Music Industry How To is supported by readers. When you buy via a link on our site, we’ll possibly earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.
Are you shopping around for an acoustic guitar but not wanting to spend more than $500? This is an excellent budget range with much to offer, especially for beginners and intermediate players.
If you’re unfamiliar with the terrain of this market’s landscape, you’ve come to the right place. The following acoustic guitars are some of the very best that can be acquired for less than $500.
Yamaha FSX800C – Best Overall
This guitar is a concert acoustic with a cutaway design for those who play all over the neck. Plus, it has everything you need to go from the bedroom to the stage with nothing else needed.
The FSX800C’s body features a Spruce top with the sides and back made of Nato. Scalloped bracing architecture is used in the body’s construction for increased projection and resonance.
Nato is also used to craft the FSX800C’s neck, which has a 25” scale length and a C-shape contour. The fretboard is made of Walnut, with a 15.75” radius and 20 frets outlined by dot inlays.
To match the fretboard, the bridge is also crafted from Walnut. Both the saddle and nut are made of Urea.
Die-cast chrome tuners are also included for precise tuning capabilities.
Playing on stage is not going to be an issue at all, thanks to the System-66 pickup and preamp. This preamp comes loaded with a tuner, as well as:
- 3-band EQ
- Volume control
- Battery status indicator
- Adjustable frequency parameters
The FSX800C has a traditional aesthetic, featuring a rosette and a pickguard around the soundhole. A black and white binding tastefully lines the edges of the guitar’s top.
With the FSX800C, you are essentially getting a guitar that is going to last you well into your guitar career. Whether it be on stage or at home, this guitar is sure to be a lifelong companion.
The smaller concert-sized body is perfect for those who find dreadnought guitars to be cumbersome to play.
Item Weight: 6.49 pounds
Package Dimensions: 41.6 x 19.1 x 6 inches
Sire Larry Carlton A4 Grand Auditorium – Best Premium
Looking for the best guitar at the top end of the $500 budget? The Sire Larry Carlton A4 Grand Auditorium is an excellent option for any guitarist.
Unfamiliar with Larry Carlton? His playing has been featured in many films and is most noted for his work with Steely Dan.
Those who are familiar might find it to be a surprise that Larry’s signature acoustic guitar is so affordable. Despite its price, this guitar has premium touches that far surpass most guitars in this budget range.
The Larry Carlton A4 features a top made of roasted Solid Spruce, with Mahogany used for the back and sides. This roasted top is sure to provide a sound reminiscent of vintage acoustic guitars.
Mahogany is also used to craft the neck, which has a C-shape contour and a 25.5” scale length. The fretboard is made of Rosewood to have a 16” radius, with 20 frets outlined by classy offset bar inlays.
Rosewood is also used for the guitar’s bridge, to which a bone saddle is attached. The nut is also made of bone, providing iconic sustaining qualities.
Die-cast tuners are featured for a smooth tuning experience.
You can be sure this guitar is built for the stage, as it features a piezo pickup under the saddle. Sire’s SIB preamp allows you to dial in the guitar’s tone with adjustable EQ parameters.
This guitar is in no short supply of aesthetics, featuring an attractive herringbone binding and rosette. You can be sure that it plays and sounds just as great as it looks.
Whether you’re a singer-songwriter, or in the background, the Larry Carlton A4 Grand Auditorium is an ideal choice. It has ample volume projection with a balanced tone.
Item Weight: 8 pounds
Package Dimensions: 44 x 22 x 7 inches
Yamaha FG800 – Best Budget
Are you looking for a new acoustic, but wishing to save as much money as possible? Buying a low-cost acoustic doesn’t mean you have to settle for a low-quality instrument.
The FG800 is a dreadnought guitar with a full-bodied sound that is suitable for beginners and intermediates alike. You’ll fall in love with the deep tone and projection this guitar can provide.
This model features a Solid Spruce top, with Nato used for the guitar’s back and sides. Scalloped bracing has been used in the guitar’s body to provide enhanced clarity and volume.
