There is the potential for your new sax to have many things wrong with it also some of the cheaper makes often made in China can be un-playable often putting students off playing.
Stephens review of the Chinese sax's and many others is a MUST read before you go and buy.
I hope this will help anyone wishing to play the sax a more enjoyable introduction to what is a cool instrument.
Since writing the first part of this guide I have purchased a number of new and used saxophones and clarinets from ebay.
Firstly the clarinets....
All have been second hand and under £60. The first a plastic selmer from someone who was selling numerous clarinets and it was described as good condition - no it wasn't, a lot of the pads were worn out and leaking. The instrument was very hard to play the corks were mouldy due to the interior of the case being wet. I have since bought another 3 from eBay and only one of them was in good playable condition. I am able to repair my own instruments so it's not really a big problem.
If however you know nothing about repairing a musical instrument I'd advise doing one of two things, (1) don't buy it (2) take someone who knows about the instrument to have a look at it before bidding/purchasing.
You may think it's cheap but repair costs can be expensive and are generally not worth spending on a 2nd hand budget instrument.
Similar to the clarinet description. I've bought quite a number new and used, the used ones were described as good condition but all had pad leaks. If the pads are old they get dry and crispy and 9/10 times fit only for the bin - meaning new pads are required and these are expensive to have fitted.
If an instrument looks un loved then it probably is badly dented and scratched instruments are more than likely going to be un playable or at best difficult to play. Always ask when the instrument was last serviced buy a repair specialist, if the instrument has been used regularly for a year or more since being purchased new or from last service it's going to need something doing. Secondhand instruments that have never been looked at will be in some form of disrepair, they can be pigs to play if the pads are leaking.
Even new instruments can have ill fitting pads.
Buying from China......... I recently bought a Soprano sax from china - one of the better makes. It's really pot luck, even after reading up on the manufacturer most of the pads had to be re-seated. The better quality saxes sold in this country but made in Taiwan or China are tweeked in this country before being sold.
If you are buying for a child or for that matter yourself it is worth while letting a teacher or knowledgeable player give it the once over before buying.
Buying a sax or clarinet without seeing and trying beforehand from ebay is a mine field. Sellers may have had the sax sitting in a cupboard for years or are not very good at playing a sax and think what they are selling is in good condition just because they can get a noise from it.