Fender Standard Telecaster: Review of the Mexican Tele

The Standard MIM Telecaster is a Made-in-Mexico rendition of a Fender classic.
The Standard MIM Telecaster is a Made-in-Mexico rendition of a Fender classic. | Source

The Standard Telecaster

The Fender Telecaster is a historic instrument with origins dating back to the dawn of solid-body electric guitars. Musicians love the Tele today just as much as they did back then, and it is one of most popular guitars of all time.

While it is most commonly associated with country music, blues and rock, the Telecaster can get the job done in just about any genre. Even heavy metal shredders have been known to employ modified Teles. There is really nothing this guitar can’t do.

Fender knows when they have a good thing, and they also know a great instrument shouldn’t come cheap. Nobody would argue that Fender’s American-made guitars aren’t worth the asking price, which is usually a bit steep. These are among the finest instruments a guitarist can own, and they are worth every penny.

But what about the student, hobby guitarist or working musician? For many players, American-made Fenders are simply too expensive. But if you’re a guitar player on a budget Fender still has you covered with their Mexican-made lineup of guitars and basses.

The Standard (MIM) Telecaster looks just like a real Fender, because it is a real Fender. And you can land one for less than half the cost of the American version. If the Telecaster is your dream guitar you can make it happen.

So what’s up with this Made-in-Mexico thing, and what’s the difference between a MIM Fender and the American-made version?

According to many players, not as much as you might think.

About MIM Fenders

So what does Made in Mexico mean to you? The MIM or Standard line of Fender guitars is much less expensive than the American Standard versions of these classic instruments. Fender cuts costs in a few ways.

As you probably expect, they use components that aren’t quite as high-quality as the ones in the USA guitars. But they also outsource their construction across the border to Mexico.

You might be imagining some sweatshop packed with underpaid workers bolting guitars together, but this really isn’t the case. Fender’s USA shops are in California so this isn’t a big jump geographically, and their Mexican facilities are well-run compared to many overseas plants that put out cheap guitars.

Point is, even though you might prefer to buy an American-made guitar if you can, you don’t need to feel guilty buying a Mexican Telecaster. You’re still supporting an American guitar company.

Standard Fenders might not be as perfect as their USA-made cousins, but they’re still pretty darn good guitars, especially for the price. Many working players use their MIM Fenders on gigs and leave their pretty American guitars at home.

Or, they might swap out parts until they have a custom Telecaster that beats even the best American Tele.

A Standard Telecaster won’t hold its value like an American Fender, but you might not care about that. If you’re looking for a great guitar for a reasonable price for right now, MIM Fenders are one of the best options out there.

MIM Tele Tonewoods and Construction

The Standard Telecaster is about as simple as a guitar can get, and for many players that is the beauty of it. Its single-cut solid-body design was revolutionary in 1950, back at a time when most electric guitars basically looked like acoustic guitars with cords sticking out of them. It hasn’t changed much since, and the Telecaster is still the same classic design.

Standard Tele bodies are made of alder, a snappy tonewood also used in Stratocasters.

For the neck and fingerboard you have a choice between one-piece maple, or maple with a rosewood fretboard.

The maple fingerboard will sound brighter where the rosewood will round the tones off a bit. For the classic, twangy Telecaster sound maple is probably the better choice, but this decision is up to personal preference of course.

Fender American Telecaster: Does the MIM Live Up to Its Reputation?
Fender American Telecaster: Does the MIM Live Up to Its Reputation?


The bridge is one of the most beautiful things about the Telecaster. While not as high-quality as on the American version, it’s still a big part of the Tele sound. It’s a big bridge, and it extends all the way out under the bridge pickup. Along with the string-through body, this provides a solid tether for the Telecaster tone. Some players like to swap out the stock bridge for a vintage bridge with three T-shaped saddles rather than the six-saddle modern version.

Pickups and Electronics

The pickups are standard Tele single coils, and this is another component that Standard Telecaster owners love to customize. While the stock pickups are fine, there is an array of choices out there, from vintage tones to hotter sounds.

One of the great things about owning a MIM guitar is that you never have to feel bad about modding it!

Like the rest of the Standard Telecaster, the controls are simple and classic. A three-way selector switch controls the pickups, along with one tone knob and one volume knob. The bridge pickup is thin and twangy for that vintage rock sound. The neck pickup is more guttural and reeks of country vibe. The middle position of the selector switch activates both pickups.

Fender Standard Telecaster Sound

You don’t have to worry about your made-in Mexico Tele pulling its weight when it comes to sound. Even though it’s a less-expensive Fender, it’s still a Fender through and through. And remember, you can swap out any components you wish, from pickups to pots, to get that perfect sound you’ve always been looking for.

Check out the clip below from

Hear the MIM Telcaster

Made-in-Mexico Telecaster vs USA Tele

So far this article has discussed all of the great things about the Standard Telecaster, but now we will take a look at what this guitar is not. One of the biggest knocks against the MIM Tele is simply that it is not an American Telecaster.

American Fenders are amazing instruments. These are the guitars you pass on to your kids or grandkids, the classics that you cherish as they get older.

The Standard Telecaster is simply not that kind of guitar. Your MIM Fender can last you for years, even decades. You may love it to the end of your days, but it won’t be worth much in twenty years. Except, of course, to you.

MIM vs USA Tele Differences

So what’s the difference between MIM and MIA Fenders?