Nato is also used for the FG800’s neck, which has a 25” scale length and a standard C-shape contour. The fretboard is made of Rosewood, with a 15.75” radius and 20 frets.
To match the resonant qualities of the fretboard, the bridge is also crafted from Rosewood. Both the nut and the saddle are made of Urea.
Standard die-cast chrome tuners are provided for tuning. These also add a classic touch to the guitar’s aesthetics.
Speaking of aesthetics, the FG800 is a relatively traditional dreadnought. It features a tortoiseshell pickguard, rosette, and black binding on the guitar’s top.
There are no electronics built into the guitar, but an external pickup can always be attached for live performances.
Overall, the FG800 is one of the best acoustic guitars for a beginner without breaking the bank. It is more than capable of being a platform for learning and playing intermediate-level music.
In a way, the FG800 is a testament to how Yamaha provides value with every instrument in its product lineup.
Item Weight: 6.38 pounds
Package Dimensions: 42.5 x 20.7 x 6.1 inches
Martin D Jr-10
Have you always wanted a Martin dreadnought in your collection, but could never afford the price? The Martin D Jr-10 (compare price at Sweetwater, Amazon) is a miracle offering you won’t want to pass up.
There’s no denying that Martin dreadnoughts are some of the most famous acoustic guitars. Unfortunately for some, dreadnought acoustics are not always the most comfortable to play.
The D Jr-10 is the perfect solution, as it is essentially a smaller version of the original. Even younger children will find this guitar to be quite comfortable to play.
This model features a Solid Sitka Spruce top with Sapele used for the back and sides. X-bracing architecture is used in the body’s construction for enhanced projection and resonation.
The neck is made of Martin’s select hardwood, which has a shortened scale length of 24”. Despite its shortened scale, the guitar still features 20 frets on its Richlite fretboard, which has a 16” radius.
To match the fretboard, Richlite is used to craft the D Jr-10’s bridge. Other hardware on this guitar includes:
- White Corian nut
- White Tusq saddle
- Chrome closed-gear tuners
Sweetening the overall package is a gig bag that comes included with the guitar. You’ll be able to take this guitar anywhere you wish, knowing your guitar will be protected in transit.
Overall, this is a solid guitar for those with smaller hands who desire to have that iconic Martin sound.
It doesn’t come with electronics, but you can opt to have them installed for a bit extra. However, this option does push the guitar beyond the original budgetary guidelines.
Nevertheless, this is a great value for a true Martin guitar.
Item Weight: 8 pounds
Package Dimensions: 37 x 16 x 7 inches
Are you a guitarist looking to transition to an acoustic guitar equipped with nylon strings? The Yamaha NTX1 (compare price at Sweetwater, Guitar Center, Amazon) is the perfect choice for this desire.
This guitar is an excellent middle ground between a traditional acoustic guitar and a classical guitar. Even if you’ve never played a classical guitar, this instrument will feel right at home to you.
The NTX1’s body features a Spruce top with Nato used for the guitar’s back and sides. Yamaha’s NX bracing architecture is used to provide a balanced blend of classical guitar tones.
Nato is also used to craft the NTX1’s neck, which has a 25.5” scale length and a modern contour. The fretboard is crafted from Walnut, featuring a flat 23.625” radius with 22 frets.
Due to the guitar’s design, you’ll be able to access the upper fret regions with extreme ease. This is a fact that most classical guitars cannot boast.
The hardware featured on the NTX1 include:
- Walnut bridge
- Urea saddle
- Urea nut
- Classical chrome tuners
Performers will delight in the fact that the NTX1 comes equipped with an undersaddle pickup. The built-in preamp features a tuner as well as a 3-band EQ and volume controls.
This guitar is an excellent value for anyone considering a nylon-stringed acoustic guitar. It has a pleasantly beautiful sound that matches the guitar’s aesthetics to a T.
The sounds coming from this guitar are extremely balanced with plenty of projection in the low end. You won’t have to worry about the nylon strings making this guitar sound thin at all.
