Whether you daydream of being a rock 'n' roll star or just want to learn how to strum along to your favorite songs, you'll need a good-quality guitar to get you started. While high-end electric guitars can sell for thousands of dollars, there are plenty of excellent "axes" available that won't drain your bank account before you've achieved rock god status. Our recommendations include cheap but solid instruments for those just figuring out if an electric guitar is right for them, guitars for younger players, and moderately priced models for intermediate and even experienced musicians. All of our picks ring in at $500 or less, and we've found a number of top choices for absolute beginners and kids that will set you back less than $200.
While price obviously will play a major role in choosing an electric guitar, there's a lot more to consider when making your decision. First and foremost, you need to get the right guitar for the type of music that you want to play. There are several kinds of electric guitar:
- Solid-body electric guitars are the most common and, as the name suggests, the guitar is made from a solid piece of wood with no inner chamber. They're appropriate for most types of music, but they're particularly suited for rocking out at top volume, with plenty of sustain to hold notes (especially at the low end) and resistance to feedback when amplified.
- A hollow-body electric guitar is a better choice If you're more interested in folk, jazz and blues, or prefer the warm, rich tones of an acoustic guitar. Like traditional acoustics, they have a resonating inner chamber and so can generate deep, warm bass tones far better than a solid-body.
- Semi-hollow-body electric guitars combine the best of both guitar styles, producing a wider range of sound than either hollow- or solid-body models, and are ideal for jazz, rockabilly, and old-school country and roots rock. Like hollow-body guitars, they're more susceptible to feedback than solid-body guitars when amplified, however.
- Acoustic-electric guitars are another option. These play and sound like traditional acoustic guitars, but are fitted with the electronics required for amplification; many professionals suggest it makes more sense to buy a quality acoustic guitar and simply upgrade it later.
Body style isn't the only factor that affects how an electric guitar sounds. Components such as the pickups, which convert the vibrations of the strings into amplified sound, the type of wood (such as alder, basswood, or higher-end mahogany) used to construct the body and neck, and the overall build will also factor into tone quality and can significantly impact a guitar's playability. And whatever electric guitar you end up buying, remember you'll also need an amplifier and cables. Battery-powered practice amps cost as little as $20, but you can spend $200 or far more on a full-sized model that'll make the house shake.
To make our picks for the best cheap electric guitars we consulted expert reviews from specialist publications like Guitar World, Premier Guitar, Guitar.com, and MusicRadar, as well as enthusiast sites like Guitar Fella, and a few general consumer sites like Wirecutter. We also looked at consumer feedback at retailers like Guitar Center to find out how well these instruments meet real-world expectations in terms of performance and durability. (We also recommend this tutorial from musician and journalist Rob Chapman, popular for his YouTube instructional videos, as an excellent introduction to all the things to consider when picking out the perfect guitar for your musical style and budget.)
Prices and availability are subject to change.
SQUIER BY FENDER BULLET STRATOCASTER HSS HT | Best Value Electric Guitar For Beginners
Est. Price: $150 | Buy it from Guitar Center
- Long considered one of the best choices available for beginners and students.
- Once it's tuned, it stays tuned, users say.
- Solid construction for the price.
- Pickups can be a little buzzy, according to reviewers.
- Some say it can be hard to tune.
- Fender/Squier guitars carry only a 2-year warranty.
Takeaway: The Squier By Fender Bullet Stratocaster is a solid, inexpensive electric guitar that's ideal for fans of old-school rock, reviewers say. It's based on the classic Stratocaster design, which has been a staple of rock 'n' roll since the first model debuted in 1954. The HSS has two single-coil pickups plus a dual-coil humbucker pickup in the bridge position, making it less prone to buzzy feedback and giving it a warmer tone. Some experts, such as the reviewer at Guitar Fella, say it can be a little bit of a challenge to tune the Squire, while others disagree and suggest it's easier to tune than usual for a cheaper guitar. Either way, once this Bullet Strat is tuned, all agree it holds it very well. Wirecutter chooses it as their best beginner's guitar, saying it is a good choice for the novice thanks to its "robust and hum-free sound." A discontinued version, the Squier Bullet Stratocaster SSS, differs only in that it has a whammy bar (which produces shrieking vibrato); it's still available at some retailers.
