Buying new vs buying used

Discussion in 'Gibson SG' started by Col Mustard, Sep 8, 2019.

  1. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

    Sep 29, 2009
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    Tucson AZ
    I was on another thread on this site, and read a comment
    by one of our esteemed members who said:

    "Buying used guitars is not for me..."

    And I thought of a few things to say on this subject.
    So rather than de-rail a someone else's thread by going off topic,
    let me say this about that:

    IMHO buying a used guitar is one of the best ways to get actual value.
    When new guitar players ask my advice about what guitar to buy
    or when parents ask me what guitar to buy for their aspiring offspring
    I will usually recommend buying the best used guitar they can afford.

    My reasoning is that the used price reflects the actual street value of
    the instrument, with no hype or spin or sales guy rap.
    Also, the instrument will likely retain that value, so if you buy an SG special
    for $450, you can very likely get your money back out of it, should you
    decide to sell it later. (Don't do that!)

    ETSG wisdom says:

    But if you must, your used SG that you bought for reasonable money will still
    be worth reasonable money unless you damaged it trying to whirl it over your back.

    Now traipse down to the nearest store where they sell brand new Gibsons.
    You might have to drive a long way. Gibson 'sales geniuses" decided to make Gibson
    dealers jump through many hoops in order to qualify to be members of the elect.
    Many small guitar shop owners declined to jump, and told the Gibson sales geniuses
    to get stuffed. So brand new Gibsons are sold by a small number of big outfits who
    can afford to buy the quantities required, and who have space to store them properly
    and who have sales staff who can move them out. What a drag for the rest of us.

    Not only this, but if you can find a dealer of new Gibson guitars, and you look at the
    prices, you might realize that as soon as you walk out the front door with your shiny
    new guitar, it turns into a used guitar. So maybe you paid $1200 for an SG Standard... soon as you leave the store it's worth a lot less.

    Note that I haven't mentioned buying online. I would never recommend anyone
    buy a new guitar online, unplayed... even though I personally have done it three times
    and had good results every time. But we see so many posts by guys who paid too
    much for their brand new guitar and then wrote in on this site to complain about
    faults that they found with their expensive new guitar.

    How many posts have we seen where some poor schmoe bought a brand new Gibson
    and then comes aboard here to list what's wrong with it. How many threads have we
    seen where guys say: "If I pay this much for a new Gibson, I expect perfection!"
    Personally, I think this is a wrong-headed notion. Perfection is an illusion IMHO, and
    chasing it causes ulcers to open in one's digestive tract. A used guitar is not expected
    to be perfect, so it unplugs all of this nonsense.

    So we seldom see threads by guys who bought a used guitar online and then found
    fault with it when it arrived. Because you save enough money buying a used guitar
    that you can use some of that money to fix what ever is wrong with it. If you buy a used
    guitar because you want what that guitar can do, then you are prepared to take it
    to a good luthier and pay some more cash to make it perfect for your style and for
    the music you intend to play on it.

    So my opinion goes like this:
    Don't sit there in your Lazy-Boy chair, clicking the buy now button, and expecting
    perfection, and fretting yourself sweaty if something doesn't measure up.

    Get out there and hunt through guitar shops, and find a great guitar that some
    other fool mistakenly sold. Figure out why the guy sold it, and negotiate a price,
    and then fix any flaws and rock.

    Or else find a used one that's got all the features you want (including price)
    and take that guitar on arrival to the best luthier you can afford. Have a pro
    setup job done, where they inspect everything and correct any problems.
    Then rock.
    jvin248, Logan, JP68 and 8 others like this.
  2. Chuteboxehero

    Chuteboxehero Active Member

    Dec 19, 2018
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    I love buying used guitars for many reasons, all of which you've mentioned above. Value, history, baked in mojo, whatever you want to call it. All are good things.
  3. Beery Swine

    Beery Swine Active Member

    Jul 14, 2018
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    Philly, PA
    Reverb is the place to go for a good deal on a used guitar. Many normal musicians there are just looking to clear a little space and make a little bank. My '04 McCarty is from a guy on there, decent chap, I paid $1300 for it (check used McCarty prices now to see how big of a steal that was), it was clearly his favorite instrument for over a decade, and it's my favorite guitar I've ever picked up and played at all.
    Most individual sellers online are just honest and hard working Joes.
    Layne Matz and Col Mustard like this.
  4. Dale

    Dale Well-Known Member

    Jul 13, 2015
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    I usually buy used. It has been 98% good. The 1 or 2 issues I have hit have been with LP's and non-disclosure of fret wear/leveling.
    Layne Matz and Col Mustard like this.
  5. Chubbles

    Chubbles Well-Known Member

    Mar 19, 2016
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    I agree with OP!
    Col Mustard likes this.
  6. guitarman84

    guitarman84 Member

    Sep 15, 2012
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    Me too, buying used is the best for me! :)
    Col Mustard likes this.
  7. Tiboy

    Tiboy Member

    Apr 3, 2014
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    New Jersey
    I don’t disagree with the OP. I’ve bought all my guitars new from reputable places with good return policies. I do this because I cannot get a feel for the guitar I haven’t played (obviously) or from playing it for an hour in the store. If it has to go back I take the hit on shipping. To me it’s better than buying used and going through the hassle of selling.

