I need a few ukes every now and then for groups and gifts. I sell stuff on ebay, so it’s one of my hangouts, there are lots of cheap ukuleles there, almost all from China. Manufacturing is very good and much less expensive there, so there is a lot of bang for the buck. These are brands you’ve never heard of shipped from Asia, so it’s not risk free, I don’t even know how you would return something like this without a large shipping charge. But I’ve found things as low as $30 that are very nice instruments, so it’s kind of an Easter egg hunt.
Here’s what to look for.
- geared tuners, not friction
- a bridge that the strings wrap all the way around, not slotted
- hardwood construction, it doesn’t matter what kind of wood, just not plywood. Zoom in on a photo of the sound hole or the edge of the instrument to see if it’s plywood or a solid piece.
- The back of the instrument should have a slight bow across the length and width of the back, like a shallow bowl. Scrutinize photos for a profile view. It’s harder to make an instrument like that, I’ll bet they know what they’re doing.
Here’s an ebay post from right now with that kind of detail in the photos. I got one of these in walnut for the same price and it sounds lovely and warm. Not sure if another would sound the same.