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Looking for an electric guitar?
Musicians are often on a budget and can’t always afford the most expensive instruments.
The good news is – as you’re about to find out – there are great guitars in practically every price range. Even if you’re looking for an instrument for your next big gig, you can find some worthy contenders here.
Here are the best electric guitars for your money under $500, $1,000, $300 and $200.
Best Options Under $500
In the under $500 range, there are many guitars for you to choose from.
Plenty of brands make great guitars at this price point, and sometimes you can even find more affordable versions of signature series guitars (you can find a couple below).
And, at this level, you can be more selective in terms of the style of the instrument you want. They come in a variety of colors, shapes, sizes and with different configurations.
Ultimately, of course, what matters is that the guitar feels right in your hands. If it plays how you want it to play and sounds how you want it to sound, that’s all you can ask for.
Here are several guitars I’d like to highlight in the under $500 range.
Squier By Fender J Mascis Jazzmaster, Rosewood Fretboard
It is possible to spend a little more on a Squier and get a nicer guitar. Some people don’t see the point and just want to save a little more to spring on a Fender.
There’s no right or wrong. But in this price range I’d say there are some Squiers worth looking at and this Jazzmaster is one of them.
Now, when you think Fender, what probably comes to mind is Stratocaster or Telecaster style guitars. There is no doubt that these are the most popular.
The Jazzmaster is a little more specialized but it’s not exclusively for jazz.
It’s been utilized by the likes of Taylor York (Paramore), Elvis Costello, Jim Root (Slipknot and Stonesour) and of course J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.).
This signature guitar comes with two single-coil Jazzmaster pickups for maximum tone, a basswood body, maple neck, rosewood fingerboard and Adjusto-Matic bridge.
It also has a unique look thanks to its gold anodized pickguard.
When clean, the guitar offers a sharp, clangy tone that makes it perfect for country. If you add a bit of overdrive or distortion, its tone is sweet and full.
As with most guitars on this list, this Squier is worth its asking price.
Hagstrom ULSWE-CBB Ultra Swede
Hagstrom has got some great products in an affordable price range.
The ULSWE-CBB Ultra Swede comes with an ultra-thin 18 – 19mm neck, Resinator fretboard, H-Expander truss rod, a two-piece basswood body with maple cap and flame maple veneer and a maple set neck.
It comes with two Hagstrom custom 62 Humbuckers and a long travel T-O-M bridge with Hagstrom stop tail piece and six brass string blocks.
The guitar is lightweight thanks to its fast neck and it comes in a few colors like Black, Burgundy Burst, Cosmic Black Burst and Golden Eagle Burst.
To me, the guitar has a warm, scratchy tone. Kind of like in between a Les Paul and an ES-330. It has split coil pickups to expand its tonal capabilities too, allowing for a more thinned out tone.
Overall, it sounds great. I would likely use it for guitar solos myself because of its sharp sound but I wouldn’t use it for everything. That’s subject to personal taste of course.
Either way, the Hagstrom is another worthy entry on this list.
Yamaha RevStar RS420 Electric Guitar
The sharp-looking RevStar RS420 is a simple and versatile axe with great tone.
The RS420 has a nato body with a maple top, nato neck, Alnico V3 humbucking pickups and a slim neck profile.
It comes in Fired Red, Factory Blue, Black Steel and Maya Gold, all of which look good to me.
Its clean tone is clear and crisp. Add a bit of overdrive and distortion and you’ve got yourself a great crunch tone. Move to higher gain settings and it responds with a killer, cutting sound.
I could see this being a great guitar for the blues and rock of all flavors.
I find it hard not to be impressed with the Yamaha. Go have a look for yourself.
Ibanez Steve Vai JEMJRSP
If you like to geek out over guitar virtuosos, then I hardly need to tell you who Steve Vai is.
His guitar is about as weird as his playing style (yes, there is a hole in the body of the guitar acting as a handle) but when I remind myself that he used to play with Frank Zappa, it all makes sense.
The JEMJRSP is the more affordable Steve Vai signature guitar but its quality and tone is on par with his higher end models.
This is a solid body electric guitar with a mahogany body, maple neck, jatoba fingerboard with jumbo frets, two humbucking pickups, one single coil pickup in the middle position and a double-locking tremolo.
I probably don’t need to tell you that it’s a great deal in this price range. If you get this guitar, you’re getting an instrument that’s comparable to axes in a higher price range.
