The Best Electric Guitars Under $500
These are the best budget friendly electric guitars starting from just $110. Not only will you sound good playing these - you'll look good too!
This page is sponsored by Sweetwater so you can click through to get the full specifications, the latest price, and purchase any of the Electric Guitars stocked by Sweetwater that we have recommended.
Thanks to computer aided design and modernized factories around the world with precision engineering equipment you can now get budget guitars at a level of quality not possible a couple of decades ago, and our updated recommendations below reflect that.
The Best Electric Guitars Under $200
This table shows you all of the guitars we recommend - scroll down below to read our extended reviews for each one.
|Squier are owned by Fender and it was Leo Fender himself with the help of Freddie Tavares who originally designed the famous Stratocaster back in 1954. Now the Strat is available in various price brackets, with this one being the best entry level version, priced at around $130.||See our detailed review below|
|The second most popular and certainly the most iconic guitar design is the Les Paul. The 'Express' version by Epiphone is another great entry level guitar and the only Les Paul with dual Humbucker pickups available for under $110.||See our detailed review below|
|Looking every bit as good as some more expensive guitars and with its dual Jackson custom humbucker high-output pickups you'll be shredding with the best of them - and it only costs less than $170.||See our full JS12 Dinky review below|
|The Ibanez GRG121DX has the same fast and low action neck that Ibanez is known for making it easy to play with little stress on your fingers. The Metallic Gray Sunburst finish on the top looks fantastic and you can get it for just under $200.||See our full GRG121DX review below|
The Best Electric Guitars Under $500
|The Epiphone G-400 Pro SG is designed to capture the feel and sound of classic Gibson SGs. The shape and size follows the traditional SG path while its Alnico Classic PRO pickups and push/pull coil-tapping gives it a modern twist for tonal flexibility. It sells for only $349.||Our G-400 Pro SG review below|
|The RG450DX is the epitome of Ibanez, featuring hot rod looks and specs. Its striking appearance are matched by its sleek playability and tonal versatility. The "Wizard III" neck is considered by many as the most comfortable neck profile in the world. It sells for just under $400.||See our extended RG450DX review below|
|This is Epiphone's take on the original Les Paul design and it looks and plays very much like the more pricey original. Being affordable and mass produced, it doesn't have the same expensive woods and components as the Gibson version, but it's still a great guitar in terms of sound quality and sells for $399.||Extended review below|
|With the Stealth C-1, you are getting a premium guitar for a great bargain. Its arched body, set-in neck, split-coil capable circuitry and fixed bridge give you more than what you are paying for, a true shred machine that can handle aggressive metal playing. As well as the Satin Silver finish pictured it also comes in Satin Black, Satin Red and Satin White and sells for $499.||See our Stealth C-1 review below|
|Paul Reed Smith designs beautiful guitars with fantastic playability and this same design is applied to their affordable SE Standard line. The PRS SE Santana Standard makes the company's most popular signature guitar more accessible without compromising design and quality. It also comes in Antique White and Vintage Cherry finishes and sells for $499.||See our extended review below|
|The Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster '60s embodies the classic Strat features including 3 Standard Strat single-coil pickups but at a more affordable price point when compared to the American Standard line. True to its name, this guitar follows after existing vintage '60s era Strats with period correct specs and a stylish 3-tone sunburst finish, reminiscent of SRV's popular "Number One" Guitar. It is currently selling for just under $380.||See our full review below|
Squier Bullet Strat
Because of its familiar look, easy playability and sonic versatility, the Strat remains the easiest pick for both beginners and experienced players. Thankfully, Squier by Fender offers the very affordable Bullet Strat, making the Stratocaster accessible to budget conscious players and students.
While it may not have the same components as the more expensive versions, it does have build and sound quality that many, including us, find commendable. It has a basswood double cutaway body, a bolt-on maple neck with rosewood fingerboard, and features the versatile SSS (three single coil) pickup configuration. It even has a 5-position pickup switch and tremolo bridge, which completes the guitar's authentic Strat feel and look.
