The Best Cheap Beginner Electric Guitars Under $200

The Highest Rated Beginner Electric Guitars

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Thanks to more consistent and efficient production, starter electric guitars now have much better quality than when I was starting out. There are also more options to choose from, so you can have a starter guitar with both quality and style.

Here we feature the best rated electric guitars in the sub $200 price range, covering popular entry-level configurations and styles. We've grouped these market favorites into three popular pickup configurations: Single Coil, Humbucker and Mixed.

The Best Beginner Electric Guitars Under $200

Author & Contributors

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

I've written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at my local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

Pickup Type: Single Coil

LyxPro LYXEGBK0030B (SSS)

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 1750+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$170
LyxPro LYXEGBK0030B (SSS)

Cons

  • Fretwork and action inconsistencies
  • Tone is a bit bland

Pros

  • Super affordable bundle
  • Good quality build using renewable wood
  • Familiar Strat tone
  • Many color finishes to choose from

The LyxPro LYXEGBK0030B is a budget friendly Strat style guitar package, with a body crafted from Phoenix wood. This wood is from a tree called Paulownia, which after harvesting can re-grow into a tree again with just their root systems, hence the Phoenix nickname. Wood quality and build of the body is quite good for the price, more importantly, it comes with over 10 color finish options.

The neck is crafted from maple, and comes with a fingerboard that's made from "engineered" rosewood. Fretwork is OK, especially on the lower frets, but there are setup and build quality inconsistencies as you go up. Thankfully, it's not too bad, so the guitar is still generally playable. Anyway it is unfair to expect something this cheap to play as smooth as more expensive electric guitars. Having it setup by someone with more experience will improve overall playing experience, but if you have to bring it to a professional, that will add to the cost.

It also comes with conventional Strat style electronics and hardware, including a triple singlecoil pickup configuration, 5-way pickup selector and hardtail tremolo bridge. Since it follows traditional Strat configuration, it also produces old school Strat style tones, which it does a good job of, well enough for beginners to appreciate. It doesn't have the ballsy bass and trebly chime that you'd hear from more expensive Strats though.

It comes bundled with a 20 Watt combo amplifier, guitar cable and digital tuner, so you can literally plug-in and play right out of the box. This means that for the price, you're getting a complete working electric guitar set that's good enough for beginners and students. The quality of the included gig bag and cable does not match that of the guitar, so you may want to buy another guitar cable to be sure.

If you're looking for a plug-and-play super affordable electric guitar bundle, then this is for you.

Specifications

  • Body: Phoenix
  • Finish: Black, Blue, Red, Sunburst, Natural, Pink
  • Bridge: 6-Saddle Hard Tail
  • Pickups: SSS (Triple Singlecoil)
  • Neck: Maple
  • Fingerboard: Composite
  • Number of Frets: 22
  • Controls: Volume, Tone, Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 5-Position Blade

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube jamierobinson777 90/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Squier Bullet Strat HT (SSS)

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 425+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
Squier Bullet Strat HT - Brown Sunburst

Cons

  • No tremolo
  • Minor inconsistencies

Pros

  • Official affordable Strat
  • Better tuning stability and sustain
  • Good balanced Strat tone
  • Simpler Hard Tail configuration

More than 60 years after its first production, the Stratocaster continues to be among the most in demand, and the most copied electric guitar design on the market.

The Squier Bullet Strat HT is its "official" modern representative in the entry-level market. I have to highlight "official" because there are now so many Strat clones, some even from premium brands! This official affordable Strat stays true to the original double cutaway profile, albeit using more cost-effective materials and production methods.

It is called an HT model because of its Hard Tail bridge, and this helps the guitar stay reliably in tune. It also results in extra sustain, both of which are beneficial for learners.


Bullet Strat Hard Tail
Hard Tail Bridge

Everything else is as Strat as it gets, with 3 single-coil pickups and a 5-way pickup selector. It gets the basic Strat tones down, including the in-between pickup tones of position 2 and 4. Just remember to set the pickup heights properly before you play, this is a common issue I see with many beginner Strat style guitars. When all pickups are setup properly, you get a nice balanced sound. The bass and highs are not as detailed as higher tier Strats, but this shouldn't be a big deal for students.

Build quality is quite good, but if you want to make the most of it, you'll have to deal with minor setup related inconsistencies like adjustments to pickup height and string action.

The Squier Bullet Strat HT is an affordable way to enter into the world of single-coil electric guitars, and you do so without resorting to unofficial clones.

