad for a second-hand guitar, you run the risk of getting ripped off.

While new guitars always cost more, they usually sell for ‘fair’ prices.

When Should You Buy a Used Guitar

While the idea of buying a shiny-new guitar sounds like it’s always the best option, it isn’t.

There are many times when you’re far better off buying a used guitar rather than a new guitar. Let’s look at times when you should consider buying a used guitar.

When you know the true value of a guitar

If you know a guitar is worth $1000 and you see a second-hand one for sale for $600, you can grab a serious bargain.

As a guitar teacher, I’ve seen many students buy second-hand guitars and incredible prices over the years. When you know the true value of a guitar, you’re able to acquire guitars that may be way out of your budget if bought new.

When you know what you’re looking at

Knowing what you’re looking at when buying a used guitar is crucial to avoid problems.

Sometimes sellers like to talk-up a used guitar or hide any defects. If you know your gear, you can identify these issues and avoid buying a lemon.

Other times sellers have no idea what they’re selling (eg: they gave up learning guitar as a beginner and a perfect condition guitar has been sitting in a closet) and your knowledge on guitars can help you identify great deals.

When you know your gear, you can find some seriously impressive second-hand guitars.

When you want to save money

When a person buys a brand-new guitar, as soon as they take it home it drops in value. Some people are happy to pay extra for that shiny-new-guitar feeling.

Buying used can seriously save you money as you have the potential of buying higher tier guitars for lower prices.

As explained later, people naturally discount second-hand guitars, so you can save a lot of money with a used guitar.

When you know how to maintain guitars

There have been many times where I’ve seen perfectly good guitars for sale with minor imperfections the seller didn’t know how to deal with. For example, on one guitar the intonation wasn’t set properly and the seller thought the guitar was a dud. Simply adjusting the intonation was all that was needed to bring it back into perfect condition.

If you’re happy to make a few adjustments and fix minor issues, you open up so many possibilities on owning great quality guitars.

Why People Buy New Guitars

Buying a new guitar is very similar to buying a new car. Taking a look at why people buy new cars will help you understand the pros and cons of buying a new guitar.

When a person buys a new car, they should know that as soon as they drive the car off of the lot, the value of the car will drop significantly. If they immediately try to sell the car, they should expect to lose around 10% or more of the value.

Buying a new car is expensive, but many people will only consider buying new cars.

So why are people willing to pay extra for new cars? Ask most people and they will tell you they like buying new cars because they know that there will be zero wear and tear or abuse from a previous owner. A new car gives them a fresh start to take care of the car the way they want to.

It’s the same with buying new guitars. Many guitarists are happy to pay a premium for a new guitar so they have the peace of mind that there will be zero wear and tear or problems with the guitar due to previous owners.

When you see a brand new guitar in a shop, you can be confident that the frets are in good condition, the internal electronics are set up properly and there aren’t any issues due to previous owners.

Why People Buy Used Guitars

The biggest reason why people like to buy used guitars is the savings you can have on the purchase. Used guitars often sell for lower than what they’re worth (as explained later).

Think about buying a used car that is two years old. If the car has been taken care of properly, you will save some serious money when compared to buying the same model car brand new.

If you have a budget of $1000, you can find a pretty nice brand new guitar to fit that budget. But if you look at used guitars, you might find a guitar that would cost $2000+ if it were brand new.

Why Used Guitars Are So Cheap

Used guitars are usually incredibly cheap because people mentally discount anything used. If two identical guitars are for sale for the exact same price and somebody tells you one of them is used, everybody will choose to buy the new one. In other words, people place a lower value on used items – even if those items are in perfect condition.

Another reason why used guitars are often cheaper than they should be is due to the seller. Sometimes a seller just wants to get rid of a guitar they don’t use anymore and they’re happy to sell it for less than it is worth.

Imagine a teenager selling the 3/4 size guitar he used to learn as a child. He has zero need for the guitar now that he has a full-sized guitar, so he’s happy to just get rid of it. He will likely sell it for far less than it is worth because he’s not concerned about getting the most money for it as he can.

I’ve seen the same thing over and over when somebody loses interest in learning guitar or upgrades to a higher tier guitar and wants to sell their old (but still great) gear.

Guitar selling on Gumtree

The above ad is ridiculously common when you look for used guitars. People pay full price on a new guitar, decide they don’t want it and sell it for a deep discount while it is still in great condition.

The worst example was a student of mine who was about to sell his $1500 guitar for $250 before I told him what it was really worth. Used guitars are often so cheap because the seller doesn’t know their true value, or doesn’t care about getting the full price for it.

This is why many guitarists are better off buying a used guitar instead of a new guitar. If you know what you’re looking for, you can usually find a superior used guitar compared to the same price on a new guitar.

Deciding Between New or Used Guitars

If you have read the above information, it should be pretty clear which direction is right for you.

Some people will be better off buying new guitars. If you’re happy to pay a bit extra for the peace of mind knowing that there will be zero wear and tear on the guitar, then buying a new guitar is a good choice.

If you want to save some money or try to grab some serious discount on a higher tier guitar, then it is worth looking at used guitars.

If you’re stuck on choosing between new or used, here are some tips on deciding what to do:

  1. Go to a guitar store and find 2-3 different model guitars you are interested in
  2. Search for those guitars on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or any other place to find second-hand options
  3. Compare the price difference between new and used for the guitars you are considering
  4. If you find a potentially good deal on a second-hand guitar, ask the seller to visit to try it out (only if you’re confident on identifying potential issues or wear and tear)

The extra research you put in helps you find the best deal for what you are looking for.

Even if you decide to stick with buying a new guitar, you may be able to get a better price in the store if you know how much they sell for second-hand.

If you decide to buy a used guitar, follow this guide on Buying a Used Electric Guitar. It includes a checklist and helpful tips to ensure you get the best deal and avoid issues.