12 Best Electric Guitars Under $500

Most people assume that the quality will be poor when buying a cheap guitar. Best electric guitars under $500? Does such a thing exist?

Luckily, there are many being produced today that are of wonderful quality for under 500. And there is normally something for everyone in this price range.

A guitar must have the right characteristics to fit each unique individual. So to help with the daunting search of finding the right one, we have narrowed down the best electric guitar! You will find that we have broken them down into three categories:

  • Top Picks.
  • Budget Choices.
  • Bundle Options.

Best Electric Guitars: Top Picks

Our top pick was the Squier Classic Vibe 70s Stratocaster HSS. It’s a great, well-rounded guitar with a versatile tone.

But it’s also well crafted and constructed. Great for many different music types and has that classic Stratocaster look. It’s also light and comfortable, which is great for beginners.

But there are many good guitars for many styles of music. And so we created this list to compare what’s available. Let’s begin!

Squier Classic Vibe 70s Stratocaster

Squier classic vibe 70s stratocaster guitar.

The Squier Stratocaster is a great guitar. It’s our top pick for anyone looking for an electric guitar under 500 dollars.

This guitar is closer to the top end of the budget, but it’s well worth the money. The guitar is built well and was quite light, even compared to some more expensive Fender guitars.

This made it easy to get comfortable with. And will be very beneficial to anyone just learning to hold a guitar for the first time.

It has a great neck, good hardware, and a tone that you wouldn’t expect from a guitar at this price. Squier has been making some good guitars that have even rivaled some of the Fender stuff.

I also really like the 70s headstock on the guitar, which was quite large but had that vintage look. The guitar also had vintage tuners which were good quality and worked well.

Features

  • Poplar Body.
  • 21 frets.
  • Scale Length: 25.5″.
  • Pickups: Alnico HSS.
  • Tremolo Bridge.
  • 2 year Squier Warranty.

Build Quality

First thing I noticed when playing the guitar is the great body shape and balance in my lap. It’s a Stratocaster body shape, so I’m not surprised.

There is a reason why this is the most popular shape in the world of guitars. It’s not the most attractive guitar from an aesthetics point of view.

The tuners are quite smooth when turned and feel pretty solid. They seem to hold tune well and don’t feel loose at all.

I didn’t find any intonation issues, it all seem to be calibrated well. But the retailer I purchased it from does an adjustment before it gets shipped, which is excellent!

Measuring the guitar action confirms that it’s roughly within spec. I get a measurement of around .075″ on my low E string.

This for me is comfortable enough. I suspect it will also be good for most players, including beginners. Soldering on the controls all looks pretty good and there are no signs of concern in the electronics.

Playability

The Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster has a slim C-shaped maple neck. It’s very comfortable and well-finished. I found it was easy to move around the neck without an annoying sticky finish. Access to the upper frets was easy thanks to the cutaways in the body.

Because the guitar was so light, it made it really easy to play. Either on a strap hanging from my shoulder, or sitting in the lap. Overall, I was quite happy with how well this guitar felt and played. The frets are level and the controls don’t interfere with my playing.

Sound Performance

For this guitar, I used the Vox AC30 amplifier and got some great sounds. This guitar comes with 2 single coil pickups and one humbucker, you can get all sorts of different sounds. It’s very easy to get bright single coil tones, but then switch to the humbucker and thicken things up.

First up in my test was to see what kind of clean tones I could get. With the bridge and middle pickups selected, I was surprised at just how good they sounded. The neck was bright and full. Adding in the middle pickup added that extra airiness, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Switching to the humbucker alone added some incredible snarl. It also added brightness to the sound. The added output from this pickup really gave it some bite. And the added hum canceling was great.

Adding some overdrive and gain from the amplifier got me into some great vintage rock tones.

No matter where I had it set. The nice thing about having the humbucker in the bridge is that the guitar can also do hard rock tones. It’s a very versatile guitar, which is why it’s our top pick.

Check out this video below to hear the sounds for yourself!

PROS

  • Quality construction.
  • Lots of versatility.
  • Comfortable neck.
  • Vintage looks.
  • HSS pickup configuration.
  • Light guitar.

