It doesn’t really matter the price range that you have in mind. Years back a low cost guitar would be a nightmare to play, and for a beginner it was worse, I had one for my first guitar. These days with advanced machining and mass production techniques there are a large number of guitar manufacturers turning out quite good guitars at low cost.
Regardless of the price if you take any two guitars of the same make and model, even with consecutive production numbers it’s quite likely that one will be easier to play than the other.

How well a guitar plays is determined by the action.The action on a guitar is the distance between the underside of the strings and the frets. The frets are the thin metal strips that lie across the neck. The maximum distance is found in the area where the neck and body join. If the distance is greater than say 3mm then it will be harder to play the guitar up the neck than it should be and for a beginner it can totally discouraging. Keep in mind that that a small difference can mean a lot.
A 4mm gap is a big step up from 3mm.

There are four things that influence the action.
1. The Saddle Height
2. The Nut Height
3. The Truss Rod Adjustment
4. The Neck Angle

The first three can be adjusted. If the neck angle is bad then adjusting the other three will bring about little change to the action. Picture a guitar lying level on its back and you place a straight edge along neck and extending down to touch the bridge. The bridge is the piece of timber attached to the body of the guitar that has the strings attached to it, and the saddle is the (usually) white plastic strip that sits in the bridge and has the strings running across it. When the neck angle is good then the neck and the top of the bridge will be on the same line. When the angle is bad then the straight edge will point to a spot closer to where the bridge joins the body and is a really bad case it would touch the body of the guitar first.

Now we cannot carry out this test in a music store, however what we can do is sight down the neck and it’s fairly easy to see where the line of the neck points to, it should be in line with the top of the bridge.

This is all probably a lot to absorb in one go, the important thing is to be aware of the action and any good guitar salesperson should know all this and be able to point them out to you so you can make the best choice so you have a guitar that is easy to play.

Lastly do not buy a guitar because you like the color of it, buy the guitar that sounds good and plays well.
Good Luck

Last edited by OzGuitarPlayer at Sep 11, 2007,
Excellent post. Great information for anyone looking to buy a new guitar. Well done sir, you have my vote for a stickey
That's great stuff. I think it's important to add that all wooden acoustic guitars will inevitably face some neck angle problems due to age. Another big part of guitar anatomy is the structure of the neck.body connection. Most traditional and modern guitars use set necks which are glued to the body. Others like Taylor and Tacoma use a bolt-on system to connect the neck to the body.

When your neck angle becomes messed up, there is often no choice but to get a neck reset if you want your guitar to be playable.

Neck resets mean just that - usually guitar repair shops use steam or other techniques to loosen the neck until it is able to be taken off the guitar. Then the neck is simply reglued with the correct neck angle. This will usually run you in the $250.00 and more range.

What I really love about bolt-on necks is that it is so much easier and cheaper to do a neck reset. This is obviously the mega simplified version of it, but you just take the screw(s) out and reattach it after setting the correct neck angle with a shingle or whatnot.

Hope that helps!

Sig Retired.
Great post Oz. I agree with everything said except for the last statement. "Lastly do not buy a guitar because you like the color of it, buy the guitar that sounds good and plays well."
Looks has as big of an impact on wanting to play as does the playability and sound. If the guitar looks to you like you want it to look, then picking it up often won't be an issue. If it's plain jane, perhaps it plays and sounds fantastic, but looks lackluster, one might not be as inclined to play it as the one sitting next to it that is beautiful on the eyes. When you go shopping for a car, do you go for the ones that drive well and all that jazz, but have dents and dings all over the place, or do you look for nice looking ones as well? A guitar should make you want to play it just by looking at it. Just as important as how well it sounds and plays. The flipside to this are the gaudy, overdone types with inlay everywhere, mother of pearl this and that, gold parts. That could be so intimidating that one would not want to touch it for fear of damaging it. I'm not talking about cost here either, just looks vs. sound and setup. I really think that all 3 go hand in hand. Too bad that us humans are such visual creatures too, because I'm sure there's a ton of great sounding/playing guitars out there that are being overlooked because they just don't live up to our expectations in regards to beauty. Me personally, I go for all 3, looks, sound and playability.
^Agreed. Im sure with enough searching that anyone can find a guitar that meets their criteria for both appearance and sound.
Sorry, but I disagree. I go for sound and playability every time, looks are a secondary consideration. I like a guitar that looks great, but if the one beside it has a few dings and scratches, or a not so attractive finish while playing and sounding better, that's the one I grab. No contest. When looking at used guitars I do tend to avoid those with stickers all over the place and badly beat up, but sometimes that well used Strat might be the best guitar in the place...so I still try them out.
Hmmm...I wonder what this button does...
^I agree that if it comes down to it, sound and feel beat looks. No question. But i still maintain that if you were to keep looking you could find a guitar that you liked the sound of just as much but also liked the look of too.