The 10 Best Electric Guitars under $500 in 2021: Reviews and Buyer’s Guide

The best electric guitars are not always the most expensive ones. The truth is that there are plenty of really good models under $500. However, with so many different options out there it can be hard to know what to look for in an electric guitar and which one will be the best fit for you. In this post, we’re going to cover everything you need to know about buying a new electric guitar and also review the 10 best electric guitars under $500 to help make your decision easier! Let’s get started.

Quick Answer: The Top Electric Guitars under $500

The Top Electric Guitars Under $500

1. Squier by Fender Classic Vibe 50s Telecaster

  • Warm tones
  • Enhanced playability
  • Classic look

If you are looking for an electric Fender with your next guitar purchase, you‘ve come to the right place, the home of electric guitars. The subsidiary of Fender’s is known throughout the music industry due to their iconic looks and superb sounds. One such guitar that fits this mould is the Classic Vibe ‘50s Telecaster, which many consider being an outstanding guitar for people who love the retro look and tone. The look of the guitar holds true to many other guitars that were made in the 1950s.

The cutaway shape, with multiple appointments that increase the guitar’s 50s, look only contribute to this style. The maple neck of the guitar features a vintage-tinted gloss with a modern twist – a C shape which really brings the two eras together. Regarding the hardware of this guitar, the components of this instrument only give a further boost to the look, tone, and playability. The guitar features two custom vintage-style single-coil Telecaster pickups that are tended by a three-way switching system, along with master volume and tone controls. On the bottom of the guitar is a Telecaster bridge that keeps in line with the traditional look and feel of the guitar.

A retro guitar should come with a retro tone, and this one nails it. Helped by the vintage bridge and single-coils, this classic feeling guitar provides a feeling of warmth when you hear that twang. It is an ideal choice for any musician looking to play blues, jazz, or country. The built-in Alnico III magnets boost the versatility of the guitar and offer a hotter output than one can expect, a perfect feature for any guitarist wanting to play classic rock and lighter stuff. Overall, this Classic Vibe ‘50s Telecaster is a simplistic and traditional guitar with a sweet sound. It is pretty easy to understand why this is such a popular choice amongst guitarists.

It is very playable for beginning players, but experienced ones will appreciate the tones that come out of it. For costing well under $1k, this guitar is certainly worth the investment, especially if you want a guitar with a classic vintage style.

2. Epiphone Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar

Epiphone 6 String Les Paul Standard Plustop PRO, Trans Black (ENLPTBNH3)
26 Reviews
Epiphone 6 String Les Paul Standard Plustop PRO, Trans Black (ENLPTBNH3)
  • The Les Paul Standard Plustop PRO has a AAA flame maple veneer top with the classic Les Paul mahogany body.
  • Mahogany set neck with traditional trapezoid inlays on the fingerboard. 24.75" scale length and 1.68" nut width.
  • This guitar is loaded with ProBucker-2 and ProBucker-3 pickups with coil-tapping. Locking Tune-o-matic bridge and...
  • Very similar to the original Gibson Les Paul
  • Iconic body shape
  • Vintage sound

A guitar that many aspiring musicians often desire is the original Gibson Les Paul. Unfortunately, the price of one is often way more than what people are willing to pay or can afford. Even on sites like eBay, it’s extremely rare that you’ll find it under $200. That is why the Epiphone Les Paul Standard is a great alternative. The guitar brings a very similar performance and feeling to the original Gibson Les Paul, but at a much more affordable rate. Not to mention, the design and makeup of the guitar is excellent for beginners and is often considered to be the gold standard for these types of players.

When it comes to guitars, there are two types of notable guitar body shapes. A Les Paul guitar is one of them, and the Epiphone mimics that same shape with its aesthetics and build. When you first look at the body of the guitar, you will notice it is made up of mahogany with a treated maple top. This body type may not be considered fancy, but it remains in a class of its own. The neck of the guitar is a standard maple design that features a high-quality rosewood fretboard. When you pivot to the electronics, one of the first things you will notice is the Alnico humbuckers. These two components are controlled by classic controls including two-tone control knobs and two volume knobs controls.

