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Best electric guitars under $300 2022: high quality at a low price

Three Epiphone Les Paul guitars, including the Epiphone AFD Les Paul Special II on a wooden floor leaning against a wall
(Image credit: Future)

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 (opens in new tab) 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

Best electric guitars under $300: Squier Affinity Stratocaster

(Image credit: Squier)

1. Squier Affinity Stratocaster

A phenomenal all-rounder that will do pretty much any style

Specifications

Body: Poplar
Neck: Maple
Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Indian Laurel
Frets: 21
Pickups: 3 x Ceramic Single-Coil
Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1 (Neck/Middle Pickups), Tone 2 (Bridge Pickup), 5-Position Blade
Hardware: 2-Point Synchronized Tremolo with Block Saddles, Sealed Die-Cast Tuners with Split Shafts
Left-handed: Yes (Sunburst Only)
Finish: 3-Color Sunburst, Olympic White (Maple Fretboard), Black, Lake Placid Blue (Maple Fretboard)

Reasons to buy

+
Versatile pickup configuration
+
Playable neck profile

Reasons to avoid

-
Pickups won’t do metal
-
Might need a set-up

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.

Best electric guitars under $300: Epiphone Slash AFD Les Paul Special-II

(Image credit: Epiphone )

2. Epiphone Slash AFD Les Paul Special-II

Perfect for players who live for hard rock and blues

Specifications

Body: Okoume
Neck: Okoume
Scale: 24.72"
Fingerboard: Pau Ferro
Frets: 22
Pickups: 2 x Epiphone Ceramic Plus; Zebra-coil
Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone, 3-way Epiphone toggle switch
Hardware: LockTone Tune-o-matic bridge with Stop bar tailpiece, Epiphone die-cast 14:1 tuners
Left-handed: No
Finish: Appetite Amber

Reasons to buy

+
Powerful pickups
+
Fast playing neck

Reasons to avoid

-
Better for heavier music
-
You don’t like Slash

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.

Best electric guitars under $300: Ibanez Gio GRG121DX

(Image credit: Ibanez)

3. Ibanez Gio GRG121DX

A great value guitar for the metal heads out there

Specifications

Body: Okoume
Neck: Maple
Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Purpleheart
Frets: 24
Pickups: 2 x IBZ-6 (H) Passive/Ceramic Pickup
Controls: Volume, tone, 5-way selector switch
Hardware: F106 bridge
Left-handed: Yes
Finish: Walnut Flat, Black Flat

Reasons to buy

+
Slim and fast neck
+
Aggressive humbuckers

Reasons to avoid

-
No tremolo
-
Won’t suit lighter styles

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.

Best electric guitars under $300: Squier Affinity Series Telecaster Deluxe

(Image credit: Squier)

4. Squier Affinity Series Telecaster Deluxe

A powerful guitar with plenty of tonal versatility

Specifications

Body: Poplar
Neck: Maple
Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Indian Laurel
Frets: 21
Pickups: 2 x Ceramic Humbucker
Controls: Volume 1 (Bridge Pickup), Volume 2 (Neck Pickup), Tone 1 (Bridge Pickup), Tone 2 (Neck Pickup), 3-Position Toggle Switch
Hardware: 6-Saddle String-Through-Body Hardtail With Block Saddles, Sealed Die-Cast Tuners with Split Shafts
Left-handed: No
Finish: Burgundy Mist, Charcoal Frost Metallic, Black (Maple Fretboard), Silverburst

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable neck
+
Versatile tones

Reasons to avoid

-
Looks not for everyone
-
Not the best clean tones

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.

Best electric guitars under $300: Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica

(Image credit: Yamaha)

5. Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica

A supremely versatile guitar that does it all

Specifications

Body: Agathis
Neck: Maple Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 22
Pickups: 1 x Yamaha Ceramic Humbucker, 2 x Yamaha Ceramic Single-coil
Controls: 1 x master volume, 1 x master tone, 5-way blade pickup switch
Hardware: Vintage Tremolo, Yamaha Sealed Tuners,
Left-handed: Yes (Pacifica 112JL)
Finish: Dark Blue Metallic, Black, Red Metallic

Reasons to buy

+
Versatile pickup configuration
+
Comfortable neck

Reasons to avoid

-
Tuners aren’t the best
-
Flat fretboard not for everyone

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.

