Guitar frets can easily last the lifetime of the guitar, or they could wear out within 1-2 years of heavy playing.
The biggest factor in how long guitar frets should last is the amount of playing the guitar sees, the style of play, and the quality of the frets themselves.
Unless you are playing hard and heavy with a lot of bending your frets should last you at least a few years, with minimal maintenance.
How long should guitar frets last
Guitars frets can last the lifetime of the guitar, but more often they will need to be maintained or replaced.
The average guitarist who plays regularly and doesn’t bend more than normal, shouldn’t see too much fret wear within the first few years of playing.
After the 2-3 year mark, getting your frets dressed should be an item on your maintenance list.
Do guitar frets wear out?
Yes, frets can wear out to the point they need to be maintained or replaced altogether.
My first electric guitar has serious fret wear, it’s gotten hammered on for over a decade before I got another guitar.
So for years, it was seeing about 20 hours plus of play time per week.
That’s a lot more than the average guitar, but much much less than some guitarists out there.
My guitar is overdue for a fret replacement, because I never had the frets maintained or dressed.
While getting them dressed would’ve prolonged their lifespan, they would still need to be replaced at this point, it just would have lasted longer.
How often do frets need to be replaced?
If the frets are so work that a dressing cannot remove dents, or there isn’t enough material left on the fret, you’ll need to get the fret replaced.
How do I know if my guitar needs new frets?
When you need a fret replacement you’ll likely start to get bad buzzing at the frets.
This is indicating that the frets are not uniform, and a fret is lower in height than the fret below it, and creates a buzzing.
Can guitar frets be maintained?
Yes, when you start to notice any buzzing or visual dents or low spots on your frets, you should look to get your frets dressed.
A good time to check your frets is when you’re changing strings, if you inspect them each string change you’ll be in a good position to notice any fret wear.
How long do guitar frets last with maintenance?
Getting a regular fret dressing can increase the lifespan of your guitar’s frets by 20-40%.
What causes fret wear?
The metal on metal connection between the fret and the string causes them to wear out over time.
This is normal and to be expected, it’s all part of playing guitar!
However, certain playing styles and movements can wear your frets down much quicker.
Someone who tends to bend a lot, especially in the same spot on the neck, will see fret wear much quicker.
A guitarist that moves all around the fretboard and doesn’t bend that much, will have frets that last longer.
Stainless steel frets are said to last longer than other types of alloys.
There have certainly been instances of certain guitar frets wearing faster than others, but I wouldn’t want to base a guitar purchase on the frets alone.
There are stories of artists such a B.B. King who needed new frets and sometimes even a neck replacement every couple weeks.
Now that’s some serious fret wear!
While I don’t think you change your style to protect your frets, your playing style does dictate how long your guitar frets should last.
Here’s a video of a guitar neck getting some fret work done, to restore what’s left of them: