Are you looking for the best cheap electric guitars? Here are twelve of the best options currently on the market, and some additional information that you should know before you go shopping. Even cheap guitars can provide great value, after all, especially if you know what to look for.
ZENY’s 39” full-size electric guitar is a simple, affordable instrument. While its build quality is too low to take on the road or use for serious performances, it gets the job done for casual learning and can tide you over until you’re ready to get a better instrument.
- Ready to use straight out of the box
- Comes with a nylon carrying case
- Guitar designed for beginners
- Has a solid wood body, but a light wood material
- The high density of the basswood helps ensure a long lifespan
- More affordable than most other electric guitars
- The amp isn’t particularly good
- The strap is cheap and may need replacing
- The included cord is relatively inexpensive and may need replacing
- May require some skill to tune and get ready to play
Great for Kids
Best Choice Products isn’t a household name, but this kid-oriented starter guitar comes with everything you need to play an instrument. Helpfully, it comes with replacement strings in case someone breaks the ones it comes with, as well as relatively light all-wood construction. Several color options round out the personalization choices.
- Particularly good for kids
- Still large enough that some adults can play it
- Comes with guitar picks, a strap, and some extra strings
- Has a 5W amp for the feel of playing a higher-end guitar without the noise
- It’s possible to restring the guitar for left-handed players
Perfect for Left Handers
Left-handed electric guitars are surprisingly rare products, but this option from LyxPro is a definite step above most of the other budget-focused instruments on this list. It comes with a 20W amplifier, a headphone jack, an auxiliary input, and even a digital clip-on tuner. The tuner is particularly unusual to get with an instrument, and it’s part of what sets this guitar apart.
- Comes with a decently-strong amplifier
- Better accessories and construction quality than many other cheap electric guitars
- Small enough for some children to use, but still large enough for adults
- Easy to tune and adjust to get it to sound better
- The case is made of particularly cheap materials to help keep the cost down
- The cable is relatively short, so you may need to play close to a wall outlet unless you replace it
- The picks included are relatively thin and may snap if used improperly
- The strap is cheap, too
Best at the Upper End
This instrument is at the very upper end of what we can call a cheap electric guitar, which means it’s also one of the best options thanks to build quality alone. Unlike many other manufacturers on this list, Fender is a household name with extensive customer support and a lot of experience creating electric guitars at different price points.
- Vintage styling creates a classic, authentic sound
- Has a modern neck shape for comfort and ease of use
- Comes with a 3-month subscription to Fender Play, an online teaching platform ideal for beginners and returning players
- Has a 10-foot cable, which is long enough for most situations
- May not come with a manual, making this a bit harder for beginners to use
- The pickguard often comes scratched right out of the box
- Not as suitable for children as many other cheap guitars
Top of the Full-Sizers
Donner may not be as famous as Fender, but their DST-1B is worth a look for both beginners and intermediate players. This unit features an ebony body, a Canadian maple neck, a basswood body, and a one-year manufacturer’s warranty to protect against defects in a new instrument.
That warranty is better than what many other companies offer, and it helps protect your investment in case things crop up, and you fall out of the standard return window.
- A full-size instrument suitable for adult players
- Designed to last longer than most other cheap electric guitars
- Comes with a digital tuner to help ensure accuracy
- Has a one-year warranty
- The smooth, glossy body looks much better than the wood on many other instruments
- The digital tuner may be inaccurate, which defeats the purpose of using it
- The strap mounts often pop out with little effort
- The fret ends can be extremely sharp and may require filing or other adjustments
Best Low Budget Option
You’re never going to get an objectively great instrument without a higher investment. However, as far as purely budget-focused models go, this is one of the highest-quality and most-affordable instruments you’re going to get. At 30 inches, it’s easy for even younger children to hold and play; adults may find it a little too small for comfort.
- Extremely affordable and easy to replace if broken by an overactive child
- Has a beautiful hardwood body and an attractive rosewood fretboard
- Comes with an amp that can run off of a single 9-volt battery (not included)
- Surprisingly durable for the price
- You’re getting what you pay for; a very cheap instrument
- Sometimes shipped without the accessories
- The amp typically sounds quite distorted
- The volume knob often has issues
- Not great for teaching the guitar, since it’s too cheap for even that
Comes with the Best Accessories
Stedman Pro’s full-size electric guitar is an affordable beginner’s option, but the real draw here is the robust set of accessories that comes with it. These include a bag, a strap, an electronic tuner, picks, a string winder, a cord, and a polish cloth to help the guitar continue looking like new. This guitar comes in red, blue, and green color choices for a little added variety.
