The Best Cheap Electric Guitars Under $150-$200: Reviews For Enthusiasts On A Budget!

In the good ol’ days, a good electric guitar used to cost a lot more than $200. If it didn’t, it was probably a tinny sounding piece of garbage that wasn’t worth the wood used to put it together. Perhaps those days weren’t so good…
Today, however, you can not only find some decent guitars for under $150, you can find some very good ones. And if you look towards combo packages, the value for money increases again. Beginners on a severely tight budget, listen up – we’re going to help you find your perfect first guitar!

In the chart below we have collaborated some of the best cheap electric guitars available on the market, as well as their ratings and links to more in-depth reviews. As you’ll see, there is plenty of choice. And make sure to check out our guidance on purchasing a guitar in this price range, below the chart.

The Top Rated Cheap Electric Guitars For Under $200:

Oscar Schmidt OE20G Review – Beautiful Budget Bling!

This budget OE20G from Washburn's Oscar Schmidt is an impressive guitar for the $190. The single cutaway mahogany body has a beautiful glossy golden finish and plenty of Les Paul style. There's a maple set neck, with a rosewood fretboard and 22 frets. The hardware on the guitar all matches the golden color perfectly. It's voiced by two passive Belcat humbuckers, at the neck and the bridge positions, providing a satisfying rock growl, with clarity and warmth when played clean. Controls are versatile, with a volume and a tone control for each of the pickups. Finally, you get a solid Tune-o-matic bridge with a stopbar tailpiece. An excellent all rounder.

2 Squier Vintage Modified ’51 Review – A Bit Of Everything!

Squier Vintage Modified ’51 Review – A Bit Of Everything!

A real hybrid guitar in looks, the Squier '51 takes inspiration from Fender's Stratocaster, Telecaster and P-Bass. Available in three vintage colors, there's a double cutaway basswood body with a single-ply pickguard that extend across the top of the face. There's a bolt-on, modern C-shaped maple neck, with maple fretboard and 21 medium jumbo frets. Along with an adjustable fixed bridge, the '51 has a single-coil pickup at the neck and a humbucker at the bridge, which can be coil-tapped thanks to the push/pull function on the volume control knob. The second control knob acts as a three-way pickup selector switch. Unique looks, awesome sound, very versatile, and great value.

3 Dean ML XM Review – Metal On A Budget

Dean ML XM Review – Metal On A Budget

At $160, Dean's entry-level ML XM is a very wise purchase – with iconic looks that will appeal to beginner metalheads. It features a double cutaway solid Paulownia body, with a bolt-on C-shaped neck made from maple, a rosewood fretboard, and 22 frets. At the top there's a classic V-shaped 3+3 headstock, featuring the Dean wing logo and some good 14:1 Grover tuners. There are two basic but decent pickups – Dean-designed humbuckers at the bridge and the neck, controlled by volume and tone knobs, along with a three-way pickup selector switch. There's no whammy bar, but it has a solid string-through Tune-o-matic style fixed bridge, which is great for sustain.

4 Epiphone LP Special II Les Paul Review – Classic LP Looks, Awesome Price

Epiphone LP Special II Les Paul Review – Classic LP Looks, Awesome Price

This entry-level LP Special II from Epiphone really takes some beating when it come to the sound quality. For such a budget guitar the two open-coil humbuckers – a 700T and 650R – at the bridge and neck offer excellent Les Paul tone, with plenty of volume and bite. It's also very playable, with a slim single cutaway body, made from solid mahogany with a 24.75” scale length. There is a bolt-on mahogany neck with a 1960s SlimTaper D-shape, a rosewood fretboard and 22 frets. It's a reliable guitar, with a good LockTone Tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece. For beginners or experienced players, you sense this durable guitar wouldn't let you down.

5 ESP LTD F-10 Review – Rocking Budget Metal

ESP LTD F-10 Review – Rocking Budget Metal

An incredibly priced entry-level guitar with only rock in mind. ESP's LTD F-10 has a distinctively angled 25.5" scale double cutaway basswood body, with a bolt-on maple neck, a rosewood fretboard and 24 extra jumbo frets. There are two ESP-designed pickups – a bridge humbucker and a neck single-coil – which voice the guitar well, and cope nicely with metal rhythm or high-speed lead. There's no whammy bar, but a Tune-o-matic bridge and stopbar tailpiece with through-body stringing makes for great sustain. The thin U-shaped neck allows for seriously quick movements, while the body feels durable. Along with a free gig bag this really is a solid purchase.

