The market is flooded with affordable electric guitars.
You might think it’s best to avoid all of the cheap ones, but that’s not necessarily the case.
While most budget models won’t satisfy a professional, some of them are amazing values and more than enough for a beginning or intermediate guitarist.
That’s why we compiled a list of the best electric guitars for the money.
These are not the best period, but the best values. They range in price from dirt cheap to pretty expensive, but not prohibitively so.
Keep reading for help in figuring out which electric guitar is best for your needs and budget.
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Electric Guitars Compared
- 2 Top Electric Guitars Reviewed
- 2.1 Best All-Around Electric Guitar: Ibanez Premium AZ47P1QM
- 2.2 Best Beginner Electric Guitar: Yamaha Pacifica PAC012
- 2.3 Best Cheap Electric Guitar: Squier Bullet Stratocaster HSS HT
- 2.4 Best Electric Guitar For Small Hands: Squier Mini Stratocaster
- 2.5 Best Electric Guitar Under $1200: Sterling (By Music Man) John Petrucci Majesty MAJ100
- 2.6 Best Electric Guitar Under $600: ESP LTD Eclipse EC-256
- 2.7 Best Electric Guitar Under $400: Jackson Dinky JS32
- 3 Electric Guitar Buying Guide
- 4 Top Electric Guitars: Common Questions
- 4.1 How much should I spend on an electric guitar?
- 4.2 Are electric guitars good for beginners?
- 4.3 What brand of electric guitar is the easiest to play?
- 4.4 Can I play electric guitar without amp?
- 4.5 What is easier to play Telecaster or Stratocaster?
- 4.6 Can I plug headphones directly into my electric guitar?
- 5 Best Electric Guitar For The Money: Final Thoughts
Best Electric Guitars Compared
Top Electric Guitars Reviewed
The following electric guitars are all great for their price, but obviously the budget models won’t quite give you the sound and creative freedom that the more expensive models do. If you’re just starting out, that’s not generally an issue, though.
Best All-Around Electric Guitar: Ibanez Premium AZ47P1QM
- Impeccable build quality
- Great design that blends vintage and modern elements
- Incredible versatile tone from multiple pickup combinations
- Gotoh T1502 tremolo bridge keeps tuning stability even with heavier use
- It's expensive (but it's worth every penny)
Among all the big guitar brands these days, Japanese guitar maker Ibanez holds its place as one of the best players in the game. All of their guitar series are great deals for the price, from the cheapest up to the professional level.
It’s hard to say which one of their guitars is objectively “the best,” but we settled on the AZ47P1QM from Ibanez’s AZ series, which belongs to their critically acclaimed Premium line. This guitar is the ultimate weapon for virtuoso players of every genre.
The instrument has that classic “Super-Strat” body shape for which Ibanez is well-known. It’s a guitar designed with some modern principles in mind, but its aesthetics reflect on some vintage vibes and it’s capable of delivering some old school tones, too.
The body is made out of basswood and features a wonderful quilted maple top. The neck, which forms a bolt-on connection with the body, is completely made out of roasted maple and features 24 stainless steel jumbo frets with a fretboard radius of 12 inches (305 mm).
The neck profile is Ibanez’s special AZ Oval “C” which changes as you move to higher frets. One of the coolest things here is the adaptation of the body right where it meets the neck, with a very comfortable and ergonomic indent.
This guitar comes with a DiMarzio AirNorton humbucker in the bridge position, a DiMarzio True Velvet single coil in the middle position and a DiMarzio The Tone Zone humbucker in the neck position. They are paired with a standard 5-way switch and master volume and tone controls.
It has a Gotoh T1502 tremolo bridge with steel saddles and a die-cast zinc tremolo block. Snap in connectors make it easy to load a tremolo arm and the bridge delivers a quick response.
Best Beginner Electric Guitar: Yamaha Pacifica PAC012
- Great deal for the price
- Pickup combination gives a lot of tone-shaping options
- Very reliable
- Using the tremolo bridge extensively might take it out of tune
Yamaha Corporation makes an abundance of different products, including several lines of guitars that are known for being reliable and great values. We can safely say that you can’t go wrong with any of their guitars.
