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How do you know if an electric guitar is cheap? Is it by price, quality, sound, or the accessories it comes with?
Why would you want an inexpensive guitar? Don’t they all sound like junk?
Whether you’re a roadie needing a back-up guitar or a beginner player trying to save money on your first-time buy, a good electric guitar is the prudent and best choice.
So, we go over all the reasons why you need one of the best cheap electric guitars in your arsenal, regardless if you’re a noob, better than average, or veteran player.
And, no – not all affordable electric guitars sound or look like garbage. Well, at least the ones in our lineup don’t.
QUICK ANSWER: Best Cheap Electric Guitar
- Best Overall: Jackson JS Dinky JS22 DKA Review
- Best Value Electric Guitar: Ibanez RG GIO GRX20Z Review
- Best Electric Guitar Under $200: Yamaha Pacifica PAC100 Series Review
- Best Electric Guitar Under $100: Best Choice Products Electric Guitar Starter Kit Review
- Best Budget Electric Guitar: Dean Vendetta XM Review
- Best Cheap Electric Guitar for Small Hands: Squier by Fender Bullet Mustang HH Review
- Best Budget Ibanez Electric Guitar: Ibanez RG GIO GRX70QA Review
Our 7 Best Budget Electric Guitars
|Jackson JS Dinky JS22 DKA||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|Ibanez RG GIO GRX20Z||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|Yamaha Pacifica PAC100 Series||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|Best Choice Products Electric Guitar Starter Kit||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|Dean Vendetta XM||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|Squier by Fender Bullet Mustang HH||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|Ibanez RG GIO GRX70QA||VIEW ON AMAZON|
Cheap Electric Guitar Reviews
How do you define “cheap?” We judge a guitar by its overall components, and obviously, sound is a major factor. Cheap implies junk, trash, garbage, rubbish . . . You get the point. No one wants or needs plastic hardware, tinny tones, and fragile builds. We don’t endorse “cheap.”
But, we do support affordable, budget-friendly, inexpensive, and low-priced electric guitars. They’re in the right price range for a player trying to stay within a tight budget, but they’re a step up in quality from those cheap hunks of wood that dare call themselves guitars.
To help you avoid the trash heap like the plague, our lineup consists of decent buys that are worthy of your attention. From well-known brands to guitars with undeniable aesthetic appeal, we list budget guitars that are worth their salt.
But, remember that a low price indicates standard, no-frills, and basic quality. It doesn’t mean it’s bad, it’s just not going to be decked out with all the fancy trappings. If it were, it’d be out of your price range. Here are the guitars that can you rely on for performance and price in one package that you won’t have to feel guilty about buying or modifying!
Best Overall: Jackson JS Dinky JS22 DKA Review
- Archtop Dinky Double Cutaway Body
- 1pc. Maple Speed Neck and a Compound Radius (12"-16") Fretboard with 24 Jumbo Frets
Jackson Guitars has a notable history of American-made, high-quality electric guitars that had a strong influence in the ’80s during the heavy metal era. Today, they’re owned by Fender and are Asian-production guitars, but they’ve been designed to bring affordable Jackson models to the cost-conscious buyer.
- Pearloid shark fin inlays
- Ceramic magnets
- Humbucker pickups
- Black hardware
- May want to upgrade tuners
The Dinky’s aesthetic appeal is undeniable. Its high-gloss Snow White finish is an eye-catcher, and with all-black hardware, it’s a nice change from chrome. The pearloid shark fin inlays add a nice touch of flair without overwhelming its simplistic look, and while the motif is simplistic, it’s classy.
The guitar is a solid body made from poplar with an arched top. The bolted-on maple neck has graphite reinforcement which increases and improves tension behind the nut. The neck is also designed for speed and looks complete with white binding that extends around the headstock.
The fretboard is made with Amaranth and features 24 jumbo frets making it easier to navigate. The super Strat body style is Jackson Guitar’s Dinky body shape and is easily recognizable with its edgy double cutaway, 25.5″ scale, and tremolo bridge.
What does the Dinky sound like? For a budget guitar, it has similar tonal properties to its competition, but it balances tonal quality and clarity better than most allowing for decent clean and dirty output. Electronics include two humbuckers with ceramic magnets that produce high output. To use them, you have a 3-way pickup selector switch, Master Volume, and Tone controls. The knobs are selectively placed so you don’t accidentally hit them while playing.
There’s very little to complain about on the JS Dinky guitar, and it’s why it’s an overall hit. Even intermediate players don’t intend on modifying it because they like it how it is. However, if you experience tuning issues, you’ll need to replace the strings, and you may want to consider locking tuners – see it as an upgrade to an already great guitar.
