9 Best Cheap Electric Guitars in 2020 [That Aren’t Junk]

Looking for a better-than-average beginner guitar? 

Are there any real, cheap guitars that don’t suck? 

Of course, there are! Since we define cheap only in price and not in quality, the guitars in this lineup average around $200 and are some of the best you’ll ever find designed for the working man’s budget.

There will be some redoubtable classics that have withstood the test of time, and there are some new models that will be sure to please. 

Making sure we satisfy the genre demands of all players, we have a mix-up of guitars worth checking out! 

We have also compiled a roundup of the best electric guitars under $500 your budget does stretch a bit higher.

Snapshot: Top 9 Cheap Electric Guitars In 2020

  1. Yamaha Pacifica PAC012DLX
  2. Firefly Hollow Body
  3. Jackson Dinky JS22-7 DKA HT
  4. Epiphone SG Special
  5. Oscar Schmidt OE20G-A-U
  6. Squier Bullet Stratocaster
  7. Squier Affinity Stratocaster
  8. Ibanez GRG121DX WNF
  9. Dean Vendetta XMT

Shopping for a Low Cost Electric Guitar

Best Cheap Electric Guitar Reviews

Foreign production plants have set the standards high within the last decade. 

While Japanese and American-made guitars have always been held at the highest regard, Chinese, Korean, and Mexican factories are surprising us with the quality they pump out, and of course, the low prices can’t be beat. 

If you’re after an electric guitar but you’re tightening up your belt when it comes to finances, lucky you – the pickings couldn’t be better today. 

Don’t be too quick to judge a guitar by its low price tag.  We chose guitars from reputable brands that have proven to be perennial classics.  While they’re designed to be entry-level and are suitable for the beginner player, they’re also excellent guitars worth making a few mods on if you have the experience. 

With build quality being the primary feature, you can mod and upgrade hardware that can make a huge difference in sound and playability.  But, all that costs additional money.  The guitars in this lineup have decent hardware and were part of the consideration process when we threw out the junky options.  These guitars will help you stay within budget and are every bit worth their salt. 

The Best Cheap Electric Guitars

1. Yamaha Pacifica PAC012DLX Review

Good, old Yamaha comes in with a well-known Pacifica model that has long been the choice of electric guitar for beginners.  Not designed to be pimped out with bells and whistles, it’s main focus is on longevity and build quality at its core. 

Body & Neck

The Pacifica Deluxe has a Super Strat body with elongated horns and double cutaways that gets you to the highest of the 22 frets along the 25.5” scale length.  Depending on what tonewood is available at the time of construction, it could be made with Alder, Agathis, or Nato. 

The bolt-on neck is made from maple and the fingerboard from rosewood – classic combinations.  The fingerboard has a nice 13.75” radius that will make it easier for fingers to make contact with and learn shredding basics. 

Electronics & Hardware

You have an H-S-S pickup configuration on this guitar with the humbucker mounted directly to the body versus on the pickguard.  Yamaha says this position adds resonance and thick full tones.  Pickups are made with Alnico V ceramic magnets and can be accessed with the 5-way pickup selector blade and tweaked with the Master Volume and Master Tone controls. 

The bridge is a block saddle vintage tremolo.  You’ll learn the basics of using a whammy bar, but without locking studs or locking tuners, you may want to go easy if you value tuning stability. 

Sound

Both types of pickups in their designated positions provide warm and full tones, but the single-coils pull off a brighter snap.  The humbucker, already known to provide warmth, is supported with thick and responsive sounds by having been mounted directly to the body of the guitar.  The block saddle bridge deepens and enriches that tone, and yet, it’s not as dark sounding as an H-H configuration because the single-coils come in with jangly lightness and note-defining clarity. 

Specs Summary

  • Body Material: Agathis, Alder, or Nato
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
  • Pickups: Alnico V Single-coils/Humbucker
  • Bridge: Block Saddle Tremolo

Excellent build quality.  Excellent brand.  Excellent sound. 

Final Thoughts on the Yamaha Pacifica PAC012DLX

This Pacifica, like all the others, is well built and will last a long time if you take care of it.  It’s the build quality and versatile sound options that has it placed as one of the most popular, budget guitars available. 