Yamaha is another Japanese brand that covers everything from quality entry-level models up to prestigious and professional electric guitars. Here, we’re looking at their legendary Pacifica series and specifically the PAC012 model.
The Pacifica series is popular among beginner and intermediate players, and the Yamaha PAC012 guitar is pretty much a “standard” for this purpose.
Bearing a modified Strat body shape, the guitar comes with a pretty potent and versatile humbucker-single-single pickup configuration with a 5-way switch and controls for volume and tone. That’s more than enough to get anyone started on exploring different electric guitar tones.
The guitar also features a pretty simple design, all while retaining the qualities of some more expensive models. The body is made out of Agathis, while the maple neck rocks a rosewood fretboard with 22 medium-jumbo frets, with the classic Stratocaster scale length of 25.5 inches.
It also includes a standard Fender-style tremolo bridge, giving you an option to work on these skills as well. It doesn’t stay in tune as well as more expensive models though, so heavy tremolo use will have you retuning a lot more than you might like.
Just like all Yamaha products, the Pacifica PAC012 is one of the best deals for the price. What’s especially nice is that it’s very reliable and can even serve as a gigging guitar when you reach an advanced stage, if you don’t feel like taking more expensive gear on the road.
Read our full Yamaha Pacifica review for more on this series of guitar.
Best Cheap Electric Guitar: Squier Bullet Stratocaster HSS HT
- Pretty reliable and stays in tune
- Versatile choice of tones
- Classic Fender Stratocaster design
- Cheap and outperforms its price range
- Pickups could be a bit better, but you can't expect that for the price
When it comes to cheap, but great for the low price, no electric guitar beats Squier’s legendary Bullet Stratocaster series. What’s more, you can even get an awesome and versatile HSS version that takes the classic Strat design to a whole new level.
Meanwhile, the price is ridiculously low, at least for what you get. In fact, you’ll even see experienced guitar players using Squier Strats for live shows, though usually with upgraded pickups.
If you’re a beginner looking for something that doesn’t cost a lot, will serve the purpose, and still work well, Squier’s Bullet Strats are what you’ll want to look into.
This guitar has a basswood body and a standard maple neck, combined with a standard bolt-on joint. The neck is fitted with an Indian laurel fretboard that features the standard number of 21 medium-jumbo frets.
This is all accompanied by a standard Fender-style hard-tail bridge with individual saddles, although the guitar can also come with a tremolo bridge, which is a more traditional choice for this guitar.
Though there are only two tone controls and one master volume, followed by a 5-way selector switch, the guitar is fitted with one humbucker in the bridge position, along with the standard single-coil pickups in the middle and neck positions.
Just like with the Yamaha Pacifica mentioned above, you can get some pretty interesting sonic combinations here. The pickups are decent enough to work well for any genre you might want to play as a beginner.
But if you’re planning on doing something more with it in your advanced stages of playing, we’d advise you to upgrade the pickups. This goes for both the bridge pickup, the neck pickup and the middle one.
Learn all about this guitar in our detailed Squier Bullet Strat review.
Best Electric Guitar For Small Hands: Squier Mini Stratocaster
- Smaller guitar for those with smaller hands
- Decent build quality
- Lack of an additional tone control
- Small size will be a drawback for many
One of the most common issues among guitarists with smaller hands are large and uncomfortable necks. This can cause serious problems for your entire playing experience.
Luckily, there are plenty of smaller-sized electric guitars that allow a very comfortable and effective performance for those with smaller hands. Our favorite is yet another Squier guitar, the company’s Mini Strat.
It has pretty much the same design as their regular Stratocaster. There’s the standard Strat design, down to the contoured body. It is made from laminated wood, while the neck and the fretboard is the same combo as we had with the previous example – maple and Indian laurel.
Taking a closer look, there are a few important differences. The most obvious one is the size. This guitar has a significantly shorter scale length of only 22.75 inches, compared to the standard 25.5 inches on regular Strats. The fretboard radius is about the same, 9.5 inches, but it only has 20 frets, instead of the standard 21.
The guitar comes with three single-coil pickups and a regular 5-way selector switch. Another thing that’s different from a regular Squier or Fender Stratocaster is that this one only has one tone and one volume control.
