The ideal place to buy a guitar is at a local music store or guitar shop. This ideal music store will have a good selection of guitars for sale, at a fair price, with a knowledgeable sales staff, and an on-site guitar technician. Depending on where you live, you might just find such a music store.

First-time buyers should be able to find a good, name-brand guitar at a local music store. However, if you’ve got your heart set on an uncommon guitar or a specific make and model, you may need to drive to a major metro area or consider buying from an online guitar shop.

Check out the Local Guitar Shops

You may feel a bit intimidated going into a music store for the first time, to shop for a guitar. That’s not unusual. These tips will help you get on with the guitar-buying quest.

  • Ask guitar-playing friends to recommend local music stores, and which shops to avoid. (This may eliminate the need for the rest of the steps on this list.)
  • Use the Web or Yellow Pages and compile a list of all the guitar shops in your area.
  • Visit each music store’s website. Note which guitar brands they carry. Look for any sort of specialty shops. A store that deals exclusively in acoustic, string instruments may be a good place to shop for an acoustic guitar.
  • Do an Internet search on each of the prospective guitar shops. You’re looking for any websites such as CitySearch or Merchant Circle that might include customer feedback.

Narrow the list down to a handful, and get ready for your first visit. On this visit, you’ll just be browsing.

Your First Visit to the Music Store, Just Browsing

You should have your list of music stores with guitars for sale, it’s time to pick a store and pay a visit. You’ll just be browsing, so leave the credit card at home. If possible, take along a guitar-playing friend. And, be sure to read the previous sections of my guitar buying guide go back and read the pertinent sections.

Before you choose your guitar and spend your money, you will want to visit a couple of music stores. Take a pad and pen for jotting notes.

When you get to the store…

  • Be prepared to answer the seller’s questions about the type of guitar you’re looking for, your preferred style of music, how long you’ve been playing, and your price range.
  • Make it clear that you’re just looking. Don’t get pressured into buying on your first visit. (Leave the credit card at home.)
  • Once the seller leaves you on your own, look at all of the guitars in the store. If there are five guitars of the same make/model, look at all five.
  • Try as many guitars as possible, in all price ranges. Get an idea of the differences between low-end guitars and high-end guitars.
  • Jot down the make/model/price of the guitars you tried out. Include any comments or initial impressions.
  • Keep an open mind. Which guitar can you see yourself making music with? Don’t fall in love with a guitar because it’s the only available in your favorite color. Your ultimate goal is to start making some guitar music.

After the Guitar Shopping Spree

Back home, take some time ponder your visits. Check your notes. Check out the makes and models online. Visit some reputable online sellers like American Musical Supply or Music123.com. How do the online prices compare with the music store’s? What are the reader reviews like?

Note: Expect online retailers to offer a lower price. If the online price is significantly lower, use that figure in negotiating with your local guitar shop.

How to Get a Guitar at a Good Price

When you’re ready to buy, be prepared to do some wheeling and dealing. Find out what your guitar costs at a reputable online dealer. Since most guitar sellers work on a commission, he may be willing to cut out some of his commission to give you a better price. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Let the salesperson know that you can get this guitar at MusiciansFriend.com for $300. Ask, “Can you beat that price?” Maybe she can, maybe she can’t. If not, ask if she’d be willing to throw in some valuable accessories, that you’d need to buy anyway: a case or gig bag, strap, strings, electronic tuner, or a beginner’s DVD course.

Note: Realize that online music stores can sell guitars at a lower price than mortar-and-brick music stores. So, don’t discount the value of the services provided by your local shop. Especially the fact that you can try out a variety of guitars, and ask questions. The local shop can also make any needed adjustments before you buy.

How to Try Out a Guitar

Acoustic Guitar

Electric Guitar