Best Value Electric Guitar: Ibanez RG GIO GRX20Z Review
- 2 Power sound hum bucking pickups
- Alder Body
- FAT 6 bridge
The GRX20Z is a stylish electric guitar priced low enough for beginners to start on a brand name instrument. If you’re looking to learn the guitar, or you want a decent guitar to customize and make some modifications, the GRX20Z is the git to do it on.
- 5-way pickup toggle
- Ceramic pickups
- Dual humbuckers
- Integrated pickguard
- Requires set up
What modifications would you make? You could replace the humbuckers, but they do the job nicely for many buyers, but new strings and locking tuners should be a serious consideration. Before playing, you should check for smooth frets, intonation, and string action to ensure it’s as playable as can be and sounds great as possible.
The black gloss finish is classic and pairs with a black, integrated pickguard and black nut. The dark color makes the chrome hardware and white dot inlays stand out. Build construction consists of a poplar body, treated New Zealand pine fretboard, and maple neck. The neck has Ibanez’s GRX style that has a slim profile to make it easier to grip and hold especially for beginners.
The pickguard has two humbuckers mounted onto it, one for the neck and one for the bridge. A 5-way pickup selector allows you to switch between pickups or use a combination of both to change up tones and produce bite in your sound. But, the RG GIO is a versatile guitar, so it will produce warm and cleaner sounds for beginners to grasp the learning curves. The top also has Master Volume and Tone controls.
The tremolo bridge allows use of a whammy bar, but the bar doesn’t seem to be included in the buy. However, a cable is included in the buy, but you may want to be seller specific to ensure you get it.
As with any guitar, it will require setting up to maximize sound potential and enjoyment while playing.
Best Electric Guitar Under $200: Yamaha Pacifica PAC100 Series Review
- Agathis Body
- Maple Bolt-On Neck
- Sonokeling Fingerboard
This Pacifica model is the PAC012DLX that is part of the most affordable line of the Pacifica series of electric guitars. As the DLX guitar, here is what’s in store for you.
- 5-way pickup selector
- SSH pickups
- OVS model
- Covered tuners
- Requires set up
The fact that a guitar requires setting up before you can maximize its potential is a given, and it should be done to every guitar regardless of price. However, there’s nothing bad about the Pacifica guitar to report, so we’re being nitpicky.
This guitar is the DLX OVA model. What makes it different to the rest of the PAC012 models? It’s the Old Violin Sunburst finish that is not only seen on the top, but on the back as well. It’s available in a beginner’s bundle, but what is said negatively about this guitar is all about the accessories in the package. You may as well buy the guitar solo and invest in your own cable and amp to get plugged in.
The guitar has a Strat style body with vintage features that includes the finish, double cutaway, and vintage tremolo bridge. All these features are often seen on entry-level guitars, so no surprises there.
What’s with the covered tuners? Are they covering up an unsightly mess underneath? Who would know unless you tuned and played it? The Pacifica holds tune and works just fine as open versus covered tuners tends to be more of a matter of personal preference, although it does help to keep dust and grit out.
Yamaha isn’t quite upfront about what the solid body is made from. It could be agathis, nato, or alder. It does have a maple neck and rosewood fingerboard with 22 medium frets. While all the other PAC100 series guitars have white pickguards, the DLX has a black pickguard with black knobs and further up the line it has a black nut. Chrome hardware certainly provides an accent, although it would be neat to complete the look with black hardware, too.
Moving on, the guitar has single coil pickups for the neck and middle and a humbucker pickup for the bridge. All pickups have ceramic magnets, and pickups can be switched between or combined with the 5-way pickup selector toggle.
All in all, it’s a solidly built guitar priced appropriately for a learning adult or child.
Best Electric Guitar Under $100: Best Choice Products Electric Guitar Starter Kit Review
- ALL-INCLUSIVE GUITAR SET: This ultimate starter kit includes a 39-inch electric guitar, 10W amp, amp cable cord, guitar pick, whammy bar (tremolo bar), shoulder strap, and replacement strings
Ranked and rated by the masses, this full-size electric guitar with the starter kit is a steal. Best Choice Products is known to pump out decent guitars under $100, and this electric model is no exception to the rule.
- Starter kit
- SSS pickup configuration
- Blue Sunburst
- Requires a little work
It’s a cheap guitar made at the lowest manufacturing costs with low-grade materials, but that’s why it’s under 100 bucks. However, if you take the time to do a little fixing here and there, you’ll be axing everyday all day long.
