Everyone knows Squier produces budget-friendly versions of Fender guitars. However, to paint Squier solely as a 'beginner guitar' brand is unwise. The best Squier guitars are excellent instruments in their own right, with the models currently being produced among the best we've ever seen.
It's fair to say Squier is on a very impressive winning streak at the moment. The build quality is high, the finishing is superb and better yet, and the pickups currently offer some incredible tones that aren't too far off their Fender counterparts. They're reliable too, so if you're a gigging musician looking for something to take out on the road, a decent Squier could be a great shout.
There's a good range of guitars on offer, from classic' 50s-style Esquires to modern-day humbucker-equipped axes capable of face-melting tones. We've hand-selected the best Squier guitars available now, along with some expert buying advice below to help you find the one that's right for you.
Best Squier guitars: Our top picks
The best Squier guitar for us, hails from their Classic Vibe range. The Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Strat gives you a vintage look, with the classic Strat sound that we know and love. The pickups sound great and it’s built to a good standard – what’s not to love?
Speaking of the Classic Vibe range of guitars, another that we'd suggest you try is the Classic Vibe Starcaster. Some Squier and Fender models are guitars that slipped through the net the first time round, and while the Fender Starcaster wasn't so popular in the late '70s, its reintroduction has proven to be a modern-day success story. Like we said, the Classic Vibe guitars are exceptional – and this one is no different. If you want a super-cool semi-hollow that looks a bit like it's melted – in a good way – then that's the one for you.
If you’re looking for a superb budget guitar then the Squier Bullet Mustang takes some beating. With a shorter scale that makes it perfect for beginners, along with two chunky sounding humbuckers, you’ve got everything from pop to metal covered, at a great price.
Best Squier guitars: Product guide
The Fender Mustang still seems like the dark horse in the Fender stable, and its features suit the Bullet range perfectly here. The 24-inch short scale makes bending significantly easier and combined with the comfortable ‘C’ neck profile, feels like a great option for younger hands.
There are departures from tradition too. The pair of Squier humbuckers here bring a chunkier tonal spin to this Mustang, a model that’s traditionally been a single-coil pickup guitar. They’re great for recreating the punk rock riffs of famed Mustang fan Kurt Cobain and there’s now even Special Run models available with a competition stripe like he had.
Read the full Squier Bullet Mustang review
There are a number of impressive Stratocaster options in the Squier line, but if you want to go back to the source of why it captured the imagination of guitar heroes like David Gilmour, Hank Marvin, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, this is where it’s at.
The Classic Vibe line consistently impresses with its build quality that helps to bridge the gaps between beginner, intermediate and platform for modding, and this is no exception. Vintage-style features include narrow-tall frets, Alnico III pickups, gloss neck finish, nickel-plated hardware, vintage tremolo system and ‘50s-inspired headstock markings.
Read our full Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Stratocaster review
The Classic Vibe range often gives some Fender models a run for their money and now the Fender Starcaster reissue has been discontinued, this is the closest alternative if you’re buying new. And it’s a very good one indeed for this cult classic semi-hollow design.
Fender’s original Wide Range Humbuckers were designed by the renowned Seth Lover of Gibson PAF fame and offered a great mix of clarity and warmth. These new Fender-designed versions carry the flame with a bright and rounded bridge pickup tone with enough bite to cut through, and a neck position that is warm in all the right ways. The acoustic resonance is also great here for playing without a guitar amp.
Read the full Squier Classic Vibe Starcaster review
Many pro guitarists, including Mark Tremonti and Jerry Cantrell, have used baritone guitars for recording – their lower frequency and tuning afforded by their longer scale is great for adding a heavier foundation to rhythm tracks. But baritones can also be a choice for main guitar, or something to pick up for heavier moments, and they are experiencing a real resurgence right now. That’s why this Squier option makes so much sense.
The 2021 Paranormal range includes an excellent lightweight Cabronita Thinline model and this solid body 27”-scale baritone also uses punchy Alnico soapbar P-90-style pickups that embrace an electric guitar’s mid-frequency strengths. The Cabronita look here balances classic T-style with streamlined contemporary looks, especially with the color options of a clean Surf Green alongside the 3-Color Sunburst.