CONS

  • More color options would be nice.

Schecter Omen Elite 6

Schecter Omen Elite 6 electric guitar.

Schecter’s new metal machine in the Omen lineup is a good value. Not only does the guitar look great, but it comes with some quality hardware. Their new pickups modeled after the Apocalypse units are a really articulate pair.

The settings from the 5-way switch provide tons of different sounds. It’s very versatile. The feel of the guitar is spot on and is inspiring. There are a couple of different bridge offerings. Plus 3 colors to choose from with some beautiful finishes.

Features

  • Mahogany body.
  • 24 jumbo frets.
  • 25.5″ scale length.
  • Pickups: Schecter Heretic HH.
  • Fixed Schecter bridge.
  • Schecter Warranty: 1 year.

Build Quality

The quality of Schecter guitars is impressive. I am always impressed by them when I sit down to play. The Omen Elite is another great model.

The shape of the body is good. I do feel like the body is just a tad too heavy, though. The balance is slightly off. But when standing to play, it’s fine.

The hardware is all pretty decent stuff. Tuning up is easy with the stock machine heads. They are pretty firm and don’t feel cheap. They also hold tune well, the strings remained where I left them the night before.

The electronics are all soldered well, but I did find the nut for the output jack was a bit loose. Had to tighten it up, which was no issue.

The string height was good, I measured it at around .080″. Probably could come down a bit for better action, but this was fine to me. Great build quality here!

Playability

The Omen Elite 6 comes with a slim C-neck profile that is very comfortable and easy to play. It’s a great neck to use for fast playing and fits most hands.

The scale length on this guitar is 25.5″ and provides good range of notes from 24 frets. The frets are all level and the ends are not sharp.

The controls are located just under the bridge pickup. They are easy to get at quickly, but don’t get in the way. I’m glad they took this into consideration. Nothing worse than accidentally hitting the controls during passionate playing!

Sound Performance

I used the Revv Generator MK3 amplifier as it has a wide range of tonal options. The first thing I noticed is that the Omen Elite was pretty quiet, even on aggressive channels.

These are hot pickups, so this was nice. There was no hum or buzz present in the signal when I stopped playing.

The clean sounds from the guitar were full and lush. The settings on the amp were at noon and even still the guitar had a great tone.

Crunch sounds were pretty good, this is after all a metal guitar, not vintage tones, but it pulled it off quite well. This is all because of the handy 5-way switching Schecter has designed the guitar to use.

Next up were the high-gain metal tests. This is where this guitar shines as it has a throaty mid-range punch, plenty of low-end, and a good treble response. It was not dark to our ears, but was able to cut through well. Those looking for a good chug guitar will find it here.

But an added bonus is the incredible sustain! I held a note for over a minute before it began to fade out. I did have help with natural feedback from the rig, but I loved every second of it!

Thanks to the slim C-neck profile, it was also easy to get great solo tones as well as rhythm. An awesome-sounding guitar! This video will put it all into perspective for you!

PROS

  • Good construction.
  • Articulate sound.
  • Easy to play neck shape.
  • Great looking guitar.
  • High output pickups.
  • Many colors and options.

CONS

  • Finish looks too dark under low light.

Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster 50s

Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster 50s electric guitar.

The gorgeous Squier classic vibe telecaster 50s is an instantly recognizable guitar! The vintage vibe and great tone of this model make it an awesome addition to your collection!

The Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster is all vintage and will amaze you with its pine body. Not to mention a maple neck, 25.5-inch scale length, and very musical pickups. The telecaster is also available in other colors and finishes. Even a left-handed version for you lefties!

The Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster is nothing short of amazing for the price. It fits many genres of music and is one guitar you must have in your collection.

Features

  • Pine Body.
  • 21 Frets.
  • Scale Length: 25.5″.
  • Pickups: Alnico single coils.
  • Bridge is a vintage 3 saddle.
  • Squier Warranty: 2 year.

Playability

It’s hard not to love a Telecaster with a C-neck profile and vintage feel. I found that this version of the Telecaster was a direct representation of more expensive guitars. The neck was set right, making it easy to play this Squier version, and it delivered.