Its tone is surprisingly thick while still providing higher end cut. The middle pickup has a great sound too, making it a quite versatile guitar.
This Ibanez is a must-see.
ESP LTD EC-256FM Electric Guitar
The EC-256FM features a mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, ESP LH-150 bridge and neck humbuckers, a Tune-o-matic bridge and tailpiece, nickel hardware and a push/pull tone pot.
This sharp looking guitar has a rich, warm clean tone, which could make it great for blues and jazz.
Of course, we’re talking about an ESP guitar here. So, if you want to unleash the madness, just crank up the overdrive or distortion and you’re off to rock and metal wonderland.
Overall, though, I think it’s impressive in its versatility, and that push/pull pot will give you access to a lot of great tones.
I don’t have anything bad to say about the ESP. It’s a great guitar and it does what it’s been designed to do.
Best Electric Guitars Costing Less Than $1,000
If you’re willing to spend more, you can get a great guitar no questions asked.
You can’t necessarily get a top of the line guitar for less than $1,000, but honestly some pros don’t go on stage with more expensive instruments, so that should put things into perspective.
So, what makes guitars in this price range better?
Generally, you have better woods and electronics to look forward to. Guitars that have been crafted with more care and attention to detail.
You can also find more specialty guitars, ones that have been specifically tuned for different genres and playing styles.
So, let’s look at some killer guitars costing under $1,000.
Epiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro Electric Guitar With Coil-Tapping
As I’ve often shared, I’ve been consistently impressed with Epiphone instruments.
This Les Paul Standard Plustop comes with a rosewood fingerboard, mahogany body and neck and a AAA flame maple veneer, which mostly adds to its visual appeal.
Most of the tone is coming from the mahogany.
It has cream binding on the body and neck and comes installed with a Tune-o-matic bridge. The ProBucker 2 and ProBucker 3 pickups are quite decent too.
It has coil-tapping capabilities, so for those who like to get those “in-between” Strat-like tones, you’ll love this feature.
This guitar doesn’t just sound warm and beefy. Its tone is also smooth and clear – something you’re just not going to get from a guitar under $200.
It doesn’t matter what pickup setting you use. All the tones are usable and powerful, which isn’t something I can say for more affordable guitars.
Maybe the Epiphone is for you, maybe it isn’t. But I’d highly recommend having a look, because it’s incredible bang for buck.
ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000 Electric Guitar In Satin Black With Gloss Stripe
A Les Paul style guitar with some serious attitude.
The EC-1000 Deluxe comes equipped with a mahogany body and neck, a Macassar ebony fingerboard and EMG pickups. It feels great too.
As you can imagine, the high output pickups help to produce a massive sound, which is ideal for metal.
If you need it to clean up, however, it can do that too, and it does sounds good. It can also do crunch. But I still get the feeling that it’s better with overdrive or distortion.
So, I would say this is a guitar most suited to those who like to play heavier genres of music.
Nevertheless, a cool and relatively affordable guitar in the price range, you might want to check out the ESP.
Fender American Special Stratocaster 6-String Electric Guitar
Coming in at just under $1,000, the US-made Special Stratocaster is a sleek-looking electric guitar, and easily the best Fender at this price point.
As far as specs go, this is mostly standard stuff – alder body and maple neck with a 70s style headstock.
What differs is its Texas Special pickups and special circuitry, as well as a modern neck profile.
Its tone is pure and beautiful, perfect for all the genres you’ve heard the greats use it for – pop, rock, blues, funk, country, reggae or otherwise.
Add some overdrive or distortion and of course you can get this baby cookin’. But it’s probably not ideal for metal.
If you’ve used a Strat before, then you already know that the single coils can produce a bit of hum. You can always use effects to cut down on this, however.
If you like Strat style guitars and their tone, you should give this Fender some of your attention.
PRS 6 String SE Mark Holcomb Electric Guitar
PRS is a popular brand among many guitarists and that’s hardly surprising. Many pros refer to their guitars as “perfectly tuned Les Pauls”.
If you know Mark Holcomb, then you know that the PRS SE Mark Holcomb guitar is meant for heavy music.
The top wood is beveled maple with a quilted maple veneer. The back wood is mahogany. It also has an ebony fingerboard.
