7 Best Electric Guitars (Under $500)

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  • Overwhelmed with the choice of electric guitars under $500?
  • Wondering which are the best?
  • Here’s our roundup – includes the likes of Squier, Yamaha, Ibanez, and more…

There are many reasons why spending thousands of dollars on a new guitar is just not possible for everyone. Budget guitars are not necessarily for those on a budget either – for example, a spare guitar is handy for travel, letting you practice without risking damaging or losing your main axe. Luckily, there are many great affordable options for all scenarios.

The quality of budget electric guitars has gone up over the years, and you can find a decent, long-lasting electric guitar for under $500.

From Stratocasters to Les Pauls to metal guitars, we are going to look at our top picks for electric guitars in the budget guitar price category.

What Are The Best Electric Guitars Under $500?

Our top pick for this list is the Squier Affinity Stratocaster, an affordable and versatile guitar that will suit everyone at different skill levels.

Our best value guitar is the Yamaha PAC012DLX Pacifica electric guitar, which is sold at a very affordable price and is the perfect beginner guitar to start with.

As for our premium pick, Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Telecaster showcases an amazing level of build quality at just under $500.

  1. Squier Affinity Stratocaster (Our Pick)
  2. Yamaha PAC012DLX Pacifica (Best Value) 
  3. Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Telecaster (Premium Pick)
  4. Epiphone Les Paul Special 
  5. Ibanez RG450
  6. Sterling by Music Man Cutlass HSS 
  7. Gretsch G2420 Streamliner

1. Squier Affinity Stratocaster (Our Pick)

OUR PICK
Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster

The Affinity Series Stratocaster HH from Squier combines classic Strat looks and playability with a full-bodied tone to deliver a wallet-friendly 6-string that is a great addition to any guitar collection.

Why We Love It:
  • Amazing value
  • Classic Stratocaster design and specs
  • Offered in multiple finishes
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Stratocasters are the most well-known electric guitars, and you can’t go wrong with a Stratocaster, in terms of its versatility and playability.

And since the original Fender Stratocasters’ guitar prices are out of many people’s budget, we are going to take a look at the next best thing – Squier Stratocaster.

We feel that the Squier Affinity Stratocaster is the best electric guitar under $500. It’s not far from the real thing with all the playability, tone, and design that you would expect from a Stratocaster.

Features

  • Lightweight poplar body with flame maple veneer
  • Maple with Indian Laurel fingerboard
  • 2 single coil and 1 humbucker
  • 5-position blade, master volume, and 2 tone controls
  • 2-point 6-saddle vintage-style synchronized tremolo

Review

Squier Affinity Stratocaster has the iconic Stratocaster poplar body with a flamed maple veneer, and the body feels light and comfortable to play with.

Without looking at the headstock, it’s hard to tell that this Stratocaster is the Squier version instead of the Fender version.

The neck is the classic “C” profile bolt-on maple and the neck has the same vintage specs as the traditional Fender Stratocasters. The neck profile is not too thick or not too thin, and the medium-sized neck will feel comfortable for most guitar players.

The Affinity Stratocaster comes with an Indian laurel fretboard, and there are a total of 21 medium jumbo frets for smooth and effortless solo and rhythm guitar playing.

A common issue among cheap electric guitars is unstable tuning – especially after bending down on Tremolo bars.

However, the Fender Affinity Stratocaster managed to solve this issue with their 2-Point Synchronized Tremolo with Block Saddles, and now you can do some crazy bending with the Tremolo bar on this guitar. Also, the Squier Die-cast tuners can keep this guitar in tune for a long period.

The highlight of the Squier Affinity Stratocaster might be the unusual set of pickups – 2 single-coil pickups for neck and middle, and a humbucker for the bridge.

Most Stratocasters come with three single coils, and that’s one of the main traits of a traditional Fender Stratocaster. Squier Affinity Stratocaster took a more modern approach and decided to put a humbucker for the bridge, and this gives you so many more options for tones.

The humbucker on the bridge will give you a more full sound that can get heavier and grittier than a single-coil pickup. Plus with the 5-position blade switch, a master volume, and 2 tone controls, there will be close to infinite tone possibilities.

2. Yamaha PAC012DLX Pacifica (Best Value)

BEST VALUE
Yamaha PAC012DLX Pacifica Series

The Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica electric guitar is a great beginner instrument for younger, emerging players at an incredible price.

