10 Best Fender Guitars: Review & Buying Guide
Fender Guitars is arguably the most recognizable guitar company in the world. If you Google “Best Electric Guitar”, Fender guitars of some kind will pop up.
Since its start in the 1940s, Fender has released a wide range of different electric guitars, as well as multiple iterations of each model. No matter what style of music you play, your experience level, or your budget, there is a guitar from Fender that can work for you.
With so many different guitars to choose from, how do you know which is best for you?
In this article, we’re going to take you through our picks for the 10 Best Fender Guitars so that you can make the right choice for your playing needs. We have also included Squier guitars in the mix to accommodate those on a budget since Squier is owned by Fender.
The Best Fender Guitars Reviewed:
- Fender American Performer Stratocaster – Best Overall
- Fender Player Stratocaster – Best for the Money
- Squier by Fender Affinity Stratocaster – Best for Beginners
- Squier by Fender Classic Vibe Stratocaster – Best Under $500
- Squier by Fender Contemporary Stratocaster – Best for Metal
- Fender American Ultra Stratocaster HSS – Best for Rock
- Fender Player Telecaster – Best for Country
- Fender Player Jazzmaster – Best for Jazz
- Fender Player Jaguar – Best Offset Guitar
- Fender Player Duo-Sonic – Best for Small Hands
Fender American Performer Stratocaster – Overall Best Fender Guitar
I could honestly list the entire Fender “Performer Series” as the Best Overall choice on this list, but for the sake of brevity I’ll focus on the Stratocaster. The Performer Series captures the essence of classic Fender designs, while updating them for the modern player and offering primo specs at reasonable prices.
- 9.5” fingerboard radius
- Modern C neck shape
- Satin neck finish
- Gig bag included
- SSS or HSS pickup configurations
The Fender American Performer Stratocaster is a great guitar for so many reasons. It’s American-made, but costs just over $1,000, while most American Strats cost closer to $2,000. It has the right balance of modern features like a slimmer neck profile and satin finish, which kill two birds with one stone being both economical and enticing for modern players.
While colors and fretboard materials are limited to a handful of choices, they all look fantastic. The pickups can be either SSS or HSS and both feature unique electronics/wiring. The SSS models, for example, feature Fender’s “GreaseBucket” tone circuit for rolling of high-end while preserving presence, as well as the ability to access Bridge/Neck pickup and All-Pickup configuration with a push/pull knob.
This is the ideal guitar for someone looking to buy their first “real” electric guitar that can stand up to on-stage or in-studio use for years to come while remaining at an approachable price point. It is a guitar for those that want classic Fender vibe and sounds, with a modern feel. It’s also a great guitar to modify and upgrade, as all Strats are.
Side note: are you a fan of the big headstock? This may deter some.
- Classic looks with modern features
- Versatile pickup configurations
- Beautiful and Unique finish options
- Great feeling neck
- Made in USA
- Economical tuners
- Limited to certain Fingerboard material/ Body finish combos
Check out our full guide on Where Fender Guitars Are Made
Fender Player Stratocaster – Best Fender Guitar for the Money
The Fender Player Stratocaster is a Mexican made strat that rivals that of an American Strat at much more affordable price.
Read our Fender Player Stratocaster Review
Even though “Made in USA” is often a sign of quality when it comes to Fender guitars, the Mexican-made Fender Player Stratocaster is an incredible value guitar.
- 2 point tremolo/bridge
- 9.5” fingerboard radius
- Modern C neck shape
- Satin neck finish
The body is alder, the neck maple, and the fretboard either maple or pau ferro. In many regards the Player Stratocaster is very similar to the Performer Stratocaster. They both have the same neck shape, fretboard radius, fret size, and neck finish.
These guitars feature a 2-point (or 2-screw) bridge, which has a different feel than the original 6-screw bridges you find on vintage strats. They are a big smoother and offer better tuning stability, but some argue that they don’t sound period-correct. I personally prefer the 2-point bridges.
These guitars scream vintage mojo with the old-school Fender headstock and logo. The alnico-5 pickups are quite lively for the money, but you could easily upgrade them in time should you want a quick and easy modification. These guitars also come in a wide variety of pickup configurations, including SSS, HSS, and even HSH if you want that “super-strat” thing on a budget.