Item Weight: 6.03 pounds
Package Dimensions: 47 x 17 x 7 inches
Taylor Baby Mahogany BT2
Taylor guitars are some of the most sought-after instruments amongst acoustic guitar players. These guitars are known for having exquisite craftsmanship but are not always the most affordable.
The Baby Mahogany BT2 features a Tropical American Mahogany top, with layered Sapele used for the back and sides. X-bracing architecture gives the BT2 a full-bodied sound that will make you question whether you’re hearing a smaller guitar.
Tropical American Mahogany is also used for the neck, which has a shortened scale length of 22.75”. This is going to be quite suitable for those with very small hands.
The fretboard is crafted from Ebony and features 19 frets outlined by dot inlays.
Other hardware to be found on the Baby Mahogany BT2 include:
- Ebony bridge
- Tusq nut
- Micarta saddle
- Chrome-plated die-cast closed tuners
Taylor has even included a gig bag with this guitar, furthering its transportable nature. This is a pretty high-quality gig bag, featuring ample padding with a shoulder strap and handle for easy carrying.
You’ll find that this guitar is perfect for taking trips by plane, as its size allows for easy stowing. The body length alone measures just beyond 15”.
Whether you prefer small guitars, or you’re shopping for a child, this is an excellent choice. It’s decked out in classic Taylor stylings and provides that signature sound guitarists love.
If aesthetics are important to you, you’ll certainly be pleased with how the varnish accentuates the guitar’s natural colors. It gives the guitar a nice, well-worn look.
Item Weight: 4.4 pounds
Package Dimensions: 38 x 16 x 7 inches
Epiphone Hummingbird Studio
If you’re a fan of live music, you’ve undoubtedly seen this guitar being used over the years. It is one of the most easily-recognizable acoustic guitars on the market, largely due to its aesthetic design.
Countless artists have donned this acoustic as their main instrument of choice.
The Hummingbird Studio is a dreadnought acoustic featuring a Solid Spruce top with Mahogany used for the back and sides. X-bracing architecture helps to project the guitar’s large and tonally balanced sound in true dreadnought fashion.
Mahogany is also used for the guitar’s neck, which has a 24.75” scale length and an iconic SlimTaper D contour. This neck will feel very comfortable if you’re used to primarily playing electric guitars.
The fretboard is made of Pau Ferro, with a 12” radius and 20 frets. An attractive Pearloid split parallelogram inlay pattern outlines the frets and adds to the guitar’s aesthetics.
Other hardware to be found here include:
- NuBone nut
- Pau Ferro bridge
- Nubone saddle
- Grover Rotomatic tuners
The Hummingbird Studio is equipped with Fishman electronics so you can plug in and play with ease. You can be sure your acoustic tone will be well-preserved in this format.
Finally, the Hummingbird Studio is quite a beautiful sight to behold, featuring an iconic pickguard with a foliage design. You can get the guitar in the classic colors of:
- Faded cherry sunburst
- Trans ebony
Overall, this is a guitar that not only looks amazing but sounds quite stellar as well. You won’t have a hard time being inspired with this guitar in your hands.
Item Weight: 10.2 pounds
Package Dimensions: 44 x 19 x 6 inches
This guitar, affectionately known as the “Little Martin,” is a 3/4-sized orchestra acoustic. Its body is crafted from high-pressure laminate that features an attractive Koa wood grain.
If the Koa HPL isn’t fitting to your tastes, you can opt for a model with a Solid Spruce top. This option features Mahogany HPL for the back and sides.
Despite being a budget model, Martin has not cut too many corners in crafting this guitar. It features Martin’s Modified X Series crowned cross bracing for tonal stability and balanced projection.
The neck is crafted from natural Stratabond to have a 23” scale length and a low oval contour. You’ll find this to be a comfortable and fast-playing neck, especially if you have smaller hands.
Richlite is used for the LXK2’s fretboard, which has a 16” radius and 20 frets. Due to the non-cutaway design, 14 of these frets are easily accessible.
The hardware to be found on the LXK2 include:
- Richlite bridge
- White Corian nut
- Compensated Tusq saddle
- Chrome tuners
This Little Martin is truly designed to be traveled with, as Martin includes a gig bag with the guitar. You’ll be able to take it with you anywhere after taking it out of the box.
