Buying a Used Saxophone

Buying Used Saxophones Guide

Buying a saxophone, regardless of used or new, should be a heavily researched effort done with careful consideration. Ideally, the person using the sax should be buying the sax or trying out the saxophone(s) before purchasing.

It’s a large investment, and if you’re a serious player or beginner willing to commit to the instrument, it’s something you’ll hopefully use every day.

Getting a used sax does take a bit more research, but with this guide, you should be well-equipped to decide which of the saxophones for sale in the market, you see that will get you the best option.

We will go through which are the advantages and disadvantages of purchasing a second-hand sax versus a new one, give you an idea of how to value a used saxophone, how much do they cost, and where to find it.

Pros & Cons of Buying a Used Saxophone 

Advantages of Buying a Pre-Owned Sax

Some of the pros of buying a used saxophone are that typically, someone before has played it quite a lot. If the saxophone was able to serve someone else for a long period of time, that’s a good indicator that it will serve you greatly as well.

Instead of thinking of the saxophone as a “second-hand saxophone” think of it as a player’s horn. For instance, the most common type of used saxophone is the Selmer Mark VI, and amateurs to professionals usually consider this model the golden standard for saxophone models. People have played them for years and years, which is a testament to the build of the saxophone and its playability.

Disadvantages of Getting a Pre-Owned Saxophone

Some cons of buying it as a second-hand instrument arise when you buy the saxophone without trying it beforehand. A lot of saxophone shops will let you try out a saxophone for a short period of time, to let you get a sense of whether or not you like the instrument.

Also, it’s a bit more difficult to know how good the saxophone is, contrary to buying a new saxophone that’s never been thoroughly used or tested and which provides more ease in its current state.

Buying a sax online (especially a used one), sight unseen could be riskier. Another disadvantage is the fact that some used saxophones are older, and could be more prone to repair as time goes on. 


What Should You Pay For a Used Sax? Factors Influencing the Price

There’s a myriad of factors to consider in the price of a used saxophone. If all factors that can influence how good a used saxophone is, are met, you should expect to pay between $4,000 and $11,000 for a used saxophone. That’s an approximate price range. It can of course be lower or higher depending on the type and level of sax you are looking for.

To get a better price guide and how much should you pay for a used sax, then you need to consider especially the following factors:

  • the model,
  • the serial number,
  • the amount of lacquer on the sax,
  • any scratches or dents,
  • the pads,
  • and the last time it was overhauled.

These are the main factors to consider on how to value it. Others not included above could be related to accessories like if a sax case or gig bag is part of the deal.

 

A Used Selmor Mark VI Alto Saxophone Model
A Used Selmor Mark VI Alto Saxophone Model

Let’s break down some factors so that you can be assured of your decision.

The Model/Serial Number

Let’s say you want to buy a used Yamaha Tenor Custom EX from a shop near you or online. The shop could be selling it for $4000, but you want to make sure that’s a good price.

You can start to search online for other used saxophone shops or online marketplaces that have the same model, and cross-check the prices. Some great websites and shops to check for both saxophones/prices are SaxQuest, PM Woodwind, Roberto’s Winds, and Boston Sax Shop.

Inspect and Test the Instrument Yourself

Time to go to the shop to inspect and play the saxophone yourself.

Look at how much lacquer is on the saxophone. In this link, from an Amazon listing (I usually don’t recommend buying from, unless you can test it beforehand), you can see what an unlacquered saxophone looks like.

A saxophone with lots of lacquer will be shiny, and more smooth to the touch. That’s what you are aiming at. Let’s say about 90% of the lacquer is on the saxophone.

Get a Sense of Its Current Condition

Next, check for scratches, dents, and the condition of the pads.

Pads are made of leather, so check if they look clean and new-ish. If they’re crusty, old-looking, or in bad condition, inquire to the person selling about that.

Several Saxophones Standing Together
Several Saxophones Standing Together

What Was the Last Time it Was Overhauled?

Lastly, ask about the last time it was overhauled. Saxophone overhauling is the process of replacing all pads, cleaning, oiling, adjusting, and attempting to make the saxophone play in its most optimal condition. Some repair technicians strive to make the saxophone play better than when it was first made.

If the last overhaul was over 10 years ago, that’s a bad sign, as you will likely have to have it overhauled

So let’s say the price matches, similar models online, there’s a good amount of lacquer, there’s not a lot of scratches or dents, and the overall playability of the sax is great. If all of those are true, for example, the Selmer Mark VI could be sold by $4,000. That can be considered a fair price for such a sax model in a good condition.