In the bridge position, you’ll find the Mark Holcomb signature Seymour Duncan Omega, and in the neck position, the Mark Holcomb signature Seymour Duncan Alpha. It also has a push/pull tone knob.
The hips are tuned to Drop C and it comes with black chrome hardware.
I find the guitar’s tone quite warm and mostly in a good way. A dark tone is generally easy to work with when recording because you can ultimately EQ it however you want.
This PRS may not be for everyone, but it’s amazing for what it is. And, for the price it’s hardly worth arguing.
Schecter Hellraiser C-1 Electric Guitar
Beautiful, affordable (for what you get) and well-designed, the Hellraiser C-1 is sure to be a go-to favorite for metal players everywhere.
It comes with a mahogany body and quilted maple top, abalone binding, gothic cross inlays, Grover black chrome machine heads and EMG Active 811W/89 pickups (don’t forget – active pickups require batteries).
The pickups offer a clear, full sound. Because of that, you shouldn’t be embarrassed to take advantage of this guitar’s clearer tones.
The coil splitting gives you access to Strat-like tones too, which adds to the guitar’s versatility.
But does it rock? Well, of course it does. It’s a great guitar for shredding. It has a cutting dirty tone, which makes it perfect for lead work.
So, give the Schecter a try. It’s killer.
Ibanez S Series Iron Label SIX6FDFM
If you’re prepared to spend this amount of money on an Ibanez, rest assured you’re going to get a lot of guitar.
This space-age Iron Label series thin bodied guitar is mesmerizingly cool-looking. It’s available in Blue Space Burst and Purple Space Burst.
It has a mahogany back, flamed maple top, a three-piece maple and bubinga neck, an ebony bound fretboard, reverse headstock with locking tuners, double locking bridge and DImarzio Fusion Edge pickups with coil tap.
With a bit of dirt, the guitar sounds large, crisp and warm. Its clean tones thin out nicely and are quite respectable too, and versatile thanks to the coil tap.
It looks cool, comes with great features and sounds amazing. If you like Ibanez style guitars, you should have a look at this one.
Yamaha RevStar RS720B Limited Edition Electric Guitar
I’ve already shared with you how I feel about Yamaha RevStar guitars, so prepare for more gushing.
The RevStar RS720B, specifically, is sure to please those who love classic electric guitars.
It comes with a Bigsby bridge, dual Filtertron pickups, a mahogany body and maple top, mahogany neck, rosewood fingerboard with jumbo frets, locking diecast tuners and satin nickel hardware.
It comes in Vintage White, Wall Fade, Vintage Japanese Denim, Shop Black, Ash Grey and Black. They all look great.
This guitar sounds great clean and with a bit of crunch too. It has that classic warm tone, and it has a lower output and minimal hum.
I could see it being great for blues, country, rockabilly and maybe even a bit of jazz.
If you’re looking for a retro style guitar, you’ll love the Yamaha.
Compare Electric Guitars Under $300
In this price range you can find decent beginner to intermediate guitars and they sometimes come with nice extras like a Floyd Rose bridge.
You can get nicer guitars than you would for under $200, although there are some nice ones there too and we’ll be talking more about that in a moment.
And, there are some truly great products even at this price point. Let’s have a look at the best electric guitars under $300.
Ibanez RG Series RG421
Ibanez gives you a lot for a little, and even their signature series guitars often don’t exceed $1,000.
So, the same $300 can go a little further with Ibanez. But if you’re not used to fast necks and thin bodies, you’ll likely need to take some time to familiarize yourself with this style of guitar.
The RG421 comes with a mahogany body, a three-piece maple neck and a rosewood fingerboard equipped with jumbo frets.
You can get the guitar in some relatively unique colors like Pearl Black Fade Metallic, Blackberry Sunburst and Light Violin Sunburst.
To me, the clean tone of the guitar sounds kind of raw, round and clangy, a bit like a Jazzmaster but more vanilla.
Throw some distortion on it, however, and it instantly becomes a rock machine.
It’s missing some of that clear, rich, full, smooth tone you get with higher priced guitars, but it’s still got a great, versatile sound.
Ibanez has got some other great products too, so if you’re thinking they might be the way to go, you might have a look at the others on this list.
Jackson JS32 Dinky – Pavo Purple
The JS32 Dinky comes with a poplar body, maple neck, rosewood fingerboard and two humbucking pickups. The double locking bridge is a joy to whammy lovers because it keeps the guitar in tune.