Best electric guitars under $300: Jackson Monarkh SC JS22

(Image credit: Jackson)

6. Jackson Monarkh SC JS22

A comfortable and fast-playing LP-style guitar

Specifications

Body: Mahogany
Neck: Maple
Scale: 24.75"
Fingerboard: Amaranth
Frets: 22
Pickups: 2 x Jackson High-Output Humbucking
Controls: Volume, Tone, 3-Position Toggle
Hardware: Jackson TOM-Style Adjustable with Anchored Tailpiece
Left-handed: No
Finish: Red Stain, Satin Black, Snow White, Tobacco Burst

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent pickups
+
Fast playing neck

Reasons to avoid

-
Tuners aren’t the best
-
Might need a set-up

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.

Best electric guitars under $300: Ibanez Gio GRG7221MQA

(Image credit: Ibanez)

7. Ibanez Gio GRG7221MQA

An incredible extended-range guitar that definitely djents

Specifications

Body: Poplar
Neck: Maple
Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Maple
Frets: 24
Pickups: 2 x Ibanez Infinity R (H) Passive/Ceramic Pickups
Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone, 5-way selector switch
Hardware: Ibanez F107 bridge, Ibanez die-cast Tuners
Left-handed: No
Finish: Transparent Black Sunburst

Reasons to buy

+
Ultra fast playability
+
Nice and lightweight

Reasons to avoid

-
No tremolo
-
Tuners could be better

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.

Best electric guitars under $300: Squier Affinity Series Jazzmaster

(Image credit: Squier)

8. Squier Affinity Series Jazzmaster

A great entry point for those who want to try an offset guitar

Specifications

Body: Poplar
Neck: Maple
Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Indian Laurel
Frets: 21
Pickups: 2 x Ceramic Single-Coil
Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone, 3-Position Toggle
Hardware: 2-Point Synchronized Tremolo with Block Saddles, Sealed Die-Cast Tuners with Split Shafts
Left-handed: No
Finish: Burgundy Mist, Lake Placid Blue, Metallic Black

Reasons to buy

+
Distinctive tone
+
Great value for money

Reasons to avoid

-
No full-size tremolo
-
Divisive looks

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.

Best electric guitars under $300: Harley Benton TE-52 NA Vintage Series

(Image credit: Harley Benton)

9. Harley Benton TE-52 NA Vintage Series

The best option for those who want boutique tone on a budget

Specifications

Body: American Ash
Neck: Caramelised Canadian Maple
Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Caramelised Canadian Maple
Frets: 22
Pickups: 2x Roswell TEA Alnico-5 vintage TE-style single coils
Controls: Volume, tone, 3-way selector switch
Hardware: Deluxe chrome bridge, Kluson-Style machine heads
Left-handed: Yes
Finish: Natural High Gloss

Reasons to buy

+
Outstanding value for money
+
Vintage Tele tone

Reasons to avoid

-
It’s heavy
-
Tuners could be better

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.

Best electric guitars under $300: Jackson JS22 Dinky Archtop DKA

(Image credit: Jackson)

10. Jackson JS22 Dinky Archtop DKA

A gateway into the world of metal guitars

Specifications

Body: Poplar
Neck: Maple
Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Amaranth
Frets: 22
Pickups: 2 x Jackson High-Output Humbucking
Controls: Volume, Tone, 3-position blade switch
Hardware: 2-Point Fulcrum Tremolo, Jackson Sealed Die-Cast Tuning Machines
Left-handed: Yes
Finish: Metallic Blue, Natural, Satin Black, Snow White

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable body shape
+
Fast playing neck

Reasons to avoid

-
Not the most versatile
-
Tuners aren’t the best

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

Cloesup of the body of a white Squier Affinity Jazzmaster

(Image credit: Future)

What to know when buying a sub-$300 electric guitar

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.

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Matt is a freelance writer at Guitar World, Thomann.de, and various other music and music gear-related publications. Having played for 20 years he knows a thing or two about axes, and you'll most likely find him hacking away at his guitar strings in the rehearsal space, or hunched over caveman-style, tweaking settings on his pedalboard. Matt currently plays in Manchester-based alt-rockers JACKALS and when he’s not at his guitar, likes to spend his time in his home studio with his two cats, collaborating on alternative hip-hop tracks with fellow creatives from the North-West of England.