Skip to main content

Best Stratocasters 2022: 11 of the best Strats for every budget and playing style

Included in this guide:

Best Stratocasters 2022: 11 of the best Strats for every budget and playing style
(Image credit: Future)

There are few electric guitars more iconic than the Fender Stratocaster. Though it arrived a few years after the world’s first mass-produced solidbody electric guitar - the original Broadcaster/Esquire Tele - the Stratocaster swiftly became Fender’s best-selling instrument, and this is still the case now. With so much choice, finding the best Stratocaster can seem a little intimidating, but we’re here to help you find the perfect Strat for you. 

Whether you’re after a budget electric guitar with the Fender logo adorning the headstock, or something a bit more pricey and high-end, you should know which one is right for you by the time you’ve finished with this guide. We've listed the guitars in price order, too.

We’ve included some expert buying advice at the end of this guide, so click the ‘buying advice’ tab above if you’d like to read more. If you’d rather get straight to the products, then keep on scrolling - you’re nearly there.

Best Stratocasters: Our top picks

If you’re after a top-end, US-made Strat, the Fender American Original '60s Stratocaster is literally dripping with vintage mojo, as well as the exceptional quality you’d expect from Fender. Boasting Custom Shop-associated finishes like Shell Pink and Olympic White, it's an instrument that's guaranteed to feel, look and sound the part.

The affordable Player series has fast become one of the most successful lines to ever come out of the Ensenada, Mexico factory. These beauties are available with options for HSS or HSH pickup configurations and even locking Floyd Rose tremolos, but it’s the classic Buttercream Strat with the traditional SSS configuration that takes it for us. Screams pure Fender. 

Best Stratocasters: Product guide

Best Stratocasters: Squier Affinity Strat

(Image credit: Fender)

1. Fender Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster

Classic Strat looks for an absolute steal…

Specifications
Launch price: $249/£219
Body: Alder
Neck: Maple
Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Indian Laurel or Maple
Frets: 22
Pickups: Three Ceramic Single-Coils
Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1 (Neck/Middle Pickups), Tone 2 (Bridge Pickup)
Hardware: Chrome, Die-cast tuners, 2-point tremolo
Finish: 3-Color Sunburst, Black, Olympic White, Lake Placid Blue
Reasons to buy
+
As cheap as it gets for a ‘real’ Strat
+
Pretty impressive for the price
Reasons to avoid
-
Aimed at beginners

Costing roughly a third of the hugely popular, Mexican-made Player Stratocasters - which themselves cost roughly a third of their American-made equivalents - you can see just how far down the family tree we’re going here.

But the Squier Affinity series really does offer a great value – you get a decent-sounding and reliable instrument that can still legally call itself a Strat and will almost definitely perform better than most clones out there at this rock-bottom price range.

If you’re looking for your first guitar or perhaps buying one for someone you know, the Affinity series - which also has HSS models for those wanting more power - will be hard to beat.

Best Startocasters: Fender Player Stratocaster

(Image credit: Fender)

One of the best Fender Stratocasters in the mid-price range

Specifications
Launch price: $799/£569
Body: Alder
Neck: Maple
Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Maple
Frets: 22
Pickups: Player Series Alnico 5 Strat Single-Coil
Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1 (Neck/Middle Pickups), Tone 2 (Bridge Pickup)
Hardware: Nickel/Chrome
Left-handed:
Finish: 3-Color Sunburst, Black, Buttercream, Capri Orange, Polar White, Silver, Tidepool
Reasons to buy
+
Unbeatable value for money
+
More power thanks to Player Series Alnico 5 Strat Single-Coil pickups
Reasons to avoid
-
Some might prefer lower-output single-coils

Replacing the Mexican Standard series in 2018, the Player range has been widely praised for bringing everything you’d want out of a Strat to a more affordable price-point. The Alnico 5 pickups are voiced similar to the SRV-inspired Texas Hot single-coils, perfect for a slightly thicker Strat snarl that loses none of its bite when pushed.

Best of all, there are options for a remarkably vintage-looking Buttercream finish and HSS configurations to compliment a Modern C-shaped neck profile with a 9.5"-radius fingerboard and a two-point tremolo bridge with bent-steel saddles. Ultimately, you’re getting a Strat that can do it all and look the part without breaking the bank.