This is the ideal guitar for someone that wants a quality instrument, but is working with a tight budget. Aesthetically, I prefer this model to the ever-popular Performer series. If you are okay with less features and a more old-school look, then this is the strat for you.
- Incredible value
- 2-point tremolo adds tuning stability
- Classic headstock/logo
- Multiple pickup configurations
- Limited color configurations
Check out our full guide on Mexican Vs American Fender Stratocasters
Squier by Fender Affinity Stratocaster – Best Fender Guitar for Beginners
Squier guitars are economic versions of Fender guitars, which make them great options for beginners. The new Affinity series is especially great for beginners because they are the most affordable line of guitars, but feature classic designs that teach you how to play a classic strat.
- Indian Laurel fingerboard
- Alder body
- 21 medium jumbo frets
- 5-way pickup selector
The Squier Affinity Stratocaster gives you the same functionality as classic Fender strats, at a fraction of the price. These cost cuts come from tonewood selection and cheaper hardware like the pickups and tuners. So while these features may not be up to par for the gigging musician, they are more than good enough for those learning the instrument or trying out the electric guitar for the first time.
Affinity Strats are also great for those looking to learn how to modify guitars. Because Stratocasters are so utilitarian, you can modify just about anything on it and not worry about ruining a high-end guitar in the process.
These strats come in classic finishes like Olympic White, Surf Green, and Three-Tone Sunburst.
- Super Affordable
- Classic Strat design
- Classic finish options
- Upgradeable/Easy to modify
- Non-traditional tonewoods
- Cheap hardware
Squier by Fender Classic Vibe Stratocaster – Best Fender Guitar Under $500
Everything you know and love about a vintage Fender Stratocaster without the hefty price tag.
If you have a couple hundred dollars more to spend, you may want to consider looking at the Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster. These are beginner-intermediate stratocasters that are heavily inspired by Strats from the 50’s.
- C-shaped neck
- 9.5” Radius
- 21 x Narrow Tall frets
- 6-Screw Vintage synchronized trem
What makes this a great guitar is the attention to detail Squier has taken in replicating vintage era strats. It has the vintage 6-screw trem, 4-bolt neck, single-ply pickguard, and even the string tree is circular like the old guitars had.
Even with some of these vintage specs at play, the Classic Vibe strat has modern features that most strat players want. This includes a 5-way pickup selector (old strats only had a 3-way selector), headstock access to the truss rod, and narrow/tall frets.
This guitar is ideal for someone that wants a vintage style guitar at an attractive price point. I’m especially excited about the finish options, which include “White Blonde” that is very similar to a Mary Kaye style strat.
If you want vintage looks, modern playability, and a price that won’t break the bank, the Classic Vibe Stratocaster from Squier is the way to go.
- Vintage era specs/colors
- Sounds great for the price
- Polyurethane finish not vintage correct
Check out our guide on the Best Stratocaster Style Copy Guitars
Squier by Fender Contemporary Stratocaster – Best Fender Guitar for Metal
Classic strats are well and good, but they aren’t always the best choice for Metal tones. Where does one look for a Metal guitar from the folks at Fender?
Believe it or not, Squier by Fender is your best bet with their new Contemporary Stratocaster model.
- SQR Atomic Humbuckers
- Floyd Rose trem
- Slim C neck with 12” radius
- Volume, Tone, 3-way pickup selector
The body is made of Poplar, which is stable but doesn’t offer much in terms of tonal character while remaining cost-effective. Some would argue that this is actually a good thing for high-gain tones, where you can rely on all your tone shaping through your amps and pedals without the guitar’s natural characteristics getting in the way.
The neck is made of roasted maple, which adds stability to the guitar and makes the rosewood extra dark. This is then finished satin, giving the neck a nice smooth feel that won’t get sticky when you’re sweating – an ideal spec for fast shredding.
The Squier Contemporary Stratocaster is awesome because it shamelessly leans into the “super-strat” design and meets the demands of a very particular player. The electronics are simple and it utilizes humbuckers instead of single coils commonly found on classic strats. Not to mention, the Floyd Rose bridge gives you the ability to dive-bomb!
This is a great guitar for anyone that plays metal and is looking for a guitar to take on the road, or who wants great metal tones on a budget.
