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How to buy a guitar online: tips for seasoned and first-time buyers

Fender electric guitars
(Image credit: Future)

With all that's going on in the world, the one silver lining is that we have a lot more time to work on our hobbies and interests - and that might well mean you consider investing a little more money in your guitar gear, too.

Given that most of us can no longer get to a physical store for the time being, you might have a few reservations about buying online - but there's no need to fear, as Reverb's Dan Orkin is here to dispel any worries you may have, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis.

Here, Dan shares his advice for what to look for when making a musical instrument purchase online - whether this is your first guitar, or a new addition to your collection.

General tips for buying guitars online

1. Don't be afraid to ask questions

Treat buying a guitar online similar to shopping for a guitar in-store. If you’re curious about how it sounds, what it feels like in your hands, or even what the headstock looks like close-up - just ask. 

Sellers are more than happy to provide you with more information or additional photos if that means that it will help you feel more confident about buying a guitar from them. On Reverb, you’ll see a “message seller” button beside every piece of gear listed for sale, making it really easy to connect directly with the seller.

2. Negotiate

Many sellers on Reverb accept offers below the asking price, so don’t be afraid to negotiate - it's a completely normal part of buying guitars, in general. Around 15-20% off original asking price is the sweet spot for a reasonable offer, but we generally see players get anywhere from 5 to 30 percent off by making an offer.

3. Consider purchasing used gear

If you’re looking for a guitar that sounds great and is affordable, you should absolutely consider buying used gear. Not only does used gear maintain its quality, but also you can save an average of 20 percent off the original price and often even more. 

Plus if you decide that you want to try something new, you can typically resell a used guitar for close to the same price you paid for it. Plus, there's the undeniable cool factor that comes from old guitars.

4. Check the return policy

On sites like Reverb that feature many different sellers, shops are able to create their own individual return policies. Take the extra step to make sure you understand a shop’s policy on returns before you purchase. Again, it's the sort of thing you can feel comfortable communicating with the seller about before you finalize a purchase. 

Reverb
Many local music shops and gear makers are still shipping and open for business through Reverb. The Reverb team is hard at work uncovering the best deals on used and new gear from sellers all over the world. Aside from minor reported shipping delays, the vast majority of items are arriving on-time.

General Recommendations for First Time Buyers

Pricing

In terms of price, the technology that goes into modern guitar construction has become sophisticated enough that most of the big makers can create consistently high-quality guitars at a reasonable price range of $150 - $500 for an acoustic and $200 - $800 for an electric. That said, when you pay a little bit more, there will usually be a noticeable improvement in playability and quality due to the use of higher-quality materials, construction methods, and components.

(Image credit: Future)

Brands

As far as brand selection, there are some characteristics that have come to define the reputation of many of the big players. When it comes to acoustic guitars, Taylor guitars are known for their innovative shapes and features, whereas Martin, the company that invented many of the main styles of acoustic, are often the go-to choice for vintage-style instruments. 

Big brands like Yamaha and Takamine offer dozens of reliable models, as do other brands like Seagull, Breedlove, and Eastman

If you’re thinking about starting with an electric guitar, most popular brands have fantastic introductory offerings. Squier Stratocasters are an ever-popular first time guitar, and the Les Paul Special II and Paul Reed Smith SE Series also give first timers a lot of bang for their buck. If you buy used on Reverb, you can usually snag something a little higher-end like a Made-in-Mexico Fender model for prices similar to the above mentioned entry lines.

Considerations for buying during COVID-19

Many local music shops, independent retailers, boutique gear makers, and more that have had to close the doors of their physical stores are still open via Reverb and shipping without delays or issues. If you’ve got your eye on a new piece of gear, now is a great time to support these businesses online. 

Not only are most instruments shipping without issue, but the vast majority of items are also getting shipped within 72 hours and lots of sellers are offering free two-day shipping. As major shipping carriers continue to operate, the vast majority of packages are arriving on time.