Are you on the quest for a new guitar? Squier and Fenders could be on your radar.
The dilemma is—should you save for a Fender or will a Squier do the job? It’s confusing to know what to do.
But don’t worry. This is a problem most guitarists face at some point. Let us help shed some light on the debate.
Today, we’ll pitch Fender against Squier and dive deep into the build quality, aesthetics, playability, sound, and price. Thus adding some clarity to your search.
So let’s dive in with the Fender vs Squier: The Definitive Guide.
Fender Guitars Overview
Leo Fender founded Fender in 1946. Under his name, he began by creating amplifiers from a small workshop in Fullerton, California.
From humble beginnings, Fender would later create guitars that would shape music. The Telecaster in 1951 and the Stratocaster in 1954 are examples of Fender designs.
Fender continues to grow with offices worldwide. As they release new instruments and evolve classic guitar designs they don’t look like slowing down anytime soon.
Squier Guitars Overview
The V.C. Squier Company was a string manufacturer established in 1890. Squier was acquired by Fender In 1965.
Since 1982, Fender has produced guitars under the Squier tag. They’re renowned for producing Fender designs but at a budget price.
Today, Squier is one of the world’s largest mass producers of guitars.
Fender Guitars Vs Squier Guitars: What’s the Difference?
So what are the key differences between Fender and Squier? Let’s explore each manufacturer to get you some answers.
Fender has a large catalog of guitars. To achieve diversity in price, Fender uses factories in different countries. If you own a Fender, it’s made in the USA, Japan, Mexico, or China.
To keep costs down, Squier factories are in countries that have cheaper labor costs. They build these guitars in either Indonesia or China.
Why does this matter?
Although the difference is less than years gone by. The country of manufacture still affects build quality. American-built guitars tend to outdo the competition. So why do guitarists often think American instruments are the best in craftsmanship?
Here are some reasons why Fenders American plant produces prime guitars:
- Made of the finest tonewoods, American-built guitars have a strict wood selection process.
- From there everything from storing to drying maximizes durability and performance.
- A temperature-controlled factory prevents humidity-related wood damage.
- American factories have access to sophisticated tools and machinery for wood cutting.
- Skilled luthiers have an enormous hand in the making of American guitars. From shaping to pickup winding, handcrafting is prominent.
- Hands-on throughout production means strict regulation and ensures few bad stocks get through.
- Quality control and last inspections are precise.
So, with the build quality, there will be a difference. The wood selection between a US-built Fender and a Squier will be notable.
The handcrafting of skilled humans is difficult to replicate by machine. Fret edges, neck joints, and contouring are telltale signs.
But this is at the extremes of the spectrum. A Chinese-built Squier Vs a Chinese-built Fender won’t signify much disparity in build quality.
So how does a Squier differ from a Fender on looks?
Truth is, it’s hard to tell them apart. If you’re not a guitar geek, you won’t notice the finer details. Likewise, on stage, most audience members won’t note the make of your guitar.
That said, there’s a difference. Squier uses cheaper hardware than high-end Fenders. While the aesthetics will be similar, a close examination will show a contrast in quality.
The standout difference in looks is going to be the headstock. We’re not talking about shape or size. We’re speaking of the name and logo, either Fender or Squier.
This is a major attraction of a Squier. You can get classic Fender designs at a fraction of the cost. Consider a Squier, a licensed copy of a Fender. The similarity in looks is close. Much closer than the illegal copies that you’ll find.
If you were to pick up a Fender and a Squier, could you tell the difference?
An American-built Fender will feel more durable than a Squier. The quality of the wood shines through. Aspects like the neck will feel more robust in your palm. Not to say a Squier feels flimsy. But, the sturdiness is recognizable to touch.
Then there’s the finer detail. The tuners may not hold their tune on a Squier as they do on a premium Fender.
The craftsmanship on fret edges makes high-end Fenders more luxurious. If you run your hand along the neck, you may experience sharp fret edges on a Squier. At Fender, luthiers will file down and smooth the frets for unobstructed playing.
But, overall, they’re not a million miles apart. Squier models follow the blueprint of Fender designs. So, playability will be very similar. If you love the feel of a Strat. Chances are, you’ll appreciate the Squier version.
The cheaper the Fender, the narrower the difference. A high-end Squier will compete with a low-end Fender. And some guitarists may even prefer the Squier.
It’ll take a well-trained ear to notice the difference between a Fender and a Squier.
