7 Budget-Friendly Electric Guitars Under $500 – Great Value for the Price
Last updated: Apr 14, 2020
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The guitar is an indispensable asset in the music industry. The electric one in particular has had a huge positive impact in contemporary genres of music. The best guitar doesn’t have to be the most expensive. We thought you could do with one at budget price and prepared this post to help you find the best electric guitar under $500.
Figure this, before the electric guitar, concert halls were smaller and accommodated smaller crowds. That’s because the traditional acoustic guitar was hard to play louder and be heard from a distance. The electric guitar crossed this barrier because the sound can be amplified, allowing people to hear it from a longer distance. Consequently, concert halls became larger and these days one can sell out every single seat in an event.
Top 7 Electric Guitars Under $500 Review 2020
That aside, choosing an electric guitar in this price range requires extra attention to detail. That’s because some cheap electric guitars are of low quality. To help you narrow down your options, you will need to evaluate some important features such as a guitar’s body wood, pickups type, scale length, number of frets, and perhaps even warranty. We’ve covered this elements in-details in a comprehensive buying guide further down this post. For now, check out our comparison table below before moving on to the in-depth guitar reviews.
The Squier by Fender Classic Vibe 50’s Stratocaster has been a great success since its introduction in 2008. If you are looking for a Fender guitar but without spending several hundreds of money, this one is definitely a perfect choice. This electric guitar is made of Alder wood, unlike other Squier models made of basswood. The neck is made of a single premium quality maple with a gloss polyester finish. Combined with its C-shape, it makes the guitar very comfortable to play. Although they have a variety of finish options, the vintage sunburst of this particular guitar is absolutely stunning.
Moving on to the fingerboard, it comes with 9.5’’ radius, 25.5’’ scale length and includes 21 medium frets. With the smooth finish, sliding up and down the fingerboard is almost effortless. Even the fret edges are flawless and have no burrs, therefore, playing this guitar for hours is no issue.
The custom vintage single-coil pickups combined with the synchronized tremolo bridge do their job really well to make the guitar stay in excellent tune. The alder body itself and the maple neck produce a more dynamic tone range, allowing you to play various styles of music. This guitar also comes with a 2-year warranty for peace of mind.
Overall, this comes with exceptional quality and outstanding construction, vintage look, and great sound. This one is perfect for starters who are on a budget as well as intermediate players who’ like an extra companion for practice sessions or jamming. It’s cheap but nothing on it looks cheap, making it an excellent value for money.
The Gretsch G2420 Streamliner was designed for players interested in a pocket-friendly archtop guitar that is comfortable to play and sounds fantastic. Obviously, if you fancy playing jazz, blues, or country, a hollow body guitar is a must have, and this one is the real deal at that price range.
The secret to the sound of this guitar is the BroadTron humbucking pickup. This magnificent piece of engineering delivers exceptionally high output, characterized by pristine highs, robust lows, and a throaty midrange for a distinctive tone that blends well with other instruments in a band context. This sonic capacity is controlled and shaped by the classic control layout, neck and bridge pickup volume controls, a master volume control, master tone control, and 3-way pickup switching.
This guitar’s vintage-style construction featuring laminated maple, a fully hollow design plus a modern electronics package to delivers warmth and dynamism to the guitar’s tone. A thin U-neck profile is round enough to ensure comfortable chording in all positions, while being thin enough to enhance fleet-fingered runs.
The single cutaway body is also comfortable when held and allows you easy access to higher frets. Gretsch chromatic tailpiece ensures solid tuning stability while parallel tone bars allow free vibration for that familiar hollow body tone and additionally provides a robust, balanced voice.
Everything we have come to expect from Gretsch is present notwithstanding the price point of this guitar. From F-holes to vintage-style gold control knobs, sleek-looking nickel hardware, and single-ply black pickguard with Gretsch logo, this astoundingly built guitar is hard to put down once you start playing with it. A great choice for anyone looking for modern sonics, upgraded electronics and elegance. Also available in Village Amber and Walnut stain.
Suitable for a jazz, country, and blues
Design and maple construction contributes to its effortless playability and comfort
High standard of quality at decent price
Hollow design adds warmth and a woody tone
Feels a bit heavy
Ibanez RG8 – Best Electric Guitar Under $500 for Metal
Scale length: 27”
Pickups: IBZ-8 (H)
Body wood: meranti
Warranty: 1-year limited
More features: jumbo frets, jatoba fretboard, fixed bridge, 3-way pickup selector, case included
Eight-string guitars have gained popularity in the past recent years particularly due to increased production of metal music. The Ibanez RG8 is designed to be an entry-level 8-string guitar for players who are looking to shift from a regular 6-string instrument to a more challenging prospect.
