10 Best Electric Guitars Under $1000

Updated on February 8, 2018
Guitar Gopher profile image

Guitar Gopher is a guitarist and bassist with over 30 years of experience as a musician.

The best electric guitars for under a grand.
The best electric guitars for under a grand.

Electric Guitars Under $1000

If you plan to spend $1000 you want the best electric guitar you can get your hands on. It might surprise you to know there are some classic guitars out there with features that bring their price tags into your budget range. If you are willing to do some research, there are gems to be found.

Think you can't land an American-made Gibson or Fender for under a grand? Read on!

Hopefully I can make your life a little easier with this short list of some of the best options out there for under a thousand bucks. You'll see some names and designs you recognize, presented in a new way by some very clever gear makers. You might also see a few surprises thrown in.

If you stick to your budget you can grab a quality instrument that is good enough for the stage or studio, and will stay with you for decades. As you'll see, there is a reason these are some of the most popular guitars in the world!

Remember, even the guys in your favorite bands who have those high-profile gear endorsement deals didn't start out playing expensive guitars. Just like you and me, they made do with the best guitars they could find for the money. A thousand dollars is more than enough to hook you up with a great sounding instrument.

Here are ten instruments made by the top guitar brands in the world. You should be able to grab each of them new for under $1,000 as of this update. However, remember that prices and specs change. While I do my best to keep everything accurate, please be sure to check the manufacturer websites for the latest info on their gear.

Top 10 Electric Guitars Under $1000

  1. Gibson Les Paul Faded
  2. Fender American Special Stratocaster
  3. ESP LTD EC-1000T/CTM
  4. PRS SE Custom 24
  5. Schecter Hellraiser C-1
  6. Charvel San Dimas and So Cal
  7. Fender American Special Telecaster
  8. Jackson SL2 Pro Soloist
  9. Ibanez Iron Label S-Series SIX
  10. Gibson SG Faded

Below you can find more information for each guitar on my list.

Gibson Les Paul Faded

The Gibson Les Paul Studio is one of my all-time favorite guitars. It’s a real Les Paul, American made and with all the great things you’d come to expect from Gibson, but without all the ornate cosmetics of a Les Paul Standard.

Still, a new Les Paul Studio comes in around the $1500 mark. That’s a little steep for some players, and it doesn’t fit into our budget for this review.

Enter the Gibson Les Paul Faded. The faded designation, as you probably guessed, refers to the paint job. These guitars featured a lighter satin finish, not the hi-gloss lacquer you’ll find on the basic Studio. That’s one big reason this guitar is so affordable.

There are a few more differences from the basic Studio. I think the most notable is the pickups. The Studios I’ve owned in the past featured Gibson’s 490R/498T pickups set, and this combination is back on the Studio T.But the Faded Les Paul Features open-coil 490R and 490T pickups. It’s a subtle difference, but one that may matter to some players.

It also has a maple neck, which differs from the mahogany found in the traditional Les Paul tonewood profile. This combination will present a somewhat brighter and more aggressive sound.

Other features include vintage-style tuners, a slim-taper neck profile, and Tektoid nut.

Gibson Les Paul Faded 2018, Worn Cherry
Gibson Les Paul Faded 2018, Worn Cherry

The Faded Les Paul plays and sounds like a Gibson should. In my opinion it is the top electric guitar under $1000 on the market today.

 
  • Pros: It’s nice to see Gibson offering a super-affordable, American-made Les Paul with classic features - one that doesn’t have the name Epiphone on the headstock!
  • Cons: After all these years I’m still not totally sold on the worn finishes. This is purely an aesthetic issue, and maybe you’ll love them. (I do like the Worn Cherry finish on my Faded LP.)
  • Note: If you can find one, you might also check out the Les Paul Studio Faded T from 2016. This was a great guitar, and I'm glad I grabbed one while I could!


Fender American Special Stratocaster

The Fender American Standard Stratocaster is a classic guitar that needs to be mentioned in any discussion of top-of-the-line instruments, but a new one will push you over the thousand-dollar budget. There are plenty of copies out there, and of course you can go the Made-in-Mexico Standard Strat route for around $600, but why not grab a real American-made Strat?

The American Special Stratocaster is definitely one of the best electric guitars under $1000 you're going to find. Fender cuts a few corners to make sure you stay under budget, but you're still left with an amazing USA-made guitar.

Because of its wide range of pickup combinations, many players consider the Fender Stratocaster the best all-around guitar out there. The American Special version is no different. With Fender Custom Shop Texas Special pickups and the special Grease Bucket tone circuit this thing just oozes Strat mojo. And the vintage-style headstock is just plain cool!

