I know that parents, at times, don't want to spend too much money on a guitar for their children because they are afraid it might be a phase and that they might abandon interest. In my opinion it is much better to give a kid a used guitar than buying a cheaply made one that's hard to play. There are many places that one can find nice used guitars, such as music stores, pawn shops, even craigslist.
Personally, I like to play an instrument before I even consider buying it. Ask yourself this: Would you buy a car without being allowed to drive it? It is this very reason that I stray away from purchasing one from a website. Yes, I know I mentioned craigslist, for those of you that don't know craigslist is an free online classifieds site, meaning you have to actually contact the people and you get to see and inspect the item before you buy it.
Websites that sell guitars usually do just that, sell them, without ever making sure that the guitar is properly setup (neck checked for proper relief, intonation set, etc...) also, another con about buying online is this: Who are you going to take it to when you have problems?
I highly recommend buying from an independently owned music store and not through a chain because chain stores usually do not set-up the instruments or offer any warranty with their instruments. There's a local and privately owned store (Great Neck Guitars, Wichita Falls Texas) that Ive been going to now for 15 years. The reason is this, every guitar is inspected and properly set-up before it is put on display. The other thing is that they offer a life-time service warranty on any instrument that you buy from them. I have guitars that I have bought from them years ago that I take in from time to time to get neck adjustments and intonation checked and they do it for free! Try finding a deal like that at INSTRUMENTCENTER.
Here are a few tips:
- Play every note on every string while checking for buzzing sounds. Can you hear each note cleanly?
- Check and make sure that when holding down a string that it only sounds at the fret you are holding. Make sure it does not fret out at other places.
- Look down the neck and make sure it isn't overly bowed one way or another. You want the neck to have a little "relief" in it, but not too much. That is to say that the neck should have a slight bow in it.
- If its an electric, plug it in and play it. If you don't know how to play then ask someone give a demonstration.
- Take a friend with you that knows something about guitars.