ROGUE ROCKETEER RR50 | Best Kids Electric Guitar
Est. Price: $60 | Buy it from Musician's Friend
- Good sound quality for a student guitar.
- Very inexpensive.
- Sturdy for the price.
- Comes with carrying bag, picks, strap, and cable.
- No tone-control adjustment.
- Doesn't always stay in tune.
- No warranty.
Takeaway: It can be a challenge to find a reasonably well-built electric guitar for less than $100, but the Rogue Rocketeer RR50 fits the bill for a beginner guitar. This Rogue Rocketeer "Mini" is a smaller, short-scale guitar (7/8 scale), making it a comfortable fit for a child under 12, or even smaller-stature adults. And, despite its cheap price, it gets good feedback from experts such as Guitar Fella, with equally positive user reviews at retail sites like Musician's Friend and elsewhere. Since it's a rather basic design with only a single humbucker pickup and no tone controls, experts say that tonal range is limited — you won't be able to dial up squealing treble or crunchy bass — but sound quality is pretty good for a student model. Construction quality is also good (a rarity at such a low cost), with a basswood body and smooth neck and frets. Like other cheap electric guitars, the Rogue requires frequent retuning, but Guitar Fella says the tuners hold pretty well compared to other guitars in the same class.
EPIPHONE LES PAUL SL | Best Cheap Electric Guitar
Est. Price: $119 | Buy it from Guitar Center
- Good for beginners as well as intermediate players.
- Easy to modify components for a custom sound.
- Terrific value.
- Limited lifetime warranty.
- Tuners offer only mediocre tone control, reviewers say.
- Some complaints about uneven finish, especially on the neck and frets.
Takeaway: The Les Paul has long been an icon among fans of hard and classic rock, jazz, and blues, and the Epiphone Les Paul SL is a solid beginner electric guitar that will also suit more experienced players, especially if they modify it. Reviewers at Guitar Player name it an Editor's Pick and say it's an amazingly satisfying play and an ideal "project" guitar begging to be reconfigured for "all sorts of sonic experiments." Premier Guitar is similarly positive, calling it "remarkably good" for a guitar in its price range and noting that the single-coil setup — which is unlike traditional Les Pauls with their humbucker pickups — manages to offer sound that's booth bright and toothy without being overly noisy on the interference front. Most owners are happy with this Les Paul guitar as well, though some complain that it needs a professional set-up to adjust the action of the strings (the height of the strings above the fretboard) before it will truly play well. While parent-company Gibson produces the pricier professional models in U.S. factories, Epiphone's more budget-friendly Les Pauls are manufactured overseas.
SQUIER BY FENDER AFFINITY TELECASTER | Best Electric Guitar under $200
Est. Price: $200| Buy it from Amazon
- Classic Telecaster look and sound.
- Well-crafted body; made of alder as opposed to more common basswood.
- Left-handed model available.
- Pickups prone to distortion at higher volumes.
- Tone controls aren't very precise, some users say.
- Comparatively short 2-year warranty.
Takeaway: Fender's Telecaster electric guitar has been around since 1951, pretty much since the birth of rock n' roll. Known for its bright twang, Telecasters have long been a favorite of country musicians like Buck Owens and Keith Urban, as well as rock gods like Keith Richards and Bruce Springsteen. Like Fender's Stratocaster, there are a number of Telecaster models — some costing thousands of dollars. But, for a penny or two under $200, the Squier Affinity Telecaster delivers this make's legendary sound with only a few compromises. While the build and finish are beautiful (and some would say the use of alder produces a slightly wider tonal range than basswood), like many lower-end guitars, the quality of the components can't match that of pricier models, and more than a few users say this Affinity Telecaster's controls feel slightly cheap and imprecise. We saw some criticism of the pickups, too, with reviewers noting that at higher volume levels some buzz and hum can be heard. However, as Guitar Fella notes, it delivers "a warm and clear sound with the classic Tele twang that goes so well with country, jazz and blues guitar." Other experts, and a preponderance of the reviews we read from owners, agree.
YAMAHA PACIFICA 112V | Best Electric Guitar under $300
Est. Price: $300 | Buy it from Musician's Friend
- Good sound quality.
- Versatile; equally good for rock, country, jazz, and most musical styles.
