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Best Squier guitars 2021: Stratocasters, Telecasters, Jaguars and more for the budget-conscious player

Best Squier guitars 2021: Stratocasters, Telecasters, Jaguars and more for the budget-conscious player
(Image credit: Future)

While traditionally regarded as the entry-level version of parent company Fender, the Squier series of electric guitars - which began production in 1982 - is now so diverse and impressive, it’s become much more than that. The best Squier guitars aren’t just a stopgap for players before they can afford something else, they are guitars for home, recording and stage that could last a lifetime for players of all levels and styles.

While Squier guitars were originally produced in Japan, they are now manufactured in China and Indonesia. They can be great platforms for players to modify and upgrade with countless parts and pickup options available on the market. That said, the diverse range of Squier guitars we’ve chosen for this guide don’t necessarily need that, because they’re all great out of the box. 

So, whether you’re looking for a great beginner electric guitar like the Squier Bullet Mustang, a budget-friendly Strat or Tele, or something totally different, there’s an option for you in this guide. 

We've included some buying advice at the end from one of our guitar experts - if you'd like to read it, click the 'buying advice' tab above. Keep scrolling if you'd rather get straight to the products.

Best Squier guitars: Our top picks

Picking our favorite Squier guitars from this guide is honestly tough. Squier is dominating every budget-friendly electric guitar price bracket, so no matter what you want to spend - as long as it's under $500 - you won't go wrong with any of these options.

If you're an absolute beginner, or working on a small budget, we'd recommend the Squier Bullet Mustang. It's shorter scale, smaller size and light body make it ideal for those who are just starting out, or even just those that want a guitar that is super easy to play. For under $200, there aren't many better guitars out there. 

If you're an intermediate player, or someone who is lucky enough to be starting out with a bigger budget, then the Classic Vibe '50s Stratocaster is our weapon of choice. The entire Classic Vibe range is seriously impressive, with the quality of some guitars even rivalling that of the Mexican-made Fender Player series. The wood used is of a decent grade, the pickups and electronics are the best for the money, and the hardware is solid enough that we'd happily gig a Classic Vibe any night of the week.

Best Squier guitars: Product guide

Best Squier guitars: Squier Bullet Mustang

(Image credit: Squier)

1. Squier Bullet Mustang

A great starter electric

Launch price: $189/£149 | Body: Basswood | Neck: Maple, ‘C’-shape | Scale: 24" | Fingerboard: Laurel | Frets: 22, Medium Jumbo | Pickups: 2x high-output humbuckers | Controls: 2x volume, 2x tone x2 | Hardware: Modern hardtail bridge, standard tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: Imperial Blue, Black, Sonic Grey

Short scale length is friendly for beginners 
Even for a Squier it’s impressive value for money 
Comfortable neck  
Left-handed players are out of luck here  

 

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 

Best Squier guitars: Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Stratocaster

(Image credit: Squier)

2. Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Stratocaster

A classic era captured

Launch price: $449/£399 | Body: Pine | Neck: Maple, Slim ‘C’ profile | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 21, Narrow Tall | Pickups: Fender Designed Alnico Single Coils | Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1 (neck pickup), Tone 2 (middle pickup) | Hardware: Chrome | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: 2-Color Sunburst, Black, Fiesta Red, White Blonde

A beginner guitar that will go the distance for years 
A great vintage-inspired choice 
Left-handed options 
If you want a more contemporary Strat experience, look elsewhere 

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.

Best Squier guitars: Squier Classic Vibe Starcaster

(Image credit: Squier)

3. Squier Classic Vibe Starcaster

The best Squier semi-hollow

Launch price: $399/£429 | Body: Laminate maple | Neck: Maple, ‘C’-shape | Scale: 25.5” | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 22, Narrow Tall | Pickups: 2x Fender-Designed Wide Range Humbucker | Controls: Volume, tone, 3-way selector | Hardware: Adjustable bridge with stop tailpiece, vintage-style tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: Sunburst, Natural, Brown

Versatility from the Wide Range Humbuckers 
Acoustically loud for unplugged practice 
The closest alternative to the now discontinued Fender reissue 
The finish options are all quite brown 

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 

Best Squier guitars: Squier Paranormal Baritone Cabronita Telecaster

(Image credit: Squier)

4. Squier Paranormal Baritone Cabronita Telecaster

How low can you go?

