Whether you're a new player looking for your first guitar, or you're a touring musican looking for a road worthy instrument at a great value, no one wants to pay too much for a guitar. On the other hand, no one wants to buy a piece of junk. You won't get the sound you're looking for, and low quality guitars are often harder to play.
Today's guitar manufacturers have come up with some incredibly efficient ways to produce wonderful instruments at a price point that won't break the budget. There are thousands of affordable acoustic guitars on the market, but we wanted to help you navigate the sea of options to find the best sounding, best looking, most proven instruments available.
"Cheap" is a relative term, but with rare guitar prices shooting up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, we will use a range of $150-400 for this guide.
Cheap Acoustic Guitars
If you are looking to learn to play guitar, there is no clear cut answer for which guitar to pick up first, electric or acoustic. There are pros and cons to learning with either. Generally speaking, there is not a lot of price difference between acoustic guitars and electric guitars, unless you're looking at some of the most expensive models.
If you're an intermediate or advanced player looking for an instrument to take camping or simply a new addition to your collection, there are many outstanding value acoustic options available.
Epiphone is one of America's oldest and most respected guitar manufacturers. Making instruments for 140 years, Epiphone guitars have been considered among the best in the world since the 1930s.
Epiphone was purchased by Gibson in 1957 and began listing budget-conscious versions of existing Gibson models, as well as many of its own designs. Today, Epiphone has dozens of guitar models, many of which you can find for less than $400-500 retail (less than $400 on NashvilleGuitarStore.com). The Epiphone PRO-1, AJ100, DR-100, and PR-150 can be found for less than $200.
The DR-100 is Epiphone's best selling acoustic. It's built to Epiphone's high quality standards, but without any of the extravagance. The DR-100 offers good old-fashioned playability.
Perhaps the most recognized acoustic guitar in rock and roll, the Epiphone Texan has been the choice of rockers since it first introduction in 1958 with an all-star list of fans including Paul McCartney, Peter Frampton, Kurt Cobain, and Noel Gallagher. The new Inspired by 1964 Texan acoustic/electric reproduces a vintage classic at right around $400.
Epiphone's Hummingbird offers the iconic looks and attention to detail of Gibson's several thousand dollar version at around $300.
Tanglewood builds all its guitars with value in mind. As UK's all-time best selling acoustic guitar brand, Tanglewood offers a variety of price points, but you can find one of its premium acoustic guitars for under $200.
The Tanglewood TSF CE Evolution IV Acoustic-Electric Guitar features a smaller folk size body shape with a cutaway, offering superb playability. It's listed on our site for $199.
Like Epiphone, Washburn has a storied history of making quality guitars that are easy to play. Washburn's origins date all the way back to the Civil War.
Washburn has a handful of cheap acoustic guitar options. The Washburn WD7S, WF19S, WP24SNS, WLO12SE, and the HG26SCE can all be found in the $200-400 range.
Washburn's WP27SNS parlor-sized acoustic guitar is an outstanding option for players looking for a smaller-sized guitar with a great sound. Based on a 100-year old design, this small and comfortable instrument sounds impressively loud with a rich and warm voice that's perfect for accompaniment.
Perfect for fingerpicking and singer/songwriters, the WP27SNS gets its smooth and mellow voice from the combination of a Solid Sitka Spruce Top with Rosewood back and sides.
Music Radar says of the Washburn HG26SCE: "If we had to pick a guitar for fingerpickers to, er, pick... we'd, ahem... pick this."
Recording King acoustic guitars have the look, feel and sound of the some of the most classic models, but the workmanship and enhancements can be appreciated today's players.
The Recording King RP1-16C offers the benefits of a torrefied top to players looking for a quality cheap acoustic. Torrefaction is a specialized heating process used on the adirondack spruce tops which giving the RP1-16C a vintage tone. The dreadnought scale gives them additional punch and projection beyond what you'd expect from a traditional 0 guitar. See it here (when available).
Ibanez "brings a modern approach to acoustic guitar tradition." Its artwood series of guitars falls right in line with solid tops, superior hardware and exotic tonewoods.
The AVC4 Grand Concert Acoustic stands out from the crowd with its all mahogany body and vintage sunburst finish. It retails for $399, but can be found on our site for as low as $319.
At the same price point, AVN3 Artwood Vintage 12th Fret Parlor 2 Acoustic offers a super playable neck, a solid spruce top, and mahogany back and sides.
Fender is synonymous with rock-n-roll, the electric precision bass and "Tele" in particular, which were the first of their kind. However, Fender offers a large line of acoustics, many of which fall into the "quality cheap guitar" category.
The Fender Sonoran SCE bridges the gap between electric and acoustic, featuring the iconic Strat headstock and an array of brightly colored finishes. At right around $350 retail, the Sonoran is top value for the money.
Tim Armstrong, Grammy winning founder of punk band, Rancid, looked to his old Fender concert-style acoustic to do all his songwriting. Fender created the Tim Armstrong Hellcat based on that model, but added modern appointments, high quality on-board electronics, and some killer artwork. You can find the Hellcat on our site for $319 when available.
Cheap Electric Guitars
Pink Floyd's David Gilmore once said, “I think I could walk into any music shop anywhere and with a guitar off the rack, a couple of basic pedals and an amp I could sound just like me.” You don't have to pay a fortune for something custom to sound great.
If a manufacturer appeared in the "cheap acoustic guitar" category, you may well find it in the "cheap electric guitar" category.
The legendary Les Paul built his first solid body guitar at the Epiphone factory in 1941 and created an icon. The Epiphone Les Paul Special II sheds any extra baggage on the original and offers any aspiring rock or jazz musician a fine guitar to start with. You can get your hands on a Les Paul Special II for under $300.
Epiphone has become quite adept at replicating the far more expensive Gibson guitars, and the SG G400 is proof. The G400 is a solid guitar featuring Alnico Classic PRO™ pickups and push/pull coil-tapping. See it listed here when available.
Fender electrics were designed to be louder. An update on the venerable classic, the Fender Modern Player Telecaster Plus is one of the most individual and tonally versatile Telecaster models Fender has ever offered. It features a Modern Player Tele pickup (neck), a Modern Player Strat single-coil pickup (middle), and a Modern Player humbucking pickup (bridge). It retails for $499, but you can find it on our site for around $400 when available.
As Fender's budget line of guitars, almost all of Squier's models can be found at a modest price point. The Tele, Strat, Jaguar, and Jazzmaster are all there, just produced for less overseas.
The Squier Deluxe Stratocaster is an excellent choice for beginnners. For $299 or less, you can get high performance and versatility. It features a maple neck with satin finish, Duncan designed pickups, and a parchment pickguard. Check here for listing.
ESP has made a name for itself in the last 40 years with quality control and craftsmanship. Typically those traits come with a price tag, but ESP LTD line of guitars is a rare exception. The LTD line offers a number of ESP models that often look like they should cost quite a bit more.
The ESP LTD Viper Series in particular offers a super cool double cutaway look. At just under $400, the Viper-256 features ESP Designed LH-150 humbuckers, LTD tuners and TOM bridge/tailpiece, and a fast 3 pc. mahogany set neck with a 24-fret rosewood fingerboard. See it listed here.
Ibanez, too, offers a value line of guitars at prices often thousands less than their more expensive models, but these guitars still go through the same rigorous inspection and setup.
The GIO series offers a number of different models any shredder would love but the GRG7321EX and GRG7221 in particular offer thin, fast necks and fretting hand fit that minimizes effort and maximizes your performance. It retails new for $499, but it's currently listed on our site for $349.
The metal masters at Jackson have affordable options as well. The Jackson JS series features custom-voiced high-output ceramic-magnet pickups, graphite-reinforced maple necks, bound fingerboards and headstocks, and black hardware.
The regal JS32 King V has a basswood body, bolt-on maple speed neck with graphite reinforcement and satin finish, perfect for speeding up and down.
One ideal way to save big on the cost of a guitar is to buy it manufacturer refurbished, or as we like to say, "better than new."
Refurbished guitars on our site come straight from the manufacturer to an authorized refurbisher. Some guitars that come in have no issues. They may be overstock or discontinued models. If that's the case they get inspected, tested, set up, and go straight to our shelves.
If the guitar does have an issue - cosmetic flaws or minor repair, it's resolved there by a certified guitar technician before it comes into our inventory.
Because the guitars go through this process, they can't be labeled and sold as "new," although they look and play like new. The refurbished guitars are stamped "used" on the headstock to prevent false warranty claims.
Buying refurbished allows you to save hundreds of dollars in some cases on high quality guitars.
If you ask us, the best way to get a cheap guitar is to buy a high quality guitar at way below retail.
Each guitar gets inspected and tested by a certified guitar tech. Not every new guitar can say that.
Then they come to our inventory, which is closed to the public. Go to the big box store and you could very well find kids strumming our guitars with their booger fingers, scratching them all up.
These guitar have never been owned, but you can find them at pre-owned prices. Seems like a no brainer, right?