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Best Telecasters 2020: top Fender Tele electric guitars for all budgets and styles

Best Telecasters 2020: top Fender Tele electric guitars for all budgets and styles
(Image credit: Fender)

Regardless of what your needs are, you'll have a lot of fun finding the best Telecaster  for you. The Tele is one of the world's most iconic electric guitars and, as such, there's a huge choice within the range. The Fender Telecaster was the very first mass-produced solid body electric guitar and has a widespread appeal that is only rivaled by a few other guitars.

Few other guitars have become so deeply ingrained in music history. The Fender Tele has graced recordings from rock 'n' roll trailblazers including Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones, right the way through to Danny Gatton and James Burton. Even modern guitar masters like Slipknot and Radiohead are riding the Tele train. What this means is that you'll be in good company if you decide to invest in one of the best Telecasters in this guide.

Below you'll find some very tempting options in the Telecaster stable, whether you're a beginner electric guitar player or die-hard Fender fan. But before we unveil our pick of the best Telecasters, let's take a look at our top pick... 

Amazon Prime Day is just around the corner. If you're looking for a new Fender Telecaster then it could be worth waiting until the Prime Day guitar deals start landing.

What is the best Telecaster around?

Our top picks for the best Telecaster guitar starts with the Fender American Professional Telecaster, a seriously beautiful and versatile guitar that pays homage to the originals while bringing them right up to date.

If you’re currently shopping for a top-level American-made Telecaster, the American Professionals are certainly worth a look. Unlike some of the other options out there, these guitars pay full tribute to the original models, with only a handful of modernisations and updates that aren’t detectable to the eye.

We can also highly recommend  the Fender Richie Kotzen Telecaster. The singer/guitarist has been responsible for some of the greatest Fender tones in recent decades, and oftentimes that's down to the Telecaster in his hands.

These DiMarzio-equipped signatures were made available globally in 2013 (having only been sold in Japan initially) and offer world-class tones with no compromise playability. A brilliant addition to our best Telecasters round-up.

Choosing the best Telecaster for you

Telecasters come in many forms, from the original solid-body design through to the lighter weight semi-hollow Thinlines that offer more of a natural acoustic resonance. So it’s worth having an idea of what kind of sounds you hear in your head and which kinds of musicians have been associated with the many models on offer. 

While it’s worth bearing in mind that there are no rules when it comes to what you use, solid-body guitars are generally considered more suited to those looking for punch, thickness and sustain. Semi-hollow guitars are renowned for their openness and clarity, often favored by more chordal players.

When choosing the best Telecaster for you, also think about whether you want/need single-coils or humbuckers. While there have never been more aftermarket electric guitar pickups available to help players hone in on their favourite tones, it makes sense to invest in a Telecaster that can handle the sounds you’re looking for. 

Fender’s typically noiseless and lower-output single-coils work wonders for those playing funk, RnB and country, though higher-gain players may be more suited to higher-output pickups like humbuckers. To get a better idea of how much power you need, look at the guitarists you’re hoping to sound like.

So, let's check out the best Fender Teles you can buy today. We've ordered them by price – from cheapest to most expensive – to make the list easier to navigate. Our price comparison widgets have also found the best prices online right now.

The best Telecasters to buy now

Best Telecaster: Squier Affinity Series Telecaster

(Image credit: Squier)

1. Squier Affinity Series Telecaster

The best Telecaster for beginners on a budget

Price: $229/£189 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple (C-shape) | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Indian Laurel | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Two Vintage-Style Single-Coils | Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone | Hardware: Chrome | Finish: 2-Color Sunburst, Arctic White, Black, Butterscotch Blonde, Competition Orange, Race Green, Race Red, Slick Silver

No cheaper Fender-made Tele
Plenty of finish options 
Not much at this price

The Squier Affinity series is Fender’s answer to offering their unique designs and historic tones at the budget end of the market. For those starting their journey in guitar, these instruments offer tremendous value for money and though they can’t offer the full Fender experience, costing around a fifth of the cheapest American-made models, these guitars are virtually unbeatable within the sub-$250 end of the market. 

