There are gems to be found among electric guitars under $200. While they may have imperfections in their build and tend to possess unspectacular pickups, they’re far from bad guitars. Many of these affordable models are great for beginners, tinkering around with, and experimenting with new configurations and constructions.
In picking the 14 guitars on this list, we focused on a single factor: value. In other words, how well do their quality, components and specs stack up to their price tags of under $200? Pretty well, it turns out…
1Sterling by Music Man SUB Silo3
Sterling by Music Man is the more affordable cousin to Ernie Ball Music Man, and the SUB Silo3 is an entry-level version of the latter’s timeless Silhouette model. It’s an exceedingly comfortable and versatile guitar – a bargain of an instrument whether you’re a beginner or just itching to add a new six-string to your collection.
- Iconic Silhouette body shape with ergonomic touches
- Versatile HSS pickup configuration
- Comfortable asymmetrical neck profile
- Retails for under $200 (depending on the finish)
It’s great to see brands working hard to stand out even with their budget models. The SUB Silo3 is no exception. It looks – and, more importantly, feels – special, especially for a guitar that hovers around the $200 mark.
Comfort is at the top of the SUB Silo3’s priorities. Its curvy body has contours in all the right places, its asymmetrical neck profile – it’s slightly slimmer towards the treble strings – feels natural in your hand, and even the vintage-style tremolo bridge has a flat surface to rest your palm on. Add a light basswood body, and you’re ready to rock for hours on end.
The HSS pickup configuration with a five-way switch keeps things versatile and beginner-friendly. Two single-coils and an overwound bridge humbucker provide a good mix of glassy Strat-like and fat Les Paul-esque tones that are capable of straight-up rock, funk and blues. They’re good as far as in-house pickups go, but don’t expect tonal authenticity at this price point.
Elsewhere on the axe, you’ll find a 12-inch-radius hard maple/jatoba (depending on the finish) fretboard, a hard maple neck, and master tone and volume knobs.
2Epiphone Les Paul SL
The Epiphone Les Paul SL admittedly doesn’t offer much in the way of features, but its barebones makeup is exactly what’s made the guitar a hit among punk and garage rockers – and beginners of all stripes. It’s a reliable grab-and-go gem that, at well under $200, you won’t find much to fault with.
- Flat top Les Paul shape in a myriad of finishes
- Two Epiphone ceramic single-coils
- 1960s SlimTaper D neck profile with a flat 14-inch-radius fretboard
- Retails for about $120
The Les Paul SL doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles that many other budget models boast. Rather, it focuses its limited resources on delivering two things that matter: sound and simplicity.
A favorite among punk rockers, the Asia-made Les Paul SL is built for thrashing around with power chords. That comes from the 14-inch-radius rosewood fretboard (most Les Pauls have a 12-inch radius), a chunky 1960s SlimTaper D neck profile, lightweight poplar body, and two brash ceramic single-coils.
The bridge Epiphone 700SCT pickup is overwound, and has a sharp bite and snarl. Meanwhile, the neck 650SCR offers a clearer, rounded tone that’s still slightly rough around the edges. Both single-coils can get a little noisy with the distortion cranked up, but if you’re playing rock or punk, it’s all good.
And you can’t ignore the Les Paul SL’s nostalgic aesthetics. It’s available in six finishes – we’re partial to the drop-dead gorgeous Turquoise – and the unique pickguard on all the models is another head-turner.
3Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC012DLX HSS Deluxe
As first guitars go, this is quite the introduction to the world of six-strings. Yamaha’s tried to give a taste of everything a beginner may possibly want, or develop a curiosity for, with the Pacifica Series PAC012DLX HSS Deluxe. So if you’re not too sure what your groove is yet, here’s a great place to start.
- Features for learning and exploration
- HSS pickup configuration offers wide range of tones
- Vintage-style tremolo bridge
- Retails for $179
Yes, it looks like a Stratocaster. But with a thinner waist, sharper horns and deeper cutaways for easier access to the upper registers, the PAC012DLX is a more modern take on the Fender icon. However, tone snobs may scoff at the agathis – rather than a traditional Strat’s alde – used in the body.
But when the guitar offers this much for under $200, you’ll look past the soft and cheaper tonewood. In fact, this Yamaha is slightly more versatile than an entry-level Strat.
The HSS pickup configuration, with a five-way switch, is one evidence of that claim. The single-coils are bright and clear, while the bridge humbucker has a solid crunch when played through distortion. As usual, though, you can expect the same drawbacks with all budget pickups.
The other specs on this model lean towards the more modern end of the spectrum, too. A 13.75-inch-radius sonokeling rosewood fretboard, a narrow and shallow maple neck, and the aforementioned deep cutaways make playing fast a breeze.
