Fender is one of the most celebrated instrument makers ever.
Owning a Fender guitar is a dream for many guitarists. But it can be an expensive dream to have!
So before committing, it’s logical to want to learn more about your options. A common guitar question relates to the country of manufacture.
So where are Fender guitars made?
In short, Fender makes guitars in the USA, Mexico, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, and China. Performer, Professional, Original, and Ultra guitars are made in the United States. The Vintera, Player, and Artist series guitars are made in Mexico. The Deluxe and Boxer range are made in Japan, and the Squier by Fender guitars are built in Indonesia or China.
But why does this matter?
Here’s the thing… We often think of the country of manufacture as a powerful indicator of build quality. Needless to say, you want a well-built guitar.
In this article, we’ll summarize where Fender makes their famous models. And we’ll answer the big questions like… Does the country of manufacture really make a difference?
Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
Fender Guitars: Some Background Information
Fender is one of the most famous and biggest-selling guitar brands in the world today. So how did Fender go from humble beginnings to a global powerhouse?
The Fender story begins in a small Fullerton, California workshop with Leo Fender. A radio technician, he’d venture into the field of music by chance. Handy with electronics, his friends would drop off faulty amps for Leo to fix.
By 1943, he had joined forces with a local musician to form the K&F Manufacturing Corp, creating a limited run of amplifiers and lap steels.
In 1946 Fender started working under his own name. Famous amps like the Deluxe were born during this year. He’d then create guitars that would affect world culture.
With headquarters in Los Angeles, California, Fender guitars continue to be one of today’s biggest instrument makers.
Where are Fender Guitars Made? Different Models Compared
There’s a Fender for everyone. Regardless of skill level or budget, there’s a Fender series to meet your needs.
Each series has classic Fender designs like the Telecaster, Strat, and Jazzmaster.
For example, if you want a Telecaster. You could opt for a Squier Affinity Series costing around $200 or an Ultra costing upwards of $2000. The standout difference between these two series is the country of manufacture.
They make premium Fender guitars in the USA. However, an American-built Fender is pricey and out of reach for most. So, to make Fender guitars available for all, they produce guitars overseas. The lower material and labor costs enable Fender to sell these guitars for cheaper.
Let’s look at where Fender makes some of their flagship lines.
Which Fender Guitars are Made in the USA?
A Fender built in the US is a premium guitar. How do you identify the country of manufacture?
Look at the back of the headstock. Here you’ll find a serial number. If the prefix has ‘US’ at the start, then it’s an American build. Similarly, if the prefix is ‘MX’ then it’s a Mexican-built Fender.
So which Fender models are a product of the famed Californian warehouse? Let’s look.
Fender American Performer
The Performer line is the most affordable US-made Fender guitar.
Whether it be the Strat, Tele, or Jazzmaster, these guitars are gig-ready and alluring. Performers have classic looks with modern appointments. A special mention goes to the Yosemite pickups that are high output and low feedback.
For a touch above $1,000, they’re not cheap. But compared to other US-built guitars, it’s value for money. The Performer line enables you to own a genuine US-built Fender for, all things considered, a respectable sum.
Fender American Professional
A step up from the Performer line is the Professional. As the name suggests, Fender markets these guitars towards Professional guitarists.
American Professional Guitars develop flagship Fender designs. Fitted with V Mod II pickups these guitars have a modern take on classic tones.
The necks on the Professional series are the subject of evolution. Fine-tuned from classic designs, the Deep C profile has a soft edge. With a satin finish, you’ll find movement along the frets effortless.
For around $1,500, American Professional guitars are every bit the studio-ready guitar.
Fender American Original
Built from the blueprints of 50s and 60s designs, the Original models capture the historic spirit of Fender.
The 50s models replicate original designs from the Fullerton workshop. Even the necks feel the same with V and U profiles. The 60s models come with a C profile neck for an alternative option to the 50s designs.
Not only retro in aesthetics and feel, but the Original models also have the tone. The Pure Vintage ’59 pickups do a great job of re-creating the warm flavors of old pickups.
All the Original series guitars have a nitro finish. So what does this mean? A nitro finish allows the guitar’s wood to breathe resulting in it aging with grace. Furthermore, you can expect American Original guitars to mature in sound.
