If you’re looking to make the switch from a beginner acoustic guitar, or just add something to your arsenal that won’t cost the earth, you can get a lot of bang for your buck with the best electric guitars under $300.
Despite this price range falling at the ‘beginner’ end of the guitar pricing spectrum, modern guitar building technology allows manufacturers to deliver incredible value for money. Here you’ll find a myriad of pickup types and configurations, hardtail bridges and tremolos, as well as a raft of beautiful finishes – so you certainly won’t be lacking for choice. To help you see the wood for the trees, we’ve picked out the best of the bunch for you.
We've also included some in-depth buying advice at the end of this guide, so if you'd like to read more about the best electric guitars under $300 and how to make sure you buy what's best for you, then click the link. If you'd rather just get to the products, then keep scrolling.
Best electric guitars under $300: Guitar World’s choice
Taking our number one spot is the Squier Affinity Stratocaster which, while aimed at beginners, more than holds its own as a mid-level guitar. Such is the build quality of Squier guitars that many pro guitarists like Kevin Parker (Tame Impala), Joe Trohman (Fall Out Boy), and Mac DeMarco rock them on stage.
For absolute beginners who need an all-in-one guitar solution, you can’t go wrong with the Epiphone Slash AFD Les Paul Special-II. This handy little outfit gives you a quality Epiphone single-cut guitar, gig bag, strap, and picks, so you’ll have everything you need to get up and running.
Best electric guitars under $300: Product guide
The Squier Affinity Stratocaster is one of the most popular electric guitar models in this price range thanks to its flexible tone options and outstanding playability. Available in a huge array of colors, this guitar is great for beginners, or as a backup for someone more experienced.
Fender’s ‘C’ profile is renowned for its comfortable feel, providing enough heft for chords whilst remaining slinky enough to encourage soloing and bends. The fretboard feels great, with medium jumbo frets to encourage a variety of play styles.
The Stratocaster’s three single coil pickup configuration is a stone-cold classic thanks to its versatility which allows you to do everything from country to hard rock. These pickups offer the bright and ‘spanky’ tones that the Strat is famous for.
The Epiphone Slash AFD Les Paul Special-II gives you a lot of guitar for relatively little money. Coming with a gig bag, strap, cable, and picks, this handy package is great for guitarists who want to get playing straight away.
The neck is a SlimTaper ‘D’ profile, so you get a super fast playing platform that will have those hard rock lead licks flying away in no time. It’ll feel great to more experienced players too, especially those coming from the more common ‘C’ shape.
The pickups are perfect for hard rock, blues, and even metal. The high output is easily tamed with the volume and control knobs, letting you sculpt great blues and even jazz tones. The bridge pickup also features a super handy built-in tuner, so you’ll always be ready to rock.
The Ibanez Gio series is the perfect gateway for those who like to get heavy. The GRG121DX features two powerful humbucking pickups and despite being aimed at rock and metal guitar players, it’s versatile enough to get away with lighter styles too.
The neck is an absolute joy to play with an extra-slim ‘D’ profile making easy work of lead guitar lines and complex metal riffs. The 25.5-inch scale length makes it well adapted to down-tuning too.
A pair of humbucking electric guitar pickups deliver powerful rock and metal tones as you’d expect, but they clean up pretty well for those clean-picked passages. The hardtail bridge offers excellent tuning stability and sustain, making for a great playing experience.
The Squier Affinity Series Telecaster Deluxe is an impressively versatile guitar that will do a huge variety of styles. It’s a poplar body that’s nice and lightweight and it comes in some great-looking finishes.
Featuring the staple Fender ‘C’ profile neck, it’s an impeccably comfortable playing experience. It sits right in the 'Goldilocks' zone of not too thick and not too thin, ensuring any playing style is possible.
The dual humbuckers excel at hard rock, punk, and even metal, offering plenty of output. Augmented by individual volume and tone controls, they’re also adaptable enough to do blues and jazz-type sounds.
The Yamaha Pacifica range has fast become a staple for players looking for great tone and playability that’s affordable. With its HSS pickup configuration and tremolo, the Yamaha PAC012DLX Pacifica really can do it all.
The ‘C’ shaped neck profile feels thinner than you’d expect and, in combination with the flatter radius fretboard, it delivers a fast playing experience. The neck is quite narrow too so will suit beginners getting to grips with their first chords.
The HSS pickup combination gives you the best of both worlds, with a humbucker in the bridge position for hard rock heft, and two single coils in the middle and neck for lighter tones. The pickups all sound fantastic: clear with a wide tonal variety.
The Jackson Monarkh SC JS22 gives you a lot of bang for your buck with a great pair of humbucking pickups and a comfortable neck profile. Available in some great-looking finishes, it’s the budget version of one of Jackson’s Pro guitar lines.
The neck profile begs to be soloed on thanks to its compound radius fretboard. It starts off rounded at the 1st fret for easy chord fretting and gradually becomes flatter as you get closer to the pickups.
The two ceramic humbuckers offer an articulate guitar tone that’s well matched to heavier styles. They deal with lighter playing admirably and will be more than versatile enough for any beginner guitar player.
Read the review here.
Extended range guitars are all the rage right now, but if you’re not sure if it’s your bag, you might not want to drop a few grand on a seven-string guitar with all the bells and whistles. Enter the Ibanez GIO GRG7221M, which gives you a lot of guitar for little money.
As with the majority of Ibanez guitars, the neck is wide yet slim, providing an excellent profile for rapid-fire playing. It has 24 frets too, so you’ll get two full octaves per string to hone those shred-guitar licks.