The hardware of the Epiphone Les Paul Standard is very similar to Gibson guitars. It contains a Tune-o-Matic bridge that is very sturdy and six adjustable saddles on the end. Every piece of hardware on the guitar comes in chrome, another similar aspect to what Gibson delivers. However, what might separate this guitar from other beginning level guitars is its sound. Of course, it is not the same tune as the original Gibson guitar, but it does dominate within its category. It features a vintage tone, handles distortion very well, contains clean environments and overdrive with much confidence. This guitar is ideal for those who enjoy playing metal music or blues.

If your finances are capable of doing so, then the Epiphone Les Paul Standard is an excellent choice for you. Many experts believe it is an ideal guitar to start your playing career. Features, like the axe of the guitar, are well balanced, which makes this instrument a strong performer. If you someday have your sights on the original Gibson guitar, then purchasing this guitar is a great solution until you can do so.

3. Silvertone Classic 1478 Electric Guitar

Silvertone Classic 1478 BK Electric Guitar, Gloss black
10 Reviews
Silvertone Classic 1478 BK Electric Guitar, Gloss black
  • Vintage vibe with a great playing neck
  • Bigsby Trem System
  • Tune-O-matic bridge lets you play in tune
  • Includes modern upgrades
  • Produces bright, punchy tones
  • Comfortable to play

For those looking for a truly classic guitar that takes you back to the ‘60s, then this Silvertone Classic 1478 is what you might want. It comes with a retro style and is based on the original 1478 that was released back in 1963. However, it does have some modern upgrades to help produce a bright and punchy tone that can help you recreate surf rock, blues, and more.

This guitar has the standard asymmetrical double-cutaway mahogany body, maple top, and a modern C-shaped mahogany neck. Featuring a rosewood fretboard, the instrument comes with 20 nickel-silver frets. One of its modern upgrades includes a fully adjustable chrome bridge, including an authentic Bigsby tremolo tailpiece. It features sealed chrome vintage-style tuners. The Silvertone Classic 1478 is able to achieve the vintage sound thanks to two Silvertone-designed chrome-covered coil pickups. Because it uses similar materials as the original guitar, it produces a comparable sound and tone.

4. Schecter Omen Extreme 6 Electric Guitar

Schecter Omen Extreme-6 Electric Guitar (Black Cherry)
88 Reviews
Schecter Omen Extreme-6 Electric Guitar (Black Cherry)
  • Modern 6-string electric guitar in black cherry with quilted top for good looks and comfort
  • Comfortable double-cutaway body gives you full access to the fast maple neck
  • 24 extra-jumbo frets for speed and comfort
  • Built for fast-playing
  • Produces a clear sound
  • High-quality hardware

Schecter is well-known for delivering superior instruments without having to break the bank for it. The Omen Extreme 6 provides a great look, sound, and playability at an affordable price.

This particular guitar is comfortable to hold and has a carved quilted top made of maple and a mahogany body. The finish comes in any color you want and is of high quality. Its bolt-on maple neck allows for you to move up and down it quickly, and comes with 24 jumbo frets, so you can easily string bend.

The Omen Extreme 6 comes with two Schecter Diamond Plus alnico humbuckers which help to produce a clear sound that keeps its clarity even when you play it at the highest volume possible. The black chrome controls and bridge also add to the premium feel of this guitar.

5. Yamaha RevStar RS420 Electric Guitar

Yamaha RevStar RS420 Eletcric Guitar with Gig Bag, Fire Red
29 Reviews
Yamaha RevStar RS420 Eletcric Guitar with Gig Bag, Fire Red
  • Alnico V magnet and German silver baseplate for powerful, open tone
  • VH3 Vintage output humbucker
  • Solid Nato Body with Maple Top
  • Vintage look
  • Well sustained notes
  • Great value

The Yamaha RevStar RS420 is considered one of the biggest guitars in the market. Inspired from the 1960s stripped-down version of the street-racing motorbikes of London and Tokyo, this guitar has a classic retro look with a modern-day sound. When taking a closer look at the body, the guitar player will notice the big palette containing cool vintage finishes. The materials make it very comfortable to hold and play with its deep bell cut and hidden forearm contour.

