If you want to take a step up from a beginner guitar and elevate your playing to the next level, picking out one of the best acoustic guitars under $500 is a natural next step. There are some incredible instruments available at this price point, so even if you’re not a beginner and are just looking for something to add to your collection, you’ll find a great guitar for your budget right here.
Seeing the need for players looking for quality guitars at a slightly cheaper price, many major manufacturers now offer instruments below the $500 mark, with Martin, Yamaha, Epiphone, and Fender fielding models that hit the sweet spot of value and quality. Plenty of the instruments in the category feature some impressive specs, with solid tops, quality hardware, and excellent preamps all featuring.
If you need further guidance, or you’re buying for the first time, check out our buying advice section for more info. If you just want to see the best acoustic guitars available for $500 or less, then keep scrolling to see our top picks.
Chris has been the Editor of Total Guitar magazine since 2020. Prior to that, he was at the helm of Total Guitar's world-class tab and tuition section for 12 years. He's a former guitar teacher with 35 years playing experience and he holds a degree in Philosophy & Popular Music. Chris has interviewed Brian May three times, Jimmy Page once, and Mark Knopfler zero times – something he desperately hopes to rectify as soon as possible.
Best acoustic guitars under $500: The quick list
Want to see the best acoustics under $500 without having to scroll through endless walls of text? Well here you'll find our favorites, with links to read more if you wish.
With its iconic looks, you'd think the Epiphone J-200 EC Studio costs a lot more than $500. Superb playability and signature jumbo tone make it an amazing acoustic for the money.
One of the best-selling acoustic guitars around, the Fender CD-60S All Mahogany delivers for well below the $500 mark. With a solid Mahogany top, it's the perfect entry point for beginners.
One of the classic beginner acoustic guitars, the Yamaha FG800M gives you a hell of a lot of specs for relatively little cash. A brilliant dreadnought that's incredible value for money.
The Martin LX1E Little Martin combines a compact form with that signature Martin tone, adding excellent Fishman electronics that make it a gig-worthy acoustic.
If you need a budget acoustic but are short on space, the PRS SE P20E Parlor delivers fantastic tone in a compact package. It looks stunning too, sure to turn heads wherever you take it.
One of the best-selling guitars of the last few years, and also one of the cheapest. The Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy is a rock-solid acoustic for comparatively little of your cash.
Best acoustic guitars under $500 2023
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Here you'll find full writeups and reviews for our pick of the best acoustic guitars under $500 available today. Many of these picks have been personally tested by our writers, so you can rely on our recommendations.
Featuring all the appointments that make its big brother, the Gibson J-200 legendary, the Epiphone J200 EC Studio is easily one of the best guitars you can buy for less than $500 (you may pay just slightly over $500 for some models/finishes, but you will find it under $500 if you look in the right places).
Featuring the iconic moustache bridge, decorative tortoiseshell style pickguard and pearloid crown inlays, we think this guitar is a joy to look at. Top that off with superb playability and the deep but balanced bottom end that you only get from a jumbo, and you have the complete package at a bargain price.
It’s clear to see that the Epiphone’s J200 EC Studio punches way above its tonal weight and it's well worth your time checking this one out.
Best for beginners
The term ‘beginner instrument’ doesn’t really fit with today’s standards, as manufacturers derive greater performance from tonewoods at less cost to us. Fender’s CD-60S proves the point, offering a guitar that sounds great and is comfy to play – but all delivered at a low, low price.
Sound is where this dreadnought guitar delivers the goods, with a chiming mid-range brightness that’s part and parcel of a mahogany construction. Fender’s big-bodied dreadnought also extends nicely into the bass, should you wish to explore drop tunings. We found the intonation, tuning and string action to be great on the CD-60S too.
Keep your eyes peeled online for bundle deals that include tuner, strap, strings, gigbag etc. There’s an electro-acoustic version complete with a body cutaway available for a little extra, too.
Read our full Fender CD-60S All-Mahogany review
Best value for money
Just like Yamaha is a giant of the music industry, the Yamaha FG800 is a giant of the beginner acoustic guitar world. For the money, the spec you get with this brilliant budget acoustic is really quite astonishing.
To see a solid top on a guitar at this price is frankly mind-blowing, but the FG800 follows up with the sound to match it. It's got a lovely punch to it, resonant and balanced whilst remaining articulate no matter what playing style you throw at it.
Being a dreadnought it's a big guitar, so may pose a challenge to those with smaller dimensions or younger players. But if you feel you can handle the large size, this is one of the most rewarding acoustics you can get for under $500.
