The Best Cheap Electric Guitars Under $200 - 9 Solidbody Models

Here is a guide to selecting the best budget electric guitar that sells for less than $200.

This guide is intended to help people who are either looking to buy their first full-sized electric guitar for themselves or as a gift, or those who simply want a cheap axe to play around with.

Click on a model name for further details or scroll down:

Model Gearank Sources Street Price
Epiphone Les Paul Special II 88 4100+ $160
Squier Bullet Strat 86 1900+ $150
Epiphone SG Special 88 2100+ $179
Squier Affinity Series Telecaster 92 1550+ $200
Ibanez GIO GRX20Z 90 600+ $150
Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster 89 325+ $200
Dean ML XM 87 275+ $200
Yamaha Pacifica PAC112J 88 175+ $200
ESP LTD F-10 86 150+ $199

Methodology

To make this guide as useful as possible for the purpose stated above, we've selected a strict set of criteria that ensures it covers the most widely available guitars that you will be able to easily find at online retailers and which have a good chance of being available from local stores as well.

To be considered for inclusion in this guide a guitar had to meet the following criteria:

  • Must have a street price under $200;
  • Must have 6 strings, solid body, full sized meaning a scale length of at least 24";
  • Must have been widely available from major American music gear stores.

We looked at all of the guitars that met the criteria above and selected the 26 most popular ones to process for their Gearank scores - you can find all of those guitars listed here. The Gearank Algorithm processed more than 16,000 sources during this procedure.

We then selected the most highly rated models that represent all the main body/pickup configurations to present below with further details and insights into market sentiment about each one. For more information about this process please read How Gearank Works.

Things to Consider When Buying a Cheap Electric Guitar

  • Cheap Electric Guitar Brands

    The two most prominent electric guitar brands overall are Fender and Gibson. Although you won't find guitars with those labels on the headstock in this price range, both of them have sub-brands under which they sell their entry level models: - Fender owns the Squier brand and Gibson owns the Epiphone brand. Other well-known brands that have guitars in this price range include Dean, ESP, Ibanez, Jackson, Kramer and Yamaha. There are also some budget Washburn models but they didn't meet our availability requirements at the time of publication.

  • Pickups

    There are two basic types of pickups for electric guitars, Single Coil and Humbucking (double coil). The most practical difference is that single coils tend to sound crisp and bright while humbuckers tend to sound warmer (for more information see Seymour Duncan's detailed explanation). An electric guitar can have any combination of the two types and the combination on a guitar is described using the first letter of the pickup type in order from the one closest to the bridge. For example a classic stratocaster will be described as SSS meaning all three pickups are single coil. A more recent development is the HSS strat which means it has a Humbucker at the bridge with two Single coils. I've put the pickup configuration of each guitar below in brackets after the model name so you can easily see which pickups each guitar has and in what positing they are.

  • Scale Length

    This is essentially the distance measured between the saddle and the nut, or more accurately described as double the distance from the nut to the 12th fret plus some "compensation" added by the position of the saddle. A longer scale length requires higher tension in the strings and results in a brighter tone. A more detailed explanation with examples is presented quite well by Stewart MacDonald and a good description of the implications of different scale lengths can be found on Guitar Player. Gutiars based on Stratocaster and Telecaster designs usually have a longer 25.5" scale while Les Paul and SG style guitars are characterized by a shorter 24.75".

The Best Cheap Electric Guitars

Here are detailed descriptions and specifications along with analysis of what people are saying about these guitars in reviews and forum discussions. I've chosen to present them roughly in order of popularity.

Epiphone Les Paul Special II (HH)

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 4100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$160
Epiphone Les Paul Special II

Les Paul created an early solid-body electric guitar in his spare time after work at the Epiphone factory in the early 1940's famously known as "The Log". It is believed that this was the first solidbody 'spanish guitar' every built. He went on to develop the idea further until he took it to managers at Gibson sometime in 1945 or 1946 who immediately...
...did nothing.

Luckily another guitar innovator, Leo Fender, began having some sales success with his solidbody electric in 1950 (initially named the Esquire, then Broadcaster, and now it's called the Telecaster), so Gibson about-faced and one of the most iconic instruments in music history went into production.

As our very own Alexander Briones once said of the Gibson Les Paul, "It's like carrying a trophy and a guitar at the same time!"

Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin helped make the Les Paul famous again in the 1970's and Slash from Guns n Roses brought in another generation of Les Paul fandom in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Epiphone Les Paul Special II is today's entry-level version and is itself incredibly popular as evidenced by more than 4,100 reviews, critiques and recommendations for it currently on the internet along with the fact that Epiphone says this is their highest selling electric guitar.

