The Top 10 Affordable Electric Guitars For Under $200 – Reviews and Recommendations

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Last Updated: Nov-13-2017
We had already compiled a good list of great affordable guitars, but this article still received two major changes. Firstly, the no-longer-available B.C. Rich Warlock was replaced with a beautiful budget rocker, the ESP LTD EC-10. We then decided to remove the Squier by Fender Bullet Strat to vary our list a little, and replaced it with the shredder-friendly Kramer Baretta Special.

Looking for a back-up axe on a budget? Just starting out? This is the page for you! We’ve tried and tested some of the most affordable guitars around, and have compiled a list of those that impressed us the most

Notice how we’ve said ‘affordable’ instead of ‘cheap’? That’s because cheap guitars have connotations of being… well, pieces of junk. Cheap can mean ‘barely capable of producing a sound’, ‘plasticky components’ and ‘hardware that threatens to break at any given moment’. Not what anyone needs.

So we went for affordable, which still means budget-friendly, but with a bit more emphasis on quality. There’s no need to splash out $1000 dollars on a guitar – everything on this page is within the $200 price range, and are all excellent solutions for both beginners and experienced players alike.

The Top 10 Budget Electric Guitars Under $200:

ImageElectric Guitar / RatingSummaryCheck Price
+ - Epiphone Les Paul Special II Epiphone Les Paul Special II

Total of 4.42/5  

Classic Les Paul style at a price anyone can afford.

+ - Squier by Fender Affinity Stratocaster HSS Squier by Fender Affinity Stratocaster HSS

Total of 4.56/5  

A great budget Strat with versatile pickups.

+ - Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC012 Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC012

Total of 4.56/5  

Affordable quality from the budget kings.

+ - Jackson JS22 Dinky Jackson JS22 Dinky

Total of 4.56/5  

Great looks and a sound to match.

+ - Ibanez GRX20ZBKN Ibanez GRX20ZBKN

Total of 4.38/5  

A very solid budget option from Ibanez.

+ - Kramer Baretta Special Kramer Baretta Special

Total of 4.66/5  

Simple in style with a killer performance.

+ - Oscar Schmidt OE20 Oscar Schmidt OE20

Total of 4.40/5  

One of the best budget guitars on the market today.

+ - Dean Vendetta XMT Dean Vendetta XMT

Total of 4.34/5  

A simple, stylish and affordable classic from Dean.

+ - Epiphone SG Special Epiphone SG Special

Total of 4.44/5  

Epiphone delivers a superb budget SG.

+ - ESP LTD EC-10 ESP LTD EC-10

Total of 4.64/5  

Real winner when it comes to style and rock attitude.

As you are about to read, there are some incredible options that offer superb playability, clear and toneful sounds, and good craftsmanship, even in the lowest price range.

However the process of picking and separating the good from the bad can be tiresome and littered with pitfalls. Fear not – check out some of our reviews below and go from there. Here are the best affordable electric guitars that will not break your bank:

Epiphone Les Paul Special II

Epiphone Les Paul Special II

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After reviewing the Les Paul Special II, it was clear that it was the guitar to beat. Cut to the classic Les Paul shape, it features both a solid mahogany body and a bolt-on SlimTaper D-shaped mahogany neck, which is home to a rosewood fretboard and 22 frets. The sound comes from an Epiphone-designed 650R humbucker at the neck and 700T humbucker at the bridge, giving ample Les Paul tone, while a 3-way pickup selector switch, along with individual volume and tone controls, give you some versatility in tone. A LockTone tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece, combined with 14:1 ratio tuning heads, will keep you reliably in tune. It’s comfortable to hold and fun to play, making it a superb choice for beginners. An all-round outstanding offering from Epiphone.

Squier by Fender Affinity Stratocaster HSS

Squier by Fender Affinity Stratocaster HSS

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Fender’s Squier subsidiary is a name synonymous with great entry-level guitars, perfect for those taking their first steps on the instrument. And this Squier by Fender Affinity Stratocaster HSS is a staple of their range. With the iconic double-cutaway Strat shape, there’s a solid alder body, finished in a glossy array of equally eye-catching colors. The guitar features a bolt-on maple neck that’s comfortable to play, with a maple fretboard and 21 medium jumbo frets. The ‘HSS’ refers to the pickup combination, with a humbucker and two single-coils, which is a versatile arrangement for both clean and distorted playing, especially when coupled with two tone controls and a five-way pickup selector switch. An excellent price for a good brand, and perfect for newbies. Make sure to check out the full review of this guitar.

Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC012

Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC012

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Yamaha are the kings of quality on a budget, and we’d be out of our minds to leave a Pacifica off this list. As we state in our full review of the PAC012, this guitar is an awesome budget choice. And because you aren’t paying for the name, you get a lot more for your hard-earned cash. The PA012 has a well-defined, but comfortable double-cutaway body, made from solid agathis, with a maple neck and rosewood fretboard, with 22 frets. The two single-coil pickups and humbucker, along with a five-way pickup selector switch and tone controls, give you plenty of versatility in your sound. Throw in a vintage-style tremolo bridge and you have a very playable, comfortable, and good-looking package, with the sound to match.

Jackson JS22 Dinky

Jackson JS22 Dinky

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Jackson’s JS22 Dinky is an affordable guitar that would suit advanced players as much as it would beginners! With a good dose of edge and elegance, it’s perfect for anything from soft rock to thrash metal. It’s a great looking instrument – featuring an arched-top basswood body with a deep double-cutaway design, allowing ample access to 24 jumbo frets on the neck, which is a bolt-on graphite-reinforced maple ‘speed’ neck. It’s fast, sturdy, and fun to play on. The guitar is voiced by two high-output Jackon-designed humbuckers, which offer the classic Jackson tone, and make light work of both clean and distorted tones. The black hardware, tremolo bridge, and classic Jackson headstock finish it off nicely. Check out our full review of the JS22 here.

Ibanez GRX20ZBKN

Ibanez GRX20ZBKN

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If you’re looking for a beginners axe with a little attitude, the Ibanez GRX20 should be one of the top choices on your list. The poplar body has a deep double-cutaway RG-style shape, with two finishes to choose from (Jewel Blue or Black Night). It also features a good quality bolt-on maple neck that’s fast enough for beginners, with a rosewood fretboard and 22 medium frets. Two Ibanez-designed Infinity humbuckers at the neck and bridge positions give this entry-level offering plenty of bite for distorted tones, but works just as well for softer, cleaner numbers. Considering how affordable the guitar is, the overall feel and sound you get is a big surprise – as we mention in the full GRX20 review.

Kramer Baretta Special

Kramer Baretta Special

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Whether a diehard fan of Eddie van Halen, or a virtuoso in training, the Kramer Baretta Special’s simple but effective style and sound should make you pay attention. This affordable model sports a familiar double-cutaway body made from solid mahogany, with a shredder-friendly 25.5” scale length, a slim bolt-on maple neck, rosewood fretboard, and 22 medium-jumbo frets. There’s just one pickup – a single high-output Alnico V humbucker at the bridge position, which is controlled by a single volume control knob. It provides great sounds for heavy rock and metal, with a good output for all sorts of lead styles. Hardware on this budget Baretta includes premium 14:1 die-cast tuners and a vintage-style tremolo bridge with the all-important whammy bar. Check out our full review for more details.

Oscar Schmidt OE20

Oscar Schmidt OE20

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What Oscar Schmidt may lack in historic prestige, they certainly make up for in quality, and this OE20 – with excellent style, sound and craftsmanship – is nothing short of staggering for the price. With classic Les Paul styling, the mahogany body looks fantastic in any color. It’s light and comfortable to hold, and the maple set neck is a joy to play. It’s fitted with two passive humbuckers, at the neck and the bridge, which deliver a wide range of sound that would please advanced players as much as beginners. Two volume and two tone controls add versatility, while the tune-o-matic bridge with stopbar tailpiece ensure adequate tuning stability. The OE20 – which we have reviewed in full – is one of the first we would recommend to a beginner on a budget.

Dean Vendetta XMT

Dean Vendetta XMT

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An entry-level offering from Dean, with rock in its heart. With a couple of different bold color options to choose from, it features a solid paulownia body with Dean’s familiar Vendetta double-cutaway shape and winged headstock, while the slim bolt-on maple neck has a rosewood fretboard housing 24 frets. When it comes to features, this XMT doesn’t boast many, but it does the simple things well. Two passive Dean-designed humbuckers at the bridge and the neck handle all kinds of heavier rock very well, while a tone control and a three-way pickup selector switch offer enough versatility. It also comes with a vintage tremolo bridge and whammy bar for some cool vibrato effects. Be sure to read our full review of the XMT.

Epiphone SG Special

Epiphone SG Special

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Squier and Epiphone have always been fierce competitors, just like Fender and Gibson. And this Epiphone SG Special is the rival to the Squier Bullet – giving you a dilemma when trying to choose between them! With the classic SG asymmetrical horned body (made from mahogany), there’s a fast SlimTaper D-shape mahogany neck, rosewood fretboard, and 22 medium jumbo frets. There are two passive, open-coil humbuckers – a 700T and 650R – at the bridge and neck respectively, which are full of attitude and give great glimpses of real SG tone. Throw in a three-way pickup selector switch, a tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece, and an awesome KillPot, and you have a serious contender for the best guitar on this list. Read more about this awesome axe here.

