Intro: A Poor Person's Guide to Buying a Guitar
Every websight I have seen that tells you how to select and buy a guitar are directed toward adults with money. I am not even in high school, so none of these help me! I have picked up quite a few tricks of the trade from my grandpa. I will teach you how to find a good deal on a used guitar, and what to look for in any guitar that you might want to buy. I have 5 guitars (on 1-14-12) and I got most of them very cheaply. The acoustic below is a Takamine gs 330s. It sells new for $324, but I got it for $125, plus I got it with a case.
Step 1: Acoustic or Electric?
Acoustic guitars generally cost more than electric guitars, but it evens out after you buy an amp and a cord (requisite for an electric guitar.) Acoustic guitars are better for people who want to just pull their guitar out and play, or for people who would like to take their guitar places. Electric guitars have amazing effects, and you can distort the sound as much as you want, to accomodate for any style of music. Both of the guitars below are the ones that I have bought myself. The electric is a fender squier affinity series telecaster. The acoustic is once again my Takamine.
Step 2: Things to Look for in an Acoustic Guitar
When it comes to acoustic guitars, appearance isn't everything. You can find the best looking guitar you have ever seen, and it could sound like crap. The strings should not buzz when you strum them, and it must be comfortable to play. There are two types of acoustic guitars; nylon and steel stringed. I personally dislike nylon strings, and I think that steel strings sound way better, but it is up to you. Generally, heavy acoustic guitars are not good sounding. My uncle's old Grenada (in the top of the picture) weighs 2x the ammount that my Takamine does. Guess which sounds better. A pickguard will protect your guitar from scratches, and it is a great thing to have, but it does slightly decrease the sound of the guitar. I would recommend that you get a guitar with a pickguard if you are just starting. Also, guitars without lamination sound better.
Step 3: Things to Look for in an Electric Guitar
Do not invest in a small toy electric guitar (one is shown below). They are not worth having, and will not stay in tune for more than 5 minutes. I got one in the 1st grade, and I am now happy that I can pass it on to my brothers. Althogh electric guitars can get very expensive (look up "Fender Strat Standard U.S.A.) you don't have to spend nearly that much. The first guitar shown is a Dean evo xm, and it sounds terrific for its price. They sell new for $130. I recieved this one as a gift from my grandpa, who bought it used for $50. It is my seconed favorite guitar, and my favortie electric. The next is my fender squier tele. New for $180. I got this off of craigslist for $100, and after buying it I realized that the previous owner had gotten an "action job" on it. These can cost up to $60, so I got a $200+ guitar for $100. Always check the action, and see if the strings buzz when you strum them. Check for scratches and dents, as they lower the value of the guitar. Plug in the guitar to an amplifier, and listen to find out if there are any noises that shouldn't be there. Make sure the pickups work, as well as the toggle switch, and the volume and tone knobs. Always research a guitar before you go to look at it, so you know how much the retail price is. Remember, to play an electric guitar, you need an amp and a cord.
Step 4: Well Known Brands
When buying a guitar, try to stick with well known brands. Don't buy a guitar if it a brand you have never heard of. Definately ask someone who knows about guitars if you're not sure. Here is a list of some well known guitar brands.
Art & Lutherie
Simon & Patrick
Step 5: Final Thoughts
Craigslist and Ebay are the secret weapons of guitar buying. There are so many people that sell their guitars daily online, and they are sometimes extremely cheap. My grandpa has bought many guitars on craigslist. Remember, always check out the guitar before you buy it. Look for any flaws in the making, or dents and scratches. Make sure the strings don't buzz, and that it sounds good. Look for a well known brand, and always make sure the pickups (on an electric guitar) work. Consider how much money you are willing to spend, and ask yourself, "is this guitar worth it?'' Good luck.