Buying a used guitar for a child who may or may not stick with lessons or learning on their own, can be a great option. A lot of kids are super keen to learn to play and insist on getting a fancy, new, top-of-the-line instrument, only to give it up weeks or months later, leaving parents wondering what to do with a barely played guitar that cost them a few hundred dollars. So it makes sense that there must be lots of great second-hand instruments around that you can get for a steal, right? Well yes and no. If you are lucky and happen upon a great deal that is fantastic but buying a used guitar can be a bit of a minefield, so there are some things you need to keep in mind if you are going to buy second-hand.
Where can I buy a used children’s guitar?
There are used dealers as well as some major music stores that sell some second-hand instruments. You can also try pawn shops, Kijiji, Craigslist, and garage sales.
How much should I pay for a second-hand children’s guitar?
What you pay depends on the style, brand, and type you are buying. Before actually purchasing something, you should have a good idea of the model and make you are looking for, and what price it would go for if you bought it new. Do you want an acoustic, classical (nylon strings) or an electric? What size are you looking for (very important when buying for a child)? Are there any particular brands that you prefer? Is color important to your child? See our buying guides for acoustic, classical and electric guitars to get more info on what to look for.
When you have a good idea of what you want and have found a particular make and model that is what you are looking for, figure out what price you are willing to pay. People who are selling stuff second hand tend to ask way more than it is worth. If it is in perfect condition, you shouldn’t pay more than 75% of what you would pay for the instrument new.
What should I be looking out for if I buy a used guitar?
If you are buying an electric, make sure it works by plugging it in and playing it. You might not know exactly how it is supposed to sound, but it will be pretty obvious to you if it doesn’t work or sounds terrible.
Check that the neck isn’t warped or bent. A warped neck isn’t super common, but it is an easy thing to check, and it makes a massive difference to the sound. To do this, hold the guitar by the body and eyeball the neck itself. You should be able to tell if the neck is straight, warped or bent.
Look at the overall condition of the guitar, check for signs of damage like cracks, holes, scrapes, and dents. Also, check for loose braces and binding.
It is also a good idea to have your child with you so they can try out the guitar to make sure it fits their size and is comfortable to play.
What questions should I ask when buying a used guitar for a child?
What are the make and model?
Why is the previous owner selling the guitar?
Has it had any major repairs or parts replaced?
You might want to ask them to show ownership if it seems a little sketchy, to ensure you aren’t buying a stolen guitar.
How old is it?
What types of used children’s guitars should I avoid?
If I were buying used I would stick to the big brands. If it is a brand you have never heard of, then it is best to avoid it, since it is probably just a children’s toy guitar that you would buy at Sears or wherever.
Electric brands to look for: Squier or Fender, Epiphone or Gibson, Ibanez, Dean, Daisy Rock, Luna, etc.
Acoustic brands to look for: Martin, Taylor, Yamaha, Hohner, Jasmine, etc.
What is the downside of buying used?
The biggest problem with buying used is there is no recourse if you get a lemon. If you buy from a store or a quality online dealer, you will get a warranty in case there are any problems. So buying used is a bit of a risk, especially if you are spending a lot of money. On the other hand, there is also the opportunity to get something great for a great price.
Buying a used guitar for a child can be an excellent way to save money and get a great instrument, but you can also end up overpaying for a piece of junk, so it is essential to do your research. Since the price of guitars can range so drastically, I cannot stress enough that before making a purchase have at least some idea of what is a fair amount for the type of make and model you are looking for.