Best Electric Guitars under $300 of 2019 – Reviews and Top Picks

If you are just starting out and can’t afford, or simply don’t need a $5000 axe, I’m happy you exist, cause you are a person I wrote this for. I understand how confusing guitars can be and how tricky it is to choose a good axe.

Good news for you though, you don’t need to know too much when you are picking up your first axe. I know it sounds cheesy, but honestly. All you need is a playable axe with reliable hardware and electronics. The more you play, the more you will learn about your little beauty and will upgrade it to your taste. But please, don’t pick up the cheapest guitar you see online – there are plenty of good ones out there so choose wisely. Here, I’ve piled up a list of affordable guitar beasts that will serve you for years. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the new Jimi Hendrix.

  • Epiphone Les Paul-100 Electric Guitar
  • Rating:
  • Body type: Solid
  • Body shape: Les Paul
  • Body wood: Mahogany
  • Neck: “C” shape, Bolt-on
  • Neck material: Mahogany
  • Pick up: 650R/700T Humbucker
  • Fretboard wood: Rosewood
  • Frets: 22, Medium-Jumbo
  • Bridge: Tune-o-Matic/Stopbar
  • Tuners: Sealed
  • Squier by Fender Vintage Modified Stratocaster Electric Guitar HSS
  • Rating:
  • Body type: Solid
  • Body shape: Stratocaster
  • Body wood: Basswood
  • Neck: Maple
  • Neck material: “C” shape, Bolt-on
  • Pick up: Duncan Designed™ SC-101 Single-Coil / HB-102B Humbucking
  • Fretboard wood: Rosewood
  • Frets: 21, Medium Jumbo
  • Bridge: 6-Saddle Vintage-Style Synchronized Tremolo
  • Tuners: Vintage style
  • Ibanez RG421
  • Rating:
  • Body type: Solid
  • Body shape: RG
  • Body wood: Mahogany
  • Neck: Wizard III
  • Neck material: 3-pc Maple
  • Pick up: 2 Quantum Humbuckers
  • Fretboard wood: Jatoba
  • Frets: 24, Jumbo
  • Bridge: Fiixed bridge
  • Tuners: Gotoh Magnum Lock Tuners
Name
Body type:
Body shape:
Body wood:
Neck:
Neck material:
Price
Name
Body type:
Body shape:
Body wood:
Neck:
Neck material:
Price
№1
Solid
Les Paul
Mahogany
“C” shape, Bolt-on
Mahogany
№2
Solid
Stratocaster
Basswood
Maple
“C” shape, Bolt-on
№3
Solid
RG
Mahogany
Wizard III
3-pc Maple
№4
Solid
Dinky
Basswood
Speed Neck
1-piece Maple (Bolt-on)
№5
Solid
Pacifica
Agathis
“C”-shape
Maple, Bolt-on
№6
Solid
King V
Poplar
1-piece Bold-on Speed Neck
Maple
№7
Solid
Soloist
Basswood
“U”-shape, Bolt on
Maple

Starting off with a well-known, reliable and widely respected Epiphone Les Paul-100. It is a perfect beginner’s guitar. The axe is cut to the same specs as the legendary Les’ 1952, giving it a nostalgic outlook. It has a slimmer body style, includes traditional Les Paul two hot open-coil humbuckers, individual tone controls and Tune-o-matic bridge.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Les Paul
Body wood:
Mahogany
Neck:
“C” shape, Bolt-on
Neck material:
Mahogany
Pick up:
650R/700T Humbucker
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
22, Medium-Jumbo
Bridge:
Tune-o-Matic/Stopbar
Tuners:
Sealed
PROS

Legendary Les Paul’ 1952 outlook

Playability and comfort

Sound sustain

Classic Les Paul electronic setup

Sonic flexibility thru individual tone controls

Cons

Harder to tune for beginners

Loose parts

Oh, Fender. You know how to make a good axe. Khm, excuse me. The Squier is a special Fender “budget” series, but the build and electronics should honestly cost way more. This VM Strat will knock your socks off. Only for $299 you get a classic sounding Strat with lots of vintage touches, H/S/S (humbucker/single-coil/single-coil) configuration of three impressive extra-hot Duncan Designed pickups and five-way pickups switch. It’s hard to find a Squier as good as this one.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Stratocaster
Body wood:
Basswood
Neck:
Maple
Neck material:
“C” shape, Bolt-on
Pick up:
Duncan Designed™ SC-101 Single-Coil / HB-102B Humbucking
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
21, Medium Jumbo
Bridge:
6-Saddle Vintage-Style Synchronized Tremolo
Tuners:
Vintage style
PROS

