Top Tips For Buying Used Guitars
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Electric Guitars Gear

Buying Used Guitars: What I Learned From Buying 6 Guitars From 4 Different Online Retailers

Buying pre-owned guitars online is always a risk but if you want to get the best choice and price, it’s almost a necessity.

And over the years, I’ve bought and traded a bunch of used guitars. Most of these used guitars were purchased online from retailers, or professional sellers.

In this post, I’ll be sharing the experiences of purchasing from 4 different online retailers (well, 3 + a pre-owned guitar specialist on Reverb).

I bought multiple guitars from several stores, but I’ll review each experience individually.

At the end of the post, I’ll wrap up with some reviews of each retailer, and important tips for buying pre-owned guitars online.

Let’s get started:

1. Epiphone Flamekat from Guitar Guitar

Epiphone Flamekat from Guitar Guitar
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Epiphone Flamekat from Guitar Guitar

The Flamekat appears to be based on Epiphone’s popular Wildkat hollowbody. Now, if that paint job is too flamboyant for you, the added bling of the dice controls definitely will be.

How did delivery go?

I ordered this guitar in the morning, by the end of the day I had a dispatch notification. DPD (their courier) sent a 1 hour time slot in the morning and the guitar arrived within that time window. No drama.

What about packaging?

The guitar didn’t come with a gig bag but it was well packaged in a box for another guitar. No issues there.

How accurate was the description?

GuitarGuitar include a good description with each of their pre-owned guitars. Not every single mark can be mentioned but they got each of the major marks. All good on that front.

How did the guitar play (and sound)?

I get the impression that they do a setup for each pre-owned guitar they sell, but I can’t be 100% sure. This guitar in particular was well setup. And those mini-humbuckers sound killer!

What was the experience like overall?

It was a great experience. Really nice guitar at a decent price. Delivered next day without any issues.

2. Dean Vendetta Resurrection from Guitar Guitar

Dean Vendetta Resurrection from Guitar Guitar
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Dean Vendetta Resurrection from Guitar Guitar

Welcome to the Marmite of guitars. I’m guessing you’ll either love the look of this guitar, or it’ll disgust you.

How did delivery go?

Exactly the same as the purchase of the Epiphone. Really slick operation they’ve got going on.

What about packaging?

Again, this didn’t come with a case or gig bag, but they did a great job at packaging – no issues in transit.

How accurate was the description?

The guitar itself was in great condition, well, as far as any wear was concerned.

What I noticed, however, was some significant marks down the fretboard under the clear coat – it was definitely a manufacturing flaw but would have been good to have mentioned it in the description.

How did the guitar play (and sound)?

This is actually the first Dean I’ve ever played. The setup was spot on, and those USA-made humbuckers dish out some seriously big tones.

What was the experience like overall?

I was a bit disappointed the manufacturing flaws weren’t mentioned in the description – they should have been, even though the marks weren’t from play wear or damage since it was first purchased.

That said, another good experience.

3. Fender Ltd Ed So-Cal Speed Shop Strat from GAK

Fender Ltd Ed So-Cal Speed Shop Strat from GAK
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Fender Ltd Ed So-Cal Speed Shop Strat from GAK

This limited edition Fender is a South Korean made super Strat – apparently 1 of only 400 made.

How did delivery go?

GAK send out email updates to keep you updated through each step of the process. I ordered this on a next day delivery. Their carrier doesn’t offer 1 hour time slots, but then again, not many actually do. Either way, it was delivered before dinner without any issues.

What about packaging?

Another guitar without a case or gig bag, but GAK packaged this extremely well.

How accurate was the description?

There wasn’t much of a description with this, but they encourage you to call so you can get your questions answered and they have live chat. Regardless, this guitar was immaculate.

How did the guitar play (and sound)?

The setup was on point, and the single humbucker in the bridge position was as hot & aggressive as I thought it would be. This sort of guitar really forces you to get creative.

What was the experience like overall?

Really good experience all round.

4. PRS USA Johnny Hiland from Squealing Pig Guitars

PRS USA Johnny Hiland from Squealing Pig Guitars
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PRS USA Johnny Hiland from Squealing Pig Guitars

If you don’t know who Johnny Hiland is, open up YouTube and type in his name. Treat yourself – I’ll wait 😉

Now, Johnny’s partnership with PRS ended quite a while ago so these aren’t too common. They’re pretty much a CE24 bolt-on with a few tweaks. Maple board, Johnny’s signature pickups and instead of the usual push/pull for the coil split, you press it in instead. It’s weird how much of a difference that makes.

How did delivery go?

This was my first time ordering anything from a seller on Reverb, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I missed the cut off point for a next day delivery, so I got it the day after.

The guys at Squealing Pig were extremely responsive and kept me updated throughout the process. And the delivery went without a hitch.

What about packaging?

This PRS came with a hard case so packaging was a lot easier. I especially like how they added “packing peanuts” around the headstock.

How accurate was the description?

I’ve honestly never seen such detailed descriptions. Any significant marks are highlighted not only in the description but in photos too. I knew exactly what to expect thanks to their photos & description – I was not disappointed. Absolutely excellent!

How did the guitar play (and sound)?

This guitar came with 9’s on it and I usually go with 10’s, that said, setup in general was brilliant. Typically excellent PRS build quality and tone!

What was the experience like overall?

I usually stick to a select group of stores in the UK, so I wasn’t quite sure how this would go. But, it was a great experience. No issues.

5. PRS Custom 22 from Squealing Pig Guitars

PRS Custom 22 from Squealing Pig Guitars
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PRS Custom 22 from Squealing Pig Guitars

Aside from the Johnny Hiland signature PRS, it’s rare to see a PRS with a maple board. Let alone a Custom 22 with 3 P90 pickups. And that quilt finish, yes please!

