Cheap Guitars For Beginners- The Pros and Cons

When I bought my first guitar, I was a bit skeptical. I wanted a good-quality guitar but my budget was tight. So I tried to find a guitar that was budget-friendly and that would serve its purpose, to learn how to play it.

First, what counts as “cheap” these days? Generally, we’re talking guitars under $200, often closer to $100 or less. Brands like Rogue, Mitchell, and Johnson dish out very low-cost Stratocaster and Les Paul-style guitars. Acoustic-wise, Yamaha, Fender, and Jasmine make affordable options for beginners too.

These guitars are mass-produced in factories overseas using cheaper materials and less handcrafting. So they typically don’t play or sound as rich as pricier models. But can they still get a newbie started? Let’s break it down.

Pros of Using Cheap Guitar For Beginners?

  • Affordability– Obviously, the number one reason to go for a cheaper guitar is to save bucks. You’re just learning, after all—why sink a huge chunk of change into a hobby if you’re not sure you’ll stick with it? An inexpensive guitar leaves room in your budget for things like lessons, accessories, and studio time.
  • Expendability– Another perk of going low-budget is that it allows you to make some mistakes as you learn without worrying about damaging an expensive instrument. I definitely had some slip-ups as a beginner, like dropping my guitar on the ground or banging it into stuff. With a cheaper model, dents and dings aren’t a big deal.
  • Playability– One other advantage is that inexpensive guitars often play a bit easier than fancier versions. Things like the string height (the “action”) are set lower, which helps you learn basic chords and scales early on. As your fingers gain strength and dexterity, you can upgrade later to something more complex.
  • Portability– I find carrying my cheap guitar around places comfortable compared to expensive ones.

What are the disadvantages of Cheap Guitars?

For one, cheap guitars simply don’t play or sound as good. The hardware like the bridge and tuners is lower quality, so it may never stay in tune or set up right. Notes can buzz and lack sustain because of bad construction.

Cheap guitars are frequently made with inferior wood, like plywood instead of solid spruce or mahogany. This makes them sound weak, especially acoustic guitars that won’t project.

There are also some concerns about durability. The materials and construction of real cheap guitars means you might start seeing issues like lifting frets, loose tuning pegs, and cracking wood within a few years.

How to Choose a Good Cheap Guitars?

If your heart is set on an ultra-affordable guitar, here are some tips:

  • Try before you buy! Play multiple cheap guitars in person at guitar shops to assess sound, playability, and build quality. If it is your first time buying a guitar ask an experienced musician friend that can help you choose the right guitar.
  • Consider going up just slightly in price. Around $200-$300 can get you a decent used guitar or a major starter brand like Yamaha.
  • Focus on solid wood construction if possible – this improves tone and longevity. Laminate woods found on the cheapest guitars sound weak and lifeless.
  • Do online research and read reviews. Some cheap guitars have much better reputations and quality control than others.

Do Cheap Guitars Really Sound Bad?

You’ll often hear guitar snobs claim cheap guitars sound terrible—but the truth is a little more nuanced.

Can inexpensive models sound as full, balanced, and detailed as expensive pro instruments? Generally not—you do typically get what you pay for in terms of guitar tone.

However, for a beginning guitarist just working out chords, scales, and basics, an affordable instrument can still produce decent sound with proper setup and amp pairing. And effects like reverb and overdrive help compensate for the weaker tone.

Aim for an inexpensive guitar made with solid (not laminate) wood if possible—this helps it sound as good as it can. And focus on improving your skills; a real player can make even a cheap guitar sing. Don’t get discouraged and blame only the instrument!

Where can I find Cheap Guitars?

Finding a quality guitar on a budget can seem daunting, but with some savvy shopping, cheap thrills await. Let me walk you through the primo spots to scout supreme-sounding six-strings for less.

