Fender Mexican Strat vs American Stratocaster Guitar Review

Mexican Strat vs American: Which Fender guitar is  the best choice for you?
Mexican Strat vs American: Which Fender guitar is the best choice for you?

Fender Stratocaster MIM vs MIA

The Fender Stratocaster is a special guitar. Whether you play the American-made classic or the Mexican-made Standard, you know you’ve got a guitar that lives up to the Fender name.

Of course the Fender American Standard Stratocaster is a legendary instrument, sought after by many players from the moment they learn to fret a note. The list of players who have relied on the Strat for their sound reads like a who’s-who of guitar history. From Jimi Hendrix, to Yngwie Malmsteen, to Stevie Ray Vaughan, to Eric Clapton — musicians in every genre and style have squeezed incredible sounds out of the Stratocaster.

Unfortunately, while the asking price is well worth it, the cost of new American Strat may be too steep for some players. So Fender gives us the Standard Stratocaster, a made-in-Mexico version of this iconic guitar. Often referred to as the MIM (Made in Mexico) Stratocaster, it’s a great instrument, and comes in at less than half the price of a USA Strat.

The only problem is that this puts many players in a mental bind. Should you drop the cash on an American Stratocaster, or go with the less expensive MIM Strat? What’s the difference anyway?

I've been playing an MIM HSS Strat for years. I also own and have owned MIA Strats. This article will take a look at some of the reasons a guitarist might choose one over the other. Hopefully by the time we are done, you’ll have a clearer idea of which guitar is better for you, your budget, and your needs.

5 Reasons to Choose the Mexican Stratocaster

For some players, the cost-effective Standard Stratocaster is simply a better choice. Not every player needs or wants the hassle of worrying about and caring for an expensive guitar. Other players simply may not have progressed enough in their playing to justify spending more money on a guitar.

Hey, that’s why Fender makes different models of Stratocaster to cater to every style and ability, from Squier lineup for the beginner who is picking up a guitar for the first time to the seasoned veteran.

Here are five reasons you might choose a Mexican Strat over the American version.

  1. Cost. Obviously this is the main reason driving most people who choose a Mexican Strat. Standard MIM Stratocasters cost far less that an American Standard Strat. For many players an MIM Stratocaster is a stepping stone to the real deal. The quality isn’t quite as high, but a Mexican Strat is a solid instrument that will last a long time if you treat it right.
  2. Performance. Is a Mexican Strat as good as an American one? Nope. It doesn’t sound as good or play as well. However for the price, it’s an exceptional instrument, and much better than most other guitars in its price range. Mexican Fenders definitely have that Strat vibe, both in looks and sound. If you’re worried people might think less of you because you aren’t playing an American Strat, don't. Most people can’t tell the difference, unless they know specifically what to look and listen for.
  3. Expendability. Do you really want to take your expensive American Strat to that crummy club you’re playing at on Friday night? The MIM Stratocaster is a great choice for a lot of working musicians who worry about their good guitars getting lost or stolen at gigs. They record with their American Fender, but bring the MIM out to the bar.
  4. Modding. Stratocasters are great for modding, and some players have built some really awesome guitars over the years. There are all kinds of aftermarket parts available so you can create a custom instrument right down to the control knobs. But many players aren’t so crazy about tearing apart their American Fender. An MIM Strat provides a solid foundation for swapping out pickups, electronics and hardware without worry about wrecking your sweet American Strat.
  5. Simplicity. Like the golfer who owns all the expensive, cutting-edge clubs and still shanks the ball into the woods every time, many guitarists worry more about their gear than their skills. If you want to pick up a solid guitar and get down to business, the MIM Strat is a great choice, especially if you are a new or intermediate player. Add in a good, inexpensive amp and you can replace your whole rig if need be for less than the cost of an American Strat.

MIM Strat Options

Made in Fender's facilities in Mexico, the Standard Stat is available in a SSS or HSS Pickup configuration, and a choice of a one-piece maple neck or maple neck with rosewood fingerboard.

Other features include a modern “C” shape neck, standard pickups with 5-way selector, vintage synchronized tremolo, and chrome hardware.

The Fender Standard Strat is a great way for players on a budget to grab a real Stratocaster for an affordable price. But it is also a favorite of veteran guitar players who recognize it as one of the best values out there.

Hear the Mexican Standard Strat

5 Reasons to Go With the American Strat

The Fender Standard Stratocaster is a great guitar, especially for the money. But the American Strat is the real deal. For many players, nothing short of the best Fender has to offer will do. The price tag may be higher, but Fender’s American instruments are among the best guitars in the world. Nobody is ever disappointed with a made-in-the-USA Strat.