6 Ibanez GS221 Review – Looks To Die For

Ibanez GS221 Review – Looks To Die For

An absolutely gorgeous looking guitar from Ibanez with an awesome price tag. The double cutaway poplar body comes in three nice colors with high gloss finishes. The bolt-on maple neck has a rosewood fingerboard and 24 frets, and feels fast and sturdy. In all, the looks are superb. How does it perform? The two passive Ibanez Infinity R humbuckers (at the bridge and neck position) give you a good platform for meaty rock numbers, although they are nice and clear when played clean. Controls are simple (one tone and volume knob, with a three-way pickup selector switch), and there's a fixed bridge for good tuning stability and sustain.

7 Dean Custom Zone 2HB Review – Neon Nirvana!

Dean Custom Zone 2HB Review – Neon Nirvana!

Shield your eyes – this is bright! Dean's Custom Zone 2HB offers a flashy florescent paint job and good all round performance. With a quality 25.5” scale length mahogany body, the guitar has a sleek double cutaway style with good access to the neck. This a bolt-on C-shaped maple neck, with a maple fretboard that matches the body paintwork, with 22 frets, and no inlays. The guitar is voiced by two Dean DMT Design humbuckers at the bridge and neck, which give a good rock sound. There's also a master volume and master tone control knob, a three-way pickup selector switch, and a vintage tremolo bridge with a whammy bar.

8 Squier Affinity Telecaster Review – Budget Tele Twang!

Squier Affinity Telecaster Review – Budget Tele Twang!

This entry-level Telecaster allows you to get some vintage Tele twang for under $200. The made-in-China Squier Affinity Telecaster keeps true to its American roots and offers a recognizable single cutaway body made from alder and finished in a glossy array of colors. The bolt-on maple neck has Fender's 25.5” scale, with 21 medium jumbo frets and black dot inlays. As for pickups, you get two vintage-style single-coils at the neck and bridge, which help create that classic Tele twang, while you get a three-way pickup selector switch to choose between them. The fixed bridge has six steel saddles and no edges to the 'ashtray' bridge-plate, but does the job.

9 Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC012DLX Review – The Ideal Beginner Guitar?

Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC012DLX Review – The Ideal Beginner Guitar?

Yamaha's entry-level Pacifica is one worth considering for beginners on a budget, and barely puts a foot wrong. With classic Strat-inspired looks, the double cutaway basswood body provides very good access to the bolt-on maple neck, which is fast and comfortable, while there's a sonokeling rosewood fretboard and 22 frets. The PAC012DLX is voiced by three passive pickups – two single-coils (neck and middle) and a humbucker at the bridge. Along with a five-way pickup selector switch, these pickups will certainly help you find your favorite sounds. The chrome vintage-style tremolo bridge has a functioning whammy bar, allowing you to experiment with all kinds of tremolo sounds. Great value.

10 Ibanez GRX20Z Review – Budget Guitar With Attitude

Ibanez GRX20Z Review – Budget Guitar With Attitude

A beautiful budget guitar from Ibanez Gio with awesome, aggressive looks. The double cutaway poplar body has a 25.5” scale length and comes in four eye-catching colors. There's a very playable slim maple neck, with a rosewood fretboard and 22 medium frets. It's voiced with two Ibanez-made pickups – both passive Infinity R humbuckers – at the neck and bridge, which are quite versatile, but best for rock and metal. The tremolo bridge is decent, although tuning stability suffers when using the whammy bar a lot. A volume and a tone control, and three-way pickup selector switch completes the hardware. In all, a really solid guitar for beginners and experienced players alike.

If you are buying a guitar in this super budget price range you are more than likely either a complete beginner, or someone who has started out on an acoustic and now wants to take the plunge into the world of electric guitar.

And in the chart above, the electric guitars are perfect for beginners. That’s not to say someone who has been playing for decades couldn’t pick one up and enjoy it, but an experienced guitarist is more likely to find flaws and limitations, whereas a beginner probably wouldn’t.

What Is The Sub-$200 Guitar?

Let’s look at the guitars themselves. Firstly, you will understand that premium is not usually a word you associate with affordable electric guitars. If it is, you need to adjust your definition of premium. However in this price range you will still get great playability and a solid platform on which to learn, experiment and grow as a guitarist.

So what do you hope to find on a budget electric guitar? In most cases: a well-finished solid body, a playable bolt-on neck, pickups and tuners that actually work, and perhaps a little style. Anything else is a just a bonus.

