What do you check when you buy a used guitar? - Jemsite
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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-03-2014, 11:52 AM Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: AB, Canada
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What do you check when you buy a used guitar?

This sounds like a broad question, but I'll put in more in context.

You buy a guitar off 'that' auction site, it gets delivered to you. Now you have to assess it's condition relative to the details in the ad, but those details tend to be mostly cosmetic and limited so you likely have to go a little further.

Ideally you want to know what you have in your hands before you give the seller their feedback.

I recently bought a 2011 RG350MZ-YE from a fellow Canadian and got it for a really nice price. The ad just said light play wear. When I pressed the seller for more info, they said just minor pick scratches. My assessment confirmed, cosmetically I have no complaints.

Its from here where my relative lack of experience with different guitars, buying guitars, and even more specifcally used guitars shows. I'm not entirely sure all that I should look out for.

As mentioned, cosmetically the guitar is pristine other than some like pick scratches/swirls on the pickguard.
The neck seems staight.
No fret wear that I can see.

Issues (minor?):
- the pickup selector switch seems loose.
- the trem (EZ2) is at an angle, so I will have to adjust it so it's level. (This is my first and only guitar so far with an edge zero (I or II) w/ ZPS)

What else should I look at to assess whether I have myself a "good" guitar without any issues?

Thanks.
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-03-2014, 12:19 PM
 
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Re: What do you check when you buy a used guitar?

I check the feedback of the seller if he or she has sold. Most people will post if the guitar was better or worse than described.

Last edited by GUITARMAGEDDON; 06-03-2014 at 12:49 PM.
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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-03-2014, 12:23 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: What do you check when you buy a used guitar?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GUITARMAGEDDON View Post
I check the feedback of the buyer if he or she has sold. Most people will post if the guitar was better or worse than described.
I assume you mean feedback of the seller.

Yes, that is sensible and universal for buying anything, not just guitars. I had no concerns with the seller feedback. I would not have made the purchase otherwise.
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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-03-2014, 12:49 PM
 
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Re: What do you check when you buy a used guitar?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inzane View Post
I assume you mean feedback of the seller.

Yes, that is sensible and universal for buying anything, not just guitars. I had no concerns with the seller feedback. I would not have made the purchase otherwise.
oops! yes, seller. I fixed.
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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-03-2014, 08:48 PM
 
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Re: What do you check when you buy a used guitar?

Honestly, it sounds like both of your issues can be solved with a phillips screwdriver and a little know how. Check out Rich's site (or Youtube) for how to get your bridge leveled and tighten the 5 way. After that should be Good to Go!

As to what I look for on the bay... I like 2 things, basket cases or pristine case queens. You can get the guitar that needs to be wired/is lacking parts because the previous owner bit off more than they can chew for dirt cheap. But it will take effort to find the sometimes rare parts and actually getting it back running. Or you can pay a premium for a minty example. The choice boils down to what you want to put into it: effort AND money or just money. My 2 pennies.
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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-03-2014, 08:54 PM
 
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Re: What do you check when you buy a used guitar?

Few quick thoughts (Not necessarily in this order):

I sight down the neck and check the relief/ frets. Do the fret ends all line up like little toy soldiers? Is the neck warped? Fret each and every note, just go down each string and fret 'em all.

Strum/ pick acoustically and listen for rattles/ buzzing. Give the guitar a gentle shake and listen and feel for anything loose. For bolt-ons, try to gently wiggle the neck. Any play? Check all over for dings/ scratches.

Just common sense stuff, I guess, checking it out.

Peace

Mike
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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-04-2014, 12:17 PM
 
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Re: What do you check when you buy a used guitar?

Since you have the guitar in hand and aren't rushed by the seller being right there with you, you could make sure that the truss rod works and that it intonates properly.
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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-04-2014, 12:31 PM
 
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Re: What do you check when you buy a used guitar?

Make sure neck isn't warped like Mike said and that the truss rod works other than that it's all little stuff that can be fixed especially if the price is right.
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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-04-2014, 01:29 PM
 
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Re: What do you check when you buy a used guitar?

Buying from eBay, what I look for is any obvious damage, but more than that indications that a guitar has been played a lot. Finish wear on the hardware, dull spots indicating heavy pick scratching, rusty hardware. This would indicate to me that a guitar has been played a lot and is likely to have worn frets and other significant issues.

What I mostly look for from eBay is guitars that have been photographed poorly and don't show well. Cell phone pics, pics taken in bad lighting, very dusty guitars, etc. These guitars are usually very good values.

I completely tear down every guitar I get, so I never worry if they're particularly clean or set up well at all. In fact I usually expect guitars to come to me dirty and with an awful setup.
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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-05-2014, 10:18 AM
 
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Re: What do you check when you buy a used guitar?

Make sure you double check the the trem posts and trem post anchors in the body (if possible). You want to make sure the anchors aren't moving around. You'll get a little play w/the trem posts since they just screw in, but if the anchors are moving you have problems cause not only will you have tuning instablility there is also the possibility you might yank it out or damage the body when you want to do your Vai trem acrobatics.
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post #11 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-05-2014, 10:32 AM
 
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Re: What do you check when you buy a used guitar?

