The Top 10 Cheap Electric Guitars For Under $200 That Get The Job Done

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Last Updated: Apr-9-2019
We made several changes to this chart in the latest refresh, including saying goodbye to two models that had increased in price – the Squier Affinity Stratocaster HSS, and the Oscar Schmidt OE20. However, these were replaced with a similar Strat in the Squier Affinity Stratocaster SSS, as well as the cool Squier Bullet Mustang HH and the ESP LTD Viper-10.

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 10 Best Budget Electric Guitars Under $200:

Image Electric Guitar / Rating Summary Check Price
+ - Squier Affinity Stratocaster SSS Squier Affinity Stratocaster SSS

Total of 4.72/5   4.7 out of 5 stars

A solid single-coil Strat from Squier!

+ - Epiphone Les Paul Special II Epiphone Les Paul Special II

Total of 4.60/5   4.6 out of 5 stars

An authentic Les Paul with a budget price tag.

+ - Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC012 Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC012

Total of 4.64/5   4.6 out of 5 stars

Affordable quality from the budget kings.

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

Total of 4.64/5   4.6 out of 5 stars

Real winner when it comes to style and rock attitude.

+ - Squier Bullet Mustang HH Squier Bullet Mustang HH

Total of 4.72/5   4.7 out of 5 stars

Great value from this marvelous Mustang!

+ - Jackson JS22 Dinky Jackson JS22 Dinky

Total of 4.56/5   4.6 out of 5 stars

Great looks and a sound to match.

+ - Squier Affinity Telecaster Squier Affinity Telecaster

Total of 4.54/5   4.5 out of 5 stars

A vintage-inspired Tele with a modern budget price tag!

+ - ESP LTD Viper-10 ESP LTD Viper-10

Total of 4.67/5   4.7 out of 5 stars

LTD does the basics right to deliver a solid Viper.

+ - Ibanez GRX20ZBKN Ibanez GRX20ZBKN

Total of 4.38/5   4.4 out of 5 stars

A very solid budget option from Ibanez.

+ - Dean Vendetta XM Dean Vendetta XM

Total of 4.34/5   4.3 out of 5 stars

A rock legend and a modern classic in the budget beginners market.

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:

Squier Affinity Stratocaster SSS

Squier Affinity Stratocaster SSS

Body And Neck:4.8 out of 5 stars
Hardware:4.6 out of 5 stars
Sound:4.7 out of 5 stars
Value:4.8 out of 5 stars

Leading this list is the classic Stratocaster from Fender’s budget subsidiary, Squier. This budget model shows off everything you’d want from a Strat, including a few advanced design points that put it in a category above Strats in the Bullet Series.

You’ll find the traditional double-cutaway body made from alder, with a rainbow of finishes to choose from. There’s a bolt-on maple neck, as well as a maple fretboard and 21 frets. This Strat features three basic single-coil pickups and responsive controls.

The sound is pretty much everything we expected from an affordable Strat, with nice brightness and sparkle, and a touch of the genuine Fender tone. Well worthy of the price tag – as we highlight in the full Affinity Strat SSS review!

Epiphone Les Paul Special II

Epiphone Les Paul Special II

Body And Neck:4.5 out of 5 stars
Electronics:4.5 out of 5 stars
Hardware:4.5 out of 5 stars
Sound:4.5 out of 5 stars
Value:5 out of 5 stars

We couldn’t compile a list of the best beginner electrics without including a ‘real’ Les Paul, from the Gibson subsidiary Epiphone.

The incredibly popular Special II features everything you’d want from both a Les Paul and an affordable beginner’s guitar. This includes the familiar single-cutaway mahogany body, along with a bolt-on okoume neck featuring a comfortable SlimTaper D profile, a rosewood fretboard and 22 frets.

As highlighted in the main review of the Epiphone Les Paul Special II, this guitar comes with two humbuckers (a 650R and a 700T) and simple controls, keeping things easy for beginners, as well as reliable hardware. The highly affordable price is the icing on the cake!

Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC012

Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC012

Body And Neck:4.6 out of 5 stars
Electronics:4.5 out of 5 stars
Hardware:4.5 out of 5 stars
Sound:4.7 out of 5 stars
Value:4.9 out of 5 stars

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.

ESP LTD EC-10

ESP LTD EC-10

Body And Neck:4.8 out of 5 stars
Electronics:4.6 out of 5 stars
Hardware:4.6 out of 5 stars
Sound:4.4 out of 5 stars
Value:4.8 out of 5 stars

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.

Squier Bullet Mustang HH

Squier Bullet Mustang HH

Body And Neck:4.7 out of 5 stars
Hardware:4.6 out of 5 stars
Sound:4.6 out of 5 stars
Value:5 out of 5 stars

Whether you have smaller hands or just prefer that laidback Mustang vibe, this affordable Squier Mustang Bullet is a solid choice and proves great value for guitarists – whatever your level.

