When you’re thinking of your dream guitar it might seem like a complete and utter fantasy that you’d ever be able to afford it.
American-built Fenders are four-figure items, Gibson Les Pauls cost two months’ wages, the list goes on and on. But you still have a dream, and you want to be able to express yourself on an instrument you love.
This is particularly galling as a beginner, and perhaps more so as a musician who’s establishing themselves. You love to play, you love to perform, you’re good at what you do and you enjoy it.
If you’re trying to take your playing to the next level then you can feel like you’re butting up against a wall of frustration.
You want that guitar that will play perfectly, sound incredible, be your companion on your journey through the world of music.
So what can you do? How can you get that main player on a budget?
It used to be the case that cheap guitars were cheap for a reason.
Poor quality materials, bad workmanship, iffy sound; things that indie and punk musicians styled out as quirks, or that you progressed from as quickly as you could afford a ‘proper’ guitar.
This isn’t true anymore. There are so many brilliant cheap electric guitars out there, and you don’t have to compromise on anything.
We’ve got 10 of our favorites below for you to check out, and some frequently asked questions that crop up repeatedly on this topic. Don’t worry, your dream instrument is out there and we will help you to find it!
OUR TOP PICK
OUR TOP PICK
Let’s kick things off with a classic. Squier is Fender’s low-cost brand, and the Affinity series are designed for players just starting out. However, don’t write them off if you’re a more advanced player too.
At a seriously attractive price point, you get a classic guitar that is rock solid and plays well. They look the part, sound great, and are built to last.
If you want a Strat but you don’t want to break the bank, take a look at the Affinity series.
- Fender-assured quality - Squier is an in-house manufacturer of Fender designs, so they’ve got to pass a Fender quality assurance test. They’re great guitars.
- Feels great, sounds great - the same neck profile and body shape as a regular Strat (albeit with a slightly thinner and lighter body) plus solid pickups make the Affinity Stratocaster a quality choice for a cheap guitar.
- Great range of colors - image matters too, and the Affinity series Stratocaster comes in a selection of classic Fender colorways.
- Lightweight - the Affinity Stratocaster doesn’t have the heft of its more expensive stablemates, but that isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. Some players prefer the slinkier body size.
As an entry into the world of the Les Paul, this is a phenomenally priced guitar that packs a real punch.
Okay, it’s a far cry from the flame maple and gold adornments of the top-end Gibsons that it shares a name with, but this is a workhorse instrument that plays beautifully and delivers punchy P90-style tone in buckets.
Punky, rocking, and straightforward, this is an instrument for a player who wants to get down to business.
- Simplicity personified - one volume, one tone, a three-way pickup selector and you’re ready to go.
- Epiphone ceramic magnet pickups - great-sounding pickups that are surprisingly versatile.
- Great Les Paul feels - classic neck profile and chunky solid body give this guitar the unmistakable feel of a Les Paul.
- Basic set-up - no control over intonation and simplified volume/tone arrangement might be off putting for some players.
A semi-hollow-body electric guitar from a known manufacturer at a decent price?
If that’s what you’re crying out for, the Ibanez AS53 is the perfect guitar for you.
Built as part of Ibanez’s Artcore range, the AS53 is billed as a jazz guitar and is very competent in that arena, but is also versatile and can be used in a whole range of genres from country to rock and pop.
With a Sapele body, glued-in neck, and two Ibanez humbuckers, this is a lot of guitar at a very, very reasonable price.
- Semi-hollow - don’t let a budget keep you from your semi-hollow dreams. The Ibanez AS53 is a great guitar no matter the price point, and it just so happens to be shockingly affordable.
- Great build quality - you get a glued-in neck, nicely crafted semi-hollow body, and quality Ibanez hardware, which come together in a confidence-inspiring package.
- Sounds fantastic - this guitar is versatile and sounds great, tackling different genres and playing styles with ease.
- Not the best for metal - sure, you can crank up the gain and go for it, but if you’re looking for a low-cost metal guitar you probably wouldn’t be thinking a semi-hollow is your best choice, and you’d be right.