Whether you’re a beginner or you’ve just always wanted to add a basic Tele to the collection, with some classic finishes including the Butterscotch Blonde favored by Bruce Springsteen and tantalizing racing colors, this could very well be the best Telecaster for you.

Best Telecaster: Fender Squier Classic Vibe 70s Telecaster Thinline

(Image credit: Fender)

2. Fender Squier Classic Vibe '70s Telecaster Thinline

The most affordable Fender semi-hollow out there

Price: $449/£329 | Body: Soft Maple | Neck: Maple (C-shape) | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 21 | Pickups: Two Fender Wide Range Humbucking | Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone | Hardware: Nickel | Finish: Mocha, 3-Color Sunburst, Natural

Amazing value for money
Revoiced Wide-Range Humbuckers
Great for rock

Famously used by the likes of Bob Dylan, Thom Yorke and Jim Adkins, Thinline Telecasters were originally made as a lighter-bodied alternative, with routing cavities and a single f-hole that added to its more acoustic-sounding and warmer ‘woody’ resonance. 

The only Thinline in the Fender Squier range certainly offers a lot for its budget price-point, from build to playability. Like the Vintera ’70s models, it features two Wide Range humbuckers to help players tap into warmer and more overdriven sounds – which, coupled with the semi-hollow construction – helps avoid some of the more shrill tones classic Telecasters were famous for. 

A great option for those hoping to dial in rock tones or hit big-sounding chords on a budget.

Best Telecaster: Fender Vintera 70s Telecaster Deluxe

(Image credit: Fender)

3. Fender Vintera '70s Telecaster Deluxe

A highly functional and affordable throwback to the wonder years

Price: $899/£799 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple (Thin C-shape) | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 21 | Pickups: Two Fender Wide Range Humbucking | Controls: Volume 1. (Neck Pickup), Volume 2. (Bridge Pickup), Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Tone 2. (Bridge Pickup) | Hardware: Nickel/Chrome | Finish: Mocha, 3-Color Sunburst, Vintage Blonde

Amazing value for money
 Revoiced Wide-Range Humbuckers
Not as suited to brighter Tele tones

After an increase in higher gain players over the course of the 1960s, Fender hired former Gibson pickup guru Seth Love to help update their debut solid-body electric design. The fruits of the collaboration arrived in 1972 as the Telecaster Deluxe, and using the all-new Wide Range humbucker to dial in more overdriven tones.

The new Ensenada factory-made Vintera series offers a whole range of throwback Telecasters from the big F’s ground-breaking first three decades, but the ’70s Deluxe – available in three wonderfully classic finishes – has definitely earned its place near the top of our best Telecasters list.

The humbuckers are incredibly musical, both clean and distorted, and offer a bit less of that famous Tele twang in favour of grit and power. All in all, the Fender Vintera '70s Telecaster Deluxe is a brilliantly versatile and more wallet-friendly tribute to one of the more rock-focused models in Fender history.

Best Telecaster: Fender Vintera '50s Telecaster Modified

(Image credit: Fender)

4. Fender Vintera '50s Telecaster Modified

A Mexican-made Telecaster powered by Custom Shop pickups

Price: $999/£899 | Body: Alder Or Ash | Neck: Maple (Thick Soft V-Shape) | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 21 | Pickups: Custom Shop Twisted Single-Coil (neck) and Custom Shop Vintage-Style Single-Coil (bridge) | Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone | Hardware: Nickel/Chrome | Finish: Butterscotch Blonde, Daphne Blue, Surf Green

Great finishes and value for money
Fender Custom Shop pickups...
...with four-way selector
V-shaped necks aren’t for everyone

At the slightly higher end of the Fender Vintera range sits the ’50 Modified Telecaster, which combines some of Fender’s most sought-after Custom Shop colors with pickups from the actual Custom Shop. 

