In-Depth Comparison Of The Top Electric Guitars Under 500 Dollars – Reviews and Recommendations

Last Updated Nov-04-2016. Thanks to a fiercely competitive market and cheaper production methods, these days having $500 in your pocket gives you a huge range of quality electric guitars to choose from – whatever your style or ambitions.

While we’ve seen excellent guitars for under $300, stretching your budget that little bit further gives you a wider, more serious range to choose from, and pretty much guarantees you will end up with a very good electric guitar.

Whether you’re looking for a genuine Fender, a signature model, jaw-dropping aesthetics, or just something a little different, you can expect a bit more in this price range. Pickup quality drastically improves, as do body woods, tone controls and general playability.

We’ve tried and tested countless guitars and, while some fall short of the mark, there are many that we just couldn’t put down. To help you make the right decision, here are some of our favorites that fall in the under $500 price range:

Top 10 Best Electric Guitars Under $500:

Image
Electric Guitar
Summary
Rating
Fender Standard Mexican Telecaster 300
Fender Standard Telecaster
An affordable genuine Tele, with true Fender quality.
4.7 Stars
Total of 4.7/5
Squier-by-Fender-Classic-Vibe-50s-Telecaster
Squier Classic Vibe 50's Tele
A real vintage legend with an affordable Squier price tag.
4.7 Stars
Total of 4.7/5
Epiphone Les Paul Standard
Epiphone Les Paul Standard
Style, sound and playability – the complete package.
4.6 Stars
Total of 4.6/5
Fender Standard Stratocaster
Fender Standard Stratocaster
A genuine Fender Strat with style and substance.
4.6 Stars
Total of 4.6/5
Dean Dave Mustaine Zero 300
Dean Dave Mustaine Zero “In Deth We Trust”
Dave Mustaine stamps his bold style over this edgy guitar!
4.6 Stars
Total of 4.6/5
Kramer Striker Custom 211 300
Kramer Striker Custom 211
A solid Striker, with great looks and an awesome sound.
4.6 Stars
Total of 4.6/5
ESP MH-50 300
ESP MH-50
Fast neck and great pickups, this is perfect for shredders.
4.5 Stars
Total of 4.5/5
Ibanez S521 300
Ibanez S521
Ibanez really raise the bar with the elegant S521.
4.5 Stars
Total of 4.5/5
Danelectro D59MOD-BLK Modified Hollow-Body
Danelectro D59MOD-BLK
Real vintage looks and vintage sound – a winner from Danelectro.
4.6 Stars
Total of 4.6/5
Scheter 6
Schecter Omen Extreme 6
The first guitar on any aspiring rockers’ list – beautiful!
4.6 Stars
Total of 4.6/5

Fender Mexican Standard Telecaster

Fender Standard Mexican Telecaster 300

Body&Neck:4.7 Stars
Hardware:4.6 Stars
Electronics:4.6 Stars
Sound:4.7 Stars
Value:4.8 Stars
Average:4.7 Stars

A real Fender – at this price? That’s right, you can now afford a guitar that has truly cemented itself in the rock hall of fame. A Telecaster battles only the Les Paul and Stratocaster for the title of most iconic guitar. And the authentic Mexican Standard Telecaster comes loaded with quality – an alder body, with C-shaped maple neck and 21 medium-jumbo frets, offering a good platform for string bending. The hardware and electronics are what you’d expect from a $500 Fender – solid and reliable. There’s a classic string-through saddle and Tele-style bridge, along with two single-coil pickups – a crisp and bright bridge pickup, along with a warmer neck pickup. This is a guitar with enough versatility to cope with any playing style, and has the looks to match.