Here are 5 reasons to consider the American Standard Stratocaster.

  1. Tone. Honestly, tone could be reasons one, two, three, four, and five. Mexican-made Strats sound great, and some sound spectacular — but when you choose an American Fender you have a much better chance of finding that Holy Grail of tone you know you’ve always been searching for. American instruments are constructed to higher standards, using better quality control, and better materials. You find that one gem and you may never buy another guitar again. Every note on the neck of a great American Fender just oozes with mojo, at every pickup setting.
  2. Value. An American Strat will increase, or at least hold, value over time, whereas an MIM probably will not. You may not care about resale, but imagine passing your beloved instrument down to your son or daughter someday. An American Fender is an heirloom that can stay in your family for generations, and it will only sound better with age. Plus, there are few things more beautiful than an aged, well-loved Strat.
  3. Performance. Yeah, this is listed under the MIM positive points as well, but it means something different here. With an MIM Strat you get a great guitar for the money. With an American Strat you get a great guitar, period. If you’re a professional musician, this might be a big difference to you, especially in a recording situation. You want to get the best sound you can, and an American Strat will deliver that over and over again.
  4. Buy American. This means a lot to some American guitarists. They feel good knowing the instruments they use were not built in some other country to save on labor costs, and they’re proud to support an American company that still builds their best stuff in America. To be fair to Fender, their factories in Mexico are quite high-quality compared to the shops some guitar manufacturers have working for them. Still, many guitarists will only play American gear, made in America, by American workers.
  5. The Fender Legacy. Make no mistake: an MIM Stratocaster is a real Strat through and through. However, generally when people talk about Fender Stratocasters, they're talking about the American model. This is the bloodline that streams from Hendrix, Vaughan, Beck, Gilmour, Blackmore, Malmsteen, and countless others.

For many guitarists, being part of that legacy is a big deal. Yes it’s about tone, quality, performance, reliability, and value, but all of that is wrapped up in the Fender name. And Fender puts their best foot forward with their American-made instruments. It’s tradition that’s gone on for over half a century, and not likely to stop any time soon.

The American Stratocaster is available in either the SSS or HSS pickup configuration with the choice of a one-piece maple neck or maple neck with rosewood fingerboard. Most have alder bodies with Urethane finish that allows the sound of the tonewoods to come through.

A modern “C” shape neck, Fender Custom Shop pickups with 5-way selector and No-load Tone Control, 2-point synchronized tremolo and chrome hardware round out the list of appointments.

The American Standard Strat is available in Sienna Sunburst, Jade Pearl Metallic, Black, Olympic White, 3-color Sunburst, Mystic Red and Mystic Blue, Ocean Blue Metallic and Bordeaux Metallic. .

Building an American Strat

The Fender American Special Stratocaster

So, maybe you’ve read all of this and you’re still on the fence about whether to go for the Mexican-made Strat, or drop the cash on an American-made guitar. Fender feels you, and luckily they offer a very solid compromise.

The American Special Series Stratocaster is an American-made guitar with more affordable components. It’s one of the best values out there, and a great way to land an American Strat for well under a grand.

If you’ve been around a little while, you might remember the Fender Highway One Stratocasters. These things came about a decade ago and have gradually vanished, having been replaced by the American Special Series. But it’s the same idea. You get a great American Fender without shelling out the big bucks.

At the same time, feel free to whip out the wrenches and soldering iron, and mod away. The American Special is a great guitar for upgrading. However, it comes with better components than the old Highway Ones, so you may not feel the need.

Features include Fender Custom Shop Texas Special pickups for the SSS version, and Texas Specials plus and Atomic Humbucker for the HSS. The American Special also comes in some great Urethane finishes like Surf Green and some pretty sunbursts.

If you’re looking for a guitar that walks the line between the performance of an American Strat and the affordability of the Mexican version, the American Special may be just what you need.

Fender American Special Series

Fender American Standard Stratocaster
Fender American Standard Stratocaster

Which Strat to Choose?

Choosing between a Stratocaster made in Mexico and a USA-made Fender Strat is a tough decision. In a lot of ways, you can’t lose.

Fender Stratocasters are among the most incredible instruments available, and have stood the test of time going all the way back to the 1950s. They’re simple guitars that give a player everything he needs, and very little of what he doesn’t.

And, of course, they sound fantastic. The Fender Stratocaster has shaped the rock world for decades.