It's tough to find a better value than the Fender American Special Stratocaster. These guitars are real American-made Fenders for very affordable prices, and they sound great. They give the USA-made Fender Standard Stratocaster a run for its money.

  • Pros: This thing will sound good enough to make your forget some of the downgraded hardware. You can always upgrade later.
  • Cons: If your definition of an American Strat is the American Standard then, no, this is not a "real" American Stratocaster. Do you care? You shouldn't.
  • Note: I feel like this guitar is entering a “get ‘em while you can” era. Some models are already slightly over the $1000 mark and it probably won’t be long until you can’t get one at this price point any longer.

Guitar World Looks at the Fender American Special Series

ESP LTD EC-1000T/CTM

The ESP LTD EC-1000 is one of my favorite alternatives to the Gibson Les Paul, because ESP does a great job of adding some features to their guitars that Gibson might never dare. In this case, it’s a pair of active EMG pickups: a EMG 81 in the bridge and EMG 60 in the neck. This is a legendary pickup combination, and paired with the already awesome tonal characteristics of the EC-1000 will bring out some great sounds.

Check out the EC-1000 line in general, but if you have $1,000 to spend you may want to consider this badboy. It's something like a Les Paul, but with that signature ESP custom vibe to it. Very cool.

With its modern take on a classic design the ESP LTD EC-1000 gives guitar players in all genres a solid option when it comes to single-cutaway, dual humbuckers electric guitars.

It has the sound for any style of music, but for hard rock and metal players it may be the ultimate weapon.

ESP LTD EC-1000T/CTM Electric Guitar with EMG Pickups, Snow White
ESP LTD EC-1000T/CTM Electric Guitar with EMG Pickups, Snow White

Hard rock and metal players who like the classic single-cutaway body style should give the EC-1000 a look.

 
  • Pros: The ESP Eclipse is an incredible guitar, and this LTD rendition is a great version for under a grand.
  • Cons: Because it's sandwiched somewhere between a Les Paul and something more modern, guitar players who are sticklers for tradition might not dig the EC-1000.
  • Note: The ESP LTD EC-1000 is available in several models with various pickups and finishes. If you don't like EMGs, there are versions with Duncan and DiMarzio pickups as well.

Hear the ESP LTD EC-1000T/CTM

PRS SE Custom 24

The PRS SE lineup gives fans of PRS guitars a way to own some of their classic designs without the classic price tags. The SE Custom is one of their top offerings, and very affordable. In fact, at one time it made the top of my list for best guitars under $750.

You can still grab one for around that price, though depending on the finish and hardware prices can be a bit higher. Don’t worry though; you’ll still stay under your $1000 today.

I’ve always loved the feel of PRS guitars. They have a different scale length compared to both the Les Paul and Stratocaster, and the carved tops are fantastic. The SE Series really does a great job of bringing everything players love about PRS to another level of guitar player.

Like the PRS Custom, the SE version features a mahogany body, and a mahogany neck with a rosewood fingerboard.

PRS CM4SR2 SE Custom 24 Electric Guitar, Scarlet Red
PRS CM4SR2 SE Custom 24 Electric Guitar, Scarlet Red

PRS guitars are legendary, and the SE series are some of the top guitars for the money.

 
  • Pros: Great build quality and design in an affordable guitar. The PRS SE Custom 24 is a solid alternative to the PRS Custom 24 for players on a budget.
  • Cons: The main competition for the PRS SE lineup is Epiphone, guitars that typically cost a few hundred bucks less.
  • Note: The PRS SE Custom is also available in a Floyd Rose model.

More on the PRS SE Custom 24

Schecter Hellraiser C-1

For a long while I have said Schecter guitars may be the best values in the music world. They are well made, and feature appointments not often found on guitars under a thousand dollars. The C-1 is a beautiful body shape, and Schecter puts out some great options featuring this design. Personally, I've never played a Schecter I didn't like, and the Hellraiser follows in the that tradition.

The Hellraiser is a guitar that looks as good as it sounds, even with pretty finishes and bindings. The mahogany body with maple top allows for deep resonance and clarity, and the maple/walnut neck is rock solid.

Add in a TonePros tune-o-matic bridge, string-thru body design, and locking tuners and this thing is built like a tank. The active EMG 81/89 pickup set completes the tonal package.

Schecter Hellraiser C-1 Electric Guitar (Black Cherry)
Schecter Hellraiser C-1 Electric Guitar (Black Cherry)

Schecter guitars are always high-quality gear. The Hellraiser C-1 brings that Schecter reputation to rock-solid instrument made for rock and metal. It looks like a much more expensive guitar, and it sounds even better than it looks.