Why We Love It:
  • Very affordable
  • Versatile
  • Comfortable and easy to play
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Yamaha electric guitars are among the top choices for beginner guitars and famous brand knock-offs, and Yamaha PAC012DLX Pacifica electric guitar is our pick for Best Value.

Yamaha PAC012DLX Pacifica is a sleek and modern electric guitar that is offered at a very affordable price. It’s also a versatile instrument that is a perfect beginner electric guitar.

Features

  • Lightweight Agathis-body
  • Smooth “C” shape maple neck with rosewood fingerboard
  • Two single-coil pickups for neck and middle, and a humbucker for the bridge
  • 5-position blade, master volume, and master tone controls
  • Yamaha Sealed tuners with Vintage Tremolo bridge

Review

Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica electric guitar comes in a sleek, modern Stratocaster design with two sharp horns in the double-cutaway design. The guitar is lightweight and thin, and the contours of the guitar will fit comfortably to your body.

PAC012 has an Agathis body with a C-shaped maple neck, and although the body material might not be high-quality wood like mahogany, it’s a solid starting point for beginner guitarists.

A C-shaped maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard is a pretty standard Stratocaster neck, and it’ll be good to develop the left-hand strength on a classic guitar neck.

It’s a suitable size neck for holding bar chords and playing rhythm guitar, but also comfortable for lead guitar playing and soloing as well.

Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica comes equipped with Yamaha ceramic pickups, and unfortunately, you won’t be able to find alnico magnet pickups in this price range.

Ceramic pickups might not be as vintage-sounding or resonant as the alnico pickups, but they do pack a lot of power, and you can get wailing rock and overdrive tones out of these pickups.

This guitar has two single-coil pickups and a humbucker in the bridge position. Yamaha ceramic humbucker in the bridge side is the perfect pickup for rock and metal, and you can use the two sing coil pickups for clean tones and slight overdrive sounds.

The pros of the Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica are that it’s a very affordable guitar packed with versatility, comfort, and modern design.

However, the downside is that with cheap body material and ceramic pickups, this guitar won’t be suitable for experienced players.

3. Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Telecaster Thinline (Premium Choice)

PREMIUM CHOICE
Squier Classic Vibe '70s Telecaster Thinline

Not deviating too far from the mold, the Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster Thinline is still a Tele at the core. 

Why We Love It:
  • A unique and versatile Fender model
  • An authentic recreation of a classic
  • Captivating and classic design
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Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Telecaster Thinline is our premium pick out of the best electric guitars under $500. It’s a beautiful Squier Telecaster that plays like an American-made Fender Telecaster.

Telecaster Thinline refers to a unique F-hole in a chambered Telecaster body, and Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Telecaster Thinline is an authentic recreation of the 1972 Fender Telecaster Thinline with two humbucking pickups.

Features

  • Chambered Thinline body with an F-hole
  • Maple neck with “C” neck profile
  • Fender Designed Wide Range humbuckers
  • 3-way pickup selector with master volume and tone controls

Review

Fender Telecaster Thinline guitars were first introduced in 1969, but the famous version came about in 1972 with the Fender Wide Range humbucking pickups.

Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Telecaster stays true to the ’72 Fender model, and it’s close to the ’72 Thinline Telecaster you can get under $500.

Squier Telecaster Thinline has a gorgeous Telecaster body shape with a chambered maple body and an F-hole.

The F-hole and the semi-hollow body of this Telecaster bring the thickness and resonance out of the guitar, and you can get a much deeper sound with the F-hole and the semi-hollow body.

The maple guitar neck with a “C” neck profile is a classic Fender feature. The Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Telecaster nailed the classic Fender-style neck with impeccable details.

The medium-sized “C” shape is perfect for blues, rock, and jazz playing, and you get really dig into each note with this guitar neck. And if you’re into Fender guitars like myself, the classic Fender “C’ neck just feels right at home and comfortable unlike any other guitar neck out there.

One of the revolutionary changes to the Telecaster in 1972 was the addition of humbucker pickups instead of the traditional single-coil pickups.

Humbucker pickups on the Telecaster Thinline model were an amazing idea because the powerful humbuckers really bring out the thick and rich semi-hollow body qualities of the Telecaster Thinline.

This Squier version has Fender-designed wide range humbuckers, which are unbelievable quality pickups for a Squier guitar.

On the neck pickup, the Fender Wide Range humbucker pickups can deliver warm and creamy jazz tones that are not often associated with Fender guitars.