  • Online Retailers– Amazon’s bustling bazaar offers killer deals on new and used guitars of all stripes. eBay’s emporium has everything imaginable; vintage, modern, handcrafted, you name it.
  • Local Music Shops– Ask about discounted floor models, used gear trade-ins, or layaway plans that will have you strumming sweet licks for pennies on the dollar. Build relationships with the owners and you could be the first to know when they get unique used items.
  • Pawn Shops– another jackpot for jumping on jamming jewels. You’ve got to know your gear to scope out the true gems though. Bring along an experienced friend if you’re a newbie.
  • Classified ads and online marketplaces– You can find crazy steals from everyday folks looking to clear out some clutter. Gear heads love these virtual swap meets.
  • Thrift and Consignment Shops– they are wild cards, but you may luck upon a vintage guitar with a case included. Rummage diligently and good fortune may strike.
  • Guitar Shows– Haggle with collectors and dealers looking to wheel and deal. Bring a buddy who can spot the difference between a Strat and a lawsuit knockoff.
  • Friends and Family- Ask your family, friends, or fellow musicians if they have unused guitars lying around collecting dust. Offer a six-pack or home-cooked meal in trade, and you could land a freebie loaner or permanent player.
  • Online Guitar Forums- lastly, explore online guitar forums where newbies get guidance from sages, and members buy, sell, and trade their tools of the trade. Just be wary of scammers, and make sure to check feedback.

The key is assessing condition and playability to determine good value. Test drive those babies. Set a budget, research prices, and trust your gut. Then you’ll be rocking raw riffs and soulful leads in no time. Just get out there are find those budget beauties waiting to sing.

Top Affordable Acoustic Guitars for Budget-Conscious Musicians

Fender CD-60 V3 (link to Amazon)Acoustic$200-$300Top: laminated spruce
Back & Sides: mahogany
Yamaha F310NT (link to Amazon) Acoustic$150-$200Top: laminated spruce wood
Sides & Back: meranti
Harley Benton
HB Custom Line
CLD-10S NS (link to Amazon)
Acoustic$100-150Top: Solid spruce
Back & Sides: mahogany
Orangewood Rey (link to Amazon)Acoustic$400-$600Top: solid spruce
Sides & Back: layered mahogany

The Fender CD-60 V3

As one of the biggest names in guitars, you can’t go wrong with a Fender. The CD-60 V3 is a total classic. This dreadnought-shaped beauty rocks a laminated spruce top with scalloped bracing. So it’s built to project loud and proud!

The mahogany back and sides give it a balanced, warm tone. And the rosewood fretboard feels smooth under your fingers. Overall, it’s an amazing starter guitar for the money.

The Yamaha F310NT

My Japanese friends at Yamaha know how to make quality instruments. Case in point: the F310NT. Another dreadnought, it sports a spruce top and mahogany back and sides. This creates an open, resonant sound with plenty of volume. It’s insanely playable too, with a slim neck and low action. If you dig a bright, lively tone, the F310NT is a stellar choice.

The Harley Benton CLD-10S NS

Want a great guitar on a shoestring budget? Harley Benton delivers with the CLD-10S NS. The all-mahogany body produces a balanced, mellow tone. It’s built with their Custom Line Design series, meaning upgraded materials and craftsmanship.

Will it compete with a premium acoustic? Nah. But for the price, you honestly can’t do much better.

The Orangewood Rey

If you’ve got a few more bucks, I recommend checking out Orangewood. A smaller company out of California that makes killer guitars. The Rey sports a grand concert shape for balanced volume and tight low-end. Its solid Sitka spruce top lets your tone blossom over time. And with layered mahogany back and sides, this guitar sounds freaking fantastic. The price ain’t cheap, but you get what you pay for.

Really, you can’t go wrong with any of these four. Think about your budget, music style, and aesthetic preferences. Want a trusted brand that sounds great? Go Fender or Yamaha. Need something ultra-affordable? Check out Harley Benton. And if you can spend a little extra, Orangewood’s custom shop quality will make you smile every time you pick it up.

There are so many great choices out there. But hopefully, this gives you a few models to consider.

How Long Do Cheap Guitars Last?

This depends a lot on the individual guitar, how it’s cared for, and how much you play it. But in general:

  • With light playing, basic maintenance, and proper storage, a cheap guitar could last 5+ years.
  • With heavy use for practice and gigs, expect significant issues to arise within 1-2 years on the cheapest guitars.

Eventually even well cared for cheap guitars will start to show their low-quality origins. But they can definitely be a temporary fix for new guitarists on tiny budgets.

If you have any children that may be keen on learning to play a keyboard at the same time as learning to play guitar check out the article “What Age Should You Start Keyboard Lessons?”

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, a cheap guitar can get a newbie started. But don’t expect an amazing tone or playability. And be prepared to replace it sooner than later if you really get into the guitar.

My advice? Start super cheap if needed, but begin saving up for a quality mid-range guitar ASAP. Your skills (and ears) will thank you!

Raquel Richardson

I am a guitar player and singer and my husband is a piano and keyboard player. I love to play and write music and have put together to provide helpful information on guitars and pianos. To find out more about me please visit my About Us page.

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