- Appropriate for beginner and experienced musicians alike.
- Has a whammy bar, something other models lack.
- Limited lifetime warranty.
- Frets sometimes produce buzzy feedback.
Takeaway: The Yamaha Pacifica 112V might not be a top of the line scene-stealer, but reviewers say it is most certainly one of the best guitars you can buy at this price point. Guitar Fella calls it the "hidden gem of the entry-level segment." It's considered to be a starter electric guitar by many, but others say that more advanced musicians will be satisfied as well. It's Strat-like in appearance and performance, but, like our best value pick, the Squier Bullet Stratocaster, has an HSS setup rather than traditional single-coil pickups only, which offers greater versatility while cutting down on hum — a boon for beginners. There's even a whammy bar to add screaming vibrato on your solos. This Pacifica is also constructed of alder instead of basswood, which some argue offers a richer tone. Negative comments about this guitar are hard to find, though we saw a few that noted a small amount of fret buzz. Aside from that, most pro reviewers and amateur guitarists have only praise for the Yamaha, calling it nothing short of "classy." If you're not invested in more vaunted electric guitar names like Fender or Epiphone, this is a solid alternative.
SCHECTER OMEN EXTREME 6 ELECTRIC GUITAR | Best Electric Guitar under $400
Est. Price: $399 | Buy it from Guitar Center
- Full-bodied sound that's ideal for heavy metal and rock music.
- Capable of producing heavy distortion.
- Great look and construction quality; mahogany body.
- Limited lifetime warranty.
- Some owners complain of significant fret buzz.
- Somewhat limited versatility.
Takeaway: If hard rock is your thing, then the Schecter Omen Extreme 6 Electric Guitar could well be your guitar. The company, which began as a custom-build operation in the 1970s, has gained a following from metalheads and hard rockers for their aggressive, crunchy electric guitars. The Omen Extreme 6's house-brand humbucker pickups at the neck and bridge aren't to everyone's taste, but they are capable of churning out plenty of distortion for riff-heavy hard rock despite their 'crudeness.' As Guitar Fella notes, "you will grow to like them as soon as you figure out just what they are capable of delivering." And the body, crafted from mahogany, produces a softer tone than basswood or alder, which is what puts the "heavy" in heavy metal. User reviews, although they're not extensive, largely agree, and owners give this guitar great grades for performance and value.
EPIPHONE LES PAUL STANDARD PLAIN TOP | Best Electric Guitar under $500
Est. Price: $499 | Buy it from Musician's Friend
- Nearly comparable in quality and tone to pricier Gibson version.
- Versatile; suitable for most musical styles.
- Sturdy construction; mahogany body.
- Limited lifetime warranty.
- Mediocre string quality.
Takeaway: For beginners and others who can't shell out the $3,000-plus that a Gibson Les Paul Standard commands, the Epiphone Les Paul Standard delivers similar performance and quality at a fraction of the price. Every review we consulted raves about this instrument, with Guitar Fella deeming it the "patron saint of beginner guitar players." Self-proclaimed audiophile enthusiasts at Audiorumble similarly praise it — from deeply resonant mahagony body down to the warmth and clarity delivered by its dual humbucker pickups — calling it "almost perfect" and "worth every penny." Review after review from actual owners profess a deep love for this guitar as well. If there's any complaint at all, it's that perhaps not all of the components are entirely worthy of worship; several reviewers grumble about the quality of the strings the Les Paul comes with and recommend upgrading them. Like all Les Pauls, the Epiphone Les Paul Standard works well with most types of music, save perhaps for country, but is especially good for rock, jazz, and blues. All in all, it's a great value given the price, according to experts.
IBANEZ ARTCORE AF55 | Best Hollow-Body Electric Guitar
Est. Price: $330 | Buy it from Guitar Center
- Hollow body is ideal for blues and jazz sound.
- Can be played amplified or unplugged.
- Good quality; all-maple body.
- Comes in left-handed version.
- Can be a little hard to tune.
- Some pickup, fret buzz.
- Carries only 1-year warranty.