Vintage outlook (70s headstock, gloss finish, aged control knobs)

Hybrid HSS configuration of Duncan Designed pickups

5-Way pickup selector, master volume, neck and middle tone control

Sonic power and versatility

Cons

Nothing significant

The RG series is the most well-known among Ibanez electric guitars, with RG421 being probably the most solid and reliable option. This axe is built for high-speed shredding and sonic attacks. Despite the low price, the axe uses a top-quality resonant mahogany tonewood and maple for the Wizard III neck. It also features two Quantum humbuckers, ideal for rock, blues or metal. The fixed bridge provides sonic stability and exceptional tuning.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
RG
Body wood:
Mahogany
Neck:
Wizard III
Neck material:
3-pc Maple
Pick up:
2 Quantum Humbuckers
Fretboard wood:
Jatoba
Frets:
24, Jumbo
Bridge:
Fiixed bridge
Tuners:
Gotoh Magnum Lock Tuners
PROS

RG body style + Wizard III neck

Fixed bridge

Rock-solid tuning & sound sustain

Big tonal range & clear rich sound

Cons

Heavy

Jackson is a legendary brand, and even the budget axes are real beasts. JS32 Dinky is a great example, yet it’s not for pure beginners. It has a complex and powerful electronics and hardware including high-output ceramic-magnet Jackson JE10 Humbuckers and double-locking Floyed Rosed licensed tremolo. The axe’s shape is, probably, one of the most comfortable amidst electronic guitars.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Dinky
Body wood:
Basswood
Neck:
Speed Neck
Neck material:
1-piece Maple (Bolt-on)
Pick up:
Jackson JE10 Humbucker
Fretboard wood:
Maple
Frets:
24 Jumbo
Bridge:
Floyd Rose Licensed Jackson Bridge with Double-Locking Tremolo
Tuners:
Die-Cast Tuners
PROS

Jackson high-output pickups

Classic Jackson signature tone

12”16” compound-radius

Floyd Rose Jackson bridge

Exceptional control, stability and power

Cons

Floyd Rose 1000 is hard to keep in tune

Needs modifications (brass frets, plastic tuners, bridge etc)

Might seem like a weird choice of a brand, but Yamaha will surprise you. If you’ve never held a guitar in your life, PAC012 could be an optional option due to its basic, but reliable setup. It has a cheaper but resonant tonewood – agathist, which falls somewhere in between alder and basswood, and produces warmer tones. A trio of custom Yamaha pickups offers the versatility of tones, while 5-position controls provide a wide variety of tone-shaping options.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Pacifica
Body wood:
Agathis
Neck:
“C”-shape
Neck material:
Maple, Bolt-on
Pick up:
Yamaha Ceramic Single Coil
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
22, Medium
Bridge:
Vintage Tremolo
Tuners:
Yamaha Sealed
PROS

Great for emerging players

Quality build and setup

H/S/S configuration

Sonic versatility

Cons

Basic setup

Fret buzz

This beast is ready to raise a little hell. It is speedy and deadly, this axe is a good option if your style leans on towards the metal genre. JS32 King V features a 12″-16″ compound-radius fretboard, delivers aggressive metal tones through Jackson high-output Zebra humbuckers, while Floyd Rose allows sound flexibility and ready to sustain serious abuse.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
King V
Body wood:
Poplar
Neck:
1-piece Bold-on Speed Neck
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
Jackson High Output Zebra Humbuckers
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
24 Jumbo
Bridge:
Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo
Tuners:
Jackson Sealed Die-Cast
PROS

Visual ferocity

12”-16” compound-radius fretboard

Dual high-output Jackson custom humbuckers

Hard-hitting aggressive tone

High-performance and stability

Cons

Basic set up

Floyd Rose does not hold tune

Not versatile

This one is an excellent starter for all you metalheads. ESP LTD series is all about reimagining classics and affordable prices. Despite the relatively low price, ESP LTF M-10 uses quality tonewoods electronics and solid hardware. Basswood and TOM bridge, offer wicked sonic resonance, ESP-designed LH-100 (B&N) humbuckers give well-rounded, crunchy tone.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
Soloist
Body wood:
Basswood
Neck:
“U”-shape, Bolt on
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
ESP Designed LH-100 (B&N)
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
22 XJ
Bridge:
Tune-o-Matic bridg
Tuners:
ESP
PROS

Great for the emerging metalheads

Quality built

Resonant & clear sounding

Crunchy and aggressive tone

Cons

Need upgrades

Not versatile

A 7-string axe is built for high-speed, low-drag shredding, a real deal for the metal and grunge fans. It has relatively cheaper, but solid materials (poplar body and maple neck) and electronics. We are talking about custom Ibanez fixed PSND-7 humbuckers, 3-way pick-up switch, and die-cast tuners.

