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Buying a Guitar: How to Get the Most Twang for Your Buck

A Guide to Saving Money on Your Next Guitar Purchase

No matter whether you are a beginning guitarist or a long-time player, when it comes time to purchase a guitar, there are several ways to ensure you are getting the best value for your dollar. This article offers several tips to help you do just that.

Epiphone Les Paul electric guitar

Black Epiphone Les Paul guitar

Know What You Want

Many musicians spend a lot more than they need to on their instrument simply because they don’t know for sure what they really want or need. As a result, they may pay significantly more for a guitar that has features they will never use. Take the necessary time to think about what you need in a guitar. If you are a newbie, you may want to consider starting off with a more basic model. As you progress, you will have a better idea of what to look for in your next purchase.

Fender Squier electric guitar

Fender Squier electric guitar

If you are already advancing as a guitarist, consider your needs. For example, if you only play at home or in the studio, it’s possible you may not need as flashy or durable a model as you would if you were doing live gigs. In addition, the guitar sound you may be looking for may not require spending thousands of dollars for a top-of-the-line model. The more you can narrow your needs down, the less you will spend on what you don’t want or need.

Budget Models

Many established guitar companies offer “budget line” guitars through their own or subsidiary brands. For example, Fender makes and markets lower-priced models through their Starcaster and Squier lines. Similarly, Gibson offers budget guitars under the Maestro brand (commonly sold at major retailers such as Best Buy) as well as high-quality guitars under their Epiphone brand. Many of these cheaper models are replicas of well-known guitar lines, such as Gibson Les Pauls and Hummingbirds and Fender Stratocasters.

So what’s the difference? These budget models offer the same designs and many of the features of their major-brand brethren, but use cheaper materials. They are also typically manufactured in Asia, as opposed to Mexico or the US. This should not necessarily discourage you from buying them; many of these models are perfectly fine instruments. Do your research. Check guitar magazines and online reviews of any of these before you make a decision.

Buying Online or by Catalog

Many respected brick-and-mortar retailers such as Sam Ash and Guitar Center offer competitive prices for instruments on their websites. Companies like Sweetwater and American Musical Supply also offer great deals in their catalogs. By using these retailers, you can save anywhere from 10 to 60 percent off of the suggested retail price of your next axe.

The disadvantages? You can’t hold the instrument in your hands first, unless you go to a competing music store beforehand. You also will need to wait for your guitar to be delivered to you. But if you are patient, have done your research and know what you want, you can often save a bundle.

One note of advice: Be fair. If you spend a considerable amount of time at a music store trying out guitars , decide on one, and then decide to purchase the guitar at another store or an online retailer because the price is lower, please at least give the store a chance to match or beat the other company’s price.

As for purchasing on EBay: Most sellers on EBay are above-board. But don’t just buy from anyone. Make sure the seller has a very high rating and a clearly-defined return and refund policy. And, hold up your end of the deal. If you bid on an item and win, be ready to buy it.

Buying Used

Used instruments are a great way to save money, but be careful. If you are looking in person, test the guitar completely before you make a purchase. As for online used purchases: As mentioned in the section on EBay, make sure the seller is reputable and has a fair return policy.


By knowing what you want, being patient, and buying smart, you can get the guitar you want and save a lot of money.

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