Squier by Fender Classic Vibe 50’s Telecaster

Squier by Fender Classic Vibe 50’s Telecaster 300

Body&Neck:4.5 Stars
Hardware:4.5 Stars
Electronics:4.6 Stars
Sound:5 Stars
Value:4.7 Stars
Average:4.7 Stars

The Telecaster was born at the height of rock and roll in the 50s and the Squier Classic Vibe 50’s Telecaster (click for review) is a modern tribute to the early Teles. But it offers more than just classic 50s butterscotch blonde looks (which is reason enough to buy this beauty!), with a solid pine body and maple C-shaped neck and 21 medium-jumbo frets, offering excellent playability. The two vintage-style single-coil pickups provide enough tone, twang and warmth to keep everyone from beginners to pros satisfied, while a single volume and tone knob keeps things simple. Versatile and well-suited to every style, from rock to pop, jazz to blues.


Epiphone Les Paul Standard

Epiphone Les Paul Standard

Body&Neck:4.5 Stars
Hardware:4.5 Stars
Electronics:4.4 Stars
Sound:4.4 Stars
Value:5 Stars
Average:4.6 Stars

A timeless classic and one that fails to put a foot wrong. Epiphone offer players authentic Gibson Les Paul looks and sound, at a fraction of the price. Featuring a mahogany body with a flamed maple top there’s plenty of tone on offer, while the mahogany set neck provides the sustain you’d expect from a well-made Les Paul – especially when you combine it with a locking tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece. As for output, there are two Gibson-designed humbuckers at the neck and bridge, to give plenty of grit and substance to your playing. Whether you’re plucking your first chords (this guitar is also featured in the beginner electric guitars chart) or looking for a solid, reliable guitar capable of taking on stage, Epiphone’s Les Paul Standard is hard to beat.


Fender Standard Stratocaster

Fender Standard Stratocaster 300

Body&Neck:4.4 Stars
Hardware:4.3 Stars
Electronics:4.5 Stars
Sound:5 Stars
Value:4.5 Stars
Average:4.5 Stars

This list has already seen a Tele and a Les Paul, and the Strat undoubtedly deserves its time in the spotlight. However it shines brightly enough without our help, such are the looks, sound and build quality. Taking the sleek, well-contoured classic Strat shape, the Fender Standard Stratocaster has an alder body with smooth maple neck, maple fretboard, and feels reliable and built to last. It’s voiced by three bright single-coil pickups, with a five-way pickup selector switch and two tone controls offering bags of versatility. The Strat has served all type of guitarist – from beginners to rock icons – very well since first launching in the 1950s, and this mid-range Made in Mexico offering takes some beating for the price.


Dean Dave Mustaine Zero “In Deth We Trust”

Dean Dave Mustaine Zero 300

Body&Neck:4.7 Stars
Hardware:4.5 Stars
Electronics:4.6 Stars
Sound:4.5 Stars
Value:4.7 Stars
Average:4.6 Stars

Got money to burn? This guitar is a little different! There’s no mistaking it for anything other than a Dave Mustaine signature model. With its winged Zero mahogany body and head-turning custom graphics, the In Deth We Trust is one distinctive guitar. But there’s more to this axe than simply looks – it’s built to shred, with fantastic durability and playability. There’s an easily accessible D-shaped mahogany set neck offering lots of sustain, while the two DMT Designed humbuckers at the bridge and neck provide a bold sound, perfect for soloing the night away – which is all you’ll want to do on this beauty.


Kramer Striker Custom 211

Kramer Striker Custom 211 300

Body&Neck:4.5 Stars
Hardware:4.5 Stars
Electronics:4.6 Stars
Sound:4.7 Stars
Value:4.6 Stars
Average:4.6 Stars

While the name may not be as iconic as some on this list, Kramer sure know how to produce a good guitar – and the Striker Custom 211 is proof if you ever needed it. With a sleek double-cutaway mahogany body and distinctive pointed headstock, the guitar looks fantastic and plays just as well. It features a thin and fast maple neck, with 24 frets, making it perfect for shredders. It also offers plenty of versatility, with three pickups – a bridge humbucker and two single-coils – a pickup selector switch and a tone control knob. An awesome clean sound, but it’s through distorted tones that this Striker excels and, combined with the Floyd Rose Tremolo, there’s scope for endless Van Halenesque divebombs.


