How to Buy a Used Ukulele

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How to Buy a Used Ukelele
Well-known for their distinctive tone and appearance, ukuleles and their music have delighted people for generations. Whether one is a professional ukulele player or just an amateur, finding an affordable instrument that is of good quality can be difficult. Fortunately, eBay makes it simple to buy a low-priced used ukulele, and knowing what to look for in a used ukulele helps ensure that buyers get the best product for their money.

The Main Types of Ukuleles

Shoppers always have many different kinds of used ukuleles to choose from on eBay. These are the main kinds of ukuleles that are available on the site and a brief description of each:

Soprano Ukulele

The soprano ukulele is the most common ukulele, and most experts agree that it is the best one for beginners. It is also the smallest ukulele that one can buy. The soprano ukulele has four strings.

Alto Ukulele

Also called the concert ukulele, the alto ukulele is larger than the soprano ukulele but smaller than the tenor ukulele and bass ukulele. This type of ukulele can have either four strings or six.

Tenor Ukulele

The tenor ukulele is bigger than the soprano ukulele and the alto ukulele, but it is smaller than the baritone ukulele. Because it is the most popular ukulele played in Hawaii, many people associate this instrument in particular with ukulele island music. A tenor ukulele can have up to six strings.

Baritone Ukulele

Baritone ukuleles are the largest instruments in the ukulele family, and they are the ukuleles that most resemble guitars. Since it is the largest ukulele available, the baritone ukulele is also the most expensive type of ukulele. A baritone ukulele can have up to eight strings.

Pineapple Ukulele

The pineapple ukulele gets its name from its pineapple shape. Many people probably have this kind of ukulele in mind when they hear the name of the instrument as it is often used on television and in other public ukulele displays.

Banjo Ukulele

A banjo ukulele, like its true banjo counterpart, has animal skin pulled across its body. This contributes to the sound level of the banjo ukulele, which is the loudest ukulele of all.

Armadillo Ukulele

Popular in South America, the armadillo ukulele, which is also known as a charango, is not always classified as a ukulele. As its name suggests, the armadillo ukulele is made out of the shell of a dead armadillo. Charangos typically have 10 strings.

Construction Materials

Ukuleles are made out of a number of different materials. Cheaper ukuleles can be made out of plastic or wood composite (laminate) materials with an additional wood layer to increase the resonance of the instrument. More expensive ukuleles are made out of hard woods such as mahogany and cedar. However, the choicest material for ukuleles is koa wood, taken from the native koa trees that live on the Hawaiian Islands. The beautiful gold color of this wood is aesthetically pleasing, but the resonance this wood offers makes for the best-sounding ukuleles available. Koa ukuleles are usually the most expensive ukuleles of all, and their prices have only increased in recent years as the supply of koa wood has decreased.
Ukuleles that are made out of composite materials or plastic are often recommended for beginner ukulele players because they are relatively inexpensive and yet durable enough to take the wear and tear that beginning players often inflict on their instruments. However, the top ukulele players always prefer real wood ukuleles. Over time, the sound waves created by the ukulele have an influence on real wood, opening its pores and producing a sound that matures over the years. This is important to note when looking at used ukuleles because used ukuleles made out of real wood have a warm, resonant, and mature sound that a brand-new real wood ukulele takes years to develop.

Ukulele Tuners

In addition to the material that the ukulele is made from, those who are shopping for one of these instruments will also want to pay attention to the type of tuners that it has. The tuners are the knobs on the head of the instrument used to tighten and loosen strings in order to keep the instrument in proper tune. There are two main types of tuners on ukuleles, each with its own characteristics:

Evaluating Used Ukuleles

A used ukulele will only be as good as how well its previous owner treated it. When comparing used ukuleles on eBay, there are some things that every buyer should be aware of and look for in order to make sure that they get the exact instrument that they want:

Friction Tuners

The tuners that most people are probably familiar with are friction tuners, which are turned to tighten and loosen the strings. Friction tuners are typically found on less expensive instruments, and they must be adjusted frequently because the vibrations of the ukulele causes them to move, putting the instrument out of tune.

Gear Tuners

Many people find gear tuners desirable because they do a better job of holding the ukulele strings in place, thereby keeping the instrument in tune much longer than friction tuners can. Gear tuners have a gear mechanism that is not easily affected by the vibrations of the instrument, but they can be trickier to adjust than traditional friction tuners. 

Body Condition

The main thing to look out for on the body of a ukulele is the number and severity of any cracks that are present. Minor cracks can be repaired inexpensively, but major cracks cost more to fix, and some of them cannot be repaired at all. Look carefully at the pictures of the ukulele under consideration for cracks, and ask the seller about any potential damage that is not noticeable in the ukulele photos.

Fret Condition

Frets on the neck of the ukulele allow players to play different notes when strings are pressed in the right place in relation to one or more frets. If these are worn down or missing, the ukulele will not play properly. Fret repair can be inexpensive or quite costly - it all depends on the number and condition of the frets that need repair or replacement.

Bridge Condition

Another important consideration is the bridge, which is the strip on the body of the instrument below the sound hole to which the ukulele strings are attached. Only a professional luthier can repair the bridge, so keep this in mind if there is evidence of bridge damage.

Ukulele Accessories to Go with a Used Ukulele

There are several other ukulele accessories that ukulele owners will need for their instrument. When buying a used ukulele, it is also wise to buy the following accessories, especially if one does not own them already:


Strings should be purchased even if the used instrument already has strings attached. These attached strings will likely need to be replaced, and in any case, it is always good to have a few spare strings around so that the ukulele can be fixed when the strings on the instrument do break. Players can get steel strings or gut strings, which are made from portions of animal intestines.

Ukulele Cases

A case for a ukulele is a must, particularly if the ukulele purchased is a high-end real wood ukulele. Cases protect ukuleles while they are being transported and stored. Without a case, it is much easier for one of these instruments to get cracked or suffer other damage.

Ukulele Picks

As with guitars, ukulele players can use picks to strum the strings on their instruments and protect their fingers from too much wear. Picks are quite inexpensive, and buyers can choose between hard picks and soft picks.

Ukulele Capos

A ukulele capo is a special clamp that can be attached to the neck and strings to make it possible to play other notes. More advanced players should definitely own one or more of these. 

Buying a Used Ukulele on eBay

Because ukuleles are musical instruments, buyers can find ukuleles on eBay by selecting the Musical Instruments & Gear on the main category page. On the Musical Instruments & Gear page, there is a link for String instruments that can be found by scrolling down. After clicking that link, buyers can select Ukulele in the left hand column to find all of the current ukulele auctions. To get a listing of used ukuleles, check the box marked Used.. There are also Seller refurbished aand Manufacturer refurbished boxes that can be checked for access to other kinds of used ukuleles.


Used ukuleles will save instrumentalists money when buyers purchase them on eBay. Browse used ukulele auctions today to find the best instruments at the best prices.

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