Launch price: $449/£399 | Body: Poplar | Neck: Maple, ‘C’ profile | Scale: 27" | Fingerboard: Indian laurel, 9.5” radius | Frets: 22, Narrow Tall | Pickups: Fender Designed Alnico Soapbar single-coils | Controls: 1x volume, 1x master tone | Hardware: Chrome 6-saddle strings-through-body bridge, vintage-style chrome tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: 3-Color Sunburst, Surf Green

A perfect entry point to baritone guitars
Tele playability with the flexibility to tune down
Great looks that balance the classic and modern 
Some fans of heavy tones may prefer humbuckers 

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.

Best Squier guitars: Squier Contemporary Jaguar HH

(Image credit: Squier )

5. Squier Contemporary Jaguar HH

The gold standard

Launch price: $479/£409 | Body: Poplar | Neck: Roasted maple, satin urethane back with gloss urethane headstock face, ‘C’-shape profile | Scale: 24" | Fingerboard: Indian laurel, 12” radius | Frets: 22, Jumbo | Pickups: 2x Squier SQR Atomic Humbucking | Controls: Volume, master tone, coil-split switch, series/parallel switch, 3-way pickup selector | Hardware: Chrome 6-saddle adjustable bridge, sealed die-cast with split shafts | Left-handed: No | Finish: Shoreline Gold, Sky Burst Metallic

Superb value for the features it offers
Possibly the most diverse tones of any current Squier 
Roasted maple neck and sculpted heel are premium additions 
Left-handers are still left waiting for a leftie Squier Jag 

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.

Best Squier guitars: Squier FSR Classic Vibe 60s Custom Esquire

(Image credit: Squier)

6. Squier FSR Classic Vibe 60s Custom Esquire

Double-bound for glory

Launch price: $479/£379 | Body: Nato | Neck: Maple, gloss, ‘C’-shape profile | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Indian laurel, 12” radius | Frets: 21, Narrow Tall | Pickup: Fender Designed Alnico Single-coil | Controls: Volume, tone, 3-way circuit selector | Hardware: 3-saddle vintage-style string-thru body | Left-handed: No | Finish: 3-Color Sunburst, Black, Lake Placid Blue

Great vintage looks
Varied tones at the flick of a selector switch
Bone nut 
If you want traditional Tele neck pickup tones, this isn’t for you Empty List

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.

Best Squier guitars: Squier Contemporary Stratocaster HH FR

(Image credit: Squier)

7. Squier Contemporary Stratocaster HH FR

For those about to rock

Launch price: $479/£409 | Body: Poplar | Neck: Roasted maple, satin, ‘C’-shape profile | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Roasted maple, 12” radius | Frets: 22, Jumbo | Pickups: 2x Squier SQR Atomic Humbucking | Controls: 5 position blade selector with coil splitting; Position 1. Bridge Humbucking, 2. Bridge and Neck Single-Coil, 3. Bridge and Neck Humbucking, 4. Neck Single-Coil, 5. Neck Humbucking, Volume, tone | Hardware: Black die-cast tuners with split shafts, Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo | Left-handed: No | Finish: Shell Pink Pearl, Gunmetal Metallic

The switching and tremolo provides huge versatility
The neck and sculpted heel enhance the playing experience
Sleek modern looks 
There’s no hardtail option with this pickup combination  

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.

Best Squier guitars: Squier Paranormal Toronado

(Image credit: Squier)

8. Squier Paranormal Toronado

Another chance to kick up a storm

Launch price: $449/£399 | Body: Poplar | Neck: Indian laurel, gloss, ‘C’-shape profile | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Indian Laurel, 9.5” radius | Frets: 22, Narrow Tall | Pickups: 2x Squier SQR Atomic Humbucking | Controls: 2x volume, 2x tone, 3-way selector | Hardware: Six-saddle strings-through-body hardtail | Left-handed: No | Finish: 3-Color Sunburst, Lake Placid Blue, Black, Mystic Seafoam

Shorter scale for a slinkier playing feel
A fresh, alternative choice over the usual Fender shapes 
Good for heavier styles 
Lacking some features compared to other Squier models around this price-point 

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.