In this case, you’re getting a Vintage-Style Single-Coil in the neck and a high output Alnico 5 Twisted Single-Coil in the bridge – which, along with the four way selector and S1 switch, will be able to cover some serious tonal ground. 

The neck profile is a softer variation of the V-Shape profile from the late 50s, so not quite as extreme and still quite thick-feeling. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a mid-priced guitar that screams class and can cover pretty much any kind of gig, this might be the best Telecaster for you. 

Best Telecaster: Fender Jim Root Telecaster

(Image credit: Fender)

5. Fender Jim Root Telecaster

Undoubtedly the heaviest Telecaster in Fender history

Price: $1,199.99/£1,139 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Maple (Modern C-shape) | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Ebony Or Maple | Frets: 22 | Pickups: EMG 60 (neck) and EMG 81 (bridge) | Controls: Master Volume | Hardware: Black | Finish: Flat White

 A more affordable artist guitar
High-powered active EMG 'buckers 
Far from an original Tele sound

As the guitarist in one of the most successful metal bands the world has seen, Slipknot guitarist Jim Root (aka #4) knows a thing or two about high-gain tones. His signature Telecaster features some less-usual appointments, including an ebony fingerboard, locking tuners, black hardware, no tone control, a Hardtail strings-thru-body bridge and his favourite active EMG pickup set.

The result of this collaboration with Fender is a high-powered workhorse that will be able to cut through the mix and have no problem voicing the kind of lower tunings bands like Slipknot were responsible for popularizing. It’s not a classic Telecaster by any means, but for Slipknot fans, it’s a no-brainer.

Best Telecasters: Fender Richie Kotzen Telecaster

(Image credit: Fender)

6. Fender Richie Kotzen Telecaster

The Tele behind nearly all of the guitarist’s world-beating tones

Price: $1,499/£1,899 | Body: Ash with Flame Maple Laminated Top | Neck: Maple (Large C-shape) | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 22 | Pickups: DiMarzio Twang King (neck) and The Chopper T (bridge) | Controls: Master Volume, Series/Parallel Rotary Switch | Hardware: Gold | Finish: Brown Sunburst

One of the best signatures Teles 
Dimarzio pickups with parallel switch
Again, neck may not suit beginners

The fact that American guitar virtuoso Richie Kotzen has stuck with his signature Telecaster for the large majority of his career speaks volumes. It’s an instrument that can take him from classic Fender tones for RnB/funky lines through to incredibly musical high-powered gains with effortless ease. 

All that is thanks to a single-coil Alnico 5 DiMarzio Twang King in the neck and a ceramic stacked humbucker, The Chopper T, in the bridge. 

Then there’s the contoured ash body for increased playability, a bound flame maple top to help cut through, a fatter neck profile and a series-parallel rotary switch where you’d usually find a tone control, which functions as a mid-boost. Finished in a gorgeous Brown Sunburst to match its exquisite gold hardware, this is without question one of the best Telecaster guitars in the world. 

Best Telecasters: Fender American Professional Telecaster

(Image credit: Fender)

7. Fender American Professional Telecaster

Everything you want from a classic Tele with modern functionality

Price: $1,549/£1,509 | Body: Ash | Neck: Maple (Deep C-shape) | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Two V-Mod Single-Coils | Controls: Master Volume with Treble-Bleed, Master Tone | Hardware: Nickel/Chrome | Finish: 2-Color Sunburst, 3-Color Sunburst, Black, Butterscotch Blonde, Candy Apple Red, Crimson Red Transparent, Mystic Seafoam, Natural, Olympic White, Sonic Gray

American-made Telecaster
Tim Shaw-designed single-coils
Treble Bleed Circuit
Neck might not suit beginners

The American Professional series brings the Fender Telecaster into the modern age while staying incredibly faithful to the original design. But a few tiny adjustments can make a world of difference – from the Treble Bleed circuit that retains the high-end when your guitar volume is turned down to its redesigned ‘ashtray’ bridge that’s angled better for the picking hand.