Overall, this is a worthy option for a budget Martin, especially if you love the feel of smaller guitars. Some would argue that you’re paying for the name and would opt for a full-size guitar instead.
If a short-scale 3/4-sized acoustic guitar is what you’re after, this certainly fits the bill.
Item Weight: 7.63 pounds
Package Dimensions: 38.5 x 18 x 6.5 inches
This acoustic guitar features a cutaway design so you’ll have no problems playing in the upper fret regions. Its body construction features Sapele used for the top, back, and sides.
The neck is made of Nyatoh with a scale length of 24.9”, and features Ibanez’s Comfort Grip contour. While it is designed for comfort (as the name implies), it does provide a smooth playing experience for faster passages.
Walnut is used for the AEG62’s fretboard, which has a 15.7” radius and 20 frets. Classic diamond inlays are provided for easy fret identification.
If you have performance aspirations, the AEG62 is going to be a great fit. The guitar’s equipped with a T-Bar undersaddle pickup for a clear and pristine representation of the AEG62’s natural tone.
To make the most of your tone, Ibanez has equipped this guitar with an AEG-TTS preamp. This features a built-in tuner, as well as controls for volume and tone shape.
Other hardware to be found on the AEG62 include:
- Plastic nut
- Plastic saddle
- Walnut bridge
- Chrome die-cast tuners
The AEG62 is quite a pleasing guitar to look at, featuring a dark, natural color with black and white binding. A soundhole rosette ties the guitar’s looks together in the perfect way.
Overall, the AEG62 is a prime choice for a budget performer guitar. It has a slimmer body than most, which many guitarists will likely find to be quite comfortable and accommodating.
Item Weight: 10 pounds
Package Dimensions: 42 x 19 x 8 inches
What To Look For In An Acoustic Guitar For Under $500
When you’re shopping around for an acoustic guitar, it is quite important to be patient and do your research. The landscape of acoustic guitars is quite diverse, and newcomers especially can get a bit lost.
What ends up happening is that a guitarist could buy a guitar simply out of necessity. This, of course, could cause them to end up with a lackluster guitar, with them wishing they bought something else.
You certainly do not want to experience buyer’s remorse, especially when it comes to an acoustic guitar. After all, these are the guitars that are designed to be your everyday companion, no matter the setting.
If you are completely new to the guitar and are unfamiliar with the market, there’s no need to worry. The following list of points to keep in mind will help guide you in your research process.
Acoustic guitars are generally thought of to be fairly traditional in nature. And, in some cases, this isn’t a wrong thought to have.
But, when you compare the body styles to the electric guitar, there is quite a bit more variety available. Many of these will be quite similar, with only very subtle differences to be noticed.
Regardless, the body style of the guitar goes a long way in the overall tone and feel of the instrument. Overlook this aspect, and you’ll be wishing you didn’t when you realize the options you have.
For the most part, acoustic guitars come in the following varieties of body styles:
- Orchestra/Auditorium/Grand Auditorium
Another thing to pay attention to is whether the guitar has a cutaway body design or not. If you frequently play the higher frets, a cutaway is going to be a necessary aspect of the guitar’s design.
Every guitarist has their own preferences for how their ideal acoustic guitar tone should sound. Some people want a bright and responsive tone, while others love a warm and dark timbre.
Bigger guitars, such as dreadnoughts and jumbos, produce a very large and open sound. Concert guitars can be a fair bit smaller, providing warmer characteristics with less projection.
You’ll need to try each of these out for yourself to really hear how the guitar sounds to your ears. In addition to this, pay attention to whether it is comfortable for you to play.
Travel and Parlor guitars are quite smaller in size and can make excellent instruments for children or small-handed players. These guitars can also be quite portable, saving space in your preferred mode of transportation.
When it comes to acoustic guitars, they tend to be quite consistent across the many models available. However, some do have some extra features that you will want to keep an eye out for.
The biggest, in particular, is whether the guitar has electric capabilities. This will allow you to amplify the guitar for performance purposes without relying on a microphone.