So which to choose: the Fender American Standard, or the Mexican-made Standard? Or should you split the difference and go with the American Special Stratocaster?

Of course you’ll have to make that decision yourself, but hopefully you found this article helpful in your quest.


Which Strat are you going to choose?

  • The Mexican-made Standard Strat
  • The American Standard Stratocaster
  • The American Special Strat
See results without voting

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Comments 85 comments

phill 2 years ago

depends if you are north or south of the border my mim is excellent. his it a loyalty thing?because I have played both and there's no difference apart from price. Yes I aint no punk been doing it for 40 plus years. So if you want to shell out for a usa serial go for it its your money.

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Thanks for the insight Phil! I like my MIM Strat too.

Jack 2 years ago

I used to have an American Standard when I was in college and playing more. After that I got out of the scene and sold all my electric gear. FF 15 years and now my son is playing drums, so I need an electric guitar to jam with him. I'm not made of money, so it's a MIM Strat to the rescue. I'm far from an expert, but I'm decent, and I can't tell the difference between this MIM and my old MIA. Maybe I could if I had them side by side, then again maybe I'm not good enough to be able to. Anyway I'm perfectly happy with the MIM.

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

I think you made a great choice, Jack. The MIM Strat more than does the job for the hobbyist guitar player. Glad you found yourself a Strat again!

sparky 2 years ago

I have both. A black MIM that's getting additional upgrades in the pups for that Gilmour sound. SSL5 already installed and looking to install a 69 CS in the middle and a CS fat 50's in the neck which is what's in my American Standard. The only upgrade on the USA is the pickguard to Pearl White.

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Sounds awesome, Sparky!!

Doug 2 years ago

How can I tell the year of my mim strat?

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Hi Doug. You need to reference the serial number of your guitar and compare it to a chart and that will tell you the year it was made. Fender's website has a page that can help you out:

Ssl 2 years ago

I have owned 44+ Stratocasters through the years. Played 100's. About 20 US made and the rest Mexican made. I can't agree that the US are usually much better in sound or build. The quality control of the Mexican workers have improved vastly putting the guitars on par. Both can have flaws/defects as do many production guitars. The ability level of player is not irrelevant. Find a guitar that has the sound and playability you want and buy.

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Thanks for your input, Ssl! You experience shows MIM strats are a solid option!

Ken 2 years ago

Ive owned both-the best guitar i ever had G&L Legacy! a close second was the American Strat

-Now i have a MIM that sounds awesome! i love this guitar.

I'm no pro but ive been laying over 20 years now and i know what i like to feel in a guitar.

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Thanks for your input Ken! The G&L Legacy is a great option for Strat and Fender lovers. For those who don't know, the "L" in G&L stands for Leo, as in Leo Fender, the man himself.

nowmon 2 years ago

as a starving artist a mim does me fine,many blues cats long ago played ther souls out on any guitar they found and it didn`t stop all the blues from singing...

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Well said, nowmon. Sometimes its important to remember the mojo is in the archer, not the arrow.

Les 2 years ago

I just got a mim standard 2004 sounds good to me

Looks and playes like the real fender it is

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Sounds awesome, Les. Congrats!

Mark 2 years ago

I have owned a few strats over the years everything from 70s Fender usa strats to Squier classic vibes. in my opinion the main difference I have found is that the MIM strats and the MIJ fenders had weaker sounding pick ups and lower quality electronics in general. however as for how they play. I have a 1982 MIJ fender strat that plays better than any usa or custom shop strat I have played. simply ditch the electronics.

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

I agree Mark, though I think the pickups have gotten better over the years. Still, dropping some Fender Custom Shop pickups and new electronics into an MIM Strat is a great way to end up with a solid Strat for not a lot of cash.

Ben 2 years ago

I have a '59 American strat which is just astonishing! I recently bought a MiM strat and I'm still amazed by it... It is a very good instrument! Well, I had to swap pups in my MiM, now I have the ssl5 in bridge, ssl5 Rw in the middle and a vintage ssl1 in the neck! Best MiM ever!

James Couto 2 years ago

What Fender Custom Shop pickups you think is a good option to upgrade my Fender 60th Anniversary Classic Player '50s Stratocaster? Thanks

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

@Ben: That's pretty convincing when a guy who plays a '59 Strat is still impressed with the MIM. Nice!

@James: That's tough to answer without knowing the sound you're going for. You might want to consider the Custom Shop Fat '50s. That's a good-looking Strat, BTW!