Read the full Fender Player Stratocaster review
Read the full Fender Player Stratocaster HSH review

Best Stratocaster: Fender Vintera '50s Stratocaster

(Image credit: Fender)

3. Fender Vintera '50s Stratocaster

A modern recreation faithful to the original vintage design…

Specifications
Launch price: $999/£729
Body: Alder or Ash
Neck: Maple
Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Maple
Frets: 22
Pickups: Vintage Style 50s Single-Coil
Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck/Middle Pickups), Tone 2. (Bridge Pickup)
Hardware: Nickel/Chrome
Finish: Seafoam Green, Sonic Blue, White Blonde
Reasons to buy
+
Amazing value for money
+
Classic finishes including Seafoam Green and Sonic Blue
Reasons to avoid
-
No options for HSS configurations

Unveiled last year, the Fender Vintera series aimed to “reimagine, consolidate and replace” the Classic line being made in the Ensenada factory. And it did precisely that – paying tribute to the American giant’s original designs from the '50s, '60s and '70s, all with period-correct features. Which is why you’ll find they’re available in only SSS configurations (though there is a Vintera '60s model that comes with the addition of an S1 switch).

The Vintera '50s are perhaps the most eye-catching of the lot, available in three finishes, including collector’s favorites Seafoam Green and Sonic Blue, and voiced to recreate the chime and articulation of the earliest Strats in production. A truly historic instrument without the historic price tag.

Best Stratocasters: Fender Player Plus Strat HSS

(Image credit: Fender)

4. Fender Player Plus Stratocaster HSS

For the player who wants just that little bit more

Specifications
Launch price: $1,029/£979
Body: Alder
Neck: Maple
Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Pau Ferro, Maple
Frets: 22
Pickups: 2x Player Plus Noiseless Strat single-coils, 1x Player plus Humbucker
Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck/Middle Pickups), Tone 2. (Bridge Pickup), 5-way pickup switch
Hardware: Nickel/Chrome, 2-point Tremolo w/ block saddles, Deluxe cast/sealed locking tuners
Finish: 3-color sunburst, Cosmic Jade, Belair Blue, Silverburst
Reasons to buy
+
New finishes look killer
+
Push-pull tone control adds versatility 
+
12” radius a nice upgrade 
Reasons to avoid
-
A lot of money for the Player Series 

The short-lived 88-92 run of heavy metal-friendly Strats were very much tailored to an era of super shredders. Famed for their extreme playability and bright color schemes, the line was brought back to life at this year’s Winter NAMM. 

The new models offer a basswood body, Gotoh tuners, an HSS pickup configuration with a coil split switch for the bridge pickup, a Floyd Rose locking tremolo and 24 jumbo frets.

Of course, these latest versions wouldn’t be the same without a black headcap and that infamous '80s stylized Fender logo on the headstock. The new limited-edition models come in four finishes - Bright White, Ice Blue, Flash Pink and Frozen Yellow - with options for rosewood or maple fingerboards on the original 17”radius/25” scale narrow C-shaped neck that was highly praised for effortless performance.

Best Stratocasters: Fender H.E.R Stratocaster

(Image credit: Fender)

5. Fender H.E.R Stratocaster

A bold, beautiful Strat that makes a statement

Specifications
Launch price: $1,249/£1,229
Body: Alder
Neck: Maple
Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Maple
Frets: 21
Pickups: 3x Vintage Noiseless Strat single-coils
Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck/Middle Pickups), Tone 2. (Bridge Pickup), 5-way blade switch
Hardware: Nickel/Chrome
Finish: Chrome Glow
Reasons to buy
+
Matching headstock always a winner, especially with this finish
+
Vintage Noiseless pickups are great
+
C shaped neck is super comfortable 
Reasons to avoid
-
If you’re an uber-traditionalist 

The H.E.R Strat, much like the artist who inspired it, is bold, unique and has a statement to make. The Grammy-winner H.E.R is well-known for her smooth, emotional R&B tracks where solos take the forefront - so the Strat seems like the obvious choice.

