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.

Top 10 Electric Guitars Under $200

PRODUCT

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PRODUCT

FEATURES

AR RATING 75/100

  • Classic SG styling and body shape which are plenty accurate.
  • Great finish all around, especially on the body.

AR RATING 75/100

  • Standard ESP LTD level of build quality.
  • Good fit and finish all around.
  • Great classic design that has been slightly modernized.
  • An amazing set of humbuckers capable of handling anything.

AR RATING 74/100

  • A Super Strat design which is both comfortable and lightweight.
  • Fast and comfortable neck which allows you to be quick.

AR RATING 74/100

  • Great build quality all around.
  • Impressive attention to detail with fretboard binding, all black hardware.
  • Jaguar body is one of the more aesthetic ones available.
  • Great aesthetics, fit and finish all around.

AR RATING 73/100

  • Simplified Les Paul design which is both comfortable and lightweight.
  • All black hardware that works pretty well.

AR RATING 73/100

  • One of the most popular alternative designs on a budget.
  • Great performance right out of the box.

AR RATING 72/100

  • One of the better Strat clones in this segment.
  • Great craftsmanship across the board.

AR RATING 72/100

  • Impressive design and aesthetics worthy of the Les Paul name.
  • Good build quality paired with good materials is a plus.

AR RATING 75/100

Epiphone used to be that brand you went to in order to get an affordable Gibson experience. These days they have moved away from that description, although everything we have said still rings true. Epiphone SG Special proves just how far they have managed to get. The craftsmanship, fit and finish are pretty impressive and way above what most expect.

Same goes for the hardware and electronics. This is a great SG clone which is not only licensed by Gibson, but also incredibly cost efficient. At this price, you will be hard pressed to find something that sounds better than Epiphone SG Special all while still looking like a semi decent SG. That much we can say with absolute certainty.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    Classic SG styling and body shape which are plenty accurate.
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    Great finish all around, especially on the body.
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    Good hardware that stays in tune even after a while.
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    Great sound that definitely has an SG vibe to it.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

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    This guitar definitely benefits from a good setup job.

AR RATING 75/100

ESP LTD is a very popular manufacturer among those who appreciate a heavier tone. This brand simply knows how to make a good metal axe. ESP LTD Viper 10 is definitely one such design. With its modified SG body, it really has the aesthetic of a classic on steroids. In terms of overall build quality you will find it great.

We can say that because ESP LTD has always been great with quality control on their guitars. The hardware and electronics are pretty great. You're getting a pair of their own passive humbuckers and a reliable tune-o-matic bridge. At this price there is hardly much more you can ask for. This is a great model for beginners and intermediate players.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    Standard ESP LTD level of build quality.
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    Good fit and finish all around.
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    Great sound that works well under both cleans and distortion.
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    Classic aesthetics with a really nice twist.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

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    Factory strings will need to be swapped pretty much immediately.

AR RATING 74/100

Epiphone's Les Paul Special II is one of those guitars which have become legendary among beginners and intermediate players. Before the market became flooded with all of the high speed, metal oriented axes, it was this guitar that many guitar players used to channel that heavy sound. Today it's still a very pleasant surprise compared to most of its competition.

In terms of looks, Special II brings that classic Les Paul aesthetic but in a more modern setting. This one isn't arched nor does it come with pickguards. With a vintage sunburst finish done over a proper mahogany body, this Epiphone definitely satisfies in the aesthetics department. When you add the awesome 700T humbuckers to that equation, it's even better.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    Great classic design that has been slightly modernized.
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    An amazing set of humbuckers capable of handling anything.
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    Mahogany body which is good for cleans, perfect for distortion.
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    Set of hardware which doesn't drop out of tune easily.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

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    Factory strings leave a lot to be wished for.

AR RATING 74/100

Considering how popular 7 string guitars have become, it was only a matter of time before we ran into budget models. ESP LTD M-17 is exactly that, a budget 7 string which packs a mean punch and goes deep. What really sets this one aside are the pickups, which are by far some of the best budget passive humbuckers available.

The guitar features a basswood body paired with a maple neck, which makes it quite lightweight. The neck is a very fast and rocks a thin U profile. This is great considering the additional width of the neck. When it comes to pure sound, M-17 delivers a very brutal performance that is more than capable of sustaining super low keys.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    A Super Strat design which is both comfortable and lightweight.
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    Fast and comfortable neck which allows you to be quick.
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    Great sound coming from a set of beefy humbuckers.
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    Rock solid hardware that takes care of the increased strain.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

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    Factory strings aren't all that great, but that's minor.

