Are you a budding guitarist looking for an affordable electric guitar that won’t break the bank?
Look no further than our list of the 10 Best Electric Guitars Under $500!
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, these guitars are perfect for jamming out in the garage, recording your next hit, or performing live on stage. From classic designs to modern innovations, we’ve got you covered.
So, tune up your amp and get ready to rock with one of these top-rated guitars that won’t cost you a fortune. Let’s dive in and find your perfect match!
The Best Electric Guitars Under $500
- Schecter Omen Extreme-6 – Best Overall
- Epiphone Les Paul Studio – Most Versatile
- Yamaha Pacifica PAC112V – Best for Beginners
- Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Stratocaster – Best for Blues
- Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster – Best for Country
- Jackson Dinky JS32 – Best for Metal
- Epiphone SG Standard – Best for Rock
- Gretsch G2622 Streamliner – Best for Jazz
- Ibanez Steve Vai Signature JEMJR – Best for Shredding
- Ibanez RG7421PB – Best 7-String
Schecter Omen Extreme-6 – The Overall Best Electric Guitar Under $500
The Schecter Omen Extreme-6 has exploded in popularity. If you take it for a spin, you’ll soon understand why it receives such acclaim.
It’s a hard-rocking sweet playing machine. While not the most versatile guitar, within its niche, it’s a leader. For heavy rock and metal, it plays and sounds like a dream.
Let’s start with the high output pickups. The Schechter’s Diamond Plus humbuckers allow for throaty rip-roaring tones.
When thrashing, you’ll also need a guitar to keep up with your tempo. A thin neck with its satin finish allows for playing at ferocious speeds.
Each of the 24 frets is reachable with the deep cutaway. For lead players, this feature helps reach high up the fingerboard with ease.
Made in Indonesia, it’s a guitar proving the country of manufacture isn’t a straightforward measure of build quality.
The maple top and mahogany body are solid. There are signs of strong craftsmanship with a stable connection of the bolt-on neck. It’s the finer details where craftsmanship reflects the price tag. For example, the fret edges are sharp and could do with refining.
But, with its tidy string through the body tailpiece, the Omen Extreme-6 is a neat-looking guitar. For beginners to intermediates looking to thrash at heavy speeds, it’ll meet demands and play loud.
- Access to all 24 frets
- Speedy thin-profile neck
- High output Diamond Plus humbuckers for aggressive distorted tones
- Sharp fret edges
Epiphone Les Paul Studio – Most Versatile Electric Guitar Under $500
Guaranteed to dazzle, the Epiphone Les Paul Studio looks far from entry-level. Available in white, black, red, and smoke burst, each finish is full of character.
You’ll be aware of Les Paul, even if you haven’t played one yet. You’ll find Les Pauls slung around the neck of Slash, Zakk Wylde, Frank Zappa, and Bob Marley.
A diverse list of playing styles, right?
That’s because the Epiphone Les Paul Studio can produce tones to fit in a diverse range of music styles. With the hot Epiphone Alnico Classic Humbuckers, you can drive your amp akin to Zakk Wylde’s heavier Black Label Society moments.
If you pull the neck or bridge volume knobs, you’ll engage coil-split. So the humbuckers turn into single-coils. Here you’ll find a bright smooth tone, suitable for jazz, blues, and funk.
So, if you’re unsure whether to go humbucker or single-coil. Here’s the solution. You can have both.
Based on Les Pauls of the 80s, it features no binding but has the traditional specs of mahogany body and neck with a maple top.
A long-standing issue with Les Pauls is the weight. So, the Epiphone Les Paul Studio comes as a surprise.
Turns out it has ultra-modern weight relief. Epiphone has hollowed areas to make it lighter, and it works a treat. It’s lightweight for a Les Paul. Along with the 1960s SlimTaper D neck, it’s a comfy guitar even for a beginner.
But this is more than a beginner’s guitar. It plays and looks more expensive while featuring top hardware like Grover tuners.
So what are the pitfalls? Well, not much. To be very picky, the plastic pickguard is of poor quality and has rough edges.
For players who want tonal versatility, you’ll find the Les Paul Studio produces tones suitable for many genres.
- High-quality Grover Tuners
- Lightweight compared to most Les Pauls
- Hot Epiphone Alnico Classic Humbuckers with coil-split for single-coil tones
- Cheap pickguard with rough edges
Yamaha Pacifica PAC112V – Best Electric Guitar Under $500 for Beginners
A versatile and affordable option for beginners and intermediate players. It delivers a classic tone and a comfortable playing experience.