The Telecaster is loved because of the way it feels, and this one was right on point. This one is about 7.5 lbs and so was not too heavy but very sturdy.

Sound Performance

When played through a Marshall amplifier, the Squier had all the clean headroom it needed.

It could produce that great telecaster spank sound I have come to love about them. It really made me feel as though I was playing a more expensive guitar. The pickups in this thing are quite good.

Now, a more expensive Telecaster will come with better pickups, for sure. But this is surprisingly good, I must say.

When I plugged it into the Vox AC30, the vintage crunch tone was awesome! It was warm, and full and had a great low to mid-gain vibe going on.

When you dig in, the guitar responded perfectly! This is a working man’s Telecaster, and I’m super impressed. Have a listen to the sound clips in this video:

PROS

  • Quality hardware and material.
  • Sound rivals more expensive guitars.
  • Fun to play.
  • Vintage looks and feels great.
  • Well known brand.

CONS

  • Some have complained that the action was high until properly set up.
  • Tuners feel a bit low quality.

Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster 50s

Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster 50s electric guitar.

Vintage vibe to the max! This Stratocaster has some unique touches! But is a stock model, full of features that modern guitar players demand! Anyone who owns one has nothing but good things to say!

Another amazing vintage style, this time in a Stratocaster! This historic design has a pine body with a gloss polyester finish. It also has a C-style maple neck with a 25.5-inch scale length and vintage-style single coil pick-ups.

It’s also available in different colors/finishes, and a left-handed model also exists. The Stratocaster is a guitar every player should own. Now it’s affordable enough to have in your collection.

Features

  • Pine Body.
  • 21 tall frets.
  • Scale Length: 25.5 inch.
  • Pickups: Alnico single coils.
  • Bridge: vintage tremolo.
  • Warranty: 2 year.

Build Quality

I did find that the tuners and bridge were a bit on the low-quality side for my liking. Not a dealbreaker by any means, but they do feel a bit cheap when compared to the other guitars on this list. Otherwise, the guitar was well-balanced and comfortable.

Playability

Squier was also able to pull off a great Stratocaster model that sounds and feels good. This guitar almost plays like an American-made Stratocaster and feels great. The neck is a C profile but to me felt a bit smoother for some reason, but whatever it was, playing it was a treat!

The guitar came set up well which is what I like to see as this way we can give a proper review on it in its best form.

Some people have complained about the action, but ours was mint. Great action, easy to use, I don’t have any complaints about playability. And the frets were very smooth and installed really well.

Sound Performance

According to Squier, this guitar comes with 3 Fender-designed pickups. And I would have to confirm that this is indeed true. When put up against an American-made Stratocaster, the Squier was so close! Just a bit noisier.

Through the Fender Blues junior amplifier, it sounded beautiful! Nice clean Stratocaster tones that I was surprised to hear. I used a boost to drive the amp a bit and was able to get vintage strat tones with little to no effort. This is a great price for such an awesome guitar!

And as an extra bonus, the tone control is wired to the bridge pickup! This is not standard with early Stratocasters. But Squier got it done finally! Check out the video below for the tones!

PROS

  • Quality hardware and materials.
  • Sounds great.
  • Fun and easy to play.
  • Vintage looks.
  • Designed by a professional manufacturer.

CONS

  • Some have complained about the action being high. Set up required.
  • Hardware is a bit low quality.

Epiphone Coronet Reissue

Epiphone Coronet Reissue electric guitar.

Epiphone’s new Coronet Reissue of one of their first big guitars is a great jam! This rock machine with a single P-90 is a ton of fun.

The Coronet is one of Epiphone’s first original electrics. This guitar was a popular model when released in 1958. The Reissue supports all the great features. Things like the double cutaway, glued-in neck, and single P-90 pickup.

Features

  • Mahogany body.
  • 22 medium frets.
  • Scale Length: 24.7″.
  • Pickups: P-90 Pro Dogear.
  • Bridge: lightning bar.
  • Epiphone Warranty: 1 Years.