This means less tone-shaping diversity, but it would be a bit tricky to fit in more controls, given the smaller body size. This is the ideal new electric guitar for smaller players.
Best Electric Guitar Under $1200: Sterling (By Music Man) John Petrucci Majesty MAJ100
- Great value for the price
- Amazing tone
- Very ergonomic and easy to play
- It could use coil-spit or coil-tap features at this price level
The market is flooded with either super expensive or super cheap guitars, with far fewer great options in between. Most decently-priced guitars that are not entry-level instruments end up being a bit disappointing.
Music Man’s subsidiary Sterling changed that. They make some pretty awesome pro-level guitars with somewhat stripped-down features and a few other changes, that drop the prices considerably.
A great example is the Sterling version of Music Man’s John Petrucci Majesty, which sells for just over $1,000. We reviewed it in detail here.
Based on Music Man’s flagship Majesty model, this Sterling version brings the same wonderful ergonomic and stylish body shape. Although it has two standard unevenly-sized cutaways, they meet the neck at almost the same spot.
Forming a set-in formation, the joint of the neck and the body combine in a very slick heel, allowing you to access those higher frets as if you were playing anywhere else on the neck.
The body is made out of basswood, while the neck is a 3-piece mahogany one, equipped with a rosewood fingerboard. The total scale length is 25.5 inches with 24 frets and a 16-inch fretboard radius, making it a real virtuoso machine.
One of the most notable features is that the strings go in a straight line from tuners and all the way to the instrument’s tremolo bridge. This ensures it stays in tune much longer, even with heavy tremolo use.
This is all followed by the guitar’s two impeccable Music Man humbucker pickups and a standard 3-way selector switch. The only thing we miss on this guitar is the option for coil-splitting or coil-tapping. However, it does come with a clean 12 dB boost feature, which sounds great in combination with some tube amps.
Best Electric Guitar Under $600: ESP LTD Eclipse EC-256
- Outperforms its price range
- Coil-tap control
- Great-looking and ergonomic design
- Extremely versatile
- The guitar could use a tremolo bridge, but it's still not much of a downside
For many years now, ESP’s subsidiary LTD has been making some surprisingly awesome instruments at many different price levels. If you’re on a budget and trying to stay below the $500 mark, ESP has some incredible options, most notably the EC-256. Read our full review here.
This guitar has a standard single-cutaway, the Gibson Les Paul body shape, with a few important modifications. These mods make it superior to the Epiphone Les Paul, and they’re not just skin deep.
Aside from having a sharper-looking cutaway, the instrument features a comfortable indent on the backside of the cutaway, making it much more comfortable when playing the higher frets.
Add to this the amazing “Thin U” neck profile, which makes this a potent tool for lead sections. It still has that classic Les Paul combo of mahogany body with a mahogany neck.
The fretboard, however, is made out of jatoba and features 22 frets. The flag inlays add to the instrument’s aesthetically-pleasing design, along with the amazing-looking binding on the guitar’s front side.
As far as the electronics go, it has two humbuckers: the LH-150N in the neck position and the LH-150B in the bridge pickup position.
The control layout includes individual volume controls for each pickup, one master tone control, as well as a 3-way switch. This is all topped off by a very useful push and pull coil tapping feature on the tone knob, giving you some brighter tones to play with. This makes it great for any playing style.
Finally, the instrument comes with a standard Tune-o-Matic bridge and a stop-bar tailpiece. Although this might not be as exciting as a tremolo, considering this is a guitar intended for lead playing, it ensures things stay stable and simple.
Best Electric Guitar Under $400: Jackson Dinky JS32
- A great combination of low price and great features
- Comes with Jackson's licensed Floyd Rose tremolo bridge and a locking nut
- Great build quality with additional ergonomic features
- Pretty good tone
- Pickups are average, but good for the price
- Not very versatile (primarily meant for heavy music)
Diving below the $400 mark, it is a no-brainer that we recommend one of the now legendary “Dinky” guitars from Jackson: the JS32 model. This one has become a staple among lead guitar players in hard rock and metal music, although the guitar can find its place in some other genres as well.