Proven to help beginners learn the guitar is the Yamaha PAC112V. But why’s it the best electric guitar for a beginner?
Priced at around $300, it’s an advisable price point for a beginner. If you’re new to the electric guitar, you don’t want to spend big bucks only to throw in the towel. At $300, it isn’t a catastrophe should you decide that playing the guitar isn’t for you.
Yamaha has sculpted the PAC112V with playability in mind. Made of alder wood, the body is lightweight. Also, the Super-Strat body features a contour where the strumming arm rests during playing.
A C-shaped neck carve is common, so allows players to become accustomed to the feel of a guitar. Complete with streamlined dimensions, it’s easy to form chords and play riffs.
The nut width affects the distance between the strings. Measuring at 1.614″, the space between each string is closer than most, so fingers won’t overstretch.
It’s these specifications that make it easy to play. So, for a beginner, or anyone with smaller hands like a younger player, it’s a superb foundation to learn guitar.
Complete with a humbucker and two single-coils, it also has the scope to experiment with sounds. With two of the main pickup types at your disposal, you can experiment.
While the pickups have little articulation, they’re enough to gain knowledge on which pickup type is right for you. So, when it’s time to upgrade, you’ll be clear on what you want.
The PAC112V, complete with a whammy bar, is fun to play. Perhaps this is the most important attribute of this guitar. After all, learning the guitar should be fun.
- Entry-level price point
- Pleasant playability for all ages
- Whammy bar capabilities for fun learning
- Pickups lack articulation
Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Stratocaster – Best Electric Guitar Under $500 for Blues
50s Stratocasters are sought-after instruments. Throughout this era, the Strat went through many changes. So, the Squier Classic Vibe 50s handpicks some features from the Strats produced in this period.
The C-profile neck is reminiscent of an older Strat but with more modern thinner dimensions. In visuals, the vintage tinged gloss neck and fretboard look aged. Alongside the classic Strat body shape, it’s a flashback.
Classic Strat body shape, butterbean tuners, and a 6-saddle bridge all act to strengthen the vintage aesthetics.
The three single-coil pickups are full of Strat quack. There’s a 5-way blade switch to blend the pickups. On that note, 50s Strats had a 3-way switch. It wasn’t until 1977 the 5-way pickup selector landed on the Strat. So this is a more contemporary touch to increase versatility.
There’s a balance to the pickups with each string amplified to a similar level. Squier takes care to ensure they raise pole pieces to follow the curvature of the fingerboard.
Although the Fender-designed Alnico single coils replicate the Strat tone, they’re muddy. Some love this tone, but for recording, you’ll need to remove some of the low-mids or upgrade the pickups.
It’s hard to replicate a 50s Strat. But, the Classic Vibe 50s Strat comes close, making it a brilliant choice for blues.
For a beginner or intermediate guitarist who wants the Strat sound, this is an affordable compromise. Cheaper than a Fender and it reproduces the Strat sound with modern playability to boot.
- Aged gloss look
- Classic ergonomic Strat body shape
- The versatility of three single-coils with 5-way pickup switch
- Muddy pickups
Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster – Best Electric Guitar Under $500 for Country
The twang of a Tele is a go-to for country music. Guitar licks jangle and picked chords sparkle with brightness. A Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster will imitate the authentic Tele sound.
It’s a well-constructed guitar. From the solid neck joint to the well-applied finish.
Speaking of the finish, the pine body is available in either butterscotch or white. With the butterscotch resembling the first Fender Tele designs. Also, the neck and fingerboard have a yellow tinge to make it look like an antique.
Holding the neck, with its C-shape profile, is enjoyable. There are no drastic protruding fret edges, so the Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster is a playable guitar.
Fitted with two Fender-designed alnico single-coils, they do the Tele sound well.
Because there are only two pickups, dialing in a tone is straightforward. The 3-way blade engages either bridge pickup, neck pickup, or both. It’s that simple. Also, the master volume and tone dials are responsive and affect each pickup.
The back-to-basics layout emancipates, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced player used to intricate controls.
The standout negative is the nut. Although bone, the luthiers haven’t filed string slots with accuracy, causing fret buzz. But don’t let that put you off, it’s an inexpensive modification.
For a country twang, the Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster is an affordable option that both looks and plays nice. With a new nut, it’ll perform beyond the price point.