Reportedly, the neck and fretwork are the best features of the JS32. That’s important, because it plays a huge part in how a guitar feels.
Its tone is warm and rich, and I wouldn’t be afraid to play it on a clean setting at all.
Not surprisingly, though, the guitar shines on a dirty channel. It has that characteristic Jackson crunch, which is awesome for heavy rhythm parts.
It’s got enough sparkle on the high end to be great for lead work too.
I’d say this guitar is mainly for rock and hard rock players looking to get into a bit of shredding.
The JS32 Dinky is available in a variety of other colors if you go looking for it. The Jackson is a cool find.
Epiphone Les Paul-100 Electric Guitar
The Epiphone Les Paul-100 is an affordable but fully-featured bolt-on neck Les Paul with a carved-top mahogany body, mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard.
A little lighter and thinner than Standard and Studio Les Pauls, the Les Paul-100 comes with 700T and 650R open-coil humbucker pickups.
This guitar features chrome hardware, 500K Ohms potentiometers, a heavy-duty three-way pickup selector toggle switch and a non-rotating heavy-duty output jack.
The Epiphone LockTone locking Tune-o-matic bridge and stop-bar tailpiece give you increased sustain.
You can find this guitar in Ebony, Heritage Cherry Sunburst and Vintage Sunburst.
So, how does it sound? It sounds great. That may come as a bit of a surprise for a guitar in this price range, but honestly, it’s what you’d expect from a Les Paul.
Unless you’re planning to save up for a better guitar or upgrade soon, I don’t think you can go wrong with the Epiphone.
Cheap Electric Guitars Under $200 (Budget Friendly)
It used to be that guitars in the under $200 range were subpar imitations of the real thing.
If you were careful in choosing the right guitar and knew what you were looking for, you could still walk out of a store with a nice axe in your hands because guitars aren’t created equal – even those of the same make and brand.
Still, most of the time, if you weren’t willing to put a little more money into your instrument, what you got was basically a piece of wood with strings attached to it.
But today there are more worthwhile options available than ever.
The guitar landscape is a competitive one, and because of that guitar brands have had to boost the quality of their products to remain relevant.
Even in the under $200 range, you can sometimes get guitars that rival pro quality guitars.
Make no mistake that in this price range you will always be getting guitars made with inferior materials and electronics. But for a bit of instant gratification, less than $200 isn’t too much to ask.
Here are some great guitars for beginners and those on a tighter budget.
Epiphone SG-Special Electric Guitar
Epiphone’s parent organization is Gibson.
They’re sometimes thought of as an inferior brand or the “cheaper version of Gibson”, but over the years I’ve been consistently surprised at the quality of their products, electric or acoustic.
The Epiphone SG-Special may not measure up to a Gibson SG but this is still an incredibly attractive, quality guitar. It even comes with a kill pot (kill switch), which has become a bit of a trend as of late.
This allows you to duplicate the sounds of known guitarists like Tom Morello and Buckethead.
Clean or distorted, you’ll probably be surprised how warm and bite-y this guitar sounds. It would be great for rock, blues and even jazz if you know how to dial it in.
To me, the SG’s tone is somewhere between a Fender Stratocaster and a Gibson Les Paul, making it a surprisingly versatile guitar as well.
The SG-Special’s body and neck is made of mahogany. It has a bolt-on neck with a tapered heel and a 650R humbucker in the neck position with a 700T humbucker in the bridge position.
The guitar is available in both Cherry and Ebony.
Epiphone has done something good here. I wouldn’t be embarrassed to add this guitar to my collection, even though I’m the proud owner of an Ernie Ball Music Man Axis (not cheap), which in my mind is hard to beat.
Squier By Fender Bullet Stratocaster HSS Hard Tail
I used to own a Squier guitar when I was still a beginner, but I swear it wasn’t like this.
If you know anything about guitar specs, the Squier Bullet Stratocaster HSS Hard Tail will have you drooling out the gate.
It comes with a maple neck, basswood body and rosewood fingerboard with jumbo frets. Sure, it may not be choice woods, but you can still geek out over those specs.
The guitar comes in White, Black, Brown Sunburst, Imperial Blue, Fiesta Red and Arctic White.
And, honestly it sounds legit too. I’m quite impressed with the guitar’s tone. It’s on the thinner spectrum of tones to be sure, but it’s full enough to fool the ear.
