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1. In your rental outfit, look for real horse hair in the bow. The hair should look clean and slightly coarser than human hair. If it looks like Doll hair, or is yellow it is probably nylon filament.

2. If the bow is wooden, make sure it is not warped. Also make sure it is stiff enough to control. Good wooden bows are made from Brazilwood, Snakewood or Pernambuco.

3. Beware of violin shops offering to sell you insurance on your rental. In the State of Ohio and various other states, it is illegal to sell insurance unless you are a licensed insurance broker. Question any rental business which offers insurance to find out which agency is offering the insurance. In most cases, you would be better covered to have your instrument listed on your homeowners or renters insurance as a separately scheduled item insured for all perils with no deductible.

4. If your shop offers credit towards purchase, make sure you are not limited to buying the instrument you are renting. Most students will need to go up to the next size instrument in a year or two. If you may only purchase the rental with your credit you may be stuck buying the wrong size instrument for your child! Also ask them the cost of a minimum priced outfit that you are allowed to buy with your credit towards purchase. A liberal credit towards purchase policy may not be so advantageous if it limits your choices to only expensive outfits.

5. Before you buy, ask about company’s trade-in policy on your instrument. Some dealers will only offer 50% trade-in while others will offer 100% trade-in. Also ask how much more you need to spend before you can trade your instrument in on a new one. Ask the shop if they have instruments in different price ranges. Make sure you can go up in value in increments of .00 dollars or less. Once you decide on a price range stick to it! Some dealers over inflate the price of the merchandise to cover for the trade-in situation.

6. When you compare instruments, compare apples to apples. Many instrument brands are licensed entities. It is easy to say that this instrument Brand A is the same quality as instrument Brand B. Do not be side tracked by this tactic. Often a dealer will say I can get this or that Brand but this one Brand A is better quality. While the quality may be better with brand A in order to compare prices, ask the your price for brand B. This should help you figure out who is the more expensive dealer because you are comparing the same brand. Also compare set-ups. A  properly adjusted instrument costs more because it is shop adjusted.  If a shop puts on different strings, a different bridge and fixes the pegs so they operate properly, rather than just using the original factory parts and set-up, expect to pay more.

7. Almost all shops handle a private label instrument. Make sure to compare quality indicators such as weight, craftsmanship and quality of varnish. In general, if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, chances are it is a duck. But beware. Many instruments look alike on the outside but inside is a different story. Poor craftsmanship on the inside will result in a less desirable sound quality.

8. If a dealer will only show a limited number of instruments and then asks which you want to buy, leave. Always get your instrument or bow on approval. Have the instrument approved by your private teacher or your school teacher before you purchase it. I have had parents buy an instrument that they were unable to return and as a result they were stuck with an unplayable instrument.

9. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see how many complaints have been filed against the shop with which you intend to do business. Like all businesses you can’t please everyone that walks through the door. However, if one company has many more complaints than the others, beware.

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