Buying a Used Guitar Online
If you're considering buying a used guitar online, or even a used amp or effects pedal, it's really just a matter of common sense to keep from getting burned. I'm sure there's hundreds, if not thousands of places to buy quality used music gear from, and feel protected when you do so. Personally, I have bought most of my guitars from local music shops, but I also bought most of them many years, even decades ago. I have bought two guitars, and a violin online from MusiciansFriend, but they were all new.
The one place that I have dealt with extensively in a multitude of used products is eBay. Obviously, eBay is well known, and very respected. In the huge number of transactions that I've had buying and selling used musical instruments, Ham radio gear, a car, and countless other merchandise, I've only had one minor problem and it was resolved quickly and properly.
So, if you decide to purchase that used guitar online, I can personally recommend eBay, just in case you haven't dealt through them. As I mentioned before, you just need to protect yourself by using a little common sense. First off, know what you're buying. If you're a new guitar player you probably don't need that $5,000 used Paul Reed Smith (PRS) guitar. Of course if you're wealthy and want it, enjoy!
Next, just because someone writes something in the ad doesn't mean that's exactly how it is. If you run across something like - This guitar is a copy of a 1950s Les Paul worth thousands, but will take $200, does that mean it's a good deal ? Who knows, are they trying to say their copy is worth thousands ?
The very best advice I could offer anyone bidding on a used guitar online at eBay, or from anyone else for that matter is this - ASK QUESTIONS! I've found that most people are generally fairly honest when asked specific questions about their guitar, amp, effects pedal or whatever else it is you're interested in. Where some people have a little 'issue' is, revealing, voluntarily at least, every slight problem the buyer would want to know about before buying or bidding on their item. Does everything work properly ? Is it heavily scratched or nicked up ? Maybe the neck is warped, but they advertize it as 'everything works fine.' I guess technically, maybe it does, but a guitar with a warped neck isn't much use to anyone.
Sometimes I'll just contact them with any question that I can think of just to see hoe long it takes them to respond, and the general 'feel' you get from their answer. If there are limited pictures, ask if they can provide more. Someone that is respectful and accommodating, especially on a higher price item, always makes me feel better about doing business with them.
Lastly, if you're somewhat less experienced with guitars, enlist the help of a friend or family member that plays and has some knowledge on what to look for in a quality used guitar - and about what you should reasonably expect to pay for the one you're interested in.
Also, eBay is very good about protecting buyers on their site. It just makes good sense that they would be. The revenue generated comes from the buyers. If eBay got a reputation for being a place to be ripped-off on used guitars or anything else, there would soon be no buyers...or eBay for that matter.
Lastly, I take no pleasure in seeing people going through bad financial times, I believe we all feel that way. However, there have been even more fantastic used guitars online being sold for excellent prices through eBay because of the poor economy the last couple of years. I just like to think that hopefully I'm helping someone that is hurting, by paying a fair price for their gear.