ESP LTD EC-10

ESP LTD EC-10

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This black beauty from ESP’s LTD shows off true rock style and a very playable neck at a price that doesn’t break the bank. The EC-10 features a glossy black well-contoured single-cutaway body made from solid basswood. There’s a bolt-on thin U-shaped maple neck, with a rosewood fretboard, and 24 extra-jumbo frets, which makes fast playing and string bending a breeze. As we highlight in our full review, the EC-10 is voiced by two ESP-designed passive LH-100 humbuckers at the neck and bridge positions, which are loud enough to cope with rock and metal lead playing, although articulate and warm when playing without distortion. Hardware is kept simple, with a tune-o-matic style bridge and stopbar tailpiece, and a single master volume and tone control knob.

Are These Guitars Only For Beginners?

No! There’s no reason advanced players couldn’t enjoy using them either – especially with the performance that some of them offer. As they are so affordable, I wouldn’t bet against experienced players fancying a couple to add to their collections.

Having said that, the guitars in the under $200 market are targeted more towards beginners. In this budget price range, the woods, finishes, hardware, and electrics all tend to be pretty basic. Not necessarily bad, but basic.

If you have been playing for a year or two and are looking at something to replace your current model, it would be wise to save a little more and go for a mid-range guitar that may cost between $300 and $500. On this kind of guitar you’ll notice a big difference in sound, as well as the feel of the instrument and the overall playability. Use this page as a starting point to find something that may suit you. Until then, you are probably best off sticking with your current guitar.

What to Look For in a $200 Guitar

Even though the choice in this budget range is not as expansive as, say, the $300 to $500 range, there are still many different manufacturers and styles on offer.

Ultimately your style and musical tastes will define the best kind of affordable guitar to go for. For example, if classic rock n’ roll is your thing, a Squier Telecaster will definitely suit you, whereas if metal is your passion, a Warlock from B.C. Rich will be worth checking out.

The woods used on the body and neck are worth considering too, although are unlikely to be a defining factor when you consider your purchase. Basswood features heavily as the body wood of many guitars in this price range because it’s affordable and has decent tonal properties. You will also find cheaper to produce woods like poplar and alder, although the traditionally more premium mahogany is also found on affordable guitars these days.

You’ll also find mahogany on some necks, while maple is the most popular in this price range. Both are sturdy, strong and smooth, which is everything you need from a neck.

Looking at the hardware and a good fixed bridge is sometimes more important than a tremolo-style bridge – especially if you are a beginner. Save the vibrato effects and epic divebombs for later on, when you’re a more confident player. A fixed bridge will also help keep your tuning in tact.

Another consideration, and something you’ll read a lot about, is the pickups, which give the guitar its voice. There are two kinds of pickup in this price range: the single-coil (which gives a bright, sparkly sound) and the humbucker (which is fuller, meatier and perfect for rock and metal). Both are as common as each other in this budget range, and a guitar with a mix of both will offer you the best versatility.

Finally, you’ll want to make sure you have the accessories you need to get up and playing fast. A strap, spare strings (they do break from time to time), and some plectrums are all essentials – and don’t forget an amplifier! You’ll also want a case (preferably hardshell, but soft and padded will do) to store and transport your guitar, and an electric tuner to keep it sounding good. These can all be picked up from your local guitar store, although if you are starting from scratch, you may want to consider a combo kit, which usually offer good value and convenience.

The Final Word Before Buying

Firstly, we advise sticking with a brand name you can trust. We’ve established that there’s nothing particularly premium about the guitars on offer at $200, but by sticking with Fender, Ibanez, Yamaha, Epiphone, Oscar Schmidt and the others on this list, you at least guarantee a guitar from a renown guitar manufacturer with some history, instead of something thrown together by a company who don’t specialise in instruments.

Also, you’ll want to buy new, instead of used. While that model you see in the thrift store window may look appealing, you’ll have more peace of mind buying from a reputable guitar dealer or an online store, such as Amazon. Plus you will have a warranty should something go wrong.

Good luck and happy shopping!


Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Hi,

    This was an excellent read article, specially for a beginner like me.

    Wanted to ask, have you ever heard/tried Rouge Guitars, – especially RR100

  2. Super useful article. I read about every model and in the end chose the Epiphone Les Paul. Got the vintage sunburst color. From Amazon with a 10w practice amp, electronic tuner and soft sided case the whole kit only came to $209 and had free shipping.
    It just got here and is incredible for the money. Took 2 minutes to tune and looks just beautiful. I am so excited to learn to play.

    Thank You

  3. I’m a fan of classic rock music, especially Led Zeppelin, and want one with that calssic sound . Which one would you recommend?

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