The Deep C neck sits in between a Modern C and U in terms of shape and coupled with the narrow tall frets offers extra hold and control. As for the circuitry, the Tim Shaw-designed V-Mod single-coils are engineered using a proprietary blend of alnico magnet types. 

In the neck pickup, alnico 5 under the bass strings delivers detailed low end while alnico 2 under the treble strings adds warmth and clarity, whereas the bridge is powered exclusively by alnico 5 magnets. 

It’s all of these tiny extras and adjustments which – without affecting the visual aesthetics of such a classic guitar – make the American Professional series a very dominant presence in our best Telecasters round-up.

Best Telecasters: Fender American Ultra Telecaster

(Image credit: Fender)

8. Fender American Ultra Telecaster

The Big F puts a contemporary spin on its new top-line Tele

Launch price: $1,899/£1,899 | Body: Alder (ash on trans finish) | Neck: Maple, bolt-on | Scale: 25.5” | Fingerboard: Rosewood, maple | Frets: 22, medium jumbo | Pickups: 2x Ultra Noiseless Vintage Tele single-coil in neck and bridge | Controls: Master volume with S-1 switch, master tone, 3-way blade selector | Hardware: 6-Saddle American Tele with chromed brass saddles | Left-handed: No | Finish: Arctic Pearl, Cobra Blue, Mocha Burst, Texas Tea, Ultraburst

S-1 switching and Ultra Noiseless pickups offer wide sweep of Tele tones
A very playable Tele
Some of the smartest new Fender finishes in years
Locking tuners
Might be too new-school for some

Fender’s American Ultra Series was one of those event launches that we only see every few years or so. It sees Fender revise its flagship US models, rolling out a number of contemporary features to suit today’s player, with compound radius fretboards, tapered heels, newly sculpted bodies, noiseless pickups and locking tuners. The Fender logo is rendered in gold foil on the headstock. 

The American Ultra Tele wears these updates well. It has a compound 10”-14” radius that feels right, especially atop the new Modern D profile neck. It’s a profile that plays quick but fills the palm in all the right ways, with its satin finish a super-smooth enabler for swift position shifts.

There are a suit of stunning new finishes – Texas Tea and Mocha Burst are particularly mind-blowing – but for all the modern accoutrements, the American Ultra Tele is still a textbook Tele, with raunchy twang and more than a little snarl when you turn the gain up. The S-1 switch allied to the 3-way pickup position switching makes it sound a little like the greatest hits of Tele tone. That in itself is enough of a recommendation.

Read the full Fender American Ultra Telecaster review

Best Telecaster: Parallel Universe Vol II Troublemaker Tele Deluxe

(Image credit: Fender)

9. Fender Parallel Universe Vol II Troublemaker Tele

The Telecaster reimagined… as a Les Paul?

Price: $2,399.99 | Body: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany (Modern C-shape) | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Two Custom Double Tap Humbuckers | Controls: Volume 1 (Neck Pickup), Tone 1 (Neck Pickup), Volume 2 (Bridge Pickup), Tone 2 (Bridge Pickup) | Hardware: Gold | Finish: Olympic White with lacquer finish

Unusual and collectable 
Custom Double Tap pickups
One of the most expensive Teles

Looking almost more like a 70s Gibson Les Paul Custom thanks to its off-white finish, humbucker pickups, gold hardware and adjusto-matic bridge, this all-new Troublemaker Tele Deluxe (unveiled at NAMM this year) oozes class and functionality. And much like those famous Gibsons guitars, it boasts a mahogany body and neck for more pronounced mids and increased sustain.

Granted, that might sound a long way off what the original Telecasters were famous for, but the Parallel Series exists purely to enable Fender to go further with their world-class engineering and defy the very conventions they helped create.  Further proof, if it was ever needed, that Fender are still masters of reinvention.