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6 best acoustic guitars under $500: our top picks, including acoustic-electric guitars

6 best acoustic guitars under $500: our top picks, including acoustic-electric guitars
(Image credit: Fender/Epiphone)

The acoustic guitar market is awash with impressive instruments, which is great on one hand but tough if you’ve been trying to find the best acoustic guitars for under $500. In fact, it can feel a little overwhelming to choose the right one when faced with so many gorgeous strummers.

Quality on these types of affordable acoustic guitars has been steadily improving, and now you can make choices based on body shape, finish, tonal character or the kind of preamp you need - and not just on price, either. And, most important of all, you can be sure that you’ll end up with a great guitar that’ll last you far beyond your beginner years.

With that in mind, we’ve narrowed it down to this collection of the best acoustic guitars for under $500 that you can buy right now. Whether you're completely new to guitar playing, or you're a seasoned acoustic strummer looking for a new workhorse, one of these guitars will be right for you.

Don’t forget to team your new acoustic with the best acoustic guitar strings or a cool new guitar strap, and make sure you stock up on the best guitar cables for your acoustic-electric six-string strummer.

Ready to find the best acoustic guitar under $500 for you? Then let's dive in...

What is the best acoustic guitar under $500?

All the guitars on this list have something to offer for those with less than $500 in their pocket, but if you fancy something different, Epiphone’s EJ-200SCE jumbo acoustic guitar is all about its onboard electronics. 

Featuring two pickups, this big Epiphone can output a stereo signal and there’s an on board tuner too. It’s the best plugged in performance we’ve seen in an acoustic-electric guitar at this price range, demonstrating startlingly good value for what you get.

Best acoustic guitars under $500: buying advice

If build quality is a given these days, what should you be focusing on when choosing from among the best acoustic guitars under $500?  First of all, you have to consider the wood. Though plywood (generally regarded as very poor for guitar tone) used to be found across the budget guitar market, solid wood acoustic guitars are now far more common than they were.

The Epiphone EJ-200SCE, for example, is a mix of spruce and maple, with a pau ferro fretboard. When it comes to Fender's budget-friendly acoustic guitars, the CD-60S comes in an ‘all mahogany’ spec at a super-low price.

In recent years, laminate wood has entered the picture, offering a decent alternative. In this situation, several thin slices of wood are glued together into a solid piece. The benefits? Excellent reliable strength, and it’s cheaper than more luxury tonewoods with similar properties.

Tone-hounds may turn up their noses, but Martin’s LX1E features mahogany high-pressure laminate back and sides, plus a birch laminate neck. Expect a crisp, fairly neutral sound with fair amounts of definition and clarity.

You’ll also need to think about plugging in. If you’re a beginner or you just don’t know whether you’ll be gigging your acoustic guitar, we’d recommend opting for an acoustic with a pickup/preamp such as Fishman’s Sonitone system. Several models in our best acoustic guitars under $500 guide feature on-board systems – the Epiphone is the finest. 

But take care, as many budget acoustic guitars come without pickups, and on some guitars the pickup is optional, so you’ll need to check you have the right model when you buy.

The best acoustic guitars under $500 available now

Best acoustic guitars under $500: Epiphone EJ-200SCE

(Image credit: Press Material)

1. Epiphone EJ-200SCE

Modern electronics and a classic design in one of the best acoustic electric guitars

Price: $499/£399 | Type: Jumbo | Back and sides: Select maple | Neck: Hard maple | Fretboard: Pau ferro | Scale length: 25.5” | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Grover Rotomatic 18:1 | Electronics: Shadow eSonic-II HD Stereo Pickup System | Left-handed: Yes

Impressive stereo pickup system
Big jumbo tones
Classic styling
Nothing at this price

All of the traditional calling cards of the classic Gibson J-200’s heritage are present and correct in Epiphone’s latest model. There’s the moustache bridge, decorative tortoiseshell style pickguard, pearloid crown inlays, and the deep but balanced bottom end that you usually only get from a jumbo. 

But it’s the electronics that have elevated this beauty into our best acoustic guitars under $500 guide. The Shadow eSonic-2 preamp uses two pickups: a traditional undersaddle ‘NanoFlex’ piezo and a fingerboard positioned NanoMag allowing you to dial in warmth or attack - whatever’s your pleasure. 

Add in separate eq controls, blend function and an onboard tuner and Epiphone’s E200-SCE punches way above its tonal weight when plugged in. One of the very best acoustic-electric you can buy under $500.

Best acoustic guitars under $500: Martin LX1E Little Martin

(Image credit: Press Material)

2. Martin LX1E Little Martin

A stellar little travel acoustic guitar for plugged-in jams

Price: $559/£449 | Type: Modified 0-14 Fret | Top: Sitka Spruce | Back and sides: High pressure laminate mahogany | Neck: Stratabond birch laminate | Fretboard: FSC Certified Richlite | Scale length: 23” | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Gotoh nickel | Electronics: Fishman Sonitone

Great build quality
Decent plugged in performance 
Compact and travel-ready
Conventional plugged in sound

Okay, we admit it, the $559 RRP is slightly over budget here, but you can regularly find it for $500 or less. Built from mainly manmade materials, the LX1E can feel utilitarian. However, offering 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 too. Though only equipped with a pre-set tone control, the contour function cleans up the mid-range, removing a little boxiness. Perfect for singer-songwriters.