In terms of features, this electric guitar is basically what you see is what you get. The neck is built solid and has a slim profile that makes the instrument very comfortable to play. It also benefits from a close action that makes playing fast runs a breeze. Even with its slim design, the neck is still wide enough to house the extra strings on the guitar.
The pickups are of high quality, offering players an exceptional clean sound and a seriously distorted sound that isn’t muddy. Keep in mind that these pickups are passive, meaning the tones produced from this guitar aren’t very precise and sometimes the bass can overpower the highs.
Sound-wise, the meranti build combined with the IBZ-8 pickups provide a warm tone with a clear mid-range, though it may require a bit of adjustment on your amplifier to get the highs to shine through. The scale length is 27 inches and this provides the ability to achieve a longer sustain as well as articulate your music. This length is pretty comfortable for someone with big hands.
This even comes with a case for carrying the equipment to an event or storing it away after use. In conclusion, if you want to try out extended range guitars, the Ibanez RG8 is worth the money.
Easier access across the fretboard
Beautiful arctic white finish
Solid construction with black hardware making a cool contrast to the body color
The Traveler Guitar TB-4P is your go-to companion for big bass tone on the road. It weighs a mere 6.8 pounds and is just over 35 inches in length, making it compact enough to fit in a standard aircraft overhead compartment. It can go anywhere thanks to its deluxe gig bag.
The body is made of alder and the neck of maple, which combine to articulate a tone that competes with full sized basses.
Playing its 32-inch scale length maple neck feels very natural and the double cutaway design ensures comfortable fretboard action. And if you get a chance to plug the guitar into your favourite amplifier, the Duncan designed mustang bass pickup will leave your audience believe they are listening to a full size bass guitar. It boasts articulated highs and deep lows that make it rumble.
Perhaps the standout feature of this guitar is the built-in headphone amplifier. It features a 1/8’’ aux input jack that allows you to connect your mobile device and practice privately anywhere you go. Other active electronics include volume and tone controls, 1/4’’ output for amplifiers and effect units, and a 1/8’’ headphone output.
Athough it comes with D’Addario EXL 165 strings, you can also use regular strings on this guitar. It has strap pins as well, meaning you can use a strap on this TB-4P. If you are looking for a big bass tone without hurting your pocket, the Traveler Guitar TB-4P is worth considering.
Compact and lightweight for exceptional mobility
Specially designed tonewoods for a no-compromise tone
Built-in headphone amp
Compatible with regular guitar strings
Aux-in jack available to connect mp3 player
32-inch scale length offers a more natural playing experience
Tuners have a little play and are somewhat low quality
Yamaha is an industry leader in musical instruments and so you can rest assured the Yamaha PAC112V is built to the highest quality. To begin with, this is an electric guitar you can get under 300 dollars only. It comes in various color options including black, silver, vintage white, yellow natural satin, old violin sunburst, and natural. It features a solid alder body with a sleek double-cutaway shape that takes a lot of inspiration from the famous Strat. Its bolt-on maple neck boasts a marvelous subtle satin finish with C-shape curvature. The neck is super smooth for flawless play, while the fretboard is made of rosewood and has 22 frets.
The electronics of this fella are astoundingly good and should lure any rock-inclined player to purchase the guitar. You get the HSS combination – two single coils in the neck and middle plus a humbucker at the bridge – allowing you to deliver a variety of tones and sounds. Like any other electric guitar, the pickups are wired to the tone and volume knob as well as to the pickup selector switch.
Moving on, the vintage-style tremolo bridge with six adjustable saddles helps maintain intonation while allowing you to add a touch of vibrato to your music. The alder body makes this guitar deliver a clear and well-rounded tone. Besides, the pickup selector allows you to play deep rock country without pain.
All in all, the PAC112V outperforms many budget electric guitars. It’s sleek and pretty, not forgetting unrivaled electronics, solid body construction and flawless finish. An absolute bargain.
For the folks looking for a decent semi-hollow electric guitar that can transition from blues to light jazz and rock, the Epiphone DOT is worth looking at. Both the body and top are crafted from maple, while fretboard is made of rosewood and the neck of mahogany. This combination is quite distinctive but the DOT is available in vintage sunburst, ebony, natural, and cherry (for left-handed guitarists). All these finishes look classy and elegant.
