17 Useful Tips You Must Know Before Buying A Used Electric Guitar

Buying a used electric guitar is pretty huge, most especially to a beginner. If you are here, you must have made the decision to buy one. But you are unsure if this is the best idea or you don’t know how to check a used electric guitar.

You will agree with me that buying a used guitar comes with a lot of benefits. One of the most important of them is being less expensive. Buying a brand new electric guitar can be sometimes expansive. Thus, it can be discouraging especially if you are a beginner.

The good news is, you can get a great guitar that will serve you like a new one for a good price. In this post, I will be sharing with you what to look for or what to avoid when buying a used electric guitar.

Take In Account Possible Fixing Costs Of The Guitar

Most used guitars will almost always need you to do some kind of repairs before you can begin to use them. buying a guitar that will need some small fixing isn’t such a bad idea as long as it is not a major fix.

Ensure you have a good idea of what you need to repair and how much you will be spending to fix it. Then you can either bargain with the seller to lower the price or consider leaving the guitar and move to the next one if the costs are not worth it.

Another thing I will like you to bear in mind is how you get swayed away by the cheap price. If it is cheap it isn’t always a good deal, you can rest assured that there are a lot of issues if it is cheap. but from time to time you can find a good guitar that is also cheap, be patient and check everything.

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Consider The Scale Length Of The Guitar

The scale length refers to the distance between the bridge and the nut. The space between these two-part allows the strings to vibrate. The scale length affects the quality of tone the guitar produces.

There are two common types of scale lengths a longer scale of 25.5 inches (about 65 cm). It produces a cleaner and more bright tone. The longer scale is the most command on the fender guitars.

But, we have a shorter scale of 24.75 inches (about 63 cm), produces a warmer and muddy tone. The shorter scale is the most command on Gibson guitars.

There are a handful of other scales but these two are the most popular and preferred ones.

Check For Structural Damage The Guitar Might Have

There is more to a mere crack in the paints, it suggests damage to the guitar wood. Though not all cracks on the guitar neck imply serious damage to the wood. ensure that it is free of cracks, ensure that you check for scratches or chips of wood coming off from the guitar.

When there is a deep crack in the finish, you can rest assured that the body of the guitar is separating. If you are new to musical instruments, there is a piece of advice for you.

Structural damage to a musical instrument can be pretty expensive to fix no matter what instrument it is. Try as much as possible to avoid it.

Also, be on a lookout for rust. Check for rust on the tuning pegs, the fret bars, the pickups, the bridge.

Though it may cost you a few bucks to replace the strings. but when the hardware holding the pickups is on rust, it may cost you even more, to the point you may consider to avoid it.

Check The Conditions Of The Frets

The frets are the metal lines that go across the neck of the guitar. You should check for the following things:

  • Check If you can see the dents across the frets or they are flat in some areas. It indicates that the guitar has been played a lot.
  • Another thing you should be cautious of is frets extending outside the neck. This is a sign that the guitar had a poor fret job.
  • Play all the frets from the top string to the bottom string to listen to the string sound. If you hear buzzing this may show that the frets are worn off.
  • Run your fingers up and down and take note of all the scratches and imbalance on the fret.

All the above will state that you most likely will be needing a frets job which without a doubt will cost you money. Worn frets are not that big of a deal but can show off some other possible issues.

You can either avoid buying a guitar with worn frets. Or you can bargain for a lower price because of the worn frets that you will need to replace.

Perform A Bend Test

Perform a two frets bend on the majority of the strings all the way up the guitar neck even if the guitar isn’t plugged in. When you do this, you are trying to see whether it chokes out or not.

If it chokes out, it means there is a definitive dead spot which could be a sign of an out-of-alignment or worn out frets. So if it plays up and down, then it passed this test and you can continue to the others.

Check Guitar Intonation

Intonation refers to the accuracy of the fretted notes along the neck. You can check it by playing an F barre chord across all the strings and checking if it sounds in tune. After that, you will move along the neck each time playing the next chord in scale and checking if it is in tune.

If it goes out of tune you have a problem in the intonation and you or a professional will have to set it up. This isn’t a deal-breaker. To set the intonation you will have to move the bridge away or closer to the pickups.

Check For Neck Damage

The neck of the guitar is very essential in maintaining tension on your strings. As a result, it is important to ensure that it is in its best state. I perform the following tests on the neck:

  • I place the headstock in front of my eyes and look down the neck. If the neck is straight, then it passed the test. If it is a little bowing can be tolerated as long as it is not pronounced, this may be fixed with adjusting the truss rod.
  • The saddle, the bridge and some other parts of the guitar will reveal a guitar with a damaged neck. Once you can lower the saddle and the bridge to as low as it can get, there may be a need to reset the guitar. it will cost you so you can lower the price or consider that it is not for you.
  • The neck joint of the guitar which is the point that attaches the guitar neck to the guitar body should be flush.