Specifications

  • Body: Mahogany
  • Finish: Vintage Sunburst (pictured), Ebony or Heritage Cherry Sunburst
  • Bridge: Tune-o-matic
  • Pickups: Bridge - Epiphone 700T Humbucker, Neck - Epiphone 650R Humbucker
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Scale Length: 24.75”
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12”
  • Number of Frets:
  • Nut Width: 1.68”
  • Controls: 1-volume, 1-tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-way Epiphone toggle

Pros

Some of the most common comments in customer reviews are words to the effect of "great value for the money", "great beginner guitar", and "great quality for the price". People posting positive reviews included both beginners and more experienced musicians who just wanted a good quality inexpensive electric guitar.

Cons

There were many negative reviews that said this is not as good as more expensive guitars - a common theme for all guitars in this price range. One specific complaint that came up multiple times was that the tuners didn't keep the guitar in tune for as long as expected.

Overall

The vast majority of people who bought this guitar have been very happy with it.

Sweetwater has the Appetite For Destruction (AFD) version of this guitar bundled with a gig bag click here to view it at Sweetwater.com.

Here is Guns n Roses featuring Slash playing the riff and solo on a Gibson Les Paul replica of which Gibson later released their own replica version called the Slash Appetite Les Paul:

Squier Bullet Strat (SSS)

86
GEARANK

86 out of 100. Incorporating 1900+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$150
Squier Bullet Strat (SSS)

The Stratocaster, AKA 'The Strat', is almost certainly the highest selling electric guitar design of all time having first been released in 1954.

The list of famous Stratocaster players is almost endless, but it includes some of the greatest of all time including Jimi Hendrix and Dave Gilmour from Pink Floyd

The Squier Bullet Strat is the lowest cost entry point into the world of Stratocasters but there is also a slightly higher spec'd version with a street price of $199.99 that you might like to check out called the Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster (SSS).

Specifications

  • Body: Basswood
  • Finish: Brown Sunburst / Polyurethane (pictured), also comes in Black, Fiesta Red, Pink or Arctic White
  • Bridge: 6-Saddle Vintage-Style Synchronized Tremolo
  • Pickups: 3 x Standard Single-Coil Strat
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25.5" (648 mm)
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 9.5" (241 mm)
  • Number of Frets: 21
  • Nut Width: 1.650" (42 mm)
  • Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Tone 2. (Middle Pickup)
  • Pickup Selector: 5-Position Blade: Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Bridge and Middle Pickup, Position 3. Middle Pickup, Position 4. Middle and Neck Pickup, Position 5. Neck Pickup

Pros

Customer reviews consistently expressed the sentiment that this guitar provides excellent value - some even went as far to say that it sounds like a classic stratocaster. It also received positive reviews from experienced players who wanted a base model they could MOD (modify). Words to the effect of "great beginner guitar" also came up frequently.

Cons

The complaints are mostly what you'd expect for an entry level guitar from people who compared it to more expensive versions. A common complaint was that using the tremolo bar (aka whammy bar) causes it to go out of tune, but this happens with most guitars in this price range.

Overall

This is the most inexpensive version of the Strat that you can buy, and it has been popular for many years.

Here is Eirc Clapton playing the riff and solo on a Fender Stratocaster:

Epiphone SG Special (HH)

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 2100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$179
Epiphone SG Special (HH)

The SG (Solid Guitar) was originally meant to be a re-design of the Gibson Les Paul and Gibson gave it the same name. Les Paul wasn't involved in the redesign and asked that his name be removed and so Gibson obliged and renamed it the SG.

The new design was meant to boost sales because the original was fading in the market, and it worked with more than 6,000 units sold during the first 3 years after the 1961 launch - more than 3 times the number of the original Les Paul Standards sold from 1958 to 1960.

Gibson said in 2009 that the SG Standard was their highest selling guitar of all time.

Legendary SG players include Angus Young from AC/DC and Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath.

Specifications

  • Body: Mahogany
  • Finish: Cherry (pictured), also comes in Ebony
  • Bridge: LockTone Tune-O-Matic
  • Pickups: Bridge 700T humbucker, Neck 650R humbucker
  • Neck: Hard maple
  • Scale Length: 24.75”
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12”
  • Number of Frets: 22
  • Nut Width: 1.68"
  • Controls: 1-master volume, 1 master-tone with KillPot
  • Pickup Selector: 3-way

Pros

Customer reviews consistently use words to the effect "great beginner guitar", "fun to play", and "better than expected at this price". The quality of the finish also received a number of compliments. Several people even said that it comes surprisingly close to the feel and sound of a Gibson SG.

Cons

There were complaints about the quality and sound of the pickups - generally the same types of complaints found about most types of budget guitars.

Overall

This is a very popular guitar with beginners and the budget conscious.