Elsewhere, this guitar sports a classic Tune-o-matic bridge, a black Epiphone pick guard, a set of robust Grover tuners, and a deluxe headstock. These hardware performs a great job in maintaining the guitar in proper shape in terms of precise intonation, accurate tuning, and high sustain.
In the electronics department, you will find the Alnico Classic Humbucker™ pickups with single tone and volume control knobs along with a 3-way pickup selector switch. You may find them bit hotter than regular pickups, however, that’s something appreciated by more adventurous guitarists.
When it comes to sound, the tonewood combination of this semi-hollow guitar guarantees a bright, clear and punchy audio. That means the notes coming out of it are deeply rooted in blues but still capable of diving into jazz, metal and crunchy hard rock. The 1.68’’ nut width also caters well for both small and large hands.
All things considered, the value for money is unquestionable. You get a wonderful six-string electric guitar for blues with a wide scope for other types of music as well.
Schecter has a reputation of making quality instruments and selling them at reasonable prices. The Schecter OMEN-6 is no exception, with a great finish, pretty bindings, high-quality hardware and electronics. Most importantly, this one is made for the lefties.
Starting with the construction, the body is made of basswood and takes a C-shape. This tonewood is thick and resonant, thus perfect for metal and hard rock. To complement the basswood and in effort to cut cost, Schester designed this instrument with a bolt-on maple neck whereas many of their other models have set necks. Maple is obviously a bright tonewood and the bolt-neck sounds snappier than rival necks.
The rosewood fingerboard feels very smooth for playability and it features 24 frets and perloid gothic inlays. It has a 14-inch radius with a 25.5-inch scale length, which promotes fast action. You notice that this scale length is about an inch or two higher than standard electric guitar, allowing easier access to higher frets. There is no question that this guitar is geared towards rock. The Schecter Diamond Plus pickups are very hot, though they tend to get somewhat muddy at high settings. Its string through body also improves sustain.
Apart from the pickups, the electronics include individual volume and tone knobs and a 3-way switch. The setup and tuning remains solid even with aggressive playing and note bending. This thing may be made for rock but there is no harm branching out to other styles such as blues and jazz.
Our final verdict? If you are a left-handed player who’s into heavy metal and looking for the perfect shredding instrument, this Schecter is for you.
Fantastic low-cost electric guitar
Thin C-neck for improved playability
Made of thick, resonant basswood
Great sustain compared to similarly priced guitars
Good pickups and electronics
Perfect for rock and heavy metal
Some fret edges are rough
A bit on the heavy side
Not supplied with a cable or a strap
There is plenty to ponder when it comes to buying an electric guitar, whether you are a novice or an experienced player. Right from the size and weight, pickups and neck, we have simplified all the factors to consider to help you narrow down your choices.
Budget electric guitar – what to expect for the price
Even at the price range in context, there is no one-size fits all guitar. There are hundreds of budget models that are geared differently, meaning you can only get what suits your style. For instance, the Schecter OMEN-6 and Ibanez RG8 will appeal to metal lovers, while the Epiphone DOT is a great choice for blues, jazz and maybe rock, yet they are some tens of bucks apart.
One thing you should not pay too much attention to in this price range is the brand. While Fenders and Gibsons are everyone’s dream, you don’t need to struggle to afford one when an Epiphone or a Yamaha provide similar sound and looks for half the price. And while every instrument will claim to be the best for the budget, be sure to check the reviews for any guitar you want to buy. Some manufacturers like to take short cuts at the expense of quality.
You can also expect to find a wide range of color options. While you can always choose what appeals to you, keep in mind that your guitar’s appearance can set the mood in the room and boost your crowd’s energy.
That said, read on to know what to look out for before you buy.
Body types of electric guitars
Electric guitars come in three distinct body types:
Solid body electric guitars
These are made of solid wood and happen to be the most popular guitars among expert guitarists. They are characterized by high resistance to feedback as well as a greater sustain than other guitar types. On top of that they have an extremely powerful distortion that makes them perfect for metal and rock. The Squier by Fender Classic Vibe 50’s Stratocaster is a good example in this respect. Others include the famous Telecaster and Super Strat versions.
Featuring exposed openings, these guitars usually have f-shaped holes on their resonating box. They look stunning and mimic big violins. Construction-wise, they are much lighter than solid guitars and people tend to say they are quite versatile. They sound warm and bright with nice overtones and thus, preferred for jazz, blues, and country.
Hollow body guitars
Though they sound almost the same as semi-hollow types, their bodies are without the wood block that runs down the middle of semi-hollow guitars. This slight variation makes hollow body guitars to produce a more natural, acoustic-like sound. However, they are prone to feedback particularly in higher volumes. Even so, their full tone with impressive bass response bring a smile to face to the face of a jazz player.
