10 Best Electric Guitars for Beginners Under $200

Updated on January 21, 2017
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Guitar Gopher is a guitarist and bassist with over 30 years of experience as a musician.

The Squier Affinity Stratocaster is one of the top guitars for beginners for under $200.
The Squier Affinity Stratocaster is one of the top guitars for beginners for under $200.

Electric Guitars for Beginners

A beginner looking for their first electric guitar has to sort through a huge amount of information in order to make a good decision. There is a lot to know about electric guitars, and someone who hasn’t yet played their first chord can’t be expected to figure it all out in the beginning.

I’ve assembled a list of some of the best electric guitars for beginners to help you out. All of these instruments are made by guitar manufacturers you can trust, and they are designs that have proven themselves over the years.

Best of all, you ought to be able to land each of these guitars for under $200, so you won’t end up spending too much on your first electric guitar. That’s important, because, remember, you’re still going to need an amp and accessories. Between two and three hundred dollars is a good ballpark figure for a quality starter electric guitar and amp setup.

On the other hand, you can spend a lot less. You may be tempted to choose a no-name brand from a big-box store, but you should think twice. Not only is a better guitar easier to learn on, and will provide greater inspiration for a newbie guitarist, but it will have a higher resale value if they suddenly decide they’d rather be a tuba player.

Is it better to start out on acoustic guitar? There is no reason for a beginner to start with an acoustic guitar if they’d rather play an electric, and in many ways it’s easier to learn on an electric guitar.

Here are ten great electric guitars for beginners. Hope you find this list helpful!

Squier Affinity Stratocaster

Squier is a brand owned by Fender, and Squier is allowed to build budget versions of classic Fender guitars, in this case, the Stratocaster. That means you can rest assured that, even though the Squier brand name is on the headstock, everything has to live up to Fender's high standards.

This is a guitar that players like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton helped to make famous.

The Fender Stratocaster has been the sound of rock music along with other classic insturments like the Gibson Les Paul. This is a design even folks who have never touched a guitar before might be familiar with.

But the Strat has a very different sound when compared to the Les Paul. It’s brighter, snappier and sounds a bit thinner.

That's not a bad thing at all. The distinctive Strat sound, and perfect Strat tone when you can get it, is cherished by guitar players the world over.

The Squier Affinity Strat has three single-coil pickups like a Fender Strat and the same general design. While of course it is not of the same quality it is capable of the same types of sounds as its Fender cousin.

It’s an excellent option not only for new guitarists who are interested in rock music, but may suit blues and country enthusiasts even better.

Learn More About the Squier Affinity Strat

Squier Affinity Telecaster

The Telecaster is another Fender classic made affordable through the Squier brand name. This is a guitar loved by country and rock players alike and associated with the familiar country twang.

The Telecaster is a bit different from the Strat, not only in body style but also in that it has one fewer pickup, and is capable of a different array of sounds. Of course many veteran players love the sound of a Fender Telecaster, but beginners ought to be sure what they are getting into. This is not a guitar that is likely to please metalheads or hard rock fans, but for country and blues newbies it may be right up their alley.

Strat or Telecaster? The choice is yours! The Stratocaster has more available sounds, and is slightly more suited to rock music. However, another thing to consider is that the Tele has a “hard tail” bridge rather than a tremolo bridge, and is therefore a bit easier for beginners to keep in tune.

Epiphone LP Special II

Epiphone is high on the list of best guitar brands or new and intermediate players. This is a company owned by Gibson, and therefore allowed to make recreations of famous Gibson designs, in this case the Les Paul.

You may recognize the Les Paul in the hands of famous guitar players like Billy Gibbons, Slash and Zakk Wylde.

Of course the LP Special II isn’t nearly like a Gibson Les Paul. It’s a stripped-down budget version intended for newbies.

But it does have some of the same attributes of a real Les Paul, such as a mahogany body and neck, a rosewood fingerboard, a pair of hot humbuckers and a three-way pickup selector switch.

The Epiphone LP Special II is my top choice for beginners who are looking for a first instrument that can range from hard-driving rock to jazz, blues and country.

The Les Paul sound is classic rock ‘n’ roll, captured here in a budget package newbies can afford.

Check out the Epiphone Les Paul Special II

Epiphone SG Special

Another great option from Epiphone is the SG Special. This is the beginner’s version of the Gibson SG, another classic Gibson design that has helped to shape rock music over the decades. Think Angus Young from AC/DC or Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath! It too has some of the same basic components as a real SG, for a super reasonable price.

The SG Special is quite similar to the LP Special, aside from the body shape. It has a mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, a pair of humbuckers and a three-way pickup selector switch. Both guitars feature tune-o-matic bridges with stop-bar tailpieces, which means they’ll stay in tune well and not require a lot of adjustment.

Les Paul Special or SG Special? Really, it’s a personal preference, and a new guitar player should simply choose whichever design they like the best. Either is a great choice for a beginning guitar player, especially one interested in rock music.

Jackson JS22 Dinky

Jackson is another guitar company known for their metal guitars, and their JS Series brings some of their legendary designs down to a price that newbies can afford. In fact, for beginners who know they want to play metal, the whole Jackson JS lineup is worth checking out.

The JS Series is comprised of affordable versions of Jackson’s most epic designs, and while many are a bit over the $200 limit they are still great bargains for beginners.

In this case we’re looking at the Jackson Dinky, a guitar model that does land within your $200 budget. It has a pretty arched-top basswood body, 24 frets with those cool classic Jackson sharkfin inlays, a pair of hot humbuckers and synchronized tremolo.

Jackson may be synonymous with metal, but this is a good looking and flexible instrument that will appeal to any beginner.

