Guitar buying is always fun, and some of you have told me that you don't yet have a guitar, so I thought I would do a little video on buying a used guitar. These tips will also apply to new guitars by the way, but I've always loved buying used guitars because you can so often buy a far better instrument used than you would normally be able to afford in your budget if you bought new.
The biggest thing you need to do is to first figure out what you want. Acoustic, electric, classical - those are just the major categories. Within each it gets really complicated - do you want a cutaway, no cutaway, if electric what kind of pickups (single coil or double humbucker)... and the list of options goes on, and on, and on.
How to deal with this? Head down to your local music store and spend an hour playing a whole bunch of different guitars. Try to figure out what you like about each one, and see if anything obvious springs out at you.
Once you've got an idea of what you're looking for, then by all means checkout all options available to you. Last fall I bought my first brand new guitar (the Hagstrom Super Swede I've used in many of the videos) - all previous ones were twice-loved. Check the pawn shops, Craigslist, and yes - check the local music shops too. You never know what sort of deals pop up. Online retailers are great for getting a terrific price - Guitar Center often advertises that they give you new guitars at used prices, so that's worth a look as well.
Regarding buying online, my advice would be that you can save a lot of money by doing so, but you really need to know what you want first. If at all possible, find a guitar of the same make and model you're considering in a store somewhere and try it out. Once you're satisfied its the one, then see if you can save money online. That's cool.
Some key areas of the guitar to check: neck, hardware, electronics, body. Also check the intonation and action, and above all, make sure the guitar is something you're going to love playing. Nothing is more demotivating than a crappy guitar.
Watch the video below for more info on how to check all those things, and if you're got your own tips, leave them in the comments below.
If this short video wasn't enough to satisfy your thirst for guitar-buying knowledge, then I highly recommend checking out my friend Colin Daniel's videos that he's created on buying an acoustic guitar and buying an electric guitar. Each video is over an hour long, (they're both free) and you'll learn a ton if you're willing to invest the time.