But, is there a difference?
Yes. But in all fairness, most won’t recognize the variation. That said, if you have a trained, attentive ear, you may pick up the audible differences.
The wood selection and high-grade hardware will contribute to an improved sound. But it’s the pickups that’ll make the biggest difference.
For an example let’s look at the highest-priced Fender Jazzmaster against the Squier Jazzmaster.
Equipt with two V-Mod II Jazzmaster pickups, the Fender delivers a bright sparkle alongside superior output.
How does this compare to the Squier alternative?
The Fender-designed alnico pickups aren’t far off the ones found in the premium Jazzmaster! I suppose, if anyone can replicate a Fender, it’s, well, Fender. So, the tonal nuances are similar.
So where will audiophiles notice a difference?
For starters, it’s often not a big of a difference as the price suggests. But what high-end Fender pickups offer is that little more in brightness and punch.
And this is a theme across the board. We’re talking fine margins. But if you want that professional sound, top-of-the-range Fenders will offer more character.
But this is where it’s worth mentioning—you can replace pickups. Fender sells their pickups online. So on balance while a top-of-the-range Fender will always win in a sound off. The opportunity to bridge the gap is there.
The moment you’ve been waiting for. What’s the difference in price?
To summarize, you’ll have to pay more for a Fender. The cheapest you’ll pick up a new Fender for is approx $600. At the other end of the spectrum, expect to pay upwards of $2,000 for an American-built Fender. $2,000 seems cheap when you consider Fender Custom Shop guitars. These peak at around $7,000.
So, on balance, Fender has some serious high-performing guitars. You’ll have to pay for these though. But they also have budget guitars in their catalog.
You won’t have such diversity with Squier. The price range is pretty compact and covers everything under $500.
All in all, the disparity in price between a Fender and Squier can be monstrous. But it can also be minor. For example, a Mexican-built Fender Vs an expensive Squier has less of a difference.
Best Fender and Squier Guitars Compared
The Telecaster and Stratocaster are Fender’s most popular guitars. So how does the Squier version stand up to the Fender? Let’s go.
Fender American Stratocaster vs Squier Affinity Stratocaster
Read our full Squier Affinity Strat Review
Let’s start with Fender American Stratocaster vs Squier Affinity Stratocaster.
At first glance, the standout difference is the body of the guitar. The finish of the Fender looks more lavish and natural.
This is, in part, down to the Gloss Nitrocellulose Lacquer finish. Nitro is the finish used on the original Fenders of the 50s and 60s.
The lacquer showcases the quality of wood. The negative can be a positive for many. Nitro can yellow with age and this is a feature some aficionados crave.
In comparison, the Squier has a Satin Urethane gloss. This gives the guitar a plastic-like sheen.
But, there are plenty of similarities. The Squier has the same classic shape and contours. The deep arm curve is alike and is all-important for playability. Your arm will rest with similar comfort the Fender Strat is famed for.
In many ways, the playability isn’t worlds apart. The measurements on the Squier replicate the Fender to precision. The scale length of 25.5″ is identical, as is the fingerboard radius of 9.5″. Even the nut width on the Squier echoes the Fender.
So, the riffing hand will have a similar experience on the Fender and the Strat. If you enjoy the string space and fret size on a Fender Strat, you’ll enjoy the Squier and vice versa.
The Squier Affinity is home to Standard Single-Coil Strat pickups. They’re designed to recreate the unmistakable tone of a Strat. And on the whole, they’ll do it well.
Nevertheless, an American Stratocaster is home to high-end pickups. Sure, the difference may not be huge. But the sound quality beats the Affinity Strat hands down.
What pickups you’ll have depends on the model. For instance, a Fender American Professional is home to V-Mod II single coils. Whereas Fender American Professional guitars are home to Pure Vintage ‘59 single-coils.
The commonality is that they deliver professional sound quality with brightness and clarity. There’s no better way to get the Strat sound.
But, you’re talking a price difference in excess of $1,000. So is the American Strat worth the leap in price? This is the big question. While there’s no denying a jump in quality. This is something only your bank balance can determine.
Fender Player Stratocaster vs Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster
Check out my full Fender Player Stratocaster Review
If ever there was an example of the closeness in quality and sound between a Fender and Squier—this is it.
In essence, this is a high-end Squier against a low-end Fender. It’s one of the most asked questions in the Squier vs Fender debate.
