Is It Better To Build Or Buy A Guitar? (Pros and Cons)

For most people, it is better to just buy a guitar rather than to try and build one. But there are some real benefits to building a guitar, especially if you are planning to make a hobby out of it.

Throughout this article the pros and cons of building a guitar and buying a guitar will be explored, followed by some questions you should ask yourself that will help you figure out whether it’s best for you to build a guitar or buy a guitar.

Pros of Building A Guitar

Sense of Achievement

It can be very rewarding to own a hand-crafted instrument that you are very happy with that you built yourself. If you build yourself a guitar and you really like to play it, every time you pick up the guitar and play you will have a sense of achievement regarding the quality work you have created.

You Can Customize It Exactly How You Want

If you decide to build your own guitar, you will have the opportunity to choose the exact components you want to be included, the exact style you would like, and the exact wood you would like the guitar to be made out of.

There are times when looking to buy a guitar that the exact configuration you would like is not available, so when building a guitar, you have full control over all aspects of the end product.

Learning Experience 

Building a guitar is a great learning experience. You learn a lot about working with wood in general, you can learn a lot about electronics, as well as how to follow a set of complicated instructions from the beginning to the end.

These skills that you would develop when building a guitar would be skills that are transferable to other challenges and experiences you have in life and once you’ve built one guitar the time that it takes you to make another guitar in the future is a lot less, and the quality will get better and better.

Parts Alone Can Be Quite Cheap

A significant part of the cost of a guitar is the labor that is used in the manufacturing process. The parts alone in a guitar including the wood, components, and electrical components are often half of the cost if not a lot less of the overall cost of a guitar.

As a result, if you are building the guitar yourself, you are saving that labor cost, and just paying for parts. That is why you can pick up cheap electric guitar kits for as little as $100 and acoustic kits for as little as $300. 

Cons of Building a Guitar

Takes A Long Time

Building a guitar takes a considerable amount of time.

Even though the basic construction process of putting components together does not usually take much time there are considerable periods of waiting for glue to dry, and then also waiting for paint or timber oil to dry when finishing the guitar, which means the process is often at least a few months.

Many professional luthiers state on their website that the time frame for a custom guitar build is at least 3 months, but more likely to be six months or more.

Potential Mistakes

If you are making a guitar for the first time, there is the potential that you will make some mistakes.

Some mistakes that you could make are not a big deal and will not delay your project significantly, but if you make a mistake on a key component and it becomes unusable, this could lead to significant delays in the process, and also an increase in the budget as you will have to buy the replacement part.

Need The Right Tools and Equipment

Building a guitar requires tools and equipment, in addition to the guitar components. Some of these tools are not too cheap and may be expensive to obtain which further increases the potential cost of building your own guitar. once you have these tools it will then benefit any subsequent guitars you decide to build karma but if you are just planning on building a single guitar this will be a significant investment to make for a once-off project.

Most People Won’t Be Able To Make A Guitar As Good As They Can Buy

Making a guitar is a complicated and time-intensive process, and it often takes people multiple guitar builds before their skills start to reach a satisfactory level.

If you just plan to build a single guitar and hope that it can be equivalent or better quality than what you might buy from the shops, then you are likely to be disappointed.

Pros of Buying A Guitar

Ready to Play Immediately

If you buy a guitar from a shop or online retailer, then that guitar you buy is ready to play straight away.

There is no time waiting for glue to dry, or paint to dry, it is ready to play from the moment you pick it up.

Consistent Result

With the advent of technology, guitar manufacturing has become quite consistent in quality.

Historically there were a lot more manual processes required in preparing and cutting the wood but now with CNC machines and other technological advances, much of the labor-intensive work regarding preparing the wood for a guitar is now done by machines.

This means the wood is produced and prepared in a very consistent fashion to a very high standard, and then there is some involvement from a factory worker just to assemble and set up the guitar before it leaves the factory. 

Don’t Need Any Tools Or Skills 

If you choose to buy a guitar instead of building one, you will not need any tools or equipment. You simply need to transfer the money for the guitar you are buying, and then you have your fully functioning, completed, working guitar.

Usually Cheaper Overall

It usually ends up being cheaper to buy the guitar you want, than trying to try to build it from scratch.

Even though the simple kit of wood and components may be priced less than the finished product off of the shelf comma after you can sit at the other tools and equipment you would require to build the guitar cover buying a finished guitar is often cheaper.

Especially if you didn’t consider how many hours you put into the project, and how much money you could have made by putting in the equivalent amount of hours towards your usual occupation or other valuable activity.

Cons of Buying A Guitar

Miss Out Of The Experience

Making a guitar can be a challenging, but very rewarding experience.

The skills you learn and develop throughout that process will be skills you can use in other areas of your life, and it’s also a significant achievement that you will be able to feel proud about.

It could lead you to you making further guitars, and making guitars for friends, or just being very satisfied that use it out to achieve a complex task and we’re able to achieve it.

Less Connection To The Instrument

As well as the experience being rewarding in and of itself, building a guitar also gives you more of a connection to the instrument, given you were the one who assembled the wood, components, and did the finishing touches.

If you buy a guitar off of the shelf, then you have had no personal involvement meant in the creation of that instrument and therefore may not feel the same connection to that instrument.

Might Not Be Able To Buy Exactly What You Are Wanting

If you a buying a pre-made guitar then the guitar you wish, made from the would you or desire, in the style you crave, may not be available.

You only have the option to buy the guitars that are currently available, so will be limited to those choices.

Deciding Whether To Build Or Buy A Guitar

 When deciding whether to build or buy a guitar there are some key questions you should keep in mind to help in making your decision.

Above, we have explored the pros and cons of both but these questions below will help you home in your thinking on what might be best for you, in your situation.

Is This A Hobby You Want To Develop?

In my opinion, the key thing to consider is whether building guitars is a hobby that you plan to get into or if you are just going to make a single guitar, and hoping that by building it you might save some money.

If you just plan to build single guitar then my personal opinion is that building a guitar is not a good idea and that you are much better off buying a guitar from a shop or online retailer.

The reason being is that you will no need to invest in a significant amount of tools and other equipment, and there is a significant learning curve in building a guitar.

As a result, you are likely to make quite a few mistakes and errors on your first guitar build, and may not be as satisfied with the end result as you could be if you just purchase a guitar.

How Soon Do You Need The Guitar?

The urgency with which you need your new guitar will also be an important factor in deciding whether to build or buy a guitar.

If you are planning to build the guitar yourself, then you need to allow yourself at least three months, if not more, before your guitar will be ready to play. And even then, it may still not be ready.

Of course, that number varies based on your level of available time, and how much you are able to apply yourself to the project.

But in general, it takes most people at least three months to start a new guitar project and take it to completion.

Are You Doing it For The Money (Savings…)?

The final thing you should think about when deciding whether to build or buy a guitar is whether you are doing it for the money.

Especially, if you are doing it to try and save money.

In general, though the basic parts and components of a guitar may cost you less than a full-priced guitar – once you have acquired all of the additional tools and equipment you need to build a guitar yourself, it is hardly likely that you will far exceed the price of just buying a guitar from a shop.

Final Thoughts

Overall, my basic recommendation is that you should probably just buy a guitar unless you are planning on getting into guitar building as a hobby and that you are likely to build multiple guitars.

Primarily due to the cost and time it will take, and the likely mistakes and errors you will make when building your first guitar.

Good luck!