There are a few things that make this guitar stand out in its particular price category. First, it has an arched top, which is unusual for such an inexpensive instrument. The body’s main material is poplar, while the neck is maple with graphite reinforcement, ensuring stability and durability in the long run.
Another surprising thing about this instrument is the compound radius of its amaranth fretboard. It goes from 12 inches in the lower fret areas up to 16 inches in the higher fret areas.
It has a 25.5-inch scale length and also comes with Jackson’s licensed Floyd Rose tremolo bridge. What’s more, the instrument has a locking nut, ensuring tuning stability even with heavy whammy bar use.
The guitar is equipped with two Jackson humbuckers, with both the bridge pickup and the neck pickup featuring higher output. With a 3-way pickup selector and standard tone and volume knobs, you get the tone-shaping features.
All in all, the qualities of the Dinky easily outperform the guitar’s price range. There’s little chance you’ll find a better deal for this price. Jackson’s JS32 is easily one of the finest budget “Super-Strat” guitars on the market these days, and those that are at the same level all cost more.
Learn more in our full Jackson J32 Dinky review.
Electric Guitar Buying Guide
When buying a new, or your first, electric guitar, there are a number of features you need to take into consideration, to ensure you get the right instrument for your needs.
True, you have a huge array of choices these days, and it’s not that hard to find a good guitar, even in the lower price categories. But even if you’re talking about one of the best electric guitars, that doesn’t mean it will fit your particular needs.
That’s why it’s important to get acquainted with the following features and characteristics, so you know which will work or not for your specific needs.
One of the basic things to consider is the choice of tonewood. Although their actual impact on the tone is always open for debate, picking the right material for your goals is important.
The most common materials on the best electric guitars are ash, alder, mahogany, basswood, and maple. Mahogany is pretty balanced and somewhat warm. Alder is considered the most neutral. Ash is a bit brighter, while basswood is up for debate, since it produces different effects in different settings.
As for maple, you don’t often see it as the main body material. It’s usually used as a body top (like on Gibsons) or in combination with poplar for hollow-body and semi hollow-body electric guitars. One of the main things about maple is that it adds more brightness than most other tonewoods.
Type Of Body
Most modern electric guitars solid-body models. But hollow-body and semi hollow-body instruments are also quite common.
Solid-body guitars are used for any genre, while hollow-body guitars are predominantly jazz and blues-oriented. Semi hollow-body and “Thinline” guitars are used in pretty much anything other than genres where you need high-gain distortion and heavy riffing.
Another thing to consider is the body shape that suits your needs. While a huge part of it comes down to aesthetic preferences, you should also see what fits your needs the best.
Double-cutaway guitars are usually more comfortable in the higher frets, although many modern single-cutaway designs have some ergonomic additions to increase the comfort level.
Body And Neck Joint
Body and neck joints can either be set-in, bolt-on, or neck-through. Bolt-on necks are generally common with cheaper guitars, although many high-end ones have them as well, but with a slightly different design.
Set-in necks are glued to the body and may allow a bit more comfort in higher frets, especially if there’s a more ergonomic design involved.
Neck-through designs are a trait of pro-level expensive instruments and feature a neck construction that goes through the entire length of the body, basically serving as the body’s core. The neck-through is sturdy and durable, while also adding more sustain. However, these guitars are incredibly expensive and are usually tricky to repair.
Neck And Fretboard
Necks are usually made from mahogany or maple. Due to its properties, mahogany serves well for medium-thick and thick neck profiles, while maple is better for slimmer necks.
Some mid to high-priced guitars have maple necks with maple fretboards, though rosewood or ebony fretboards are also common. Other materials are also used for necks and fretboards, and it’s not uncommon to find maple in combination with walnut these days.
Pickups And Controls
Pickups generate the tone from the string vibration. Traditional pickup formations are two humbuckers or three single-coils. It’s also pretty common to see guitars with two single-coils or one humbucker with two single-coils.
Less common combinations include one humbucker and one single-coil, two single-coils, or two humbuckers with one single-coil in between. In these mixed combinations, humbuckers are almost exclusively placed in the bridge position. There are also some rare examples with humbuckers placed in all three positions.