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rustedmemory 2 years ago from Lexington, KY

When it comes to non-American made Fender, I always had Mexican instruments. I have been happy with most of them, especially the bass guitars! If I found a good deal, I would not pass a Japanese Fender!

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Me too, rustedmemory. I've owned MIM guitars and basses and never had anything bad to say about them.

AJ 2 years ago

sorry but you will never convince me that a MIA Strat is superior over a MIM Strat because there not not at all

Greg 2 years ago

I own a number of Stratocasters, both American and Mexican. IMHO, the quality of the American instruments is more consistent, but generally not worth the extra money. In other words, a great Mexican strat is as good as a great American strat. A Fender rep once told me that the Mexican facility uses the old Fender manufacturing equipment that was used in the 1960s. All of my US strats are good, but I have two Mexican strats (0ne with Texas Specials and one with EMGs) that play as good as any guitar I own. Just my dos centavos.

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Thanks for adding your thoughts, Greg!

Iggy 2 years ago

I had a MIM strat when they first came out years ago & was not that impressed, it just didn't feel right & I sold it. I got a new MIM strat a few months ago and I am absolutely besotted by it, the fabulous maple neck just oozes out the notes and the sound is sublime. I may upgrade the PUPs but they are actually not that bad at all. I did have the budget for a US strat but after playing many examples I opted for the MIM. My advice is to play as many as you can & buy the one that works for you! The build quality is exceptionally good now compared to the early models. Cheers!

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

That's excellent advice, Iggy! Thanks for sharing your story.

Marshall 2 years ago

I got a MIM a while back with the thought of trading up later. Well, it's not gonna happen. I LOVE playing the MIM and can't part with it. This will be my go to guitar from now on.

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

I know what you mean Marshall! I wouldn't part with my MIM Strat either. Glad you're loving your guitar!

Duncan 2 years ago

I just got a MIM Strat natural wood finish with rosewood neck and and love it. Not only does it look great but the action and sound is superb, clean and crisp, may switch out the Pubs later on but totally happy with it. I also have a deep red, excellent G&L ASAT and would not part with either one.

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Sounds great, Duncan! I love the look of a Strat with a natural finish.

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John Dyhouse 2 years ago from UK

I guess I plaay for fun, I have toyed with guitars for many years and I have to admit that I am old enough to favour Hank Marvin. I never did get a strat until a few years ago and at the time I had to go for a MIM because of price considerations. I have however been very, very happy with it.

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

I'm like you, John. I just play for fun these days, and my main guitar is an MIM Strat. However, it's nice to know it sounds good enough to get together with more serious musicians if the situation presents itself.

mark 2 years ago

I own MIM, USA, and a Japan one which I have heard no comments on.

Love all three of these babies and just want to say my particular MIM Strat 2001 gunmetal blue plays as well or better ;)

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Gunmetal blue . . . nice! Another happy MIM strat owner.

Rafael 2 years ago

I´m a 15 long years player now. Although I never owned a Fender till now, I´ve played many guitars over this time, some USA strats, some MIM´s, etc. In the last couple of weeks I decided to buy the best Fender I could, even if I had to spend a whole lotta money in a American Standard. What a surprise I had when I plugged a American Standard and a Mexican Standard side by side? For almost a third less of the price, I chose the MIM one! Say what you want, but the MIM Strat is a great guitar. And with the Fender logo on the headstock... Mine is the blonde Olimpic White with maple neck/fretboard. Total Hendrix!!!

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Guitar Gopher 2 years ago Author

Sounds like a great guitar, Rafael. Congratulations. It's amazing how many people have had the same experience as you, and ended up with an MIM Strat instead of American. And that Fender logo on the headstock doesn't even cost extra! :-)

Rockin Ronnie 22 months ago

I have been playing in bands for 45+ years and I have owned and played many different guitars. In the 70's I was a huge Gibson guy until Gibson got so all high and mighty with prices and at the same time their customer service went to hell. I still own a 1972 SG Deluxe that I bought brand new but have never bought another Gibson. My MIM Fenders play as good as any American made ones, you just have to play a lot of them til you find the right one. This is with any guitar. Once you find that one, you will know and never be let down. Sure I mod them with new pups and electronics. My latest 1992 Mim Strat I also installed an LSR Roller Nut, American made bridge and tremolo and Vintage Noiseless Pups. With the pups comes 3 new pots. This guitar is a workhorse and I play it out exclusively. Probably the best playing, sounding guitar I have had in all the years I have been playing. Don't let anyone tell you the MIM's are not real guitars. They are great guitars! 90% of the music comes from your fingers.

