Best Electric Guitars Under $500
Not everyone can afford a high end electric guitar, and this might lead to a lot of people believing that they can’t sound great on their budget.
However, this is simply not true! For less than $500, you can get your hands on some top quality, decent gear. You even have massive variety: some guitars are more suited to rock and heavy metal, some are more suited to bluesy playing, and some are extremely versatile.
We’ve taken a look at the best guitars for people with a budget of $500, in 2020, and reviewed them here. Whatever your style, there’s a guitar that will make you sound great. And it’s within your budget!
- 1 10 Best Electric Guitars Under $500
- 2 Buyers’ Tips: Things To Look For When Buying An Electric Guitar Under $500
- 3 PRS 245STTS SE 345
- 4 Fender Squier Classic Vibe 50s Strat
- 5 Fender Modern Player Tele
- 6 Shecter OMEN-6
- 7 Fender Offset Series Mustang
- 8 BC Rich Kerry King Signature Warlock
- 9 ESP LTD EC256FM
- 10 Jackson Adrian Smith Signature SDX
- 11 Ibanez JEMJRWH Steve Vai Signature
- 12 Yamaha Pacifica PAC510V
- 13 Our Favourite?
10 Best Electric Guitars Under $500Don't have time to read the whole article? Here are our top 10 electric guitars under $500 in 2018, at a glance:
|PRS 245STTS SE 345 (4.8 / 5)||A chunky sounding rock guitar that's easy on the eye and the ear.||See Price|
|Fender Squier Classic Vibe 50s Strat (4.8 / 5)||A classic looking, reliable guitar with a classic and reliable sound.||See Price|
|Fender Modern Player Tele (4.7 / 5)||A versatile classic, that can handle a knock or two.||See Price|
|Shecter OMEN-6 (4.7 / 5)||A shred-friendly guitar with a big sound.||See Price|
|Fender Offset Series Mustang (4.7 / 5)||A grungey guitar that's well built and reliable.||See Price|
|BC Rich Kerry King Signature Warlock (4.5 / 5)||A heavy metal guitar that will make Slayer fans swoon.||See Price|
|ESP LTD EC256FM (4.3 / 5)||A Les Paul style guitar with a slightly brighter tone.||See Price|
|Jackson Adrian Smith Signature SDX (4.3 / 5)||A guitar well suited to fast playing and whammy bar dives.||See Price|
|Ibanez JEMJRWH Steve Vai Signature (4.3 / 5)||Steve Vai signature guitar which is comfortable to play and sounds rich.||See Price|
|Yamaha Pacifica PAC510V (4.2 / 5)||A simple guitar which enables you to focus on the playing.||See Price|
Buyers’ Tips: Things To Look For When Buying An Electric Guitar Under $500
When you’re spending between around $300 and $500, you can afford to be a little fussy. Here are some signs of quality to look out for, and even demand!
1) A Rosewood Fingerboard. (Or Maple…)
If you want smoothness beneath your fingers, and a warm tone coming from the notes you play, a Rosewood fretboard is a must. Don’t settle for less. However, some players prefer a brighter tone, and the wood of choice in that case is Maple.
2) How many frets?
Do you want 24 frets, so that you can get right up high and start shredding? Or do you want 21, like a classic strat? Maybe you want 22. If you make this decision before you start shopping, you’ll avoid future regret.
3) Single Coil or Humbuckers? Or both?
Do you want a bright sound, or a thick, chunky sound? If brightness is your bag, single coils are your tools. If you want it thick and chunky, humbuckers are the way to go. Not sure? No problem. Some guitars have both, so you can experiment and enjoy versatility as you play.
So, here we go, our top 10 electric guitars under $500, in some more detail…
PRS 245STTS SE 345
This stunning guitar – which is available in some striking colours – has a richness of tone and smoothness of play that will get anyone’s attention. It’s made of all the right woods for warm sounding, chunky rock music. The body and neck are Mahogany, and the fretboard is, of course, Rosewood. This guitar also has 4 knobs – making it exceptionally controllable – and a Les Paul style shape which is comfortable to hold and easy on the eye.
- Mahogany body and neck, and a Rosewood fretboard give a warm, rich tone.