- Vintage style finish and hardware
- Uncomplicated layout with high playability
- Close replication to the Tele twang in sound
- String slots on the nut aren’t precise
Jackson Dinky JS32 – Best Electric Guitar Under $500 for Metal
The Jackson Dinky JS32 electric guitar features a lightweight and comfortable body, powerful humbucking pickups, and a speedy maple neck for shredding solos. Perfect for metal and hard rock players.
While it’s hard to look past the Schecter Omen Extreme-6 as a top metal guitar. The Jackson Dinky JS32 does metal at a more affordable price.
A compound radius is a rare feature in this price bracket. If you’re unsure what this means, it relates to the fingerboard radius. From 12″ to 16″, the fingerboard is rounder towards the nut and flattens moving up the frets.
Rounder fingerboards make rhythm playing easier while a flatter radius makes for easy runs and string bends. The compound radius makes it playable for all metal playing styles.
Made from one piece of maple, the neck is a standout feature. Jackson calls the neck profile ‘Speed’, which tells you a lot. With its satin finish, all the attributes of the neck point towards fast playing.
When playing with metal-like aggression, the JS32 handles the onslaught. The Floyd Rose licensed double-locking tremolo bridge is a striking inclusion at this price. Also, it comes with a whammy to add another dimension to your guitar playing.
The locking tuners and nut keep the guitar in tune. A hardware appointment that’s impressive on such a budget guitar so you can whammy without worry.
So it plays well. But how does it sound?
For metal tones, it’ll thrash out a racket. Jackson’s custom-built are high-output and come packed with punch.
So what’s there not to like? Well, the whammy bar is loose and the locking nut is quite flimsy.
But overlooking these slight issues, the Jackson Dinky JS32 is a guitar made for metal and all subgenres. Deathcore, thrash, doom metal, it’ll do it all. At a budget price for any beginner or intermediate, it’s a top buy.
- High output custom-built humbucker pickups
- Floyd Rose licensed double-locking tremolo bridge
- 12″ to 16″ compound radius and speedy neck for increased playability
- Loose whammy bar
Epiphone SG Standard – Best Electric Guitar Under $500 for Rock
Epiphone has upped their game and the SG Standard is proof. A long-standing favorite for all genres of rock, this SG offers great value for money.
The all-mahogany body is full of tonal richness. Alongside the two Alnico Classic PRO Humbuckers, there’s a tone for most subgenres of rock. Whether you want thunderous heavy rock tones or classic rock vibes, it’s a one-stop rock and roll machine.
So how does it play? For starters, the mahogany body has a narrow depth, so it’s lightweight. Perfect for any player who doesn’t want shoulder ache after each session.
Then, the neck has a 60s SlimTaper profile. It balances both comfort and speed. It isn’t too thin or too bulky, it’s an ideal middle ground.
The stopbar tailpiece on the LockTone ABR Tune-O-Matic bridge helps sustain string vibration and improves tuning stability.
However, there’s some cost-cutting with the factory tuners. They feel cheap to touch. If you notice that the SG Standard dropping out of tune, these will be the culprit.
If you were to upgrade the tuners for a branded set such as Grover. You’d have a guitar that performs like something double the price. See, the core build of this guitar is great.
For all your rock needs, you can’t go wrong with the SG Standard.
- Performs beyond the entry-level price
- Lightweight mahogany body with recognizable SG shape
- Thunderous gritty Alnico Pro Classic Humbuckers
- Cheap stock tuners
Gretsch G2622 Streamliner – Best Electric Guitar Under $500 for Jazz
As a semi-hollow guitar, the Gretsch G2622 Streamliner offers unique tonal qualities. With enlarged f-holes, you can expect an open and airy tone. It’s these nuances that make it superb for jazz.
A body made of maple adds a snap to the sound. Then, the Broad’Tron BT-2S humbuckers capture all the organic tonal qualities.
It’s a stunning guitar with a contoured symmetrical double-cutaway body. The inlays are Pearloid enormous blocks covering near all the fret space. While the Anchored Adjusto-Matic V-Stoptail screams art déco.
Everywhere you look, the G2622 looks every bit like an expensive guitar.
Of course, it’s easy to pigeonhole the G2622. While it’s great for jazz, it offers a lot of tonal variety through the master tone dial.
There’s also a volume dial for each pickup so you can balance the warmth and bite of two pups. A master volume means you can drive an amp or create something more subtle. So it seems, not only for jazz but rock, blues, indie, and more, you’ll find a tone.