As for the electronics of this electric guitar, there is a lot about it to make any musician excited. The RS420 contains two passive VH humbuckers with Alnico V magnets. These features are controlled by standard components that one might expect with a master tone and master volume control. There is a three-way selector switch as well as a Dry Switch. The Dry Switch can be accessed with a push/pull function on the tone control by the hum-free single coils.

This guitar’s sound is unlike any other. It is often described as having very powerful rock tones, but it can resort to a mellow vintage tone as well. This mellow state is where some musicians feel the guitar truly excels. The humbuckers provide a lot of warmth when the Dry Switch is triggered, but the best sound feature might occur with the split-coil pickups. When this happens the notes are nicely sustained and linger quite beautifully.

Once you grab the Yamaha RevStar RS420 it is hard to turn your sights on another guitar. It is very comfortable to play with great sounds. The design and features of the guitar will make any other musician envious. This versatile guitar is worth every dollar spent.

6. Squier Contemporary Active Stratocaster Electric Guitar

Squier by Fender Contemporary Active Stratocaster Electric Guitar - HH - Rosewood Fingerboard - Flat Black
82 Reviews
Squier by Fender Contemporary Active Stratocaster Electric Guitar - HH - Rosewood Fingerboard - Flat Black
  • Dual Squier Active Ceramic humbucking pickups for modern and aggressive tones
  • Maple neck with slim "C"-Shaped profile and matching painted reverse headstock
  • 12" Fingerboard radius; jumbo Frets
  • Affordable guitar
  • Perfect for heavy rock and metal rhythms
  • Great color choices

Playing metal music on a Strat guitar is almost expected in this day and age. So this guitar, the Squier Contemporary Active Stratocaster, is one of the best at doing so when it comes to beginning level guitars. This instrument features active electronics and components that cater to both massive rock players as well as metal players. For starters, the body of this guitar is very familiar to other Strat guitars in a natural way. The shape of the Contemporary Active Stratocaster features a double-cutaway Strat shape that is made from poplar. Regarding the color of the guitar, you have a choice between Olympic White or Flat Black. You can not go wrong with either option!

The neck of the guitar is a classic Fender/Squier in shape and construction. It is bolted on and made from maple while featuring a C shape. Many musicians praise how comfortable it is to hold the guitar while playing. The whole of the body is very typical of Squier Strats, but the overall hardware of the guitar sets itself apart from other beginners. The electronics of the guitar do not contain the standard trio of single-coils, but instead, switch over to a duo of Squier Active Humbuckers. The tuners on the guitar are part of a standard die-cast set. The bridge of the guitar shakes things up and cements itself a position as a real metal guitar.

When it comes to the sound of the guitar, one should not expect it to sound like a Strat. However, that should be viewed as a good thing. This guitar model instead produces a super-hot high output, perfect for those musicians who like to play the heavy, crunch-saturated rock tones. The sound of this guitar is also ideal for those who enjoy playing metal rhythm and lead. The pickups of the guitar remain focused while playing, which help produce a clean sound. It should be noted that the tone is a bit more sterile than other guitars with an active pickup, but the price of this guitar makes it hard to complain.

As a player, if you think Strats should require a specific pickup configuration and tone, then you may not be impressed with this guitar. However, in our books, this one is a clear winner. It is a solid Strat guitar containing heavy rock and metal sounds when played. Not to mention, it is an affordable guitar for any beginning level player.

