Considering that a cello has more than a handful of similar characteristics to the violin, the guidelines for buying both are pretty similar. Like the violin, the cello is considered to be one of the most complex instruments created. However, buying one doesn't have to be as complex - your search can be as fun as you want it to be.
Parts of the Cello
Before buying any instrument, it's a good idea to get acquainted with its parts and what they do. Here is a short overview of the parts of a cello.
* '''Scroll''' - Located at the top of the cello. Also refered to as the ornamental curve.
* '''Pegs''' - Cello strings are wrapped around the pegs, which are used to tune the instrument.
* '''Neck/Fingerboard''' - Both are terms for the long part attached to the body. The strings are pressed down on the fingerboard while playing, which alters the pitch.
* '''Bridge''' - Piece of wood that holds the strings away from the body of the cello.
* '''F Holes''' - Two F shaped holes that allow the sound to escape from the body of the cello.
* '''Tailpiece''' - Located at the bottom of the cello. It's main function is to hold the strings.
* '''Spike''' - Pointed metal piece underneath the cello that keeps the body from making contact with the floor.
Before You Buy
It's a good idea to set a budget for yourself before you start shopping for a cello. Buying based on the level of your playing is a good rule of thumb. Beginners can get away with less expensive cellos, while more experienced players will need to buckle down and spend a little more money on a professional model. Setting a budget can keep you from spending too little or too much on a cello that will fit your needs.
Also, make sure that you or the person you're buying for is committed to sticking with the instrument for an extended period of time. Even if you buy a low-cost beginner cello, it's upsetting to spend so much money on an instrument that will just go to waste. This makes it important to ask around to see what different stores' return policies are. Also ask if they provide warantees on the instruments they sell. You know as well as anyone else does that something is bound to happen to your instrument, no matter how carefully you treat it.
Grab Your Checkbook - It's Time to Shop!
Whether you buy a new or used cello, the best thing you can do is to go out and try out a handful of instruments before you commit to buying the first one you see. Playing different cellos for yourself will give you a better idea of what you need and what you should pay for it. Bringing along your teacher or a friend who has experience with cellos can be useful, especially if you go to a music store. Although the sales people are there to help you, if they sense that you're uninformed, they'll try to take advantage of the fact. Having a more experienced friend on hand will give you a second set of hands, ears and eyes. This could save you a lot of time and money.
'''Used vs. New'''
Buying used can potentially save you a good deal of money, if you shop with caution. When looking at a used instrument, make sure that there is no damage on the bridge, which can render a cello unplayable (This can easily be fixed, though). Also make sure that the previous owner has taken decent care of the instrument by keeping it under proper humidity and doing regular maintenance on the instrument.
If you're serious about a particular used instrument, bring the bow and strings you'll be using on it if you decide to buy it. The sound of the instrument with its current strings may deter you from buying it, so check if your strings and bow of choice changes the sound at all. If the pegs are stuck, you can use chalk or baking soda to unstick them.
The price for a used cello, although considerably lower than new, can still be quite expensive. For a decent used student-level cello, expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $1500-$2300. Used cellos can be had for much less, but will likely require repairs that will eventually cost as much as a reliable one will cost upfront. It's up to you to make that decision.