As I said initially, this is a big investment that should be purchased with heavy consideration. It’s hard to create a definitive price guide for used saxophones, so I hope this method will provide the most help.

This method of trying to understand how much a used sax is worth will work for used alto, used tenor, used soprano, or used baritone saxophones.

Prices to Pay for a Used Alto, Tenor, Soprano or Baritone Saxophone

By researching the online market of used saxophones and when looking to e-commerce platforms specialized in instruments, you can have a rough idea of the different price ranges you should pay, depending on the type of sax you are looking for.

In Reverb.com, the marketplace we’ve concluded in our reviews that’s more satisfying to buy when comparing to other more general and non-specialized websites, we’ve filtered and researched about used saxophones.

Reverb.com banner with different musical instruments

Analysis Based on the Following data:

  • Model researched: Selmer Mark VI, the most used model of saxophones
  • Only included instruments considered to be at a minimum in good conditions, up to excellent or “mint” like reverb.com likes to illustrate.
  • Excluded results of historical models and older ones that can be considered already as collectible items, with inflated prices (assuming that you are looking for instruments to play and not collect)

Used SaxophonePrice RangeExamples in Reverb.com
Alto Saxophone$4,000 – $9,000Link
Tenor Saxophone$5,000 – $11,000Link
Soprano Saxophone$4,000 – $7,000Link
Baritone Saxophone $5,500 – $10,000Link
Range Prices ($) of Four Types of Used Saxophones

Where Should I Look for Used Saxophones?

A Music Shop

The best place to buy a used saxophone is a shop that you can go to in person, to try out the saxophone for yourself. That should be your priority, even if it means making a longer trip, it might be more than worth it.

Major cities will typically have a few saxophone or woodwind shops. Some places like Guitar Center or Sam Ash could help with buying newer saxophones.

I would follow those same steps for buying a new saxophone that I would when buying a used one. The big difference will be that most sax shops will have similar prices, usually based on the MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price).

Looking Online – Best Places to Buy Used Saxophones Online

When you don’t have the option of going into a music shop or checking the real condition of the used instrument online, you also have plenty of options online. Apart from looking into second-hand instruments in online marketplaces (like Reverb.com, eBay, Craigslists, or Facebook Marketplaces), you can look on more dedicated saxophone websites selling instruments as well: SaxQuest, PM Woodwind, Roberto’s Winds, and Boston Sax Shop.

A Used Selmor Mark VI Tenor Saxophone Model
A Used Selmor Mark VI Tenor Saxophone Model

Final Thoughts on How to Buy a Used Saxophone

Above all, when possible, try out the saxophone for yourself. Secondly, cross-check the price with other online shops to make sure the price is appropriate. Lastly, take joy in this process. I’ve gone through it a couple of times now, and it’s somehow exciting.

Be careful and considerate, because you will be using this instrument a lot of the time, for a long time.

If you can, ask the saxophone shop if you can take the saxophone home and see if you can bring it to a rehearsal, or even a performance.

Get a good sense of what it’ll be like to play it both at home and in a professional setting. Be thorough as you can, so that you know you’re getting the best deal possible. You don’t want to leave any “what if…?” or “maybe I should’ve…” thoughts lingering in your head afterward. 

This is a specific info guide on how to look and buy used saxophones. Some of the tips are similar to other info guides we’ve developed for other types of used instruments (used trumpets, used clarinets, used flutes, used tubas), but there are specific things you should be looking at when trying to buy a used sax, and that’s we go in detail in this article.


How Much is a Good Used Sax?

Depending on the type and level of the sax, the range between $4,000 and $9,000 could be considered a fair price for a used sax. That, when considering there’s a good amount of lacquer, there’s not a lot of scratches or dents, and the overall playability of the sax is great.

What is the Most Common Used Saxophone by Beginners?

The most common type of used saxophone is the Selmer Mark VI, and amateurs to professionals usually consider this model the golden standard for saxophone models.

What’s the Best Place to Buy a Used Sax Online?

You can look in dedicated saxophone websites selling instruments like SaxQuest, PM Woodwind, Roberto’s Winds, and Boston Sax Shop, or into online marketplaces like Reverb.com, eBay, Craigslists, or Facebook Marketplaces.


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Garrett Munz

Garrett Munz is a rising saxophone player in the Chicagoland Area, currently studying at DePaul University. He was recognized with different prizes already, including as Best Soloist (Alto Saxophone) at the 30th Annual Purdue Jazz Festival