Well the one thing I do when I checked for used guitars (I never use auction sites, I mean used axes at shops) is:

First check the neck for warping.

Second check fret wear

Third check for damage (cosmetic stuff, but just how much wear there is)

Fourth try it out and listen for anything weird. Check ALL pup positions to make sure the selector works properly and there are no issues with sound coming from the pups. <- I had this happen to me with my 550CA, the selector was bad and needed to be replaced but I thought it was a pup issue because I didn't pay enough attention to the sounds of all the positions.
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post #12 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-05-2014, 01:42 PM
 
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Re: What do you check when you buy a used guitar?

When I buy used I am specifically looking for something I can't get new, so I went out and got the old Martin acoustic and a 60's Fender teles. So for me it's more about "what do I look for when I shop for a vintage, rare, or collectible guitar?"

Of course I don't worry about scratches and dings because it's hard enough just to find one. Used guitars for me are either vintage or nearly vintage. If I am thinking of buying an RG just a few years old, I would rather save up the few extra hundred and get the thing brand new from Rich.

So in very limited context of what I go for used (hard to find stuff that is long discontinued), I only worry about the 1) basic mechanics and 2) electronics.

Is the neck straight and does every note play? Are the frets usable or do I have to refret and would refretting destroy its vintage value?

Do all the positions play and could it work with original wiring and am I willing to replace wiring knowing that on some very special guitars that this can hurt the value? Of course I wouldn't mess with a 50's Gibson in any way, but if one precious PAF was simply not working due to broken solder joint, I would take it to the most expensive, famous luthier and have it fixed. But if said wiring was only scratchy then I would leave it alone. If it's a vintage piece and some frets are less than new but still kind of get the job done, then I leave it alone. Jimmy Page played the hell out of his #1 vintage Les Paul and while realizing that he could make it play much better with a full refret, he only dressed the frets as little as possible and replaced one or two that couldn't be reclaimed. And relating to prize Ibanezes, I came upon a Jem formerly owned by Steve Vai or Iceman used by Paul Stanley, I wouldn't change a thing, maybe even the strings. At a certain point some guitars are a piece of history and shouldn't be changed.

Check this out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9An-n5KeLj0

I would want to get proper 3 way switch, period correct jack plate, two more original and matching knobs, and OEM Kluson tuners but those idiosyncracies make this guitar what it is in rock and roll history.

But if I was thinking of buying an inexpensive, fairly replaceable, and otherwise used guitar, then I would add the often overplayed factor of 3) cosmetics.

Does the thing have too many dings? Is the pickguard broken and could I replace it? Is the bridge and parts pitted and could I replace those with original or somewhat similar aftermarket model? Will the existing electronics be easy to mod out and add or subtract stuff?

I assume most buyers of used stuff are in this category of getting something fairly common so then cosmetics is as important as anything else so get the cleanest example you can find after looking at several specimens.

Last edited by 63Blazer; 06-05-2014 at 01:56 PM.
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post #13 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-06-2014, 08:43 AM
 
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Re: What do you check when you buy a used guitar?

Quote:
Originally Posted by 63Blazer View Post
. . . Of course I wouldn't mess with a 50's Gibson in any way, . . . [if] I came upon a Jem formerly owned by Steve Vai or Iceman used by Paul Stanley, I wouldn't change a thing, maybe even the strings. At a certain point some guitars are a piece of history and shouldn't be changed.
. . .
I agree with most everything in your post except this. And I'm not trying to derail the thread, but . . .

Guitars are meant to be played. The frets and finish wear. Strings become brittle and lifeless. For every collector who wouldn't buy a guitar because of a refret, there's somebody who would buy it because it's been cared for in a perfectly acceptable way.

Right now, there are people buying early-fifties goldtops, stripping and re-routing and re-finishing them, all to make them more like the '58-'60 Standards. I think these so-called "conversions" are a bad idea, but reversible modifications like pickup swaps? Or repairs that bring a non-playable or poorly performing instrument up to full functionality? I'm for that.

Peace

Mike

Last edited by Hikey Mikey; 06-06-2014 at 09:01 AM. Reason: Thought about what I wanted to say for a while . . .
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post #14 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-06-2014, 09:01 AM
 
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Re: What do you check when you buy a used guitar?

I don't think I have seen this one listed. Make sure every screw, bolt, etc tightens up. I had got a Charvel San Dimas and while it all looked good when I went to adjust neck pocket angle none of the neck screws would tighten at all. They were all stripped.

Once I got some inserts and fixed it it turned out to be the best playing sounding guitar I have. I got lucky.
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post #15 of 20 (permalink) Old 06-06-2014, 09:01 AM
 
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Re: What do you check when you buy a used guitar?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hikey Mikey View Post
EDITING
I apologize for my rant. I got way off topic talking about vintage and collectible stuff instead of used stuff like the OP wanted.

In short what I meant to say was:

1) does guitar's neck play well
2) are electronics working
3) avoid dings unless it's something so rare you can't pass on it

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