- Dual humbuckers
- Floyd Rose Trem
- Flame maple neck is sturdy
- Flat radius and skinny neck = fast playing
- Cheap body tonewood
Fender American Ultra Stratocaster HSS – Best Fender Guitar for Rock
So many Fender guitars are suitable for Rock, but if you want some serious versatility and top-of-the-line playability, you have to go with the Fender American ultra Stratocaster HSS.
- Contoured neck heel
- Noiseless single coil pickups
- S1 switching on humbucker
- 2-point trem
- 10-14” compound radius
Over the years many companies have tried to improve upon the stratocaster’s design, and it seems like Fender has taken notes from their competitors! This is not your typical Fender Strat.
The obvious spec that separates the Ultra from previous strat designs is the HSS pickup configuration. It has an Ultra Double Tap Humbucker in the bridge and two, hot, noiseless single coils in the middle and neck. The result is a modern and versatile sounding strat that can cover everything from 70’s funk-rock, to 80’s metal, 90’s grunge and beyond.
The neck is great for players that want quick playability. It has a 10-14” compound radius that gets flatter as you go up the neck, making bends and arpeggios a breeze. Accessing the higher frets is easier than ever with the contoured heel/neck joint, as opposed to the traditional flat/block joint.
If you’ve played Fender Strats before, but found them limiting in terms of sound and playability, this may just be the Strat to change your mind… if you can afford it!
- Noiseless single coils eliminate 60-cycle hum
- HSS pickup configuration is versatile
- S1 coil tap doesn’t lose volume
- Modern strat tone and feel
- Most expensive Strat on this list
- Not for those that want a classic Strat
Fender Player Telecaster – Best Fender Guitar for Country
The Fender Player Telecaster is a Mexican made guitar that is almost identical to it's American counterpart at half the price. It's an excellent value and most people wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
It’s hard to deny that the Fender Telecaster is synonymous with Country guitar players. One such version of this guitar that is worth looking into today is the Fender Player Telecaster, which has classic tones and a fresh new look to get you playing your favorite country tunes.
- 9.5” fingerboard radius
- Alder body
- Modern C neck shape
- Satin neck finish
- Updated Telecaster bridge/ashtray plate
As I mentioned earlier with the Player Stratocaster, these Mexican made guitars are a step forward from the Fender Standard line, and are meant to be guitars with unbeatable value. They feature classic Telecaster build elements with fun new colors and other modern features.
This is a great guitar for the gigging country guitarist because it is affordable and has all the modern features in all the right places, while sounding and looking old-school. The neck is a modern C shape with satin finish and a fast, yet comfortable 9.5” radius. You can easily do all your quick chicken pickin licks on a hot day and not get slowed down in the slightest.
One thing that may deter some players is the new Tele-bridge plate, which has done away with the edges for a flat plate and six-saddle design. I personally like the edges/3 saddle design for palm muting, but some may find this new design more comfortable and better for intonation. Either way, the vintage sound is still there with the Alnico V pickups.
- Well crafted in Mexico
- Perfect mix of vintage and modern specs
- Non-traditional bridge not for everyone
Fender Player Jazzmaster – Best Fender Guitar for Jazz
It’s in the name!
While Jazz can be played on just about any type of guitar, the Fender Player Jazzmaster is a reimagined version of the classic offset, solid-body electric guitar.
- Alder Body
- Maple, Modern C Neck w/ Satin Finish
- Dual Alnico II Humbuckers
- Fender Floating Vibrato Tailpiece
- Gloss Finish
Like the rest of the Player series from Fender, the Player Jazzmaster balances vintage looks with modern features at an unbeatable price. This is a great guitar if you are looking for a solid-body instrument to take out to jazz clubs (avoiding all the feedback issues Hollowbody instruments can cause) or if you want to have one guitar for a wide variety of tones.
It features simplified electronics and dual humbuckers in place of the Jazzmaster pickups found on vintage models. The Alnico II Humbuckers can warm up when you roll the tone knob back, making them great for Jazz or heavier gain settings alike. Ditching the Rhythm Circuit makes this a simpler guitar to navigate and opens it up to styles outside of Jazz.
If you’re a fan of old-school Jazzmasters, this probably isn’t the series for you. However, if you found the old models to be too confusing or clunky, but you’ve always wanted an offset guitar, this may just be the guitar to get you started.