2. Firefly Hollow Body Review

Full Size Hollow body Electric Guitar with Cable and Picks (Blue Burst)
394 Reviews
Full Size Hollow body Electric Guitar with Cable and Picks (Blue Burst)
  • Semi-acoustic,double cutaway body with 'f' holes,Set-in Neck
  • Full Scale Electric Guitar with Nickel strings and Bone nut
  • 2V&2T, 2XChrome Humbucker pickups

Firefly.  Not as well-known as the other brands in this lineup, but their hollow body electric guitar has certainly made an impact on the buying crowd regardless.  How has it gained so much attention?  Let’s find out. 

Body & Neck

This guitar is marketed as a hollow body, but it’s a semi-hollow body guitar by construction with its center block running through the body with chambers on both sides of the f-holes.  As such, it’ll experience less feedback issues versus the hollow body, but you’ll still get both acoustic and electronic benefits from the same guitar. 

If you’re a jazz and blues kind of player, you’ll immediately conjure up the guitar this is one is styled after, the Gibson 335.  It’s not a clone, but it’s well done for a copy.  Unfortunately, no one knows for sure what woods are used to make this guitar – pfft.  It is long at about 42”, comparable to an acoustic, but it’s surprisingly lighter in weight than expected at approximately 10 lbs. 

Electronics & Hardware

There are a pair of stock humbuckers with ceramic magnets on board.  A Tune-O-Matic bridge with a StopBar tailpiece allows for it to be raised or lowered and provides six adjustable saddles. 

Nothing-to-write-home-about tuners sit at the headstock, block inlays adorn the fretboard, and it comes with nickel strings and a bone nut.  There are two tone controls and two volume controls to shape your sound from jazz and blues to country twang, rock ‘n roll, and even hard rock. 

Sound

Humbuckers are naturally warm, but the bridge has that bite attack you need without the shrill and the neck is deep, clear, rich.  With the addition of the bridge and tailpiece types, you have supported sustain, and excellent tuning stability with little to no user intervention. 

You may lose some volume when playing those high-end notes, but the tone control is very responsive and dynamic, so you’ll be able to mold the sound you’re after.  

Specs Summary

  • Body Material: Unknown
  • Neck Material: Unknown
  • Fingerboard Material: Unknown
  • Pickups: Humbuckers
  • Bridge: TOM w/StopBar

Inspired after the ES-335.  Mysterious tonewoods.  Gorgeous burst finish.

Final Thoughts on the Firefly Hollow Body

It’s not an ES-335, but it’s about as close to one as you’re going to get for the price.  While there are hardware appointments that you may find you’re completely happy with, it wouldn’t hurt to see some upgrades in the future once you’re ready to shape that sound even further. 

3. Jackson Dinky JS22-7 DKA HT Review

JS Series Dinky Arch Top JS22-7 HT AH Satin Black
  • Body: Poplar
  • Neck Material: 1-Piece Maple
  • Fingerboard: Amaranth

Blacked-out, edgy, and classy at the same time.  When you want the best cheap shredding guitar, Jackson will deliver, and deliver in style they do. 

Body & Neck

It’s a solid body with an arched top – classic metal top.  It’s made with poplar to keep the costs down.  It has a bolt-on maple neck that’s reinforced with graphite and wrapped up with a scarf joint.  It features an Amaranth fingerboard that’s meets the predictable, but appreciated, pointy, angled, 3+4 headstock. 

Never heard of Amaranth?  You might know it by a different name – Purpleheart.  It’s gorgeous, has a tonally thick bottom end, and it’s very hard and dense that is supposedly harder than maple, so it promises strong sustain.

Other important specs to know is that it has a 26.5” scale length, 24 jumbo frets, and it has a compound radius of 12-16” – classic shredding specs.  We dig the edgy and punky black satin finish on the body. 

Electronics & Hardware

You have Master Volume and Master Tone controls with a 3-way pickup blade, and no, there is no coil splitting or treble bleed circuits here.  Jackson puts their own High-Output 7-string Humbuckers on the guitar with black dome style control knobs.  Continuing with the blacked-out color scheme, the 3-over/4-under tuners are Jackson’s own sealed, die-cast creations, and you have a black HT7 string-through-body hardtail bridge.  We’re still digging all the black even though the pearloid piranha tooth inlays provides an accent against the Stygian theme. 