The humbucker, single coil, single coil configuration might not be for everyone, but if you’re a beginner, it’s not going to make much difference.
Naturally, the humbucker can give you a fatter tone overall, which can make the guitar more versatile for rock and hard rock players.
No, the Squier will never be as good as a pro level guitar. But it’s surprisingly good, especially for the price.
The Squier Affinity Series is also worth a look in the same price range.
Oscar Schmidt OE20G-AU Solid Body Electric Guitar, Gold Top
When I think great quality guitars under $200, I’m usually not thinking Oscar Schmidt (by Washburn). I’m certain I’ve played a few disappointing Oscar Shmidts in the past.
But as I mentioned earlier, guitar manufacturers and brands have had to up their game to remain competitive.
Well, the China made OE20G-AU has a mahogany body and maple set neck and a Tune-O-Matic bridge with stop tailpiece and two humbucking pickups.
The guitar is available in Black, Cherry Sunburst, Gold Top, Tobacco Sunburst, White and Quilt Tiger Eye.
This is a warm and full sounding guitar, just as you would expect it to be. The neck pickup could be great for jazz, while the bridge pickup produces enough bite for rock.
With a bit of overdrive or distortion, the guitar crunches and sings. It’s awesome. It’s got good sustain too.
Again, for the price, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better guitar. Oscar Schmidt is worth checking out.
Ibanez GART60 Electric Guitar
The Ibanez GART60 is a Les Paul style guitar at an affordable price point.
It comes with a slim bolt-on maple neck, an arched top poplar body for extra sustain and Powersound pickups.
The guitar has a rich, warm tone. You can play it clean or dirty on any pickup setting and it sounds great.
Ibanez may not be known for this style of guitar but that doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re doing.
I could see this being a great guitar both on stage and in the studio.
Certainly, it’s better suited to beginners, but if you’re on a budget then even intermediate and advanced players will find it usable.
Go check it out for yourself – you might just be surprised.
What Should I Look For In An Electric Guitar As A Budget-Conscious Consumer?
I’m sure this is starting to become clear to you but these days, you can get a lot of electric guitar without having to pay a pretty penny for it.
You probably can’t go wrong with any guitar on this list assuming it’s within your budget.
So, it’s mostly going to come down to what you like.
Do you like modern guitars or classic guitars? Versatile or focused? For hard rock and metal or country and blues? With a double locking bridge, Bigsby bridge or standard?
How should the guitar feel? Do you want a chunky neck or thin neck? A thick body or thin body? What materials should it be made of? What tonewoods do you prefer?
Don’t worry if you can’t answer all those questions right now. Only an experienced guitarist would be able to.
When it comes to tonewoods, I’ve learned a few things about them, but I’m no expert on them either.
So, here’s what to consider as a budget-conscious guitarist.
Does It Look Good?
At first, looks might seem like a small thing. But for the budget conscious consumer, it can be a big deal.
If you consider that you might not be buying another guitar for a while, you want to choose a guitar that has a nice look to it.
That becomes even more important if you take to the stage.
I don’t think there are any guitars on this list that look bad, but depending on what you like, you’ll probably instantly write off a few of them.
Again, it might seem silly, but guitarists often like to coordinate their outfits with their guitar or even their band members. So, that could be a factor, although I’m not saying it must be.
I don’t want to make this any harder than needed. I’m merely suggesting that you consider whether the guitar looks good to you.
Does It Feel Good?
In the first three years of playing guitar, I searched endlessly for the guitar that felt the best to me.
That might seem a little early to be looking for the ideal guitar, but in my first three years of playing, I progressed rather quickly.
And, once I found it, I didn’t look back. So, you could say the search was worth it.
What I found, by the way, is the Ernie Ball Music Man Axis, which is not a cheap guitar by any means, but everything about it suited me perfectly.
I still use other guitars when I’m looking for different tones, mind you.
These days, I’m comfortable playing most electrics, and if it doesn’t feel right, I know that I can always bring it to my tech to have it set up how I like it.
What you can’t change, of course, is the tonewood or the feel of the neck. So, that’s something to keep in mind when you’re thinking about buying a guitar.
There’s no way to know if a guitar is perfect for you if you don’t try it. So, if in doubt, go and rent a few guitars and see how they feel. It shouldn’t cost you too much.