Best Squier guitars: Squier Affinity Series Telecaster

(Image credit: Squier)

9. Squier Affinity Series Telecaster

An accessible classic

Launch price: $449/£219 | Body: Poplar | Neck: Indian laurel, gloss, ‘C’-shape profile | Scale: 24.75" | Fingerboard: Indian Laurel, 9.5” radius | Frets: 22, Narrow Tall | Pickups: 2x Squier SQR Atomic Humbucking | Controls: 2x volume, 2x tone, 3-way selector | Hardware: Six-saddle strings-through-body hardtail | Left-handed: Yes (Butterscotch Blonde finish) | Finish: Olympic White, Lake Placid Blue (both with Indian Laurel fingerboards), 3-Color Sunburst, Butterscotch Blonde

Tele tones at an accessible price 
A great option for beginners 
Left-handed model available 
This spec is better suited for players to start out with than upgrade to 

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.  

Best Squier guitars: Buying advice

Best Squier guitars: Squier Bullet Mustang close up

(Image credit: Future)

Squier spotting 

The current Squier ranges are divided into six main categories. Let’s get to know them… 

Bullet series 

The most affordably-priced Squiers sit in the Bullet series. These are ideal beginner guitars and encompasses Mustang, Telecaster and Strat models. The focus of the Bullet series is to sound great and feel good to play - the main criteria to get you hooked on playing the electric guitar. At this price-point, you can expect the materials and hardware to be of a lower quality, but it'll still stay in tune well. 

Affinity series 

This is the home of Squier’s ‘student’ models, reflecting their accessible suitability for beginner players but with higher quality component parts than the Bullet Series - hence the slightly higher price. The core models usually reflect the traditional spec blueprints of the most popular Fender models including the Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jazzmaster, Precision Bass and Jazz Bass. However, you can also find deviations from the usual suspects; for example, an HSS Strat and Deluxe Telecaster with humbuckers. These latter models tend to change from year to year in refreshes to the line, while the most popular core traditional options will usually remain. 

Classic Vibe series 

Higher spec vintage-inspired models based on '50s, '60s and '70s Fender designs with prices that reflect the upgrades compared to the previous two ranges. The Classic Vibe range of electric guitars and basses can offer a genuine alternative to Fender-badged guitars - especially when there are some specific Classic Vibe models that aren’t available in the Fender catalogue. The Classic Vibe range is often popular with players who have moved beyond the beginner stages and want to upgrade or change their guitars to suit their specific tastes. The Classic Vibe range offers upgraded electronics and hardware, as well as finish and build quality.

Best Squier guitars: Squier stratocaster controls close up

(Image credit: Future)

Contemporary series 

A Squier series offering modern spec – hence the name – and unique configurations that aren’t based on Fender counterparts. Higher output pickups, new finishes, Floyd Rose double-locking tremolos and more comprehensive pickup switching are some of the options found within the range. These are cracking guitars for metalheads that like the traditional designs in particular. The high-output pickups make light work of gainy amps, chugs and sizzling lead lines, but also are capable of some sophisticated and mature clean tones. These guitars are seriously cool, and as Squier likes to change around their models every couple of years, they could also become pretty rare.

Paranormal series 

Reissues of cult favourites and unexpected spins on established classics can be found here. You never quite know what’s coming next in the Paranormal range, which is what makes it such a good place to get an addition to your guitar collection you weren’t planning for!  The return of old-time Fender favorites like the Toronado have been most welcome, and guitars like the Baritone and Offset Telecasters, while pretty wacky, have found themselves becoming pretty popular. Again, Squier do sometimes chop and change their ranges, so if you like the look of these guitars, we'd probably buy one sooner rather than later. 

FSR series 

Fender Special Run models started, unsurprisingly, with Fender but are now part of the Squier world too. They can be found across the previous Squier lines and are limited editions of specific models or finishes. Grab them while you can!