Upping The Ante: Top 10 Electric Guitars That You Can Buy For Under $1000!

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 10 Best Electric Guitars Under $1000

PRODUCT

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PRODUCT

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AR​​​​ RATING 97/100​​​​

  • One of the most legendary electric guitars out there.
  • Awesome tone coming from a set of impressive singles.

AR​​​​ RATING 97/100​​​​

  • One of the most legendary guitars of our time.
  • Great balance of price and performance.

AR RATING 96/100

  • Impressive looks, build quality and overall finish.
  • Massive sound coming from those active EMG pickups.

AR RATING 96/100

  • One of the most classic designs out there.
  • Great build quality, ergonomics but also aesthetics.
  • A pretty unique looking guitar that brings plenty of style.
  • Rock solid hardware which ensures consistency and key retention.

AR RATING 95/100

  • A true hollow electric guitar aesthetic that looks awesome.
  • Build quality that is impressive all things considered.
  • Very authentic design, fit and finish.
  • Gibson type sound coming from a budget friendly guitar.
  • A comfortable and worthy alternative to a Strat.
  • Great build quality all around.

AR RATING 91/100

  • An aesthetically modern Ibanez that looks quite amazing.
  • Lighter and more compact mahogany body sounds great.

AR RATING 90/100

  • A classic body shape with a very modern twist.
  • Great build quality and attention to details across the board.

AR RATING 97/100

No guitar collection in the world can be complete without the oldest and most popular solid body design ever built. You have probably guessed it, we are talking about a Telecaster. More specifically, Fender American Special Telecaster. This particular guitar features a blonde finish with a maple fretboard and a black pick guard. It's not too traditional but pretty retro.

Speaking of specific pickups and hardware, this Telecaster packs a set of Texas Special singles designed specifically for Telecasters. The bridge is your standard ashtray type while the tuners are the tried and tested Fender ones. Despite its age, Telecaster has managed to remain one of the most popular guitars in the world. At this price, it is a steal.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    One of the most legnedary electric guitars out there.
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    Awesome tone coming from a set of impressive singles.
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    Impeccable build quality, attention to detail and finish.
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    Super smooth fretboard which allows you to be fast.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

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    The Telecaster's ergonomics take some getting used to.

AR RATING 97/100

Another Fender that deserves to be on our list is the legendary Strat. It was neck to neck between the Strat and Tele for the first place, however Tele prevailed just barely. Fender Classic Series '70s Stratocaster belongs to the more affordable Strat versions available. This one is made in Mexico and features an awesome natural, organic finish all around.

When it comes to electronics, Fender has optimized this one to be a bit retro. Singles they've packed inside there support our claim, especially if you are into blues and vintage rock. One of the best things about this guitar is just how playable it is. Gripping chord or going through various scales is almost effortless. Overall, a must have.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    One of the most legendary guitars of our time.
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    Great balance of price and performance.
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    A vintage set of electronics give it a unique tone.
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    Classic Fender hardware which won't let you down.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Those singles might be too vintage for some users.

AR RATING 96/100

Schecter has established quite a reputation thanks to their designs optimized for metal. With that in mind, Schecter Hellraiser C-1 represents what is probably one of the best balanced models Schecter has to offer. This guitar contains the core of what Schecter stands for from the awesome aesthetics and build quality to its massive sound. It is a proper brute.

Looking at the hardware and electronics, we see a few interesting components. Schecter went with a strings thru body setup paired with a tune-o-matic bridge. Overall that's a very simple but reliable solution. However, pickups are much more interesting. You are looking at the EMG 81TW paired with an EMG 89. In other words, a very popular combo for metal.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    Impressive looks, build quality and overall finish.
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    Massive sound coming from those active EMG pickups.
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    Simple yet reliable hardware that doesn't disappoint.
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    A very fast neck that works for shredding.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

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    You can really benefit from a proper setup job.

AR RATING 96/100

Whether you're a fan of Carlos Santana or you just want something that's not Fender or Gibson, PRS is your best bet. This brand has been producing what many consider to be the 'third solution'. PRS SE Custom 24 represents a more affordable version of these guitars, which makes it attainable for the masses and there's so much to it.

What you are getting is that classic PRS body style made of mahogany with a maple top. PRS has included their 85/15 pickups which offer a very unique tone Custom 24s are known for. To top it all off there is a PRS patented tremolo bridge which differs from Fender's and Floyd Rose solutions. Overall, this guitar is impressive.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    One of the most classic designs out there.
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    Great build quality, ergonomics but also aesthetics.
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    A classic sound that works great for any genre.
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    Proprietary tremolo bridge design which ensures reliability.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Stock strings aren't all that great .

AR RATING 95/100

Eddie Van Halen is without a doubt one of the most iconic guitar players to ever grace the earth. With that in mind it is really no surprise that he has his own line of guitars. EVH Striped Series Black And Yellow perfectly captures the essence of Van Halen and his style. It's a Strat type model with a twist.