The main sonic characteristic of single-coils includes sharp attack and that “jangly” brightness. When it comes to humbuckers, they have a darker, yet easily controlled tone.
Humbuckers usually work better for distorted tones, especially for heavy riffs, giving them that mid-heavy edge and tightness. Meanwhile, single-coils are pretty common in funk and country and many guitarists of these genres just cannot imagine playing without them.
At the end of the day, the choice comes down to what you prefer. Just bear in mind that humbuckers will sometimes sound too rigid or dull in clean settings, while single-coils might get too fuzzy with your distortion pedal on.
Some guitars with humbuckers have coil tap or coil split features that effectively change them to single coil pickups, giving them much more versatility. Along with the push pull tone knobs and volume knobs, this gives you a ton of tone shaping options.
Top Electric Guitars: Common Questions
The following are some of the most common questions we get asked when it comes to choosing and buying the best electric guitar for your money.
How much should I spend on an electric guitar?
This is difficult to answer, since it really depends on a lot of different factors. In general, we’d say you’ll want to spend at least $200. And you probably won’t have to go above $500. Many of the best electric guitars on our list are priced inside this range.
Are electric guitars good for beginners?
Starting out on a great electric guitar is actually easier than an acoustic guitar in many ways. The neck is thinner and easier to navigate and the strings are usually easier to press, too.
They strings have a lower action, meaning they sit closer to the fretboard. This makes it easier to press down on them. On the other hand, e-guitars cost more and weigh a lot more too.
What brand of electric guitar is the easiest to play?
Some brands are famous for making beginning solid body electric guitars. Their instruments are some of the best electric guitars for beginners, because they are generally easy to play and they sell for a low price.
Some of these brands are Squier, which makes budget versions of Fender guitars, like the Stratocaster and Epiphone, which make budget versions of Gibson guitars, like the Les Paul.
Yamaha also has several great beginner guitars. Another brand that I personally love is ESP’s budget subsidiary LTD. I own the ESP LTD Eclipse EC-256 myself (it is featured in this list of the best electric guitars).
Basically, LTD makes stripped down versions of the amazing ESP guitars and those are themselves improved versions of the famous shapes, like the Gibson Les Paul Studio.
They do not have any Fender versions, but if you want an improved Fender American Performer Stratocaster, there are plenty of other brands that make super strat style guitars, like Ibanez or Schecter (no, they don’t only make metal guitars).
But really, most brands are fairly similar in terms of playability and the diff
Can I play electric guitar without amp?
Yes, you can play an electric guitar without an amp. But it will not sound very loud and the sound won’t carry well. It can be a great way to practice without making your neighbors hate you though.
What is easier to play Telecaster or Stratocaster?
There is not a huge difference here, but I do find the Stratocaster necks easier to handle. Strat necks are usually C-shape. This is actually the most common neck profile on electric guitars, so it is the one most people are used to.
Telecaster necks have a u shape, which makes them thicker. The additional thickness can make it a bit harder to hold chords and bend strings, especially for beginners.
Can I plug headphones directly into my electric guitar?
No. Even if you get an adapter to allow the headphones to fit, you still would not hear anything. The sound from the guitar needs to be amplified, before you can hear it through your headphones.
Your options are to plug your headphones into your amplifier, or to get a headphone adapter that has a built in amplifier. The latter is more convenient if you don’t already have an amp, but plugging into an amp should give you better sound quality, depending on the amp in question.
Best Electric Guitar For The Money: Final Thoughts
If you are just starting out, or buying an electric guitar for a child who is just beginning, you probably won’t want to spend a ton of money right off the bat. After all, you (or your child) might not enjoy playing the guitar and decide to give it up after a few months. Then you’ve wasted money on an instrument that never gets used.
It’s for that reason that we included a number of budget options on this list, instead of packing it with our dream guitars. We can’t afford those anyway. The best electric guitars above are ones that deliver great sound and are highly playable, despite selling for great prices. Even the most expensive guitar we listed costs far less than most professional level instruments.
We recommend getting the best guitar you can afford from the list above, taking into account your other needs. For example, if you play only metal, go for one with humbucker pickups. If you play many genres, but primarily hard rock or metal, go for one that has at least one humbucker in its arsenal.