Unless you have a very high-quality microphone, acoustic pickups are far superior to microphones. These will provide your guitar’s tone in a more direct manner than a microphone, which also picks up environmental noise.
In this price range, the market is divided with regard to whether a guitar will be equipped with a pickup. Even some higher-end models do not come equipped with this, so it is definitely not a normal aspect to assume.
The craftsmanship and playability of guitars in this price range vary to an extreme degree. Unfortunately, you’ll need the hands-on experience here to discern how well a guitar is built.
When you pick up and guitar and try it out, you need to ask yourself how easy it is to play. If you’re having difficulty even playing simple open chords, the guitar might be a bit sub-par.
Extreme budget models tend to not get the same eye of craftsmanship as the high-priced models. The reason makes sense from the perspective of a business, but it does have its drawbacks for guitarists.
Beginners are known to be fairly fickle in nature and are prone to completely giving up the instrument. As higher craftsmanship incurs higher costs, the possibility of a sunk investment cost is also high.
Budget instruments give beginners a platform to at least find out whether they will stick with the instrument. These should be good enough to at least learn the basics.
Of course, if a guitar is lackluster in playability, it can be extremely underwhelming and not inspiring to play. These feelings inevitably lead to the same result, which is usually the beginner walking away from the guitar for good.
At the top of the budget range, however, guitars begin to improve significantly. Traditionally, $500 was the beginning of the intermediate guitar range.
As guitar prices have increased, this might not always be the case. Because of this, you’ll need to try each and every guitar out for yourself.
Even though you have up to $500 to spend on an acoustic guitar, you still need to be budget-conscious. You have the first step accomplished, which is to have established budget parameters to work with.
As mentioned previously, the quality of guitars in this range varies quite widely. However, that doesn’t always mean that more expensive equals a better guitar (though it is often the case).
There are always hidden gems to be found in every price range. These are the guitars that make you baffled at the cost, as they are clearly superior in almost every way.
You’ll want to be on the lookout for guitars like these that present an extreme amount of value. It’s always a plus to end up with more guitar than something that costs a little bit extra.
Another area you’ll want to utilize is the used market, which presents massive benefits for the inclined individual. The best benefit of using the used market is undoubtedly the cost factor.
Like used cars, used guitars are often much less expensive than they would cost new. The exception, of course, is generally to be found with vintage instruments, which tend to fetch a high price.
You’ll find that there are many guitars on the used market that look as if they’ve barely been played. In these cases, it’s as if you’re getting a new guitar at a massive discount.
Furthermore, guitars priced outside of your budget might be affordable when buying used. You could certainly end up with a better quality instrument than you would have otherwise.
If you do shop on the used market, it’s extremely important to try and see the guitar firsthand. This will allow you to inspect every area of the guitar itself to ensure there are no major issues.
Best Brands For Acoustic Guitars For Under $500
There is a wealth of different manufacturers producing acoustic guitars for under $500 in today’s market. This can, understandably, cause some apprehension when making a purchasing decision.
If you’re finding it difficult to decide, doing some brand research can help guide your process. The following brands are noted for producing exceptional instruments for under $500.
Yamaha is a well-known Japanese company that originally began manufacturing organs in the late 1800s. While still known for their pianos and keyboard instruments, the company makes great guitars for every budget.
In fact, Yamaha excels at finding ways of packing in incredible amounts of value into each guitar. Many other companies pale in comparison, particularly in this specific price range.
Martin is one of the oldest and most respected acoustic guitar companies in the acoustic guitar world. These guitars are noted for their extreme quality and unmistakably iconic body styles.
Many of Martin’s product line falls far beyond the reach of this budget. However, they do have budget models that any cost-conscious guitarist would be grateful to play with.
Top Acoustic Guitars For Under $500, Final Thoughts
There really is nothing quite like the natural, organic sound of an acoustic guitar. We can be certain that this sound is forever embedded in our culture and will never go out of style.
Each guitar really does have its own unique sound and feel. Don’t be afraid to try these guitars out for yourself, as it's really the only way to find your perfect match.