With a thin U-profile neck, it plays outstanding. Where some players might encounter issues is the lack of high fret access, you won’t go beyond the 18th fret.
But, for any player wanting a classic-looking guitar for jazz, the
- Semi-hollow classic looking body
- V-shaped art déco bridge elegance
- Master volume, master tone, and volume dial for each pickup to sculpt tones
- Can’t play higher than the 18th fret
Ibanez Steve Vai Signature JEMJR – Best Electric Guitar Under $500 for Shredding
The clue is in the name of the Ibanez Steve Vai Signature JEMJR. When Steve Vai puts his name to a guitar, you know it’s a shred machine.
There are 24 frets for high riffing. But, the access to all frets is like no other. An abundance of hand space in the cutaway ensures there’s room to maneuver.
Complete with a Wizard III thin-profile neck, you can reach those high notes at lightning speed. A fingerboard radius of 15.7″ is flat and ideal for lead runs. But for chording, it’s less effective.
On that note, the Quantum humbuckers and single-coils sound tinny when playing open chords. But, this guitar is all about lead playing. For riffs, the humbucker is muscular while the single-coil is articulate. If you’re a heavy rock lead player, you’ll be at home with the JEMJR.
It’s a guitar with peculiarities. The monkey grip handle on the upper part of the body is a quirky inclusion.
Also, the whammy flexes both ways so you can create some unusual sounds. As you depress and raise the whammy, there’s a double-locking bridge and locking nut to keep it in tune.
The Ibanez Steve Vai Signature JEMJR is full of bells and whistles. So it’s a fun guitar to play. For shredding, it has all the features to make intricate playing techniques easier to master.
- Rapid Wizard III neck
- Unique visuals of the monkey grip handle
- High fret access to all 24 with plenty of hand room
- Chords sound tinny
Check out our guide on the Best Electric Guitars for Shredding
Ibanez RG7421PB – Best 7-String Electric Guitar Under $500
The Ibanez RG7421PB 7 string electric guitar features a stunning poplar burl top, 5-piece maple/walnut neck, and dual Quantum 7 pickups for powerful sound and precision playability. A favorite among metal and progressive players.
Even in the under $500 price range, there’s something for every guitarist. If you’re intrigued by a 7-string, the Ibanez RG7421PB is an affordable way to satisfy the urge.
When moving from a 6 to a 7-string, you’ll want a guitar with top playability. With the added dimension, it’ll be difficult to master as it is.
As an Ibanez, it has a slimline Wizard II-7 neck. Even with the added string, the nut width of 1.889″ means the strings are close together. So it’s easy to manage the extra string.
Out-of-the-box, the action is impressive with no fret buzz. Quite the feat being though there’s an extra string to contend with.
The pickup setup suggests it’s a guitar for heavier genres. With hot Quantum Ceramic Humbucker pickups, it’ll crush out metal tones. But rolling back the master tone, you can achieve a prog-like timbre that works well with modulation effects such as flangers.
Talking of the pickups, they’re screwed into the body. The difference in sound between this method and spring-mounted is negligible.
But, as there’s no suspension, adjusting the pickup height isn’t possible. And, this method exposes the pickup cavities, so any rushed sanding or finish jobs are visible.
Overall, with hot pickups and excellent sustain, the Ibanez RG7421PB sounds great. With the comfy neck, it’s the ideal entry into 7-stringed guitars.
- Affordable 7-string guitar
- Hot output pickups for heavily distorted tone
- Slimline Wizard II-7 neck for increased playability
- Pickups screwed into the body
Check out our guide on the Best 7-String Electric Guitars
How to Choose The Best Electric Guitar Under $500
When it comes to choosing the best electric guitar under $500, you’ll need to value certain criteria over others. At this price point, there will certainly be some tradeoffs that you’ll need to make, but as long as you understand the core component of what makes a guitar good, you’ll end up with a solid guitar that will last.
Here are the core considerations that we kept in mind when choosing the guitars mentioned on our list.
Materials & Build Quality
With guitars priced under $500, you’ll have to compromise.
One way manufacturers reduce costs is by gluing pieces of wood together to make the body or neck. The idea of a body glued together sounds terrifying. But it’s common practice in this price range and doesn’t affect tone or durability if well-connected.
A good way to check if the manufacturer has built the guitar with care and attention is to check where the wood joins to see if the wood grains match where the two pieces meet.
You’ll find they use tonewoods which are readily available and affordable. But, on an electric guitar, it has less impact on the sound. The only way to upgrade to a one-piece body made from premium tonewood is to splash the cash.