Things to consider? String replacement, tightening up components, intonation, fret smoothing, and maybe reseating the ground wire behind the back plate. High-end guitars certainly wouldn’t need this level of setting up, but to make the most of your budget buy, it’s worth it to take the extra steps needed to make the most of your mass-produced guitar.
Getting past the setup process, you can truly appreciate the value in your buy. The Strat style guitar is a full-size 39″ guitar made from what we suspect is a composite hardwood as BCP is vague on what type of tonewoods they used to construct the neck, fretboard, and body.
The Blue Sunburst finish is stunning – hands down. It features an S-S-S pickup configuration which is three single coil pickups. Although notorious for picking up magnetic interference, you can reduce the hum by ensuring the grounding wire is seated correctly, use a stable, quality cable and amp.
If you don’t have the upgrades in gear, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to fork out more cash for them today. The Strat style guitar comes with a starter kit that includes a carrying bag, 10W amp, cable, and strap. It also comes with a couple extras like a tremolo bar to use with the tremolo bridge, extra electric guitar strings, and a pick. Don’t expect great performance from the accessories, but at least you won’t have to put out tons of cash up front.
Give yourself time to learn the curves and upgrade equipment as you go to stay motivated and improve sound.
Best Budget Electric Guitar: Dean Vendetta XM Review
- Paulownia body with natural finish and bolt-on construction
- 25.5-inch scale, 24-fret maple neck with rosewood fingerboard and dot inlays
- Dual Dean humbuckers with volume and tone controls, three-way toggle
Dean Guitars has made an aggressive comeback into the entry-level market, and one such guitar leading the storm is the Vendetta XM. It’s by no means a flashy guitar in terms of features, but there’s enough that sets it apart from its competition.
- Slim neck profile
- Satin Natural finish
- Dual humbuckers
- Quality control issues
As it is with entry-level guitars, many will require a little more work to get set up, and others may come with blemishes or faulty components that are cause for replacements. Fortunately, Dean guitars are covered with a warranty and a 100% quality guarantee, so you can have confidence in your buy.
The Vendetta guitar is made from Paulownia wood and it has a satin natural finish over the body and top. It’s gorgeous, but you should know it’s quite dark in color close to a mahogany. The neck is bolted onto the body and is made of maple, and the fretboard is made from Black Walnut.
It has Dean’s Vendetta shaped body that has the classic curves/cutaways of the Strat, and yet it sports unique characteristics such as the V-cut headstock and V-shaped ferrule pattern of the strings. The scale length of the git is 25.5″, a slim-profile C-shaped neck, and a flat top. There are 24 medium jumbo frets that may need some smoothing out since the neck lacks binding, and as it is with budget guitars, they can arrive a little rough.
The sound is decent for stock humbuckers, and they’re Dean’s very own DMT designed pickups. Plugging into a high-quality amp will also boost sound and effects to achieve the style of playing and sound shaping you’re after. Professional players looking for a backup guitar will likely upgrade the pickups, but at least there isn’t the notorious hum from single pickups. To switch between the pickups, it features a 3-way toggle and you also have a Master Control and Tone knob.
Can we just say we’re digging the all-black hardware from the Dean die-cast tuners to Tune-O-Matic bridge? It looks classy and edgy at the same time. For an all-round, stunning guitar on a budget, the Vendetta XM is a great choice.
Best Electric Guitar for Small Hands: Squier by Fender Bullet Mustang HH Review
- One-piece Maple neck with “C”-shaped profile
- Dual humbucking pickups
- Six-saddle Hardtail Bridge
There’s no shame if you’re an adult with small hands. Guitar manufacturers don’t discriminate. The Bullet Mustang HH guitar is specifically made for petite players, small hand players, and can even be played by keen youth learning the ropes.
- Short scale
- HH pickup configuration
- Imperial Blue finish
- C-shaped neck
- Requires a little work
All guitars will need a setup before playing, but the Bullet may need a little more work to enhance playability. The frets and the fretboard have been said to be a little rough, so you’ll need to smooth these down. A change in strings is always a good idea and intonating the guitar will ensure you have great sound for fretted notes.
The Bullet Mustang has a short scale of 24″, and the lack of that extra inch makes a huge difference in size and playability for a small person. It’s thin and lightweight and the C-shaped neck makes it easy to hold, grip, and play.
The double cutaway guitar is made from basswood with a maple neck and Indian Laurel fretboard with 22 medium jumbo frets and white dot inlays. It has two humbucker pickups with a 3-way pickup selector and a Squier string-through-body hardtail bridge to support optimal tuning.