 
  • Pros: Schecters are always great guitars, and solid to the core. The EMGs are icing on the cake.
  • Cons: The vibe of this guitar may be a little intense for some genres, though it can no doubt do the job.
  • Note: The Hellraiser is available in several different models and each differs slightly from the description above. There is even a version with a Floyd Rose tremolo that will still come in under your $1000 budget.

Check Out the Schecter Hellraiser Series

Charvel Pro Mods: San Dimas and So Cal

I love single-cutaway guitars made in the Les Paul-mold. In fact, I love all guitars, from acoustics to pointy-shaped metal machines. But, when I am really honest with myself, I have to admit that the guitars I love most are Stratocasters. I know I am not alone!

Fender Strats are awesome, but if you want a truly hot-rodded, tricked-out, Strat-style guitar take a hard look at Charvel. This is the company that took hard rock and metal by storm in the ‘80s, only to fade out when grunge became popular, and guitar solos became passé.

All good things come around again, and it seems Charvel is getting stronger year after year. With awesome appointments like Seymour Duncan pickups, Floyd Rose tremolos and fast, one-piece quartersawn maple necks the glory days of shred are back again.

  • Pros: Quality appointments and build make the San Dimas and So Cal among the best electric guitar values under $1000. They are built for precision, and if you want a hot-rodded Strat-style guitar this is the way to go.
  • Cons: These guitars definitely have an ‘80s hard-rock vibe. To me that’s a good thing, and it’s nice to see these styles returning, but it may turn some players off.
  • Note: There are several styles of San Dimas and So Cal in the Charvel lineup, so make sure you check them all out before making a decision.

Hear the Charvel Pro Mod San Dimas Style 1 HH

Fender American Special Telecaster

Some players love the Fender Stratocaster, but for others it’s all about the Telecaster. Fender has you covered either way with the American Special Series.

The Fender American Special Telecaster follows the same smart construction philosophy as the Strat: Quality components where they count, slight downgrades where possible, and an overall package that sounds and looks great without crossing the line on your $1000 budget.

This guitar combines modern components like a pair of Texas Special pickups and Fender’s Grease Bucket tone circuit along with classic Tele staples like a vintage 3-saddle bridge and an Alder body with maple neck and fingerboard.

It's big step up from the Fender MIM Standard Telecaster, and a great way to land a quality American-made Tele for an affordable price.

  • Pros: This is a pretty awesome Telecaster for the money. Fender has a few different models under a grand, but in my opinion this is the best you are going to do. I like the Texas Special pickups, and they’ll make this guitar sound just a bit nastier than that typical Tele tone.
  • Cons: Pretty much the same as the Strat. The bottom line is this is an affordable Telecaster with some impressive features. It's not an American Standard, but a darned good guitar.

Jackson SL2 Pro Soloist

The Jackson Soloist is a classic, and one of my favorite guitars of all time. Born in the ‘80s, it is perhaps the ultimate Super Strat. From classic rock to extreme metal, the Jackson Soloist has made its mark.

You can drop a lot of cash on a Jackson Soloist if you feel like it, but to make this list a guitar needs to be one of the top choices under $1000. The Jackson SL2 Pro Soloist fits that description.

The SL2 Soloist features a 3-piece, though-body maple neck with an alder body, a compound-radius, 24-fret ebony fingerboard and Floyd Rose tremolo system. This creates the fast, solid frame Soloists are known for.

Where much of the rock and metal world is swaying toward active pickups, this guitars features passive Seymour Duncans, a JB at the bridge and SH-1 at the neck. These pickups give the guitar a powerful but classic sound with plenty of character.

Aesthetically, the colors are basic, but there is pretty white binding on the neck and headstock, and very cool alumiloid pirana inlays take the place of the Jackson sharkfins.

  • Pros: If you want a guitar with a legendary reputation and a classic sound for anything from hard rock to extreme metal, you don’t need to look any further than the Soloist SL2 Pro.
  • Cons: A few more color options would have been nice. Otherwise, it’s tough to find fault with this guitar.
  • Note: There are a lot of affordable, quality guitars in the Jackson Pro Series, in styles such as the Rhoads, King V and Dinky. Check them all out before making a decision.

Hear the Jackson SL2 Pro Soloist

Ibanez Iron Label S-Series SIX

Ibanez guitars are good in general, but the RG tends to get all the attention. Ibanez is known for making great metal guitars, especially for the shred crowd. The S series continues this tradition. With a slimmer and sleeker body style than the RG, Ibanez S guitars are pretty awesome in their own right

The Ibanez Iron Series debuted a few years ago, with some awesome additions to the S lineup. The Ibanez Iron Label S-Series SIX is a gorgeous guitar and a top choice for under $1000. There are a range of awesome tops, and with Ibanez pickups and hardware you’ll get the great sound and performance you expect. An amazing guitar at an amazing price.