- Made of basswood, which keeps it light and easy to play
- The 10W amp provides reasonable performance for this price point
- The large set of accessories is a great place to get started
- The bold color options help create a high-end feel
- The neck isn’t colored to match the rest of the guitar
- Low-quality strings
- Requires frequent tuning
- The amp is low-quality, and the plug sometimes doesn’t fit correctly
Best DIY Electric Guitar
The name is a little odd, but don’t let that fool you. This is an impressively well-made DIY kit, and the fact that you have to assemble it yourself means you can swap in any other parts as you desire. The woodcuts are typically solid, too, which means you can stain or color this to whatever hue you prefer.
This is a great option even if you want to buy a professionally-made guitar for regular use because it can teach you more about electric guitars and how each of their components affect the final sound. Everything is pre-drilled, but this isn’t a good option for small children.
- This kit can create an impressively good electric guitar for the price
- It’s easy to change the parts before you start assembling it, allowing for a wholly-customized instrument
- One of the cheapest electric guitar options currently on the market
- Comes with digital instructions from the seller
- Requires some familiarity with instruments and parts
- Not ready to play right out of the box
- It does not come with accessories like a carrying bag or picks
Top Leftie Kids Guitar Option
Don’t confuse this guitar with the full-size 39-inch instrument higher on the list. LyxPro supports left-handed players more than many other companies, and few things make this clearer than their kid-focused 30-inch instrument. This guitar comes with a decent selection of accessories, including a digital tuner, a strap, some picks, and some replacement strings.
- An excellent option for left-handed children learning to play
- Available in red, blue, and pink
- Also available in a right-handed version
- Comes with a 20W amplifier
- Can connect to phones or MP3 players
- Usually has a nasty smell when opened
- It may not stay tuned for too long
- Sometimes comes without a tuner
- The amp often stops working relatively quickly
The full-size version of the best overall low-budget option, Smartxchoices’ full-size 39-inch instrument is impressively reliable for its price and doesn’t have as many build or production issues as many other instruments. That alone makes this worth serious consideration as one of the best cheap electric guitars.
- Available in black and blue options
- Has a solid 10W amp
- Has a user-friendly design for controls and performance
- The thin, lightweight body is suitable for beginners
- Does not use wood stains on the neck, so you may need to add some yourself
- Doesn’t sound amazing, but it’s reasonably good for the price
Alternate Pick 1
Sometimes, it’s worth having a few backup options if your first pick is out of stock. This electric guitar isn’t great in any area, but it doesn’t have any huge flaws, either. Instead, it’s a straightforward beginner’s kit that comes with a variety of accessories.
The smooth varnish and solid wood construction create a sturdy base, while it’s just small enough for some children to use.
- Ideal for beginners
- Has a robust selection of accessories
- The padded bag is surprisingly sturdy for the price
- Highly competitive pricing
- The 5W amp is relatively weak
- May require servicing right out of the box to get it set up properly
- Still somewhat worse than a guitar about $50 more would be
Donner produces many electric guitars, and the DST-100T is a great backup option if you’re not sure what else to get. It’s available in a wider range of colors than most guitars in this price range, while the one-year manufacturer’s warranty covers most problems you might experience.
- Comes with a bag, strap, and guitar cable
- Reasonably good construction for this price point
- The flexibility in colors can help match your personal aesthetics
- Generally reliable construction compared to other cheap electric guitars
- Usually requires sanding down the fret ends and sometimes the plastic nuts
- Some parts may need upgrading to make it sound better
- Somewhat heavier than many other products in this range
How To Choose The Best Cheap Electric Guitars
In some ways, choosing a cheap electric guitar is much harder than choosing an expensive one. Premium guitars have fantastic build quality and are far more reliable, so you’re paying more for the details than anything else.
Cheap guitars, in contrast, can vary widely in quality and reliability. There’s no getting around the fundamental truth of these products: You’re going to get what you pay for. If you want a reliable instrument with good sound, pay as much as you can afford. Even $50 more can make a huge difference in the sound of your instrument.