For a similar price to a Professional, an Original guitar offers a taste of Fender’s iconic history.
A vintage Fender dated as far back as the 50s or 60s is expensive. These models are close replications and throwbacks to these designs. But, much more affordable and with modern reliability.
Fender American Ultra
You can expect to pay around $2,000 for an Ultra. So what do you get for the outlay?
The American Ultra series isn’t for the vintage purists. With a unique modern D-profile carve, these guitars have a contemporary feel on the palm. The finish, on some guitars, has a modern sparkle upon close inspection.
Fender claims these guitars are the “most advanced” in their catalog. With their slick playability, it’s hard to argue. Rounded edges and smooth woods are everywhere.
The Noiseless pickups offer a hot-rod upgrade from the norm. They deliver vintage characteristics. But with modern clarity and without the signal noise that comes from older pickups.
The Ultra’s feel like a premium handmade American-built guitar. So what’s the problem? At this price, they might be out of reach for most.
Where are Fender Player Series Guitars Made?
Built-in Mexico, the Fender Player Series is under half the price of the Ultra range. It’s a large disparity in price, so the difference is the source of a huge debate.
What’s the difference between a Mexican and American Fender?
Truth is… Not that much. The standout difference is the pickup quality. American-built pickups have the edge on the Player Series, but it’s fine margins.
Sometimes, manufacturers glue pieces of wood together to make the body. The American-built Fenders tend to use two pieces compared to three on a Mexican guitar. What’s this mean?
Not too much. If craftsmanship and wood quality is good, the different amount of pieces won’t affect tone drastically.
What about hardware? You can tell a difference on the bridge. American-made Fenders have a steel bridge whereas Mexican Fenders use a cheaper metal.
But do these factors warrant the inflated price? Probably not!
So what gives?
An American-made Fender is a prestigious icon in the guitar world. This alone means guitarists and collectors will pay vast sums.
Mexican Fenders are great and compete with the best. Here are some reasons they’re close in build quality to the American guitars.
- The short geographical distance between American and Mexican factories results in similar materials.
- The Mexican factory has machinery akin to the US factory
- There’re skilled luthiers in the Ensenada, Mexico factory.
So all in all, while there might be audible and fine build quality differences. They’re small disparities.
Where are Fender Boxer Series Guitars Made?
Fender Boxer guitars are a product of Japan. Since the Made In Japan line arrived in 1982, Japanese-built Fenders have become renowned for their unique characteristics. So what makes Japanese guitars so good?
Japan has a reputation for creating guitars with strong craftsmanship. Here are why Japanese guitars are up there with the best:
- The Japanese workforce is highly skilled.
- Japan is renowned for advanced technology and machinery.
- Japanese factories have disciplined regulations and tight checks.
- With meticulous quality control, only the best Fender guitars leave a Japanese factory.
The consensus is that USA-built guitars are better than Japanese. While this is true on the whole, there are blurred lines. A top-end Japanese-built guitar will outperform a lower-end American built.
Fender Boxer guitars are sleek and speedy. They stand as a testament to the build quality of Japanese-built guitars.
Where are Squier by Fender Guitars Made?
Fender introduced Squier as we know it today in 1982. The idea was to offer all the classic Fender designs for a budget price.
Let’s have a look at how Fender keeps the prices of Squier low:
- Using factories in Indonesia and China means cheaper running and labor costs.
- They manufacture large quantities at a fast production rate.
- You’ll find the core materials of a Squier are of lesser quality. The woods go through a less vigilant selection and care process.
- Made with cheaper material, the hardware won’t have the same sturdy feel as high-end Fenders.
- When leaving the factories Squier guitars won’t have stringent quality control.
But here’s another side to the argument…
Guitars built in Indonesia and China are ever-improving.
Yes, if you play a Squier against a premium Fender, there will be more clarity in the more expensive guitar. But the difference isn’t massive to the average music listener.
Because the shape of Squier guitars follows famous models, you can easily upgrade a Squier. New pickups give a Squier guitar an instant upgrade in sound quality.
One reason high-end Fenders feel so good is that they feel worn out of the box. But, seeking professional advice from a guitar tech can have a Squier performing well above the price tag.
So, a Squier may not have the prestigiousness of an American-built guitar. But what they do is mimic the timeless designs. This means a similar sound, playability, and look.