Build Quality

Epiphone is owned by Gibson and so their expertise of design is found here. The Coronet is an older design that has been brought back to life in this reissue.

It’s built really well and is a guitar worth owning. The body is a bit on the light side, however. As a result, there is a bit of neck dive. It’s not terrible, but just be aware of it.

The neck is glued in and so the guitar feels very rigid. The hardware feels great as well. The machine heads keep tuning well and feel smooth. The electronics are all installed with good solder joints throughout. I also really like the vintage look of the guitar.

Sound Performance

This is a rock and roll machine! The single pick-up output is perfect and super articulate. If you are looking for a P-90 model, this is the one for your collection! The tone is very organic and open. But it’s the output that is most impressive.

Into a Vox AC30, I was getting some great dirt tones. The guitar also cleans up nice when you roll back the volume. You can also take out some brightness with the tone knob. The range is quite nice in these controls. Here are some sounds for you to listen to:

PROS

  • Solid construction.
  • Glued In neck.
  • Single P-90 guitar.
  • Reissue vintage look.
  • Great rock tones.

CONS

  • A bit neck heavy but not bad.

ESP LTD EC-256

ESP LTD EC-256 electric guitar.

Unbeatable value from ESP with this killer rock-ready electric! ESP’s Eclipse body style with cutaway gives amazing sustain and playing freedom!

The ESP LTD EC-256 comes in a few different colors on its very light and slim mahogany body. Just a killer-looking guitar with a 3 piece mahogany neck. It also has a roasted jatoba fingerboard, a 24.75″ scale, and ESP-designed humbucker pick-ups.

The EC-256 offers a push-pull coil split configuration for single and humbucker tones. Also, a set neck for excellent articulation and long-lasting sustain! A seriously great guitar at an excellent price!

Features

  • Mahogany body.
  • 21 jumbo frets.
  • Scale Length: 24.75″.
  • Pickups: ESP LH-150 humbuckers.
  • Bridge: Tune-o-Matic.
  • ESP Warranty: 1 Year.

Sound Performance

The aim of this guitar is to be as versatile as possible. With an included coil tap electronic system, it does many styles well. But this is a rock and metal guitar primarily. If you want clean Fender tones, this isn’t the guitar for you. Grab a Stratocaster for that.

This guitar will give you thick, throaty, aggressive sound performance. It’s made by ESP, which is a company that focuses on metal guitars. The LTD stuff is much the same. But man do they sound great! Check out the sounds for yourself in the video below!

PROS

  • Build hardware and materials.
  • Excellent pick-up configuration.
  • Easy to play cut-away.
  • Great look and sound.
  • Designed by a well known brand.

CONS

  • Some have complained that the action was high. A set-up possibly required.
  • Stock strings may need to be replaced with better quality.

Schecter Omen Extreme 6

Schecter Omen Extreme 6 electric guitar.

The Schecter omen extreme 6 is a modern guitar with great electronics and hardware.

The Omen Extreme can be obtained in a few different colors. All of them feature a great mahogany body with a carved quilted maple top. The maple neck features 24 jumbo frets and the strings are loaded through the bridge.

This electric is made in Indonesia, but is a well-crafted guitar. It features a double cut-away, coil tap pick-up system and is an easy-to-play neck. A nice score from Schecter for a great price!

Features

  • Mahogany body.
  • 24 Extra Jumbo frets.
  • Scale Length: 25.5″.
  • Pickups: Schecter Diamond Plus humbuckers.
  • Bridge: Tune-o-Matic.
  • Warranty: 1 Year.

Build Quality

The Schecter Omen Extreme 6 is a well-built guitar that is made to last! It has a solid feel to it and is not too heavy. Overall, the balance is quite good. There isn’t any neck dive here. This makes it easy to comfortable for extended playing sessions.

The hardware on the guitar is of high quality too. It includes Grover tuners, a Tune-O-Matic bridge, and a string-thru-body design. You can feel it resonate through the body. This enhances the sustain and tone of the guitar.

