The trick to selecting good used guitars is determining how hard they have been used. The salesman telling you it was only played by an old man on his way to church on Sundays won’t sell many used guitars. Looking for obvious signs of wear, will.
First, look at the soundboard for scratches that would indicate some really hard playing. That may not make it a bad investment, but if you think you may have to replace the sound board, and then move on. That’s an expensive and tricky project. Most electric guitars have a pick guard protecting the top sound board finish, which can easily be replaced.
Look for signs that it may have been dropped or thrown out of frustration or anger. This could affect the balance of the instrument and is a main reason some instruments become used guitars. Look length wise down the neck for twists or bowing of the fret board, or finger board as it’s sometimes called. See that the strings are an equal distance from the board for the entire length.
Time Takes a Toll on Guitars
It’s not uncommon. Especially on acoustic guitars, for the strings to be slightly higher from the fret board the closer it gets to the body, but the string height will affect the action on used guitars. Since few people are able to play an acoustic guitar really close to the body, this detriment probably won’t make a major difference.
Check to make sure the tuners on used guitars are strong enough to hold the tension and stress of the strings. Too many times they will weaken over time and slowly cause the guitar to go out of tune. While this is not a major problem and one that is easily fixed, it may affect the price you’re willing to pay for the instrument.
Another common problem with used guitars is the bending of the neck adjustment rod. There is a steel rod which runs through the neck from the body to the nut. An adjustment bolt inside the body is used to adjust the action of the guitar bringing the neck closer to the strings or vice versa if the strings buzz against the fret lines.
If the previous owner had a habit of changing all the strings at once, removing them all at the same time, it’s possible that rod became bent due to the repeated lack of tension supplied by the strings. If you believe this is the case, you may want to keep looking.