Specifications

  • Body: Basswood
  • Finish: Arctic White, Black, Sunburst, Red
  • Bridge: 6-Saddle Hard Tail
  • Pickups: Standard Single-coil Strat x 3
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Fingerboard: Laurel
  • Fingerboard Radius: 9.5"
  • Number of Frets: 21 Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.650
  • Controls: Master Volume, Tone, Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 5-Position Blade

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
KillerGuitarRigs Rodrigo Sanchez 92/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Pickup Type: Humbucker

Ibanez GIO GRX20Z (HH)

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 1000+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$180
Ibanez GIO GRX20Z - Black
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Solely Humbucker Equipped Solidbody Electric Guitar Under $200 and the Highest Rated Solidbody Electric Guitar Under $200.

Cons

  • Not chimey clean tones
  • Will need hardware upgrades for advanced techniques

Pros

  • Shred friendly tone and playability
  • Dual humbuckers with good output
  • Good body and neck craftsmanship
  • Single piece output jack

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 line, and the GRX20Z is their highest rated option under $200. For the price, it gives you the comfort and style of a superstrat body, two humbucking pickups and an easy to play neck - all of which combine to make this a beginner friendly guitar for students who are into rock, metal and similar styles.

It's not surprising that playability is its strongest point, the thinner shape of the neck and quality of fretwork makes it great for learning beginner to advanced level fretting techniques. Overall craftsmanship of the body and headstock is also quite good, so the guitar looks and feels like a proper guitar. Another thing that I really like about it though is its single-piece output jack, this seemingly simple innovation solves a common problem that newbies have - that is loosening or even breaking their output jacks.


Single Piece Output Jack
More reliable single-piece output jack

The Ibanez Infinity pickups work as intended, with good enough output that makes it sound great when used with distortion, and it has no 60 cycle hum noise that can be annoying to some beginners. It also has good string to string balance, and it responds well even when used in styles that require heavy pick attack. The downside is that it doesn't have the chime and clarity of single coil pickups.

Hardware used is OK, but don't expect the guitar to hold its tuning when doing extreme techniques. While they may not be as good as premium hardware components, they are up to par, if not better than what others in this price range offer.

All in all, the Ibanez Gio GRX20Z is a great starter shred machine that will help you take your chops to the next level.

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: 12"
  • Number of Frets: 22
  • Nut Width: 1.653"
  • Controls: 1 x Volume, 1 x Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-way

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube Andrew Friedberg 98/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Here's a demonstration of a GRX:

Jackson JS22 Dinky Arch Top (HH)

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 550+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
Jackson JS22 Dinky Arch Top

Cons

  • Too metal looking for use with other styles
  • Action can be too low for some

Pros

  • High-gain friendly tone and fast playing feel
  • Distinct rock and metal friendly aesthetics
  • Arched top with good craftsmanship
  • Decent clean tone

While other companies were content at merely cloning popular designs, Jackson started out by modifying classics to meet the demands of virtuosos. They ended up being one of the brands that helped shape the Strat design into the now distinct Superstrat category.

The JS22 Dinky Arch Top showcases Jackson's penchant for Superstrats, and does so while retaining a very affordable price tag. For the price, you are getting a shred friendly instrument with some nice features including having a graphite reinforced neck, a classy looking arched top, and Jackson's distinct headstock design.

The neck is designed for guitarists who like to play fast, so it has a slim and smooth feel. For an entry level guitar, fretwork and string action is good enough to please even intermediate players. String action can even be too low for those who are used to traditional setups. It has great looking shark fin inlays, which helps complete its rock and metal vibe. The same quality standard and vibe applies to the body, which has a well crafted arched top, this is quite special in this price range.


Jackson Dinky Arched Top
Classy looking arched top

Jackson's distinct angled back headstock completes its overall metal look, which incidentally may be too metal for other styles. You may want to switch to another guitar if you're playing pop or ballads.

Jackson's high-output humbuckers give the guitar a high-gain friendly tone that matches its looks. It does a good job of retaining bite and clarity even when volume and distortion is cranked. It does the rock and metal sound quite well, albeit a little too generic, lacking any sort of distinct voice definition. Still, this can be good for those who shape their sound using other gear. Surprisingly, the clean sound is quite good, balanced with some chime. Unfortunately, it'll look a bit awkward to play this guitar entirely in clean tone settings.