Also, try an electric guitar at a store before you buy it, if possible. There’s no substitute for personal experience with an instrument. Alternatively, you can try to return the instrument a few days after buying it. If you’re considering this route, make sure your store has a generous return policy.
Things To Look For
There are several things to look for when buying the best cheap electric guitars. Unfortunately, without testing it for yourself, it’s hard to get a feel for your instrument’s actual build quality and sound. However, you can judge its overall quality by looking at some other information.
First, look at the number and variety of accessories that come with the instrument. Many of these are important for moving and using an electric guitar, and lacking them could make your guitar entirely unplayable unless you have your own. The most common accessories are:
- Carrying Bags: Cheap electric guitars almost always have padded cloth carrying bags, not hardshell cases. Sturdier bags are less likely to wear down over time and require replacement.
- Cables: Cables are necessary for playing electric guitars and connecting them to an amplifier, so they’re almost always included. If your guitar doesn’t come with one, you can get one at any guitar supply store.
- Picks: Guitar picks aren’t required for playing the electric guitar, but most people prefer using them. However, some guitars ship with thin and brittle picks, so consider investing in some of your own after trying them out.
- Straps: Straps allow you to carry an electric guitar over your shoulder, rather than supporting its full weight with your arms. These are usually an essential accessory, so almost all electric guitars come with them.
- Strings: Strings are easily one of the most critical parts of an electric guitar, so manufacturers often pack extras. However, while these extras usually match the strings on the guitar, they also tend to be cheap, and you may be better off buying newer, better ones.
- Digital Tuners: Digital tuners can help you accurately tune your guitar, so it sounds better. These are mainly useful for beginners because experienced guitarists can do it by ear. Including a digital tuner is often the mark of a better product.
- Amps: Unlike regular guitars, electric guitars need amplifiers to sound their best. Most electric guitars come with at least a 5W unit, but 10W or 20W is better for household use. You may need to buy an adapter to use your household electricity instead of a battery. For cheap electric guitars, the included amps tend to be low-quality.
- Slides: Guitar slides are rare accessories to find included with an electric guitar, so you’re in luck if you see one. Used correctly, they can change and modify sounds to create tunes that are otherwise difficult or even impossible to pull off. Learn to play slide guitar here.
Is It Worth Getting A Cheap Electric Guitar?
That depends entirely on what you plan to use it for. If you want to play in any semi-professional setting or try to earn money, then no. Cheap electric guitars are not suitable for serious use and trying to use them that way only invites trouble when they fail out on the road.
However, there are times when getting a cheap electric guitar makes sense. Here are some of the most common scenarios where it’s a good idea.
Scenario #1: Teaching A Child To Play
Children can be hard on instruments, and it’s difficult to justify giving them a $5000 instrument when they don’t even know how to play the electric guitar. The best cheap electric guitars are good training instruments because you’re not going to be out a lot of money if a child decides they don’t like playing music after all.
It’s also easier to write off the loss of a cheap electric guitar if a child ends up smashing the instrument against something. Children can transition to a better guitar after they’re familiar with the basics.
Scenario #2: Figuring Out If You Like Playing
Some people don’t start learning to play an instrument until they’re much older. In cases like these, a cheap instrument is a great way to help learn if you actually like playing the electric guitar, and without the cost of getting a better instrument.
Prerequisites For Using An Electric Guitar
Playing an electric guitar isn’t quite like playing most other instruments. Here are the things you should do to prepare.
Step 1: Set Up Your Amp
Setting up your amp is easily one of the most important parts of using your electric guitar. The reason for this is ultimately simple: Without an amp, most electric guitars are far too quiet to enjoy properly.
This matters more than many beginners realize. If your instrument sounds good when you’re playing it, then it’s easier to have fun and keep playing. On the other hand, if your instrument sounds bad, then you may not want to keep learning it.
Your amp quality is nearly as crucial as the quality of your electric guitar, and they’re so integral to playing an electric guitar that most units come with a basic or portable amp by default. However, you should consider getting a better amp if you want to keep playing. You’ll quite literally hear the difference.
Step 2: Check Your Batteries
This isn’t a problem if you’re running off a constant electrical supply, such as a household plug. That said, many people use battery-powered equipment instead of relying on cords. There are some advantages and disadvantages to this process.
Using batteries means you can place your equipment anywhere and start playing. This is great if you want to play outdoors or in venues that don’t have easy access to plugs. However, batteries will die after you use them too much, and few things are worse than your audio fading out in the middle of a show or practice session.
This is why you should always check any batteries you’re using at the start of a session. Some people change the batteries weekly, or even daily if they play a lot.
Step 3: Check Your Environment
As all musicians know, the place you play in has a significant impact on your overall sound. This is true even when you’re using a small amplifier because walls can create strange echoes or interference with your music.
Some setups allow you to use headphones instead of playing the audio through an amp. This is quite viable when you’re playing on your own, especially if you invest in a pair of high-quality headphones that can block exterior noises. This feature, known as active noise canceling, is readily available on most modern headphones.
Step 4: Learn Your Controls
The controls are the most important part of playing an electric guitar that most people don’t pay attention to when they first start. Unlike an acoustic guitar, which works almost entirely on the vibration of its strings, electric guitars have a variety of knobs and dials that can change the sound they produce.
Mastering the electric guitar requires learning and understanding these controls. You may even need to adjust them mid-song, so learning to instinctively move them to the correct position is essential to the learning process.
The good news is that you don’t have to master all of these controls just to start playing. It’s fine to simply learn what they do, experiment a little, and then move on to playing a song.
Consider: Great Acoustic-Electric Guitars Today
Step 5: Tune Your Guitar
Like all stringed instruments, tuning your electric guitar is an essential part of getting it to sound great. Many people use digital tuners to help with this because they can accurately assess how each string performs.
Cheap electric guitars tend to go out of tune quickly, so you’re going to get very familiar with this process if you play seriously. Expect to tune your guitar at the start of every session, and possibly in the middle of sessions as well.
High-quality strings tend to stay in tune longer than low-quality strings. If you want to spend less time tuning, the only real option is to replace the strings with something better. Pricing does have a major impact on what you can do in this range.
Step 6: Keep Your Music Sheets In Front Of You
While experts can play without referring to music sheets, getting to that point takes a lot of practice. Beginners should keep physical or digital music sheets (whether these are guitar tabs or note charts) where you can easily access them and play exclusively off of those.
Doing this makes it easier to learn how to play without looking, too. You’ll hear it if you make mistakes, and the more you correct yourself without looking, the easier it will be to learn how to play each note precisely the way you want to.
Step 7: Keep It Simple To Start
Simplicity is a virtue when you’re learning to play the guitar. The fact that you can distort your sound, add pedals that modify effects, and otherwise change your sound does not mean that you should do any of these when you’re still learning the basic chords.
It’s okay to relax and take things step by step. This will help you build good habits that will carry over when you start doing the more complicated parts of playing an instrument.
What Are The Price Ranges For Electric Guitars?
Context is important when you’re deciding whether or not a listed price is a good value. Here are the general price ranges for electric guitars, and what you can expect to find in each.
- $50-$400: Beginner Guitars: Beginner guitars are simple, introductory instruments. They often have fewer features, cheaper parts, and a tendency to fail sooner than anything else. You can find cheap acoustics as well as cheap electrics! While these are good if you’re on a tight budget, they typically don’t sound as good as anything else. All of the guitars listed above are beginner guitars.
- $400-$900: Intermediate Guitars: Intermediate guitars sound distinctly better than beginner guitars. These are excellent options when you know how to play, but you still need more lessons and don’t want to invest in a higher-end option.
- $900-$2500: Advanced Guitars: Advanced guitars are high-quality instruments designed for serious and experienced users. They tend to be far more reliable and have much better parts overall. Anything above this range is a professional instrument.
When you’re buying on a budget, the ZENY 39” full-size electric guitar is the best overall option thanks to its balance of price, quality, and accessories. It’s not the best electric guitar in the beginner price range (that honor belongs to the somewhat-more-expensive Squier from Fender), but it’s a top choice.
Unfortunately, most cheap electric guitars have a small chance of something going wrong with them because they’re not built to the same specifications as a more expensive instrument. Consider asking a more-experienced guitarist to check your purchase and let you know if you need to return it. This isn’t necessary for most instruments, but it never hurts to check.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.