If you haven’t already caught on, this is a 7-string guitar.  Even though the extra nickel-plated string provides an extended tonal range excellent for metal, it’s still made with beginner playability in mind. 

Sound

Rich, full, thick, and made to be hot.  These humbuckers are made for maximum gain and distortion, but they don’t fall into that muddy sounding trap.  They’re plenty hot but not without tonal character when you crank up the volume.  Remember though, they are stock pickups, so they’re great for beginners and intermediate players, but advanced players may want to swap them out at some point. 

Specs Summary

  • Body Material: Poplar
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Amaranth
  • Pickups: Jackson High-Output 7-String Humbuckers
  • Bridge: Jackson HT7 String-Through-Body Hardtail

Crepuscular aura.  Edgy sound.  Jackson greatness.

Final Thoughts on the Jackson Dinky JS22-7 DKA HT

Jackson doesn’t take shortcuts, and it’s clear from the get-go that the Dinky JS22-7 electric is priced with maximum value in mind.  Designed for the beginner who wants to metal things up, it has every feature to get you shredding in no time without overspending. 

4. Epiphone SG Special Review

Epiphone SG Special with Chrome Hardware and KillPot, Ebony
  • Classic SG tone and styling
  • KillPot switch
  • LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge

The famous SG guitar.  There should be every expectation that the SG Special be featured in this lineup.  It’s a classic, best for rock, and is priced just right.

Body & Neck

In the early ‘60s, the Les Paul took on a redesigned shape with its double cutaways, lightweight (approx. 7 lbs), and carved body design.  While the finish takes on a glossy shine, it covers up a Mahogany body that pairs well with rock genres – just what it was made for.  The Okoume neck has a SlimTaper D profile and is capped with a Rosewood fretboard with standard dot inlays and a radius of 12” – features needed for grabbing chords and riffing off some classic solos. 

Other specs to note: 24.75” scale length, bolt-on neck with tapered heel, and easy access to all 22 frets.  The headstock is true to Gibson’s preference with a 14-degree angle that’s said to provide sustain because of the downward pressure at the nut, and of course, added tuning stability. 

Electronics & Hardware

It was decades ago when the SG took off the P-90s in favor of humbuckers.  Epiphone puts their own 650R at the neck and a 700T at the bridge that have undergone a double waxing bath process, so to speak.  There is one volume and one tone control with 500K pots with a KillPot feature on the tone knob, so you can “kill” the pickups just like Buckethead does.  It doesn’t latch, so it springs back up after tapping it down. 

The bridge is a LockTone Tune-O-Matic bridge and is paired with a Stopbar tailpiece.  Sustain and easy string changing is the name of the game here.  Nickel 14:1 machine heads sit at the angled 3+3 headstock. 

Sound

The sound is good for a little bit of everything, but of course this guitar will shine when it comes to rock.  Putting aside the kill switch, you can still do some crazy shredding and chord grabbing – whatever floats your boat. 

With all the hardware and mahogany tonewood, tuning is stable and there is more than enough sustain.  The pickups are hot, so they’ll work really well with gain and distortion for some added crunch and grit.  You can tweak your amp to keep character in the tone when playing heavier rock styles.  Playing clean, you can expect clear and warm tones.  Mix it up and you can pull out those fat lows and mids. 

Specs Summary

  • Body Material: Mahogany
  • Neck Material: Okoume
  • Fingerboard Material: Rosewood
  • Pickups: Epiphone 650R & 700T Humbuckers
  • Bridge: LockTone Tune-O-Matic w/StopBar

SG looks.  SG shape.  SG sound.

Final Thoughts on the Epiphone SG Special

This is a must-have guitar, not just for a beginner, but for anyone who’s ever wanted a Gibson SG.  It may not be one of the genuine models, but heck, for a fraction of the price, who cares!  It’s a winner in our books and the masses agree. 