How did delivery go?

Exactly the same as with the previous guitar. Everything went down to a tea (so to speak). In other words, it was great.

What about packaging?

The Custom 22 was perfectly packaged. Again, it had packing peanuts around the headstock. Very nice touch.

How accurate was the description?

I’m guessing these guys have a template for their product descriptions. For them, it’s a time saver, but for those of us buying guitars – it’s extremely useful.

Everything was covered in the description.

How did the guitar play (and sound)?

This guitar came with a set of 10’s on – just the way I like it. Playability was great and those triple P90’s have some magic to them. The middle position going through a cranked Vox AC15 sounds unreal.

What was the experience like overall?

Absolutely no issues – an excellent experience.

6. Ibanez Xiphos XPT700 from Rich Tone Music

Ibanez Xiphos XPT700 from Rich Tone Music
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Ibanez Xiphos XPT700 from Rich Tone Music

How did delivery go?

A red/green chameleon finish with sparkles in the paint? Oof – yes please. I can only assume that the Xiphos was Ibanez’s answer to the Jackson Warrior. And with that finish, they certainly wanted it to stand out from the crowd.

Since we’re both based in the UK, I got myself next day delivery. The product arrived the next day as promised.

What about packaging?

For the money, I was very surprised the guitar came with a hard case. And a pretty substantially sized hard case considering the shape of the guitar.

The guitar was sent out with appropriate packaging. No issues.

How accurate was the description?

Rich Tone Music don’t actually include much of a description. Most of their listings are a template that says how the items are pre-owned, may have parts missing & all that kind of thing.

The actual specific description for each product boils down to one word. When I ordered this, I had a few questions so I emailed their support team and they replied seriously quick. These guys don’t mess about.

There were only minor cosmetic issues with the guitar, which I was expecting with it being pre-owned. Nothing major.

How did the guitar play (and sound)?

Ok, so, the guitar did have a bit of fret buzz but only minor. Everything else about the setup was spot on. Even the Floyd Rose trem was setup level with the body of the guitar like it should be. And it was clear the guitar had a new set of strings, and the fretboard had been oiled.

Let’s be clear – this was a cheap guitar in the grand scheme of things. Especially considering the DiMarzio D Activator pickups and hard case. So, I wasn’t expecting anything too special. But the reality is that what I did get, does feel pretty damn special.

What was the experience like overall?

Overall, damn good. I was very impressed with how fast support responded.

Quick reviews of each retailer/store

Here are some collective thoughts on each store, based on my experience of purchasing these guitars. I’m also going to include some additional thoughts based on my experiences with retailers which I’ve bought other gear from in the past.

GuitarGuitar

I chose to order from GuitarGuitar partly because I’ve been buying other gear from them for quite a while.

Surprisingly, I’ve actually had more issues buying new gear from them than with second hand gear. Yes, they’ve sent me new guitars in the past which haven’t been QC’d and other issues have occurred.

But, they are a great company to deal with. Their support team has resolved any issue promptly, and if I needed a refund, it’s been issued without any drama.

And the thing is, I know a buying experience won’t always be perfect. But the important thing is how the company deals with things when they go wrong.

For that reason, I’ll continue to purchase from GuitarGuitar.

GAK

This was one of the first online retailers I ever bought from. And it’s great to see they haven’t missed a beat.

The purchase of my Fender So-Cal Strat went off without a hitch.

I’ve bought plenty of gear from them over the years and whenever there’s been issues, they’ve handled it extremely well. No problem getting a refund at all.

In terms of their pre-owned gear, it’d be good to see more detailed descriptions, but, inviting customers to get in touch is actually a good way to ensure all a customers questions can be answered.

Would I buy again? Definitely.

Squealing Pig

Squealing Pig Guitars specialise in pre-owned guitars and I had no prior experience with them.

Overall, I’ve got to say, each experience was impressive. Right from the depth of their descriptions and the number of detailed photo’s – right through to the delivery of the guitar.

I’ve never seen this level of detail. And it’s great because everyone knows the score. Their guitar photography skills are pretty damn good too.

I only had a sample size of 2, but both experiences were consistent.

And I’d definitely purchase from them again.

RichTone Music

RichTone Music were another “unknown quantity” – so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from them either.

While the detail of their descriptions leaves a bit to be desired, the responsiveness of their support team, and delivery were spot on.

Considering they are just one store that sells a large amount of pre-owned gear, I sort of get why their descriptions are so basic.

So, the big question: would I buy again? Definitely.

So, what have I learned about buying used guitars online?

I’m typically a cautious person so I tend to buy guitars from companies I have experience with – rather than private sellers.

And while each of my experiences with these retailers was spot on – your mileage might vary.

Now, I’ll leave you with a few tips for buying used guitars online:

7 quick tips for buying pre-owned guitars

  1. Always ask for high quality close-up photo’s from a variety of angles, if there aren’t any.
  2. If there isn’t a detailed description that covers things like fret wear, damage, etc – ask for one!
  3. You’ll save more money if you buy from a private seller (e.g. on eBay, Reverb or Facebook), not a retailer. But there is added risk. So, when you buy from a professional seller or an established retailer – you offset that risk but you pay a premium for it.
  4. Get a clear understanding of any faults – can they be fixed? If so, is it financially worthwhile?
  5. Check for damage in photo’s and ask the seller to clarify – for example, has the neck warped? Has there been a neck/headstock break?
  6. Check for originality – this will affect the value of the guitar.
  7. Missing parts? Some missing parts may be easy to replace – but others may be a bit more costly or difficult to source.

Thanks for reading and good luck on your musical journey!

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