Buying a used guitar - good value or not? Washburn AE-20 MTS made in 1996

I’m considering buying a used acoustic guitar, but I’m having concerns that I wanted to get some opinions on from the community.

The guitar in question is a Washburn AE-20 MTS (Festival Series) from 1996 and it’s in great condition and plays great and comes with a case. The price is the local equivalent of $500 (US).

Considering that budget guitars are much better these day, I wonder how much a new guitar of similar quality would cost. Basically, would a new $500 guitar be better/worse than this?

Some numbers to consider:
The original list price according to Washburn was $850 in 1996. With general inflation that is $1700 in today’s money.

A brand new Washburn AE-20 is sold for $400-$500. Cheaper, but is it comparable in quality? I have no idea.

From a pure “guitar-for-the-money” point of view: does it even make sense to buy a used guitar like this?

Hi Jacob,
I can’t answer your specific question and don’t know the guitar your looking at. I can only give my experience in buying a used guitar.
First, does the used guitar you want speak to you? I guess in other words, did/do you just know that, that guitar is the one?

My experience in buying my only acoustic 6 string guitar was as follows.

Saw the ad on craigslist.
Made contact with the seller. Craigslist said the guitar location was within 3 or 4 miles from me. In reality, it was 30+ miles out, 1 way.

I did some quick research on the guitar I was considering. Like you, the guitar I was looking at appeared to be around $800 new in '00. It is now obsolete.
I read quick reviews of the guitar from others on the www. Seemed like many folks liked the particular guitar I was looking at.
Told the seller I’d make the trip to check it out.
Got there and checked it out physically, played it for 15 or 20 minutes.
In them few minutes, I could tell I really liked the guitar, it sounded great, played real good and was in good condition and everything about it worked. ie the electric part of it as it’s a acoustic/elec. guitar.
Gave him my money and left with ‘my’ new, used guitar.
Only difference between your scenario and mine is that most of the other guitars like mine, used, were in the $500 range. The seller wanted $300.
To me, it was a no brainer to buy it.

I just couldn’t be more please with that guitar a couple years out now. It plays great and better yet, it sounds real good too.

I never even went and checked out a new guitar. The used one near just fell into my lap.
Though I will say I did check some new acoustics out just the other day. I did find one that sounds better than mine, but it didn’t play any better than mine. It was also $1K+, a Martin. What I got is a Indonesian made Epiphone.

I guess my point is.
If the used guitar speaks to you, and perhaps you near bond with it right away. I think get the used guitar your looking at.
imho, the notion that you will just know, pretty much from square one, that, that is the guitar for you is true.

This near same scenario played out in near the same way when I got my #1 electric. It was used too. I played that one for 15 min at most. I just knew it was the guitar I wanted/needed. Ironically for me, both of the guitars are Epiphones, neither made in the USA.
I love them both.

I hope your acquisition works out the same for you.
Good luck in your hunt.

I am a fan of used guitars. I don’t know Washburn much. I had a friend buy one new in the late ‘80s and he was thrilled, but his last name was Washburn, so he may have been biased.

I would definitely consider the used as a better value than the new. New Washburns are often entry level made in China (good guitars do come out of China). In the late ‘80s maybe early ‘90s Washburn was collaborating with Dana Bourgeois, who is extremely well regarded.

Anyway, the risk of used guitars are damage, fret wear and neck angle/resets among others. These are pretty easy to identify in person or photos, if you know a little about what you are looking for. Google some of these issues and also look for articles on line about “what to look for in a used guitar”. It will help you be able to determine if there are any deal breakers.


I think you have to know your stuff (and maybe you do). The risk is you spend 500USD and then need to spend the same again if you later find issues because maybe the previous owner didn’t look after it well. There’s old guitars that are classic/vintage and others that were never good and now just plain old.

Personally I wouldn’t but that’s because I don’t have the knowledge to identify problems or the skills to fix them.

A budget, entry level guitar that is 30 years old will still be a budget, entry level guitar today regardless of the sales price. A high quality 30 y/o instrument will still be good now if not significantly damaged. Worn parts can be replaced and would likely be more than worth it if the sales price is reasonable. A 400 y/o Strad or Amati violin will likely need a new bridge and tuning pegs, but likely not an issue if you could afford the $1,000,000 purchase price. I might not want a 30 y/o Volkswagen Beetle even if it was given to me.

Buying a used acoustic privately without seeing it first is a bit risky. Acoustics in particular will have a tendency to ‘belly’ over time and could make it very difficult to get a good playing action and decent tone as @Jamolay already mentioned. A neck reset is probably going to cost as much as the guitar if it needs one.
I don’t want to put you off, but I’d be keen to see it in person or get some very detailed photos of things like the saddle height and action at 12th fret.

Thanks for all the replies so far, I really appreciate it.

I should say that the guitar is for sale in a small local guitar shop, so I have every opportunity to see it and play it before deciding. I’ve already been by a couple of times and the owner is happy to let me try it.


Out of curiosity, I googled that guitar and found this:

It sold for about 1000 euros, so if it’s the same guitar, sounds like you might have found a good deal.

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Great - then the only question that really matters is whether it’s worth it to you. Play others at that price point then decide. If I could check only one thing on a used acoustic, particularly an older one, it would be saddle height.

Hope you have a NGD post soon!

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Yes, it the same model. :+1:

HI We are in the states and have successfully bought two guitars from online ads. Similar to what many said, we looked at the guitars in person, played it, handled it and brought a ruler with us to check the strings on the fretboard, discussed the reason for selling and how they were stored. They were well taken care of and had very nice hard cases (one with a humidifier). Frankly, both people were honest (a true rarity) they gave us their cards (one was in the music business and had songs on spotify, the other was a local tile person) . As in anything, you did your research and followed your gut as we did. Couldn’t be happier with either of them. Lastly, the one we really wanted had already been spoken for, I sent a polite message to the seller and said if the person fell out… we would be interested. SO… if you see something step up. It doesn’t hurt. Good luck.

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