The Jackson JS22 Dinky is a good quality hotrodded shred machine that'll fit well with future rock virtuosos.

Specifications

  • Body: Poplar
  • Finish: Satin Black, Natural Oil, Metallic Blue, Snow White
  • Bridge: 2-point Tremolo/Vibrato bridge
  • Pickups: Jackson High-output Humbuckers
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Fingerboard: Amaranth
  • Fingerboard Radius: 12" to 16" Compound
  • Number of Frets: 24 Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.6875"
  • Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 3-Position Blade

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube Ronald Jr 96/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Pickup Type: Mixed

Squier Bullet Strat HT HSS - Laurel Fingerboard (HSS)

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
Squier Bullet Strat HSS HT - Laurel Fingerboard

Cons

  • Not a traditional Strat
  • No tremolo
  • Minor quality issues

Pros

  • Versatile HSS configuration
  • Strat style neck and mid position tones
  • Overdrive friendly humbucker bridge
  • Simpler hardtail bridge

This is the HSS version of the popular affordable Squier Bullet Strat HT (Hard Tail). Instead of triple single coils, this one sports a humbucker pickup in the bridge position, along with two singlecoil pickups in the middle and neck.

This means that you get the simpler setup benefits of a hardtail, along with better sustain. While it doesn't allow for vibrato bar control like classic Strats, it is more beginner friendly, hence the reason why I'd recommend guitars with this type of bridge for first time buyers.

The inclusion of a humbucker in the bridge position allows this Strat to cover higher gain territories better. This also gives students a hum-free pickup option that they can use for practicing single note lines and building up their soloing chops. And it does so without compromising the chime of the neck and middle positions. You are essentially benefitting from both single coil and humbuckers.

The single coil tone of its neck and middle pickups are similar to the other Bullet Strat HT, providing good cleans with that distinct Fender chime. The bridge pickup does a good job of providing higher output tone that works great with overdrive and distortion. It has a flat voicing with a bit of a bump in the lower mids, so you won't get the same chime as you would with a single coil bridge pickup. Experienced musicians will notice that it lacks some of the extra zing and harmonic overtones of premium Strat models, but it would be unfair to expect those things given the price.

Being a licensed Stratocaster, this guitar follows after conventional design and specs, albeit using more cost-effective materials and production. The double cutaway body is crafted from basswood, and it has a C-shape maple neck with 21-fret Indian laurel fingerboard. Craftsmanship and hardware quality is OK, but don't expect them to be flawless.

Being an officially licensed instrument, this is your safest pick if you're looking for an affordable HSS configuration Strat.

Specifications

  • Body: Basswood
  • Finish: Arctic White, Black, Sunburst, Red
  • Bridge: 6-Saddle Hard Tail
  • Pickups: HSS (Humbucker Bridge, Single-coil x 2)
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25.5"
  • Fingerboard: Laurel
  • Fingerboard Radius: 9.5"
  • Number of Frets: 21 Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Width: 1.650
  • Controls: Master Volume, Tone, Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 5-Position Blade

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube Johan Joos Laur 93/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Ibanez GIO GRX70QA (HSH)

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 1800+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
Ibanez GIO GRX70QA - Transparent Red Burst

Cons

  • No traditional chimey cleans
  • Lacks bite for mid to low gain use

Pros

  • Versatile HSH configuration
  • High-gain friendly humbuckers
  • Student friendly playabiltiy
  • Fat 6 Tremolo bridge

It's hard to deny the popularity and legacy of Ibanez guitars, thanks to their long list of endorsers, which include virtuoso guitarists like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and many more. The Ibanez Gio GRX70QA makes their Superstrat design more accessible, so students can start learning on a sleek and hot rodded instrument from the get go.

What sets this apart is its HSH pickup configuration, which features humbuckers for the neck and bridge position, and a single coil pickup in-between. Both humbuckers sound good with distortion, and respond well especially when pushed to higher gain territories. It seems to be lacking bite when used in mid to lower gain settings, but this can be remedied by EQ or a boost pedal.

The middle pickup sounds good when used in clean tone settings, it has a bright tonality that you wouldn't get from just a dual humbucker configuration. But it might not appeal to those who are used to traditional Strat style cleans. The downside to HSH, is that the middle pickup will not get a lot of use, so in terms of usage, the guitar is essentially an HH.

Another distinct feature of this guitar is its quilt maple "art" top, which probably means that it has a veneer that looks like quilted maple. It does make it look more premium than it actually is. And it comes in 6 color variations so you can choose which one strikes fancy. The double cutaway body is crafted from basswood, and craftsmanship is quite good for the price.