Starting with the body and 90% of guitars in this price range will be made from basswood – also known as agathis – which is light, relatively warm in tone, abundant, and therefore very affordable. But it’s not a cheap and nasty wood. Many great guitars in the $500+ bracket feature basswood bodies, including the signature models of Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. If it’s good enough for them, it will be good enough for you!

But whatever you find in this price range, just make sure the body is not made from plywood – while it may not always sound terrible, it’s a very cheap wood that does very little to enhance the overall tone.

As for your pickups they will be basic and a little noisy, and most likely designed and built by the guitar’s manufacturer. But they will certainly do enough to catch your first chords, riffs and solos. On some guitars in this price range you will find just a single pickup. Look at the entry-level models from Davidson Guitars (at the head-scratchingly low price of $59), which feature just one humbucker. It will do the job, but won’t be that versatile.

As you increase your budget, your choice of pickups also grows. Fender’s Squier Bullet Stratocaster ($149) has three pickups and a five-way pickup selector, giving you that added versatility, while Epiphone’s LP Special II ($119) has two humbuckers at the neck and the bridge positions.

Looking at design, and the majority of styles are likely to be heavily influenced by Fender’s Stratocaster or Telecaster, or Gibson’s iconic Les Paul. All are good designs and solid choices, but you can still find some individuality in the below $200 price range.

For example, take a look at Dean Guitar’s EVO XM ($113). On first glance, try to tell me it doesn’t look like a guitar three times that amount (especially in the natural satin finish)! Or what about Dean’s rock-fueled Vendetta XMT? Huge style, exceptional value.

Getting Heard

If you are buying an electric guitar, you’ll obviously need an amplifier. At this stage in your guitar career it’s not essential to have a stage-worthy output or loads of built-in effects – if you are learning the instrument you want to be able to hear your chords clearly; not through a muddle of delay, chorus and reverb (regardless of how cool they sound). But you will almost certainly want some basic crunch and distortion.

Other things to consider when looking at your first amp is headphone capabilities, as not everyone will want to hear you practice late into the night. Also, an aux input will be useful if you want to plug in a personal music device to play along to your favorite tracks.

A practice amp from Fender is always a good call. Something like the Frontman 10G, which offers 10 watts, volume, gain, bass and treble controls, and is a snip at $59. You won’t have to turn this up more than half way before the neighbors start to complain. Another amp to consider is the super cool vintage-style Orange Micro Crush PiX 3 Watt Mini Amp ($83), which is perfect for bedroom playing and also has a built in tuner. Neither of these will give you complex, meaty distortion, but they will give you an ideal entry-level amp.

Extra Cash Always Helps

If you are willing and able to spend a little more money, it’s worth looking at more expensive budget options. Chances are you will outgrow your entry-level guitar pretty quickly and will start looking at better ones within a few years, so why not go for a better one straight off?

Epiphone’s glossy, cherry red SG Special comes in at $179 and would last you a lot longer than your most basic model – the pickups are decent, the neck and body construction is solid, and it even comes with a KillPot for some awesome effects.

Or for $160, there’s a one-of-a-kind florescent green model from Dean Custom Zone, with a mahogany body and two humbuckers. Its severe color is not going to suit everyone, but for the most extroverted of beginners this is a great choice.

The Complete Package

As a complete beginner you can get better value by purchasing a guitar/amp combo package, put together direct from the factory or by your local guitar store.

These will come with small practice amps, like the ones we discussed above, as well as essential accessories such as a lead, strap, plectrums, chord chart, and pitch pipe. These packages can offer huge value. Look at the Sawtooth ST-ES-BKB-KIT-3 package, which comes with a cool all black Strat style guitar, mini amp, strap, lead, plectrums, padded gig bag, digital tuner, and a stand for the guitar – all for $149!

These packages are very convenient, and give you everything you need and more to be able to learn your first chords. But sometimes it can be false economy. The straps and leads are likely to be the most basic and quite flimsy, and therefore may need instant upgrading if you start taking guitar seriously.

Sure – if the guitar and amp together show a good saving (which they usually do), buy it! But don’t be swayed just because it comes with a $5 strap and a few plectrums. You may find a better suited package for you by buying everything separately.

To Sum It All Up

You’ve seen this price bracket can actually get you quite a lot when it comes to your first electric guitar. But even for the relatively low amount, it’s advisable to make a considered purchase. Are you better buying individual items or a combo pack? Can you afford to go slightly higher? If so check out our comparison article on the best electric guitars under $300, for some great quality. And also read our in depth beginners guide to buying an electric guitar, for everything you need to know.

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