Electric guitars maintenance tips
Regular maintenance is key to longevity in both sound and appearance. Below are the standard measures to care for your guitar:
Change the strings regularly to keep your instrument sounding nice throughout.
When changing strings, clean the fretboard to remove dust and dirt build-up. A soft bristle brush should deal with stubborn grime.
Wipe down your fretboard every time you play; this reduces buildup of dirt, oil, and grime.
Avoid leaving your instrument in extremely hot or cold areas; the wood might expand or contract unpleasantly.
Clean and polish your instrument more regularly to keep the finish looking shiny and enhance the appearance of the wood.
In dry weather, humidify the air where your guitar is stored. Dry air can cause cracks, bends or create dips.
Take care when handling your guitar to avoid scratching it. Things like zipper jackets, rings, necklaces, and belts should never come close to your instrument.
Once in a while, take your guitar to a technician for deep checkup such as neck alignment and loose frets.
Features to consider while buying the best electric guitar under $500
This is where we get more specific on the tiny details.
Size and weight
Guitars come in various sizes and this factor impacts playability in terms of the sound and you being able to hold it comfortably. If you need to be traveling with your guitar, then it has to be compact enough for the purpose; something like the Traveler Guitar TB-4P. Again, you can only carry what you are comfortable with.
In this price range, you can expect to find the most basic pickups including humbucking, single-coil and filtertron pickups.
Single-Coil pickups have a wire that’s wrapped around a single magnet, thus producing crisp, mellow tunes, yet high on the hum or echo factor. They usually emphasize on the higher frequencies.
Humbucking involves two magnets fixed parallel with opposite ends facing each other. The hum factor is a bit low and the tone is quite thick.
FilterTron pickup is a hybrid between a Single-Coil and Humbucker pickup. They are similar to humbuckers in terms of shape and size, though the dimensions may be different.
Of course, there are many other pickup types but they are usually not available at budget price. Recent advancements have also made it possible for humbuckers to sound like single coil guitars through a technique known as “coil tapping”, allowing for flexibility that was difficult with older guitars.
Wood plays a significant role in determining the overall tone of a guitar. It is the resonance from the wood that determines how long the strings vibrate as well as allowing the pickup to move. Let’s look at the different types of wood used in guitar construction and the impact they have on sound.
This dense, strong wood is used in constructing all parts of a guitar except fretboards and bridges, which require a more solid wood. You may also find combinations such as a mahogany neck and back with maple top – common with short-scale guitars, or an all-mahogany body and neck excluding the fretboard.
Mahogany is not a very hard wood naturally and because of that, it emphasizes on midrange and bass frequencies for a mellower tone. And since mahogany is very resonant, it enhances a guitar’s sustain. This wood is also aesthetically appealing due to its rich brown color.
This wood is often used to manufacture guitar necks. It is extremely hard and dense with detailed grain patterns that look very beautiful. Maple has a very bright tone and combined with its intricate figuring, this wood is usually used for a veneer or top laminate on high-end solid body guitars. Some archtops guitars also utilise laminated maple on the top. The hardness of this wood also brings out the trebles in a guitar’s sound. Maple is regularly used for fretboards as well where it enhances the sound.
Most fretboards are made of rosewood. This material is very dense and hard and can be aesthetically appealing, varying in color from near black to variegated brown and blond. Rosewood is often used on guitar bodies, however, it makes the instrument quite heavy.
Another dense and hard wood, this one is primarily used on fretboards of high-end electric guitars. This wood is usually black and has a silky feel.
This material is commonly used in solid body guitars. It’s quite hard and very resonant, giving the guitar ringing sustain as well as a bright tone with a detailed mid-range. This wood is light colored and has an attractive grain figuring that’s usually given a clear finish. Swamp ash, in particular, is quite appealing and often used on more expensive electric guitars.
Alder’s tonal characteristics are similar to ash but this wood is cheaper and less figured. Most solid wood guitars are made of alder. The material is light tan though it’s usually covered with an opaque finish.
Looks and possesses the same tonal characteristics as alder, however, it’s not as much resonant. This tonewood is found on modern, budget guitars.
This Eastern mahogany as is famously known provides a warm resonance. It is extremely strong and is the material of choice in the necks of affordable guitars.