A chrome tremolo bridge, and master volume and tone controls round up the specs on this value-for-money guitar.
4Schecter C-1 SGR
Here’s an axe that’s as unabashedly straightforward as it is feisty. The Schecter C-1 SGR packs a handful of metal-leaning touches that feel, look and sound like a guitar that costs much more than its asking price of well under $200.
- Super Strat body with an arched top
- Shred-friendly: Thin C-shaped neck, flat fretboard and two-octave range
- String-through Tune-o-Matic bridge
- Cool aesthetic details, from the Gothic cross inlay and black chrome hardware
- Retails for $150
The China-made C-1 SGR is a Super Strat whose arched top, Gothic cross inlay and black chrome hardware don’t so much as scream “elegance” as whisper it. But, like the JS22 Dinky, this is still very much an instrument for aggressive styles of music.
Beveled cutaways, a thin C-shaped maple neck, 14-inch-radius rosewood fretboard and 24 medium frets ensure the guitar’s as shred-friendly as it should be. A basswood body, on the other hand, offers a neutral palette. And while you may not be able to divebomb with this guitar, a Tune-o-Matic string-through bridge will keep your sustain ringing.
For pickups, the C-1 SGR comes with a pair of Diamond Plus humbuckers. These are overwound pups that are tight and hot enough – while not so nuanced or clear – when the gain’s cranked up.
Although many budget guitars keep to conventional designs, the Dean MLX takes a proudly opposing stance. Its ML body shape, popularised by the late Dimebag Darrell, commands attention with an out-of-this-world design. And the guitar’s other specs are just as geared towards aggressive styles such as Pantera’s.
- Eye-catching looks
- Two DMT Design humbuckers
- Tune-o-Matic bridge with a unique V stoptail
- Retails for about $200
The MLX is made in China, but, like all other Asia-made guitars on this list, that doesn’t make it a lesser instrument. Plug it into a hard rock or heavy metal rig, and the guitar will lay bare its potential.
Its two DMT Design humbuckers are hot enough to push the front-end of your amp, its flat 14-inch-radius jatoba fretboard is shred-friendly, and the funky headstock lengthens the strings for added resonance, according to Dean.
Elsewhere, however, you’ll find that the MLX is comfortable and familiar. It has a basswood body, bolt-on C-shaped maple neck, 24.75-inch scale length, and 22 jumbo frets. Additionally, a Tune-o-Mmatic bridge with a stoptail, simple controls (no coil-splitting here), and Grover tuners keep things beginner-friendly.
6Squier Affinity Series Jazzmaster HH
The Squier Affinity Series Jazzmaster HH is a stripped-down rendition of a vintage-spec’ed Jazzmaster. It sacrifices configurability for simplicity, aggression and affordability. What you’re left with may not be what purists expect, but if you’re into the classic offset shape and need a snarling guitar for under $200, this is a solid choice.
- Classic, timeless appearance with an alder body
- Dual humbuckers for fat and hot tones
- Six-saddle hardtail bridge for tuning stability
- Retails for just under $200
This simplified Jazzmaster is a great starter guitar for punk, indie rock, grunge and other garage-y genres. You don’t have to fiddle with an original Jazzmaster’s rhythm/lead circuits and floating tremolo system. Instead, a three-way pickup selector switch, master volume and tone dials, and a hardtail bridge ensure grab-and-go convenience.
The model’s other appointments also represent a break from tradition. Two surprisingly hot in-house humbuckers aren’t the most refined pickups around, yet they provide the requisite growl for rock and punk. A satin-finished C-shaped maple neck and a 12-inch-radius rosewood fretboard make it more a progressive instrument, too.
Put plainly, the Mitchell MD200 is the younger, more modest sibling to the MD400. But fortunately, quality runs in the family. The MD200 is a well-built instrument whose slick looks and souped-up specs debunk the notion that electric guitars under $200 are neither worth the time nor money.
- Two bevelled cutaways for complete access to upper frets
- Ceramic rail split-coil pickups for versatility
- String-through body for enhanced resonance
- Retails for just under $200
The MD200 is a Super Strat that will appeal to beginners who are looking for a modern guitar that can do all genres equally well. Yet, it isn’t as skewed towards lead playing as the MD400 is, and it swaps out a few components for more affordable ones.
Such as the pickups. On the MD200, you’ll find a ceramic humbucker at the bridge and a ceramic mini-humbucker at the neck rather than the MD400’s alnico V pickups. But as with the pups on its big brother, these are ‘rail’ pickups, which Mitchell claims enhances tone and sustain. And they’ve also been coil-split to provide more tonal variety.