The Contemporary series is widening the appeal of Squier even more and here’s a prime example of just how distinct and attractive its take on classic Fender models can be, with special finishes influenced by the Custom Shop. Frankly, both Shoreline Gold and Sky Burst Metallic options here are stunning. And there’s a lot more good news too…
A roasted maple neck is something we’re used to seeing on premium price electric guitars but here it is in all its caramel-hued glory. Other great touches are split shaft machine heads for faster string changes and sculpted neck heel; inspired by the much more expensive Fender Ultra range for enhanced access to the upper frets. There’s an adjustable bridge and stop tailpiece that replaces the traditional opinion-dividing Jaguar option.
The 12” fingerboard radius here may attract players who don’t feel suited to the usual Fender 9.5” (especially if they’re coming from Gibson guitars) and the Squier SQR Atomic humbuckers for rock with a coil tap switch for single-coil Jag tones – and you can run the pickups in series or parallel for even more tones. They really have thought of everything here… except left-handed players. But this is an incredible showcase for Squier value and classy Fender swagger.
If you’re looking for a Telecaster you’ll be spoilt for choice with the variety Squier offers, but we’ve honed in on this because we just can’t resist a double-bound body and the intriguing prospect of the Esquire – a model that dates back to 1950 and shortly before the Broadcaster and then Telecaster. It’s also available as a two-pickup Squier custom Tele too with some retail exclusive finishes, but this Fender Special Run Esquire model won’t be around for too long. It also features some nice vintage-style touches like the parchment pickguard and tinted maple neck.
The Esquire presents a unique proposition for a Squier. Why has a one pickup guitar got a 3-way selector? This is where things get interesting. In the forward position you bypass the Esquire’s tone control while retaining the volume control for what Fender calls a “lighter, strum-friendly tone”. The middle position activates both the tone and volume pots for a warmer tone for a broader lead and rhythm sound. The third position is great for cutting through with leads as it bypasses the tone control for maximum high end. This is a Squier with a lot more tonal potential than first meets the eye.
Celebrating the first instruments adorned with the Squier logo, this limited edition Jazzmaster is dripping with old-school mojo and is great for those seeking some vintage style tones on a budget.
Jazzmaster pickups are fairly unique; they’ve got the typical single coil chime and brightness, but there’s a little more bite to the bridge pickup, not too unlike a P-90. Then there’s the rhythm circuit which allows for a more mellow and darker neck pickup sound. You’ve actually got a really good range of tonal options.
The anodised scratchplate is reminiscent of the early Jazzmasters, as are the two retro finishes, and the aged chrome hardware gives the guitar a more timeless look. The C neck profile is great for any style of player, it being not too thick or too thin.
Though the hot humbuckers, jumbo frets and Floyd Rose make this a very capable hard rock and metal guitar that’s capable of divebombs and serious rhythm chunk, the Contemporary HH FR Strat also features coil splits for some serious versatility. A sculpted neck heel and butter smooth roasted maple neck also make a real difference to the playability here.
The tones are easily accessible via the five-way selector and the black hardware adds to the sleek contemporary feel that proves again that the Strat is a renaissance guitar for all genres of music and styles of player. And to underline it, other new Contemporary additions include the single-coil-loaded Stratocaster Special and Special HT.
Fender isn’t just about its mainstay designs; many other shapes have come, gone and returned in its storied history. The Toronado offset is one such example that emerged in 1998 and although discontinued as a Fender model in 2007, we’re glad to see it back as part of the Squier Paranormal line. Especially as the original was seen in the hands of John Frusciante, My Chemical Romance’s Frank Iero, Lower Than Atlantis’ Mike Duce and influential post-rock outfit Explosions In The Sky.
Its relative obscurity adds to its appeal as an attractive alternative, along with an easier-playing 24.75” scale. The newly-designed high output Squier Atomic humbuckers mean this is capable of confidently entering high-gain territory with definition and the four-control layout means you can dial in specific tones for each of them.
Read the full Squier Paranormal Toronado review
The Affinity series Telecaster represents the most affordable option for the model and is also a good representation of its strengths; no mods here, folks. This has the bright bridge position twang and full percussive neck tones associated with the Tele.