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Guitar Gopher 22 months ago Author

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience, Rockin Ronnie!

Vasqi 22 months ago

It's all hype.

Anyone can modify an MIM stratocaster to the specifications of an MIA stratocaster (for less than the price of an MIA) and no one will no the difference. Not to mention that, they will gain valuable insights about the instrument in the process. But perhaps the most compelling reason to upgrade an MIM in stead of investing in an MIA is that, the MIA stock lacks many attractive features that are employed by aftermarket guitar mods, so you'd have to upgrade your overpriced MIA anyway.

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Guitar Gopher 22 months ago Author

Good point, Vasqi. Even with an MIA Strat a lot of players end up swapping out pickups, bridge, etc. So why not start with a less expensive guitar? I think there are some cases where the wood on an MIA Strat looks much nicer though the finish, but otherwise that makes a lot of sense.

fenderfan 22 months ago

this never ending "oozing with mojo" issue and mental black hole is always updating it seems, over the Fender years. yet the vintage has more inline with the MIM than the updated USA, which is funny in itself because the famous players turned everyone onto the "mojo".

I found that term "mojo" in the article as the whole point of the article.

MIM is 150miles from Coroona, a lot of the original machines from Fullerton went to Ensenada, while new machines went to Corona.

So the term "mojo" is probably just in our minds and not the wood.

Maybe the "mojo" is the only difference? lol

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Guitar Gopher 22 months ago Author

LOL! Interesting points, fenderfan. I guess the mojo is the whole point with any guitar, whatever the heck mojo is. Take a handful of identical guitars straight out of the box and there are always a few that will sound better, for whatever reason. Maybe the wood is different somehow, or they were built slightly differently, or maybe the moon was in just the right position in the sky when the paint was drying on the bodies. Who knows?

Or, maybe as you say, its just in our minds. I do believe, whatever mojo is, that they mojo of the player is far more important than the mojo of the guitar!

And now I am truly sick of the term "mojo" and don't think I'll ever use it again! :-)

ibanezman43 21 months ago

Hey guys and gals if any. You know what. The fact is as long as the guitar any guitar stays in tune well. Its worth playing. I have seen a few players play some three stringed banged up piece of you know what and make it sound absolutely awesome. The thing is Look at the guitar. notice how it feels in your hands. Play it through your rig. Most stores will let you try it out and bring it back if you don't like it.

I own a 1985 American Hot rod shop strat.

A 2008 Ibanez Prestige team j craft.

2014 MIM Fender HSS strat.

I put texas specials in the MIM Out standing MoJo sound.

But I played these through my rig at home a

before I paid a dime.

Food for thought

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Guitar Gopher 21 months ago Author

Well said ibanezman43! Thanks for adding your 2 cents!

Shelby 19 months ago

I have had four American Standards, I have a $2000 Sig Series(bought used so more cheesecake for me), and have had two Highway Ones, and have one MIM maple board sunburst. Only two of my Americans were sonically on par with the MIM: 2007 Daphne Blue Highway One, and an 06 Sienna Burst AmStd. The Rest of the Americans are gone. Their finish level was great, but they had zero mojo. That's the problem I usually find with AmStds. They are vanilla. A lot of MIMs suck too, so I guess it is down to what moves you. Ignore the decals on the headstock if you're a serious player. I will say, there is a far greater disparity between Epiphones and Gibsons than between MIM and Anerican strats.

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Guitar Gopher 19 months ago Author

Thanks for your thoughts, Shelby.

Jarod 19 months ago

I have both. An American Deluxe and a MIM. As mentioned above. I bought the MIM to modify. Bottom line is that the American blows the MIM away both in feel and tone. Although the MIM plays good and tone is taken care of with hotter pick-ups there is no comparison. The American is superior by far. On one hand I'm very satisfied with the American, the downside is I won't buy another Mexican because I have been spoiled by my Am deluxe. Yes the Am deluxe cost 1300.00 more but it is worth every penny.

Frank 19 months ago

Why does the MIA only get better with age? Does the MIM not? I understand the value in being an American made instrument, but what specifically makes it better with age?

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Guitar Gopher 19 months ago Author

Hi Frank. It's been my experience that quality guitars wear much better than less expensive guitars. Especially Strats The finish thins in just the right spots, the plastic yellows a bit and the hardware gets that nice patina over it. Some players even say the wood changes over time,adjusting to the right frequencies over hours upon hours of play, and the sound will actually improve as the guitar ages . MIM Strats are encased in that bulletproof polyester, so a lot of that isn't possible. If you keep it in good shape you'll see some changes with age, but generally it will still be the same guitar you took off the shelf years before.