It has a plastic nut which will do nothing for tone. Plastic knobs are expected, and tuning gears are sealed. It’s the epitome of a budget guitar. However, even though the pickups are stock grade, they’re not too bad. They’re hot enough to cut through for solos with bite, and they’re bright and reasonably well-defined. Additionally, there’s no hum as it’s outfitted with humbuckers instead of single coil pickups.
There’s nothing fancy about the Bullet Mustang, but for the price, it’s a small person’s trusty guitar that’ll provide countless hours of practice and tunes.
Best Budget Ibanez Electric Guitar: Ibanez RG GIO GRX70QA Review
- Fast, slim Maple neck
- Beautiful quilted Maple art grain top
- High output Infinity R pickups
Ibanez is a high-quality brand that many beginners and newbs would love to own, but this dream usually isn’t realized until you’ve reached intermediate skill levels. What if we told you that you could afford one on a beginner’s budget?
- Ceramic pickups
- NZ pine fretboard
- Tremolo bridge
- 5-way pickup toggle
- May require a bit of a setup
The RG Gio series of electric guitars is designed with affordability and Ibanez quality in mind. One very popular model is the GRX70QA with the Transparent Red Burst finish that comes in under $200 and is a great buy for the money.
As an entry-level model, there may be a couple things you may have to adjust upon box opening. Some buyers have reported that the pickups and bridge come a little loose – tighten them in. Even fewer have reported fret buzz that has been corrected with new strings, checking to see if frets are low and smooth, and action correctly adjusted.
The guitar itself has an accentuated double cutaway, quilted maple top on a poplar body, Ibanez’s GRX (slim profile) neck made from maple, and a fretboard made from treated New Zealand pine. It’s a full-size electric guitar with a 25.5″ scale length, 22 medium frets, and is 42 mm wide at the nut.
It has all the tell-tale signs of a popular Stratocaster body including the floating tremolo bridge. The lack of a pickguard makes room for two humbucker pickups for the neck and bridge and a single coil pickup in the middle all made from ceramic magnets.
With the 5-way pickup selector toggle, you can switch between the pickups for tonal versatility, and while they may not be of the best quality, they are loud and responsive. If you’re a beginner, the pickups will do. If you’re a seasoned player, a switch-out of the electronics may be in order to truly roar in metal and rock genres.
Although this isn’t a starter’s package, Ibanez does provide a cable, whammy bar, and tools for adjustments in the buy. They’re not the best quality, but it’ll get you started until you can buy better replacements.
The GIO is easy to play, has good sound, and is priced as such so the cost-conscious buyer can afford to have an Ibanez on their rack.
What to Look for in the Best Cheap Electric Guitar
To the untrained eyes of a beginner or ignoramus, a flashy finish and six strings is all one might see, and yes, even the cheapest guitars can sport glossy, shiny, and glimmering finishes that can be deceiving to the eyes.
But, what lies beneath? Here are the features you need to know about if you’re going to make the most of your buy. If you know what’s good, you can avoid the bad.
This lineup of cheap electric guitars may be surprising as the benchmark price seems to be around $150, likely higher in price than what you initially thought. But, that’s about as cheap as it gets before you start seeing a plethora of composite materials, plastic components, and further cutbacks in build quality.
The more cash you can dump into your guitar, the better the overall quality. However, you don’t always have to start out with an expensive electric guitar under $1000 if you’re on a shoestring budget. As your skills progress and your interest grows, you can always modify your cheap guitar by upgrading the electronics, bridge, machine heads, and more to improve versatility and better sound.
But, what about cheap guitars with beginner packs and bundles? We came up with a different lineup specifically for starter packages and beginner electric guitars, so be sure to check that out too.
Accessories are often included with beginner bundles as packages designed to provide everything a beginner needs to get started. They’re tempting and attractive to consider as you can get a whole lot more bang for your buck. However, the included accessories are almost always mediocre quality. If you’re an intermediate player, you’ve likely built up a stockpile of items already. However, if you’re just starting out, the combo kit may be the way to go.
But, on the other side of the coin. . . The fortunate benefit of buying an inexpensive guitar is all the value is in the guitar itself. The money you save on buying an inexpensive guitar can then be used to purchase a few, must-have accessories to get you started that are at least a grade higher in quality than what’s included in a beginner’s bundle.
Taking a cue from high-end brands, they sell their guitars solo with not even an extra pair of strings thrown in the buy. Why? The guitar is where the upfront investment is – everything else can come later.
Cheap VS Beginner’s Electric Guitars
Too often, the terms “beginner” and “cheap” are used synonymously. Yes, entry-level guitars are often inexpensive and geared towards beginners because, one: you’re undecided you’re going to stick with learning the guitar. And, two: the budget just isn’t there. It’s pricey to get started with all the extra gear you’ll end up needing to learn your groove.
However, cheap guitars aren’t only for beginners. There’s no reason an intermediate and even pro player wouldn’t get enjoyment out of an inexpensive guitar.
These entry-level models are basic in electronics, hardware, and tonewoods, but when a pro player just wants to pick something up and give it a run for its money, skill can often make a cheap guitar sound even better. Guitarists can also modify these guitars without feeling guilty like they’re taking away from the unique style of a guitar or ruining and changing features of a very expensive, icon inspired instrument. They can modify, rig, and upgrade hardware and electronics on a basic model to give it more pizazz for playing on the go or in places where they wouldn’t dare take their genuine Les Paul.
So, yes. Cheap guitars are often synonymous with beginner guitars, but it’s all about what you can do with it.
Electronic Guitar Body Types
Most of the electric guitars of this quality and price will be solid body guitars with heavy, high gloss finishes, then there’s the shape to consider. The entry-level market is filled with Stratocaster and Les Paul inspired body types. You’ll see a lot of double cutaways, C-shaped, slim-profile necks, and a variation of flat, arched, and curved tops.
While each guitar body type is generally geared towards a certain genre or style of playing, most guitars in this price range will be versatile enough to start with and learn various playing techniques.
Pickups are always stock grade on these affordable guitars. Nearly all the time, a better than average player will upgrade the pickups for something that helps to define their music signature and improve tonal range. For most players looking in this price range, stock pickups are fine to produce enough clarity and tonal definition to get playing.
Pickup configurations will also vary between models and manufacturers. You can have single coil pickups, humbuckers, and a combo of the two. A selector switch/toggle switch will provide the ability to use individual pickups or a combination of what’s available.
Single coil pickups have a single wire around a magnet and are prone to picking up magnetic interference that produces a humming sound in the background when plugged in. Humbuckers have two coils that wrap around the magnet in opposing direction and polarity that cancels out the humming of a single coil pickup. They generally have more bite than a single coil.
When we talk scale length, we’re referring to the length of the string from the nut to the bridge. You may tend to think that only kid-size guitars are available for cheap prices, but it’s not the case. Full-size guitars can be priced well below 200 bucks and is the case with this lineup.
You can find short scale guitars with a scale length of 24″ that aren’t kid’s guitars – they’re just shorter for smaller adults and smaller hands. You might even prefer it for its portability, compact size, and light weight. They are easier to play with lower action and bendable, super-light gauge strings.
Full scale length guitars are around 25 and 25.5″ on a Strat inspired guitar with tighter tension and higher action. But, then full-size can also mean 24.75″ on a Gibson inspired guitar. Regardless of initial scale length, it’s important that you can adjust action and change the scale length of a string to correct intonation.
When an electric guitar is layered in that heavy glossy finish, resonance is suppressed – full stop. But, how does a solid body guitar resonate? Why is tonewood important? Tonewoods are used for their ability to help a string vibrate, provide resonance and sustain, and add tonal characteristics unique to that wood.
However, electric guitars don’t have to be as stringent on this feature as much as acoustic guitars do. Most guitars in this price range will be made with a solid body constructed from popular or cheap woods such as basswood. The neck will often be maple, and the bridge will almost always be made of rosewood with sometimes a variation of composite materials in some models. This is the standard of tonewoods you’ll see in this price range.
Yes, hardware will be mediocre on a standard electric guitar – no surprises here. Chrome die cast tuners, integrated pickguards, and synthetic nuts and saddles are the usuals. Although unfortunate, you should also expect rough frets, finish blemishes, and components that may need some tightening up. There isn’t much to tote about here because this is about 99% of what you’re going to see for the price.
We agree, you shouldn’t have to put up with it or deal with those kinds of issues, but it’s the reality in this price range. Putting a little effort into the setup can provide long-lasting enjoyment of your guitar and buyer satisfaction. Hey, you may get a perfect model out of the box.
Buy a Cheap Guitar the Smart Way not the Cheap Way!
Going cheap doesn’t mean buying used unless you know the seller and have some insurance for repairs and parts replacements or upgrades. But, a cheap guitar is already priced as low as it’s going to get with stock parts that are often just okay in quality. Adding “used condition” to the mix increases its risk of rapid wear and tear without a warranty.
Staying brand specific can help provide buyer’s peace of mind and buying new often means you have a warranty in place to cover any issues you may experience when buying a low-end guitar. Spending as little as possible on an electric guitar and still being happy with your buy can be done when it’s done the right way.