    I don’t buy guitars with the intent or expectation that I’ll be selling them. I have sold a few guitars that either fell out of favor or to fund a new purchase. I took the financial hits. I justify to myself as a rental guitar cost for the time I had it.
  8. arcticsg

    arcticsg Well-Known Member

    Jan 18, 2018
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    Far Side of the Sun
    I purchase both new and used guitars. I probably do buy more new, but won't pass on a good guitar just for being used. Some of my best guitars were used purchases. :smile:
    Col Mustard and cerebral gasket like this.
  9. OldDog

    OldDog Member

    Apr 27, 2019
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    San Antonio, Texas
    Fully agree. You can pay more with a new guitar, but you usually don't get more. There is such a wide variety of guitars on the market. You might have to be patient for something particular but for the most part, guitars are only slightly more rare than dirt.
  10. S.Ustain

    S.Ustain Active Member

    Jan 28, 2018
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    Buying used is the best way to access inventory of played-in guitars, so you can readily reject the losers and purchase stable instruments with superior action and feel that are unlikely to change going forward. It's a bad idea to buy used if you just jump on a single instrument and rush into a purchase, but with time to look around, I have invariably found superior instruments at incredible prices. This is the case only with a very, very few bricks and mortar stores, and I do patronize those places. I have stopped in innumerable Guitar Centers and my view of them is that they are great places to go if you want a mediocre example of what you really want. The only guitar I ever bought from GC was a used -- used -- CS Strat that they mis-priced.
    Col Mustard likes this.
  11. HackeIommi

    HackeIommi Active Member

    May 8, 2019
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    The only guitar I bought as new was an SX Strat. Because it was cheap as a used Squier and had really solid bones. I played Game fo Modifications on it. When I decided I don't need a classic strat, I sold, right before I registered to this forum.

    I agree with Col Mustard. A used guitar holds value well. You can get some useful information from the guitar's previous owner. If the seller is an honest person and you can decide is buying the guitar good/useful or bad/unnecessary for you too.
    Col Mustard likes this.
  12. realcooldude

    realcooldude Member

    Jul 4, 2019
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    I think I've bought two guitars new and both of those were purchased online. There's not really any upside to buying brand new guitars for me. The value immediately decreases, not that I buy guitars as investments, they're tools.

    The way I look at it is if someone's been playing a guitar for a decade any issues (badly cut nut, wonky electronics, popping frets, etc) have probably been taken care of unlike the QA nightmares you hear about with some brand new guitars. As long as the truss rod works, the necks not warped, and the frets are in good shape, I can set up a used guitar to play pretty well. Plus any instrument I buy gets modded, brand new or not. I'd rather get a guitar used and put that extra money into pickups/electronics or locking tuners. I don't think I've ever seen a guitar and thought it couldn't be improved upon.
  13. Steve D

    Steve D Well-Known Member

    Mar 15, 2019
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    For me, buying used is the way to go. So much cheaper and I tend not to want the flashiest thing anyway so it works out. The debate I have is "used online or used in person?" If you buy online there are actual mechanisms to get reimbursed if it isn't what it claimed to be, that's cool. Buying from a dude on Craigs List and you're never seeing that money again even if it has all sorts of hidden problems. On the other hand, you can touch and feel and hear the guitar if you buy it from that dude on Craigslist whereas online, well, you can't. I just bought another stratocaster, a fancy custom shop one (because midlife crisis, of course) and the neck is like two baseball bats strapped because one wasn't thick enough. It's just not comfortable for me so now I have to go through the hassle of finding a buyer, etc.

    But if you want a real 1967 SG Special for some reason, waiting for it to walk into your local Guitar Center or pop up on Craigslist will take years, maybe never happen. Reverb has several at any given time. So that figures into it too.
  14. Dadou

    Dadou Well-Known Member

    Jan 8, 2013
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    Paris, France
    I don't disagree with the OP and in fact I have purchased quite a few used items in the past which served me well, mostly pedals which I ended up selling for a very small profit (the equivalent of a beer or two). My 2nd hand Blackstar HT20 tube head is still my no. 1 amp.