Zurdo 18 months ago

I can't speak for MIM Strats or new models Strats but I played a Japanese Strat in the early 90s. I ended up trading it in for a 93 American Standard. There definitely was a difference in playability and tone; the American being better. Some of that might be due the the different string spacing on the Japanese model and I'm also a Lefty and the Japanese Strat was upside down like Hendrix! But, the build quality, tonewood and electronics definitely made a difference.

I still have the Standard and it is almost like new still except some finish wear on the tummy cut. I did eventually upgrade it to Custom Shop pickups and the 2008 tremolo upgrade.

I wish I had kept the Japanese Strat as they are actually collectable now!

NOWMON 18 months ago

I have a 1999 MIM ,left handed Strat. and it plays as good as I PLAY IT.I also have a Lead2 1979 and it a honey.also I have a Ibanez 1972 les paul lawsuit that I like better than a Gibson... I didn`t pay any more than $300. for any of them,and they all play as good as I want too. I bet there`s a lot of blues played on cheap guitars that the player didn`t care because he was doin it to it...

Stratman100 18 months ago

I disagree entirely with the article where it says there is a difference in sound and feel of the MIM and MIA. I am a guitar tech and I have set up both and indeed I own a MIM. After setup the is no discernible difference between the two, certainly not worth double the pricve just to have the US brand label. Denis

Ichi 16 months ago

Went out to buy a new strat last weekend, and tested about 30 strats ranging from $650 to $2000. I ended up with a MIM Standard as it had the best sound and playability. Sustains forever, has great, full tone and I really like the versatility in the pickups. Probably one of those rare guitars where it all comes together. The ones that came close was a MIM Roadworn and a Classic series MIM . The Mexicans has stepped up the game. :)

M42 15 months ago

When it comes to Epiphone LP's vs. Gibson I'll take a high end Epi over a low end Gibson and still save a bundle and have a better guitar. With the MIM vs American strats the American made ones are reasonable in price to begin with. I can hear and feel the difference between the two models. for price alone the MIM offer a lot of bang for the buck and they do sound nice. But I can tell a difference with my eyes closed. The MIM just don't ring out like a true start and remind me more of a high end Squier. If American made starts cost like Gibson LP's then I would go for the lower cost MIM's. But they don't and for a little more money I can get a better guitar and one that will have resell value.

Jerry Gee 11 months ago

Don't waste your money unless you have it that way New American strat 1098 vs a used or new mex strat is $200 to 600, and at the end of the day you will play the same riff. Tahe trick is to find one that plays like the strom coming........

Mark1 10 months ago

Many thanks for this hub. I was thinking about American Special for some time, but eventually decided to grab an inexpensive strat with maple fingerboard trying to choose between Fender MIM and Squier CV '50s. The main difference apart from the price and neck finish seems to come down to pickups: alnicos on CV and ceramics on MIM, am I right? Is it worth to think about it? Have you ever compared them? I'm into classic fender tones and don't want to mod the guitar, at least at the very beginning. The problem is I can't just go and try them both, so I have to rely on what I know about them and what others say. I know it's not easy to give an advice, but if you had to decide, would you go for MIM or CV?

Another thing that makes me wonder is the link between Fender Classic Series and Squier CV? CS Fenders are sure different when it comes to neck shape and radius or body finish, but if you look at '50s Sunburst or Fiesta Red... (the second one surprisingly discontinued by Squier). Both CS and CV pickups are called "vintage-style". Are these the same?

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Jesse Drzal 10 months ago from The United States

Great article..Myself and my guitar teacher would do a "blindfold" test of and American And Mexican Strat..and we really could not tell them apart. Sound and tone more come from feel of how you play..not quality of wood.

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Guitar Gopher 10 months ago Author

Hi Marki1: If I were to choose between the MIM Strat and the Squier CV '50s, based on everything you said plus taking cost into consideration, I really think I'd go with the Squier CV. Personally, I prefer the C-shape neck on MIM neck over the Modern C, and I like the MIM pickups. However, if you are looking for vintage vibe I think you might be happier with the CV, plus it costs a whole lot less.

I do not think the "custom" vintage-style single coils on the CV are the same pickups as the vintage-style single coils with the staggered poles on the CS, but they're similar. To my ear, based on guitars I've owned, the Standard MIM pickups have a more modern edge, maybe a little hotter in an SRV kind of way. The vintage-style singles are a bit warmer and richer, a little more subtle.

