Should You Ever Buy a Used Guitar from a Pawn Shop?

You’re not going to like the answer- it depends.

I live in the Detroit, Michigan area. Where I live, pawn shops do not operate like the TV show “Pawn Stars”. Oh, that they did. At least in the TV show, the employees had a fair idea about the value of the merchandise. If they weren’t sure, they would bring in an expert who did, and the expert could give a fair evaluation of the item. Not so, here in Motown.

You are looking for value. The fair value of an item is the price at which you are willing to pay no more and the seller is willing to take no less. This assumes that both parties already have a fair idea about the underlying value of the object in question. Not so in Motown.

Certainly, there are bargains to be had in a pawn shop. The pawn shop owner or employee is not about to fork over a bargain to you. He assumes you are a rube, and he wants every penny he can get.

If you still insist upon buying a guitar at “Wonderpawn”, you had better know what you’re doing. Read the other article on this website about how to buy an inexpensive guitar. It will give you a lot of pointers. The guy behind the counter probably doesn’t know a whole lot about guitars in general, and is not willing to give you a deal. He is accountable to his boss who wants top dollar for everything.

If you choose to look at a guitar (and maybe it’s a brand you’re familiar with) and you know something about guitars, you should have an idea of what fair value is. Ask the guy behind the counter how much he wants. When he tells you, either laugh out loud or chuckle. Counteroffer him with what you think to be the fair value minus about 40%. He will then laugh at you. Now you play the game of you slowly coming up on your offering price and he will slowly come down, or maybe he won’t, to his real asking price. By all means-don’t get angry.

This is a game. Work your way up to the maximum price you are willing to pay, and if he won’t accept it there’s only one thing left to do. Turn on your heel and walk out. One of two things will happen. You will either just leave the store without anyone saying a word, or a he’ll ask you to come back and try to negotiate a little more. Here is the objective: know the value ahead of time and stick to it. Period. If it’s something you’re on the fence about, go home, and do some research on that particular brand and model of guitar and try to form an opinion about fair price. A good website for this purpose is Now you can return to Pawn Heaven and resume dickering.

After having written this, I realize what a pain in the rear end it really all is. So, I guess I would have to say probably NOT- don’t buy from a pawn shop, unless you’re pretty knowledgeable. Remember- your time is worth your money, and this whole rigamarole is generally not worth your time.

6 thoughts on “Should You Ever Buy a Used Guitar from a Pawn Shop?”

  1. Hey William, great post. I have to wonder if that counts for everything you buy from a pawn shop or just select items. A girl I was dating at the time whose grandfather bought me a new mini-fridge and it was the best thing ever. However, I can see why you feel the way you feel about buying a guitar from a pawn shop; those guys are sharks. Personally, I wouldn’t buy anything from a pawn shop; your post was a breath of fresh air. Good job! 

  2. I enjoyed reading this! Yeah, I guess, this is how bargaining works. To be honest, I feel kind of bad sometimes trying to negotiate the price. Sometimes, I’ll ask about a proce decrease and I’ll take the deal. But this is for things I would pay the full price, too. 

    I’m thinking about buying my own guitar – I use my brother’s so far – and I wanted to do some research. I think I’ll get a new one, though. I don’t know enough to make sure I’ll get my money’s worth. 

  3. I think if you know exactly what you want, and know what you are buying then yes, it’s a great idea.  You can get some really great deals at a pawn shop if you can play the game.  But, I do think you really need to know what you are buying and even then, you have to set expectations.  Sounds like you have some experience, do you buy other stuff from pawn shops, or just guitars?  I used to buy golf clubs and have gotten some great deals over the years.  Also, it’s pretty amazing what you can find in Las Vegas pawn shops, people will sell just about anything in that town!  Thanks for the very entertaining read.

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