For beginners and the budget-conscious, Squier guitars will liberate. They allow the charms of Fender guitars to be accessible to all. This alone means Indonesian and Chinese-built guitars deserve high praise.
Does it Matter Where Fender Guitars are Made?
So does it matter where the guitar comes from?
After all, they all look pretty similar so what’s the fuss?
For peak build quality and sound quality, American-built Fenders are some of the best guitars ever.
Out-of-the-box they are ready to go with every fine detail sculpted to your needs. In this scenario, yes, it matters! Sometimes only a US-built Fender will do.
Not to mention, these guitars have Fenders Fullerton California DNA running through every grain.
But, there’s a way to get the build quality, playability, and tonal character of an American Fender without the cost.
If the guitar had these features, would it matter to you where it comes from? Because if you can do without the kudos of owning an American Fender, a Mexican-built guitar will come close.
The difference is minimal, and it’s a similar scenario with Japanese build guitars.
There’s more of a gulf with Fenders from Indonesia and China. Here’s the effect these countries have on the guitar.
For starters, Fender guitars built in Indonesia and China are cheap.
A Squier will fall short on materials and build quality compared to an Ultra. The use of lower quality tonewoods means less tonal character and sustain.
You’ll notice finer details like fret edges aren’t as sleek on Chinese Squiers.
Whether the country of manufacture matters all depends on the player. The disparity in price is often larger than the difference in quality and sound.
Ultimately, whether that jump in price and performance is worth it depends on you.
Why Are Fender Guitars So Expensive?
Let’s have a look at the reasons behind the price.
- Brand – Fender is a brand name on the tip of the tongue. Chances are someone who knows nothing about music will recognize the brand. So when buying a Fender you’re paying for the brand name.
- Legacy – Fender is a manufacturer with a huge legacy. With artists like Jimi Hendrix pioneering the use of the Strat, a legacy is born. Hendrix isn’t the only one. But, with this type of fame comes high demand. And with high demand means a hike in costs.
- Rare Guitars – You may have a shock if you attempt to buy a secondhand Fender. Sure, some of the newer models are affordable. In fact, it’s a great way to get hold of a Fender for cheap. That said, some rare vintage Fenders can retail for astronomical sums. So prepare for a shock if you stumble across an original on Reverb.com!
- Tonewoods – Good guitar manufacturers consider the woods on a guitar. Not all timber is a tonewood so the selection process is tricky from the start. Furthermore, good tonewoods go through a process after selection. This includes a careful drying process where humidity has to be perfect. Then the temperature it’s stored has to be optimal. All this costs money and Fender prices reflect the quality and process the woods go through.
- Craftsmanship – A Fender guitar has a large human input. Attended by skilled luthiers all along with production it ultimately means peak quality. The wage of the skilled workforce reflects the price. The US workforce has a higher wage bracket than other countries.
Are Fender Guitars Good?
Yes! Fender guitars are good. Since Leo Fender created his first guitar, the brand has never looked back.
Fender guitars are luxurious to play with a premium build quality. Least of all, they have a sound that’s the backbone of endless amazing songs.
There’s a reason Fender has earned a reputation as one of the leading instrument makers. Their guitars are true icons with sounds versatile enough to sound at home in a plethora of genres.
There we have it, now you know where Fender makes their guitars.
Whether it be from the USA, Mexico, or Japan, Fender guitars have a reputation to uphold. You can expect guitars from factories in these countries to have strict regulations. The process in these workshops is fine-tuned to produce guitars worthy of the Fender name.
American guitars sit at the summit of build quality. These guitars are premium and used by some of the world’s most famous guitarists. So, you’ll have to pay a high price for these guitars.
While Mexican-built Fenders are cheaper, the difference in quality is slight. These are the Fender guitars for guitarists who want premium performance on a budget. And they still have the Fender name on the headstock.
If all of these guitars are out of budget, don’t despair. This is where Squier comes into the conversation. While Chinese and Indonesian-built guitars won’t have the same prestige, they’re top guitars.
By using factories in different countries iconic Fender designs are available to all.
So, whichever country the guitar comes from, it’ll have the Fender magic. And remember, regardless of where it’s from, it’s how you play it that matters.