- Simplified electronics make for easier playability
- Comfortable neck
- Beautiful colors options
- Most non-traditional guitar in the Player Series – not for purists
Fender Player Jaguar – Best Offset Fender Guitar
At first glance, you might think that the Fender Player Jaguar is almost identical to the Jazzmaster listed above, but the devil is in the details with these models and they are both worth serious consideration for different players.
- 24” Scale Length
- Alnico II Single Coil + Alnico III Humbucker
- Coil Split available in Humbucker
- Satin finish on neck
As with the rest of the Player line, this model has an Alder body and features many of the Jaguar’s classic features while tweaking it to entice new players. It also comes in at an affordable price, with surprising quality.
The Player Jaguar will feel much different than any other Fender guitar mainly due to its 24” scale length, which is even shorter than most Gibson-style guitars. This results in lower string tension and a slinkier feel.
This is a great option for guitarists with hand issues or who are dealing with carpal tunnel, as the strings will be easier to press and to bend.
The volume/tone controls are further back on the Jaguar than on the Jazzmaster, which means less is in the way when you strum. However, the pickup selector is right by the neck pickup, and with an offset body, this may get in the way when you’re sitting down.
If you’re looking for a guitar that is not only unique among Fender-style instruments, but among all electric guitars, the Jaguar is worth looking into and the Player Series edition looks like a great place to start.
- Unique, yet Vintage-correct scale length
- Coil split humbucker
- Comfortable neck design
- Inconvenient pickup selector switch location
Fender Player Duo-Sonic – Best Fender Guitar for Small Hands
Even die-hard Fender fans can be forgiven if you’ve never heard of the Fender Duo-Sonic. This ¾ size instrument is often overlooked compared to the larger size guitars, but this ¾ size guitar has been around since 1956 and has been revamped as part of Fender’s Player series.
- 24” scale length
- Smaller body design
- Dual Duo-Sonic single coil pickups, or HS configurations
- Satin neck finish
The Duo-Sonic was designed for smaller, beginner players looking for a guitar that was easier to play with smaller hands. The original guitars came with either 22.5” or 24” scale lengths, both of which are smaller than Strats and Teles(25.5”). The modern Player series have 24” scale lengths, making them a viable option for adults and children alike.
This model comes in either dual single or HS pickup configurations, making it a very versatile offset model.
Like the rest of the Player series line, you get quality for your money with these Mexican made guitars. I think this is a great guitar to have laying around the office for convenient practice, or to take on tour for warming up in the van.
Don’t overlook this powerful, fun, little guitar from Fender!
- Smaller body and smaller radius
- Multiple pickup configurations
- Comfortable to play
- Fun color options
- Would like to see even smaller 22” scale length option
Check out my guide on the Best Guitars for Small Hands
About Fender Guitars
Fender is a guitar brand that needs no introduction. They've dominated the electric guitar space since the 1950s and pioneered the Rock & Roll music genre.
Fender Guitars was founded by Leo Fender in Fullerton, CA in 1946 and has helped revolutionize solid body electric guitars with models like the Telecaster, Stratocaster, and their Precision and Jazz bass guitars. To this day many guitar manufacturers base their products on these models.
The Stratocaster, in particular, is so successful and innovative that it is arguably the most copied most recognizable electric guitar body shape ever created. Check your “electric guitar” emoji if you don’t believe me.
Vintage Fender guitars that were built prior to 1964 (aka the “Pre-CBS” era) can fetch tens of thousands of dollars and are the benchmark for Fender guitars to this day. The company was owned by CBS from 1965-1985, marking a time of significant increase in production with a notable decrease in quality.
Since 1985, Fender has been an employee-owned company with manufacturing sites in the USA, Mexico, and Japan.
In my opinion, Fender guitars have found a way to balance quality with a wide array of production lines, offering great guitars at just about any price range. This is why we can list so many ideal guitars for different genres, budgets, and guitar styles.
How to Choose The Best Fender Guitar (Buyer’s Guide)
As you can hopefully see from this article, Fender has a wide variety of guitar models to choose from, each represented within different production lines. Choosing the right guitar for you depends on your budget, your playing style, and the quality of the instrument you want to play.
Let’s take a quick look at some of these concepts so that you can pick the right Fender guitar for you!
The first thing you’ll notice about Fender guitars is that each of their models has a different body shape and, as a result, a different feel when holding the instrument.
