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The 5 Best Telecaster Guitars on a Five Hundred Dollar Budget

Updated on December 3, 2016
Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.

The Telecaster was designed to be easily manufactured. The design is supremely functional and simple. There is little to find confusing with a Telecaster, but there is ever so much to utilize and love. So it was a hit from the day it was born, and remains one today.

You just can't go wrong with a Tele. It's a great guitar to start playing with, and some of the finest players who've ever lived used one their entire careers. Today, with so many manufacturers making a Telecaster, there are instruments that fall in all price range.

Our purpose with this article is to look at some of the very least expensive Telecaster guitars available. All instruments listed were chosen from getting consistent rave reviews by persons who've owned and played them. Every guitar would be a great place to start with the instrument, or a great guitar to take out into the clubs for live performance.

Telecaster guitars at a budget price

These guitars shouldn't be thought of as beginner's guitars. That said, there is no reason why a beginner shouldn't start with something good enough to keep forever. Stevie Ray Vaughan once stated the truth of it all when he said something about how you shouldn't fixate on gear so much. Stevie said the most of anyone's sound comes from their hands. So the point here is, if you can't sound good on one of these budget Telecaster guitars, a more expensive one won't make you sound much better.

There is another very important thing to know, and that is when a guitar feels good in your hands, and you can play well with it, then you can change the sound considerably if you feel the need to. Guitar pickups and electrical components play a huge part in the sound of a solid body electric guitar. You've got a well built budget model guitar that feels great in your hands, but the sound could be tweaked a little towards your preference? Not a hard to solve problem. A budget model Tele which is equipped with premium stuff on down the road can sound better than the best guitars Fender produces from their custom shop.

All the Telecaster guitars discussed on this page are traditional duel single coil Teles. I am personally familiar with the quality of these brands, and have seen these guitars at sale prices, brand new, at less than five hundred dollars. Will the prices go up or down? That's absolutely impossible to predict, but there has never been a better time to get a top notch Tele at a working person's price than right now.

Squier Affinity Series Telecaster

Squier Affinity Telecaster demo

It is truly hard to imagine there ever being a lower priced Telecaster than this. The Squier Affinity Series Telecaster sells for around two hundred dollars today. There's no way to predict whether those prices will be up or down tomorrow. For all the world this guitar looks just like the original Fender Telecaster guitars from the early 1950s. And Squier is a brand produced by Fender.

The Squier Affinity Series Telecaster combines vintage-style specs with a few modern appointments, features include an alder body and outfitted with tried and true Telecaster single-coil pickups. The simple schematic of one volume, one tone control, and 3-way pickup selector has spanned the entire 60 years of the Telecaster’s existence: proving that a good thing should never be messed with. The elegant gold and black two-color headstock logo lends a touch of class to this instrument.

You can get in the guitar playing door with this one, and if you decide to stick with it, you've got something which you can play forever. There are some little things which aren't expensive to do which can make this guitar even better. Upgrade this excellent platform as you progress in playing to reward yourself, and you'll keep getting better and better. There is no need to merely take my word for gold regarding these guitars, I'm in at least 30 guitar groups on Facebook, and I read online guitar forums daily. The number of people raving about what an amazing value this guitar represents is large indeed.

Squier Affinity Telecaster Special Specifications

  • Series: Squier Affinity Series
  • Body: Alder
  • Neck: Maple, C-Shape (Polyurethane Finish)
  • Fingerboard: Maple, 9.5 inch, Radius (241 mm)
  • Frets: 21 Medium Jumbo
  • Scale: 25.5 inch (648 mm)
  • Width at Nut: 1.61 inches (41 mm)
  • Hardware: Chrome
  • Machine Heads: Standard Die-Cast Tuners
  • Bridge: 6-Saddle Top-Load Bridge
  • Pickguard: 1-Ply
  • Pickups: 2 Single-Coil Pickups
  • Pickup Switching:3-Position Blade:
    • Position 1. Bridge Pickup
    • Position 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups
    • Position 3. Neck Pickup
  • Controls: Volume, Tone
  • Finish: Polyurethane Finish

Unique Features:

  • Black Plastic Nut
  • Black Top-Hat Switch Tip
  • Black Silkscreen Logo
  • Dot Position Inlays

Squier Standard Telecaster

Squier Standard Telecaster demonstration

The Squier Standard Telecaster has a hotter bridge pickup than does the Affinity, and it has a different neck profile. Because the neck of a guitar is hugely important to the player, it is paramount a body buys a guitar their hand feels the most comfortable with. The idea is you'll be spending countless hours with the guitar neck in hand, of course.