Not only does the H.E.R Strat look great, but it sounds and feels great too. Many thanks to the combination of the mid-’60s “C” neck profile and Vintage Noiseless pickups, this is a guitar that seriously kicks. The neck is super slim down at the first fret assisting with the bigger stretches, and fattens up around the 12th fret to give you something to grab onto for those lead lines.

The Chrome Glow finish, although a little unorthodox, looks spectacular - perfect if you want to turn heads. For some of you, the finish might not be your thing - but the tone is undeniably fantastic.

Best Stratocasters: Fender Tom Morello Stratocaster

(Image credit: Fender)

6. Fender Tom Morello Stratocaster

The RATM legend’s Soul Power Strat can now be yours!

Specifications
Launch price: $1,549/£1,199
Body: Alder
Neck: Maple
Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Maple
Frets: 22
Pickups: Two Vintage Noiseless and one Seymour Duncan Hot Rails
Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck/Middle Pickups), Tone 2. (Bridge Pickup), Kill-switch toggle
Hardware: Nickel/Chrome
Finish: Black
Reasons to buy
+
A very iconic instrument
+
Comes with all of Tom Morello’s customizations, including (optional) decal
Reasons to avoid
-
Floyd Rose and kill-switch not for everyone

Few artists have used their guitar as a weapon in the way Tom Morello has. As the founding guitarist of Rage Against The Machine, he was usually spotted with his custom Arm The Homeless superstrat, but in Audioslave he was more known for playing his black Aerodyne Stratocaster – now made available by Fender from this year.

Though this model doesn’t actually come with ‘Soul Power’ written across its upper body, the decal is included for those hoping to recreate the iconic look – which is a nice option to have. 

It also comes with many more of the RATM legend’s customizations – from the chrome pickguard and killswitch toggle to the recessed Floyd Rose system and inclusion of a Seymour Duncan Hot Rails bridge pickup for heavy humbucker sounds. What you get is a very modernized Strat perfectly suited to higher gain rock riffers and shredders alike.

Best Stratocasters: Fender American Professional II Stratocaster

(Image credit: Fender)

A high-end strat for a high-end player

Specifications
Launch price: $1,499/£1,599 (inc. hard case)
Body: Alder
Neck: Maple
Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Maple, Rosewood
Frets: 22, narrow tall
Pickups: 3v V-Mod II Single Coil Strat
Controls: Master Volume, 2x Tone, 5-way pickup selector
Hardware: Nickel/chromed-plated 2-point synchronized vibrato w/ bent steel saddles, Fender Standard cast/sealed staggered tuners
Finish: 3-colour sunburst, Black, Dark Night, Mercury, Miami Blue, Mystic Surf Green, Olympic White, Roasted Pine, Sienna Sunburst
Reasons to buy
+
Great blend of new and old
+
Satin neck feels amazing
+
Seemingly endless finish options
Reasons to avoid
-
Besides the price, not much

Fender’s American Professional series was hailed as one of the best they’d ever made, so to see it tweaked and relaunched as the Pro II series took us a little by surprise. We’re pleased to say though, that they’ve nailed it. Again. 

The Pro II, like many other Strats, is a marriage of Alder and Maple. With standard options such as whether you’d like a Maple or Rosewood ‘board, as well as the option of a Roasted Pine body on one model, the American Pro II blends tradition and modernity well. 

The maple neck sports a “Deep C” profile finished with Fender’s own ‘Super-Natural’ satin, and together they combine to provide slick, easy and comfortable playability. Along with smooth rolled fingerboard edges and a newly sculpted neck heel, this Pro II Stratocaster pretty much has it all. Narrow Tall frets give a little suggestion of a classic touch, but all in all the Pro II is all about making playing a joy.

Fender’s V-Mod II pickups make an appearance here, as well as a mighty impact. With a slightly more rounded top-end, there’s still bags of strat-like ‘breath’ to the tone. They sound crisp and present, without that harsh brightness that we’d rather avoid. All in all, a great option for anyone who’s looking for a tweaked, neatened up version of the classic we all know and love. 