ESP MH-50 (Best Electric Guitar Under $300)

ESP MH-50 300

Body&Neck:4.5 Stars
Hardware:4.4 Stars
Electronics:4.4 Stars
Sound:4.6 Stars
Value:4.8 Stars
Average:4.5 Stars

ESP’s MH-50 is a stunning instrument, in both looks and sound, and a true rock guitar. The slender double-cutaway basswood body gives way to a bolt-on maple neck with rosewood fingerboard, topped with an edgy ESP headstock. The neck offers great playability thanks to the thin U shape and 24 extra jumbo frets – you can string bend with ease. Considering the price, the hardware on this guitar really shines. There’s a Floyd Rose Special Bridge and a locking nut for solid tuning stability, while the two ESP Designed LH-150 humbuckers are loud and provide lots of bite, but retain their clarity when distorted. A true metal guitar that exceeds all expectations.


Ibanez S521 S Series (Blackberry Sunburst)

Ibanez S521 300

Body&Neck:4.6 Stars
Hardware:4.6 Stars
Electronics:4.5 Stars
Sound:4.5 Stars
Value:4.7 Stars
Average:4.6 Stars

With a comfortable solid mahogany body finished in sleek Blackberry Sunburst, this S521 S Series from Ibanez really is delicious. But don’t be fooled by its softer edges – this guitar is built to rock, with a slim Wizard III maple neck and 24 jumbo frets to give superb playability, while a hardtail fixed bridge offers wonderful sustain. The S521 is voiced by two Infinity humbuckers at the bridge and neck, that provide both clarity and aggression in equal measure. Perfect for rock and metal, but toneful enough for anything from jazz to blues. For such a competitive price, the build quality and overall feel is surprising and make the S521 well worth considering, whatever your style.


Danelectro D59MOD-BLK Modified Hollow-Body

Danelectro D59MOD-BLK Modified Hollow-Body

Body&Neck:4.5 Stars
Hardware:4.4 Stars
Electronics:4.5 Stars
Sound:4.8 Stars
Value:5 Stars
Average:4.6 Stars

Whether you’re a fan of Jimmy Page or not, this hollow-bodied offering from Danelectro is well worth your attention – especially if you want that vintage look and sound. The unique curvaceous black and white body is made from masonite (a light hardboard), with a bolt-on narrow maple neck that gives ample access to the rosewood fretboard and 21 frets. With a matt finish and matching hardware, the D59 is worth the cash alone for its vintage looks, but the sound is great too. Two alnico single-coil ‘lipstick’ pickups give this guitar twang and warmth, making it perfect for soft rock, jazz and blues. Shredders keep away!


Schecter Omen Extreme 6

Schecter Omen Extreme 6 300

Body&Neck:4.5 Stars
Hardware:4.6 Stars
Electronics:4.7 Stars
Sound:4.5 Stars
Value:4.8 Stars
Average:4.6 Stars

Schecter is synonymous with high quality at low prices. And the Omen Extreme 6 is the perfect example of this, with looks, sound and playability at a price everyone can afford. The guitar is wonderful to hold, with a carved quilted maple top on a mahogany body, and the finish – whatever color you choose – is second-to-none. The bolt-on maple neck is fast to get up and down, while 24 extra jumbo frets allow for easy string-bending. Two Schecter Diamond Plus alnico humbuckers give a high-output sound that holds clarity when played at the loudest volumes, while the black chrome controls and string-thru bridge finish this guitar nicely. A real premium feel for a great price.


Where to Buy Your Guitar

Buying a new guitar is rarely done on a whim – especially when you’re dropping around $500. And whether it’s your first or twenty-first, you want it to be reliable, comfortable, and look and sound great.

