10 Best Electric Guitars Under 500 Dollars: Reviews Of The “Better Than Basic”!

Entry-level guitars are great – they do a relatively no-nonsense job, and give you a platform on which to learn your first chords and licks. And as you may have seen in our comparison article on the best budget guitars, you can get some pretty great electric guitar deals for under $300 – including guitar and amp packages for an astonishing $99! However, by increasing your budget by a couple of hundred bucks, you can find a guitar that will last you a lot longer, and perform considerably better. Whether it’s better design or locking nuts, manufacturers raise the bar as you raise the cash.

In the chart below you’ll find our round up of the best guitars under $500, along with their individual ratings and links to our in-depth reviews. Make sure to check out our guide to guitars in this price range under the chart, for more tips and advice!

Top 10 Best Electric Guitars Under $500

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FEATURES

AR RATING 89/100

  • One of the most iconic signature models on the market.
  • Unique design which has aged extremely well.

AR RATING 89/100

  • One of the most iconic body shapes out there.
  • An impressive graphic which really adds a new dimension.
  • One of the most iconic body shapes out there.
  • An impressive graphic which really adds a new dimension.

AR RATING 88/100

  • One of the smoothest looking guitars you can find.
  • An impressive level of quality control and finish.
  • An authentic Leo Fender design that packs a powerful punch.
  • Aesthetics which are fairly unique all things considered.

AR RATING 87/100

  • One of the best looking finishes in this segment.
  • Great set of hardware which pulls everything together nicely.

AR RATING 86/100

  • One of the most unique looking guitars on the market.
  • Great build quality which is standard for Yamaha.

AR RATING 86/100

  • The ultimate budget 7 string guitar on the market.
  • Great build quality, great choice of materials.

AR RATING 86/100

  • Awesome aesthetics and style for this price range.
  • Great selection of materials and hardware, especially the bridge.

AR RATING 85/100

  • Awesome value in this price range.
  • Maple top that features a great finish and color.

AR RATING 89/100

Steve Vai is by far one of the most influential guitar players in history. Ibanez was quick to enter a cooperation deal with Vai, which has proven to be one of the best decisions in their recent history. After all, that decision is why we have awesome guitars such as Ibanez Steve Vai JEM JR and other JEM series models.

It is very easy to recognize this particular Ibanez from other similar models despite the fact that it mostly shares the same aesthetic. You have the characteristic carry handle drilled into the body as well as the unique fretboard. Tone is taken care of by a set of two Quantum humbuckers and one single coil from the same group.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    One of the most iconic signature models on the market.
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    Unique design which has aged extremely well.
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    Great performance thanks to the quantum pickups.
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    Floyd Rose bridge that locks a key down consistently.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

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    Its sound profile may not work well for everyone.

AR RATING 89/100

Dean's V is a very special guitar even though it is arguably past its prime. There's so much awesome history related to this particular design which is too important to ignore. Dean VMNT Dave Mustaine "Peace Ssells" is one of the better models you can currently get. Dave Mustaine's signature model brings a number of great solutions to the table.

The first thing you will notice about this guitar is the graphic. Dean's graphic designs are impressive by any measure, however this one is easily among the most attractive ones. The guitar sounds and performs like a champ thanks to a solid selection of hardware as well as relatively hot pickups. If you're looking for something spicy, this is it.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    One of the most iconic body shapes out there.
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    An impressive graphic which really adds a new dimension.
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    Great set of hardware and electronics which pack a punch.
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    Overall great build quality and attention to detail.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Might be too niche for most users.

AR RATING 88/100

When someone talks about Yamaha guitars, chances are that they are thinking of acoustics. The fact is that Yamaha has a very strong family of electric guitars in its offer, which can give any main stream electric model a run for its money. Yamaha Pacifica PAC510V OVS is a representative of that family and a pretty great one at that.

What this model offers is a modified Strat body with plenty of similar details. That is where all similarities end. Yamaha went with a quality Alder body, a maple neck and rosewood fretboard for this build. Instead of using a set of singles like Fender, they went with a Seymour Duncan Trembucker P Rail pickup. This makes it pretty unique.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    One of the most underrated workhorses you can find.
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    Build quality and craftsmanship that is on a different level.
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    Great sound coming from a single Seymour Duncan Trembucker.
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    Wilkinson's VS50-6 bridge works extremely well under stress.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

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    Lack of a second pickup is felt in some situations.

AR RATING 88/100

PRS is often times thought of as the third massive key brand next to Fender and Gibson. Their guitars were always giving both of these giants something to worry about even though they never quite reached the same level of popularity. PRS SE 245 Standard is a great example of what makes these so great and a really popular alternative.

For starters we have a really impressive design and craftsmanship which really puts things into perspective. It's quite apparent that these guitars receive quite a bit of attention before they leave the factory. Then there is the pair of semi vintage S humbuckers and a really smooth neck that makes playing this thing a real joy. Overall a great package.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    One of the smoothest looking guitars you can find.
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    An impressive level of quality control and finish.
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    Great performance combined with a unique sound.
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    Consistent key retention that can withstand a lot.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Could use a change of strings right away.