The guitars featured in the article have the best workmanship at the price. Besides the pitfalls in materials, they’ll last a long time. Made overseas in countries such as China and Indonesia, the quality level is ever-improving.
It’s worth checking the finer details. Run through this list when inspecting a guitar:
- Is the action good?
- Are the frets level?
- Are the fret ends smooth and cut to size?
- Are the level of the inlay with the fingerboard?
- Is the finish good with no dents and even application?
Even if the guitar fails the above questions, these are a cheap fix. Hardware is also a popular area where manufacturers cut costs. But like any minor issues, it’s a cheap upgrade.
If you haven’t got the disposable income, then premium guitars in their thousands aren’t achievable. But you’re not alone.
Truth is, there are some great guitars in the under $500 category. Some unique designs, while others replicate more expensive guitars.
Squier and Epiphone are two brands that imitate more pricey guitar models. Yet, the gap in quality isn’t huge. In fact, some professional guitarists prefer Epiphones to Gibsons.
The trick is not to break the bank. Besides, if you put in the hard work and you’re shredding like a maestro, then no one will question the cost of the guitar.
If you’re a beginner, seeing different pickup options is overwhelming. There are two main types, single-coil, and humbucker.
Single coils have glassy and cutting tonal qualities. As a generalization, single-coils are suitable for any guitarist who doesn’t need distortion. So, for clean tones or light overdrive in genres such as blues or classic rock, go single-coil.
Humbuckers deliver higher output than single coils. The higher the output, humbuckers become less articulate, but you gain the ability to run the guitar through distortion pedals.
For this reason, as a general rule, for hard rock and metal, use humbuckers. That said, they’re versatile so can clean up, and the warmth compliments jazz music.
You may come across the term HSS. This is an abbreviation of humbucker, single-coil, single-coil. These are versatile guitars fitted with one humbucker and two single-coils. So it is a great option if you’re undecided or want the best of both worlds.
Another way to achieve versatility and have both humbucker and single-coil tones is through coil-split. A humbucker is two single coils together. A coil-split turns off one coil, turning a humbucker into a single-coil. This is usually actionable via tone or volume control.
There are a few things to consider when picking the body shape of a guitar. One of the most essential is hollow, semi-hollow, or solid body?
Hollow bodies are the oldest style guitars. It’s not only vintage instruments, though, Ibanez Artcore’s are fully hollow. With warmth and depth, a hollow body produces a vintage tone. Although they are prone to feedback.
To counter the feedback, semi-hollow bodies incorporate a center block made of wood. This allows for overdrive use. Guitars like the G2622 are semi-hollow and have open and resonant tonal qualities.
Solid bodies don’t have acoustic chambers so won’t feedback. Reliant on pickups, they have more bite and prominence in the higher end. Examples include Telecasters and Stratocaster.
Also, consider the ergonomics of the body. This is the contouring and some find heavy curves make it easier to play. You’ll find contours where the arm sits and the heel joint for high note playing.
But, one of the biggest factors will be whether you like the look of the body. As shallow as it sounds, it has to appeal to you.
Every guitarist has playability preferences. This is how comfy the guitar is to play. It’ll largely depend on the neck.
Make sure the neck profile is a good fit for you. The profile is the carve on the back of the neck. Common shapes are C, U, V and each will feel different.
Also, decide whether you want a thick or thin neck. Thin necks are good for speedy lead playing, but thicker necks are less delicate so you get more of a grip.
The fingerboard radius affects playability. A curved fingerboard makes for easier chording. Whereas, a modern flatter fingerboard is faster and designed for bending notes.
There’s a lot of trial and error with playability. That’s why, if buying online, use a company like Sweetwater with their no-hassle return policy.
Genre of Music
The genre of music you’re playing will help pick the guitar. Guitars on this list fall into obvious categories. Manufacturers design guitars with a genre in mind, so build them to suit.
For example, a metal guitar will have hot pickups for distorted tones. Whereas blues guitars have single coils for the bite. Also, heavier genres need speedy necks, whereas blues have more grooving tempos so the speed isn’t a necessity.
So there we have it, the best electric guitars for under $500. Although at the more affordable end of the scale, there are some great guitars available.
There’s something for everyone, and let your playing style guide you. Whether you want a guitar for speedy shredding or nice clean tones, you’ll find them all here.
Hopefully, you now have a better idea of your options. Whichever way you go, enjoy your new guitar.