If you do happen to be a metalhead who doesn’t want to spend your rent on a guitar, you can do much, much worse than the Cort X100.
Aggressive styling, top-notch build quality, and great hardware make this guitar a budget shred machine.
Two high-output humbuckers, a tremolo bridge, and a fast neck made accessible by deep cutaways take you straight to metal heaven.
- Made for metal - one of the best metal guitars in its price bracket, the Cort X100 has everything you need to lay down big riffs and ripping solos.
- Big sound - two high-output humbuckers give you the power for driving big distorted sounds.
- Aggressive styling - the Cort X100 doesn’t just sound great; it looks the part too.
- Unsubtle - all the things that make this guitar great for some players will be the same things that turn others off completely. It’s not made for subtlety, it’s built to rock.
Heading back to Squier for another budget classic, this time the much-loved Telecaster.
At the backbone of rock and pop music of all shapes and sizes for the last 70 years, the Telecaster sound suits everything from country to alternative rock.
This guitar delivers everything you would expect from a Telecaster in a competitively priced package.
- Classic Fender style - the Telecaster is one of the best-known guitars in the world, and you can have one in your hands at a bargain price.
- Great build quality - it’s not a four-figure Fender, but it’s built to last.
- Sounds fantastic - all the snap and twang you would expect from a Telecaster is right at your fingertips.
- Slightly unimpressive pickups - they give you the Telecaster sound, but there are a lot of better-sounding pickups on the market. However, you can replace them easily and then you’ve got a personalized Telecaster for a really good price.
The Yamaha Pacifica is an under-appreciated range of Strat-style guitars that offer a new take on that classic configuration.
They range from entry-level to more expensive offerings, and the PAC012 is the entry-level offering.
With a bridge humbucker and two single-coil pickups, you get a huge tonal range out of this guitar.
It’s suitable for everything from jazz to hard rock and plays like a dream.
- Perfect for beginners - Yamaha build quality and solid electronics are why the Pacifica is one of the most common beginner guitars worldwide.
- Great hardware - the floating tremolo and solid tuners give the Pacifica stable tuning and awesome playability.
- Excellent pickups - the pickups on the Yamaha Pacifica are some of the best you’ll find on an entry-level guitar.
- Strat but not - some people might be put off because it’s so close to a Stratocaster but not one, but that doesn’t mean it’s some cheap ripoff! The Pacifica is a great instrument on its own terms.
If you want metal on a budget, the Jackson Dinky JS22 Archtop is a frankly ridiculous instrument for the price.
With a comfortable ergonomic body shape that you really don’t expect to see at this price point, plus fantastic high-output Jackson humbuckers, this guitar is a total shred machine and is almost too good to be true.
- Serious metal pedigree - Jackson are one of the biggest names in high-performance metal guitars, and the Dinky series is everything you would expect from Jackson.
- Incredible sound - this guitar shouldn’t sound as good as this at this price point. It just shouldn’t, it doesn’t make sense.
- Beautifully shaped body - an archtop electric guitar at an entry-level price? Once again, this is almost unbelievable.
- Metalheads only need apply - well, not necessarily, but the styling and vibe of this guitar is definitely metal through and through.
Put simply, it’s like an SG, but it’s not an SG, and it’s available at a lower price than any SG out there.
If you want some Gibson dual-humbucker tone but don’t want to break the bank, the Ibanez AX120 is a brilliant guitar. Ibanez knows how to make a reliable guitar that plays and sounds great, and the AX120 is no exception.
It’s got a cool look and a versatile sound that works for everything from jazz to pop punk and hard rock, and is definitely worth your consideration.
- Great, versatile tone - Ibanez’ Classic Elite humbuckers are perfect for a huge range of musical styles.
- Brilliant build quality - Ibanez guitars are built to last, even at this entry-level price point.
- Stylish - as a funky twist on the SG, the AX120 nods to a rock legend while carving out its own niche.