AR RATING 88/100

After he has left the empire he has built, Leo Fender has professed that his work in G&L was definitely his best. This may not sit well with some users but it's the truth. G&L Tribute Superhawk Deluxe Jerry Cantrell represents which direction Leo was interested later in his career. You can definitely feel the Strat in there.

However, this Superhawk is so much more than that. Being a Jerry Cantrell signature model means that you are getting a bit of his personal style mixed in. The fit, finish and design G&L invested into this guitar is impressive. That also translates to the sound, which is somewhere between a Telecaster and a Les Paul but fairly unique.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    An authentic Leo Fender design that packs a powerful punch.
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    Aesthetics which are fairly unique all things considered.
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    Great set of hardware and electronics.
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    Cantrell's influence that is felt throughout the entire guitar.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    Might be too niche for some guitar players.

AR RATING 87/100

Ibanez often times gets criticism for their 'lack of diversity' when it comes to body styles and aesthetics. However, their Super Strat bodies are sort of a trademark by now. With all that said, not all Ibanez guitars are boring, solid color pieces of shredding goodness. We have models such as the Ibanez S Series S621QM to even it out.

It features a beautiful mahogany body with a maple top and Dragon Eye Burst finish. On top of that Ibanez included binding around the top as well as the fretboard. In terms of hardware and electronics, you have a set of Quantum humbuckers which really bring a lot of power to the table. S621QM can be a shredder for sure.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    One of the best looking finishes in this segment.
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    Great set of hardware which pulls everything together nicely.
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    Pair of hot Quantum series humbuckers pack a punch.
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    Super fast and familiar Wizard III neck.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

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    Lack of pickup covers takes away from the aesthetics.

AR RATING 86/100

Yamaha's RevStar series of guitars are definitely somewhere between the most popular models on the market, and those no one has ever heard of. That makes them a genuine hidden gem for a lot of people. Yamaha RevStar RS420 is the one that probably brings the most amount of value for your money. Here's why you should check these out.

One of the best things about RevStar series of guitars is their unusual body shape. It's somewhere between a Les Paul and SG,. which makes them quite unique. With that said, Yamaha has done a great job with selecting proper hardware and electronics so that unique looks are accompanied by great sound. Overall, RevStar are among the most underrated guitars.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    One of the most unique looking guitars on the market.
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    Great build quality which is standard for Yamaha.
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    Awesome sound that works well for both distortions and cleans.
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    A wide variety of finishes which are available.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    The body shape and ergonomics take some getting used to.

AR RATING 86/100

Affordable 7 string guitars were a thing of fiction for a long time. Especially when they first appeared on the market. Ibanez was and still is one of the very few brands out there who offer a rock solid 7 string electric at a competitive price. The model in question is the Ibanez RG Series RG7421 and it is awesome.

The guitar looks pretty much like any other RG out there. The only obvious difference has to be the finish. However, what truly sets this thing apart from other affordable 7 string models is the neck and electronics. Tension is a proper issue with low budget 7 string guitars. Fortunately, Ibanez has covered all of the bases with this model.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    The ultimate budget 7 string guitar on the market.
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    Great build quality, great choice of materials.
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    One of the easiest models to upgrade down the road.
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    Awesome Wizard II-7 neck allows for plenty of speed.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

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    The looks are pretty average compared to its competition.

AR RATING 86/100

Schecter became one of the leading brands in the industry over what feels like a single night. How? By designing guitars centered around modern metal sound. Schecter Omen Extreme-FR is considered to be among the best values on the market at the moment. Schecter has definitely outperformed themselves with this one. It features great styling, solid build quality and more.

Looking at it, it feels like a guitar that should cost much more. That arched maple top and actual Floyd Rose trem bridge feed into that feeling. However, this Omen is absolutely competitive. With Diamond Plus humbuckers, you're looking at a very hot output for a set of passive pickups. Out of the box, this guitar packs one mean punch.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    Awesome aesthetics and style for this price range.
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    Great selection of materials and hardware, especially the bridge.
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    Rock solid electronics which pack a mean punch.
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    Easily one of the best bang for the buck models.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    The tone profile is somewhat narrow and optimized for metal.

AR RATING 85/100

Jackson's Dinky series of guitars are easily their most popular offering, and for a good reason. These guitars both sound great and are affordable. Jackson JS32Q Dinky follows this policy but with a couple of twists. Where as most Dinky models tend to be pretty simple in terms of aesthetics, this one brings a lot more details to the table.

Looks aside, the hardware and electronics which come with this guitar are on par with the competition if not better. You are looking at a set of Jackson's in-house designed humbucker pickups paired with a licensed Floyd Rose tremolo bridge. Overall, if you are after most bang out of your buck, this particular Dinky should be on your short list.

WHAT WE LIKE

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    Awesome value in this price range.
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    Maple top that features a great finish and color.
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    Great set of hardware and electronics for the price.
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    A tone profile which is just impressive all things considered.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE

  • minus
    The bridge can be difficult to set up.