The pickups offer a surprising amount of heft for the price point. They can get a little muddy at super high gain settings, but soon clean up when you turn the dial down a bit. Put through a good amp, this guitar does great at both clean and dirty sounds.
The Squier Affinity Series Jazzmaster offers the perfect introduction to the addictive world of offset guitars. Not only do they look unique, but offset guitars offer a sound quite unlike any other which is usually thanks to their pickups.
This guitar features a Maple neck with a ‘C’ profile and will be instantly familiar to anyone who’s played another Fender or Squier guitar. 21 medium jumbo frets on an Indian Laurel fretboard give a smooth and fast playing feel.
It’s the humbucking pickups which help this guitar shine through, delivering a colorful clean tone quite unlike anything else you’ll have heard. When you add fuzz or drive to your signal chain you’ll find this guitar elevates your tone quite dramatically, helping you stand out from the crowd.
Want to know the difference between the Jazzmaster and its short-scale brother? Well, check out our guide to the Jazzmaster vs Jaguar, where we detail the differences in spec, sound and style.
We won’t blame you for double-checking the price is right on this guitar, because quite frankly it’s astounding how Harley Benton is able to offer such great instruments at this kind of money. The Harley Benton TE-52 NA Vintage Series gives you a classic T-style tone at a fraction of the cost.
The 2-piece Maple neck is a ‘C’ profile but it feels thicker, just like what you’d find on a genuine vintage Telecaster guitar. It offers the perfect platform for chords and hybrid picking but it may not suit those with smaller hands.
The pickups are incredible when you consider the price of this guitar. The neck pickup in particular is an absolute delight, while the bridge delivers that classic Tele twang in spades. They both sound very close to a genuine Telecaster, which is a marvel considering the cost.
The Jackson JS22 Dinky Archtop DKA gives you a fast playing neck with brash humbuckers for all-out rock and metal tone. At less than $300, this guitar offers some premium-level features you’ll find on axes twice the price.
A compound radius fretboard gets flatter the higher up the register you move, making it perfect for soloing. 24 frets give you plenty of range for your solos too, while the tremolo lets you accentuate with vibrato and flutters.
The two Jackson-made humbuckers pair perfectly with high gain, giving you an articulate tone with bags of sustain. Switching to clean they’re not quite as nice, but still serviceable. Let's face it though, this guitar is designed to be played loud and fast.
Best electric guitars under $300: Buying advice
What to know when buying a sub-$300 electric guitar
You can trust Guitar World Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing guitar products so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.
When it comes to the best electric guitars under $300 there are two main factors to take into account: playability and sound.
Is neck shape important?
Playability is largely determined by the shape of the neck, known as the neck profile. In this price bracket, the most common is a ‘C’ shape neck which is popular for its even characteristic, so if you’re looking to play a wide variety of styles then this is the one for you. A ‘D’ profile encourages faster playing, great for heavier styles where speed is of the essence. Although you’re unlikely to find one here, there is also a ‘V’ profile, which is an older type you’ll find on vintage reissue guitars and it allows you to get your thumb over the neck for complex chord shapes. Lastly, the ‘U’ shape, or ‘baseball bat’ as it’s colloquially known gives extra heft for players with larger hands and you’ll find these on some Telecaster-style guitars.
Are my guitar's pickups important?
The majority of an electric guitar’s sound is defined by its pickups and pickup configurations. Single coil pickups, as found on most Stratocaster guitars, give a bright and articulate tone that suits a wide variety of styles. Humbuckers, as you’ll find on most Epiphone and Ibanez models, deliver extra output for hard rock and metal. You may also come across the P-90, which sits in the middle ground with more grunt than a single coil, but less output than a humbucker. Deciding which is for you is all down to personal preference, and pickups are adaptable to any style, but for the most part, single coils lean more towards lighter-sounding music whereas humbuckers are for those who want to get a bit heavier.
Are some cheap guitars better than others?
There’s a lot of choice in this price bracket for guitars – and unfortunately, not all of it is good. Lots of cheaply made guitars exist to fill the ever-popular beginner guitar market and they can often come with sharp fret edges, poor tuners, mile-high actions, and harsh pickups. Staying motivated to learn the guitar is difficult enough as it is, without adding a badly playing instrument into the mix. By sticking with the more well-known brands, you’ll be doing yourself a massive favor in the long run, helping to keep you inspired on your guitar journey.
How we choose products
At Guitar World, our team is packed full of experienced musicians who are passionate about all things guitar. With years of playing and testing various guitars, we have gained extensive knowledge through real-world experience in playing and creating music across a variety of playing styles and genres.
Our selection process for the best electric guitars under $300 involves using our own experience, analyzing user reviews, and engaging in lengthy discussions with our editorial colleagues to reach a consensus as to what deserves a place in the article.
As guitar players ourselves, our top priority is to help other guitarists find the most suitable product for their needs. Therefore, we carefully consider factors such as budget, features, ease of use, and durability to compile a list of the best electric guitars available in the market.
Read more about our rating system and exactly how we test each product.
Related buying guides
- Got a bigger budget? These are the best cheap electric guitars under $500
- Take a look at the best beginner electric guitars
- These are the best guitars for kids
- Plug them in to one of the best budget guitar amps
- Check out the best practice amps
- Got more to spend? These are the best electric guitars under $1,000
- And these are the best guitar amps under $1,000
- Bring the noise with the best guitar strings for metal