Read the full Fender American Professional II Stratocaster review 

Best Stratocasters: Fender Stevie Ray Vaughan Stratocaster

(Image credit: Fender)

8. Fender Stevie Ray Vaughan Stratocaster

The blues virtuoso’s ‘Number One’ Strat was the core of his tone

Specifications
Launch price: $1,949/£2,059
Body: Select Alder
Neck: Maple (thick oval shape)
Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Pau Ferro
Frets: 22
Pickups: 3x Texas Special Single-Coils
Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1 (Neck/Middle Pickups), Tone 2 (Bridge Pickup)
Hardware: Gold
Finish: 3-color sunburst design with polyurethane finish
Reasons to buy
+
A tribute to one of the most famous Strat players in history
+
Fuller-sounding Custom Shop Texas Special pickups
Reasons to avoid
-
Reverse bridge might not be for everyone

To many, he was the greatest blues maestro of all-time. Welding together his favorite Albert King and Jimi Hendrix licks into a monster package of his own, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s phrasing and tone have continued to set the bar today – which is precisely why his signature guitar is one of the best-selling artist models in Fender history.

This recreation of his ‘Number One’ Strat features his favored Texas Special pickups for added warmth and bite, his engraved SRV pickguard, gold-plated hardware, a Pau Ferro fingerboard and a reverse vintage-style tremolo bridge as the Dallas prodigy himself preferred. Thankfully it comes fitted with 10-46 gauge strings, instead of the flesh-tearing 13s SRV generally stuck with.

If you’re looking to get Scuttle Buttin’ or for a slice of Riviera Paradise, this would definitely be the Strat for you.

Best Stratocasters: Fender American Original '60s Stratocaster

(Image credit: Fender)

9. Fender American Original '60s Stratocaster

A high-class, American-made instrument that nods to Fender’s glory years

Specifications
Launch price: $1,949/£1,599
Body: Alder with lacquer finish
Neck: Maple (thick ‘60s C-shape)
Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 22
Pickups: 3x Three Pure Vintage '65 single-coils
Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1 (Neck/Middle Pickups), Tone 2 (Bridge Pickup)
Hardware: Nickel/Chrome
Finish: Shell Pink, Olympic White, 3-Color Sunburst
Reasons to buy
+
One of the best American-made Strats currently available
+
Three great color choices, including Shell Pink
Reasons to avoid
-
More suited to vintage-style players

If you’re looking for a beautifully constructed, American-made Strat that has more in common with Fender’s past than other models, then the American Original ‘60s will undoubtedly score high. Period-correct appointments such as an alder body with lacquer finish, mint green pickguard and a rosewood fingerboard bring lots of vintage appeal, though unlike the original Strats from this era, it benefits from a five-way pickup switch – offering some level of modern versatility.

Best of all, though, are the options for an Olympic White finish - or even better, Shell Pink - which make it a guitar that can truly turn back time and transport you through Fender’s most iconic years.

Best Stratocaster: Fender American Ultra Stratocaster

(Image credit: Fender)

10. Fender American Ultra Stratocaster

A formidable Strat, spec’d for today’s player

Specifications
Launch price: $1,999/£1,899
Body: Alder (ash on trans finish)
Neck: Maple, bolt-on
Scale: 25.5”
Fingerboard: Rosewood or maple
Frets: 22, medium jumbo
Pickups: 3x Ultra Noiseless Vintage Strat single-coil pickups
Controls: Master volume with S-1 switch, 2 x tone, 5-way blade pickup switch
Hardware: 2-Point Fender Deluxe Sychronized Tremolo
Left-handed: No
Finish: Arctic Pearl, Cobra Blue, Mocha Burst, Texas Tea, Ultraburst
Reasons to buy
+
Clever electronics with S-1 switch expands the Strat’s range
+
The Modern D neck profile is superb
+
Quality build, hardware and pickups
+
Smart new range of finishes
Reasons to avoid
-
For some, the Strat was perfected in ’62

The Stratocaster wears the American Ultra’s contemporary stylings well. Here is Fender’s modernism at its best, with the iconic body shape largely unchanged save for some carefully thought out body contours, and a newly tapered heel to aid upper fret access.

Fender’s modernism is, of course, rooted with one foot in its storied history; the three Ultra Noiseless single-coils offer hum-free performance, and yet they are voiced to recall a bygone era. What’s different now is that, with the S-1 switch adding the neck pickup to any position on the switch, the tone menu just got a whole lot longer.

