As a new guitarist, the sheer number of beginner guitars available for purchase can be overwhelming. There are a lot of bad choices, but we’ve spent some time researching and have chosen the best of the best for under $500.
A good beginner guitar needs to be versatile. Unless you already know what style of music you wish to focus on, you’ll want a guitar that can excel in every genre of music. These instruments generally have multiple types of pickups or a coil-splitting ability so you can get both sweet single-coil sounds for jazz and blues, as well as thick humbucker tones for rock and metal.
Note that the cost in parentheses is an estimate. Prices may fluctuate slightly from day to day. The guitar may even go on sale! To get the most current price, click the link for your favorite retailer (under the image of the guitar) to be taken to their website.
If you prefer to buy new, then we have links to Amazon, Guitar Center, and more for each guitar. If you want to stretch your dollar as far as possible, it can be a good idea to buy used. You can find some great deals for high-quality, gently played guitars over at Reverb.
Squier Bullet HSS Stratocaster (~$149)
The Squier series by Fender is the first name in affordable, name-brand beginner guitars. The Bullet series is one of their most affordable options. The Bullet Stratocaster has a slightly thinner body than the Standard Squier Stratocaster, making it lighter and more comfortable to hold for younger musicians. However, don’t let this fool you into thinking it’s a toy! You’ll find a humbucker in the bridge, giving you the ability to play just about anything. Coupled with the single-coils in the middle and neck position, you can cover everything from hard rock to the blues to even metal. The non-locking tremolo will give your licks some extra flavor, and the slim neck will get your fingers where they need to go. Overall, this is an excellent beginner guitar.
For more information, check out our full review of the Squier Bullet HSS Stratocaster.
Epiphone Les Paul Special II (~$199)
The Les Paul has its fingerprints all over modern music. Now you can experience part of that legacy with the affordable, best-selling Epiphone Les Paul Special II. Unlike other budget guitars in its price range that use cheaper types of wood, the Special II comes with a mahogany body that imbues your tone with warmth and sustain. You’ll notice that it has a pair of quality humbucker pickups that sound fantastic. A single volume and tone knob make it quick to dial in a sound you like without any hassle. Overall, it’s a tremendous value for beginners and an excellent guitar for the money.
For more information, check out our full review of the Epiphone Les Paul Special II.
Yamaha Pacifica PAC112V (~$299)
Vastly underrated by many musicians, Yamaha is the underdog of electric guitar brands. The Yamaha Pacifica PAC112V is the archetype of budget beginner guitars. A nicely contoured alder body puts no strain on your strumming arm so you can play for hours without issue. With a coil-splittable humbucker in the bridge, you can use it to play anything from Muddy Waters to Black Sabbath to Nickleback. Nickleback fans will enjoy the grippy metal volume knob, making it easy to turn the volume down so that no one finds out you’re a Nickleback fan.
For more information, check out our full review of the Yamaha Pacifica PAC112V.
Paul Reed Smith SE Standard 24 (~$499)
The PRS SE Standard 24 is the definition of versatility. A solid mahogany body adds ample sustain and warmth to your tone. With two coil-splittable humbuckers and one of the best tremolo bridges available on the market, this guitar can create almost any sound you dream of. With signature PRS bird inlays and three gorgeous finishes, the SE Standard 24 is as beautiful as it sounds. This our favorite beginner guitar of all-time.
For more information, check out our full review of the PRS SE Standard 24.