It's quite obvious where this guitar got its name. The finish, although simple looking, is quite detailed when you step closer. This model packs a basswood body, a maple neck and a Floyd Rose EVH trem bridge. Electronics come in form of a Wolfgang humbucker in the bridge position and nothing else. The sound you're getting is worth the investment.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    A pretty unique looking guitar that brings plenty of style.
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    Rock solid hardware which ensures consistency and key retention.
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    Awesome sound courtesy of a full blooded Wolfgang humbucker.
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    Overall impressive fit and finish.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    This is a niche guitar and is an acquired taste.

AR RATING 95/100

Hollow guitars used to be the only way to go until solid body electrics appeared. These days they are popular among the more niche communities. With that said Gretsch is one of the few modern brands you can trust when it comes to semi hollow and hollow guitars. Gretsch G5420T is a great representation of what they are capable of.

This is a single cutaway hollow electric that features a high level of details and build quality. The body is extremely well made and shows great fit and finish. The hardware, which is probably the most complicated part of this whole thing, is rock solid. Gretsch went with a tremolo Bigsby bridge/tailpiece and FilterTron pickups. A truly impressive package.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    A true hollow electric guitar aesthetic that looks awesome.
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    Build quality that is impressive all things considered.
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    Full on Bigsby tremolo bridge and tailpiece setup.
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    A set of Black Top FilterTron pickups ensures that classic twang.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Bigsby bridge takes some skill to setup properly.

AR RATING 92/100


If you are looking to get a Les Paul but you don't feel like spending Gibson kind of money, Epiphone is the way to go. This brand offers a variety of Les Paul models all of which are different in their own way. Epiphone Les Paul Standard Pus-Top Pro is one of the more refined models and it really rocks.

What you will notice right away is the detailed fit and finish. This thing has a legitimate Les Paul heritage. The Standard tag comes from the trapezoid inlays in the fretboard as well as the standard layout. The Pro designation is due to Epiphone ProBucker 2 pickups which have proven to be quite a hot piece of kit these days.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    Very authentic design, fit and finish.
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    Gibson type sound coming from a budget friendly guitar.
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    Epiphone ProBucker 2/3 pickups are rather impressive.
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    Overall build quality that inspires confidence.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    You might want to get a proper setup job done.

AR RATING 91/100

Pacifica series of guitars are among the hidden gems of the market. Although Yamaha has a strong reputation in the acoustic department, their electric line is not as popular. It's models such as Yamaha Pacifica PAC611 VFM which are slowly changing that for the better. When you put everything down on a piece of paper, a typical Pacifica is a beast.

This particular one packs a Seymour Duncan SP90-1 paired with a Custom 5 Trembucker that comes with coil tapping. In terms of hardware you have a Wilkinson VS50-6 bridge on one end while the headstock features a set of Grover locking tuners. Hardware and electronics alone make this guitar well worth checking out. Additionally, the overall build quality is impressive.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    A comfortable and worthy alternative to a Strat.
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    Great build quality all around.
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    Impressive selection of hardware and electronics.
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    A unique but also flexible tone.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Might require a setup job for best results.

AR RATING 91/100

Ibanez S series of guitars are making quite a difference for their reputation. They have been targeted by criticism for their blocky bodies which quite honestly became a bit boring. With these arched S bodies, Ibanez is keeping up with the times. Ibanez S670QM offers more than just a change of aesthetics. The closer you look, the better it gets.

The body shape features on Ibanez S670QM is not only topographically more interesting, but also lighter and more compact compared to older Ibanez solutions. On top of that they've packed it full of awesome electronics which includes some pretty hot passive pickups. Hardware is also up there with the best. Best of all, it still features a Wizard III neck.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    An aesthetically modern Ibanez that looks quite amazing.
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    Lighter and more compact mahogany body sounds great.
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    An impressive set of electronics ensures a heavy tone.
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    Great build quality all around inspires confidence.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    A proper setup job is a must.

AR RATING 90/100

Those who are into metal but appreciate a more classical design will love ESP EC LEC401 CHS. This guitar basically brings you a very modern package in a standard Les Paul body. The one we wanted to show you features a charcoal finish, which quite frankly looks out of this world. If aesthetics are important to you, you'll love this thing.

Aside from it sweet looks you are getting a very straightforward deal. The body is made of mahogany and paired with a set of EMG 81 and EMG 60 active pickups. No matter how much output you could need, these bad boys have you covered. At this price, ESP EC LEC401CHS offers great performance for the money all things considered.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    A classic body shape with a very modern twist
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    Great build quality and attention to details across the board.
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    One of the best EMG sets for metal
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    An impressive tone that works with any genre.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Might be too aggressive for some users.

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.

Great Expectations

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.

Signature Models

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.

Amped Up

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.

Buying Used

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.

The Conclusion:

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.

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