Getting a guitar can be a sizable investment. Like other items, the better quality guitars command a heftier price. A cheap guitar, whether used or new, is likely to disappoint you somewhere down the line. If the price tags on new guitars are simply out of your range, consider checking out the offerings at the local pawn shops.
An important thing to consider, however, if you are shopping at a pawn shop, is how knowledgeable the owner is about guitars. Is the pawn shop proprietor a guitar player, or do they just deal in guitars for a quick cash turn over? If you can find a pawn shop operated by an honest guitar player, you are truly in luck!
Why is this important? There are many things that can be wrong with a used guitar which will escape the notice of a person who is unfamiliar with the instrument. One place to always examine when considering a used guitar is the spot where the heel of the neck joins the body of the guitar. Strings place a great deal of tension on a guitar. Sometimes the glue becomes loose and the neck separates from the body at the heel.
In fact, just leaving a guitar in a hot car trunk can soften the glue enough for this separation to take place. The bad news is that this damage is not a small, easy job for a luthier (guitar repairman) to fix. More bad news is that the separation can be very hard to see. One tip off is that the strings are too high above the fretboard. Look carefully at this area before buying a guitar, because many pawn shops do not offer any sort of guarantees for your satisfaction.
Look the guitar over for indications of repairs, too. A well done repair should not be a concern, but if it was poorly done, it will probably mean grief in the future. Anywhere the instrument is glued should be examined carefully. Sometimes guitars split around the edges of the body.
Another part that can wear out and cause problems is the tuning machine. Are the tuning keys tight or do they wiggle? They can be easily replaced by a repairman, but you probably want to avoid the headache, unless it’s really a great guitar otherwise.
Brand name can indicate a high quality used instrument, but there are low end guitars being produced now by the well known companies. It pays to do a little research about models. For instance, you might hunt down a certain model number for some online research, and find out that a guitar you thought to be only about ten years old might really be about 35 years old. This may or may not be a problem, but the older it is, the higher the chance it has been abused at some time. You may also find out that the guitar is priced high at the pawn shop because of the name, but the actual guitar model is a low end guitar which you could buy new for the same price.