Finding the best cheap electric guitar is a personal choice. You have different sizes and shapes to choose from that suit different goals and genres of music. The phrase cheap electric guitar is a misnomer that alludes to solid, affordable guitars that meet a guitarist’s needs in terms of playability and sound as opposed to being unplayable and bad sounding.
In this guide, we recommend the 10 best electric guitars under $500 and $1000 that cover all the bases. You will find high quality electric guitars that will faithfully serve you for years for your budget.
- Features to Consider in Cheap Electric Guitar
- 5 Best Cheap Electric Guitars 2020 (Under $500)
- 1. PRS SE Standard 24
- 2. Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC112V
- 3. Squier Vintage Modified ’72 Telecaster Thinline
- 4. Epiphone Les Paul SL
- 5. Fender 6 String Bullet Mustang HH
- 5 Best Cheap Electric Guitars 2020 (Under $1000)
- 1. PRS Paul Reed Smith SE Custom 24
- 2. Ibanez RG550 Genesis Electric Guitar
- 3. Gretsch G5420T Electromatic Hollow Body
- 4. Fender Player Stratocaster
- 5. Fender Classic Player Baja ’60s Telecaster
- Guide to Buying the Best Electric Guitars
Features to Consider in Cheap Electric Guitar
As you shop for an electric guitar, ensure you consider your style and skill level among other needs. After working out these details, the selection of the best guitar will be a lot easier. Apart from the sound and feel, consider the following attributes when looking for a high quality electric guitar:
There are various guitar bodies that meet the different preferences in people. Also, there are more sizes and shape variations of electric guitars. The 3 most common bodies of electric guitars are:
- Solid body: The body lacks a sound box, thus the electric guitar entirely relies on the electric pickup system to collect the string vibrations. The advantages of this build include being able to amplify the sound to high volumes devoid of feedback problems, enabling different designs/shapes and respond to the use of effects because the body is almost relies on amplification.
- Semi-hollow: The body has small sound box with amplification support. The body allows you use amp and is much lighter compared to solid bodies. People consider the body as more versatile.
- Hollow: This body type is rare than the other two. The hollow body of an electric guitar generates a sound that is similar to acoustic guitars. It gives brighter sound although they have feedback issues at higher volumes. The body has great bass response, which produces a big grin in jazz players.
As you start out, you need a guitar that is easy to play. Usually, electric guitars are easy on the fingers compared to some acoustic guitars. As you pick an electric guitar, ensure the strings are close to the fretboard. This measurement is known as “action” ensure you have the right action. When the action is too high or off, a setup is required.
Right or lefty compatibility
Ensure the model you are considering provides lefty or righty compatibility. Most guitars offer righty or lefty compatibility.
If you are inspired by your favorite guitarist, feel free to choose the look that makes you want to play the guitar. If Stevie Ray Vaughan’ bluesy bends get you moving, consider an affordable Stratocaster.
5 Best Cheap Electric Guitars 2020 (Under $500)
Essentially, the PRS SE Standard 24 is a toned down version of the well known and loved guitars originally made in the US. There is no quilt or flame tops but a classic PRS mahogany neck and body finished in various colors including Opaque Black, Tobacco Sunburst and Translucent Blue and Chery as well as the opaque metallic ‘Platinum’ finish that extend along the back of the neck and a matching headstock. The neck is comes with a rosewood fretboard equipped with the familiar, elaborate PRS bird inlays.
The guitar comes with a solid hardware in form of 2 PRS SE humbuckers, bridge HFS Treble and a neck SE Vintage Bass, official PRS tremolo, tone and volume controls with a 30-way switch and a coil tap providing single coil tones. It comes with a free decent SE gig bag that is sufficient for the ordinary user and gorgeous enough to be carried with pride.
The playability of this guitar is remarkable considering the comfortable neck shape and nice matching 25” scale length. Access to the upper fret is easy because of the contoured lower cutaway. The lead and chordal part feel supper comfortable across the guitar’s range. It has a very good tuning stability equipped with precise intonation and a bridge that is among the best for a budget-friendly guitar. The tremolo action is smooth thanks to the floating setup and trem arm, which is precisely the right height and length to enable comfortable play while holding the bar.
This is one of the few cases where a product’s value for money is so great you are not able to find any negatives. PRS SE Standard 24 may as well be among the best budget/starter guitars produced. Considering PRS throws in a free decent gig bad you will be out of your mind not to consider the SE Standard 24.