7.  ESP LTD KH-202 Kirk Hammett Electric Guitar

ESP LTD KH-202 Signature Series Kirk Hammett Electric Guitar, Black
75 Reviews
ESP LTD KH-202 Signature Series Kirk Hammett Electric Guitar, Black
  • Offers guitar players an affordable way to get Kirk Hammett's vibe
  • Has a basswood body with a maple neck and a rosewood fingerboard
  • Comes equipped with a Floyd Rose Special bridge and locking nut
  • Designed to rock hard
  • Ideal for any lead guitarist
  • Produces power, chunky, and crisp tones

If you are appreciative of Kirk Hammett model guitars, then the ESP KH is a great one for you. It provides a feeling of satisfaction when you can shred along to some epic solos with this guitar. The only problem is that the cost of the signature Kirk Hammett ESP KH is very high. There is a solution though for those who are a bit strapped for cash, and it is the KH-202 from ESP’s budget line LTD.

For many die hard Metallica fans, they turn to a Kirk Hammet model as their choice of guitar. Part of the appeal comes from the sound that is produced while playing, but the real reason is because of the body and neck of it. The KH-202 at first glance looks very similar to the expensive signature model, but upon closer inspection, you will be able to notice it is a pretty simple makeup overall. This guitar, though, contains many vital details that make this guitar anything but average. One of those facets is the distinctive reverse headstock and Hammett’s iconic skull and crossbones inlays. The body of the guitar is made of solid basswood with a deep, glossy black finish. The U-shaped maple neck is very sturdy and incredibly fast to move around while playing.

Regarding the hardware of this instrument, the guitar offers enough satisfying components with a lead player in mind. The Floyd Rose Special Tremolo has a locking nut which makes it ideal for those who want to bash, bed, and dive bomb- all without having to alter the tuning of it. The electronics of the guitar contains a pair of ESP-designed LH-301 humbuckers at the bridge and neck positions with volume control for each pickup. It is undoubtedly built for those who want to rock hard while featuring a touch of warmth in the sound. The sound falls in line with Classic Metallica when played.

This guitar is designed for any lead guitarist who wants to jam out on the center stage. The musical instrument offers a bold, articulate, and mix-cutting sound. The frets, bridge, and overall neck of the guitar make sure nothing is standing in your way when playing a blazing solo on stage. For just under $500, The ESP LTD KH-202 Kirk Hammett is a workhorse of a guitar and one that will ensure you feel good having bought it the moment you first play it.

8. Silvertone Classic 1423 RSFB Electric Guitar

Silvertone Classic 1423-RSFB Solid-Body Electric Guitar, Red/Silver Flake Burst
1 Reviews
Silvertone Classic 1423-RSFB Solid-Body Electric Guitar, Red/Silver Flake Burst
  • Duncan Designed pickups
  • 2 volume 2 tone controls
  • Blend control allows you to alter the balance between the pickups
  • Excellent retro style
  • Upgraded hardware
  • Versatile to many different sounds

One look at the Silvertone 1423 and you’ll be taken back to the 1960s. This type of guitar, which first made its debut in the Sears catalog, was once one of the most popular guitar choices for any beginning level player. Fast forward to today and a lot of those same features back then that drew so many new players remain a staple in Silvertone Classic guitars today. It starts with the style of the guitar.

The look of the guitar maintains that classic retro style, featuring a curvy asymmetrical double-cutaway length solid body that is made of mahogany and maple. In terms of color schemes, players can choose either from Red Silver Flake or solid Black. The neck of the guitar is a sturdy bolt-on that is also made up of mahogany while sporting a modern C shape, making it easy for new beginners to hold and play. Overall the guitar feels comfortable to play based on how light it is.

Although the guitar keeps up with that retro style look, the hardware of the guitar is anything but vintage. One such change is within the bridge of the guitar. This latest version no longer features the rosewood style of the original, but rather an adjustable and fully reliable chrome bridge with a tune-o-matic style. The tremolo tailpiece creates interestingly nifty vibrato effects, and in the headstock of the guitar are six sealed chrome vintage-style tuners. All this, though, contributes to a vintage-style sound. After all, with a guitar that looks retro, it would be pretty disappointing if this one didn’t sound like it. One strum of the guitar will produce a perfect sound that gives off a great ’60s vibe.

