#1
i'm looking at a few guitars:

1. gibson sg

2. strat american hss (standard or deluxe----i still don't know if the few hundred dollars are worth it for the deluxe)

3. esp eclipse

(i don't want to rule out ibanez, but i've just never tried them. feel free to make suggestions)
#2
Get a used HSS Strat. If it isn't that big of a price difference used, get the Deluxe.
#4
Quote by likelyanonymous
how safe is it to get a used? any websites you'd recommend?

very safe. just go on ebay, look at buyer rep, ask many questions, and look on your local craigslist and go see the guitar in person.