12 string acoustic guitars seem to be an area that I have not really focused my attention to over the years - which on reflection is a bit of an oversight because if there was ever a guitar that needed the diligent quality control and set up procedure that we provide with every guitar sold - its the 12 string acoustic guitar!
So why do 12 string acoustic guitars need so much extra care?
A primary reason is that structuraly there is a huge amount of pressure on the top of the guitar. Double the amount of strings equals double the pressure so not only must the guitar be structuraly sound to cope with this addtional pressure in the short term (IE playing well when you buy it) but it also needs to survive long term - and this is one of the fears I always have with budget 12 strings.
If you are looking to buy the cheapest 12 string guitar then check out this model from an Amazon dealer
The 12 string shown above is an example of what you will never find available via myself. The reviews sound superb - of course at the price if you can afford to lose the money then have a gamble and buy one. However if you could afford to lose the money, why are you risking it on a guitar which could be a total dead loss - trust me - 16 years in retail studying guitar production tells me for £54 the odds are stacked strongly against you in the short term (IE out of the box) and the long term (IE what it plays like in a few months or years time).
Statistically you will get "good" ones at this price and if you want to gamble with your purchase I would recommend somewhere like Argos . At least if the guitar doesn't work you can pop back to your local Argos and swap it for another. If you buy a 12 string guitar under £100 you have to expect problems - so its all about expectation. Lets just say that if the guitar available at Argos at £54 was sold to 10 people I will eat my hat if all 10 came to the same conlusion as the reviewers - in fact, if half of them said the same I would be amazed.
The main reason why you won't find budget 12 string acoustic guitars available at Richards Guitars is not because it is impossible to find a good one, but the odds are stacked very much against you. Every customer of mine has the peace of mind that the guitar will play perfectly and they will receive long term support. Neither of these objectives are commercially viable at the budget end.
So... what constitutes a "decent" 12 string which I can personally endorse and support long term?
The Cort AD870 12 - Online at £169
As you may or may not know most of my personal recommendations under£500 will often focus on Cort guitars. Cort have been central to so many of my recommendations over the past 16 years - not under their own brand name entirely but also for acoustic brands such as Tanglewood, Fender, Avalon and more - the biggest brands utilise Cort production or have done at some point to further their brand image. So instead of spending extra on brand image you will always get the best value if you go direct to Cort.
For £169 you will not get a solid top but a very stable, reliable work horse instrument which sounds superb. The great thing about buying a 12 string is a lot of the rules for acoustic tone kind of go out the window. IE do you want a 12 string with extra depth of tone? Frankly a brighter, lighter sound which you get from a laminate can actually really compliment the 12 string tone. However...saying that I would always recommend you get one with a solid top if you can (because great tone is great tone to me - and that comes from solid tone woods - not laminate).
Upgrade to the Cort Earth 70 12 for a 12 string with solid top.
The new Cort SF12 is a wonderful electro acoustic 12 string for a professional acoustic and plugged in performer at under £450 online.