AR RATING 74/100

Jackson guitars aren't as popular as they used to be, but that doesn't mean that this behemoth of the guitar world has said all they've to say. On the contrary. With models such as the Jackson JS22 Dinky, they are offering a great way for newcomers to get into the fold. However, Dinky is far from just another beginner's guitar.

It's known for its arched Super Strat body, an impressive amount of details for the price and an overall impressive performance. Just by looking at it you can tell that this guitar was built to deliver. The sound it offers can sustain a whole array of music genres, although it is no secret that Dinky feels at home with metal.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    Great build quality all around.
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    Impressive attention to detail with fretboard binding, all black hardware.
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    A versatile tone profile suitable for various genres.
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    Overall bang for the buck value.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    It will need a proper setup for best results.

AR RATING 73/100

Squier series of guitars started out as affordable clones of Fender's models. However, these days they have transcended that reputation and grown to become an authority of their own. Squier by Fender Affinity Series Jazzmaster is a bit different compared to most other Squiers on the market. With that said, it is by far one of the more interesting models.

The Jaguar body takes some getting used to but is every bit as comfortable as the Strat series. What really differentiates this model from the rest are its two humbuckers. That gives it much more girth, thus allowing you to go wild with all kinds of distortions. In practice, it sounds good and feels even better. Definitely an awesome choice.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    Jaguar body is one of the more aesthetic ones available.
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    Great aesthetics, fit and finish all around.
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    Awesome and versatile sound thanks to the dual humbuckers.
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    A classic neck profile which feels familiar.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Definitely benefits from a proper setup job.

AR RATING 73/100

Dean is one of those brands which were super popular back in the day and established a huge following. Today, they are still running strong thanks to models such as the Dean EVOXM CBK Evo XM. Much like there are plenty of Strat clones, there are also plenty of Les Paul Clones out there. This is definitely one of them.

What Dean did with this one is put a more aggressive spin on the classic Les Paul design. They did it by stripping the whole thing down to its bare bones, packing it full of hot, passive humbuckers and slapping a whole lot of awesome all black hardware around it. In the end, you have a great sounding electric guitar.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    Simplified Les Paul design which is both comfortable and lightweight.
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    All black hardware that works pretty well.
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    Great set of humbuckers capable of sustaining hot distortions.
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    One of the best sounding axes in this price range.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Factory setup isn't always on point.

AR RATING 73/100

One of the most popular alternative guitar designs we know today belongs to Dean. Dean MLX is a tribute to that design which has been used by legends such as Dimebag Darrell. It is an inexpensive version of the classic ML body which brings you that legendary aesthetic on a budget. The hardware and electronics make it a real workhorse.

Dean did a great job at balancing out price, performance and looks. They have opted for a Brazilianburst finish, which gives this guitar a bit of a vintage vibe for sure. The tune-o-matic bridge is one of the better ones in this category which is preventing the guitar from dropping out of tune. Overall, this MLX is a great axe.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    One of the most popular alternative designs on a budget.
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    Great performance right out of the box.
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    Good sound thanks to a pair of Dean's own humbuckers.
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    Grover tuning machines are a huge plus.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

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    This guitar really benefits from a change of strings.

AR RATING 72/100

Looking at some of the more common brands in the budget segment, it's only a matter of time before you run into Stagg. They have been around for a while, offering great alternatives to those who were on a budget. Stagg SES50M-SNB is a Strat clone designed to compete with Squier's offer. As such it offers a pretty interesting deal.

Stagg did a great job at copying Fender where it matters the most. They've gone with a full Alder solid body, a proper maple neck and a smooth maple fretboard. The pickups that come with this guitar are fairly decent, especially in combination with the D'Addario strings that come as stock. If you want something different, check this guitar out.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    One of the better Strat clones in this segment.
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    Great craftsmanship across the board.
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    Plenty of color schemes to choose from.
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    Awesome tone which works great for clean and distorted signals.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    A proper setup job is a must for this model.

AR RATING 72/100

Ever since they got acquired by Washburn, Oscar Schmidt has become a true competitor on the market. Oscar Schmidt OE20G shows us why. The guitar itself is absolutely impressive, that is a fact. It looks like it costs way more than it does, features great build quality and comes packed full of great hardware. At this price, that is awesome.

Aside from its beautiful aesthetics, this guitar packs a decent punch. Oscar Schmidt went with a dual humbucker setup that isn't as hot as some other systems out there, but hot enough for sure. It sounds awesome when you push it through an overdrive, but cleans work well too. If you are looking for something different, this guitar is it.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    Impressive design and aesthetics worthy of the Les Paul name.
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    Good build quality paired with good materials is a plus.
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    Great tone coming from a pair of well balanced humbuckers.
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    One of the best values for the money out there.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    The bridge will need some adjusting for optimal performance.

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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