You get what you pay for. But not always.
Generally, paying more for a bass guitar gets you better quality.
But sadly, there are many exceptions to this rule.
And you want to make sure to avoid those.
So how much is a bass guitar usually?
And which ones give you more for your money, and are not overhyped instruments that underperform their price level?
Keep reading to find out. We will cover everything you need to know about buying a bass guitar, from what you can expect to pay to what you can expect to get for your money at various price levels.
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How Much Is A Bass Guitar?
Like any other instrument, you can find bass guitars in various price ranges. Budget bass guitars typically cost around $100 to $200. Better and more popular basses made by established brands usually cost nearly twice as much.
Boutique bass guitars, generally favored by professionals, rarely feature a price tag under $700 to $1,000. The price of a bass guitar often reflects its quality, but rare exceptions exist in virtually all price-based categories.
It is possible to find a good-sounding, well-made bass under $150. The opposite can also be true. Dozens of extremely expensive basses are as popular as they are pricey, simply because a big brand did a good job marketing them. But they’re not actually worth the money.
How I Can Help
The first bass guitar I ever purchased was a black & white Behringer. I bought it from a friend for roughly $100, although he swore he paid at least twice as much for it.
Even before I upgraded to “real” bass guitars some years later, I knew this was little more than a plank with strings and bolts. It underperformed in every aspect, despite being relatively well-maintained.
I saved pocket money for several years and finally bought a modified 5-string Ibanez Gio for about $300. It’s difficult to put into words just how different this bass was from the old beat-up Behringer.
It wasn’t long before I found myself in a professional tribute band covering Iron Maiden, Slayer, and Megadeth. Enthused by my new bandmates, I doubled down and bought my first boutique bass: a fretless 5-string Warwick Corvette.
This investment cost me about $750 with shipping and setup, but this godly instrument made me never touch another bass again. It was a very different type of bass guitar, but it changed how I play. There is a big difference between active vs passive bass pickups.
Long story short, I own and have purchased a range of basses (of varying quality) and want to help you understand what you should expect depending on your budget. So let’s start.
Budget Basses (Under $200) And Why Get One
Everyone has to start somewhere, and owning a budget bass guitar will give you all the tools you need to practice. And even perform live,if you’re bold enough and have the right gear.
It’s important to understand that budget basses are designed with everyone in mind, meaning that they’re all playable and functional, for the most part.
Sadly, that’s about it. Budget bass guitars won’t give you an inspiring sound, remain in tune long enough for you to finish a set, or survive in the trunk, if you’re on the road.
The majority of basses under $200 are made by brands you never heard of, and you shouldn’t be surprised if they sell TVs, gardening shears, and toys as well.
So, what should you do with a budget bass? Like everyone else, you should use it as a learning tool, and then sell it when you’ve learned the basics. I sold mine for a better amp right after I bought the Gio.
Low-Mid Price Bass Guitars ($200 – $400)
This is a sub-category of budget basses that you could actually take on a trip or bring into a recording studio without getting expelled by the producer.
The low-mid price range covers basses above $200 and under $400. It’s where you’ll find quite a few “leftovers” from some of the best bass guitar brands, such as Music Man or Ibanez.
For example, Sterling’s Sub Ray 4 is among the handful of decent-quality bass guitars made of maple and basswood that costs merely $300. Its hardware isn’t perfect, and it goes out of tune every now and then. However, it sounds amazing for the price and is surprisingly durable.
Another awesome example of a good low-mid-tier bass is my Ibanez Gio. I can vouch for its outstanding playability and punchy tone. The fact that it features active EMGs makes it at least ten times more versatile than any budget bass.
Mid-Priced Basses ($400 – $800)
If you thoroughly enjoy playing your bass, you’ll eventually get bored with your budget Ibanez, Squier, or Music Man. The basses I mentioned are great for the buck, but they won’t give you the power, tonal clarity, and reliability you need on a live stage or in a recording studio.
There are several things that make a bass guitar with a price tag of $400 to 800 incomparably better than basses that cost half as much.
From superb tonewoods and more advanced assembling techniques to proprietary laser-cutting software and tricks of the trade established brands skillfully hide, these basses sound, perform, look, feel, and play better.
Picking up the fretless Warwick after playing the Gio for several years felt almost the same as jumping into the Gio from the Behringer. It felt like a quantum leap, almost as if my skills went through the roof the moment I started playing this guitar.
The same can be said about Jackson’s X Series CBXNT, Fender’s Mustang 90, or Schecter’s CV 4. These basses are made of tonewoods that actually synergize with one another, creating a well-balanced yet powerful soundstage.
And then there’s superior-quality hardware that keeps the bass in tune for longer periods and advanced pickup controls that allow you to fine-tune every aspect of the instrument.
Boutique Bass Guitars ($800 And Above)
For simplicity’s sake, let’s call all basses above $800 “boutique” bass guitars, even though there are at least a dozen sub-categories before we reach collector-level instruments that cost well above $10,000.
Anyone willing to pay over $800 for an instrument either has a good salary or needs a professional-quality instrument for gigs that bring bread to the table.
Basses such as the Ibanez Iron Label, Charvel’s San Dimas, Fender’s Jaguar, or Hagstorm’s Viking B are made from the rarest tonewoods by professionals who boast decades of industry experience.
They’re often powered by custom-made magnets and equipped with a variety of unique features that give you the edge you need to achieve a completely exquisite sound.
On a side note, there is a completely separate market for”custom” basses. You can commission a company to build you an instrument after your custom specs. But even if you ordered a relatively ordinary bass guitar, the price will often be very high, because it would be a one-of-a-kind instrument.
How Much Does A Bass Guitar Cost: Final Thoughts
How much a bass guitar costs depends on its quality level. But that is not always true. Some popular models are popular because the brand does a lot of marketing, not because they outperform their price level. In fact, many cost more than they should.
Then there is the other scenario: bass guitars that perform far better than their price would suggest. These are the basses you want to get, at any price level. We named a few of them n the article and we have a few more in our post on the best bass guitars here.