All that said, I think the quality on the MIM is a bit higher across the board. If cost isn't an issue, and you don't mind modding down the road, the MIM Strat gives you a great chassis for experimenting with different pickups until you get the sound you want.

Hope this was sorta helpful. Good luck!

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Guitar Gopher 10 months ago Author

@ Jesse: Very true! Fender does a great job with their Standard Series instruments.

Mark1 10 months ago

Thank you for your reply. Having considered all the pros and cons I came back home with a new white MIM Strat. From the first sight I was pleasently surprised by its overall quality, from flawless finish to how the tone knobs react (it’s a big difference from my Squier VM) and even setup. Pickups are ok, maybe not compared to anything labelled „custom”, but they do their job.

Btw. Once again I tried an american special strat, which I actually don’t like because of jumbo frets, just to compare the tone (Texas Specials make a difference), and - believe or not - I was astonished by the sharp fret ends along the neck (this one was in Candy Apple Red from 2014). Really disappointing. MIM neck is made considerably better, just as it should be. Good job Ensenada!

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Guitar Gopher 10 months ago Author

Sounds awesome, Mark! Congrats on grabbing a great guitar. I think you experienced what a lot of players find out: That there are occasional duds in the MIA series as well as anywhere else. Always good to check out a guitar before you buy!

As I said, I personally like the MIM pickups, but if they don't grow on you you can always swap them out. Good luck with your new Strat. I think you made a good choice.

steve g 8 months ago

I own both,the MIA is a great guitar,but my 2006 50,s classic player MIM is absolutely fantastic!!also humbucker blacktop,MIM again beautiful player and sound!although I own several top end gibsons as well,i still seem to return to the mex strats.still not sure if I wasted money buying American.i justify this to myself as long term investment!!!!!

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Guitar Gopher 8 months ago Author

I don't think you wasted your money, Steve. Hang on to that MIA Strat! I do feel the same though: I tend to play my MIM more than I play my MIA.

Stratofascist 8 months ago

The idea that MIM strats don't play as well needs to go away. They play just as well as any other Strat. The tone of the 60s pups is fanastic, too. And FWIW, Gilmour's just as likely to be playing his MIK 57RI as a US model.

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Guitar Gopher 7 months ago Author

Good points, Stratofascist. I think it depends on the years, model and personal preference.

Skinner 6 months ago

I have a 2010 Fender American Deluxe HSS with all the bells and whistles. It hangs on the wall my preferance is my newly aquired 2014 Fender MIM Standard SSS. Just feels and sounds nicer. ?

Looping 6 months ago

- MIM Strat will hold its value same as MIA Strat, percentagewise.

- Bloodline that streams from Hendrix, Vaughan, Beck, Gilmour, Blackmore, Malmsteen, and countless others reflects to MIM Strat as well as to MIA Strats.

Also, todays MIM Strats are better than the MIA Strats been used by guitar legends in '60 and '70, technology has improved much from that time.

Voodoo 5 months ago

But, what about those rare Squier series that were assembled in Mexico with overstock American Strat necks and bodies but say Fender Stratocaster (with the Squier Series on the ball of the headstock).

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Guitar Gopher 5 months ago Author

@Voodoo: Have you ever encountered such a thing personally? I know of a lot different Squier versions, MIJ, MIM and some even MIA, but never Squier branded guitars with Fender USA bodies and necks.

Andrew 5 months ago

I'd like to disagree on the playability and sound of the MIM Strat..... I own a 2004 deluxe players model with graphite saddles medium jumbo frets on a 21fret C neck with vintage noiseless pickups and a 2 piece alder body. I'd put it against any American made model with equal specs and it will play and sound just as good. It is an outstanding fenderbto say the least.

Linda Robinson 4 months ago

What a truly remarkable in depth hub, fascinating and you covered so much detail. Guitar Gopher you nailed this one, just love music and this is a must read for all those who treasure the guitar and into music. :) You nailed it. My husbands plays guitar and drums. Linda

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Guitar Gopher 4 months ago Author

Thanks Linda! I appreciate your kind words.

Wyeth 4 months ago

I have played and owned quite a few Strat's both MIA and MIM. I went with the MIM and modded it with FAT 50's and a Floyd Rose locking tremolo bridge and still came in way under the cost of a MIA and still had a guitar that is just as good, if not even better than any MIA Strat!

Jody 3 months ago

I have to agree with most of these guys.I walked into a music store a while ago with $2000 budget to spend on a guitar. Tried out everything and walked out with a Mexican classic series 60s was hands down the best strat in the shop. I've been playing an Eric Johnson signature and have also had my fair share of mia.