A tung oil-finished rock maple neck, and a slightly more curved fretboard radius of 13.75 inches are the other small modifications to the ‘speed’ features on the MD200. However, it has a thinner bolt-on neck as compared to the MD400’s wider mahogany set neck. That said, both neck profiles have a shallow C shape, and the guitars’ dramatically bevelled cutaways give you ample room to reach the high notes.
A string-through basswood body, pearloid offset dot inlays and black nickel hardware complete the other key features of this looker.
8Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster
If the Squier Classic Vibe models are still too pricey for you, the brand’s Affinity Series will suit you just fine. For $199, the Affinity Stratocaster is a great introduction to the world of Strats – it’s versatile, robust and has those cherished sparkling Fender tones.
- Offers a primer on the ‘Strat’ sound and features
- Comes in seven finishes, from Two-colour Sunburst to Black to Surf Green, and has an oversized headstock
- C-shaped maple neck and alder body that are both thinner than those on conventional Strats
- Retails for just under $200
While the Affinity Strat isn’t the best fit for intermediate and advanced players, it nonetheless shouldn’t be cast aside. In fact, its solid construction, decent hardware and pickups that mimic the wide tonal palette of a bona fide Fender make it an excellent starter or backup guitar.
The three Squier single-coils that power this six-string are the same as those you’ll find on the Bullet Strats. They’re not as nuanced or powerful as those you’ll find on the Classic Vibe. But they do possess ‘Strat-like’ qualities and can produce the sought-after ‘quack’ of the in-between positions (neck plus middle, and middle plus bridge).
The other components of the Affinity Strat are similarly ‘budget-ised’ versions of a Fender. It has a thinner alder body and C-shaped maple neck (which is unfinished), with a standard 9.5-inch fretboard radius and 21 medium jumbo frets. You also have to love the oversized headstock, typically found on 70s-inspired Strats.
9ESP LTD EC-10
The ESP LTD EC-10 is crafted by the Japanese company’s budget subsidiary as a frills-free starter model – and that’s actually a great thing. Everything about this guitar is designed to be as easy to play as possible. And it’s easy on the wallet, too.
- For aspiring shredders: very flat fretboard on a slim U-shaped neck
- Two LH-100 high-output humbuckers built for heavy-gain settings
- Contoured body for comfort, in both seating and standing positions
- Bevelled cutaway for easier access to higher frets
- Retails for just under $200
For better or for worse, there’s nothing striking about this sleek unit inspired by ESP’s Eclipse series. But there’s more than meets the eye.
A well-balanced body with contours on the lower bout make the EC-10 comfortable to play either sitting or standing, while bevelled cutaways mean you can reach those upper frets with ease. Add to that the thin U-shaped neck, a flat 13.8-inch fretboard radius and 24 extra jumbo frets, and you have a model that aspiring shredders will love.
The two LH-100 humbuckers that power the guitar are certainly not the best out there. Yet, they’re aggressive and high-output enough (if a touch too muddy) to work well with distortion. Just don’t expect sparkling and responsive cleans with this.
10Squier Bullet Mustang HH
Don’t think of the Squier Bullet Mustang HH as a cheaper alternative to a Mustang – it’s a beast of its own. A beast that will put you a mere $150 out of pocket. And for that price, you’ll get a solid, if barebones, offset guitar that’s best employed for brasher types of rock such as grunge, punk and indie rock.
- Short, 24-inch scale length
- Lightweight, with a thin body and quirky shape
- Fuss-free controls and simplified circuitry
- High-output humbuckers that work better distorted
- Retails for just under $150
There are many reasons to hate this guitar. It’s not a ‘real’ Mustang, it isn’t versatile, the hardware components aren’t great… But for a project guitar under $200, something to noodle around with, or if you’re just aching for a Mustang, this Squier is perfect.
Everything on the made-in-Indonesia guitar simply works. It has a basswood body, one-piece satin-finished maple neck with a C-shaped profile, a flat 12-inch fretboard radius, and two hot humbuckers that sound as fat and creamy as budget pickups can get. Even when played clean, they’re urging you to hit that distortion pedal.
11Dean Vendetta XM
At just over a hundred bucks, the Dean Vendetta XM is one of the cheapest electric guitars you should consider bringing home.
- High-output DMT Design humbuckers for searing riffs
- Unique tonewoods
- Shred-friendly: slim neck, very flat fretboard and medium jumbo frets
- Retails for about $130
Curiously, Dean went with paulownia for the body – it’s a lightweight substitute for mahogany – and black walnut for the fretboard. These aren’t common woods for guitars, but at the very least it’s a factor that sets it apart from other entry-level guitars.
While the Vendetta’s Tune-o-Matic bridge and string-through body are worth highlighting, its other features aren’t as risk-taking. Two DMT Design high-output humbuckers, slim C-shaped maple neck, 14-inch fretboard radius and 24 medium jumbo frets make this made-in-China model fairly unspectacular, but solid nonetheless.
12Epiphone Les Paul Special VE
Here’s the closest competitor to the Squier Bullet Mustang HH. Besides costing the same, the Epiphone Les Paul Special VE is also a dual-humbucking guitar geared towards rock, grunge and punk, but with several vintage-inspired finishes (the “VE” stands for “Vintage Edition”) and certain specs fit for an aspiring shredder.
- Five ‘worn’ finishes, from Vintage Worn Heritage Cherry Sunburst to Vintage Worn Walnut
- Hot Epiphone open-coil humbuckers
- Okoume neck with a 60s SlimTaper D profile
- Very flat fretboard radius
- Retails for just under $150
Never mind the flat top, poplar body, simplified circuitry and bolt-on okoume neck – the Les Paul Special VE may not possess the high-end features of its Gibson brethren, but it remains, dollar for dollar, one of the better rock guitars out there. And that’s really thanks to its pickups.
This guitar uses an Epiphone 650R Humbucker at the neck and an Epiphone 700T Humbucker at the bridge. Both sport open-coil designs and are hot as hell. They’re perfect for unleashing loud, chunky power chords à la Nirvana, Foo Fighters and other beginner staples with little more than your practice amp’s drive channel.
Those pickups aside, the Les Paul Special VE has a very flat 14-inch-radius rosewood fretboard and a 60s SlimTaper D-shaped neck whose satin finish most beginners will find comfortable to play on.
13Ibanez GIO GRX70QA
It’s been about two decades since Ibanez debuted the affordable GIO series. And the GRX70QA – one of 10 axes in the line – will pique the interest of guitarists eager to dive into rock, metal and other shred-leaning genres. Like the kind Joe Satriani, Herman Li, Munky and other Ibanez signature artists play.
- Ibanez Infinity pickups in a versatile HSH configuration
- Treated New Zealand pine fretboard on a slim maple neck
- Contoured poplar body for comfort and playability
- Retails for just under $200
Like many other ‘metal’ guitars at this price, the GRX70QA has a ‘quilted maple’ top – by that we mean an image of figured wood printed on a veneer – and a contoured, pointy Super Strat-style body.
Compared to the more expensive Schecter C-6 Plus, the GRX70QA is more versatile – inasmuch as they’re both built for high-gain genres – thanks to its pickup configuration and the addition of a whammy bar. Meanwhile, its slim neck and a 12-inch fretboard radius make it easy for newbies to play.
Can’t decide between a humbucker and single-coil? The GRX70QA has both, arranged in an HSH configuration with five possible combinations. The Infinity ceramic pickups on this model are nowhere close to the top-of-the-line Ibanez pups. Yet, they can deliver neutral tones with bell-like harmonics, which are ideal conditions for distortion.
In terms of tonewoods, the GRX70QA has a poplar body – it’s softer and lighter than alder, its closest relative tone-wise – and an intriguing treated New Zealand pine fretboard. Ibanez says the latter tonewood has “gone through an advanced seasoning process” that results in “enhanced stability” and a “rich, warm tone.”
14Jackson JS22 Dinky
If you aren’t already playing metal, the Jackson JS22 Dinky will make you want to. This guitar represents all the things upon which the brand has staked its claim to fame: metal- and rock-ready performance axes with fast necks and bold humbuckers.
- Graphite-reinforced slim, satin-finished maple neck that’s built for speed
- Compound radius fretboard
- High-output Jackson humbuckers voiced for richness, sustain and overdriven tones
- All-black hardware for the quintessential metal look
- Retails for just under $200
This Super Strat model’s minimal looks belie its bevy of features that you won’t typically find on a sub-$200 guitar.
The biggest of these is the compound radius fretboard: it goes from 12 inches at the top, all the way down to an extremely flat 16 inches nearer the body. Which means it’s as comfortable to hold down chords as it is to shred at a hundred miles an hour on the upper frets. And the 24 extra jumbo frets here lend even more shred cred to the Dinky.
The two Jackson High-output Humbucking ceramic pickups are exactly that: They’re loud, work beautifully with distortion, and deliver full, rich tones with long sustain. But as with many similar guitars in this price range, don’t expect amazing clean tones.
In terms of aesthetics, the Dinky doesn’t disappoint. Its arched top, pearloid sharkfin inlays and all-black hardware make the guitar stand out from the pack, while bindings on the neck give it that high-end glamour.