Check out the Jackson Dinky JS22

Ibanez GRX70QA

Ibanez is a guitar company known for instruments with thin necks, and for beginners that can make them a little easier to play. Players with small hands in particular may appreciate a neck that isn’t so fat, and allows for easier fretting of chords and notes.

The GRX70QA is based off of Ibanez’s classic RG line, a series of guitars loved by metal and hard rock players for the past three decades. For that reason this is an excellent choice for beginners who are interested in heavy music and shredding.

This guitar may be affordable, but it has what it takes under the hood. It features a poplar body with a bolt-on maple neck and a rosewood fingerboard. The pickups are a pair of hot Ibanez Infinity R humbuckers with an Infinty RS single coil between, all controlled via a five-way switch and one each volume and tone control.

Beginners should be careful not to get wrapped up in image. While this guitar is certainly geared toward rock music, the GRX70QA is also a flexible instrument. And, because of its ease of play, it would serve a beginner well no matter what their musical interest.


Charvel Desolation DS-3 ST

Here’s another single-cut design with a mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, great humbuckers, and a very sharp design. Charvel Desolation guitars stand out in a crowd, and the DS-3 is no different.

Charvel was once among the top rock guitar builders in the world, and while their popularity waned for a while they are on the comeback trail.

The Desolation is DS-3T is certainly geared toward heavier music, but Charvel was always a brand favored by shredders and metalheads. However, as you can see from the video below, this guitar is capable of all kinds of amazing sounds.

It has a price tag friendly to newbies, and a look that will motivate them to practice. I particularly like the Snow White finish on this guitar, with the two-tone pickups. Nice! After all, looks matter, and the best electric guitar for a beginner is one that inspires you to pick it up and play!

The Charvel Desolation DS-3 Demo


The EC-10 features a pretty single-cutaway body with a pair of humbucking pickups. It is an offshoot of the ESP-LTD EC lineup, which includes some amazing guitars. This is the littlest EC of the bunch, and a good option for beginners.

Personally, I like the ESP-LTD EC series a whole lot. I think it is one of the top alternatives to a Gibson Les Paul design, and while it is similar it has its own special vibe.

It’s got a basswood body and a maple beck, so it will sound slightly brighter than the LP Special above.

It’s tough choice between this guitar and the Epiphone LP Special II if you are looking for a Les Paul-style single-cutaway design. I think the Epi has a slight edge, but you both are great beginner’s guitars. Choose the one you find most inspiring!

Yamaha Pacifica PAC112J

The Yamaha Pacifica is an outstanding choice for a beginner because of its quality and flexibility. Yamaha is a guitar company that excels at providing great gear for newbies, both through their Pacifica electric guitar models and their FG Series acoustic guitars.

With a humbucker and a pair of single coil pickups the Pacifica is capable of a wide array of different sounds, from metal to rock to country and blues.

Beginners can learn what they like and don’t like about different guitar tones by experimenting with the different pickup combinations.

The Pacifica PAC112J has an alder body with a bolt-on maple neck and a rosewood fingerboard. This is a classic tonewood profile, and though beginners may not understand why it will yield good sounds. The vintage-style tremolo further allows new guitarists to experiment and discover the capabilities of the electric guitar.

Sterling SUB Silo3

Next on this top 10 list of best electric guitars for beginners is the Sterling by Music Man SUB Silo3. This is another unique and versatile guitar, one with a double-cutaway design, a single humbucker and two single coils.

This is an impressive guitar for this price range, and you ought to be able to grab one for under $200 if you look around a bit. Sterling is the budget version of Music Man, one of the finest guitar brands out there.

Like the Yamaha Pacifica, this guitar presents a bunch of different sounds for a beginner to experiment with. And, like the Yamaha, it gets high marks for its construction, sound and value.

It’s also a guitar with a unique look, with its body shape and 4x2 headstock design. If you are going to be a guitar player you'll have to learn how to march to the beat of your own drummer soon enough. May as well start being unique from the beginning!

The Epiphone Les Paul Special II  is an awesome choice for a beginner!
The Epiphone Les Paul Special II is an awesome choice for a beginner!

Choosing Your First Guitar

You can see from the descriptions above that some models are geared more toward certain styles of music. However, there is no wrong answer here. So which guitar should you pick?

In my opinion, the best all-around choice for beginners is the Epiphone Les Paul Special II. It's a solid instrument with some excellent tonal options, and will serve a newbie well for years to come. My second choice would be the Squier Affinity Strat, and if you play country or blues it may be your top choice.

Wannabe metal players should check out the Ibanez Gio Series. These are affordable guitars for beginners based on some of the most legendary instruments out there.

Those are my picks. If you've come to a different conclusion, don’t sweat it too much. As a beginner you should choose the guitar that most inspires you to want to play. All of these guitars are good choices for new guitar players and make excellent starter guitars.

Hopefully you have many guitars in your future, but your first guitar will always have a place in your heart, even if you go on to become a superstar guitar god some day. The most important thing is to have fun!

And, of course, to practice.

Your Choice: Which Under $200 Guitar is Best for Beginners?

Which one do you like best?

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© 2014 Guitar Gopher


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      Guitar Gopher 4 weeks ago

      @Brendan - Glad you love the guitar! A friend of mine had that Jackson and I thought it was an excellent instrument for the money.

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      Brendan 4 weeks ago

      As a beginner guitarist (with other music experience, I've played the cello for 9 years), I opted with the Jackson and I love it. Sure, The trem isn't perfect, but at this level, what is, and it really felt the best out of all the guitars here that I tested out. I love the fast neck, more than the Ibanez that my friend owns, all 24 frets, and the slightly smaller strat shape. Great guitar.