Best acoustic guitars under $500: Washburn Woodline 10 Series WLO12SE

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3. Washburn Woodline 10 Series WLO12SE

A cracking sub-$500 acoustic guitar based on Martin’s classic OM shape

Price: $369/£329 | Type: Orchestra | Top: Solid mahogany | Back and sides: Mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Fretboard: Ovangkol | Scale length: 25.5” | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Chrome die-cast | Electronics: Fishman Presys II 301T preamp w/tuner | Left-handed: No

Great for fingerstyle players
Sparkling highs and tight, defined lows
Slim neck and low action
Great build quality; nicely finished
Three-piece neck isn’t the most attractive

Based on the vintage Martin OM body shape, the orchestra style WLO12SE features sub-dreadnought dimensions with typically sparkling highs and a tight, controlled bottom end. All-mahogany construction further enhances the Washburn’s bold, forthright tone - perfect for fingerstyle guitarists. 

The Fishman Presys II preamp offers a faithful portrayal of the guitar’s acoustic qualities when plugged in, and the system includes bass and treble controls for tonal tweaking.

Coupled with a fairly low action, the satin finished slim C profile neck is a breeze to play on. Great for electric guitarists seeking a hassle-free acoustic experience. This is a quality instrument that feels great to play. A genuine alternative to many more expensive instruments, and just one of the reasons why it features on this best acoustic guitars under $500 guide.

Best acoustic guitars under $500: Fender CD-60S All-Mahogany

(Image credit: Press Material)

4. Fender CD-60S All-Mahogany

The best acoustic guitar under $500 specifically for beginners

Price: $199/£160 | Type: Dreadnought | Top: Solid mahogany | Back and sides: Laminate mahogany | Neck: Mahogany | Fretboard: Rosewood | Scale length: 25.3” | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Chrome | Electronics: None | Left-handed: Spruce-top natural finish only

Value for money
Great intonation
Mid-range brightness
Plain looks

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 - 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. Intonation, tuning and string action is great on the CD-60S too.

Look online for bundle deals with tuners, straps, strings, gigbags etc. There’s an electro-acoustic version complete with a body cutaway available too.

Best acoustic guitars under $500: Taylor GS Mini

(Image credit: Press Material)

5. Taylor GS Mini

Ace build considering its in the best acoustic guitars under $500 group

Price: $499/£499 | Type: Mini Grand Symphony | Top: Sitka Spruce | Back and sides: Laminated sapele | Neck: Sapele | Fretboard: West African Ebony | Scale length: 23.5” | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Die-cast chrome | Electronics: None | Left-handed: Yes

Fantastic build quality and design
Sound and playability
Cut-price Taylor ownership
ES-Go pickup costs extra

Like the Little Martin, Taylor’s GS Mini is a travel size modern day parlour guitar. With faultless build quality and immaculate setup, the GS Mini outputs a big sound that belies its compact form. The GS Mini’s sparkling highs, crystal clear mids and tight low end offer a cut-price slice of Taylor tone - and it serves as a kick-ass recording acoustic guitar too. 

The Taylor loses out to the Martin on electronics, however - there are none as standard here, and Taylor’s optional ES-Go pickup will set you back another $98. Still, if amplified tones are essential, we’d recommend saving your pennies a little longer and going with the incredible quality of the Taylor.

Best acoustic guitars under $500: Yamaha CSF1M

(Image credit: Press Material)

6. Yamaha CSF1M

A stunning travel acoustic guitar for less

Price: $499/£505 | Type: Compact parlour | Top: Solid sitka spruce | Back and sides: Laminate mahogany | Neck: Nato | Fretboard: Rosewood | Scale length: 23.6” | Frets: 20 | Tuners: Die-cast chrome | Electronics: SRT passive piezo | Left-handed: No

Organic sound when amplified
Louder, richer sound than many
No tone controls for the piezo pickup
Tough competition from Martin and Taylor

The third travel acoustic guitar in our best acoustic guitars under $500 guide and our second instrument from Yamaha, this compact parlour guitar goes head-to-head with offerings from major players Taylor and Martin. 

It competes admirably too, offering big, full and refined sounds in GS Mini territory, if not quite as sublime. There’s versatile appeal here too. The CSF1M includes a passive piezo pickup that offers organic plugged in sounds. The satin neck feels great. 

Fleet fingered players may prefer the slinky low action of the Martin LX1E. Fingerstylists or slide players might be happier with the Yamaha. Either way, this is a great sub-$500 acoustic for any campfire strum-along.