As a flute/piccolo/alto flute player, I have a lot of instruments. And those instruments didn’t come cheap. Because of that, I know how important it is to know how to buy a used flute.
While I am the first owner of all of my current instruments, I have played used flutes in the past. They can be an excellent way to save money on an instrument.
But you do have to be careful.
Advantages of a Used Flute
Even if you have all the money in the world, there are many benefits to buying a used flute. Of course, it will probably cost less.
However, at the professional level, a lot of flutes don’t lose value. In fact, some can gain value.
If you think a new flute is the best way to go, consider each of these pros to used flutes.
The most obvious advantage to buying a used flute is that they (usually) cost less. In most cases, you can’t sell a used instrument for the same amount that you paid.
But if you’re flute shopping and open to a used instrument, that opens you up to more flutes. So even if you don’t have a huge budget, you have options.
And, it allows you to avoid the super cheap flutes you find online.
While this isn’t always the case, used professional flutes can have an interesting history. Some vintage flutes still play really well, and they’ve been through a lot.
But even a year-old flute might have something cool. Maybe its previous owner performed in a cool place.
And if you want to buy a used piccolo, the aging of the wood can add a little something to the instrument.
Proof it (can) play
There are tons of flute companies. And not all flutes are for all flutists. So while you may take to one brand better than another, you know that a used flute (probably) works well for someone.
Of course, you should try any flute you want to buy. However, a used flute in good condition could be the perfect next step for you.
Disadvantages of a Used Flute
While there are pros to playing a used flute, there are cons. Yes, you can save money. But you do give up some benefits when you take that cheaper price.
I’ve played used instruments before, and I love sharing them as an option. However, I do think you should be aware of the downsides to buying a used flute.
Less than perfect condition
Any good flute player will take the flute in for maintenance before selling it. However, that’s not always the case.
Some flute players may not know they should take it in. And some may just want to get the flute out because they need the money. Or some might have an entirely different reason.
But even if a flute has been recently maintained, there may still be issues. Silver flutes can have tarnish. Plated flutes can have pitting, which is where the plating wears down.
Flutes can also have small dents or scratches. And if you’re piccolo shopping, some piccolos can have cracks.
What you get
Another con to buying a used flute is that you can’t customize it. If you want certain specs, like a C# trill key or a split-E key, you may not be able to find what you want.
Whether you buy new or used, you should have an idea of what specs you want or need. Do you want a B footjoint? What about open holes?
Can you go without extra keys and rollers?
If you have a specific set of needs and wants, you may have to search harder to find the flute for you.
Hard to find
Even if you don’t have a ton of key preferences, a good used flute that works with you can be difficult to find. Not only are you stuck with the current used market, but you may have to jump on a flute.
Most sellers aren’t going to wait for you to come up with the money or decide you want that flute. They’re going to probably take the best offer that comes in sooner rather than later.
A limited selection can definitely take a toll on your flute shopping.
How to Buy a Used Flute
If you want to get your first flute or upgrade on a budget, a used flute is a great option. But you have to know how to buy a flute.
That way, you can get a good quality instrument for a decent price.
It’s not as simple as walking into a music store and picking out a flute. Now, if you’re a beginner, I would suggest asking a flute teacher to assist you with your flute shopping.
A professional can test the instruments to check for mechanical issues and other problems.
Here are some tips for anyone looking to buy a used flute.
Do your research
Before you buy any flute, make sure you choose one from a reputable brand. Use Google to check the brand’s history and info on the model.
If you buy online, stick to reputable sources. Music stores and flute stores are good places to shop. And if you buy from an individual, be safe.
Meet in public to make the purchase, if they’re local. And if you aren’t in the same city, pay through something like PayPal, which can protect you if the seller doesn’t come through with the sale.
Play test it
Here’s another reason to buy a used flute in person: you should play before you pay. This isn’t such an issue with beginner flutes.
But as you upgrade, some flutes will work better for you. And you want to make sure that you choose a good flute for you.
If you’re new or even an intermediate student, ask your teacher for help. Maybe bring them along on your shopping trips. Or if you can trial a flute, bring it to your lesson for some feedback.
Another thing to consider is how much flute you’ll get for your money. While most used flutes are less expensive, you have to consider whether you’re actually getting a good deal.
If the instrument needs work, you should pay less than if the instrument is like new.
Have you bought a used flute? Let me know in the comments!