At well under $200, it scores top marks in value for the classic design, solid build and winning sound on offer. While it features basic humbuckers, the tone that comes with it is surprisingly full and soulful, working well for everything from indie to punk rock.

With a basswood body, C-shaped maple neck and reduced 24” scale length, it’s a lightweight axe that’s super-fun to play with. Want more on this cool little axe? Check out the full review of the Mustang Bullet HH.

Jackson JS22 Dinky

Jackson JS22 Dinky

Body And Neck:4.5 out of 5 stars
Electronics:4.6 out of 5 stars
Hardware:4.3 out of 5 stars
Sound:4.5 out of 5 stars
Value:4.9 out of 5 stars

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.

Squier Affinity Telecaster

Squier Affinity Telecaster

Body And Neck:4.5 out of 5 stars
Electronics:4.5 out of 5 stars
Hardware:4.4 out of 5 stars
Sound:4.4 out of 5 stars
Value:4.9 out of 5 stars

Some Telecasters can reach prices of up to $10,000 – but not this one! Fender’s budget division Squier are kings at putting together affordable versions of their parent company’s most famous models, as the Affinity Telecaster proves.

Great for beginners and players on a limited budget, this model features the timeless Telecaster body shape and distinctive headstock. Along with the Butterscotch Blonde finish, it really does crank up the vintage! The C-shaped maple neck plays very well, and the overall package feels well-made for so few beans.

As we mention in the complete Affinity Telecaster review, the electronics conform to the traditional Tele setup, with two basic but effective single-coils at the neck and bridge position.

ESP LTD Viper-10

ESP LTD Viper-10

Body And Neck:4.7 out of 5 stars
Hardware:4.6 out of 5 stars
Sound:4.6 out of 5 stars
Value:4.8 out of 5 stars

For the metalheads on a budget, the Viper-10 from ESP’s LTD is a worthwhile addition to your shortlist. With this affordable axe, LTD has put the focus on doing the basics right – and this really pays off.

As we explain in our main review of the Viper-10, this solid guitar sports the familiar ‘SG with attitude’ Viper body design, with a lightweight basswood construction. There’s a slim maple neck with 24 extra jumbo frets, so playability is excellent for the price.

This Viper is equipped with two LH-100 humbuckers that deliver a surprisingly full sound that’s great for rock, metal and even blues. Of course, the hardware is basic, but it all combines well to deliver a stable experience.

Ibanez GRX20ZBKN

Ibanez GRX20ZBKN

Body And Neck:4.2 out of 5 stars
Electronics:4.1 out of 5 stars
Hardware:4.2 out of 5 stars
Sound:4.5 out of 5 stars
Value:4.9 out of 5 stars

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.

Dean Vendetta XM

Dean Vendetta XM

Body And Neck:4.2 out of 5 stars
Electronics:4.4 out of 5 stars
Hardware:4.1 out of 5 stars
Sound:4.2 out of 5 stars
Value:4.8 out of 5 stars

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.

Are These Budget 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 ‘Cheap’ 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 budget 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

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. RC Champ says

    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

    • Zalmo says

      ROGUE guitars have been a staple of Musician’s Friend for a Looonnng time.
      I bought my Hofner Beatle-Bass copy maybe 20 or more years ago and it’s been my go-to bass ever since.
      I have sooo many basses, many costing 20 times what I paid….and, the cost makes no difference…The ROGUE holds its own.
      I don’t know if the quality had held up on new Rogues, but, you can check that out on line…looking at reviews. LOTS OF LUCK in your next purchase

  2. Rex Austin says

    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. Jeshua says

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

    • Seb says

      Either the Les Paul, the Stratocaster Or the Telecaster probably. One of the guitars Jimi Page played was a Les Paul.

  4. Edward Puddy says

    Why do all the Affordable guitars have skinny necks. I have big fingers and its hard for me not to touch other strings when i am holding one string and the kills the sound of the. What is the best affordable wide neck 2inch at the nut

  5. Dants Corcega says

    Thank you for writing this article, now I have all the time I need in buying my first electric guitar. I’ve been playing acoustic for like 10 years. I think this is the right time to upgrade my skills.

  6. Jeshua says

    What would be a good all-rounder? Because I love both classic rock (led zeppelin, jimi Hendrix) and metal (Judas priest, iron maiden, black Sabbath) and would like something that would suit both styles

  7. JC says

    Ive already got my Metal guitar. Now I would like something in this price range that’s more versatile but also has a tremolo. I’d like to get adventurous with it. What do you suggest?

  8. Chris says

    Is there a specific reason you left Harley Benton models off this list?
    Both the SC-450 and the SC Custom come in under the $200 mark and, I think, good competitors for the others listed.

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