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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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Dual humbucking pickups and an additional single-coil pickup
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.
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.
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.
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.
Full Hollowbody guitar with high-output humbuckers