The Butterscotch Blonde is the classic finish for the Springsteen vibe but there’s three alternatives and the package here presents a great option for beginner players starting out, with scope for modding if required. We’re pleased to see a satin finish on the back of the neck here too that presents a smoother playing experience for all levels. And, hurray – there’s a left-handed model!
The Affinity range also offers an option for those who want something with humbuckers with the Telecaster Deluxe.
The absolutely stunning and admittedly quirky Squier Paranormal Jazzmaster XII is rounding off our list of the best Squier guitars. It's clear to see this is no ordinary Jazzmaster. This 12-string Squier delivers double the amount of chime and jangle, and all at a very affordable price!
Now, 12-string guitars can get a bad rap for being cumbersome to play, but we are happy to report that there are no such playing issues here. In fact, the Paranormal Jazzmaster XII is an absolute joy to hold, with a solid feeling graphite-reinforced neck and comfortable C profile.
Featuring a pair of Fender-Designed alnico single-coil Jazzmaster pickups, this unusual Squier is bright, sharp and very articulate - everything you want in a 12-string guitar.
Best Squier guitars: Buying advice
It's a fair question. Why, when there's such a huge wealth of budget-friendly guitars around, should you commit to one particular brand?
Well, simply put, we think Squier is one of (if not the) best brands when it comes to the sheer quality of workmanship. This eye for detail translates directly into the guitars being of a fantastic standard – one which we think is pretty much unbeatable for the money. When the 'Fender' name is at stake, you can be damn well sure that these guitars are going to be top quality, every time.
Another reason why you should choose a Squier is the sheer amount of choice you've got. The Squier product catalog is vast, and always growing – whether it's with more Fender classics like the Strat or Tele, or something slightly more wacky and unorthodox – so you know there's likely to be something to suit you and your style down to a tee.
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The current Squier ranges are divided into six main categories. Let’s get to know them…
Squier Bullet series
Squier’s Bullet range represents some of the best bang-for-buck guitars out there. They are entry level instruments, and as such, the build quality and components aren’t as high quality as they are on some other Squier models. But, they’re cheaper, making them very accessible. Compared to some other guitars of a similar price point, the Squier Bullets are more playable, they sound great and they hold their tuning well.
Squier Affinity series
This is Squier’s student range and comprises all the usual Fender models – Strat, Tele etc, as well as some more interesting models for those that want to try something more exciting. They’re a step up in terms of quality from the Bullets, and whilst they make for great beginner guitars, more advanced players will no doubt get along well with them too.
Squier Classic Vibe series
The Classic Vibe series really does showcase some of the best Squier guitars on offer. They’re replications of some classic era Fender guitars. An original ’60s Fender Strat is going to cost you a lot of money, and whilst the Classic Vibes sit at the higher end of the Squier price range, they still give you a really nice vintage feel, look and sound, for a fraction of the cost.
Squier Contemporary series
Squier Contemporary guitars usually feature more unusual pickup configurations, as well as some really unique finishes. As the name suggests, they’ve got more modern specs, so expect to see hotter pickups, locking trems and more features that render them useful for contemporary players. Whilst they’re great for any style of music, hard rock and metal players love them.
Squier FSR/Anniversary Models
You’ll also see some more limited edition models, sometimes celebrating an anniversary or FSR models -– this standing for Fender Special Run. The specs on these can vary quite a bit, but if you’ve seen one that you like, don’t hang around too long as they won’t be in production forever.
Squier Paranormal series
This is Squier’s more experimental range. Here you can find pickup configurations that you would not normally see on a certain body shape – Tele single coils in an offset body, for example. These guitars are built to a really good standard, offer some really unique tones and allow for players to stand out from the crowd.
Fender and Squier are known for their single coil pickups. Their most famous models, the Tele and the Strat, are usually single-coil equipped and can be heard on countless classic records over the last 70 years. Tones do vary from model to model, but generally speaking, single coils tend to sound bright, snappy, chimey and can stay cleaner for longer.
That said, there are some Squier guitars out there fitted with humbuckers. In contrast, these are usually warmer, fuller sounding, mellower and have a hotter output so can break up (distort) quicker. Both kinds of pickups can be heard throughout pretty much every genre of music, so it’s not a case of ‘humbuckers are best for rock’ etc - they’re just to different players’ tastes.
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