Whether it’s your very first guitar, your 10th, or your 100th, buying a guitar is always a super fun and exciting time. To make sure you’re making the best guitar-buying decisions, take a look at these ten things to consider before buying your next guitar. Side note – if you have 100 guitars, that’s awesome — please send pictures!

Related: 10 Best Acoustic Guitars Under $500 + 10 Best Electric Guitars Under $500

1. Why are you guitar shopping?

guitar-playerThis is a very important question you need to ask yourself. If you already have a guitar, but you’re not digging it, think about why. That way, when you go guitar shopping you’ll remember things to avoid. Maybe the body’s too shallow, or maybe you want a guitar with a built-in tuner. Take a second to sit down with your old guitar and figure out what about this guitar is making you hit the shops.

2. What’s your price range?

guitar-pricesThe very first thing you have to ask yourself is how much do you want to spend. Having this figured out early on will save you lots of time when searching your local guitar shop. A starter guitar can go for around $50-60 and the prices after that point increase with things like the brand, materials, quality, and accessories such as a built in tuner or pickup.

3. Acoustic or electric?

acoustic-electric-guitarsThis is a definite up front question you’ll need to be asking yourself. Do you want to get an acoustic guitar or an electric? If you’re stumped on this one, ask yourself what style of music do you want to play? If you’re looking forward to strumming some James Taylor, go with the acoustic. If you’re looking to shred some Ozzy, go with an electric. The truth is, you can’t go wrong. But making this decision up front can save you a lot of time when at the shop.

4. What type of body?

guitar-bodyIf you decide to go with an acoustic guitar, it helps if you know the body depth you’re looking for. Some prefer a shallow body guitar because it’s easier to reach around and play. Others don’t mind a full body and bigger size. And then some prefer a rounded back Ovation guitar. Since comfort and feel are large parts of playing the guitar, you should always try out different body styles to see which you like the best.

5. Used or new?

used-guitarIt’s always a great idea to buy used when you know what you’re getting into. And just like buying a used car, you should only buy a used guitar if you know what to look for. Here are a couple things to ask yourself when buying a used guitar: How does it sound? Does it look damaged? Is the neck bowed? Is there a truss rod? And, here’s a big one, do it play if plugged in? If the guitar has a pickup, plug it into an amp and test it out before buying it. What a bummer that would be to get home only to find out your new axe is a mute!

6. Should you shop online or in-store?

online-guitarRight, right. It’s really awesome buying stuff online. But while you totally can grab a guitar on the World Wide Web, as nobody calls it anymore, it’s much better to go into a shop. Any good music store will have a solid group of employees who can help you find exactly what you’re looking for. And you really need to get a feel for the guitar before buying. You don’t buy a car online before taking it for a test drive. Some things are better left to the good old brick and mortar.

7. Should you stick to top brands?

gibson-guitarYou might think you need to start with a Fender or Taylor in order to appease the rock gods. But if this is your first purchase, don’t worry about names. In fact, when you’re searching for a guitar, ignore everything except for how it feels when you play it, how it sounds, and if you like it. Don’t get me wrong, the top brands = quality. But you need to like what you’re buying!

8. How about fun-sized?

small-guitarYou might think ¾ size guitars are just for kids. But whoever told you that is a bald- faced liar! These guitars, like the Baby Taylor have incredible sound, are super fun to play, and are really easy to travel with. Next time you find yourself in a music shop, make sure to sit down with one of these guitars. You’ll be shocked at its unassuming awesomeness and, then, you’ll probably buy one.

9. What else do you need?

guitar-pick-stringsJust like new shoes don’t come with socks (and why don’t they??), guitars require some accessories. You’ll probably need to grab a small amp, guitar cables, a fresh set of strings, a cleaning kit, a guitar strap, and a case. Also, many brand new guitars need what’s call a “set up.” This is where a professional adjusts the guitar by truing the neck and getting the action just right, making sure it’s totally ready to be rocked out upon.

10. Now what?

truefireMany folks buy a guitar, get home, and realize they have no idea how to play it or even hold it. Which is cool, we’re not judging! Everybody’s got to start somewhere. Here comes the shameless plug: Check out TrueFire’s online guitar lessons. Sit down with our library of over 22,000 video guitar lessons with tab, notation, and jam tracks, and we’ll get you to rock star status, breaking in that new guitar in no time!

What else do you think about when buying a guitar? AKA, what have we missed? Let us know in the comments!

by John Lombard