Probably the most iconic guitar ever made, the legendary Strat wasn’t the first solid-body guitar ever made, but it’s still Fender’s best-selling instrument. There are countless different variations of this legendary guitar, so picking the best Stratocaster can be a tough task considering the wealth of options available. If you’re struggling to make a decision, we’re here to help you find your most suitable Strat.
No matter what your budget is, there’s a Strat within reach of any guitarist whether you’re playing your first chords or looking for a professional level instrument. Part of the appeal of the Stratocaster is its versatility and different configuration options, which means there’s an option to suit any style whether you play rock, blues, funk, or jazz.
If you’re new to the world of the Strat, make sure to have a look at our buying advice section for more information. If you just want to see the very best Stratocaster guitars available today in price order, then keep scrolling…
Best Stratocasters: Our top picks
If you’re tight on budget, or buying your first guitar, we’d go for the Squier Affinity Stratocaster. It’s long been at the forefront of Fender’s beginner electric guitar offering, combining excellent value for money with classic design and robust build quality.
For a nice mid-range option, look no further than the Fender Player Plus Stratocaster HSS. Featuring more premium appointments like rolled fingerboard edges and locking tuners it delivers fantastic playability. The HSS pickup configuration is the icing on the cake, giving you that extra bit of tonal flexibility.
If you want the best of the best, it’s got to be the Fender American Ultra Stratocaster. With its clever pickup switching and superb ‘D’ neck profile, it manages to retain that classic aura of a Strat whilst delivering a fully modern playing experience.
Best Stratocasters: Product guide
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 a beginner electric 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.
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.
Unveiled a few years ago, 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. This 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.
The Fender Player Plus HSS Stratocaster is the perfect option for players looking to upgrade from a beginner-level instrument. Combining some excellent features and the robust build quality of Fender's Mexico factory, this super Strat punches well above its weight.
The HSS pickup configuration provides lots of versatility, giving you the option of a bit more oomph when you need it, whilst still allowing you to get the classic Strat sound with the coil split. The single coils are all noiseless too, so you don't get any of that annoying hum.
On the neck, there are more premium-level options too. A set of locking tuners ensure your guitar is always in tune, making whammy bar abuse much more fun. Rolled fingerboard edges provide a 'played-in' feel, making fast playing and chords super comfortable.
Read the full Fender Player Plus Stratocaster review
With its sleek modern looks and lightning-fast playability, the Fender Aerodyne Special Stratocaster HSS eschews anything classic about a Strat, making it a properly modern playing machine.
The sound of this guitar is still pure Strat, but the added humbucker gives a lot of extra girth enabling you to play heavier styles with it. Whether it’s pristine cleans or searing leads, this stunning guitar can handle it all. The Babicz tremolo is rock solid and works great in tandem with the locking tuners to provide excellent stability even when you abuse it.
The thing that stood out most to us about the Aerodyne was the playability. The neck is one of the slickest we’ve ever played, straddling the line between fast playability and chunky stability perfectly. Playing on this guitar is like a speed boost for your licks, and we couldn’t help ourselves from playing it extensively.
Read the full Fender Aerodyne Special Stratocaster review
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.
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 are 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
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 super Strat, 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 the 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
Let’s face it a real vintage Strat is out of the price range of us mere mortals, but if you want an instrument that evokes the golden age of the big ‘F’, then the Fender American Vintage II 1961 Stratocaster will do just the trick.
It’s got three Pure Vintage ‘61 single coils, voiced after an actual 60s Strat pickup. This means bright and clear tones in the bridge position, with a warm yet articulate neck pickup. The original Strat only had a three-way switch, but those in-between positions are accessible here with a tone knob for the bridge pickup that wasn’t there on the original either.
It’s got vintage-size frets, which makes it amazing for bending giving you plenty to force the string against. A ‘C’ profile fits just right with the rest of the guitar. Despite its vintage 7.25” radius, it never feels uncomfortable during long playing sessions.
Read the full Fender American Vintage II 1961 Stratocaster review
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.
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
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 that 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
What makes a Stratocaster special?
If you ask a non-guitar player to draw a guitar, chances are they’ll come up with the iconic Stratocaster shape. As Fender’s best-selling instrument of all time, the Strat has become interwoven into the fabric of music culture, becoming an icon in it’s own right.
Countless guitarists have used the Strat as their primary weapon, including Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Beck, and David Gilmour, right through to more modern players like John Frusciante, John Mayer, Cory Wong, and loads more. These players all have very different sounds, yet they can warp the Strat to their own particular taste and style.
While the Strat isn’t as subjectively versatile as a Telecaster, the three pickup configuration allows for many different tones in a single guitar, which is why it’s become such a mainstay of the music world.
What is the most versatile pickup configuration for a Strat?
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.
Are Mexican Strats as good as American?
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.
How we choose the best Stratocasters
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.
At Guitar World, we have a deep appreciation for the iconic Stratocaster and its timeless appeal. Our team of experienced musicians all own at least one Stratocaster, which is how we’re able to provide you with practical and trustworthy recommendations.
Our handpicked selection of the best Stratocasters showcases exceptional craftsmanship, versatile tones, and outstanding playability. We meticulously evaluate factors such as build quality, tonal versatility, hardware, and overall performance, ensuring that these guitars represent the pinnacle of Stratocaster excellence.
With Guitar World as your trusted source, explore our recommended Stratocasters that have been thoroughly vetted by fellow musicians. Discover the options that will inspire your playing and bring out your unique musical voice. Whether you're a seasoned pro or an aspiring player, let Guitar World guide you in finding the perfect Stratocaster that complements your style, tone, and artistic expression.
Read more about how we test products and services and how we make our recommendations.
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