Most Fender guitars have contours that make them extremely comfortable to play – the most notable being the Fender Stratocaster. The Strat has a contour along the belly and along the right arm so that the instrument practically hugs you while you’re playing it.
These contours came from Leo Fender trying to improve upon the Fender Telecaster, which is often described as a “block of wood with strings”. Classic Telecasters have no contours and can be less comfortable, however, some modern recreations do have contours added.
The Offset guitars, which include the Jazzmaster, Mustang, Duo-Sonic, and Jaguar, place your hands in a different position and are sure to change the way you play.
Body Shape is easily the biggest factor when it comes to comfort with Fender guitars, and should be the first thing you look at when trying out different Fender models.
Fender is able to provide just about every style of the instrument at a wide range of Quality and Price ranges. Reverb.com has a great video that explains all the different “Series” for Telecasters, which can be somewhat applied to all their models, which you can watch here.
The greatest era for quality is arguably the vintage era guitars, or Pre-CBS, which were made up until 1964. Fender guitars were hand-made, quality instruments at this time.
The CBS-era up until the mid-’80s had questionable quality. There are good guitars from this time, but they aren’t as frequent as from the ’50s and ’60s.
Modern-day Fender guitars are incredibly well made, especially within the last 10 years. This goes for Mexican, Japanese, and USA-made models. Just look at Fender’s Player series for proof.
Playability is going to vary by player and by model.
The M.O. for Fender at the moment seems to be either recreating classic models from the ’50s and ’60s, which are better suited for musical styles of the time, or updating their models for modern players.
These modern specs, like flatter radius, thinner neck profiles, satin finishes, and simpler electronics, make playability much nicer and easier to play demanding musical styles.
It’s undeniable that Fender guitars, regardless of model, have their own sound that makes them the go-to guitar for so many different genres. This goes for Indie, Rock, Country, Surf-rock, and more. Much of this is due to their use of bolt-on maple necks, a preference for single-coil pickups, and the 25.5” scale length.
However, modern Fender guitars have different wood combinations, a wider variety of pickups to select from, and custom electronics.
To hear the differences in Fender models, watch this video.
As I mentioned before, the price of Fender guitars can run from a couple hundred dollars with Squier models, all the way up to tens of thousands for a vintage Fender.
These days, Fender makes it so that you don’t have to spend vintage-level amounts of money to get the same quality of guitar.
Mexican and Japanese-made guitars tend to cost less while providing great quality and playability.
That being said, there does seem to be a noticeable difference in quality for the USA models, you just have to pay a little more.
Check out our full guide on Cheap Vs Expensive Guitars
Recap of the Best Fender & Squier Guitars
|Best Fender Guitars||Award|
|Fender American Performer Stratocaster||Best Overall|
|Fender Player Stratocaster||Best for the Money|
|Squier by Fender Affinity Stratocaster||Best for Beginners|
|Squier by Fender Classic Vibe Stratocaster||Best Under $500|
|Squier by Fender Contemporary Stratocaster||Best for Metal|
|Fender American Ultra Stratocaster HSS||Best for Rock|
|Fender Player Telecaster||Best for Country|
|Fender Player Jazzmaster||Best for Jazz|
|Fender Player Jaguar||Best Offset Guitar|
|Fender Player Duo-Sonic||Best for Small Hands|
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Fender guitars good?
It depends on who you ask! In general, Fender guitars are well-made, professional instruments. This is supported by the literally thousands of professional musicians that use Fender guitars.
That being said, many of their instruments are factory-made and they have had periods where quality suffered. Modern Fender guitars from 2015-current are almost guaranteed to be a quality instrument no matter what line you buy from.
Is Squier and Fender the same?
Yes, Squier is owned by Fender, so they are technically the same company.
Squier guitars come in classic Fender designs, including the Strat, Tele, and more.
What separates Squier from Fender is price and quality. Squier guitars are factory-made, often outside of the US, with cheaper tonewoods and cheaper electronics.
All that said, Squier guitars can be quite good for the price and are worth looking into if you’re on a tight budget. You especially can’t go wrong with a Squier Telecaster.
Is Fender better than Gibson?
Neither is better than the other. It all comes down to personal preference. Both companies have made and continue to make quality guitars for a wide range of players and budgets. I recommend you try guitars from both companies and see what resonates with you!