This guitar will conjure up feelings from the good ole’ days, with its vintage style and vintage sound. However, the upgraded components will soon make you realize you’re not playing an out of date and out of tune guitar. Overall it is one of the most comfortable guitars to play, and one that can be versatile to many different types of musical styles. All of this makes it easy to see why this type of guitar is still a fan favorite.

9. Schecter Stealth C-1 Electric Guitar

Schecter 406 Stealth C-1 FR SBK Electric Guitars
3 Reviews
Schecter 406 Stealth C-1 FR SBK Electric Guitars
  • SUPERROCK II hand-wound pickups
  • Ultra-access set mahogany neck
  • Arched Mahogany Bound Body
  • Packs a punch
  • Reliable guitar
  • Consistent success

If there is one thing Schecter guitars are known for, it is for their constant success. Schecter’s have been a staple within the metal music scene for decades, and the Schecter Stealth C-1 is an example of why. Not only is it because they are affordable, but also because they know how to perform exceptionally well, especially in the metal industry.

Back when Schecter first began producing guitars, they used a straightforward body shape. This shape was an arched Super Strat design that merged several features. Today, the body features an attractive quilted maple top over mahogany with a solid maple piece neck that is ideal for players who can shred with speed and accuracy. The electronics of the guitar feature a set of Schecter Diamond SuperRock-II humbuckers, which might take a bit of getting used to when first starting out.

Tune-o-Matic bridges are often one of the first things new players notice when first playing Schecter guitars. The guitar features excellent heavy gain distortion and a few pickups that are quite magnificent, considering they are an in-house built pair. Another impressive feature about this guitar is the capability for you to go several keys deeper when tuning it.

There are many out there that consider the Schecter Stealth C-1 an entry-level guitar. Reasons such as its passive pickups are some of the criticisms one might hear when it comes to this instrument. However, the fact of the matter is this guitar packs a big punch that not a lot can see. In the end, this guitar is a working musician’s trusted tool and one that will always be reliable and meet expectations.

10. ESP LTD EC-256FM Electric Guitar

ESP LTD EC-256FM Electric Guitar, Cobalt Blue
82 Reviews
ESP LTD EC-256FM Electric Guitar, Cobalt Blue
  • An affordable and popular guitar with many similarites to some of the most highly-regarded guitars in history
  • Features a comfortable Mahogany body and 3 pc. neck, as well as roasted jatoba fingerboard and flamed maple top
  • Also features covered passive pickups, set-neck construction, and 22XJ frets
  • Unique color
  • Easily playable
  • Good tuning stability

Nowadays, guitars can have some very different color choices. One such guitar might be the epitome of such a statement, and that is the ESP LTD EC-256FM. This guitar is a lemon drop color and subsequently nicknamed the lemon drop. However, despite this guitar’s sweet looking color, it contains many features that pack a punch.

When taking a look at the design of the guitar, the lemon drop contains many features that come with high praise. The design of it appears to have merged features of a vintage Les Paul with touches of a metal attitude. It features a classic Les Paul cutaway shape, and the body of the guitar is constructed out of solid mahogany with a maple top. It should be noted that if you are not a fan of the lemon drop color, then the guitar also does come in a translucent black and “Cherry Sunburst.” It features a beautiful high gloss finish with a cream binding that encompasses the entire body and neck.

Regarding the hardware of the guitar, the lemon drop consists of a three-way pickup selector switch and an individual rotary control with each pickup. The master tone control includes a coil-split via either a push/pull mechanism. This is in addition to the single-coil tone to the humbuckers, which provide excellent tuning stability. In terms of the sound, it has been described as a workhorse of a guitar. The high output makes it an ideal instrument for those who play heavy rock and vintage blues. When the coils have split, the musician will get a bright Strat-style tone, a feature that provides full versatility for the guitarist.

No matter what kind of player you are, it will be pretty hard to find any significant issues with this guitar. The fit finish of the guitar, mixed with the beautiful look and tone, are all facets that are sure to impress any audience you play in front of. Not to mention, it is extremely playable for any level of player. All of these are only further highlighted by how affordable the guitar is. The lemon drop ESP LTD EC-256FM should be on the shortlist of any entry-level musician.