5 tips on buying used music equipment
Tthere's no question: You should always buy as opposed to rent when buying instruments for your own band or for school.
While costs vary, at my local store, by the time you've made 9 or 10 monthly rent payments, you've essentially paid for the instrument, even at the prices they're asking at the music store.
What is the point then of renting it, when you've spent all that money and now you just have to return it? If you buy a used instrument, even if you decide you don't like the saxaphone you should be able to resell the instrument for around the same amount you paid for it.
If you're buying for school, don't wait until the last minute. Believe me, I can tell you it's not fun procrastinating and then fighting your way through the mobs at the music store on the night before class begins.
And there's really no reason to buy a new instrument, when you can get a better quality one cheaper that's been used.
1. Check out the classified ads. People clean out their closets and just want to get rid of instruments that are in perfectly good condition, sometimes for a fraction of their value.
2. Visit a pawn shop. I got this tip from a friend who's a professional musician and I'll be expanding it in a future blog post. Pawn shops carry all sorts of instruments and frequently sell them for much cheaper than the music stores. I bought my son a used student saxophone for $260 at a pawn shop, when our nearby music store was selling virtually the same thing for $450. A new sax of the same quality was $900.
3. Shop on eBay. I have bought instruments on eBay in the past, most notably one time when my son broke his cheap clarinet four days before the big concert, and I prevailed on the seller to quick ship her used one as a replacement. It ended up being a great choice. The cheap clarinet I bought new because I was in a great hurry cost more than $100 and was a piece of junk that broke the first time my kid accidentally kicked it over. The one I bought on eBay is still in good shape and cost me $60.
4. Inspect in person if possible. The main downside to buying online is that you can't personally inspect the instrument and try it out. For band instruments especially, check for wear around the pads, because they could have to be replaced and you should negotiate that cost into the price you offer. Bring reeds if you know the correct size and maybe something to wipe off the mouthpiece.
5. Negotiate. Assume all prices on used goods are negotiable and politely ask if they'll take an amount considerably lower than what's on offer. When I put my items for sale in the classifieds, I always add about 20% haggle room, with the assumption that people are going to want a deal.
And have some fun out there. My kid has moved on to other instruments, so when I get around to it, I'll be joining the legions of people out there who want to sell their student's old stuff.
And remember: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.
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