Top to bottom, the American Ultra Stratocaster represents the acme of Fender’s production line guitar building. There are locking tuners, the Fender logo in gold foil, the Modern D profile neck is comfort objectified in maple, while the compound 10”-14” radius feels thoroughly 2020. Yes, this is a future-forward design, but indelibly still a Stratocaster – a darn good one.

Read the full Fender American Ultra Stratocaster review

Best Stratocasters: Fender Cory Wong Stratocaster

(Image credit: Fender)

11. Fender Cory Wong Stratocaster

A Vulf in sheeps clothing

Specifications
Launch price: $1,999/£2,249
Body: Alder
Neck: Maple
Scale: 25.5"
Fingerboard: Rosewood
Frets: 22
Pickups: 2x Seymour Duncan Cory Wong Clean Machine Single-Coils (neck & middle), 1x Clean Machine Custom Stack Plus (bridge)
Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1 (Neck/Middle Pickups), Tone 2 (Bridge Pickup w/push-push features)
Hardware: Nickel/Chrome
Finish: Sapphire Blue Transparent
Reasons to buy
+
Sapphire Blue Transparent is stunning
+
Vintage/modern hardware combo is solid
+
Seymour Duncan set delivers tonal bliss 
Reasons to avoid
-
Modifications for the sake of it?

The iconic Strat has a tendency to entice and attract the best in musical talent, thanks to its versatility, playability and extensive artist roster. It’s no surprise then, to see one in the hands of the modern-day funk deity, and Vulfpeck axe-man Cory Wong.

At heart, the Cory Wong Stratocaster is based on the American Ultra, with its Modern ‘D’ neck profile, 10”-14” compound radius and ergonomic neck heel offering improved playability for those killer funk chops you’ve been hiding up your sleeve. The three custom-made Seymour Duncan pickups are appropriately named ‘Clean Machine’ - and deliver the bright, punchy clarity that we’ve come to expect from Cory Wong.

Locking tuners and a push/push tone control are also included on this signature model, with the latter feature coming through with the goods. When engaged, the 5-way selector is bypassed and your pickup selection defaults to ‘position four’ - a tone which screams ‘Strat’. The slightly reduced body size and increased headstock size seem to us a bit pointless - after all, nobody complains about the Strat being too big - but in the same light, it makes such little difference that it doesn’t take anything away from the quality of this Strat.

Best Stratocasters: Buying advice

Best Stratocasters Buying Advice

(Image credit: Future)

Think long and hard about your pickup configuration

Yes, you can always swap your pickups out down the line, but it’s always more cost-effective to invest in a Fender Strat that's already voiced to your needs. 

Those in search of cleaner tones may prefer to stick with Fender’s typically noiseless and lower-output traditional single coils, while someone looking to dial into more high gain and heavy metal tones might need more bark from their guitar’s electronics, and perhaps be more suited to one or even two humbuckers or hot rail-style pickups. 

Fundamentally though, it’s worth asking yourself what has typically been used by the artists you’re most inspired by, as there are always exceptions to such rules – some of the most legendary rock and metal tones ever recorded have shined through thanks to their single-coil grit.

Look at the non-American instruments, too 

As fulfilling as it can be to see the words ‘Fender Corona, CA’  gracing the headstock of your newest guitar, it's worth taking a look at the company’s more affordable options made in the Ensenada factory and also the under-budget brand Squier, whose lines recreate the full-fat American-made models, often incredibly well. 

This ultimately means you could get the guitar you’ve always wanted for a lot less – depending on what you're looking for in terms of color scheme, parts and build. If you’re looking to invest in a high-quality instrument that will retain its value, however, then an American-made Strat will probably best fit the bill. 

More buying guides to explore

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month*

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Amit has been writing for titles like Total GuitarMusicRadar and Guitar World for over a decade and counts Richie Kotzen, Guthrie Govan and Jeff Beck among his primary influences. He's interviewed everyone from Ozzy Osbourne and Lemmy to Slash and Jimmy Page, and once even traded solos with a member of Slayer on a track released internationally. As a session guitarist, he's played alongside members of Judas Priest and Uriah Heep in London ensemble Metalworks, as well as handling lead guitars for legends like Glen Matlock (Sex Pistols, The Faces) and Stu Hamm (Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, G3).