If a guitar feels good to you, you’ll likely spend more time practicing and playing, and you’ll improve faster.
Does It Sound Good?
How a guitar sounds is dependent on a lot of factors, including:
- The tonewood.
- The pickups and potentiometers (pots).
- The bridge.
- The gauge of strings its equipped with.
- The gauge of pick you play with.
- The person playing the guitar.
- The effects and amplifier you put your guitar through.
80% of a guitar’s tone has to do with its pickups but it would be ridiculous to say the other elements don’t matter. Effects and amp choice are significant.
But the ultimate question is:
Does the guitar sound good to you?
It doesn’t matter what others think. You may want to factor in the opinion of your producer, engineer, or bandmates of course. But aside from that, it’s yours to discern.
Go and listen to a few of your favorite guitarists. Do they all sound the same to you?
Maybe when you listen to them in isolation you do, but if you go back and forth and compare, you’ll notice how different their tones are.
Don’t just listen to your heroes on a recording. Also listen to them playing alone on YouTube. You should be able to find a video or two. If you pay attention, you’ll hear things you’ve never heard before.
Some guitarists care deeply about tone and spend ages tweaking their gear until they like what they hear. Eric Johnson is the prime example.
Some like to create atmosphere with their guitar playing and rely heavily on effects for their sound. Have a listen to The Edge, Jonny Greenwood or Robert Fripp.
And, others don’t care that much about their tone and go with whatever feels right to them. Sometimes they even leave it to their techs. That’s what Marty Friedman says he does.
If you’ve played for any length of time, you probably have your own philosophy around how things should be done already.
So, does the guitar sound right to you? Again, you may want to rent a few and see for yourself. Watching a few reviews and demos on YouTube can be helpful too.
Does It Work For Your Specific Situation?
How will you be using the guitar?
Will you be using it for practice? For rehearsals? Shows? Recording? All the above? Will you be playing occasionally or all the time?
Personally, I tend to spend a lot of time practicing without an amp. This works well for me.
I am confident in my gear (head and cab) and know that I can easily dial in a great tone wherever I go, so I don’t spend a lot of time trying to tune my amp to my room.
So, if you’re just going to be practicing in your room or basement, you don’t necessarily need a fancy guitar. It should still feel good to you, but the quality of the guitar doesn’t matter as much.
For rehearsals, it’s always a good idea to have a guitar that feels comfortable, especially if you know you’re going to be practicing for several hours at a time. The same goes for shows.
You don’t necessarily need to bring your best quality guitars to shows, especially if you know you’re going to be playing in dives or dingy bars.
Recording is generally where guitarists like to bust out their best instruments to ensure a quality sound is captured.
You don’t necessarily need a different guitar for every situation, and if you have a decent quality guitar you can use it wherever and whenever you want.
Another important consideration is genre. What style of music do you play?
A Strat is a little weird for Metal and Jazz. A classic guitar would be weird for heavier genres. A heavy metal guitar isn’t suited to country, blues, funk and so on.
This isn’t to say it hasn’t been done, because it surely has. You can use whatever guitar you want for any style.
But generally, guitarists like to pick a guitar that matches their playing style.
So, find a guitar that’s matched to your situation.
Does It Have The Features You Need?
There are a few things to think about here.
The first would be pickups. Single coils generally give you a thinner, clangy tone. This can be great depending on what you’re looking for.
Double coils will produce a thicker, warmer sound. They are typically higher output and are quite responsive to overdrive and distortion.
Then, some guitars allow for coil tapping. This is generally for guitarists that want a mix of different tones.
I have one guitar that has coil tap, and I think it works quite well. I can use the guitar for just about anything.
So, it’s always good to have a look at what electronics the guitar comes with.
The next thing to think about would be the bridge. I like to break it down into three types, though there are certainly more.
The first is a standard bridge. You feed your strings through it and it keeps them in place. Sometimes it has a whammy bar (or a slot for one) and sometimes not.
The second is a Bigsby bridge, which is perfect for classic sounds. Bigsby bridges always come with a whammy bar, which is meant to be used subtly.
The third is a Floyd Rose or double locking bridge. This type of bridge keeps your guitar in tune, even while you’re performing wild bends and whammy dives.
I don’t have a guitar with a Bigsby bridge myself, but I have played a guitar or two that had one. I have guitars with the other two types of bridges.
With that explanation, I think you can figure out what type of bridge to pick.
And, of course, you may also want to think about:
- Tonewood. There is a difference between a Strat with an alder body and a basswood body.
- Tuners. Depending on the guitar, they are made with different hardware and are also locking or non.
- Neck. Thick, thin, and C, V or U profiles. Comfort level can vary, and it mostly comes down to personal preference.
- Frets. Better frets usually make the guitar easier to play and can also affect intonation.
- Kill switch. Depending on the type of guitarist you are and the sounds you want to achieve, having a kill switch could come in handy.
- Headstock. Oftentimes, it’s just a matter of what style you like.
- Body. Cutaway or no cutaway? Double cutaway? Thick or thin? Shape?
We could go on and on about the features, whether it’s knobs, pickup toggle switches, potentiometers or otherwise, all of which play at least a small part in a guitar’s price.
To me, the most important considerations are usually the neck, body, pickups and bridge. Aside from that, I’m not too picky.
But it’s always good to think about what features you might want.
Is It The Right Price?
I know we’ve already talked about this, but it’s worth double checking before you commit.
Is the guitar you have your eyes on well within your budget?
Price point does matter, and you will get a different quality guitar depending on how much you spend.
With that in mind, the guitars on this list are high quality enough that if you take your time to choose the right one, it’s unlikely you’ll make a decision you regret.
Assuming you’ve chosen the right style of guitar for you, it should do its job.
So, don’t overspend needlessly. Get the guitar that best suits your needs now and you can always upgrade later.
Does It Matter Whether I Get A Guitar With Humbucker Or Single Coil Pickups?
As a budget aware buyer, you’ll be glad to know that the price difference between humbucking and single coil pickups is mostly negligible.
But when you’re buying a guitar, it’s fair to say you’re also buying the pickups, so that’s something to be mindful of.
You can’t easily swap out single coils for humbuckers, as you’d have to chisel out a chunk of the body to put one in.
Although there is such a thing as stacked humbuckers, which look like single coil pickups but are indeed double coils. So, you could replace single coil pickups with stacked humbuckers.
Anyway, if you’d like to bypass the hassle, just get a guitar with a pickup configuration you’re happy with. Replace or mix and match if necessary.
And, of course, pickups do play a huge part in a guitar’s tone.
Single coil pickups have specific tonal characteristics, and so do humbuckers.
Throughout this guide, I’ve shared that single coil pickups tend to be more versatile, especially if your guitar comes installed with three of them.
You can pull a lot of tones out of a guitar equipped with single coils, play just about any genre and get a tone that suits it.
I’m not saying you can’t play any genre with double coils. They just have a fuller sound that lends itself more to certain styles.
But heavy metal players sometimes use single coils and country players sometimes use humbuckers. You can certainly make your own rules here.
So, in summary, pickup choice does matter. But if you’re buying a guitar at a budget that suits you then you don’t need to worry too much about it.
What’s The Ideal Amount Of Money To Spend On A Guitar?
This is a complex question to answer at the best of times.
Here’s the simple answer:
Spend whatever amount you’re comfortable with. If it’s within your budget and you like the axe, you can’t go wrong.
Now for a more detailed answer.
At every price point, guitars tend to be a little different, especially in terms of materials like pickups and wood.
The problem is that you can’t compare a Strat to a Les Paul. They are two different guitars. Unless you’re comparing a Strat to a Strat and a Les Paul to a Les Paul, you can easily get lost.
After all, Fender isn’t the only one making Strat style guitars. G&L does too. So does PRS (i.e. the John Mayer signature model). So do many other companies.
So, to an extent you can compare apples to apples but not apples to oranges.
That explains why guitars in the same price range aren’t all the same.
Another factor to consider is what the guitar is worth to you.
I know that might seem like an abstract concept. But if you’ve played and owned enough guitars, you probably have a good sense of what a guitar should cost.
The good news is there are awesome guitars in every price range.
The not so good news is that you can easily over-analyze the situation and not decide one way or another.
Basically, if you’re saying to yourself “wow, that’s a great deal” or “I don’t get why that guitar costs so much” then you should follow your instincts.
And, I would also be thinking about how you’re planning to use the guitar.
Do you need the guitar to last? Will it become your main workhorse? Or, are you looking to add a guitar with a different tone to your collection?