So, when the difference is just a few hundred dollars, which one should you opt for?
The Fender Player Series is Mexican-built. While the Squier Classic Vibe is Chinese-built. So how does the quality compare? It’s difficult to separate them apart.
Both have a good build quality and serve up a solid foundation. There are plenty of similarities. An example is the maple neck, which is a comparable wood quality on both guitars.
Pickups on both guitars use Alnico magnets. The classic Strat sound is prominent from both instruments. If there’s a discrepancy, it’s that the Fender pickups have a little more punch.
Out-of-the-box you’ll low string action will greet you. Both guitars are nice to play from the point of delivery. The rugged switch is not flimsy. You could even compare the durability to an American Series.
What differences should you note? Here a few things to consider:
- The Squier Classic Vibe has a bone nut. The Player has a synthetic nut.
- The quality of the metal for the bridge component feels better on the Player.
- The fret wires are narrower on the Classic Vibe.
Let’s face it. These aren’t major differences. So what about looks?
The Classic Vibe emulates the retro aesthetics of an old-school Strat. Control dials have an aged white effect enhancing vintage sensibilities.
And this is where you’ll find the answer to this face-off.
Do you want a Strat that’ll replicate the feel and looks of an American series? Then, the Fender Player will be the one for you.
But, if you want a retro-looking Strat. The Squier Classic Vibe is an outstanding affordable guitar.
Neither the Fender nor Squier will be perfect. The tuners aren’t as effective at keeping in tune as you’d like. But, both offer a solid foundation and exceptional sustain on the Strat sound.
Fender Player Telecaster vs Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster
Place the Fender Player Telecaster and the Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster next to each other. If they’re the same color, then there’s little to separate them. This is a scenario where the name on the headstock is the instant distinction.
With their block body and lack of belly cut, both guitars feel the same. The more expensive Fender has an alder body whereas the Squier is pine. But even considering the different tonewoods they weigh similar. The Squier might shave a few millimeters off the body width. But there’s not a practical detriment.
So what about sound?
The Fender is hotter with better definition. So, if you want modern clarity go for the Fender.
But for vintage voicing and warmth—it’s the Squier.
The playability varies between the two guitars. This is because of the neck.
It’s not a case of one being better than the other. It’s as simple as the Squier having a gloss finish neck while the Fender has a satin finish.
Also, the two necks feel different in the hand. While both are C-profile the Fender is modern as opposed to the vintage feel of the Squier.
With a difference of approx $200, it’s a close call between these two guitars. But, to pick between these is quite simple.
Do you prefer the vintage sound, looks, and feel of a gloss neck? Then it’s the Squier all the way.
But for a more modern character in sound and the sleekness of a satin neck. It’s the Fender. If you’re thinking this way. The lure of the Fender logo on the headstock for an extra few hundred might just be enough to tip the scale.
Fender Vs Squier: Which Should You Pick?
After highlighting some of the best Fender and Squiers. You may have an idea which one is for you. Let’s go further to help you make the big decision.
Money is the biggest stumbling block between a guitarist and their dream instrument. Sure, if money was no object, most would opt for a Fender Custom Shop.
But to be realistic, any budget sub $500, it’ll be a Squier. This is the entire purpose of Squier. You’ll have all the Fender design, feel and sound in an affordable package.
But do these guitars offer value?
Yes! High-end Squier guitars offer value for money. If you can only afford Squier don’t let this discourage you.
The value in a Squier comes from the build quality, sound, and playability. Sure it may not sound as good as Fender but remember a Squier is easy to upgrade.
If you feel you need a little more sound quality. Upgrade the pickups. You’ll have a Squier guitar performing at a higher level.
Now onto Fender. The name has an aura and if you’re committed to the Fender name, it’ll be hard to look elsewhere.
If on a budget, look for a Mexican-built. It’ll have the Fender name on the headstock but with all the characteristics you love. They offer value for money.
So what if money is no object?
Premium Fenders will be amongst guitar royalty. There’s no denying from looks to sound they’re on another level. But what about value?
Is a $5,000 Fender Custom Shop that much better than a Fender Player at $800? While there’ll be a disparity in sound and craftsmanship. Whether that’s worth a few thousand will depend on your disposable income.
Fender has a vast catalog covering a wide price range. As the price increases, so does the guitar’s performance.
The country of manufacture can be a rough estimate of the level of performance.