I don't care where it's from.what sounds good,feels good is good!

Rick 3 months ago

Everyone I have ever played with that had a Mexican or Asian made Fender head tuning stability and intonation problems. I have tried to set their guitars up but could not get them to stay in tune or Intonat properly. I myself but an older Japanese Strat to install my midi pickup on without having to butcher my original 72, and it had very poor tuning stability. Nothing I did could make these guitars play in tune from more than one song. What to wear when I hired a guitar player, I specified he had to have a vintage original, or Custom Shop guitar. As far as I am concerned everything else are just toys. Sorry to have to say this but that has been my experience.

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Guitar Gopher 3 months ago Author

@Rick: There are gems and duds all around, and I agree that you're more likely to find that gem in an MIA rather than MIM. But I can also say that I've had my MIM Strat for over a decade now and I've never had tuning issues. Nor do I have them with my MIA Strat. They're about the same when it comes to tuning stability. So, I see what you're saying, but I don't think MIMs are inherently worse.

GruhSix 2 months ago

Here's the monkey wrench in the works , 5 years ago I picked up a China made squire for $60 with a 15 watt champ amp. The neck was bowed with nearly an inch of space between the strings and the fretboard. It is so cheap it does not even have a skunk stripe. I cranked down on the truss rod fully expecting it to break, it didn't. I leveled the frets, gotta learn some time and for $60 nothing to lose. Dressed them put some new tuners on it so it would stay in tune more then one song . Well I can't believe how good it plays , it might be the best playing guitar of the bunch. I own a 1969 Gretsch ,72 Gibson 2009 sg std,a bunch of Ibanez S,SZ,RG

But the sound is terrible , thin with no depth but it plays great. Feels wonderful. Been playing for 45 years have owned a left handed MIM which I really liked but the whole backwards thing not so good. Had a squire but it had the narrow neck like my 1972 es335 which is why I don't play that . So do I put good pick up on this China special or just keep as a novelty. Will buy a MIM strat soon been watching them and $$ too.

Good review! Good Job thanks! Lots of good thoughts to ponder from everyone.

GruhSix 2 months ago

There is a MIM strat with the fender script on the head for sale. In the picture it looks like the Fender script that was on my 1998-99 MIM strat. But it looks like it says ( pictures a little blurry) squire in script all the way at the top of the head and might even have affinity in script under the squire. I had a squire that had affinity on the head at the top . Is this a squire or a fender stratocaster? Or is this what voodoo was talking about?

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Guitar Gopher 2 months ago Author

@GruhSix: If it does say Squier, I would assume it is a Squier. Perhaps you can get some clarity from the seller, since the writing sounds like it is hard to read in the pic.

GruhSix 2 months ago

Will contact , see if the seller can send a better pic privately. It is the second one I saw like this and passed on the last one. But at $250 asking , it's got my interest. What the seller tells me I have learned not to put to much faith in. Like the mint condition just professionally set up guitar I looked at,, it was neither.

Thanks again

Stephen 2 months ago

I have owned and played both American and MIM Strats in the past. For years I have gigged with American Strats and bought some MIM's to mod. I put Custom Shop 69's on an MIM. No matter what I changed, I could not get that mojo like when I play my Am Std. I have played since the 70's and owned Les Pauls and SGs as well. Sorry but nothing plays or sounds better than my black maple neck American Standard. That's been my experience. Different strokes... I guess. But like the man said, "Are you experienced?"

Drew 7 weeks ago

Just picked up a 2016 mim vintage blonde deluxe strat. Noiseless pickups, locking tuners, two point bridge and a push button to combine pickups. I played a bunch of mia strats and did a lot of research. When it came down to it, the mim had all the features i wanted (listed above, as well as maple neck with satin finish) at half the cost of a mia strat. It does need some tweaking on the intonation, but overall i couldn't be more happy. I am just a 20 year hobbyist so take itfor what you will, but this mim is a sweet deal.

Jesses Dad 2 weeks ago

I've got two Strats and like them both. My MIM is the Artist Series Robert Cray model. Sweet axe, lower frets, smooth as silk, custom shop wound pickups. Very nice. Wasn't planning on picking up another but was shopping for a Blues Junior and an American Special HSS came with it for a real nice price. It's got the Texas Specials and Atomic Humbucker, as referenced above. Jumbo frets is the biggest difference, feelwise, both both guitars are a joy to play and both really rock the blues. I'm keeping them.

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