    For some other items however, particularly guitars, you also need to consider the market in which you are. I've always been amazed at the prices I see used guitars go for in the US. Here in Europe the 2nd hand market is nowhere near that which is, in some way, unfortunate. A high end guitar will generally keep its value and it is not unusual to see a used guitar go for roughly the same price of a new one.
    Last December I was in the market for an acoustic guitar and I ended up buying a Gibson j35. Among the many guitars I tried there was a used 2014 Martin d28. That guitar had been played to hell. It was a real player's guitar. You could tell it had been loved; the frets were shot and the fretboard had been gently worn in by the player's hand. It was on sale for 2000€. And it needed a fretjob. A new d28 is around 2700-2800€. By comparison, my j35 was on a blow out sale (they need to get rid of all the 2018 models) and was discounted from 2100 to 1600€. If I'm in the market for a guitar of that price range, the 700€ difference is not enough to make me get a battered guitar which needs a fretjob.
  15. Bad Penguin

    Bad Penguin Well-Known Member

    Jan 20, 2018
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    With over 50 in the stable now, 3 are new. One, you could ONLY get thru the company at the time, 1 was a bargain and a half, and the 3rd was one I picked up, played, put back on the rack, and dreamt about as I slept. Bought it the next day.

    Used is the way to go. Value,. mojo, what-not, but being a bargain hunter, bang for buck comes first to mind.
    Layne Matz likes this.
  16. cerebral gasket

    cerebral gasket Well-Known Member

    Jan 13, 2017
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    I have been through many different guitars in the past (mostly used) before finally settling down with the ones that I currently have which were all purchased used that include one Custom Shop model and three Regular Production models.

    I would never consider purchasing a Custom Shop guitar new because of the cost. It's unfortunate that certain finish colors and features of some models are only available as Custom Shop models. Fortunately for me there was only one Custom Shop model that I ever wanted and I found it second hand.

    My three Regular Production guitars were purchased second hand because I was looking for a specific model that was not currently in production or had been discontinued.

    From my experience, the Regular Production models play and sound just as great as the Custom Shop models. In fact, my two favorite guitars happen to be Regular Production models.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2019
    arcticsg likes this.
  17. NMA

    NMA Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2012
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    I only buy NEW!

    17 guitars and basses...all bought brand spanking new.

    OP, there is one point you make that needs to be addressed. You say:
    "Don't sit there in your Lazy-Boy chair, clicking the buy now (new) button, and expecting

    I sure as heck do. When I am buying a new guitar I sure as heck do expect perfection. And here's the best thing about if it is not perfect --- send it back, get another.

    But that's not what I am here to say. I buy new because of warranty, no scratches, no problems to deal with, I can get the color/finish I want. But there is something deeper as to why I buy new...

    I buy new because of some metaphysical, philosophical, Zen belief that the new guitar was built, constructed and came unto this Earth just for me. I really feel that way. The guitar is MINE! The music in it will be brought forth by me.
  18. sayeth

    sayeth Member

    Jun 20, 2019
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    Yes! Great post! I'm all about buying used, or trading with local guitarists. The expectations you have for something new can be unreachable. I take the gamble of not playing first too, I did it with both of my SG's. And if whatever you've bought doesnt work for you like you thought, you can turn around and put it up on reverb or Facebook Marketplace and get the money back and try something else.
    DrBGood likes this.
  19. shreddy bender

    shreddy bender Well-Known Member

    Jul 14, 2012
    Likes Received:
    Kelowna B.C.
    I have bought 3 new guitars in my life but have owned about 15.
    If it wasn't for used, I wouldn't have 8 guitars in my collection right now!
  20. Hector

    Hector Well-Known Member

    Jul 19, 2015
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    Advantages of new:

    1. There's a guarantee (in case something goes wrong, or the guitar is gooched)
    2. No one else has put their grimy paws all over your guitar..
    3. You get to make the first ding...

    Disadvantages of new:

    1. You pay the "new" price..
    2. You have to "wear it in"...
    3. You will wonder if it wasn't better to buy it used
    4. you get to make the first ding

    Advantages of used:

    1. Someone else takes the hit on the "new price"
    2. You can spend the extra dosh on other stuff (amps, cabs, pedals)
    3. It might be "worn in"
    4. it's already been dinged by someone else

    Disadvantages of used:

    1. There's no guarantee
    2. You never know what crap the guitar has been through / what has been done to it / if it's original or not
    3. If it's gooched or breaks, you have to pay to get it fixed
    4. You may wish you had had it from new
    5. It's covered in dings that you didn't do
    6. It's not new!

    That aside, I have only ever bought used guitars that I have first played, so if you do that, you can usually avoid the pitfalls...
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2019

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