Built from mainly manmade materials, the LX1E can feel utilitarian. However, in practice, the Little Martin offers up classic Martin tones with a crisp-edged if conventional voice. Its bright, contemporary tones will cut through a mix and be heard over bigger guitars. Little by name but not so little by nature – sonically anyway.
The Ed Sheeran-favored diminutive LX1E is a great travel guitar and features Fishman’s Sonitone preamp on-board too. Though only equipped with a pre-set tone control, the contour function cleans up the mid-range, removing a little boxiness. This one is perfect for singer-songwriters on a tight budget.
Read our full Martin LX1E Little Martin review
Best parlor guitar
A fairly recent addition to the acoustic guitar world, the PRS SE P20E Parlor allows you to own a premium-looking and playing instrument at a fraction of the typical cost of a PRS.
It's not the loudest acoustic due to the smaller size, but it's certainly got a distinctive voice. It oozes warmth thanks to the mahogany top and PRS' hybrid bracing ensures that it rings out resonantly. The playing experience is organic and addictive, you'll certainly find it hard to put this one down.
Perfect as a living room guitar, its small size also makes it easy to transport and it has a Fishman GT1 preamp built in for plugging into the PA at shows. The wide-fat neck profile offers a comfortable playing platform, making this a fantastic instrument for the money.
Read the full PRS SE P20E review
Best budget option
One of the best-selling acoustic guitars of the last couple of years is also one of the cheapest. Coming in well below the $500 mark, the Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy has that special something that makes it a perfect low-cost strummer to play on the sofa.
It’s a nice and bright-sounding guitar and while it’s not boomy due to the size, there’s still a hefty amount of projection when you strum hard. When fingerpicking there’s a nice pluck to the strings with a pleasing attack and cutting frequency response.
The action is set up nice and low so it’s playable as soon as you take it out of the box and we found the intonation to be spot on. If you’re used to a full-size acoustic the fretboard will feel a little cramped at first, but once we got used to it we found it super fun to play. It’ll be great for beginner players too.
Read the full Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy review
Yamaha’s goal with the STORIA range was to design a guitar that “transforms the traditional acoustic guitar into a one-of-a-kind statement piece”, and we must say, in our opinion they have certainly achieved that.
The wine red interior and champagne-gold appointments add an air of class to this sub-$500 acoustic that you don’t see often at this price point and the solid mahogany top delivers a beautifully warm tone that compliments this stunning look.
The slightly shorter scale length of 25” and the compact concert body sizes make it incredibly easy to play, even more so if you are a complete beginner.
Guild's M-240E is a slightly more left-field choice when looking at the smaller-bodied acoustic guitars under $500. There's plenty of competition in this product category from names like Martin and Taylor, but if you're after something a little different then the M-240E could be the one for you.
Construction-wise, the classic combination of a solid spruce top and mahogany back & sides provides a snappy, punchy tone with a tasteful low-end presence – meaning that the M-240E is a brilliant choice for both solo artists looking for rich tonal accompaniment, or those in bands that need to cut through the mix just that little bit more.
The comfortable C-shaped neck and small 'M' concert sized body make this diminutive Guild a fantastic travel or couch guitar – but with a full 24.75" scale length, it's still capable of keeping up with some of the big boys. Plugged in, you'll hear the sound of a much bigger guitar thanks to the Fishman Sonitone pickup - making this a seriously versatile acoustic.
Best acoustic guitars under $500: Buying advice
Can budget acoustic guitars be as good as expensive guitars?
Let us first preface this by saying that it has been a long time since 'budget' acoustic guitars were bad acoustic guitars. There are some killer acoustic guitars coming on to the market at crazy low prices, and they're not to be sniffed at.
The guitars in this guide represent the very best you can buy for roughly $500 or less – and if there's one thing we want you to take away from this guide, it's that budget guitars can be just as good as their more premium counterparts.
Okay, cheaper acoustics may not be as flashy or legendary as some of the high-end exotic six-strings out there, but they aren't trying to be. These guitars are simply offering players a no-nonsense acoustic with plenty of tone at an affordable price - and we absolutely love them!
What size acoustic guitar should I buy?
This is possibly the most crucial factor to consider when choosing any acoustic guitar, regardless of your budget. The guitar's size will impact everything from the tone it produces to how comfortable it is to play. The most common sizes available are jumbo, dreadnought, auditorium, classical and parlour.
A jumbo is going to deliver the biggest, fattest tone. Think Elvis, Bob Dylan and Emmy Lou Harris – the jumbo is an iconic body size and produces a tone to match. Unfortunately, the humongous body size does mean that you've got to be of a certain build and stature to play one comfortably.