But on the other hand, the bridge pickup side will provide crunchy and fat lead tones for some sweet overdrive and even distortion tones.

The pros of the Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Telecaster Thinline are that the tones are thicker and more suitable for jazz and warm overdrive tones.

On the other hand, you won’t be able to access the classic Fender single-coil tones for that funk and RnB sound. Nevertheless, the Squier Classic Vibe ’70s Telecaster is such a great guitar for the price.

4. Epiphone Les Paul Special

BEST VALUE
Epiphone Les Paul Special

Whether you're after the looks or the tone, the Epiphone Les Paul Special delivers the goods at a great value.

Why We Love It:
  • Iconic 1950s Les Paul copy
  • Very affordable but great quality
  • An array of versatile tones
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The Epiphone Les Paul Special is a revival of an old classic – the Gibson Les Paul Special of the ’50s. Offered at under $500, this is your chance to experience the old Gibson classic at an affordable price.

Epiphone guitars’ version of the Les Paul Special has a special mix of both the original model and modern refinements, and it still retains its vintage TV Yellow finish to remind you of that Gibson golden era.

Features

  • P-90 Pro single-coil pickups for snappy tone full of midrange
  • Premium components like Graph Tech nut and CTS electronics
  • Mahogany body and mahogany neck
  • Individual volume and tone controls for each pickup
  • 12-inch fretboard radius with medium jumbo frets

Review

Epiphone Les Paul Special showcases an amazing mix of vintage and modern at an affordable price.

The all-mahogany body and neck bring out the vintage look and Epiphone Les Paul Special also comes with the original color – which is the iconic TV Yellow finish.

Mahogany’s body and neck make the guitar tone warm and fat, and it has that classic Gibson tone everybody talks about.

The neck is a vintage 50s guitar neck, and it’s a round neck that is designed to mimic the traditional ’50s Les Paul neck.

Gibson Vintage 50s neck profile is thicker and rounder than the Gibson ’60s SlimTaper. It might not be the best option for players with small hands, but it’s great for bending and expressive guitar playing.

Modern additions like Graph Tech nut help improve the tone and provide a stable tuning for the strings, and small details like Vintage Style Deluxe tuners with Ivory buttons add stability and classic elegance to the guitar.

On top of that, the 12-inch fretboard radius with medium-jumbo frets makes the playing experience effortless and you can get more out of each note.

But the feature that stands out the most is the P-90 Pro pickups because Les Paul guitars were famous for their Gibson PAF humbuckers.

But this is a remake of an earlier Les Paul and the Epiphone Les Paul Special features P-90 Pro single-coil pickups that are very similar to the original P90s designed by Seth Lover.

They are somewhere in-between Fender single-coil and Gibson humbuckers, and these single-coil pickups give a rich and sparkling tone that gives it a signature sound.

5. Ibanez RG450DX

Ibanez RG450DX Electric Guitar

The Ibanez RG450DXB solid-body electric guitar is purpose-built for high-speed, low-drag shredding! 

Why We Love It:
  • Famous Ibanez RG features and quality
  • Eye-catching sleek design
  • Specs with the latest technology
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The Ibanez RG450DX is built for shredding and the focus of this guitar is to give you the maximum speed on the guitar. If you’re all about shredding and rock’n’roll, this guitar is for you.

Ibanez RG450DX is a rock guitar with all of its details optimized for shredding and it’s certainly not for jazz and pop guitarists. For rock guitar enthusiasts, the Ibanez RG450DX is one of your top choices.

Features

  • Dual humbucking pickups and an additional single-coil pickup
  • Dl tremolo bridge
  • Fast 3-piece maple Wizard III neck
  • Dual tremolo bridge

Review

With a pointy double-cutaway body and a flashy finish, the Ibanez RG450DX has a captivating design.

The body is made of Meranti and the neck is 3-piece Bolt-on maple neck. The entire guitar is thin and it’s a light guitar that is easy to carry around.

One notable feature in the guitar body is the Wizard III neck, and this is one of the main reasons why so many rock guitarists choose the Ibanzes RG series of guitars.

This slim-profile neck is super comfortable for shredding, and your left hand will be able to move effortlessly throughout the fretboard and grab big chords and do wild stretches easily.

Ibanez’s double-locking tremolo is another great feature and it’s a rock-solid tremolo bar that will allow you to do Steve Vai-style wild bends and still maintain your tuning.

