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Summary: If you want to save money on a violin, learn where to buy a used violin. Used instruments come in many conditions, but if you know what to look for and where you can find a good deal.
Bottomline Up Front
If you are looking for a beginner model, I recommend finding a used violin online like a Mendini violin. The Mendini student model gives you everything you need to get started, and because it is one of the most popular, it’s more commonly found online and in music stores.
Why Consider a Used Violin
As a parent with a large family, I like to save money when and where I can. One of the areas where I can save money is with their instruments.
When each of my children wants to take up a new instrument, it can get expensive, even if that instrument is something small like a violin. So every school year, when they come up to me pleading to start the newest instruments, I look for used versions first.
Now, it’s true, you have to be careful when you invest in a used product of any kind, and you certainly shouldn’t buy the first used violin you see without making sure it’s in good condition. However, many situations provide good quality used instruments.
- A parent might be selling a used violin that their child has outgrown. It has small signs of wear and tear, and maybe the accessories like the violin case have some fraying along the zipper, but otherwise, it’s in good condition.
- An individual might purchase a violin and then give it up after a few months. When they do, they usually sell the violin and all accessories. If they haven’t played it much, there’s very little wear and tear on the violin.
- Some families have to move or clear out a relative’s house, and as part of that process, they sell antique instruments that might be in good condition and only need things like new strings to sound great.
What to Look for in a Used Violin
No matter where you look, the condition for used violins can vary dramatically. Sometimes people get rid of used violins they have had for years, played for years, taken on the road, dented, and left out in the sun.
Other times people are selling a used violin that they took out of the box and then decided they didn’t want. You can find great deals if you know where to buy a used violin and what to look for.
Firstly, check to see if it comes with a bow. If the used violin doesn’t come with a bow, it’s not the end of the world. You can easily buy a bow separately. You want to be cognizant of the cost and the value of the violin model you are purchasing.
If you are buying a used beginner violin and it doesn’t have the bow anymore, paying $150 for it when the bow costs $20 separately, and a brand new kit with a new bow only costs $160, then the used version might not be worth it.
Check out the strings. Violin strings are supposed to be replaced at least every six months, so don’t be surprised if the violin strings that come with your used violin are in bad condition. Even if you play it and the strings are in decent condition, but the sound is terrible, you might need to tune it.
You should count on buying a new set of strings, especially if you get a used violin from a music shop, online, or somebody’s attic.
The bridge is the section that holds the strings up, like an actual bridge. It’s located in the middle of the violin. It’s held in place with tension. This is important because many people warned you against buying a used violin if there’s any damage to the bridge. But people misconstrue what the term damage means.
Because the bridge is not physically attached to the violin, it’s normal for the bridge to fall over if the strings are old or loose. You might need to tighten the strings for the bridge to resume its upright position.
Damage takes the form of cracks in the actual bridge or damage to the feet. If you see that the two feet don’t rest perfectly on the curve of the violin, or you notice a crack in the bridge, that’s a bigger issue.
You can, of course, have the bridge replaced in isolation if the rest of the violin is good quality and a good deal, but weigh that against the cost of replacing the bridge.
When you look at the body of the violin, check for any significant damage. A small chip in the varnish is fine; it won’t impact the sound. But a large break, crack, or hole in the body will damage the sound and effectiveness. Check if it has all of the other parts like the peg, the scroll, the tuning pegs, and properly carve F-holes.
If you see something missing, do the math to determine whether it’s cheaper to invest in a different model or a new model rather than replace those parts individually.
Where to Buy a Used Violin
I would advise you to start with nearby music schools. If you are looking for a student model, nearby music schools and music shops in your area probably work with students regularly, so they likely have an entire section of used violins. Music shops that rent equipment usually rent used violins.
In some cases, you might be able to purchase one of the violins that have previously been rented. It might still be in good condition but has years of wear and tear on it, saving you quite a bit of money.
Second Hand Music Shops
If you don’t have any music schools in your area, it’s time to consider second-hand music shops and used instrument facilities. Some shops specialize in used instruments and have online and physical store locations. One example is Guitar Center.
Typically if they offer both, you might be able to view a product they have online and then go to the physical store to test it before you buy.
You might find a consignment store. These come in many forms. Stores that operate on consignment act as a business that sells used items on behalf of the owner. The store gets to keep a percentage of the sale, and the rest of the money goes back to the owner.
Consignment stores very interns of the quality and the products available. There is no guarantee that they will have a used violin, but there are consignment shops that specialize in stringed instruments. With those consignment shops, you will find an instrument that fits your needs.
You can also find trade-in stores like Fiddlershop and The Magic Flute. There are plenty of second-hand music shops or trade-in stores where you can trade in any instrument or musical accessory. When you trade something in the store, determine the estimated value or the amount they can sell the product for.
Then they give you a percentage of that in-store credit toward whatever thing you want to purchase next. This is a great option for parents whose children might start playing the violin at a young age.