The intonation on the guitar is precise, I didn’t experience any out of tune chords past the fifth fret. Overall, the Schecter Omen Extreme 6 is a reliable and durable guitar!

Sound Performance

This guitar is designed to deliver a powerful and aggressive tone! For this one, I pulled out the Mesa Dual Rectifier.

This guitar’s sound is characterized by a deep and throaty growl. So into this amp, I got nothing but the goods! But the pickups are also designed to be clear. So note definition is great.

When it comes to clean sounds, the Omen Extreme delivers a balanced tone. It’s bright for those crystal clean sounds, but still warm enough to fill the room. I didn’t find any top end frequencies to be piercing by any means.

PROS

  • Build quality and hardware.
  • Sounds good.
  • Nice neck, easy to play.
  • Stays in tune.
  • Designed by an experienced and well known brand.

CONS

  • May need a set-up out of the box.
  • Fret buzz, a common occurrence, can fix with a set-up.

Lower Budget Guitars

Our Budget picks have a smaller price tag but still offer great quality. These are cheaper as manufacturers are able to change their production techniques.

Sometimes even a wood selection helps enable them to produce great guitars at a lower cost. What we find is that the hardware and playability are still decent despite the price.

Ibanez GRX70QA

Ibanez GRX70QATEB electric guitar.

The Ibanez GRX70QA is part of the GIO line of versatile guitars. This line from Ibanez is made in China and has been since 2011. Anyone that has played or owns one will tell you, this is one playable instrument for the price!

The Body

The body on the GRX70QA is made of solid polar with a double cut-away shape. It’s a light guitar with a beautiful quilted maple veneer. The shape and weight make it easy to play and is quite comfortable and decently balanced.

The Neck

You will find a bolt-on neck made from maple featuring an All Access Neck Joint. This joint in conjunction with the 4 bolts creates a rigid experience. The neck is thin compared to a lot of the other guitars we have featured and has a width of 1.65 inches.

The tuners are of decent quality for this price point and do a great job of keeping the guitar in tune. We also find a plastic nut which is to be expected here.

The neck features 22 medium-sized frets and a scale length of 25.5 inches. The frets were well-dressed and did not feel sharp along the edges of the neck.

The scale length also allows for decent down-tuning if that is your desire. Overall, a nice neck and is easy to play. Even for smaller hands.

Hardware

The GRX70QA comes with 3 “Infinity” pick-ups. These are Ibanez pick-ups made in China featuring ceramic magnets. You will find one single coil and 2 humbuckers in an HSH configuration. Also found here is a 5-way pickup selector switch, allowing you to obtain many sounds.

In addition to the electronics, there is a volume and tone control near the pickup selector. This is to assist in getting great sounds quickly. They feel good and are easy to use.

The guitar also features a tremolo arm and bridge featuring individual saddles. This is great when intonation issues arise and make it easy to fine-tune. The tremolo system works well and stays in tune.


Squier Bullet Mustang

Squier by Fender Bullet Mustang electric guitar.

The Body

Made of solid basswood and features a double cutaway body. The Bullet Mustang is light and comfortable. Our test model was Imperial blue. It’s a great-looking guitar with that classic mustang vibe!

The Neck

The neck on the Mustang is a C-shaped maple neck with a 24-inch scale length. I found it to be fairly common with another neck of the same radius and was very easy to play. It’s a bolt-on neck, but is fastened well and feels very rigid. You will only find 22 Medium frets here, making this a short-scale guitar, but it’s fun and easy to play!

Hardware

The guitar features die-cast tuners which do a great job of keeping it in tune. On the opposite end, there is a 6-saddle hard tail bridge. It’s no wonder the unit keeps in tune so well with a tried and true design concept.

The two humbucker pickups on this guitar are your standard units, but they sound great! The sound is rich and full throughout the frequency spectrum. It’s an incredible rock machine, and is comparable to some more expensive models!


Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster

Squier affinity stratocaster electric guitar.

The Body

The body of the Squier Affinity Stratocaster is made from poplar and is solid as one would expect. There are a number of different colors that they come in, from surf green to white. The body is quite light and has good detail and contours for such an inexpensive guitar.