The Iron Label Series makes one of the best metal brands in the world a little more metal. Some of the unique appoints are Ibanez Fusion Edge pickups, an Edge-Zero II tremolo, ebony fingerboard, coil tap and the Nitro Wizard neck.

  • Pros: This guitar is fast, with hot pickups, and I love ebony fretboards. Shredders can’t ask for much more. And it's an Ibanez, so you know it will be put together with precision.
  • Cons: Definitely geared for the shredder. If that's you great. If not, maybe look elsewhere.
  • Note: The Ibanez S Series is an incredible group of guitars, but you also shouldn't overlook the RG Series. There are several Ibanez RG models that will keep you under your $1000 budget.

Gibson SG Faded

Like the Les Paul, the Gibson SG is a classic. But, the Standard version will land you around $1500 and over our budget for this article. Fortunately, like the Les Paul, Gibson gives us a faded version.

As with the Les Paul Faded, Gibson cuts some costs by skipping the fancy bits, and employing some rough but very classy looking finishing techniques. The pickups are open-coil 490R/Ts, and the layout is exactly what you'd expect from a real Gibson SG. The body is mahogany, but like the Les Paul Faded the neck is maple.

The Gibson Faded Series are nice guitars, and they got a lot of great reviews. The SG Faded only landed so low on my list because the Standard is only a few hundred dollars more. It used to be that Gibson had real Les Pauls and SG around the $700 range, and that was a great deal.

I still think the SG Faded is an excellent guitar, but for the price difference I'd probably suck it up and go with the Standard.

Pros: This is a very cool guitar, and it’s a very affordable way to get a real Gibson.
Cons: As I said, the price is just too close to the Standard.
Note: Don't be afraid to look at Epiphone when it comes to Les Pauls and SGs.

Choosing Your New Guitar

Some of the suggestions above might seem unusual, but if you want to find the best electric guitar under $1000 you might need to take the road less traveled.

There are some excellent deals out there if you take the time to search them out. The important thing is that you choose a guitar with a sound and look you like, no matter what it says on the headstock.

Remember that these are just suggestions. As always, I invite you to do your own research and draw your own conclusions. Back in the before time, when you wanted to buy a new guitar the first thing you did to begin your quest was get in your car and drive down to the music store. Today, it’s wise to do your research beforehand. Take advantage of the internet for discovering what guitars are out there, how much they cost and what people are saying about them.

Personally, I don't think you can go wrong with any of the instruments in this review. I wouldn't recommend them if I didn't think they were the best out there, and great values.

Good luck finding your new guitar!

Your Opinion: Which is the Best Electric Guitar Under $1000?

Which guitar is the top choice of the lot?

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    • profile image

      Armando 

      11 months ago

      I like the schecter hellraiser and Ltd ec 1000 the best personally but those are the type of guitars I go for. There are plenty of different choices on this list to satisfy most players. I think the prs se is pretty sweet too.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Guitar Gopher 

      12 months ago

      @PartimusPrime: The 2017 version is a fine guitar, but I like the 2016 model a bit better. The 2016 has the mahogany neck (vs maple) and it has the Burstbucker Pros vs the open-coil 490T/R set. Cosmetically, I like the look of the 2016 as well . . . it looks like a Studio. The 2017 has different knobs, dot inlays instead of block and lacks the slick chrome pickup covers. Soundwise I think you'll find the 2017 a little brighter and hotter.

    • profile image

      PartimusPrime 

      12 months ago

      How do the Gibson Les Paul Faded 2016 and 2017 models compare?

    • profile image

      Daniel 

      15 months ago

      Les Paul Tribute 2017 T with the Satin Gold Top for $899. My favorite new guitar for 2017.

    • Guitar Gopher profile imageAUTHOR

      Guitar Gopher 

      16 months ago

      @ Bobby Joe: It think that's a great choice at this price point. A little more expensive than the Faded T, but you should still be able to grab one for under $1000.

    • profile image

      Bobby Joe Phibbitts 

      16 months ago

      What about the 2017 Gibson Les Paul Tribute T!!!

    • profile image

      Eric 

      2 years ago

      Jackson pro dinky is the best under a grand! I've owned or played them all!

    • profile image

      Dr a k dyal 

      2 years ago

      Good survey .I guessed Schecter guitar has to be there and I wasn't disappointed either.

    • profile image

      Michael 

      3 years ago

      Check out a Reverend or a G&L Tribute series. For under or about a grand either one blows the guitars on this list away.

    • profile image

      James 

      4 years ago

      Chapman guitars are a great deal.

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