Purchasing an instrument should be viewed the same way as any large ticket item you would purchase, similar in many respects to a car or home appliance. It is an investment in your child's music education and if you go the cheap and easy route, they will struggle and in all likelihood, quit. Never, ever, purchase an instrument sight unseen from an unknown person or company.
First off, if you find a deal that seems to good to be true on eBay or Amazon it's probably too good to be true. Under no circumstances should you purchase any Cecilio/MENDINI instrument of any kind. These are probably the worst quality instruments out there right now. They are very cheap, they are made from substandard wood, the parts used are cheap and always made from the wrong materials. These instruments are incredibly difficult to play, and are never set up correctly. Don't be lured in by the cheap price tag and flashy colors! These instruments are basically firewood. We refer to them as "Violin shaped objects". NEVER EVERY PURCHASE A "CECILIO" OR "MENDINI" INSTRUMENT. THEY ARE COMPLETE GARBAGE.
Good instrument brands are: Eastman, Amati, and Hoffman, to name a few. If you find an instrument that has no tag inside it identifying it's maker, it's probably also low quality. If you find one and have questions please email me!
If you are looking for an inexpensive instrument to purchase the best place to start is www.sharmusic.com. They have inexpensive and quality beginner instruments. You can get a beginner violin or viola outfit (instrument, bow, case) for about $250-$350. To translate, that'd be about a year's worth of rental fees to a music store. A beginner cello outfit will run about $700-$900, which is about 2.5 years of rental fees.
Rental is almost always the best way to go the first year or two! If you are looking to get a higher quality instrument, visit Heid Music here in Green Bay or in Appleton. If you rent from Heid for a year you will also get credit towards a purchase later.
1 - A good deal is almost always too good to be true.
2 - CeciliO/MENDINI=Terrible.
3 - Your child will grow! Make sure if you are purchasing an instrument they have reached the full size of their instrument or you will need to buy another one later!
4 - Cecilio/MENDINI = Terrible.
5 - Think of your instrument purchase in terms of buying a car. Do a test drive, don't buy from someone offering you a deal too good to be true, and if you buy cheap, you will get what you pay for!
Also I can't stress how terrible Cecilio/MENDINI instruments are. Don't buy them.