5. Oscar Schmidt OE20G-A-U Review

Oscar Schmidt OE20G-A-U Solid Body Electric Guitar. Gold Top
  • Mahogany Body and Maple set neck
  • Alternative/engineered/Tech wood Fingerboard and Bridge
  • Tune-O-Matic Bridge with stop tailpiece

It looks like a Les Paul, but who is Oscar Schmidt?  They’ve been around since the 1800s, but today, they’re under the umbrella of Washburn Guitars.  That’s right folks – these brands know exactly what it means to make a quality guitar with over a combined 200 years of experience doing it. 

Body & Neck

Who doesn’t want a Les Paul (LP)?  Well, it’s not an LP, it’s an Oscar Schmidt with a single cutaway body, gold high gloss top, and 24.75” scale length – could’ve fooled us.  Under the brilliant finish lies a Mahogany body.  The neck truly steps up to the plate with its set-in construction and the headstock keeps up with image and quality demands with its abalone inlay and binding. 

A word on the fingerboard material.  It’s not Rosewood, but it’s an engineered wood called Rosetek that’s made to be similar to Rosewood.  Since true Rosewood is hard to come by due to its protected status, an alternative is required.  Will there be any negative effects to playability or tone?  Neh. 

Electronics & Hardware

There’s not a lot to get crazy about when it comes this department.  There are stock humbuckers on the LP copy each with their own volume and tone controls and 3-way selector switch.  Stock tuners sit in the classic 3+3 configuration, and to keep things traditional, a Tune-O-Matic bridge with a Stop Tailpiece wrap up the lot. 

Sound

With much of the quality having been thrown into the building of the guitar, the stock hardware leaves little to the imagination.  Sound quality is as expected – warm and mellow at the bridge, and articulate and bright at the neck.  Throw them together, add a little character, and you can literally dabble between music genres to get that LP sound. 

Specs Summary

  • Body Material: Mahogany
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Rosetek
  • Pickups: Humbuckers
  • Bridge: Tune-O-Matic w/Stop Tailpiece

Beautiful gold finish.  Classic body shape.  History behind its making.

Final Thoughts on the Oscar Schmidt OE20G-A-U

It’s a beautiful guitar done right.  There’s nothing too extravagant about it, maybe except for its finish, but it sticks to tradition where traditional demands are expected.  For the price, there is nothing to complain about. 

6. Squier Bullet Stratocaster Review

The Bullet Strat has once again been under the knife and reveals a new facelift.  Perfect for the beginner looking for a brand name guitar, the Bullet HT HSS Stratocaster is a first-timer’s ticket into experiencing Fender quality at the best price point. 

Body & Neck

It’s not a very big guitar, even for an electric, so it’s perfect for younger players that are serious about learning the guitar or for adults with smaller hands.  However, it still has real guitar appointments that add value and quality to the package. 

The body is made from Basswood and the neck from maple.  It has the classic Stratocaster body shape and the neck has a C profile that’s beginner-friendly, lends itself to multiple music genres and playing styles, and offers a vintage feel.  The Indian Laurel fretboard is remarkably darker than Rosewood, and it has the popular, vintage, Fender 9.5” fingerboard radius that’s excellent for grabbing those chords you’ll soon learn and master. 

Electronics & Hardware

Squier puts on a standard humbucker at the bridge and two Standard Single-Coil Strat pickups at the neck and middle.  A 5-way blade allows use of individual pickups or to combine the middle and bridge pickups or the middle and neck pickups. 

There is a Master Volume control and two Tone controls on board.  Standard die-cast tuners sit on the, you guessed it, Fender’s pet 6-inline, flat headstock.  The bridge evokes memories of the ‘70s vintage style with its 6-saddle string-through-body hardtail with its larger base plate. 

Sound

They say you can get that classic Fender sound from the Bullet, but with the humbucker at the bridge, you have the flexibility of adding in warm, fat-sounding, and thick, mellow tones but also achieve the bright attack in the trebles because of its position.  You can rely on the single-coils to provide that bright bite and vintage color that Strats are known for.  However, don’t expect these pickups to be overly hot, but they’re loud enough for practice sessions alone or even with another player. 

Specs Summary

  • Body Material: Basswood
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Indian Laurel
  • Pickups: Standard Single-Coil Strats & Standard Humbucker
  • Bridge: Hardtail

Great beginner guitar.  HSS pickups.  Fender sound. 

Final Thoughts on the Squier Bullet Stratocaster

It’s an excellent, stand-alone guitar at one of the lowest price points you’ll see for this kind of quality.  You’ll get enough tonal variety to dabble in multiple genres, and you’ll have all the appointments necessary to get through the beginner learning curves. 

7. Squier Affinity Stratocaster Review

If you really want to get that great Strat sound, look no further.  The Affinity Stratocaster has been designed with vintage appointments that made the original Strat a timeless classic.  Priced attractively for beginners and those on a budget, how can you say no to this surfy-looking guitar that instantly puts Beach Boys tunes into your head? 

Body & Neck

We like it when we see Fender’s favorite tonewood – Alder.  It’s lightweight, resonant, and has balanced tone that tends to swing towards the upper midrange.  Moving to the neck, it has the beginner-friendly C shape profile with an Indian Laurel fretboard and 9.5” radius.  Scale length and number of frets is as expected for a Strat: 25.5” and 21 medium jumbo frets. 

Electronics & Hardware

The stock electronics consists of Fender’s Standard Single-Coil Strat pickups at the neck, middle, and bridge positions.  The vintage-style tremolo bridge allows use of a whammy bar, but you may want to take it easy since it doesn’t lock strings in place and the tuners are only stock quality. 

Squier reckons the two-tone gold and black logo on the flat headstock gives it a touch of class.  What do you think? 

Sound

Vintage.  Strat-like.  Fender.  Need more be said?  Okay, being serious again, the single-coils pickups provide consistent tone across the board.  The bridge pickup is mounted on a slant that gets it closer to the bridge for a brighter and trebly attack of the high-end range.  The 5-way pickup blade provides a lot of sonic flexibility to get that country twang or rock ‘n roll rhythm.  But, the feature that will really help your pickups sound better than expected will be your choice of amp. 

Specs Summary

  • Body Material: Alder
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Indian Laurel
  • Pickups: Fender Standard Single-Coil Strat
  • Bridge: Vintage-Style Tremolo

Vintage appeal.  Vintage sound.  Modern playability.

Final Thoughts on the Squier Affinity Stratocaster

Squier may be considered as an entry-level brand, but their guitars have quality behind them.  The Affinity guitar is here for buyers who desire longevity and good sound at an affordable price point.  What better guitar to consider than a classic Strat? 

8. Ibanez GRG121DX WNF Review

Sometimes, high gloss finishes have no room to compete with well-done flat finishes that reveal all the glory of a gorgeously stained tonewood.  The GRG121DX guitar with the Walnut Flat finish is stunning. 

Body & Neck

Okoume is the tonewood of choice for this GRG121DX guitar from a highly-regarded guitar brand.  Ibanez sure is one of our favorites.  The Maple neck has the GRG shape, and Ibanez has a long list of thin necks that have been marked in history.  The treated New Zealand Pine fretboard has nice touches with its binding and sharktooth inlays, but it’s the radius that gets us – 15.75”.  It’s pretty flat.  Flat is a must-have when we want to shred in hard rock and metal glory. 

There are 24 jumbo frets on the fingerboard, it has a 25.5” scale length, and of course, the body has a Super Strat shape that pairs so well with the 6-inline and pointy headstock. 

Electronics & Hardware

Ibanez doesn’t always hit it out of the ballpark with their many types of stock pickups.  But, you can be the judge of the IBZ-6 humbuckers that are covered, passive, and made with ceramic magnets.  The 5-way pickup blade is versatile and allows a variety of combos to shape your tonal palette.

The bridge is another one of Ibanez’s designs, an F106.  It’s a fixed hardtail bridge, so those looking for their whammy kicks here, you’re outta luck.  But, the good news about it is you won’t have to mess around with tuning issues, you get better sustain, and string changing couldn’t be made any easier.  With no use of the whammy bar possible, the stock tuners will do. 

Sound

With the use of the 5-way pickup blade, you can achieve a plethora of tonal ranges from clean to grungy and even jazzy.  The humbuckers have ceramic magnets, so there’s going to be some crisp note articulation, but not without the thick and fat, warm tones that humbuckers provide.  To shape that tone and maximize output, a better-than-average amp will quickly get that sonic impact in tip-top shape. 

Don’t forget that the flat finish on the Okoume tonewood will also provide excellent resonance and sustain while allowing its maple-like tonal properties to shine.  Light, bright, and snappy, but brings out a low-end presence as well. 

Specs Summary

  • Body Material: Okoume
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Treated New Zealand Pine
  • Pickups: Ibanez IBZ-6 Humbuckers
  • Bridge: Ibanez F106 Hardtail

Stunning finish.  Made for shredding.  Beginner-friendly.

Final Thoughts on the Ibanez GRG121DX WNF

We think the finish, or lack of a finish, is what really sells this guitar.  Yeah, the hardware may be mediocre, but for the price, the guitar provides an excellent platform for experienced players to switch out pickups and what not to really push the guitar’s metal specs to the max. 

9. Dean Vendetta XMT Review

Dean Vendetta XMT Electric Guitar, Satin Natural with Rosewood Fingerboard and DMT Pickups
  • 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

Ah, another blacked-out guitar.  We likey like.  It fares well with us because it means leaving off unnecessary, and can we say ugly?, stamps of brand logos and white lettering and numbering usually seen around the hardware.  Dean knows where we want to see its name for bragging rights – on the headstock where it should be – nowhere else. 

Body & Neck

While we associate gloss to be showy, we tend to think a satin finish paired with a tenebrous color allows its caliginous essence to permeate through to your dark, dark soul, which makes us think of heavy music genres like hard rock and metal.  Does this guitar have the specs to pull off these aggressive tones?  You bet. 

The C-shape Maple neck has a comfortable profile that allows fast action, and the Black Walnut fretboard has a shredder’s 14” radius that’ll allow you to show off your skills.  With a 25.5” scale length and 24 medium jumbo frets, you have tons of room to work that neck. 

Electronics & Hardware

Dean puts on their name-brand humbuckers on the Vendetta XMT and let us just remind you that their “stock” pickups are much better than many others by competing manufacturers in the exact same price range! 

Dean puts all their own hardware on board from the die-cast tuners to the vintage-style tremolo bridge.  Yes, you can lightly experiment with pitch manipulation, but take it easy because there are no string locking mechanisms in place. 

Sound

The pickups play excellently for solos as they’re smooth-sounding.  While they sound clear, note-defined, and exceptional for clean playing, they may lose some character and articulation when you crank the gain to max.  Additionally, Dean says these are high output pickups, but we’d say they’re more mid output.  Regardless, beginners will get a taste into the metal genre with these humbuckers. 

As for the satin finish, it allows the Paulownia tonewood to contribute its mid-range tonal properties with some light presence in the trebles and low-end, if you can detect it.  We say that because it’s also been described to be primarily bland by itself, but it gives you a blank slate to shape sound for heavier music styles. 

Specs Summary

  • Body Material: Paulownia
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Material: Black Walnut
  • Pickups: Dean Designed Humbuckers
  • Bridge: Dean Vintage Tremolo

Attractive finish.  Great style.  Dean essence. 

Final Thoughts on the Dean Vendetta XMT

If you’re on the path to realizing your rock star ambitions, Dean is a brand that can get you there.  Even if you’re stuck with a tight budget, the Vendetta guitar provides an affordable path to good sound, great style, and Dean quality. 

Cheap – Not What You Think It Means

A Cheap Electric Guitar Leaning Against Electric Blue Wall

Cheap no longer means plastic hardware, fake pickups, and mini-size.  We tossed those guitars in the dump.  With the craftsmanship you can get for a couple hundred bucks, “cheap” is now the new standard of quality.  With the bar raised, you can get classic tonewood combinations, expert craftsmanship, and vintage-sounding to aggressively crunchy pickups that’ll scramble brains. 

With many brand-name manufacturers starting their entry-level models in this price range, the competition is fierce.  Stick with the best.  Identify the features you want.  Play.  Oh yeah, get a better amp – your tone will sound better than ever, and that’s out of a “cheap” guitar.  Adios amigos. 

Further Reading: