If you have five hundred dollars to spend on an electric guitar, you can get quite a few nice ones. Despite the fact that there’s a lot of choice in this price range, it can be difficult to find the best electric guitars under $500 if you don’t now what to look for. I’m here to help you find a great guitar at a medium price.
I was just like you as an intermediate guitar player. I grew out of that first beginner guitar which was very cheap and into a medium-priced guitar under $500 dollars. Most major guitar makers do offer some very good guitars at this price with plenty of features that you’re going to love. With $400-$500 to spend, the options for a good guitar open up by a wide margin when you compare them to guitars at a lower price point. Let’s dig in and have a look at some truly outstanding guitars that are under $500.
List of 10 Electric Guitars under $500 with reviews
1. ESP LTD KH202 Kirk Hammett Electric Guitar
Kirk Hammett is an amazing guitar player and one of my all-time favorites. He has a signature guitar from ESP, as he plays their guitars all the time. It’s hard to believe, but you can get this signature guitar of his for under $500 and it has a lot to offer you for such a low price.
The first thing to love about this guitar is that it’s designed for hard rock and metal. It has a Floyd Rose special bridge so it’s great for dive bombs, guitar tricks and it stays in tune. The guitar is perfect for shred too, as it has 24 jumbo frets. The neck is maple with a rosewood fingerboard. I found the neck easy to play as your fingers will sail up and down this fretboard. The humbucker pickups are ESP designed so they give you great tonal variations. The guitar also has two volume knobs, one tone, and a 3-way selector switch for the pickups. The part I love best about this instrument is the deep double cutaway so you can reach the high notes and frets easily so faster lead playing.
- High quality guitar for a good price
- Beautiful looking guitar
- Cool Metallica style logo for fret marks
- Tremolo system can be hard to tune for beginners
- Not quite as good as higher priced Hammett signature guitar
I love this ESP guitar as it has a lot going for it. The guitar tine us easily and play great. You’ll be able to get a lot of good tones out of it and its perfect for playing Metallica and sounding just like Kirk Hammett or for making other metal music. It’s not much of a blues guitar or a similar style, but it’s the right choice for rock, heavy metal, and other advanced musical styles. Artists signature guitars can cost a lot, but this one from ESP is a good bargain and one of the best guitars under $500 that you should give a good look.
2. Epiphone CASINO Coupe Thin-Line Hollow Body Electric Guitar
If you’re in the market for a great blues, jazz and od school rock guitar, take a look at the Epiphone Casino Coupe Thin-Line Hollow Body. In fact, the original Casino guitars were so popular, that the Beatles used them. John Lennon and Paul McCartney used to play them all the time. This Epiphone Casino Coupe is a small version of that iconic guitar, but it still sounds amazing.
The guitar has two humbucker pickups for rock, blues, jazz, and old school music. The F holes on the guitar give you a full acoustic/electric sound, so the music pops out from your amplifier. The nice double cutaway makes it easy to hit higher notes. The fretboard is rosewood and the neck on it is very smooth.
- Old school 50-60s look to the guitar
- Nice angled pickguard so you don’t scratch the guitar
- Strings that ship with it need changing right away
- Could use better pickups
I loved playing this Epiphone as the lower cost Gibson guitars are really nice at this price. The guitar is a little big for some players, so it does take some getting used to. It’s the perfect choice for all the older music you want to play as it has a nice jangly sound to it. I found the sounds that you can make with this guitar to be quite impressive and it does a good job recreating all those old-style sounds that defined rock and roll. Most jazzy style guitars cost a fortune, but this Epiphone is well worth the price you pay. This is a great inexpensive guitar under $500 that will do a whole lot and sound great, too.
3. PRS SE Standard 24 Electric Guitar
Paul reed Smith is a guitar company many players don’t know much about, but they make some amazing instruments. They feature a standard model under $500 which has a whole host of great features you’re going to love.
This guitar has a mahogany body and a 24-fret rosewood fingerboard. I like the double cutaway as you can hit the higher frets with ease. I found the neck to be very easy to play as it’s smooth which you would expect in a guitar that costs this much. There’s two humbuckers so you can play rock, blues and many other styles. There’s a volume knob, and the tone control features a coil tap. The coil tap allows you to get more sounds out of the guitar and can make the humbuckers sound like single coil pickups.
- Lovely PRS bird inlays on fretboard
- Looks stunning
- No locking nut for tremolo
- Not as nice as some other PRS models
Considering many Paul Reed Smith guitars cost thousands, it’s an outright steal to get one under $400. I was amazed at how well this guitar plays and feels. The tones you can get out of it are very nice and it sounds like a much higher priced guitar. I found that this guitar played very smooth and it’s amazing that it costs such a low price. I’ve played guitars that were more expensive that didn’t play as well as this PRS did, so in my opinion it’s an excellent buy. Paul Reed Smith is really underestimated in the quality of guitars they make. I would have a good look at the PRS SE as it’s exceptional for under $500.
4. Dean ZERO AODII Dave Mustaine Electric Guitar
Dean makes some great rock and metal style guitars and the Dean Zero is an amazing guitar and the signature Dave Mustaine model. It’s a classic Gibson Explorer style body with a nice logo on the front of the instrument.
The first thing you’ll notice about he Dean Zero is how nice it looks. It has two humbucker pickups for tons of rock and metal tones. It has a Mahogany body and a jatoba fingerboard with 24 frets for those screaming metal leads. The bridge is Tone-O Matic so its easy to change your strings on this guitar. The pickups are DMT design and you’ll get a lot of sounds out of them which are perfect for harder rock, metal and other aggressive styles.
- Easy to play and has a killer metal look
- Stays in tune for a long time with Grover tuners
- No tremolo system for wild string bends
- Not optimal for some music styles
Signature guitars from famous artists like Dave Mustaine can cost a lot of money, but you can a have Dave’s guitar for under $500 which is a real bargain. This Dean guitar played great right out of the box and I didn’t have much of a problem with it. It may need a bit of a setup to your preferences like the string action, but all in all it’s an excellent metal style guitar that is a bargain.
5. Gretsch Guitars G5435T Electromatic Pro Jet w/Bigsby
Some players are looking for guitars which have the more traditional Bigsby tremolo system but are out of luck because most models cost too much. Gretsch has a very affordable Bigsby with their G5435T Electromatic Pro Jet.
The first thing you’ll notice about this guitar is the old school flair of the instrument and the Bigsby tremolo just looks great in this guitar. It’s perfect for jazz, blues, rockabilly, country and even rock or punk styles. The guitar has a single cutaway, so you can hit all the 22 frets if the rosewood fingerboard. The body is basswood with a wonderful finish. The guitar has two humbuckers, two volume knobs, a tone control, and a selector switch to round out the electronics.
- Nice Gretsch logo on pickguard
- Solid chrome hardware
- Could use better tuners
- Bigsby tremolo can put guitar out of tune
I had a blast with this Gretsch and it sounds almost as good as the more expensive models. It’s a bit heavy, but you’ll get used to it. I would put new strap locks on it as while the ones that ship are fine, but an upgrade would make them a bit better. The sounds you can get put of this great guitar are stellar. Bear in mind that while a Bigsby tremolo is great for rock and roll, it’s not a good system for deep dive bombs the more advanced metal tricks so this might not be suitable for that style of music.
6. Schecter Traditional Standard Electric Guitar, California Vintage Collection
It’s hard to find a good Stratocaster style guitar under $500, but you can with the Schecter Traditional Standard. You would be hard pressed to tell this from a regular Strat if it wasn’t for the Schecter headstock and the guitar is a real standout.
This guitar has a nice maple neck and fingerboard with 21 frets. The thin C neck is easier on your hands and comfortable. It has three Schecter Diamond Vintage Single Coils in the pickup position for tons of blues, rock, country and similar sounds. I loved the sound of these pickups as they are wonderful and bright. The bridge is a standard Fender style tremolo system for string bends and guitar tricks. The guitar has the traditional volume, two tone controls and a selector switch for the pickups.
- Greta Fender style sounds
- Very easy to play
- Not ideal for hard rock musical styles
- Single coils hum more than humbuckers do
Final VerdictI’ve played many Stratocaster style guitar at a lower price range and most of them have problems. This guitar from Schecter is very good and you’ll get tons of great tones out of it. The neck is especially good as it’s quite smooth, so your fingers fly down the fretboard. This guitar plays and sound like a Stratocaster should. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better Strat-style guitar under $500 that sound or plays better than this one, so pick one up as you’ll love it.
7. Ibanez JEMJRWH Steve Vai Signature 6-String Electric Guitar
Steve Vai is one of the best electric guitar players on the planet and now you can own one of his signature Ibanez Jem guitars with the JEMJRWH Steve Vai Signature guitar. This instrument has everything you’ll need to play advanced music and everything in-between.
The best part about this Ibanez is the price at under $500, and you get a whole lot of guitar. It features a rosewood 24 fret fingerboard with a mahogany body. The guitar has the famous Jem handle on it so you can pick it up. It has two humbuckers as well as a single coil for tons of great sounds. You’ll be able to play rock, meal jazz fusion, and nay other styles with it. There’s a tone, volume knob, and a pickup selector witch. The guitar has an Ibanez tremolo system and locking nut, so the guitar stays in tune during extreme whammy bar tricks.
- Deep double cutaway for easy access to frets
- Super smooth playability
- Vine inlay is confusing as to where fret markers are
- Need another tone control
If you want a full-feature shred style guitar that won’t break your pocketbook pick up this Steve Vai Signature JEM. I found it extremely easy to play and it has so much going for. It’s not quite good as the more expensive Ibanez guitars, but it comes very close and you really can’t tell that much of a difference. If you have a desire to shred away on guitar, this JEM allows you to do just that. I think that the JEM is one of the best rock and metal style guitars around and the fact that this ships for under $500 makes it a solid buy because it gives you so much for very little money.
8. Fender Modern Player Tele Plus Electric Guitar, Honey Burst, Maple Fretboard
Fender guitars are great for rock and blues, but not very good for harder styles of music. You’ll be happy to know that the Fender Modern Player Tele Plus Electric Guitar is a mean beast of a guitar with a lot of surprising features you’ll love.
The first thing to love about this Telecaster is that it has three pickups. It has two single coils as well as a big bridge humbucker. This means that it not only can this guitar handle the twangy sounds the Telecaster is famous for, it can handle the wild soaring hard rock leads due to the humbucker. The neck is maple with 22 jumbo frets and the body is made from pine. There’s a tone, volume and selector switch as well which are solid and well made. The bridge pickup also has a mini coil split for even more sounds out of the humbucker.
- Massive sound
- Looks amazing
- Some traditional Tele sounds are lost
- Tuners are a bit weak
If you want a Telecaster than can handle plenty of modern rock and other sounds that a regular Tele might struggle to product, the Fender Modern Player Tele Plus is ideal. In my opinion, this guitar rocks as it just has so many tone variations due to the addition of the humbucker pickup in the bridge. I had a lot of fun playing this guitar with all the tones I could get out of it. This is the right guitar for so many other styles not just the blues and Jazz playing that the regular Telecaster can handle so give it a try.
9. Epiphone G-400
Like many guitar players, I’ve dreamed about owning a Gibson guitar, but could never afford one. My favorite style is the SG, but the Gibson costs too much. Epiphone makes some nice lower cost SG style guitars which have many good features.
This guitar has that classic Sg shape that many players love. One of the first guitars rock legend Eric Clapton played was an SG in his early Cream days. This guitar has two humbucker pickups for tons of great tones from rock to blues. The bridge is a Tune-O Matic, so this guitar maintains its tune for a long duration. The neck is a slim D profile so it’s comfortable to play with a rosewood fingerboard and 22 frets. There’s two volume, two tone, and a pickup selector switch.
- Easy to play for smaller hands
- Sounds very good
- Not a true Gibson SG sound
- Could use better pickups
If you want to save money but desire the Gibson SG sounds, try this Epiphone. This is the lower priced Gibson brand, but these guitars are still quite exceptional for the price you pay and one of the better lines in this price range. I love how this guitar sounds and you’ll get a lot of mileage out of your purchase with this stellar guitar under $500.
10. Schecter OMEN-8 8-String Electric Guitar
Music always changes and now we’re playing guitars with more than 6- strings such as 7-stirngs and even 8-strings. Schecter has a wonderful 8-stirng guitar you’ll want to check out of you’re into this extremely advanced form of guitar playing.
The guitar boy is basswood and it has a maple neck with carbon fiber reinforcement rods, so this guitar has a very stable neck to take the extra pressure of the eight strings. The bridge is a hardtail with the strings through the body to make string changes easy for you. The pickups are Schecter Diamond Plus so you get tones of great tones for all the advanced music you want to play. There’s a volume, tone, and a selector switch for your pickups
- Solid design
- Nice playing neck
- Not for beginners
- Needs a tremolo system
I’m astounded that this guitar sells for under $500 as it’s a real steal at this price. It has a lot of nice features and it plays great for an 8-string which typically cost a whole lot more. If you’re getting into this style of guitar playing, you should cheek out the Schecter OMEN-8 8-String as it offers incredible value for you.
Things to Consider Before You Buy Your New Guitar
Buying an electric guitar under $500 is still a big investment for many people. You do a get a whole lot more value for your money when you spend a little more. This might be your second guitar purchase at this higher price point, so you have to keep a few things in mind.
Buy What Feels Comfortable
As you buy higher priced guitars, you need one that’d going to be comfortable for you to play, not what someone else is playing. You need a guitar for your own style of music and needs. For example, its not much use to buy a guitar with all single coils if you’re info high speed shred guitar. You would want a guitar with all humbuckers and a faster neck. You may also play several guitars styles, so you might want several guitars and not just one for various types of music. You might want a Fender Strat for blues, an Ibanez Jem for metal, and so on. No matter what you buy, get a guitar that’s comfortable for you.
Most guitars, even those under $500 will require a bit of setup. This is usually to get the guitar in line with your preferences. For example, you may want your strings set at a certain action. The action is how high the strings are off the fretboard. A guitar with a higher action makes for easier string bending because you can grip the strings more which is perfect for rock and blues styles. If you want to play faster leads, you’ll want to lower the action as this makes legato and other guitar techniques easier.
You should also adjust the neck to get it to play the way you want. These are all personal preferences, and everyone will be different. A good guitar tech can help make your guitar playable to your preference or you can do this work on your own. Some guitars may need little to no adjustment at all. On a new guitar you should check the intonation and adjust this if necessary, so the guitar plays in tune all the way up and down the neck.
Do I need New Pickups?
Most guitars under $500 have good pickups. You’ll notice that your pickups will sound better than the ones on cheaper guitars. They tend to produce less noise and will give you a better sound overall. It’s up to you if you want to change them and keep in mind that good pickups will add around $200 or so dollar more to the cost of your guitar so you need to decide if its worth it or not to upgrade the pickups. There’s a wide range of pickup choices with most manufacturers like Fender, Gibson, Seymour Duncan, and other offering pickups with high output and other features that you may want.
Your Strings and Tone
Make sure you replace the strings that ship with your guitar sooner rather than later. One of the bottlenecks to a good guitar sound is the fact that your strings are old. The strings on a new guitar have been on that guitar since the factory, so they are pretty worn by now. It’s best to just put a fresh set on a new guitar as this will give you the fill sound capabilities of your new instrument. It’s best to change strings often to improve the sound of your guitar. Higher gauge strings give a louder and fuller sound, but they are harder to bend for beginners. Take some time to experiment with string gauges and different string brands until you find one that works the best for you. Make sure you buy a peg winder and wire cutters for cutting the strings and keeping them clean around the posts.
I have an Electric Guitar Under $500, What Now?
Start to Define Your Sound
At this point, you need to define your sound. You have probably been playing for a while so it’s time to make the music your own. One way you can do this is to try out various foot pedals like distortion, wah, flanger, chorus, delay, reverb and so on. As you experiment with pedals, you’re going to discover new sounds which you will incorporate into your own playing. These pedals can male a big difference in your overall sound. You may already have a few of them but adding more can give you even more options to play around with as you use your amplifier.
You should start to experiment wit different musical styles too as it can open up a larger world of music. You could experiment with 7-strings, 12-strings, and try various open and altered tunings to discover new and fun sounds to make on your instrument. The more you open yourself up to new music, the better you’ll be and be sure to keep taking lessons from time to time to refresh your skills or learn new things. Now that you have a great guitar under $500 dollars, it’s time to define who you are as an artist. It’s also fine if you just want to pluck the stings from time to time too, as you’re free to do what you want with your guitar.
Your Amp Matters
If you buy a guitar under $500 dollars, it makes sense to start looking for a good amplifier. Amps in the $300-800-dollar range offer a whole lot for the money than ever before. There’s plenty of great solid sate amplifiers now, so you don’t necessarily have to rely on tube amplifiers. You should take your guitar to a music store and play through various amplifiers to find the best one for your needs. If you want to play on stage at this point, an amplifier over 50 watts and up is ideal. Amps that are 25 watts or less, won’t cut it on most stages as they can’t be heard over the drums which are always loud. You could also go with an amp modeler as these can save you a lot of money. These amps recreate the sounds of all the classic and well-loved amplifiers all our rock stars have sed in the past. These amps are starting to sound pretty good now and can be the ideal choice for those on a budget.
This list features some of th best electric guitars under $500. The choice in instruments gets a lot better in this price range and you’re sure to find the ideal guitar for your needs. You should narrow down a list of instruments you like and compare the strengths and the weakness of each instrument before you buy.
When you spend around $500 dollars, you’ll find that the guitar you get doesn’t need a whole lot of additional setup. You can always change things like strings, pickups, or tuners to meet your needs, but for the most part, these are much better guitars which will help you define your sound and give you many years of enjoyment.