- 4 knobs for the different pickups give you excellent control over the sound.
- It has a beautiful finish and looks as high quality as it sounds.
- There’s no pick guard, so you might scratch the (lovely!) finish.
- It’s very nice and chunky sounding, but doesn’t have the option of single coil brightness.
- It’s quite small, so might not be the first choice of the larger player.
Fender Squier Classic Vibe 50s Strat
Fender Squier have a varied reputation, but the reality is that their guitars are reliable and affordable. This Strat style guitar is one of the better Squiers out there. It has a Maple neck and fretboard which gives it a bright tone, and the C shaped neck makes it comfortable and easy to play. As it’s Strat-style, there are also 3 single coil pickups, out of which you can get a variety of tones.
- The C shaped neck makes the playing experience more comfortable.
- Maple neck and fretboard enables a bright and consistent tone.
- 3 strat-style single coils offer a versatility of sound, which will suit those who like to play a variety of styles.
- It’s pretty heavy.
- You may wish to lower the action before you can play with ease.
- Single coil pickups might buzz or feedback (unlike humbuckers).
Fender Modern Player Tele
This exceptionally versatile guitar has a combination of humbuckers, single coil Strat and single coil Tele pickups. This opens up your options massively, and while you might not love the sound of one of the pickups, you’re bound to enjoy a lot of the sounds this instrument makes. It has jumbo frets, making it easy to play, and a maple neck gives it the classic Tele bright tone. It’s also really well built, and can handle a knock or two (if you’re that kind of player).
- A combination of humbuckers, single coil Strat and single coil Tele pickups makes this guitar exceptionally versatile./span>
- Jumbo frets make it easier to play fast.
- The maple neck and fretboard give it a bright tone.
- Pickups can feedback and move a little./span>
- The neck’s longer than on most other Telecasters.
- You might need to get this guitar set up to get the most out of it.
The OMEN is a stylish heavy metal guitar, which is comfortable to play and made of high quality woods: Rosewood and Maple. It has 24 frets, making it easy to reach those high notes, so it’s a great one for the shredders. It also has humbucker pickups which pack a punch and avoid feedback.
- Stylish design and a comfortable shape, including 24 frets for reaching the high-high notes!
- Rosewood fretboard on a Maple neck, for smoothness on your fingertips and a good quality warm sound.
- Good quality humbucker pickups, which are great for a chunky rock sound.
- The guitar is most suited to hard rock and heavy metal playing, so won’t necessarily be appropriate for those who need something more versatile.
- You might need to get it set up before you can get the most out of this guitar.
- It’s quite heavy.
Fender Offset Series Mustang
Mustangs have been embraced by many grungier guitarists, thanks to their durability and the way their tone cuts through. This model has a C shaped neck, to make faster playing easier and more comfortable, and its Maple neck and single coil pick ups give it the bright, cutting tone that is associated with a Mustang. If you already know you like the sound of the Mustang, this guitar will suit your needs perfectly.
- C shaped neck makes faster playing easier.
- Single coil pick-ups, and the Maple neck and fretboard are great for a bright tone.
- Easy to string and to tune.
- Though it’s great for those brighter tones, it won’t be suitable for those who require humbucker warmth.
- The Maple fretboard isn’t a smooth to play on as a Rosewood fretboard.
- It’s quite heavy.
BC Rich Kerry King Signature Warlock
You kind of have to be a Slayer fan to buy this guitar, but if you are, it’s a perfect first heavy metal guitar. Not only will its Mahogany, Maple and Rosewood build, combined with BC Rich humbuckers mean that your sound will be dark and heavy, but you’ll look dark and heavy, too! This spiky beast is not for the faint hearted.
- Mahogany body, Maple neck and Rosewood fretboard are high quality materials which offer excellent playability and a great tone.
- The spiky shape and ghost flame finish is great for heavy/thrash metal fans or gothically inclined people.
- BC Rich humbuckers offer an authentic heavy metal sound.
- The shape won’t suit everybody, it’s pretty much exclusive to the metalheads.
- It can be tricky to fit this guitar into a case.
- The spikes of the body and the headstock are delicate and prone to chipping.
