When it comes to looking for an oud, the first thing you want to ask yourself is what type of oud (as in, what style oud from what region/country’s tradition) do you want to play? This relates to the type of sound the oud will produce, it’s tone, its general feel, size, your musical and instrument experience, and of course, your budget.
As a starting point, the main two “families” of ouds are the Arab and Turkish style instruments – with the former generally providing a deeper, warmer tone and the latter projecting a brighter sound. There are also other types of ouds in different countries (Greece, Israel, Iran, etc.). Note that even within these two broad classifications, there are many sub-groups and variations in types of ouds. For example, in the Arab world there are Syrian, Egyptian, Iraqi ouds, as well as instruments from all over the rest of the Middle East and North Africa. For Turkish ouds, along with regional differences and subtleties, each luthier offers their own perspective and style for size, sound and feel.
Another thing that is important to consider is to listen to various recordings of different players and to determine which sound speaks to you musically. TAQS.IM’s list of oud players you should listen to here – https://taqs.im/7-oud-players/ provides a nice overview of different players and styles across a wide variety of cultures, and is a great start to learning about some of the main disciplines and genres.
When it comes to budget, another decision point relates to whether to buy a new or used oud. You want to think about playability, durability and quality with respect to the price you are paying. It is common to buy a new oud from different vendors for a lower price, but the quality may not be up to expectations, although many luthiers make pristine instruments for a higher value, and wait times can number in the several months for completion. On the other hand, used ouds of decent or even high quality can become available at any time and prices can ranges from 500 or so dollars to many thousands, depending on the nature and reputation of the instrument. Mikeouds.com (http://www.arabicouds.com/) forum for available instruments is a good resource for those looking to find an oud on the market.
Here is a list of links with some useful information on the different types of ouds that may be helpful in learning more about the right type of oud for you: