Best Cheap Electric Guitars: Guide and Reviews

One of my best friends has been carrying on an internal debate with himself for a number of years now over whether or not he should take the plunge and buy a guitar. It’s something he’s always wanted to do, and I certainly encourage him, but he’s always been concerned about the costs - you always want to find the best electric guitar for less. In his mind if you want to buy a quality guitar you’re going to have to spend a great deal of money on one. What I’ve been trying to tell him is that this isn’t the case at all. There are plenty of good quality electric guitars that typically retail for less than $200.

The real question he and anybody else that wants to buy their first electric guitar should be asking themselves is what can you get on a limited budget that still sounds great? You should certainly take a close look at the pickups as that’s what generates the sound on an electric guitar and you should also play close attention to the types of wood used in manufacturing your new guitar. Different types of wood produce different tones and you should probably checkout a few different guitars using different woods until you find a sound that you like.

In this article we’re going to look at some great choices for you and we’ll go over their features and benefits. There are many different models to choose from at all different price points and that includes those under $200. Our intention is to give you a great overall picture of the guitars we review so that you can make a sound purchase decision. We’ll look at the construction materials, we’ll explore the types of pickups used in each guitar, and of course we’ll talk about the intangibles as well such as the type of tone it produces.

1. Squire Affinity Stratocaster HSS

The Squire Affinity Stratocaster HSS has the look and feel of the famous Stratocaster that guitar enthusiasts the world over have been raving over for years. It has two single-coil Stratocaster pickups, as well as a humbucking bridge pickup that combine to create an awesome rock sound that will catch the attention of your neighbours. If you want to crank up the sound you can give the whammy bar a spin as well.

The C type neck features a rosewood finger board with the ideal amount of space between frets for easy fingering. It has a great sound for the beginner and has a reputation for staying in tune after hours of use. It looks, feels, and sounds like a Stratocaster. The sparkle style pickguard ads a nice affect as well overlaid on the black body. This is a perfect guitar to start your playing career on, or the playing career of your child.

2. Epiphone Les Paul Special-II

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for a Les Paul and that’s probably true for a lot of budding guitarists out there. Some of the best guitarists over the years have chosen the Les Paul and they continue to do so. The Epiphone Les Paul Special-II has the classic sunburst style body that made Les Paul so popular and it’s made from quality basswood that produces excellent tones. You can purchase it in a couple of other colors as well.

It features 700T humbucker pickups that recreate the classic Les Paul sound quite nicely and the Rosewood fretboard is well constructed – not to mention the beautifully designed mahogany body. It also comes standard with a LockTone bridge and stopbar tailpiece that create better sustain and makes changing strings fairly straightforward. If you have your heart set on a Les Paul, but you don’t want to break the bank this is a great place to start.

3. C-1 SGR by Schecter

If you’re looking for a harder edged guitar that will look right at home in a driving metal band then you should take a close look at the C-1 SGR by Schecter. It comes in three different colors including: midnight satin black, walnut satin, and electric blue. They’re all great colors, but if you’re a true metal lover like me nothing beats black. It has an arched top with a maple neck and rosewood fretboard.

Where this guitar really shines though is the sound it produces. They use Schecter’s own SGR pickups to produce that sound and they certainly don’t disappoint. It’s also the little details such as the black chrome tuning knobs which really set this guitar apart from the competition. Some famous metal legends have remained loyal to Schecter over the last couple of decades and it’s great to see an entry level guitar that still captures that impressive Schecter sound.

4. Jackson JS22-7 Dinky

I’ll freely admit the Jackson JS22-7 Dinky isn’t a guitar that I was familiar with until recently, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve to be on the list amongst the best electric guitars under $200. This is a great starter guitar because of its jumbo frets making it easier for beginners to play chords and finger those driving solos. It creates deep, thick, heavy tones that are perfect for playing some classic rock tunes.

The body is made from basswood that does the job nicely and the maple neck helps to create winning tones that will impress your future fans. The fretboard is a standard rosewood and there’s ample spacing between frets – even for someone with big thick fingers like me. This is the right guitar for you if you plan on spending a lot of time working on those scales. After all, it takes a lot of practise to become a true lead guitarist.

5. Ibanez GRX20ZBKN

Ibanez is one of the most famous names in the guitar business and their line includes great guitars for all budgets. The Ibanez GRX20ZBKN has a nice thick body with some great design styling that make it shine in a crowded marketplace. They’ve stacked 22 frets onto its neck to give you plenty of options when it’s time to playing those lead guitar riffs. The fretboard itself is made from rosewood and the neck is made from quality maple.

The GRX20ZBKN has a FAT 6 bridge pickup and a PSND1 pickup as well. Together they bring a hard edge sound to your playing style that sounds like you’re playing on a much more expensive guitar. It’s also lightweight at less than 10 pounds, so if you like to get up and move when you play, go for it! It’s a well-rounded guitar for any level of play.

Some Closing Thoughts

The first time you pick up an electric guitar you’ll feel like a whole new world has been opened up for you. Forget about waiting until you have enough money for the top of the line guitar made by the premier guitar manufacturer on the planet. Make the decision today to start playing and find yourself an affordable, quality guitar to get started on like the ones on this list. It should be clear to you now that there are plenty of quality electric guitars available that cost less than $200.

Consider Your Favorite Music

There isn’t one best guitar on this list for everybody. Each guitar offers a distinctive tone, has a certain style, and caters to different playing styles. If you like to play the blues a Les Paul style guitar is a great option, but isn’t really appropriate if you’re into hard metal. Think about what type of music you listen to and what type of music you want to play before you choose a guitar. No matter what you choose you can find one for under $200 that sounds great.

A Test Run

If you can, try and take a few of the guitars you’re considering for a test run, even if you’re planning on buying online, there’s a good chance your local music store carries many of the models you’re looking at. It’s easy for me to sit here and tell you how great a guitar sounds, but having the chance to hear one in action is always a great idea.

An alternative to running out to the local music store if you’re pressed for time is to check out videos of those guitars online. Most of the major retailers offer videos on their site demonstrating their various models and if that doesn’t work there’s always YouTube. The point is find a way to hear what the guitar sounds like before you buy it, however you have to do that.

Don’t Wait!

If there’s one final piece of advice I can offer it’s this – don’t wait! Start your guitar journey today. Because there will always be something that gets in the way. Anyone can learn how to play guitar, all it takes is perseverance, determination, and of course practise. If someone tells you you’re wasting your time and money ignore them. This is your dream not theirs. Good luck and don’t forget to practise!