Body type:
Solid
Body shape:
RG
Body wood:
Poplar
Neck:
GRG, Bolt-on
Neck material:
Maple
Pick up:
PSND-7 humbuckers
Fretboard wood:
Rosewood
Frets:
24, Jumbo
Bridge:
Ibanez 7-saddle, Fixed
Tuners:
Die-cast
PROS

7-string

Playability and comfort

Solid electronics

Cons

Goes out of tune

Poor finish (need upgrades)

Buyer’s Guide

New vs. Used Axes

Obviously, a brand-new glossy guitar is a dream. But how much the new guitar is actually better than a used one? It’s a complicated answer.

When it comes to new axes the most obvious pros are good condition and factory set up and quality. Most of them also come with a warrant (which is rather neat I’d say). As they come right from the factory you can do whatever the hell you want to after you get it. I mean upgrades, of course. You can adjust it to your liking with changing hardware and electronics, making it perfect for you.

However, used guitars aren’t too bad either. The greatest thing about this model is the price. Even the most expensive guitars of their time might come for under $300. So, if you are an experienced player, you’ll find used vintage guitars to be a sweet deal. However, many guitarists upgrade their guitars to their own liking, so when it comes to selling, you can never know what you get in terms of sound and quality.

Honestly, I would always recommend a new guitar, especially if you are a beginner. Considering the variety of options on the market, it’s possible to find a solid axe without breaking a bank.

Are budget guitars only for beginners?

Short answer: not quite.

Obviously, when you are just starting out and you know nothing about electronics or hardware, it is wiser to go for a cheaper version. Newbies usually can’t tell the difference between high-quality gear on an expensive one, and its cheap counterpart. So budget guitars are naturally the optimal choice for the beginners.

However, there are some solid budget guitars that experience player will be happy to try out, especially if you are learning new genres, developing new techniques and just trying out new brands. The Squier or Epiphone Les Paul-100 would be great options for you.

Guitars for under $300: what to look for

Chances are that if you are looking at this review you are a beginner in the guitar world. So I’m going to tell you this: You don’t need high-end electronics and big brands.

As you are just starting out, you need to go for the basic set up at the highest quality you can find. How can you determine the quality? Start with tonewoods and aim for mahogany or basswood. When it comes to hardware: look away from the Floyd Bridge as it will be hard to control and set up. When it comes to electronics: prioritize the ones with humbuckers, over single-coil. The best ones for you will be the Squier by Fender Vintage Modified Stratocaster Electric Guitar HSS or Epiphone Les Paul-100.

How budget guitars are different?

It’s a good question. There are, indeed, lots of guitars in the same series that look exactly the same, but the price difference is enormous. The reason behind this is pretty simple: it all comes down to the materials, hardware and craftsmanship.

Basically, budget guitars use cheaper raw materials (basswood and poplar) and hardware. Besides, they are also built with quicker production methods and often in Asia (Korea, China, Indonesia), which makes the production, and labor cost less. It could be somewhat of a problem because the quality may not be exceptional and there could be more flaws compare to the expensive once. Good news though, the quality of budget guitars has rocketed in recent years, and every legendary brand launched budget series like the Squier by Fender, Epiphone (bought by Gibson) and ESP LTD.

Conclusion

As you could see, there are plenty of budget options to choose from. There are axes for all complete beginners, amateur players learning new genres and simply those on a tight budget. My top pick is Squier by Fender Vintage Modified Stratocaster Electric Guitar HSS, which even experience player will find exceptional. If it will seem a bit too tricky to use, go for the Epiphone Les Paul-100 or Ibanez RG421. They all use quality raw material and have wicked electronics (compare to many others on the list). However, if you dream to be a new Kirk Hammett, go for ESP LTD M-10.

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By Max Hudson
    about author

    My name is Max Hudson, born and raised in Chicago. I'm 30 years old and like many other people, I discovered guitar in my teens and have never looked back since. It has quickly evolved into a passion and has given me a creative outlet, something to redirect my time and unlimited energy toward. I want this website to be a handbook for players of all skill levels. It can become a starting point for your new hobby, where you can find the right instrument, get tips for playing effortlessly or anything else music related.

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