ESP LTD EC256FM
This ESP is really smooth to play and has quite an original sound. It looks like a Les Paul, and plays and sounds somewhat like one, but it’s not the same: the tone is less chunky, which might be exactly what you’re looking for. It is rich and warm sounding and stylish looking, and will suit those who want something a bit different.
- Mahogany neck and body, and Rosewood fretboard give this guitar a really rich, warm tone.
- It comes with a very low action, making it easy to play.
- It has a unique style which is Les Paul-esque, without being a Les Paul copy. And it’s available in some very nice colours!
- You might need it setting up to eliminate any minor issues like fret buzz.
- The tuning isn’t as stable as on some other guitars.
- Although the pickups provide quite a chunky sound, it’s not as deep and rich as on a Les Paul.
Jackson Adrian Smith Signature SDX
The Adrian Smith signature has a little more versatility, despite it being a signature guitar. It combines humbuckers and single coils so you can experiment with different sounds, and it looks and plays like a Strat so you have comfort guaranteed. This guitar has a bright tone, thanks to its Maple fretboard, and a Floyd rose bridge system so you can dive bomb away without worrying about your tuning!
- There’s a combination of humbuckers and single coil pickups, offering versatility of sounds.
- The Strat-style shape makes it comfortable to play and gives it a classic look.
- There’s a Maple fretboard, giving it a bright tone.
- It’s a signature guitar, so will be inappropriate for those who aren’t fans of Adrian Smith.
- The Floyd Rose bridge / tremolo system can take a bit of getting used to.
- It’s mostly suited to heavy metal playing, so those who are looking for something more versatile would probably not be satisfied./li>
Ibanez JEMJRWH Steve Vai Signature
This Steve Vai signature guitar really does make it easier to play like Vai. It has jumbo frets and a Rosewood fretboard so you’ll be zooming from fret to fret with ease and comfort. It also sounds great, made from Mahogany wood, and has humbuckers which ensure that your shredding sounds substantial.
- Jumbo frets make it easier to play fast.
- Mahogany body offers a quality, rich sound.
- Rosewood fretboard makes the playing experience smooth and adds to the richness of the sound.
- Being a signature guitar, it would be inappropriate for those who aren’t Steve Vai fans.
- It’s more suited to heavy rock / metal playing, so won’t suit those who need something more versatile.
- It has a double locking bridge, which can take some getting used to.
Yamaha Pacifica PAC510V
The Yamaha Pacifica PAC510 is a good guitar for those who like to keep things simple; it has just one pickup and is in a classic Strat-style shape. There’s a Maple neck and Rosewood fingerboard, making it smooth and warm, and there’s a tremolo that you can have fun with without affecting the tuning too much. It’s available in a wide range of colours, and is suitable for a variety of styles.
- The Maple neck and Rosewood fingerboard make it smooth to play and warm-sounding.
- Just one pickup makes this simple and means you can really get to know it.
- Strat-style shape makes it comfortable to play.
- You’re limited with just one pickup.
- It doesn’t really have its own ‘original’ style.
- The locking tuners can take some getting used to.
The guitar you choose will largely depend on the style of music it is you’re going to be playing.
However, our number 1 from this list is the PRS 245STTS SE 345 . Although it’s not the most versatile on the list – it’s more suited to heavy rock, blues and metal than any other genre – it’s pretty versatile, and the chunkiness will suit most tastes. Its 4 knobs also offer superior controllability, and the Mahogany body and Rosewood neck scream ‘quality’, and resonate beautifully.
If you’re looking for something on a very tight budget, the Shecter OMEN-6 gives you a lot of bang for your buck, providing you like to play hard rock / heavy metal!
Those who want something a bit more bright sounding, you can’t go wrong with the Fender Offset Series Mustang, Fender Modern Player Tele or even the Fender Squier Classic Vibe 50s Strat model.
The Fender Squier Classic Vibe 50s Strat also offers excellent versatility!
The signature guitars are great if you’re a fan of the guitarist associated with them, however they seem a bit of an inappropriate purchase if you’re not. The three we’ve included are excellent pieces of kit, either way.
Whichever guitar you go for, we hope that this list has helped you to make sense of what’s available, and that you’ll be rocking in no time without breaking the bank!
Keep on rocking! 🙂