Yamaha Pacifica 112 style includes a 3-ply scratchplate material, which makes the guitar to be less generic compared to the more original Pacifica concept and design. It is not fancy since it only focuses on the necessities. However, the build quality is excellent. This guitar comes with an alder body; maple neck; rosewood fingerboard; 22 frets; volume & tone controls, and 5-way selector switch; and a block saddle and vintage-style vibrato. It is left-hand oriented and has a natural satin finish.
Excellent fretting using medium size strings (approximately 2.37mm wide and 1.36mm high). This guitar may not have all that comes with high-end guitars but Pacifica 112V design takes into account what a quality electric guitar should feel when held. The neck is strong and stable with minimal whip. If taken care of, this guitar will last a long time. Subtle change over the years to the standard vintage vibrato design with the addition of block saddles adds firmness to the tone. The upgraded pickups are compatible with other models using Alnico V-loaded pickups. The single bridge humbucker provides extra versatility, which is decent for an entry level model. The pickup quality is decent.
The design is a modern, brighter and lighter illustration of a hot-rod Strat. The humbucker at the bridge is able to deal with gain-rich distortions and is clear enough. From the perceptive of an electric guitar beginner, 112V packs a good punch.
Pacifica 112V is among the best electric guitars for beginners and have a long-lasting charm. If you want a well-rounded beginner level guitar, checkout this guitar.
The vintage modified 72 Telecaster thinline is a semi-hollow version. Its looks are stunning especially the sunburst version. The ash body is amazing and comes with a white pearloid pick-guard. The nice and slim 21 fret maple neck has a modern C-shape to ease play. The build quality is superb. The bridge is a vintage style with strings-through-body and 6 Fender stamped steel saddles. The pickup configuration is different for the 72 Telecaster Thinline with wide range humbuckers in the neck and bridge positions. The pickups are accessed via a 3-way switch and it comes with a tone and volume dials. The chrome hardware adds to the general high spec feel of the guitar.
The semi-hollow body generates great acoustic tone that produces much volume even when unplugged. The unplugged output is mellow and warm and sounds very good for a considerably cheap guitar. When plugged in, it generates a great clear tone. The tonal output of the vintage modified ’72 Thinline telecaster is very versatile. If you are into rock, blues, jazz or country, this guitar will deliver. The design evokes a second incarnation of the era of stylish liberal tele model.
The Squier vintage modified ’72 Telecaster Thinline is a very decent guitar. It looks and feels first class considering its build quality and attention to detail. The sound is excellent and versatile. The semi-hollow body of this electric guitar will get you rocking to great tones at an affordable price. For a beginner or a seasoned electric guitar player in search of a new sound on a budget, this guitar is great option.
Epiphone Les Paul SL is equipped with single-coil pickups and mounted jack in the pickguard as a way of decreasing production cost. Also, it comes with master tone and volume controls. Despite the cost saving measures, Epiphone never held back where it matters. The SL is equipped with a mahogany neck, poplar body, and a rosewood fretboard. The fretwork and setup are excellent that make playing this guitar nice without buzzes, rough fret edges or fretting out.
The SL comes with a custom single-ply pickguard surrounding the bridge and neck ceramic single-coil pickups. Apart from that SL is a single-cut Les Paul with a slim-taper D-profile neck, 22 medium frets, an adjustable intonated stopbar tailpiece, master tone and volume controls with a 3-way toggle switch.
The ceramic electronic-magnet pickups have a decent sound, even though the neck pickup is dark. The feeling pots are smooth for a budget electronic guitar even these are often neglected in more expensive guitars. The volume pot taps off smoothly without dropping high-end. The tone controls are very usable across its range. The poplar body is light but comes with all the extensive heft associated with a Les Paul without being cumbersome.
This is a solid performer that comes at an awesome bargain. For a guitar that feels gig-worthy, sounds and feels good, and has the looks, the SL is a killer deal. The guitar plays flawlessly thanks to Epiphone’s consistent setup. Playability is great across the SL range “slim taper” mahogany neck. The SL quality control is notably good for a guitar in this price tag.
This guitar is available in imperial blue and back with a metallic finish. This attractive guitar in keeping with other beginner model, it is equipped with a basswood body that offers an incredible, lightweight feel. The two humbuckers provide angular grit in the bridge and a pretty, warmth around the neck. The maple neck and 6-saddle hardtail bridge feels reassuringly rigid. The tuners do a sterling job of holding their pitch without a lot of hassle.
The tone and volume dials, which are often a quality control indicator in budget guitars, are firmly installed and does not wobble. The switch for the pickup selector is angled to ensure you don’t knock it as you become more enthusiastic as you play. The flat 12-inch radius rosewood make string bends simple even for the sausage-fingered players. Also, the C profile neck is very comfortable and it comes with a satin finish. The guitar is thin, really thin with a width of 1.625”. The 24” scale length is an awesome fit for people with smaller hands and allows easy action.
The Fender 6 String Bullet Mustang HH provides compact dimensions, old-school feel and comfort associated with the legendary Mustang. The 2 humbuckers makes this guitar to pack an extra punch for a powerful midrange-forward tone. In this price tag, whether you want a great backup guitar or an offset with aggressive attitude, the Fender 6 String Bullet Mustang HH is a great choice. This is a solidly build guitar. The guitar has surprisingly good, high-quality pots for a guitar below $150.
5 Best Cheap Electric Guitars 2020 (Under $1000)
In a nutshell, this guitar comes in a nice maple cover on a mahogany neck and body with bridge and neck humbuckers that generate a sweet midrange sound. SE Custom comes with familiar inlays that are neatly done. The non-locking tuners function appropriately and have a glossy finish. You get a comfortable mahogany neck and fretwork. This wide and flat guitar has 24 frets that are easily accessible. Most players will find this guitar extremely playable without buzzing or choked bends. The rosewood fretboard has a nice dark color. The versatile sound comes from SE 85/5 Bass and Treble pickups that have volume and tone controls as well as a 3-way pickup selector.
This is a Korean-built maple, mahogany and rosewood guitar has a classy look. PRS know-how making eye-catching expensive guitars is evident the moment you pick this electric guitar. The bridge is noticeably low profile, which makes palm-muting a pleasant experience. The pickups in SE Custom attract a lot of attention, the 2017 versions include Korean-Made versions of 85/15 pups used in much more expensive American Core line. The bridge pickup is can withstand seriously chunky metal tones that retain clarity and definition even in absurd gain levels. PRS favors more obvious metrics such as quality manufacturing, classic looks and great sounds. Also, it comes with a gig bag.
This modern classic has roadworthy durability, wire range of tones and addictive playability, which make this an ideal workhorse electric guitar. If you love the look and PRS Custom tone, this piece may become the guitar of your dreams. This is among the best purchases for this budget.
Akin to the original, Ibanez RG550 comes with a very thin super wizard neck build from 5 solid pieces of walnut and maple for strong stability to offer extra-smooth playing. The classic Ibanez V7, S1, V8 pickups provide an array of sound combined with the 5-way pickup switch. Incredible tuning stability can be attained through the Gotoh machine heads.
This Japanese-made guitar model comes with a lot of features associated with original guitar. The lightweight basswood allows you to play for long without feeling as if you are dragging a tree. The Super Wizard neck comes with 5 pieces of walnut and maple to offer it additional rigidity that allows you to play the guitar in any condition without anxiety of it warping or having major intonation and tuning issues.
The V7 and V8 humbuckers offers players access to a lot of versatile, highly useful tones. The S1 single coil improves tonal versatility, making the guitar able to cope with anything you throw at it. The reissue is available in 4 flamboyant colors; the iconic desert yellow, red, purple and white.
This serious electric guitar is made for guitar players who are looking to improve their skills by using something created to offer them the power and precision they need. The RG550 hits the rare sweet spot of it being expensive enough to lust after but not too expensive to own the quality and attractive guitar. RG550 covers a lot of tonal bases. It allows you to comfortably stray into the various genres without a lot of fuss. Despite the strong competition, RG’s degree is powerful. This reissue is a casual reminder of who is boss in the SuperStrat niche.
Gretsch G5420T comes with a full maple neck, a body built from 5 ply maple with a gloss polyurethane finish. This allows players to attain warm tones. At the headstock is a set of vintage-style tuner machines. The fingerboard comes with a nice rosewood with 22 medium jumbo frets. In addition, there is an exclusive hump-block pearloid fretboard inlays with a silver plexi pickguard. Also, the hardware has chrome plating with 2 F holes.
It comes in 3 colors to choose from i.e. Orange Satin, Aspen Green and Fairlane Blue. The guitar is equipped with 2 Blacktop Filter’Tron humbuckers at the neck and bridge positions. These have their corresponding volume controls for each and a master tone control to provide a decent sound shaping.
The legendary Bigsy B60 vibrato tailpiece complements the bridge. The feature allows pronounced sustain. Actually, it claims solid craftsmanship with neck and body binding. The Black Top Filter’Tron Pickups are perfect for players who wish to relive the 50s and 60s sounds. These pickups are similar to those used in more expensive guitar models. However, they have little differences in terms of aesthetics and tone quality. It is easy to control the pickups using the tone knob, pickup selector switch and volume knob.
This Gretsch model oozes retro appeal. The design is timeless and a perfect compromise between premium and affordable. It is not perfect, however for players who are moving to hollow body guitars, or in search of good-looking model that pops on stage, this Gretsch will do the trick.
This guitar is created for today’s guitarist and provides various musical tones. The Player Stratocaster comes with a sleek body that provides easy playability in an authentic iconic Fender style. The guitar comes with a satin neck, a 2-point vibrato design and 3 Alnico V single coils. It comes with an alder body and although it is multi-piece, the different pieces are well matched that the body appears as one piece. The body finish is in gloss polyester and without any visible flaws. The guitar is available in 4 colors that correspond to the fingerboard wood options. Sonic Red and Sunburst come equipped with a pau ferro fretboard while the Polar White and Tidepool options are available in maple. It comes with a standard 5-way switch. Like most Stratocasters, the Fender Player has 3 control knobs with one closest to the string being the master volume control while the other 2 are tone controls.
The double locking vibrato system do a better job of remaining in tune even after aggressive use compared to other systems. The bridge fine tuners allow a lot of room for adjustment to make any needed tuning corrections. The fret have smooth and well-dressed edges. The white dot fret markers are conveniently placed on the front and side of the fingerboard. The 12” fingerboard radius is flatter, which makes the bending of the strings easier and fretting out. The Fender comes with a modern C shape neck that is very comfortable.
The Fender Player Stratocaster comes with a very comfortable satin neck finish. Also, the body feels comfortable with smoother and gradual contours. It sounds good and the new colors provide you cool cosmetic options. The Player represents an evolution to attract many next-generation guitar players.
The Baja ‘60s Telecaster comes with an alder body and a polyester finish and gloss maple neck with rosewood board. The guitar comes with 1960s vibe and features including a comfortable ‘60s C-shape neck profile. It comes with an alder body; a 9.5” fingerboard radius, 21 medium frets; a neck single coil American Vintage ’52 tele and bridge ’58 Tele pickups with 4-way and S-1 switching. Also, it comes with a 3-ply pickguard, special custom neckplate engraving and 3 brass saddles.
Baja sticks close to the classis ‘60s recipe. The alder body and rosewood board seem to give this electric guitar a lovely smoothness associated with high end guitars. The standard classic mix is wider compared to Strat’s but nicely textured and the neck pickup sounds fuller compared to older vintage guitars. There is an awesome secret weapon in form of an additional 4th sound on the pickup selector. It is a lot more humbucking and appears to be the only blend that us partially hum-cancelling. This electric guitar comes with a deluxe gig bag.
The Classic Baja ‘60s Telecater provides a cool evolution to the timeless Fender electric guitar. The string-through body and 3-saddle bridge offer a classic feel. The ’58 and ’52 vintage pickups give you a lot of warmth and edge. The custom configuration tonal options that range from classic Tele to series as well as out-of-phase tones. Thus, from classic to modern, the Tele provides an array of tones. This Fender model comes in 3 color Sunburst, Candy Apple Red and Faded Sonic Blue.
Guide to Buying the Best Electric Guitars
When purchasing an electric guitar, it is sensible to consider the purpose of purchasing it. If you want to learn on, or upgrading after a year or so, you are better off attempting one of the affordable electric guitars that provide a string platform you can learn on.
Whatever your budget, you will be able to come a across a guitar that suits your need. Even if your budget is in the $200 price range you will find some guitar models that are nice to play. There is distinction between cheap and affordable so carry out your research before purchasing something that may be of no value. Even when on budget, consider higher price category and look at something that is a bit expensive, which will provide better sound quality, build quality, looks cooler and lasts longer. It is better to purchase a guitar that is affordable and at the upper limit of your budget. Always take into account the size of the guitar.
What is an electric guitar?