Because of cost restrictions, the pickups are not as great sounding as the more expensive models, but they get the job done. For its price, this guitar really is a sweet deal and highly recommended.
Epiphone Les Paul Express
Thanks to the rivalry of Gibson and Fender, the quality and value for money of guitars in the entry level market is getting better and better. As expected the popular Les Paul is well represented in this price range, with the Epiphone Les Paul Express being among the most popular.
This affordable electric guitar is a bare bones cost-efficient version of the Les Paul that stays true to the original design while retaining a ridiculously affordable price tag. It features a mahogany body carved into the familiar single cutaway body shape with stripped down cosmetics, an important distinction is the use of hard maple for the neck instead of mahogany, to help get the price to where the company wants it to be. Other features include dual humbuckers, 14:1 ratio die-cast tuners, and a fixed bridge with string through body design.
With the Les Paul Express, you now have a budget friendly version of the guitar that many Jimmy Page, Slash, Joe Bonamassa, Zakk Wylde and many more use.
Jackson JS12 Dinky
Back in the '80s, Jackson was the definitive metal guitar brand, known for producing premium American made shred friendly instruments made popular by many rock guitarists of the time. Even now that competition for metal guitar is stiff, Jackson still retains its special spot having a long list of metalheads as their endorsers.
Being a sub-brand of Fender, Jackson now has the same mass production technology and techniques as the other Fender brands, and as such allows Jackson guitars to produce affordable versions of their popular guitar designs. The Jackson JS12 Dinky is one such instrument, following the design of their popular Dinky "superstrat" model but utilizing more efficient and readily available materials as well as modern production methods. The body is crafted from basswood while the bolt-on neck is made from maple topped by a rosewood fretboard. This affordable version has some of the original specifications including the 25.5" Strat style scale length and 12" flat fretboard radius.
If you're looking for a shred-friendly electric guitar that will not shred your budget, then you should check out the JS12 Dinky.
Ibanez has the ability to mass produce impressive guitars that cost less than equally spec'ed guitars from other manufacturers, and their efforts keep their competitors on their toes, with the end result being more quality per dollar. The GRG121DX is the typical Ibanez, featuring great playability and sound with uncompromising cosmetics, all at a very accessible price point.
This guitar has a basswood body contoured into the familiar superstrat double cutaway shape. The bolt-on maple neck is carved into the crowd favorite slim and fast profile, offering virtually the same easy playability as their more expensive models. Ibanez also went all out with the pickups on this one, featuring high output HH dual humbucker pickup configuration that allows for tried and tested rock and metal friendly tones.
This instrument is a great steal for its price and is a safe pick if you're into rock music and not sure what to buy.
Epiphone G-400 Pro SG
The Sub $500 price range is where Epiphone really shines, the guitars that you will find here are essentially the same as the uber expensive Gibson counterparts - having the same look and feel, and a sound that comes quite close. And the best part of it is that its going to get better as they improve their mass production techniques. The G-400 Pro SG is a great example, giving you the chance to own a workhorse SG at a fraction of the cost.
Made popular by Angus Young, Tommy Iommi and Derek Trucks just to name a few, the SG is one of metal and rock's most familiar instruments. And you can thank Epiphone for making the twin horned guitar more accessible. Like the Gibson counterpart, the G-400 Pro features a mahogany body paired with a mahogany neck with rosewood fretboard. For easier playability Epiphone opted for a slim taper neck with a scale length of 24.75" and a nut width of 1.68". Two Alnico Classic Pro humbuckers provide this guitar its vintage style rock and metal friendly voice.
With the ever improving quality of affordable guitars, we get more excuses to skip the more expensive ones. Check out this affordable alternative if you're into the SG style.
The RG450DX showcases what Ibanez is very good at, that is providing quality shred machines at insanely affordable price points. This guitar is part of the company's "RG" line which is well received by experienced players and students alike, thanks mostly to its super smooth playability. The RG450DX is one of the line's more popular models because of the value that it offers.
