Guidelines for purchasing a second hand guitar

If you buy second-hand, here are some guidelines:


If there are cracks in the guitar, it has usually had a hard life. They must berepared.

The repair must be done by a professional (m/f). And that is usually expensive.


So there should be no cracks. A broken headstock can indeed be repaired well, but here to: it must be done by an expert.


The neck should be straight. Many necks become bended over the years.

Look parallel along the string to the fretboard. If the distance at fret 1 is millimeter, and at fret 12 the distance is six millimeters, then the neck is definitely bent.

A commonly used trick to disguise that the neck is bended is to lower the bridge saddle.

You can see if it has been lowered to check at the bridge whether the (usually white) saddle protrudes at least 3 to 4 mm above the wood of the bridge. The strings should preferably form an angle of 45 degrees with respect to the bridge and body. If this is considerably less, the comb is lowered.

Lowering the bridge saddle has the disadvantage that the pressure which the strings exert on the body is greatly reduced. That affects the sound that the guitar can still make.

Ideally, the play between the string and the 1st fret is less than 1 millimeter and at the 12th fret 3.5 to 4 millimeters for classical guitars, and the angle of the strings at the bridge saddle is 45 degrees.

Only specialists can straighten bended necks, but there is certainly a risk: the neck can break in the proces.

Guitars with a trussrod (westerns, electric guitars) can be straightend using this truss rod. You can break things very easily. If you don't have any experience with this: leave it alone, and have it done by a specialist.


Twisting of the neck also occurs. Look over the neck and make sure it is straight. There should be no 'twist' in it. A twisted neck cannot be saved. Then the neck must be replaced in its entirety. With a screwed neck this is doable, a glued neck is a challenge.


Then all glue connections must still be good. If a guitar makes a vibrating (rattling) sound, something is probably loose. That can be a bracing, or the glue connection between the soundboard or back of the sound box and the sides. It can usually be repaired by a professional, but it is expensive because the guitar has to be taken apart.


A loose heel also causes problems. This will also have to be reglued. And yes: again it has to be done by that professional.


The machine heads must turn smoothly and keep the strings under tension. If the string tension drops while playing, the guitar will be constantly out of tune. The mechanisms then need to be replaced.


The intonation of a guitar is also important. Intonation means that all frets are in place. Due to the use of computer techniques, guitars are getting better and better in terms of intonation. You can check whether the intonation is correct by tuning the guitar as a whole very precisely. Use a tuner. Then you check whether the guitar is also in tune when you press the strings on the various frets. Each fret should give the right note exactly in tune.

Especially towards the 12th fret it can deviate quite a bit. Some guitars have the ability to adjust the string length. This is the case with many electric guitars (not all, and sometimes they are only adjustable per two strings at the same time, for example some Telecasters), and guitars with a separate bridge (jazz guitars) where you can move the bridge as a whole.


For electric guitars, the electronics still have to work properly.

The potentiometers must not creak and must give the desired effect, the jack plug must not creak, the elements must work properly, as well as the selector switch. This should not crack either.

Many electronics are not shielded and therefore hum. Especially if you use a socket without a ground connection. Copper foil can be a solution.


The frets should not be worn out. That's called fret wear. If that is the case, you can count on a minimum of €250.00 to €350.00 for the replacement.


The fretboard must not be worn out either. This can happen through frequent use or long fingernails. If the fretboard needs to be replaced, you are automatically due for new frets.

Count on at least € 450.00.


If you find it difficult to judge a guitar yourself (and I can imagine that), it is wise to limit yourself to trusted addresses to purchase your guitar.