Coming from Ibanez, playability is a given. It has a thin neck profile and flat fretboard radius that makes it very comfortable for the left hand. Fretwork quality is good, but don't be surprised to find some minor imperfections. Another noteworthy inclusion is the FAT 6 tremolo bridge with independent saddles for string by string height and intonation adjustments.

If you're looking for an entry-level rock and shred guitar, then definitely check out the Ibanez GIO GRX70QA.

Specifications

  • Body: Poplar
  • Finish: Transparent Black, Transparent Blue, Transparent Emerald, Transparent Red, Violet, Sunburst
  • Bridge: Fat 6
  • Pickups: 2 x Power Sound Humbucker, 1 x Powersound Singlecoil
  • Neck: Maple
  • Scale Length: 25.5" ( 648 mm)
  • Fingerboard: Purpleheart
  • Fingerboard Radius: 15.75"
  • Number of Frets: 22 Medium
  • Nut Width: 1.65" (41.91 mm)
  • Controls: 1 x Volume, 1 x Tone
  • Pickup Selector: 5-way

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube Guitarist Next Door 94/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Things to Consider When Buying an Electric Guitar for a Beginner

Cheap Electric Guitar Brands

Popular brands like Squier (From Fender), Jackson, and Ibanez retain their spots in this 2022 edition. And while Epiphone (From Gibson) was bested by lesser known brands this time around, don't count them out yet because they continue to be among the most popular brands in the entry-level category. These brands have experience and manufacturing capabilities to continue to produce quality entry-level electric guitars of different styles. So if you didn't find you're preferred guitar in this guide, chances are you can find it from these brands. Other well-known brands that have guitars in this price range include LTD (From ESP), Dean, Washburn, Donner and more.

Playability

Since affordable guitars are designed for students, manufacturers know that playability is of utmost priority. This is the reason why many of these budget-friendly guitars don't stray from familiar neck and body measurements. This ensures that they feel as close to premium guitars as possible, albeit utilizing more cost effective materials and production methods.

While many of them will satisfy players out of the box, it is unfair to expect these guitars to play like a dream, especially when considering their price. While not always required, it is recommended to have every guitar checked and set up by an experienced guitarist or technician, so you can make full use of its potential.

Pickups

There are two main 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 above in brackets after the model name so you can easily see which pickups each guitar has and in what positing they are.

There are other pickup types out there, like the P90, Filtertron, Rail etc - but they are usually found on guitars that are well above the price range this guide covers, but you can find some of them in our guitar to Electric Guitars between $200 and $500.

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. Guitars 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".

Cheap Electric Guitar Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in August 2016 and the current edition was published on September 20, 2022.

To make this guide focused and useful, 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:

  • We only included solidbody guitars;
  • They had to have a street price under $200;
  • They had to have 6 strings and be 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 ended up with an initial list of 22 guitars, you can find those guitars listed here. We then collated ratings, reviews and forum comments about each guitar and fed that data to the Gearank Algorithm which produced rating scores out of 100 for each guitar - we processed over 15,200 rating sources. Finally we chose the highest rated guitars to recommend in each category above. For more information about our methods please read How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

I've written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at my local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

My first electric guitar was a Genesis Series with HSS configuration and floating tremolo. It was a nightmare to setup for a beginner, so I ended up trading it in for a Strat. Beginners now have it easy, with a wide choice of good quality entry-level electric guitars. I've helped students and friends buy their first guitar, and I've influenced many of them to get a Squier Strat.

Contributors

Jason Horton: Supplemental writing, Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Compiled using photographs of the Ibanez GIO GRX20Z, Squier Bullet Strat HT, Jackson JS22 Dinky Arch Top and Ibanez GIO GRX70QA.

The videos have been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.

Comments

I want a double neck steel

I want a double neck steel guitar with double pick up and humbucking for playing with a steel or bar.

We haven't provided any

We haven't provided any guides or done any research on Lap Steel Guitars here at Gearank.com so we can't help you with any advice on that one.

squier affinity series, looks

Squier affinity series, looks and sounds great, Fender & Gibson had to start somewhere, so everyone wants to be a star & copy, but everybody's hands and minds are different, don't need to be a star or copy cat to make a name, if the guitar feels good and sounds good, so be it. Be the First, off-brand- (Star),,,,, take the cheap version to new and higher heights,