The dreadnought is by far the most popular acoustic guitar body size. It's not too big, not too small, and creates a tone that seems to cover just about every base imaginable. The wider body helps the guitar to produce a broad range of tones and frequencies, making this option a great all-rounder. Again, it's a bit on the big side, but it's possible for those of any size to play a dreadnought comfortably.
Auditorium, classical and parlour are on the 'small' end of the acoustic guitar body size spectrum and are all perfect for younger players especially. The tones of auditorium and classical guitars are quite balanced, with plenty of low or high-end available depending on where and how you play the strings. Parlour guitars lack some of the tonal depth of larger-bodied guitars but make up for it with their punchy, mid-heavy characteristics – making it the guitar size of choice for blues guitarists such as Keb' Mo' and the late Justin Townes Earle.
Generally speaking, the bigger the guitar, the bigger the sound. So bear that in mind when choosing your new guitar.
Do I want a solid or laminate top?
If you've been looking at various guitars, you've most likely noticed the terms laminate top and solid top. So what's the difference between these types of manufacturing?
Let's start with the solid top. Basically, this means the top of the guitar (or soundboard) is made from a specially selected single piece of wood. This ensures a rich, full-bodied sound and increased volume.
The laminate top, on the other hand, is made from multiple pieces of wood glued together to form the top – this results in a sound that isn't as harmonically complex as the solid option.
Full laminate guitars used to populate the budget guitar market, but today you can find various models that feature a solid top. Both the Epiphone J200 EC Studio and Martin LX1e included in this guide feature solid spruce tops to complement their high-pressure laminate back and sides.
Do I need a pickup on my acoustic guitar?
Several models in our best acoustic guitars under $500 guide feature an on-board acoustic guitar pickup system. We realise that not everyone wants to plug their new guitar into an acoustic amplifier or PA system. Still, there are a few good reasons why you should be considering a guitar with a pickup already installed.
Firstly, you never know when you will need it. Whether you want to get up and play at an open mic night or school talent show, or perhaps you want to record that new song idea you just had - it can be handy to have the option to plug in and play.
Secondly, most pickup systems have a tuner built directly into the guitar. This means you can tune conveniently on the fly without the need for a clip-on tuner or mobile tuning app. One quick note, do be careful, as many budget acoustic guitars come without pickups, and with some guitars, the pickup is an optional extra, so be sure to double-check before making your purchase.
Does the brand matter?
Now this is a loaded question, because so manufacturers make great guitars there’s no truly objective answer here. However, certain manufacturers do have a signature sound that’s theirs alone. For example, Martin guitars are regarded as the ‘classic acoustic guitar sound’, due to the fact they’ve been around for so long and appeared on so many records, whereas Taylor guitars have a reputation for a more modern and articulate sound.
Fender have a reputation for making some of the best electric guitars around, and their acoustics are considered great value for money, but they don’t have the same heritage as Martin and Taylor. Likewise Yamaha has a made a name for itself with its beginner nylon strung acoustics and inventive technology like the TransAcoustic system, as well as the much renowned Japanese build quality. Yet many players would view them as not on the same level as a Taylor or Martin acoustic guitar.
But ultimately all of these tropes fall by the wayside when you actually pick up the guitar to play it. What sounds warm and rich to one person can be the complete opposite to another, so it’s always good to test an acoustic guitar before you buy if you can, or failing that listen to some sound demos of the instrument in question. The majority of retailers offer generous return windows so in the unlikely event you don’t gel with a guitar, you can always exchange it for another.
How we choose the best acoustic guitars under $500
When it comes to acoustic guitars, every player has their own personal preferences regarding the tone and feel. However, regardless of taste, there are a few key areas that an acoustic guitar must meet before we'd feel comfortable recommending it in a guide like this.
Like with any instrument, we begin by looking at the overall build quality. We closely inspect every inch of the guitar, from the body and neck to the machine heads, bridge, and saddle, to ensure they feel robust, sturdy and up for taking you on your musical journey.
We'll next check the consistency of the fretwork to confirm there aren't any sharp frets or uneven frets that may result in buzzing. This ties into the playability of the guitar. For us, the guitar should be comfortable to someone new to the instrument, and this means a reasonably forgiving neck and unobtrusive body.
Lastly, we move our attention to the overall sound of the acoustic guitar. To test the tone of the instrument, we will try a variety of different playing techniques and styles to see how the guitar handles them, from strumming wide-open chords with a flat pick to soft fingerpicking and everything in between. We are carefully listening to the volume the guitar produces and the overall tonal balance of the sound.
Find out more about how we make our recommendations and how we test each of the products in our buyer's guides.
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