Although, a very crude way of measuring. To get the best performance, this ranking system of manufacturing countries will help you out:
Fender guitars made in the USA and Japan will outperform the Mexican and Chinese builds. But, the performance gap isn’t huge.
Here’s a brief summary where American and Japanese Fenders outperform lower-budget guitars:
- Improved wood quality for increased lifespan and tonal qualities.
- Top-of-the-range pickups deliver more characterful sound.
- Upgraded hardware. For example, the tuner and bridge will keep the guitar in tune longer.
Want the performance of an American-built Fender?
Here’s how to identify the country of manufacture.
Fender is proud of their American and Japanese builds. So they’ll announce it loud and clear in the model name.
For example, American Ultra, American Original, American Professional and American Performers.
The prefix ‘US’ on the serial number is also a method of identifying the US-built models. You can find the serial number on the back of the headstock.
The performance of a Mexican-built Fender is the surprise package. At the price tag, you could be quick to dismiss these as a budget option. Yeah, they’re affordable but they outperform the price bracket and could hold their own in a studio or live habitat.
So what about Squier?
Built-in either Indonesia or China, Squier builds some entry-level guitars. But, their price reflects this.
Higher-end Chinese-built Squiers are where it’s at if you’re looking for top performance at a budget price.
Sure, there’s an element of you paying for what you get. But overall, both Fender and Squier are great performing guitars.
The level of your skill-set can act as a friendly guide for the Fender Vs Squier debate.
Depending on your level, let’s see which guitar brand is for you:
For a beginner:
- If you’re making your first steps as guitarist—it’s a Squier. You can get a Squier for under $200. As a beginner, you won’t want to break the bank. Going cheap means it won’t be an enormous loss should you discover it isn’t for you.
- If you’ve started learning on an acoustic and are ready to take it to the next stage. A Squier is a great way to incorporate an electric guitar into your collection.
For an intermediate:
- So you’re getting good at this guitar thing. You’re experimenting with effects and amplification. A Squier between the price range of $400-$500 will meet your demands and allow you to sculpt a sound of your own.
- Is it time to join a band? A top-end Squier or a Mexican-built Fender like the Player series are both great shouts. They’ll replicate the sound of more expensive models and also look the part.
For a professional:
- For day-to-day casual use, you can’t beat the Fender Player or upper-priced Squiers. The playability and sound quality will do the job supporting a professional to write and jam.
- If you’re a studio musician. A Fender is ideal for the edge in sound quality. A Japanese or American build will deliver that extra sparkle to a Fender tone.
- Live performers can’t overlook Squier. You could kit that with improved pickups and have a guitar to take on the road. This way you can keep your expensive Fenders locked away safely.
The beauty of upper-end Squiers. Is that they have the foundation to migrate into higher skill levels. To achieve this, it’ll be a case of making a few modifications.
The thing is, Fenders are bucket list guitars. Sometimes, whatever your skill level, whether you’re a collector or guitar tone enthusiast, nothing but a Fender will do.
So should you consider resale value when deciding?
This might be the last thing on your mind, but there is a straightforward answer to this.
A new guitar will reduce in value. Guitars like Squiers or lower value Fender will be mass-produced. So, the resale value won’t be too great.
If you want a guitar to lose limited value, then mid to upper Fenders are the guitars for you. There will be a minimal drop in value.
Big money exchanges for vintage guitars. Look at the price of an Original 50s Strat and prepare to have your mind blown.
So while the value may drop early. Down the line, if you’re lucky, they may be worth a fortune. The problem is there are no guarantees with this. It can also take many centuries until we know which guitars will be valuable.
Is Squier as good as Fender?
They build Fender guitars to a higher standard than Squiers. The price reflects the improved craftsmanship and sound quality. But, a lower-end Fender against a high-end Squier is a closer call. They both have a similar sound and build quality. So, while overall a Squier may not be as good as a Fender, sometimes it’s minor differences between them.
Is Squier Owned by Fender?
Fender acquired Squier in 1965. It wasn’t until 1982 Fender produced guitars under the Squier name. Because Squier is Fender-owned, their replications are of close likeness. Fender angles Squier as a budget option.
Is it worth it to upgrade a Squier?
You’ll hear many opinions on this. But the build quality of a more expensive Squier is good. Because the cost-cutting measures often come from areas that you can upgrade. You can modify a Squier to increase performance. Installing new pickups, a new nut, and tuners can get a Squier punching well above its weight.