Scale length and nut width
Scale length refers to the distance between the string saddle and the head nut where-in the strings are stretched. How long or short the scale length will affect the sound of your guitar. Ideally, the longer scale length, the more the tension required to get the strings in tune. That is why some players like the “slack” feel of the Gretsch G2420 Streamliner with its 24.75-inch scale length, while others enjoy the biting attack of the tighter strings on the 25.5-inch scale length found on the Fender Classic Vibe 50’s Stratocaster.
Nut width is the gap between the strings at the nut. Individuals with smaller hands will appreciate narrow nut widths of about 1.65 inches, while those who want more room for their finger will fancy the opposite.
Look at the neck profile and the neck size. The profile describes the shape of the rear of the neck. Flat radius electric guitars will usually have wide, thin neck profiles, while circular fingerboards come with either C or U shaped necks. There is no right or wrong profile but a matter of personal preference.
The neck size, however, should be directly proportional to the size of your hands. Smaller hands will find it easy to wrap their fingers around a narrow-necked instrument. Similarly, larger fingers will find it easy to play wider-necked guitars.
Check the fingerboard radius to see how flat or round it is. As a general rule of thumb, a flatter radius results to a lower string action, meaning it’s easy to play and bend single notes. On the contrary, a rounder fingerboard follows the natural shape of the fretting hand, thus it’s a lot more chord friendly.
Flatter radiuses range from 9.5 to 16 inches and these are preferred by players who are into modern rock. Anything below 7.25 inches is classified as rounder. Some modern guitars feature compound radius fingerboards, which give the best of both of worlds. In compound configurations, the fingerboard flattens as you move up the neck, allowing you to enjoy your noodling.
Your guitar’s shape and finish can spell the distinction between a boring and a rousing instrument, therefore, you’ll want one that looks the part and feels comfortable to play. Since they were first introduced, the Stratocaster, Telecaster, Les Paul and SG are the still the most popular solid body guitar shapes. Similarly, we’ve covered the three types of guitar body shapes to help you select an ideal one.
Bridges come in different shapes and forms but ultimately you will have to choose between a simplistic tune-o-matic bridge and the more complex floating bridges. The benefits of tune-o-matic bridges are tuning stability and excellent sustain. Once set up, this bridge requires no tinkering, making it a solid choice for beginners.
On the other hand, floating bridges are perfect for performing those special effects and certain employing techniques, which only experienced guitarists know about.
If you are a total newbie, then you can save a lot by starting with the lower-priced guitars. You’ll need some money to buy accessories such as cable and strap. There’s still a mix of decent guitars in this price range to suit players of all levels and different styles.
Some manufacturers don’t offer warranties in this price bracket and even those who give are somehow mean. From our list, you can find guitars with lifetime guarantees, like Yamaha, Epiphone DOT and Schecter OMEN-6.
It can be a cost-saving measure but it may not go without a few issues. So if you decide buy second hand, make sure to try it out before parting with your money. The last thing you want is an instrument that will fail as soon as you land it home.
It depends on how you play your instrument. As a precautionary measure, play sitting more than standing so as to take pressure off your elbow. Let your elbow maintain a relaxed position and avoid being too aggressive with your guitar too. But if you notice symptoms of this condition, contact a doctor immediately.
It refers to a series of adjustments made to a guitar to ensure proper health and playability. The most common checks include:
The nut height from strings and width – proper settings will prevent strings from getting stuck.
The bridge height at each string.
The strings condition – worn out strings should be replaced.
The fretboard alignment to the body as well as height of strings from the fret wires.
The fret wires height, wear and overhanging fret wires.
These tweaks may be tricky for beginners to do and so it’s better to seek the services of a luthier. Be sure to learn from them and with time you’ll be in position to set up your electric guitar on your won.
We have come to the business end of this detailed guide and top 7 electric guitar reviews. Without a doubt, there is so much to learn about electric guitars but if you’ve made it here, then at least you are well-equipped to buy the best electric guitar under $500.
Our top pick is the Squier by Fender Classic Vibe 50’s Stratocaster. We like its vintage-style finish and the ease of playing it, thanks to its C-shaped neck. It also has a great dynamic tone that allows guitarists to enjoy different styles. You can’t go wrong with your money with this guitar.
Coming in second is the Gretsch G2420 Streamliner. This hollow body guitar suits a variety of styles including blues, jazz, and country. Its thin U-neck profile feels comfortable and we like its modern electronics too.
If you want the best electric guitar in this price range, the Yamaha PAC112V is a great deal. Choose from over five colors and benefit from its HSS combination that’ll let you create a range of tones and sounds.
Found your music companion yet? Let us know which one you like the most from our list.