When attempting to find pedal steel guitars for sale, choose a manufacturer with experience and purchase as high quality an instrument as your budget allows; semi-production steel guitars often represent excellent value. Pay attention to the wood choice, the types of pickups installed and the tone of the instrument when possible.
Choosing a pedal steel guitar manufacturer with experience is one of the best ways to ensure the purchase of a quality instrument, since the manufacturer has had time to experiment with various materials and manufacturing techniques. If a manufacturer uses precise, repeatable automation methods, such as those made possible using CNC machinery, the result is called a semi-production pedal steel guitar, which often offers higher quality at lower prices than comparable instruments made without such automation.
When shopping for pedal steel guitars, the quality of the wood and electronics makes a considerable difference in the quality of the resulting instrument. An example of a wood that offers a balance between good tone and structural strength is hard rock maple.
Pedal steel electronics must be shielded against extraneous noises and humming. Humbucking pickups are the quietest and offer a fat tone, while single-coil pickups are brighter in tone but typically produce an electronic buzz in addition to the sound of the guitar. When possible, play or listen to a recording of the pedal steel in question to determine whether the tone and sustain of the instrument meets your standards.