The author is a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.
Squier or Fender?
Squier by Fender is a guitar company that builds instruments intended for beginners and musicians on a budget. As the name suggests, Squier is a brand owned by Fender, one of the most influential guitar builders in the world.
This is a good thing because it not only means Squier is able to build faithful renditions of Fender classics like the Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jazz Bass, and Precision Bass, but also that everything Squier does needs to be up to Fender’s high standards. Because of Squier, amazing Fender designs are available to just about anyone.
But for some of us, it also presents a little problem. Which should you choose, Squier or Fender? For beginning musicians, it is often a question of budget. Intermediate players may wonder if Squier is good enough for their needs. Even we veteran players can be tempted by Squier: They make some great-looking instruments, and the prices are unbeatable.
Personally, I have nothing but good things to say about Squier. I own one myself and in another post, I’ve already covered the pros and cons of the Squier brand. But I’m not going to say they are on-par with Fender instruments either, and there are good reasons to choose either brand. Like many things in this world, we need to take a hard look to determine our best path.
In this article, we’ll examine how the Squier Stratocaster compares to Fender, and how different Squier series compare to each other. I’ll start with Fender, and then move up the Squier line. The Fender Stratocaster is the most popular guitar in their lineup. However, you can expand these comparisons to any similar Fender and Squier models (jazz bass vs jazz bass, telecaster vs telecaster, etc.).
Hopefully, this can help you decide which instrument is right for you, be it Fender or one of the Squier options.
On to the gear!
Fender Guitars and Basses
If you are trying to choose between Squier and Fender, an American Fender is probably not even in the equation. However, since Squier guitars and basses are supposed to be based on Fender’s specs, the American versions of Fender instruments can give us a baseline to work with. Again, I’m going to compare Stratocasters here.
The Fender Stratocaster is one of the best electric guitars of all time, and it has been around since the 1950s. So, what is a Strat supposed to look like?
The 2020 American Professional Strat features the following specs:
- Body: Alder with Gloss Polyurethane finish. Alder is a bright-midrangy tonewood, and common in American Strats. If that makes no sense, or you just don’t care, the important thing to know is that alder is the tonewood that shapes the Stratocaster sound, and anything else will deviate slightly.
- Neck: Maple with “Deep C” shape and a bone nut.
- Fingerboard: Rosewood or maple, 22 frets, 25.5” scale, 9.5” fingerboard radius, narrow-tall frets.
- Pickups and Electronics: This can be a point of contention for many Strat owners, as they may prefer different pickups on Strats from different years. For 2020, the American Professional Strat ships with Fender V-Mod Single-Coil Stratocaster single-coil pickups. It features the standard one volume, two tone control Strat setup.
- Bridge: Two-point synchronized tremolo. Even though Fender still sticks to a more old-school design than most guitar builders, this is a solid bridge.
The American Professional Stratocaster
The Fender Player Series
At first, glance, pitting the American Stratocaster against a Squier probably seems like an unfair fight, and it is. But remember that was just to give us a look at what a Stratocaster is supposed to have going on.
Far more likely, if you are trying to choose between Squier and Fender, you are looking at the Fender Player line, also known as the MIM Stratocaster.
Fender Player guitars and basses are made in Fender’s production facilities in Mexico. These are great instruments for the money, but still quite a bit more expensive than a Squier. However, if you have the cash they are a good option.
So, how much does the Player Strat resemble an American Professional Strat?
- The Player version has the same Alder body, but in this case with a thicker polyester finish.
- We see similar specs for the neck (Deep C vs Modern C) in both measurements and build materials.
- Rosewood is not available on the Player Series as a fretboard material. Instead, we get pau ferro to save some cost and some trees.
- The pickups are Player Series Alnico 5 single coils. Maybe not as good as the V-Mods on the American, but still pretty darned good pickups.
- The bridge has been upgraded to a 2-point tremolo, a significant improvement over the 6-screw vintage bridges on past Mexican-made Fenders.
Overall, this leaves us with an excellent Strat similar to an American but for a fraction of the price.
You can check out an in-depth overview of how the American Strat compares to the MIM Strat in build, quality, and sound in this review.
Now we will move on to Squier Strats, and see how they measure up.
The Fender Player Series Strat
Squier Standard Series
The Standard Squier Stratocaster looks a whole lot like a Fender, and that’s the idea. It’s a real Stratocaster, but with some corners cut to make it more affordable.
What is the difference between a Fender and Squier Strat?
For one thing, Squier guitars are made overseas. This saves on labor costs and brings down the price of the guitar. Instead of Alder, we see Agathis as the body material. Agathis is cheap, plentiful and a decent substitute in a budget guitar. There is a polyurethane finish on both the body and the back of the neck.
The specs for the neck are the same as for the American Strat but don’t expect the same high-quality woods here, or the same attention to detail in the finishing.
There’s a 2-point tremolo, but it’s not the same heavy-block type seen in the American Strat. Pickups are Fender stock single-coils.