Takeaway: Reviewers say the Ibanez Artcore AF55 is an excellent electric guitar for blues and jazz students. Guitar Fella gives it a rave review, and names it "one of the best guitars for jazz under 500 bucks." The hollow body is fashioned from maple, giving it a tone that's at once bright and yet more warmly resonant than a rock-oriented solid-body guitar; one reviewer calls it "smoky." It's not a one-trick pony, however. Its two humbucker pickups run "hot," which means you can really crank up the amp if you want to rock out, and it's plenty crisp on the high end. The Ibanez isn't perfect, however, and owners say it can be challenging to keep in tune and the pickups sometimes get buzzy. Still, many have nothing but raves and claim they were hooked on the looks — the tobacco-colored flat finish and minimalist styling is a absolute crowd pleaser — even before they fell in love with the sound.
EPIPHONE DOT | Best Semi-Hollow-Body Electric Guitar under $500
Est. Price: $449 | Buy it from Guitar Center
- Excellent choice for jazz musicians.
- Sturdy construction and good heft, according to experts; all-maple body.
- Limited lifetime warranty.
- Large body may be challenging for smaller players to manage comfortably.
Takeaway: The Epiphone Dot is based on the Gibson ES-335 Dot, a legendary semi-hollow-body guitar that has been a favorite of guitarists, including B.B. King, since the late 1950s. But while the Gibson version costs nearly $3,000, the Epiphone version is less than $500 — a steal, according to every expert and most user reviews that we spotted. It's well made, with top-quality components and electronics, or, as MusicRadar would have it, "It looks fine, sounds great and plays great...that's value for money indeed." And while it gets props from all quarters for its jazz chops, this Epiphone Dot, with its humbucker pickups, is equally remarkable for its versatility, serving up "everything from smooth and moody, front-position mellowness to screeching, bridge position rawk." Users also praise the Epiphone's relatively low action and smooth neck, making it easy to play with little finger effort.
EPIPHONE G-310 SG ELECTRIC GUITAR | Bonus: Electric Guitar For Rock and Metal
Est. Price: $299 | Buy it from Guitar Center
- Designed for heavy metal, punk, and hard rock.
- Solid build quality, made of mahogany wood.
- Suitable for beginners and intermediate players alike.
- Limited lifetime warranty.
- Hardware could be of better quality; output is especially flimsy, some reviewers say.
- Strings prone to breaking.
- May be difficult to keep in tune.
Takeaway: This budget version of the classic Gibson SG, one of the more popular electric guitars since its introduction in the early 1960s, also garners its fair share of fans. While owners tend to be more enthusiastic than experts, even Guitar Space, which gives the Epiphone G-310 a middling review and dings it for lack of versatility, concedes that it's great for hard rock and metal — especially when paired with the right distortion and wah-wah pedals for extra tonal control. Guitar Fella's reviewer is more enthusiastic, naming it one of the best electric guitars for beginners and praising it for being solid on the bass end and clear at higher ranges with humbucker pickups that are on point for the task. As one owner writes on Guitar Center's site, "It has a warm, open sound when played clean but can deliver an all-out scream when distorted." User praise aside, several owners do complain that the strings break easily and recommend replacing them with more substantial ones.
EPIPHONE HUMMINGBIRD PRO | Acoustic-Electric Guitar
Est. Price: $369| Buy it from Guitar Center
- Warm, rich tones and inimitable acoustic vibe are ideal for folk, country, and rock.
- Suitable for guitar players of all skill levels.
- Can be played with or without amplification.
- Limited lifetime warranty.
- Mediocre build quality, some users say.
- May need to be adjusted professionally before playing.
Takeaway: The Epiphone Hummingbird Pro may look like an acoustic guitar, but it's got all the hardware you need to play it through an amplifier. A take-off of the Gibson Hummingbird, a model favored by the likes of Keith Richards, Sheryl Crow, and Lenny Kravitz, this Epiphone version comes in at a fraction of the price while still delivering a sound that would make its namesake proud. The mixed-wood spruce and mahogany body produces full, warm tones, and the guitar's overall sound is consistently praised for being "bright and balanced"; reviewers at Acoustic Guitar Magazine say it's got "plenty of low-end heft for rock riffing, but with a clear and crisp twang that also would play well with fiddles and pedal-steel." Although most owners say they love their Hummingbirds, some complain that the strings are too high above the fretboard to make play easy. But that's something that can be remedied with a trip to the music store to have the action lowered (bringing the strings closer to the frets on the neck).