If your children are learning a 1/8th violin, when they outgrow it, you can go to a trade-in store, trade in the used violin, and put the store credit toward a ¼ size violin.
eBay and Amazon
If you are still trying to figure out where to buy a used violin, websites like eBay and Amazon have used instruments for sale, although you may or may not have to do extra vetting yourself.
With eBay, you can find listings with a set price, so the used violin might be for sale for $50. You might also find listings that have an auction.
An ongoing auction means the seller has a minimum bid amount and is waiting to see how much people are willing to pay for the used violin. If you are willing to monitor an auction, diligence can help you find a good deal on a used instrument for a very affordable rate.
Amazon sells used violins in many ways.
- There are some situations where a customer purchases a violin from Amazon and returns it within the return window. There are plenty of reasons why a customer might be allowed to return an instrument like a violin to Amazon. It might be that the violin was the wrong choice, the user picked the wrong color, or the customer didn’t need it anymore. In these scenarios, the product is fine and can be sold, but it is technically used. So, it can be sold on Amazon for less than the original price.
- Vendors offering products through Amazon can choose to sell used products. There are times when a customer returns a violin purchased through a third party on Amazon. That third party is usually the manufacturer or distributor for that brand. They could offer the violin at a discounted price because of a small nick in the varnish or other aesthetic damage that doesn’t compromise the usability.
- eBay and Amazon provide a place for vendors and individuals to resell used items or new items. So, you can look for a used violin on Amazon or eBay. Both sellers have description sections that tell you the condition of the used violin. With eBay, you might see extra pictures posted by a seller. For Amazon, if you are looking at a particular make and model of violin, there’s a button underneath asking if you have one to sell, making it easy for you to list a used violin on Amazon.
I recommend looking at Amazon last. If you try to sell something on Amazon, they have a rule for certain items: you cannot offer that same product at a lower cost anywhere else online than what you agree to sell it for on Amazon.
If I make and manufacture ¼ size violins, and I want to sell them in my e-commerce store and on Amazon, I have to agree that the price I charge at my e-commerce store is a little higher than the price I charge at Amazon. And Amazon takes a percentage of every sale I make.
If you look at the example above, even if I were to resell a used violin, I could sell it for less than a new model, but not significantly less. By comparison, resellers, consignment stores, and trade-in shops have better deals on used products.
Contact the Seller
If you need extra information about the quality of the product, or you want to see different pictures, websites like eBay and Amazon let you reach out and contact the seller directly.
When you learn where to buy used violins, you have to be prepared that you might not get the exact make or model you want. What matters most is that you find the right size.
If, for example, you are buying a used violin for yourself or your child, finding a fractional size that fits their arm span is much more important than finding a top-tier manufacturer, especially if your options are limited. In some cases, beggars can’t be choosers.
I would advise that you start looking as soon as you anticipate needing a used violin. Even if you don’t think you will need the used violin for a few months, start looking immediately because people sell their used instruments at all times of the year, maybe after a death in the family or right before a move, so you never know when the right make, or model will crop up.
At the end of a school year, you might find a wider selection of used violins because students no longer take music lessons and return the instruments they don’t need. You can also check around the holidays when companies, even resellers, are more likely to have discounts and free shipping.
Where to Buy Used Violins: Resold and Used Options
Mendini 4/4 Beginner Violin
You can find the Mendini by Cecilio 4/4 Beginner Violin on Amazon in a used-like new condition. When you look at the regular full-size violin from Mendini on Amazon, you can expect to pay $160, but with used versions, you can pay $145. The price for used versions will vary based on what’s available.
The reseller for this particular model has six pictures listed but shows it contains all of the original parts, including the case and the tuner, with the boxes showing a bit of wear and tear. It is in almost new condition except that one string has to be replaced.
Bunnel Electric Violin
If you want an electric violin, the Electric Violin Bunnel Edge Outfit 4/4 Full Size (BLUE) has two listings for used models with the same accessories as the original. The downside here is that the used models are being resold not by individuals but by resellers.
This is not a bad thing on its own; however, the strict pricing requirements to which Amazon holds sellers means that you won’t save more than $10 on average purchasing a used model on Amazon.
YMC Violin Starter Kit
The YMC Full Size 4/4 Violin Starter Kit has a few used models for sale, but the used models cost the same as the current sale price on Amazon. This is a problem you might run into from time to time. There could be situations where a sale renders a particular violin in its new condition less expensive than its used condition.
Answer: A used violin will generally cost about 2/3 of the original price if it is in “like new” condition. However, the price is really up to the quality of the product, how long it was used, whether it comes with accessories like a bow or case, etc…
Answer: If you can find a used violin suitable to your skill level, you can save a lot of money over buying new. Buying a used violin is great if you are buying for a child or beginner who might not stick with it full time, or who just wants something basic on which to learn.
Answer: Absolutely it is ok, especially for beginner instruments. There are many situations where someone might matriculate beyond a beginner instrument, so they resell or donate their old one. You can, therefore, find great deals with second hand or used violins in music shops or online.
If you can, I recommend finding a reliable Mendini beginner violin if you are a beginner or a student. If you are more advanced, it might take a little longer, but diligently searching second-hand shops online and in-person can help you uncover great deals for more advanced models.
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