It will not sound as good as a Fender Stratocaster, but if you are a beginner or on a tight budget, it will do the job. If not, there are other options in the Squier lineup.
Squier also has the Affinity Stratocaster, which is even more affordable and one of the best electric guitars for beginners.
Squier Classic Vibe and Vintage Modified Series
The Vintage Modified Series is a step up from the Standard Squier. It has gotten a tremendously positive reception since unveiled a few years back. Like the Vintage Modified Series, the Squier Classic Vibe instruments have gotten a lot of love from veteran players.
There’s a Classic Vibe ‘50s model and a ‘60s model, the main difference being the maple fingerboard on the ‘50s and rosewood on the ‘60s. Otherwise, we’re back to an alder body with a maple neck and a 21-fret fingerboard and a vintage bridge.
The pickups are listed as Custom Vintage-Style Single-Coil Strat pickups for both the ‘50s and ‘60s Vintage Modified.
The Vintage Modified and Classic Vibe Squiers are great choices for musicians who want to add another instrument to their collections without spending much money. They are surprisingly good, and tremendous values.
For beginners, either of these series makes for impressive starter guitars you may not feel you need to upgrade for a long while.
Which Squier Stratocaster Is Best?
If you have the cash, I suggestion going with the Classic Vibe '50s or '60s Strat. I think they compare favorably to MIM Fenders. Also check out the Contemporary Stratocaster. Squier has a bunch of models that might be just what you need. The Standard Squier Series is a notch below, but still a nice option for the money.
There are other Squiers out there too. The Affinity and Bullet series are the bottom of the Squier stable. They are just fine for beginners, but more advanced players may want something better.
When we ask how good Squier guitars are compared to Fenders we end up with the answer Fender probably wants. They are good enough to fill that Fender void for players who can’t or don’t want to spend cash on the American Series, but not so good that there isn’t a very clear-cut difference between an American Fender and everything else.
How to Choose a Squier Stratocaster
As always, be sure to check with Fender’s website for the most updated info on their guitars. They are always innovating.
So how do you choose which guitar is right for you? Well, let me tell you a little anecdote that might bring some clarity. I used to own all kinds of expensive instruments. Still do have a few. Believe me, there are few things in life more beautiful than an American-made Fender guitar, except maybe a vintage American Fender guitar.
Then one day I saw this jazz guitarist performing with a cheap guitar and old combo amp. He sounded amazing, and his whole rig probably could have been replaced for well under a grand. I was impressed, not only by his playing but by his apparent irreverence towards expensive equipment. It changed my whole attitude towards gear.
The moral of the story? When it comes to your playing, the archer matters more than the arrow. If you can afford and want an American-made Fender by all means go for it. But if you can’t, or just don’t feel like spending more on an instrument, don’t sweat it. That’s why we’re lucky to have brands like Squier around. You can still end up with a great guitar, even on a budget.
As for the cork sniffers who might look down on you for your Squier? I guarantee if you spend your time practicing instead of worrying about them you and your little ol’ Squier will make them eat their words someday.
Fender guitars are amazing instruments, but don’t count out little brother Squier. Good luck with your decision!
Are Your Taking the Squier Plunge?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
3 Nails Black songwriter,musician, and singer, and I love the squire fender and it's great to explore its many sounds and the styles .. just a good guitar for beginners and advanced players as well.. on December 23, 2019:
Enjoy the.many sytles and sounds u can create with the squire .
Guitar Gopher (author) on July 21, 2019:
@Vint - While it is true that many Squiers are built for beginners who will eventually move up to a better guitar, that doesn't necessarily have to be so, especially if you are talking about a Classic Vibe Series Squier. They are certainly built well enough to last for decades, if you take care of them correctly.
The Classic Vibe Series is a level above most Squier instruments. In my experience they sound and play like more expensive guitars. So, if you were to stick with it as your main instrument you'd be fine.
Remember that you can swap out pickups or other parts and upgrade your Squier. More importantly, remember that the sound is about you, not the guitar. Advanced guitarists can make a Squier sound better than any Fender.
Ultimately it boils down to choice. Most guitarists choose to move up to Fender because they are "better" guitars. But that doesn't mean a Squier is a bad guitar, or that you can't stick with it as your main instrument.
Just my opinion. Hope that helps and good luck!
Vinit on July 20, 2019:
Hi, I was thinking about purchasing a Squier Telecaster (probably Classic Vibe) around late November or early December. I heard that Squiers weren't built to last long unlike Fenders which are built to be your lifelong companions.
Is this true and that I should I hold onto the Squier and buy a Fender when the time comes, or is this not true so I can have a Squier as my main guitar?
Cheers from Australia.
Rob on May 05, 2019:
I have a squire 72 thinline telecaster
. I've owned plenty of American strats and teles, as well as mim strats.. gotta say that squire has become quite an amazing guitar for the money, and even period at any price point! Plan on picking up another squire or two.
Probably a classic vibe, and another vintage modified.
