If you can show me a thousand bucks, I can show you a thousand awesome electric guitars! In fact you probably don’t even need that much cash to find an excellent guitar that will make you fall in love.
The $1000 mark is probably the biggest amount the majority of players will ever spend on a guitar. Yes – you could go all out and splurge $5000 on a custom model – but so could anyone. If you have the money, go for it. But for under $1000 you can get an axe of very similar quality with very little room for being ripped off.
Take a look at our comparison chart below and you’ll see the best guitars for under $1000, along with their individual ratings and links to our in-depth reviews. After the chart we share some tips to make the buying process easier, including what you can expect from a guitar in this price range and what kind of amps could go with it.
Top Rated Electric Guitars Within The $1000 Price Tag
Tips, Tricks, Guidelines And More
These days you can get a lot of guitar for your money. We saw it with the guitars in our under $300 and under $500 comparisons. But by extending your budget to $1000 you can get a real cracker – something that feels like it should be twice the price and will probably last you a lifetime.
With such a considerable amount of money, you have the right to expect great quality from your manufacturer – flawless finishes, outstanding electronics, tons of tone, and a huge choice of designs. Makers like Ibanez, ESP, Schecter, Yamaha, Epiphone, and PRS all really perform in this price bracket, and you will also find genuine Gibsons and Fenders along the way.
You will notice brand name pickups like Seymour Duncan, EMG and DiMarzio come as standard on many models, as will active pickups – offering you the volume, versatility, and tone you wouldn’t be able to get on a simple budget guitar.
Features and finishes are also heavily upgraded compared to the guitars in lower price ranges, and you’ll find some nifty finishing touches – such as pre-aging (giving your brand new guitar a very vintage look), insane graphics, a variety of woods, and matching headstock colors/artwork.
You will also find guitars with features that make practicing, performing or recording all the more comfortable – like locking tuners, fret-edge treatments, and string saver saddles. Or how about ESP’s EC-1000 Evertune with an incredible EverTune bridge that keeps the guitar in tune whatever the conditions – a seriously cool feature!
Some good news for all you patriots out there – you will finally start to see some real made in America models. Fender’s American Special Stratocaster and American Special Telecaster, both at bang on $1000, are the first authentic American offerings from the iconic manufacturer. If your budget doesn’t stretch to the higher end, you can also get some pretty great Canadian-made guitars in this price range from Godin. However, don’t turn your nose up at made in Mexico models – some of these guitars can really shine while keeping the prices low.
Want to play your favorite guitarist’s signature axe? Chances are you’ll find it – or at least a more affordable version of it – in this price bracket.
For example, Mark Tremonti’s Custom PRS TRCGB SE is on the market for about $700 – a beautiful guitar in both looks and performance, and perfect for Creed fans and metalheads alike. Admirers of the ‘King of the Blues’ B.B. King, can get their hands on his beloved Lucille – with its gorgeous vintage design and jaw-dropping versatility for a similar price.
Meanwhile Queen fans have the opportunity to own their own version of Brian May’s instantly recognizable big bodied axe for the reasonable sum of $850. Then there’s a personal favorite of mine – the Ibanez NDM3, which is the signature model of the Offspring’s bespectacled guitarist Noodles. Yours for $699.
Of course, all these carry extra price tags due to the names that adorn the headstocks – if you are a big fan of B.B., May, or Noodles, these are clearly ideal guitars for you. But if you don’t really care either way, you will find that a non-signature model will probably offer you more.
To be honest, a $1000 guitar is likely to sound pretty good on even the most basic of combo amps – it’ll probably sound pretty good with no amp at all (but where’s the fun in that?). However, it won’t hurt to look at upgrading your amp, and maybe spend that little bit more for a truly epic sound.
What amp you choose will depend on your ambitions for the guitar. If you are playing in your house, or having a quiet jam with a couple of friends, you won’t go far wrong with something like Yamaha’s THR10X ($299), which is small, but sports great retro style, a big sound, excellent distortion, and an array of built-in effects.
However, if the stage is calling, you’ll need something more powerful. How about the Blackstar ID:CORE 40W Combo, which has huge, stage-worthy output, a ton of effects, and a convenient foot-switch for under $250. Or if you’re into valves (and who isn’t?), double your budget for a Marshall DSL40C Combo, which is all-valve, has massive sound, lots of overdrive, and a two-way foot-switch for $699. Sorted.
Need to have it new? No problem – as you have seen, there is value out there. But if you aren’t too concerned that another guitarist has had his hands over your beautiful guitar before you, it’s well worth considering a used guitar in this price range, where you can unearth some real gems.
As you’d expect, there are advantages and disadvantages of buying used, so in this price range it’s well worth spending the extra time to look properly and not dive straight in to the first ‘bargain’ you see.
Is the finish flawless? Everyone can cope with a few light scratches, but if there are some heavy dents it may be one to avoid – refinishing a guitar can be as expensive as the guitar itself and will also lower its resale value considerably.
Cracks along the neck are also crucial to spot, and then avoid. And how are the frets looking? It can cost around $400 to replace the frets, which is probably around half the cost of the guitar itself. Finally make sure to test the guitar first (which can be impossible when buying online), to see if it actually works and how it sounds.
Repairing a guitar can be very costly, so you must weigh up the saving to the potential repair bill. However, if you find one that is good to go – usually from an overenthusiastic beginner, who overspent and underplayed – chances are you will have a great bargain.
With a grand in your back pocket, you can probably buy 90% of the world’s guitars. And you wouldn’t need to spend any more to find a beautiful workhorse of a guitar – one that would probably last you a lifetime. While you’re here, it’s worth checking out what you could get for a lot less in our comparison of the best guitars under $500 – buying in this price range opens the door to even more bargains! And make sure to subscribe to our newsletter for the hottest guitar news, tips and opinion.