The edgy double cutaway body of this guitar is crafted from mahogany, available in various eye catching finish colors that are normally not available from other builders. But it's not just about the looks because it comes equipped with HSH configuration pickups that will easily handle conventional guitar roles be it lead or rhythm parts. More importantly, this affordable guitar features virtually the same smooth and fast playability, made possible by the 3-piece maple Wizard III neck which makes this guitar play much like, if not better than, other more expensive models.
With its versatile tone and great playability, the RG450DX is highly recommended for future guitar heroes who want to improve their technique.
Epiphone Les Paul Standard
While the Les Paul is without a doubt an iconic instrument, the grim reality is that not everyone have the means own one, heck even if you can afford one - the cost will be hard to justify. Thankfully, Epiphone comes to the rescue with its affordable line of Les Paul guitars, one of which is the Epiphone Les Paul Standard, which we see as a respectable and affordable alternative.
This guitar is every bit a Les Paul as the more expensive models, featuring a single-cutaway mahogany body topped by carved maple. And because of improvement in quality and consistency, the Les Paul Standard is finished beautifully in various colors, including the most sought after "goldtop" style finish. It follows traditional specs including the 24.75" scale mahogany neck, 12" radius rosewood fretboard and 1.68" nut width. Two hot-output humbucker pickups with chrome covers provide this guitar its distinctly LP tones that will not disappoint
The Epiphone Les Paul Standard is a great guitar for the money, you will be pleasantly surprised at how vastly improved the build quality of the company is compared to a few years back.
Schecter Stealth C-1
From its humble beginnings of producing replacement parts for Fender and Gibson, Schecter Guitar Research has grown into a mass producing giant. Their guitars have been used by big name artists like Mark Knopfler and Ritchie Blackmore, and continue to grow in popularity, especially in the rock and metal arena. Although they started off with expensive custom built models, Schecter now offers a number of reasonably priced shred friendly electric guitars.
The Stealth C-1 offers boutique-like quality at a more modest price having a slimmer arched mahogany body and a thin mahogany set-in neck - features that are normally not found at the sub $500 price range. Its unique set-in neck design allows for a smooth heel carve that makes accessing the upper frets easy. On top of its sleek look and playability, Schecter equipped the guitar with SuperRock II humbucker pickups that can be split to provide single coil sounds. This allows for a wide range of tones that will work with any type of music.
Although the Stealth C-1 almost hits the price ceiling of this list, you can be sure that you are getting more than your money's worth.
PRS SE Santana Standard
The SE Standard Series is PRS' recently released entry level line, featuring instruments that are even more affordable than their SE line. Since the PRS Santana helped the company build their reputation when they were starting, it is only fitting they came out with an SE Standard version this signature guitar.
This guitar is designed to be affordable without compromising the brand's quality standards, giving beginners and cash strapped players the chance to own a real PRS Santana guitar for less than $500. As expected, the company stripped it down to the essentials, removing the fancy maple top and finish options of the original while still retaining the same arched double cutaway shape. Thankfully, the set neck design is retained but the neck itself is shorter with a 24.5" scale length, making it even more ideal for students and beginners.
Finally, the PRS SE Standard Santana comes with PRS designed 245 humbuckers that reproduce the sweet and smooth tone that was popularized by Carlos Santana. This guitar is a true standout entry in this price bracket.
Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster '60s
If familiar playability and versatility is what your looking for, then the Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster '60s is your best bet. It is a great budget friendly reproduction of Stratocasters from the '60s, complete with similar look, feel and tone.
Like the acclaimed US made version, this Strat follows the tried and true formula of having an alder body and bolt-on maple neck. It follows the specs of the original, having a scale length 25.5" and 1.65" nut width, and it has three single coil pickups that follow the original's versatile SSS pickup configuration. Reviews are consistent in saying that this affordable Strat exceeds what you'd expect from an instrument of its price point, even the slightly hotter pickups have the bluesy grit that original vintage specimens have.
Finally, you can have this dependable and versatile axe for just under $380, giving you enough change to get accessories, or maybe a good pickup upgrade. The Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster '60s is highly recommended if you're looking for a Strat in this price range.
Thank you to Sweetwater for their sponsorship and providing the full specifications for the guitars above where possible.
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