Tips, Tricks, Guidelines And More

The first thing worth mentioning when it comes to guitars in the $500 price bracket is that in a lot of cases you are no longer getting ‘basic’. Of course, you are highly unlikely to be getting premium features or made-in-America models, but generally the quality of woods, necks, hardware, pickups, fretwork, and overall craftsmanship are a big step up from their cheaper cousins.

Don’t get me wrong – if you want to spend less, there’s a world of excellent entry-level and budget electric guitars for under $300. But if you are starting to get serious about playing guitar, looking at forming a band and gigging for the first time, or even an experienced guitarist looking for a reliable second guitar, spending that little extra is a smart idea in the long run.

Expect More

So what can you expect from a guitar in the $500 price range? Design-wise you certainly start getting a wider range to choose from. The beginner electric guitars category is littered with guitars that look like Strats, Teles and Les Pauls. Why? Because the design is tried and tested, easy to produce on a mass scale, and likely to appeal to the complete beginner.

However, with the extra cash you have more unique, considered designs available to you. For example Gretsch’s iconic Pro Jet is one of a kind, as is Epiphone’s premium look Wildkat, or Dean’s Dimebag Razorback series. All these guitars would make you look twice, and all come in at under $500.

Talking about the Dimebag series, you’ll also start finding affordable signature models from some of the biggest names in guitar – the likes of George Lynch, Steve Vai, Dave Mustaine, Kirk Hammett, and Tom Delonge all have signature models on the market for under $500. Yes, they aren’t the exact custom shop model that guitarist plays (if you want those, look towards the $4000 mark), but you still get their unique styles and overall spirit.

But it’s not just the looks that are better in this price bracket – we start seeing some quality in the features and hardware departments. One of my favorite features, and something you start seeing on some more rock-inclined guitars in this price range, is a Floyd Rose bridge and locking nut – an awesome combo for huge divebombs, string bends, and all round excellent tuning stability.

You’ll also start finding the build quality and finishes are nicer and feel more durable. Body woods will also start varying – you’ll still encounter a lot of basswood (which isn’t bad at all), but will also see more tonewoods such as alder and mahogany. Necks will usually be made from maple or mahogany, and fretboards from rosewood or maple. One thing you may also start noticing is more unique inlay designs – pearloid blocks instead of dot inlays for example.

Your pickups will remain quite basic, but they certainly improve. Output is louder, sound is clearer, electronics more stable, and tone is warmer. Versatility increases too, with more tone controls and occasionally five-way pickup selectors instead of basic three-ways.
And remember: these guitars offer a better platform for upgrading, so adding your own favorite pickups at a later stage wouldn’t be a problem.

Only you can define your budget and if it is set at $500 or under that’s great – as you have seen, there’s a lot you can get for your money. But if you can go a little higher – even to $600 – you will start to see even more improvements, including active pickups, bridge and saddle upgrades, and most guitars coming with their own gig bags.

Amplifying Your Sound

When spending around $500 on a guitar, you’ll want to consider the amp you’ll be playing it through. You may want to look at something more than the cheapest starter amps out there, but you don’t need to spend thousands to get a great sound.

The quality of practice amps these days will more than suffice if you are just noodling away in your bedroom or jamming with a few friends. Something like a Fender Mustang I V.2 retails for around $120 and gives you 20 watts of power, as well as 17 different amp models, tons of built in effects, and USB connectivity.

If you have your sights set on the stage, you may need an amp with more power. Sticking with Fender’s Mustang series, the Fender Mustang III V.2 ($330) offers everything you get with the practice combo, but with 100 watts of power which is more than enough for jamming and small gigs.

Brand Snob?

It’s worth mentioning, at this price range it’s certainly not worth being a ‘brand snob’. While you can indeed find ‘real’ Fender (as opposed to a Squier) for under $500, make sure you are getting it for the right reason; not just because it’s a name you know. Sure, Fender make a great guitar, but there’s nothing wrong with a Yamaha, Epiphone or ESP. In fact, you are more likely to end up with more for your money in most cases, as you’re not paying for the name. Just something to consider.

Super Second Hand

A good question. Buying a new high quality electric guitar usually means you’ll have a guitar that’s been untouched by anyone else, and the reassurance of a warranty should something go wrong. If you buy used, you are opening yourself up to a world of mystery. How old is it? Has it been gigged to within an inch of its life? Has anything on it been replaced?

But these questions shouldn’t put you off buying second-hand, because you will undoubtedly find some bargains – whether it’s $20 off the list price, or $100!

Just treat it like buying a used car, and do extra research. Avoid flea markets or boot sales, as you may not be able to test the guitar and you may not have the chance to return it. Look on sites like Amazon or eBay, and at least you have a bit of a safety net.

To Sum It All Up

With $500 in your pocket you can get a whole lot of guitar these days – the choice is huge. And whether you are buying new or used, it always pays to do your research first. A guitar in this price range can last you a lifetime. But make sure to check out our comparisons of guitars in the higher range of $1000, as you may find something more suitable for not that much more cash. Also be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates on guitar news, reviews and tips.

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The appropriate research can do wonders if done properly. We are here to help you and save your time and money at the same time. In our website you will see our personal recommendations based on our knowledge and extensive research. What we base our rating using the product details and customer feedback.