- Double humbuckers - if you’re looking for a cheap single-coil guitar, this isn’t the one for you!
This is quite the guitar. The Starcaster was one of the classic lost Fender designs until it was resurrected in 2013, with Squier versions following soon after; an offset waist dual humbucker semi-hollow beauty of an instrument.
Having suffered in the public’s eyes for being too far from the single-coil, solid-body reputation of Fender, the Starcaster has enjoyed a well-deserved revival due to its amazing sound, great playability, and ravishing good looks.
Thanks to the Squier Affinity Series, you can now own one at a shockingly good price!
- Vintage style - the Startcaster is a beautiful guitar, and the Squier Affinity version makes no compromises on that.
- Classic sound - two vintage-style humbuckers produce a sound that’s perfect for retro rock, blues, jazz, country, or funk. It can turn its hand to almost anything.
- Great build quality - you don’t see many guitars at this price point that are quite so nicely made, particularly semi-hollows. The Starcaster has the fit and finish of a much more expensive instrument.
- Slightly more expensive - the Starcaster is a little more expensive than some of the other options on this list, but it’s an easy guitar to fall in love with and justifies its price.
Wait, didn’t we already review this one? Not quite. As well as offering one of the best budget six-string metal guitars, Jackson also provides the Dinky JS22 in a seven-string version.
This means you get the same awesome power, comfortable body shape, and serious Jackson quality, but with that added bottom string for serious riffing and fat chords.
If you’re looking for a seven-string at a fantastic price, your search is over.
- Killer looks - designed for metal, but also for playability, the JS22-7 is a beauty of a guitar.
- Huge sound - those Jackson pickups are high-output tone demons that give you tight, focused lows and a shredding upper register.
- Seven strings - for this price, a seven-string guitar of this quality is pretty much a no-brainer. It’s almost an impulse purchase, and it’s so good!
- Not for everyone - a seven-string is something that many players wouldn’t consider, and together with the styling this can feel like a bit of a metalheads-only zone. However, when you consider the possibilities of an extra string in genres like pop and jazz, you might find your mind changing.
Brilliant Cheap Electric Guitars - FAQ's
We’ve put together some of the most frequently asked questions that people ask when shopping for a cheap electric guitar. There are a whole range of lower-priced guitars in the market, so here are some of the most important things to look out for.
Can I Get A Cheap Guitar That Suits My Style?
Musically and visually, you want a guitar that’s right for you and the music you play.
Happily, there are options out there to suit all players within the lower end of the price spectrum, so don’t feel constricted and remember, sometimes looks can be deceiving; you might find that the Jackson Dinky seven-string is your perfect jazz axe, or that Ibanez semi-hollow gives you the big rock sound you’re looking for.
Do All Cheap Guitars Have Bad Pickups?
If you’re looking for fat humbuckers or crystal-clear single-coils, there’s a cheap electric guitar out there for you.
Most of the cheaper electric guitars use pickups designed in-house, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad at all. Ibanez’ own-brand pickups are fantastic, as are those made by Jackson.
Surprisingly, Epiphone and Squier pickups are often considered to be lower in quality than a lot of other guitar manufacturers, but they’re still good and give you the right sonic flavor for the instrument.
One great thing about buying a cheaper guitar is that as long as you like how it plays, you can the pickups at a later date and end up with a guitar that’s personalized to you for a really reasonable price.
What About All These Other Brands?
It used to be the case that you could only buy guitars at this sort of price point that were knock-offs of more established brands.
Nowadays, you’ll find that almost all of the big brands either have an in-house budget, such as Squier and Epiphone, or simply have a range of lower-priced instruments under their main branding, as in the case of Jackson and Ibanez.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that non-brand alternatives are bad, but there’s a reason millions of players trust these established names.
Don’t let that stop you from shopping around for a bargain, but take a serious look at reviews before you buy. You won’t be able to try a lot of the unfamiliar brands’ guitars in stores, so you’ll be going in relatively blind.
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