Check The Bridge

The bridge is the part of the electric guitar that connects the strings to the body of the guitar. Be sure that the screws holding the bridges are in place and snug.

Also, it is very important that you confirm that the bridge is actually still adjustable. You can check this by using a wrench or a screwdriver. Check if there is rust on the bridge.

Check If The Truss Rod Stuck

The truss rod is the rod (metal rod) that goes all the way through the guitar neck. It is what makes the guitar neck straight. A loosened truss rod makes a U shape bent guitar neck and a tightened truss rod makes an N bow shape guitar neck.

When buying a used electric guitar, check whether the truss rod can be loosened and tightened. You will need some tools for that. If the truss rod is stuck and can’t be loosened and tightened. it is a very good idea to leave this guitar and look for another.

Check The Tuning Pegs

The work of the tuning peg is to tight or loosen your guitar strings. Ensure that the turning pegs fit into the peg holes and don’t slide down or get stuck while you turn them.

Ensure that the tuning pegs are not bent and are working that you can lose and tighten the strings. If they are stuck then they will need to be fixed. Either by oiling them or replacing them.

Check The Serial Number

It is very vital to check that you are buying an authentic guitar because you are also paying for the brand. Check the serial number of the manufacturer on the website.

Nothing can be as annoying as paying for a well-recognized brand or piece but getting a copy. Some of the copies are good that you can almost not differentiate them from the original.

Don’t fall victim by paying a huge sum for a copy. Another thing that could be helpful is looking for a good post on how to differentiate a copy from an original guitar. If you are finding it difficult to find the serial number then it is a copy.

Check The jack

This isn’t so big a deal but sometimes, the guitar jack could be faulty and it is important that you know this. The easiest way for you to do this is to plug it in and then move the cable around.

pay attention to noise that comes out when you do this. if you don’t hear anything that is great. Yet if you do, Ensure that it only occurs when you wiggle the cable very hard. Also, ensure that the jack is reliable and the cable doesn’t fall out at the slightest touch.

Check If Guitar Stays In Tune

You will need to check how long a guitar can hold a tune once it is set. This is not disputing the fact that all musical instrument requires tuning from time to time. But, you shouldn’t have to keep doing this all the time and not in the same section.

If the guitar doesn’t stay in tune in the session it is a sign that the guitar is not in perfect shape. You can use a digital tuner if you want a more accurate result while tuning.

Test All The Electronics

Test all the buttons, ports, switches, turners, etc. check if they work and aren’t scratch when you turn them. you could also tap them to see whether they will clunk.

Though this doesn’t look like that big of a deal. It can be a real pain when you are playing the guitar and a sudden you the sound goes off and you have to tap the controls before it comes back up. If this happens, then you know you have a cat in a sack.

Though it may not be a big deal, it could be the wiring within, it could also be that the pots are faulty. Also, ensure that the switches are working too.

Check The Pickups

Check the type of pickups the guitar has and ask the seller if it has been modded. If it has been modified, ask the seller what brand and model is currently installed. Make sure that the seller used well-known brands and model, you will have to do some research for this.

Most people don’t often mod guitars especially the high-quality guitar. But there are quite some that like a particular sound so they change the pickups on their guitar. this is the more reason you need to double-check to ensure that it is in order.

Most guitar players often find it disturbing to open up the guitar to change the pickups. Though if you are a beginner, you may not know the difference between pickups and may be tempted not to put it into consideration. Even if you are a beginner, find out all you can know about the pickups. 

Check The Coil Taps

Coil tapping refers to the act of rewiring the tune of the guitar and the volume knobs. You can push or pull the pots to get varieties of sounds.

Coil tapping will make it possible to use a single guitar to do a handful of music genres. This is a great feature and if you see a guitar that has it built-in and comes for a good price can be considered.

If the current guitar that you consider buying has coil taps make sure that it is working.

Play The Guitar

Plug the guitar into an amp and play with it a bit. Check if you like the sound it makes. Check if it stays in tune and that it doesn’t detune after a while or produce any strange sound.

Check if it is comfortable for you to play it. Check how it feels playing with it sitting down or standing up with a strap. Check if the weight is comparable for you, I can’t say enough how important the weight is when playing for long.


Buying a used electric guitar is a good option especially for a beginner. In fact, it better than buying a new one. Because it is cheaper than a new one but because as someone getting started, it is okay not to invest too much.

Moreover, if you lucky enough to get your hands on one of those special, rare, and out of stock pieces. it is a great idea to equip yourself with all these tips mentioned above to make the best buy.

Also, if you are not too sure, you can always bring a friend who is a little more knowledgeable. this will improve your odds of getting something worthwhile.

If you found this article useful, you may want to save this pin below to your Guitar board.


I have been playing guitar since 2004. As long as I can remember I always had a huge passion for rock music and I extremely enjoy playing it. Helping people on their rock journey is what drives me to keep on playing. Read More About Me

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