The Neck

The neck is made of maple neck with a C profile and a 25.5-inch scale length. It’s a standard Stratocaster neck, as one would expect.

It felt just as good in my hand as any other and was nice and straight. Squier makes some good guitars for the price point, granted they are made overseas. There are 21 medium jumbo frets on the Indian laurel Fingerboard and a synthetic nut.

Hardware

The hardware is quite good, and I was pretty impressed. I did have to make a quick adjustment to the bridge. There was a bit of fret buzz, but it was nice and easy.

The bridge is a 2-point tremolo with block saddles that made it easy to set the string height. The tuners were also pretty decent and were easy to turn and held the tuning well. Even the electric guitar strings it came with were good.

The guitar I tested had three single coils that were ceramic and sounded pretty good. It’s quite amazing that you can get a great sound from a cheaper guitar like this one. There are some other models that come with an HSS pickup configuration for a few extra dollars.


Guitar Bundle Picks

Our Bundle picks are focused on players who are beginning. These bundles include in most cases an amplifier, strap, and guitar plus accessories. No matter who you are, I suggest you look into bundles to get going.

This will help you learn how to pair equipment instead of just guessing. I remember how hard it was to know what gear to piece together!

Squier Short Scale Stratocaster

This short scale stratocaster is one of the best guitars to get started with. The 24″ scale length is 1.5″ shorter than a standard sized stratocaster making it easier to play. It’s light, well-balanced and stays in tune.

The single coil pickups are great for that twangy Stratocaster sound. It’s one of the best ways to get into Fender guitars and is super affordable.

The amplifier is a Squier design. It comes with the ability to play along to backing tracks and use headphones. It sounds good and will help you stay inspired to practice.

The included tuner, cable, picks and strap is an all-in-one package. It will get you started and last you years to come. Truly wish these types of things were available when I was getting started!


LyxPro Electric Guitar Starter Kit

The LyxPro electric guitar kit is also of great value and deserves attention here. The instrument is a Stratocaster style with a full-scale neck. It’s made of quality materials and sounds great! This kit can be used by players looking to upgrade with an all-in-one solution.

The included amplifier is 20 watts and features an aux input as well as a headphone jack. It sounds great and can get quite loud if you are looking to use it for small performances.

The included accessories are all you will need to play and maintain your new rig. This is a very popular bundle among new players and has been well-received.


How To Choose An Electric Guitar

Once you have decided on your budget, there are a few things to consider when selecting an electric. All the guitars on our list are great for anyone, so in this case, you need to consider your music type.

Once you have started to learn and can play songs, your guitar is going to need to be able to perform them. In this case, once you have an amp, you will want to choose the one with the right sound.

So if you are going after a high-gain sound, then you might not want to choose a Stratocaster. Something with humbucker pick-ups would be better.

Is it ok to Buy a Cheap Electric Guitar?

Yes, there has never been a better time to buy a cheap electric guitar! Manufacturers have gotten good at building them overseas. They rival some more expensive models. It’s important to stick with well-known brands when buying something cheap.

Just make sure to buy the right guitar for your music style and the experience will be pretty good. It’s easy to get started as a beginner because the budget guitars are quite inspiring and sound good. They are also built pretty tough and can handle some rough treatment.

Other Items You May Need

An electric guitar is optimal with an amplifier. But if you are starting, an amplifier is not necessary right away. It’s not very loud when playing without an amp, but it can still be heard.

And at first, it might be best to learn how to play a few chords, maybe even a song, before amplifying the instrument.

But it can also be a benefit to have an amplifier and a few other items even when starting out. This will mean that your budget will need to be larger. But most guitar amps would pair with our suggested models nicely.

Conclusion

With the electric guitars I have selected for our list, it’s hard to go wrong with any of them. They each do something different and fit into many genres of music. At some point in your playing journey, you will play all of them.

But if you are just getting started, you want to pick the best budget electric guitars that fit your music.

This way, once you get more comfortable with the guitar you choose, you will be able to get the sounds you want too. If you don’t use an amp right away, you will eventually. So make sure to pick the one that fits your interests.