Why Buy Used?

We love used instruments around here, and there’s a number of reasons you should consider buying a used instrument instead of a brand new example.

Buying used is more sustainable.

Around 2.6 million new guitars are produced every year. Whenever a new guitar is produced and sold, new raw materials have to be harvested. Wood for the body and neck, plastic parts, metal for the hardware… it all comes from somewhere. It can be difficult to find accurate information from manufacturers on how sustainably sourced their raw materials are, especially on lower cost instruments produced in Asia. Woods like spruce, mahogany and rosewood require long growth cycles before harvest for use in instruments; faster growing plantation timbers like pine are seldom used in guitar building, creating demand for less renewable materials. It’s also difficult to ascertain how ethical the labour practices are in large-scale guitar factories. There’s been reports of slave-like conditions for guitar factory workers in Korea as recently as 2011, and finding accurate and current information on workers’ wages and conditions in large factories in countries like China, Indonesia and Mexico is very difficult. When you buy a new guitar, especially if it’s a mass-produced inexpensive offering, you may well be unknowingly contributing to both deforestation and unethical labour practices. Buying a used instrument doesn’t create the same dilemma: no new raw materials are required and it’s doesn’t require more labour to produce. Some woods, like Indian Rosewood used in fingerboards, were far more readily available a few decades ago than they are today, so in many cases used and vintage instruments are made from higher quality materials than are available to new builds. While the secondary used market relies on the existence of the primary new market, shifting some demand from new to used instruments can only be helpful in the long run.

Used instruments provide better value for money in many cases.

We price our offerings according to several factors, including recorded used sale prices, new equivalent pricing, wholesale buy price, condition and availability. Some items we sell used items for more than they fetched brand new, but in the vast majority of cases, you’ll pay less for a used guitar, pedal or drum than a brand new one. When we sell a guitar that was produced relatively recently and is still available on the new market, we tend to price it at 50-80% of the new street price, so the savings can be significant. If you’re the kind of player who regularly buys and sells your gear, it makes a lot of sense to purchase big-ticket items like a guitar in already used condition, as chances are it will still be worth around what you paid for it should you decide to sell it on in due course. Otherwise, it’s like a new car: the moment it crosses the threshold of the dealer’s yard, it’s not worth the same cash anymore.

Used and vintage instruments often have more character.

Acoustic guitars, for example, always sound better with several hundred hours of play on the clock than they do straight out of the box. The wood tends to vibrate more and more fully as it ages with both time and playing hours. This is especially true of higher-end, all-solid builds, but is applicable to all acoustic and electric guitars to a point. Guitars made in previous decades also benefitted from the relative abundance of woods like ash, rosewood and mahogany. I’m often amazed at the delicate figuring patterns and amazing resonance of woods used in some pretty inexpensive vintage guitars; such timbers would be saved for nought but the priciest of models made today. Many iconic guitar models were only made for a limited time: Fender’s American Vintage offerings, Yamaha’s Flying Samurai guitars, Charvel’s Surfcaster line… they’re simply aren’t available brand new, and haven’t been for years. Even the Gibson Les Paul Junior was out of production for a long stretch. Instrument manufacturers adjust their catalog of offerings according to their predictions of what the market will demand, and often, with the benefit of hindsight, they make strange or even just plain bad decisions. New instruments need a definite marketing angle to outpace their competitors, but used instruments buyers are usually asking simpler, more pragmatic questions: is it good? Will it do what I want it to do? Do I like it? There’s something special about holding an instrument that has a history, that’s already played thousands of songs and has the marks to show it. Having bought and sold so many used instruments in the past few years, I know for me personally, I don’t think I’ll ever buy new again. Used stuff is cooler, simple as that.

For some buyers, buying a new instrument is the right choice, and if that’s you, go on ahead and do it. For many players, once you get in the habit of purchasing used gear, it’s hard to go back.