Let’s start with the body and the finish. USA Fenders are made with select pieces of wood, and finished with a thin urethane.

MIM guitars get a thicker polyester finish, and the wood used, while good quality, isn’t as choice as that of the USA Fenders. The thinner finish means the wood used in the American guitars has more influence over the tone than in the MIM Telecaster, and we know great tone starts with great wood.

The pickups are another key part of the tone. American Standard Telecasters come with Fender Custom Shop Broadcaster and Twisted Tele pickups, as well as significantly upgraded electronics. While the stock pickups on the Mexican Tele are just fine, Fender Custom Shop pickups are legendary.

The bridge and tuning pegs are higher quality hardware, meaning they’ll not only be more reliable but also contribute to the sound of the guitar.

All around, the American Telecaster is just a better guitar than its Mexican cousin. The question you need to ask yourself is whether or not the cost justifies taking the plunge on a real American-made Fender.

When it comes down to it, you are deciding between a very good guitar and a great guitar.

Hear the American Standard Telcaster

Other Telecaster Options

You know Fender isn’t going to leave you hanging with just two choices of Telecaster, right? There are about as many different Teles out there as there are flavors of ice cream. You don’t have to look very far to find one that exactly meets your needs.

If you’re having trouble deciding between the American Tele and the MIM Telecaster, you may want to consider the American Special Telecaster. American Special Fenders are made in the USA, but not quite at the same quality level as a true American Tele.

They started out as the Highway One series, but in recent years Fender has changed their name and seriously upgraded their specs. The American Special Tele has the same alder body, but with a thin Urethane gloss finish. It’s got Texas Special pickups, a nice upgrade from standard Tele pickups, and improved electronics like the Grease Bucket tone control. The three T-saddle bridge tops off the vintage vibe of the American Special Tele.

Fender American Special guitars are a nice middle-of-the-road option between the MIM and MIA instruments. You can still mod them without feeling bad, but they are a major step up from the Standard MIM models so you might not feel the need to make any changes.

Fender American Special Telecaster
Fender American Special Telecaster

That Tele Vibe

If you’re looking for a Telecaster it’s not likely any other guitar will do. Stratocasters are cool, but not quite the same. The Gibson Les Paul is a great guitar, but it doesn’t have that Tele twang. If you want a Tele, you know you need a Tele.

Fender has so many options out there for Tele lovers it is hard to imagine you won’t find what you’re looking for. However, if you find your dream guitar costs more than you really want to spend, you can always choose the MIM Standard Telecaster and upgrade it with your own custom modifications.

On the other hand, the Standard Tele might be all you ever needed in a guitar. It sounds great, is built to last, and comes in at a reasonable price. Even though it is made in Mexico, it is a real Fender guitar.

Good luck choosing the best Fender Telecaster for your needs and budget. Hopefully you found this review helpful!

Telecaster Poll

Which Tele Will You Choose?

  • The Made-in-Mexico Telecaster
  • USA Telecaster
  • American Special Telecaster
  • On second thought maybe I'll get a Strat instead.
See results without voting

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Comments 7 comments

Big Jim 13 months ago

Mexican Telecasters are all TRASH

You get what you pay for

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

Gosh dang, Big Jim, sure didn't sound like trash in that video up there.

old mark 3 months ago

Mine is great! Sorry about yours, Jimmy...

wally 2 months ago

I have a 2012 mim telecaster and it is just a great guitar, really well made. When the guitar is in tune, it sings... Classic tele tones, with a hot neck pickup that sounds like prime rib...

While the mim might be a shade less than its American-made brother in fit and finish, the difference wasn't big enough for me to justify another 800 out of pocket. But, try playing a few guitars, sometimes the one you pick wont be determined by where its made, but by how it feels and sounds. -wally

Gaston 8 weeks ago

Well,I have 3 Mexican telecaster.I have one that has humbuggers on it. The other two are normal tele's. For one thing not one sounds the same and I like them.

The other day I went to my Long and Mcquade in Moncton,nb,Canada during the week when there's no one there and I tried the most expensive American tele and an Mexican tele in the same amplifier I have. Which is a fender hot rod deluxe 111. And I didn't find any difference in the tone or playability Except the price. Some may find a difference. I didn't.

John 7 weeks ago

Sad that most people would buy a MIM Tele. Nobody has USA pride anymore? You can easily buy a used USA tele for maybe $100 bucks more or even less than a new MIM.

I'd be damned if Waylon would even play a Mexican Tele. Shameful

Bronco 5 days ago

When i first met one of the premier guitar teachers in the entire city, he said to me "i heard you play guitar, and studied at CCM" (one of the midwest top programs) He then asked what type of guitars i have. When we got to electrics i mentioned i had a Telecaster, he perked up and asked "which one, am, mex, or jap, which one which one?" I said, "well i didnt want to be biased, so i had the salesguy hand me all 3, one by one, blind folded.... he was very eager to hear my answer as to which one i chose, as his girlfriend behind him was rolling her eyes, I said, "it wasnt even close, the deep thick rich sound of the Mexican telecaster blew the Am and jap away IMO and that's what i walked out with, the MIM. The guitar teacher screamed, YES YES YES!!! im so proud of you for blind listening and you chose the right one without question. His girlfriend then commented, "You just made his day, he has been talking about the bias and underappreciated quality of the Mexican Telecaster from the time i met him" The teacher went on to give me a list as to why the MIM telecaster is far superior. Moral of the story is do not let the American mindset sway your judgement.

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