After reading some reviews on this site, narrow down a couple you like, then go and test them out if possible. Head to your local guitar store and see what they have in stock. However, unless it’s a huge store, you may not get to see everything you want. So reading in-depth reviews and watching videos is a good way to learn about and hear your potential new instrument in action.

If you hear something you like, make sure to shop around and find the best price, especially if you’ve tried the guitar in a shop, as online stores like Amazon usually give you better prices. Plus they rarely run out of stock.

Should You Go For Used or New?

Both have their advantages. With a brand new guitar you know you’re the first owner, and probably have a warranty as well as a couple of weeks refund period in case you change your mind.

Buying a used guitar can work out much cheaper, but it comes with some potential pitfalls. To avoid buying something that will fail as soon as you get it home make sure you try it out before parting with your cash – and use an amp to see what the electrics are like. Treat it like you would buying a used car.

If you are going for used, avoid thrift stores or flea markets. Stick to online stores or dedicated-guitar shops that can advise you, and accept returns – especially in this price range.

What You Should be Looking For in a Guitar Under $500

There really is no one-size-fits-all answer, as different guitars will appeal to you based on your influences, style and aspirations. I’m not a fan of vintage, so the Danelectro D59 doesn’t really appeal to me (even though it looks pretty cool). On the other hand, Led Zeppelin may well be your idols and that’s the first guitar on your list. Everyone is different.

One thing you shouldn’t care too much about in this price range is the brand. Everyone wants to owns a genuine Fender or Gibson, but struggling to afford one when a Squier or Epiphone provide similar looks and sound quality for half the price, really doesn’t make sense. As you’ve seen on the list, less known brands like Schecter and Kramer make awesome instruments that a seasoned pro would enjoy playing.

Other things to avoid getting caught up over is the body wood. There can be a little snobbery when it comes to cheaper materials, but these days – when you can buy a premium electric guitar for about $1000 which is made from basswood – it’s a moot point. The woods do play a part in the overall sound of a guitar, but they should never be the defining factor.

Pickups are also important to consider. These are the voice of the guitar and your style will determine what kind will work best for you. The majority of pickups in this under $500 price range will be passive humbuckers or single-coils, and they’ll do a good job whether practicing, jamming or gigging. If you’re after a meaty rock sound, choose something with two humbuckers (look towards Dean), but if it’s vintage twang you prefer, the single-coils on the Squire Classic Vibe 50’s Telecaster make for a better choice.

Are The Reviewed Guitars For Beginners or Professionals?

Short answer: both! Of course, some of the models that we’ve featured are more newbie friendly than others, but in this price range you’ll find a good mix of guitars available that will suit any level of experience and any style of playing.

Remember that every model we present in our Top 10 Charts will have their own page with a detailed review that gives you the lowdown on its features, along with its pros and cons.

Keep in mind that if you are a beginner, you can start with a more affordable electric guitar – it’s not essential to spend big money from the start, especially as you’ll need to save some cash for an amp and accessories like a cable, picks and strap.

In Conclusion

The guitars featured on this list are all excellent and our top choices for the under $500 price range. They offer great value for the money and are sure to keep you playing happily for a long time.

But there are hundreds of others that may suit you better. Whether you’re spending $100 or $2000 on a guitar, you’ll want to make an informed decision. Read as many reviews as you can, watch all the videos, and try out as many guitars as possible. Happy shopping!

Comments

  1. I got a Shecter Omen Extreme – 6 as my first guitar its very good I have encounter problems with it but it was my fault for experimenting it. I do have to say shelters tend to be very high in quality

  2. SQUIER DAMMIT!! 🙂

  3. Thomas Steven says:

    There is no PRS SE guitars worth this list?

  4. Daniel Indru says:

    Both the Tele and the Strat are now just under $600.
    So this list deserves an update.

  5. Love the look of the Epiphone G-400 pro sg. Anyone play one or seen a review? How close to a sg standard?

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