Here is AC/DC featuring Angus Young playing the riff and solo on a Cherry Red Gibson SG:

Squier Affinity Series Telecaster (SS)

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 1550+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
Squier Affinity Series Telecaster (SS)

The Telecaster is the guitar that effectively started the solid-body electric guitar revolution.

During the 1930s and 1940s several companies tried to produce a solid-body electric but none of them were commercially successful. Then Leo Fender released his design in 1950 with a single pickup under the name Esquire, then added a second pickup and sold it under the name Broadcaster but soon had to change it due to a lawsuit from Gretsch who were already selling a drum kit using that name. Thus the "Tele" as we know it today was born.

Its popularity continues and as of today the Squier Affinity Series Telecaster is the highest rated solid-body electric guitar that sells for less than $200.

Specifications

  • Body: Alder
  • Finish: Lake Placid Blue / Polyurethane (pictured), also comes in Brown Sunburst, Gun Metal Gray, 2-Color Sunburst, Black and Arctic White
  • Bridge: 6-Saddle Top-Load Tele
  • Pickups: 2 x Vintage-Style Single-Coil Tele
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25.5" (648 mm)
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 9.5" (241 mm)
  • Number of Frets: 21
  • Nut Width: 1.6” (40.6 mm)
  • Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-Position Blade: Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups, Position 3. Neck Pickup

Pros

Many customer reviews expressed sentiments such as this guitar feels good, sounds good and is very playable. It's hard to overstate how well liked this version of the Tele is by people who have bought and played it - something which is evidenced by its very high Gearank score.

Cons

Complaints were found in a smaller percentage of customer reviews than with any of the other guitars featured in this guide, but the usual negatives were expressed from people who got one with sub-standard builds.

Overall

You can't go far wrong with the highest rated guitar under $200.

Here are the Rolling Stones with Keith Richards playing his Fender Tele:

As this is the highest rated guitar under $200 here is a second video showing the range of tones you can get from a Squier Affinity Series Telecaster:

Ibanez GIO GRX20Z (HH)

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$150
Ibanez GRX20Z

Like many other Japanese guitar manufacturers in the 1960's and 1970's, Ibanez were essentially building copies of American guitars from the likes of Gibson and Fender which led to lawsuits which in turn led to Ibanez needing to come up with their own designs.

Then in 1986 they teamed up with Frank Zappa's guitarist Steve Vai to create a new design which led to the JEM and RG series that were launched in 1987 and Ibanez hasn't looked back since.

These types of guitars are known as 'Superstrats' because of their obvious body shape similarity to Fender's Stratocasters.

The GIO series are their current entry-level guitars with the GRX20Z, combining a superstrat style body with two humbucking pickups, being their highest rated option under $200.

Specifications

  • Body: Poplar
  • Finish: Black Night (pictured), also comes in Green Metallic, Jewel Blue, Vivid Orange and Silver
  • Bridge: FAT-6 tremolo
  • Pickups: 2 x Infinity R Humbucking passive/ceramic
  • Neck: GRX Maple
  • Scale Length: 25.5" (648 mm)
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 400 mmR
  • Number of Frets: 22
  • Nut Width: 42 mm
  • Controls: 1 x Volume, 1 x Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-way

Pros

There were several people who wrote in their reviews that they liked the GRX20Z so much that they had bought it more than once. This is another budget guitar that is routinely praised for the excellent value for money it provides.

Cons

Other than a few complaints saying it doesn't stay in tune well enough (similar complaints can be found about all budget guitars) there weren't many consistently stated negatives about the GRX20Z.

Overall

This is the second highest rated option under $200 and the most highly rated solidbody electric for less than $150.

Here's a demonstration of a GRX:

Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster (HSS)

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 325+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster HSS

Not content to sit back at let others like Ibanez innovate upon the basic stratocaster design unanswered, Fender responded in the late 1980's with their own take on 'superstrats' with the HSS configured HM Strat (Heave Metal Strat). They dropped the concept for a while but later brought it back with HSS strats in the 1990s.

Today their Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster (HSS) is the highest rated HSS strat under $200, however there is a cheaper version with a street price of $149.99 called the Squier Bullet Strat HSS.

Specifications

  • Body: Alder
  • Finish: Lake Placid Blue / Polyurethane (pictured), also comes in Montego Black Metallic, Burgundy Mist and Olympic White
  • Bridge: 6-Saddle Vintage-Style Synchronized Tremolo
  • Pickups: Bridge - Standard Humbucking, Middle & Neck - Standard Single-Coil Strat
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25.5" (648 mm)
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 9.5" (241 mm)
  • Number of Frets: 21
  • Nut Width: 1.61" (40.9 mm)
  • Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Tone 2. (Middle Pickup)
  • Pickup Selector: 5-Position Blade: Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Bridge and Middle Pickup, Position 3. Middle Pickup, Position 4. Middle and Neck Pickup, Position 5. Neck Pickup

Pros

This guitar has high satisfaction levels with both beginners and even experienced guitarists. There were several people who said it holds its tune well, one even went as far as to say better than other entry level guitars.