An electric guitar is created from a wooden body that is equipped with pickup and steel strings. When played without amplification, the sound volume is low thus an electronic device is used to amplify the sound. Normally, the body finish appears metal or plastic and often colorful. The sound an electric guitar produces varies depending on the body material.
Electric guitars come with pickups in their bodies to convert the string vibrations into electric signal that is transmitted to an amplifier in a shielded cable. When practicing it may be unnecessary to connect it to an amplifier; however, to fully use the capabilities of an electric guitar an amplifier is necessary.
Types of electric guitars
Electric guitars come in 3 basic body types. These are solid body, hollow body and semi hollow body.
The most common body type is the solid body that is constructed from solid wood. Solid body guitars range from simple, single-pickup models to ornately decorated and figured, multi-pickup models with several electronic options.
Hollow body guitars have hollow bodies and usually have an archtop. The semi-hollow body guitars are designed using solid center wood block, which adds stability and helps decrease feedback.
Things to consider in an electric guitar
As with purchasing any quality instrument, buying the best electric guitar will cost a decent amount of money. Price is an important factor as you decide the electric guitar you want to buy. There are electric guitars that fit every budget. Thus, you don’t have to break the bank to purchase an electric guitar.
The person for whom you are purchasing
As you buy an electric guitar for a beginner, consider a guitar that is proper size, sounds great and meets the up-and-coming player’s musical aspirations and tastes. Find out the guitar they lust after and their guitar heroes. Selecting an electric guitar that speaks to these preferences will help guarantee that new players stay motivated to continue learning. For a beginner, consider an easy to play guitar that stays in tune. However, aesthetics, electronics, tone and body style matter. As you buy an electric guitar, keep in mind that quality usually comes with a matching price tag. Consider spending a little more on the right guitar.
Usually, solid guitars provide an awesome platform for builders, which allow them to create any shape. You can opt for a guitar that has a single-cutaway Les Paul or Telecaster style shape, or double cutaway shape such as Stratocaster, Ibanez’s RG or Yamaha Pacifica. However, extroverted beginner can look out for some eye-catching styles such as Z or V shaped guitars or anything with captivating paint job.
Even though this is a minor issue as you choose your first guitar, the tone the guitar produces relies on the quality of material used to create the guitar. The most common tonewoods for budget guitars are alder, poplar, paulownia and basswood while expensive guitars are built in swamp ash, pine and mahogany. However, today, mahogany can be found in budget guitars while basswood is used in premium guitar models. The different woods have diverse tonal qualities. For instance, swamp ash is brighter, mahogany is usually provides a warmer sound, while alder and basswood have balanced tones.
Most guitar have either a mahogany or maple neck equipped with ebony, maple or rosewood fretboard. Although neck wood may not sway your decision, ensure you select something that feels comfortable to play. Neck come in various shapes and profiles to cater for playing style and personal preference. C-shape neck is a safe option since most players feel comfortable using and the U-shape is fantastic for faster players.
For a beginner, there are 2 main types of pickups i.e. humbucker pickup and single-coil pickup. The classic single-coil pickup usually provides a sparkly and bright sound. Humbuckers generate full, meaty sounds common in metal and rock music and are good for rhythm and lead guitar. Usually, there are 2 or 3 pickups on an electric guitar, even though some models only provide one pickup. Guitars with more than one pickup are equipped with a pickup selector switch for quick selection.
Frets are the thin metal bars running across the neck and act as note separators to allow you play individual chord and notes. Most guitars are equipped with 22 frets, although metal or rock inclined guitars come with 24 frets that allow you to reach higher notes. The number of frets ranging from 21 to 24 should not be a bother for a beginner. As you grow you will find whatever works for you.
Bridges come in different forms, but keep things simple by finding either a tremolo bridge or a fixed bridge. These have their advantages and disadvantages. Although a tremolo bridge allows you to test everything from vibrato effect to full-on divebombs, tremolo bridges may affect tuning unless they have locking nuts. As well, a fixed bridge provides excellent tuning stability and sustain, but does not have vibrato. It all boils down to preferences. Now that you know more about the parts of a guitar that may assist you as you shop around, check out this video that covers everything.
Now you know the best cheap electric guitars under $500 and $1000. Although most of the electric guitars under $500 are for beginners, they are a great starting point. The more expensive electric guitars under $1000 offer more features and are durable.
Ultimately, your purchase should be the best while sticking to your budget. As recommended in the beginning, have an idea of what you want and establish your style. Also, looks are essential. Having the right guitar and color can make a lot of difference.