Guitar Gopher (author) on January 21, 2019:
@ Dansanll: As I understand it, MIM Squiers were similar to MIM Standards as far as bodies, necks, construction, etc. but came with downgraded components, which allowed them to be sold at a cheaper price point.
In other words, if you were to upgrade some hardware and electronics your Squier MIM would be equivalent to an MIM Standard from the same era.
Dansanll on January 19, 2019:
I have a Telecaster Squire Made In Mexico.
I have been trying to learn the difference between the Fender Telecaster Made In Mexico and my Squire Telecaster Made In Mexico.
I have been unsuccessful in obtaining any information on the Squire Telecaster MIM.
Any help would be appreciated.
New guy on July 08, 2017:
Have a squire with maple neck and fret board and a Floyd rose locking tremolo with Seymour Duncan pickups and my little guitar rocks. My squire bullet is a force to be reckoned with with the upgrades it plays better than most that you would pay a grand for new of the shelf
Guitar Gopher (author) on November 08, 2016:
Hi Lucas. I don't know exactly what hardware that guitar uses. Some of the Squier Strats use the same hardware as MIM Fenders and I'm thinking that is likely the case here. If so, you can swap them out. Obviously you wouldn't be able to switch the 6-point vintage trem for a 2-point without a little work, but otherwise I think you'll be okay. You may want to do a little more investigation to be sure. Good luck!
Lucas Lopes on November 07, 2016:
Hi. I own a Squier Classic Vibe 50s and I am thinking of changing my tuning machines and bridge for Fender ones, but I also want to keep the vintage style in my guitar. Are these parts interchangeable?
Guitar Gopher (author) on October 23, 2014:
I see your predicament. I don't know, I think I might look around a bit before settling on this guitar, especially since you can't play it. Sounds like you're looking for something with a solid foundation to build on, and I agree that this probably isn't an alder body. Agathis? Poplar? Who knows?
You can always try emailing Fender and maybe they'll get back to you with some specs. Also, I don't know how accessible they are over there, but maybe keep an eye out for good deals on MIM and MIJ Fenders. Even if you can get a "project" guitar with a solid body and neck you can replace everything else gradually.
Skieur on October 22, 2014:
Thx for answering GG. One first thing I have to say is, I am French. It could be useful for futures conversations. The guitar is far away from home and I can't test it. As I said I already have a Squier CAE-005........ Black Body/White PickG (SSS). I baught it for 60€. Looks like the body is in 3 pieces, most of the Black strats are this color because of the Agathis characteristics. The finish is crap, the painting is irregular. But it's a Strat and regarding to the price, I can try a little upgrade. So the Mexican one I found is twice and a half the price than this one, far away from home and "probably" made in agathis too. In another hand the Mexican one will fits all the US fender parts, "May have": better finish, better sound, better hardware (what about the Pups ?). + the Neck is "full Mapple", I like this "vintage" look ... As you said I must try it !!
Guitar Gopher (author) on October 22, 2014:
Hi Skieur. This article refers to modern specs for Squier strats, so don't assume it applies to models from past years! I've been trying to dig up some answers to your question, but the info is hard to come by. According to your serial number your guitar should have been made in 1993, in Mexico. I'm seeing a lot of speculation, but no real definitive references to Squier by Fender MIM specs from 1993-94. (Except for "Squier Series" guitars, which you say this is not.)
Maybe someone who reads this will be able to tell us (please don't post a link!).
In the mean time, my thought is to play the guitar and see if you like the sound. If you do, who cares what it is made out of?
Another option is to take the plunge on an MIM Fender, or a higher-end Squier.
Good luck, and be sure to post back if you find a definitive answer to your question!
Skieur on October 22, 2014:
Hi all, thx for this article. I am a beginner in guitar playing and Squier guitars. I have a Chinese Squier Strat SE, looks like coming from a pack names "start playing stop dreaming" (!!). Looks like the cheapest one you can have ! apparently its made with Agathis (body). I already have another guitar (Ibanez like) (HSH) made in Agathis with a better finish than the squire, and almost a better sound !! I am looking to buy a Mexican squier (MN316713), not a Fender Squier series" one, but real Squier by Fender. As I can read in this article sounds like it will be again an Agathis body ... I am looking for an Alder one. Can anybody confirm that all the Squiers from Mexico made in the nineties are made in Agathis Bodies ???
Guitar Gopher (author) on September 12, 2014:
Thanks FretBubba. I like the way your mind works!
FretBubba on September 12, 2014:
One of the most useful articles around - I think there needs to be another option for the poll - "I'm going to buy a Squier and get so good that I can justify buying an American Standard". Cheers!
Guitar Gopher (author) on June 30, 2014:
You bet! Play your Squier with pride. There is never any reason to feel badly about what kind of guitar you play!
ab.rahman sanib on June 30, 2014:
it,s helpful for us all after reading your good article.Yes american fender is great but i,ll no longer fill worry of what people will say by having the squire.It still have something to prove and to have that charisma if we can play really well.