After a while, guitarists begin buying guitars for this genre and that genre. This style or that style. For studio and the stage.
This isn’t to suggest one guitar will last you and the other won’t. I’ve found guitars to be quite sturdy, and I’ve never messed one up beyond repair.
But it’s also good to think about whether a guitar can keep up with you. Having achieved a level of competency on the instrument, personally, I’d no longer be interested in buying a beginner guitar.
That generally means I’ll set my sights on what I want and save up for it.
So, in the end, there isn’t a right or wrong here. You should consider your budget. What you’re looking for in a guitar. What you plan to use it for. What it’s worth to you.
All these things will play a part in how much you’re willing or able to spend.
Are There Specific Factors That Affect A Guitar’s Price?
If you’ve read this far, then you probably know the answer to this question already.
But I understand your concerns. If you’re going to pay more for a guitar, it better be good, right?
And, you might be asking yourself why certain guitars cost more than others.
From a broader perspective, I would say there are basically three criteria to be thinking about.
The first is how the guitar is made.
Some guitars are mass produced in the factory. This does not make them bad by any means. But as you can imagine, this can make the process of making a guitar a lot faster and a lot cheaper.
Some guitars are handmade. It can be hard to put an exact figure on how long it would take to build an entire electric guitar, but some luthiers say roughly four to five days.
It’s relatively easy to put a higher price tag on a hand-built guitar, because it takes more man hours to complete.
And, because more attention is given to a handmade guitar, they tend to sound and feel better than a mass-produced instrument.
The second is the materials the guitar is made from.
From pickups and electronics to hardware and tonewood, everything factors into the cost of a guitar.
So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a guitar with high-quality locking tuners costs more than a guitar with standard machine heads. They’re different beasts altogether.
And, it does make a difference.
Let’s consider the example of pickups, which as I’ve shared, account for a significant part of how a guitar sounds.
It might seem crazy, but everything from the type of magnet that’s used and the number of coil wraps to the placement of pickups all affect tone.
Of course, you can affect the tone of the guitar by fiddling with your effects and amp, and even EQ it in postproduction.
But the pickups are the “first point of contact” so to speak. Your pickups react to the vibrations of your strings, creating a signal that’s fed to your amp.
So, when you’re coloring your tone with the use of effects or an amp, you’re just changing how your guitar signal is processed.
We could go into a lot of technical detail here, but the essence of it is that if you replaced your guitar’s cheap pickups with better ones, it would sound significantly different.
Finally, where the guitar is made is also an important ingredient.
If a guitar is made in the US, Europe or Japan, it’s typically subject to more scrutiny and the labor costs are also higher.
But if a guitar is made in countries like China, Korea, Mexico and Indonesia, you can save on some of those labor costs. And, you will find that more affordable guitars are generally made in these regions.
I can’t verify the accuracy of this story, but supposedly, when Fender first started producing guitars in Japan, they ended up being higher quality instruments with a lower price tag.
Eventually, Fender had to put an end to that because they wanted their US models to be the best.
These days, plenty of great guitars come out of so-called secondary regions and some even rival guitars made in primary locations.
But in a general sense, the sentiment holds true. Guitars produced in US, Europe or Japan are usually better than guitars made in China, Korea or Mexico.
Again, this doesn’t mean that cheap labor guitars are worse. But it does play a part in how much a guitar costs.
So, each of these factors will affect a guitar’s price, and generally, the more you’re willing to pay, the better the guitar is.
Best Electric Guitar For The Money 2019, Final Thoughts
So many guitars, so little time.
Although it may seem like there’s a lot to think about when buying a guitar, it’s okay to go with your gut.
I personally own electric guitars from Fender, Ernie Ball Music Man, PRS and Epiphone, all at different price points. And, I enjoy each of them for different reasons.
My Mexican Fender Stratocaster is my main workhorse, and it accompanies me to many gigs. It may not be an American Strat, but it reaches that “good enough” threshold.
At the same time, for the right kind of gig, I like to bust out the Ernie Ball Music Man Axis, especially for solo band gigs or shows where I’m playing hard rock.
I’ve used the PRS and Epiphone guitars for gigs too, but I tend to reserve them for recording, as they haven’t always been dependable live.
So, those are the kinds of things you figure out through experience. But if you know how you’re going to be using the guitar, that will help you narrow down your options.
Experiment plenty and have fun.