The highlight of the Ibanez RG450DX is definitely its versatile pickup system of two humbuckers and one single-coil pickup that are controlled by a 5-way switching system.

You get Ibanez Quantum 3 humbucker for the neck, Ibanez Quantum 4 Humbucker for the bridge, and Ibanez Quantum S3 Single-coil for the middle.

This is the most versatile pickup set we’ve seen in a while, and you’ll be able to conjure up any kind of tone from chorus clean tones to sizzling-hot metal guitar tones.

6. Sterling by Music Man Cutlass HSS

Sterling by Music Man Cutlass HSS

The Cutlass features a roasted maple neck, locking tuners, and a vintage-style tremolo for a traditional feel that enhances both comfort and playability.

Why We Love It:
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Great quality but affordable
  • Modern and long-lasting hardware 
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One of the most popular models by Sterling by Music Man, the Sterling by Music Man Cutlass is a compact, easy-to-use, and light double-cutaway guitar that is packed with features.

Sterling by Music Man Cutlass is a versatile and lightweight guitar that is optimized for recording and touring. You’d be surprised what this small guitar can do!

Features

  • Gloss-finish solid basswood body with Music Man maple neck
  • 25.5’’-scale maple neck with 22-fret maple fingerboard
  • Three Music Man pickups in Humbucker-single-single configuration
  • 5-way switch with Music Man-designed vintage tremolo and die-cast tuners

Review

This Indonesian-made affordable masterpiece is visually captivating with its designs and finish options.

Sterling by Music Man Cutlass takes on a modern take of the classic Fender Stratocaster, but it actually has links to Leo Fender, who has involved the earlier models of the Music Man guitars.

It has a slightly offset body shape with a rounded top that is similar to a Telecaster, and the unique-round Music Man headstock finishes the look. 

The Cutlasses have poplar bodies instead of alder, and the necks are made of maple and finished with rosewood fretboard. The body is quite resonant, and the easy-access truss-rod adjustment wheel in between the pickups is another useful feature. 

With humbucker – single coil – single-coil pickup configuration, the pickups provide so many different tonal palettes. The single-coil pickups sound very well-balanced and are relatively loud for single coils. They also come with an impressive amount of sustain.

The Humbucker in the bridge pickup provides a beefy tone that has a lot more body in the sound, and you can expect to get a pretty powerful tone out of the Humbucker. 

One downside might be the two-point vibrato bridge, as this kind of bridge is known to be a little wobbly at times. But considering the price, the Sterling by Music Man Cutlass is an excellent guitar with attention to detail at its core. 

7. Gretsch G2420 Streamliner

Gretsch Guitars G2420 Streamliner

The Gretsch G2420 Streamliner Hollowbody electric guitar was built for players looking for an affordable archtop guitar that is as comfortable offering the identifiable Gretsch sound as it is higher-gain rock tones.

Why We Love It:
  • Both vintage and modern tones
  • Versatile
  • Comfortable to play
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Gretsch Guitar is a well-known, legendary guitar company that has a long history dating back to the early 1900s. The Gretsch G2420 Streamliner Hollowbody electric guitar is a great example of their timeless craftsmanship that is still impressive to this day. 

The Gretsch G2420 Streamliner is our only Hollowbody electric guitar on this list, and this is a well-built archtop guitar that is affordable at this $500 price range.

Features

  • Full Hollowbody guitar with high-output humbuckers
  • Vintage-looking ornamentation and design
  • Thin “U” neck profile for maximum comfortable
  • Broad’Tron humbuckers

Review

The G2420 Streamliner has two attractive F-holes for maximum resonance and warmth, and it has a laminated maple body with a Thin U Nato neck.

This guitar produces enough sound by itself to be played acoustically, and you can expect to get the classic jazz guitar tone from this guitar when played acoustically. 

Features like 2-ply white and black binding on a round sunburst body make this guitar luxurious and desirable, and it showcases the perfect mix between vintage and modern.

Additional hardware like nickel hardware, branded tailpiece, and Pearloid block inlays makes this guitar look worth a lot more than its affordable price. 

Custom-wound Broad’Tron humbuckers are unusually powerful pickups to be put on a full Hollowbody jazz guitar, and this is because G2420 Streamliner is built to handle more than jazz clean tones.

The modern, powerful electronics allow you to use this guitar like a rock guitar as well, and this guitar can be used for overdriven blues and rockabilly as well.