What is most interesting to me about the Squier Standard Telecaster is its body wood is of agathis wood instead of the traditional alder or ash wood. Agathis is in the same family of woods as is alder, but is far cheaper for the Squier builders in Asia to attain. This allows for the people at Squier to spend more time on details such as the finish and still sell you a guitar for a great price.

What are the drawbacks to agathis as a guitar tonewood? Agathis is a soft wood. So the problem comes only for people who love to modify their guitars often. If you know already you are going to heavily modify your Telecaster, then the Affinity would probably be preferable. Also preferable would be any Telecaster of ash wood. If you don't mod, then this agathis body Tele will play and sound great!

These bargain Telecaster guitars by Squier cost only two hundred and fifty bucks new. For half that you can find good used ones. Still waiting to take up the guitar? There isn't much excuse!

Squier Standard Telecaster Specifications

  • BODY: Agathis
  • NECK: Maple, C-Shape, (Polyurethane Finish)
  • FINGERBOARD: Rosewood, 9.5 inch Radius (241 mm)
  • NO. OF FRETS: 22 Medium Jumbo
  • SCALE LENGTH: 25.5 inch (648 mm)
  • WIDTH AT NUT: 1.650 inch (42 mm)
  • HARDWARE: Chrome
  • MACHINE HEADS: Standard Die-Cast Tuners
  • BRIDGE: 6-Saddle Strings-Thru-Body Bridge
  • PICKGUARD:
    • 3-Ply Parchment on: 07, 09, 65,
    • 4-Ply Tortoise Shell on: 37,
    • 3-Ply Black on: 92
  • PICKUPS: 2 Alnico Magnet Single-Coil Pickups
  • PICKUP SWITCHING: 3-Position Blade:
    • Position 1. Bridge Pickup
    • Position 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups
    • Position 3. Neck Pickup
  • CONTROLS: Volume, Tone
  • COLORS:
    • Vintage Blonde *add $15.00,
    • Candy Apple Red,
    • Antique Burst *add $15.00,
    • Black Metallic,
    • Walnut Satin, (Polyurethane Finish)
  • UNIQUE FEATURES:
    • Gold Decal Logo Engraved Neckplate
    • Black Plastic Parts
    • Dot Position Inlays

G&L Limited Edition Tribute ASAT Classic ash body guitar

When Leo Fender sold his namesake company to CBS he had to wait ten years before he could openly be involved with another guitar manufacturer. When it was possible again he went straight to work with G&L and Music Man. So any G&L guitar is just as much a Fender as guitars which say Fender on them.

The G&L ASAT is their Telecaster. Seems obvious enough only Fender owns the right to call a guitar that name. G&L guitars are made both in California, and Indonesia. The Indonesian guitars are significantly less expensive than the made in USA variety. What you'll find out, however, is the low prices don't get you a cheap guitar, they get you a guitar which is a huge value for the money, as the cost of labor in Indonesia is far less than it is in the USA.

Framed in a classic boxed-steel bridge, the G&L-designed alnico pickups deliver crisp attack with complex harmonics while individual brass saddles offer modern levels of intonation refinement. The Tribute Series ASAT Classic is dripping with Leo mojo at a price attainable for every working musician. These guitars are presently selling at under four hundred dollars. Are the pickups and other pieces of hardware superior to the Squier? Play them both, and decide for yourself. What do these G&L Telecaster guitars cost? Four hundred and ninety nine dollars and ninety nine cents.

G&L Limited Edition Tribute ASAT Classic Features:

  • Body shape: Single cutaway
  • Body type: Solid body, solid wood
  • Body wood: Ash
  • Body finish: Gloss
  • Orientation: Right or Left handed
  • Neck shape: C standard
  • Neck wood: Hard-rock Maple
  • Joint: Bolt-on
  • Scale length: 25.5"
  • Truss rod: Standard
  • Neck finish: Satin
  • Fretboard Material: Maple
  • Radius: 9.5"
  • Fret size: Medium
  • Number of frets: 22
  • Inlays: Dot
  • Nut width: 1.63" (41.4mm)
  • Passive G&L Alnico Pickups
  • Control layout: Master volume, tone
  • Pickup switch: 3-way
  • Fixed Bridge design: traditional boxed-steel bridge with individual brass saddles
  • Nickel Color Tuning machines: Deluxe sealed
  • Country of origin: Indonesia

Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster Custom

Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster Custom demonstration

Squier's Classic Vibe series is a step up from the Affinity and Standard series, but still priced below five hundred dollars. These guitars are truly a professional's instrument. That gorgeous sunburst finish on these guitars is not something one normally gets on instruments in this price range.

The Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster Custom is an Alder body guitar rather than ash or agathis. The body is double bound, which gives it a much more expensive look. The pickguard is an ever so subtle color of mint green. Yes, it looks white from here. You can practically steal used individuals of these for about three hundred dollars.

This is clearly the best option from Squier's line of Teles, unless, of course, humbucking pickups are something you require. Global trade benefits the working poor when it comes to products like these. These guitars are extremely good right out of the box, and need no upgrades to be used for any situation. What do these guitars cost? Four hundred and fifty dollars at present, a fabulous bargain.

Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster Custom Specifications

  • Body: Alder
  • Finish: Gloss polyester
  • Neck: 1-Piece maple, modern C shape
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Fingerboard radius: 9-1/2" (241mm)
  • Frets: 21, medium jumbo
  • Scale length: 25-1/2" (648mm)
  • Nut width: 1.625" (41mm)
  • Hardware: Chrome
  • Tuning Keys: Vintage-style tuning machines
  • Bridge: Vintage-style string-thru-body Tele bridge with 3 threaded steel barrel saddles
  • Pickguard: 3-ply mint
  • Pickups: 2 Custom single-coil Tele pickups with Alnico V magnets (neck & bridge)
  • Pickup switching: 3-Position Blade: Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups, Position 3. Neck Pickup
  • Controls: master volume, master tone
  • Knurled chrome controls
  • Vintage tinted neck
  • Parchment dot position markers, Gold Squire logo,
  • Top hat switch tip

The Fender Standard Telecaster

In Lake Placid blue
In Lake Placid blue

Fender Standard Telecaster demonstration

With all do respect to the great manufacturing done at Squier, a guitar that says Fender on the headstock is always going to be worth more money. Yes, it is also going to cost more money. Is the Fender Standard better than the best of Squier? That's something to be determined by the consumer. An optimal situation would be for the prospective buyer to play several similar guitars to figure out what is best for them.

The Fender Standard Telecaster is made in Mexico, and these are praised by everyone who plays or owns them. One thing which I hear repeatedly is the Mexican production standards have improved greatly over the years. While it is true these guitars are normally priced at five hundred and ninety nine dollars, I have seen big distributors have sales of them due to overstock where two hundred bucks have been knocked off the price tag.

These guitars are probably better ones than the originals from the early 1950s. Technology improves over time, of course, and it wouldn't be reasonable to think Fender can't make a better guitar today than they did way back then. The bridge is updated, and the single coil pickups are voiced hotter so as to aid the persons who wish to drive their amplifiers into distortion. Literally, I dream about these guitars at night.

Fender Standard Series Telecaster Features:

  • Brown sunburst color
  • Solidbody guitar
  • Polyester finish
  • Maple neck with modern C shape
  • Alder top
  • Fender/Ping standard cast/sealed tuners
  • 25.5" scale length
  • Maple fingerboard
  • 21 frets
  • Dot inlays
  • 2 hotter voiced single-coil pickups in neck and bridge positions
  • Master volume and master tone controls
  • 3-position blade for pickup switching
  • Newly designed bridge block
  • Chrome hardware

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    • hollander profile image

      hollander 7 months ago

      Nice job on this article

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image
      Author

      Wesman Todd Shaw 7 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Hey, thanks very much!

    • profile image

      Dave 7 months ago

      I have two Fender FSR Mexican Teles that are my stage guitars, a limited edition Copperburst made exclusively for Guitar Center, and a Black Paisley. Both under $500 and both play every bit as well and are as well made as my 1983 USA Tele. Keep an eye out for the FSRs on the used market, they are an incredible value.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image
      Author

      Wesman Todd Shaw 7 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Very cool, Dave. And absolutely, Fender made in Japan is going to be as good (or better) than US production, and almost always at a lower price.

    • profile image

      ronzhd 7 months ago

      Suprised Vintage Icon, and Vintage tele's didn't show up on here. Trevor Wilkinson designed a great product.

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