Cons

Other than a few complaints about faulty parts there were no consistent negatives reported in customer reviews.

Overall

This is the most popular HSS strat styled guitar in this price range.

Here is Brice Delage demonstrating a range of tones from the Squier Affinity Stratocaster HSS:

Dean ML XM (HH)

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
Dean ML XM

Dean Guitars was founded by 19 year old musician Dean Zelinsky in 1976 and right from the beginning they were making guitars for heavey metal and began making the ML series in 1977.

The unusual body shape is a cross between Gibson's Flying V and Explorer guitars.

Dean rose to prominence when Dimebag Darrell (a founding member of Pantera) began playing the ML and many signature models now carry Dimebag Darrell's name.

The Dean ML XM is their current entry-level version.

Specifications

  • Body: Paulownia
  • Finish: Trans Black (pictured), also comes in Natural
  • Bridge: Tune-O-Matic
  • Pickups: 2 x DMT Design
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 24 3/4" (629mm)
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 14" (356mm)
  • Number of Frets: 22
  • Nut Width: 1 11/16" (43mm)
  • Controls: 1 x Volume, 1 x Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-Way Toggle

Pros

When I was doing the research for this guide I was surprised that quite a number of experienced guitarists were saying how much they liked this guitar, with all the usual caveats about it being an entry-level model. Beginners and experienced players like its tone and playability.

Cons

Apart from a few complaints about damages/shipping issues there were few consistent negatives reported although a few people did say the strings were too high above the fingerboard for their liking.

Overall

If metal is your thing and you want something that stands out from the crowd, then this is definitely one to consider.

Here is Dimebag Darrell demonstrating one of his Dean guitars::

Yamaha Pacifica PAC112J (HSS)

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 175+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
Yamaha Pacifica PAC112J

The Pacifica series were originally designed during the 1990's in California and manufactured in Japan as Yamaha's take on Fender's two main designs - the Telecaster and the Stratocaster. The Pacifica PAC112J is a superstrat.

The Yamaha Pacifica PAC112J is their highest rated electric guitar under $200 but they also have a slightly cheaper option called the Pacifica PAC012DLX which also comes with a HSS configuration.

Specifications

  • Body: Alder
  • Finish: Black (pictured), also comes in Lake Blue, Natural, Old Violin Sunburst
  • Bridge: Vintage Tremolo
  • Pickups: Bridge Humbucking, Middle Single coil, Neck Single coil
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25 1/2" (648 mm)
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 13 3/4" (350 mm)
  • Number of Frets: 22
  • Nut Width: Not specified
  • Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 5-Position

Pros

Many guitarists compared this favorably to the budget Squire and Fender HSS strats in their reviews. The pickups and its tone generated many compliments. Value for money was often cited with one reviewer reckoning this plays as well as guitars twice the price.

Cons

There were no consistent complaints about this guitar in customer reviews - just a few of the same negatives about quality and holding tune that most guitars in this price range get.

Overall

This guitar is just as highly rated as the comparable Squier HSS above so you can't go far wrong getting one of these.

Here is a good review and demonstration of the Yamaha Pacifica PAC112J::

ESP LTD F-10 (HS)

86
GEARANK

86 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$199
ESP LTD F-10

ESP is another guitar company that originally hails from Japan, but they now have significant operations in the USA.

ESP really shot to fame in the 1980's when they secured endorsements from thrash and metal bands, including the likes of Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeath and Slayer. Although they do make many 'normal' guitars such as their Eclispe and USA Horizon series, they haven't forgotten their heavy metal roots - case in point, the ESP LTD F-10.

Specifications

  • Body: Basswood
  • Finish: Black
  • Bridge: TOM
  • Pickups: Bridge- ESP Designed LH-100B, Neck- ESP Designed LSH-100N
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard Radius: 350 mm
  • Number of Frets: 24
  • Nut Width: 42 mm
  • Controls: 1-Volume, 1-Tone
  • Pickup Selector: Toggle Switch

Pros

This guitar was consistently praised in customer reviews for its quality and its tone. There were even a number of experienced guitarists who said they found this very playable making well suited to play the kinds of fast runs associate with melodic metal.

Cons

There aren't many consistent complaints other that a few people reporting some issues with fret buzz - but I also read many reviews which said it had no fret buzz.

Overall

This is a good starter guitar for hard rock and heavy metal enthusiasts.

This video has a good demonstration of the various tones the HS pickup configuration of the ESP LTD F-10 provides::

Summary

If you want to see all the guitars we calculated Gearank scores for in this price range then click here.

If you have any questions or suggestions then please let us know in the comments below.

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