The single biggest factor concerning most people looking to buy an electric guitar is cost.
With a ton of brands, models, and styles to choose from, our budgets inform the process from start to finish, regardless of our playing ability. For those new to the economy of electric guitars, we're going to look at the typical cost of an electric guitar in this article.
The Short Answer
Let's start with a simple answer.
Electric guitars range in cost from about $200 to $2000, with most falling in the $600 to $900 price range. A high-end Epiphone and a Fender Player Stratocaster might both cost around $650 without any kind of modifications or parts upgrades.
As you can see, this is quite broad.
Pricing by Brand (estimates)
However, you can easily start to narrow down your options if you look at the type of electric guitar you want and the brand you want to target. For example, brands can loosely be broken up into their own price ranges:
- Epiphone: $500-$900
- Squier: $200-$400
- Fender: $600-$1100
- Gibson: $2000-$3000
- PRS SE: $400-$1200
- PRS Main: $2000-$4000
Keep in mind, these are just estimates for each brand. To get a more detailed answer, let's look at some specific models with price taken from their Sweetwater listing.
Current Pricing for 12 Popular Electric Guitar Models, accurate as of Tue, September 26th, 2023
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What accounts for the differences in price?
While all of these guitars enjoy a similar level of popularity (they're some of the best-selling models in the world), you can see that the prices vary pretty dramatically.
Why is there such a drastic price difference between the Gibson Les Paul Standard and the Epiphone Les Paul?
Here are some of the reasons cost will differ:
Though it matters more in the context of acoustic guitars, tonewood types like Alder, Mahogany, and Maple, have a significant impact on what it costs a company to manufacture a guitar.
The more rare and better quality type of wood, the more expensive the guitar.
For example, it's better to have Mahogany as opposed to Pine.
2. Grade of Wood
There's also a more nuanced method of determining the quality of wood which is called hardwood grading.
This method is outlined in detail by the American Hardwood Export Council, and is also a factor in determining the cost and quality of an electric guitar.
After the body of the guitar, the next biggest factor when determining price is the pickups.
Read more: Best electric guitar pickups
Hardware components like the bridge, tremolo system, and tuning machines are in the same camp as pickups.
For example, the bridge hardware in a Squier Strat isn't nearly as nice as the bridge hardware in a Fender American Strat.
Additional electronics like volume knobs, tone knobs, and interior wiring will also contribute to cost.
However, these are largely dependent on the pickup type and configuration.
Things like extra tone knobs, push-pull knob functionality, pickup switches, and kill switches can all increase cost, particularly in custom-built electric guitars.
The SE models are actually manufactured outside of the United States, while mainline PRS models are built in Maryland.
While this means price can differ widely within each brand, you definitely have pricing conventions depending on which brand you prefer.
Check back to our bulleted brand list from earlier for examples.
7. Year the guitar was built
Most popular electric guitar models will revamp every year, kind of like cars. As a result, you have the 2020 Stratocaster, 2019, 2018, and so on.
This means that used electric guitars will usually have a year attached to them, again, just like a used car.
For example, my PRS CE 24 was much cheaper when I bought it back in 2012 because it was a 2005 model. If you're buying used, paying attention to the year of the guitar is definitely worth your time, as it can save you a ton of money.
These days, Reverb is the primary authority on used guitar gear. Checkout their electric guitar section for some examples of older year guitars.
8. How many were built and how long they were available
Some specialized or custom models of electric guitars are only produced for a limited time or in a limited amount. Not surprisingly, this typically pushes the cost up pretty significantly.
Choosing Between Popular Electric Guitars and Their Prices
Now that we've established some pricing guidelines, I'm going to talk about some of the more popular guitar brands and models.
We'll cover what type of player might benefit from each guitar to help you make a more informed buying decision.
Gibson Les Pauls & SGs
Gibson Les Pauls are considered a high-end guitar, good for a wide range of styles, though popular within rock and metal circles. They're expensive, so we'd recommend them for advanced players or those firmly committed to investing in the instrument.
Though it's often used in more of a classic rock context, there are plenty of modern players that use Les Paul electrics heavily.
Tool's Adam Jones, Tom Morello, and Slash are just a few examples.
Epiphone Les Pauls & SGs
From a looks perspective Epiphone Les Pauls are difficult to distinguish from their older Gibson siblings.
In fact, many people believe they sound just as good and provide a very similar playing experience. At the same time, you're typically getting much cheaper parts and pickups, so we recommend Epiphone for beginners or intermediate guitar players.
Within that context, they make great modding guitars, meaning you can buy the Epiphone and add nicer pickups or hardware.
All skill levels and musical styles (again rock and metal in particular) are good fits as the Les Paul - even in the Epiphone brand - has universal appeal.
As we've already covered, Fender Stratocasters have a range of models with several different pricing options (Player series, American series, etc.).
Though in general, they're preferred for lighter musical genres like blues, jazz, and more melodic styles.
It uses single coil pickups, which means its tone isn't as heavy as something like the Les Paul. However, the Stratocaster is the most popular guitar model of all time, making it a great option for all skill levels and a wide range of stylistic application.
Here's how the used pricing shakes out on Reverb:
Fender's second most popular model is the Telecaster, which is well-liked in similar styles of music, though particularly popular in country music circles. Again, it's good for a wide range of pricing and skill levels, providing a unique tone with the neck pickup and single coil slanted pickup at the bridge.
PRS SE Series
The SE models are made in South Korea and aren't as nice as the mainline PRS options (we'll get to those next). However, they do a good job of capturing a similar level of tone and quality, and they certainly feel like a real-deal PRS.
We love recommending SE models as second guitars, as they're ideal for those getting into the intermediate stages of learning who want to upgrade their beginner electric.
From a price point, they sit pretty comfortably in the $600 to $800 range.
Used options on Reverb can go more often in the $500 range. Notice in the recent sales below, one even going for $120.
PRS Mainline Series
Like the Gibson Les Pauls, most mainline PRS models - like the Custom 24 and CE - series are pretty expensive, limiting them to more advanced and committed players.
Their tone is thicker, similar to the Les Paul, but with some of the playability and speed of the Stratocaster design.
We like it for heavier and more modern styles, but PRS electrics can truly handle any musical style.
Squier Stratocasters and Telecasters
Squier is a Fender economy line with plenty of low-cost options that are ideal for beginners and even liked by some intermediate level players.
Most of the same appeal you get from the Fender Stratocaster and Telecaster models will apply here.
Buying an electric guitar is a big jump.
It's an investment, even if you're just a beginner, which means it's going to be really helpful to have a range of costs that you can expect. Pay attention to the age of the guitar, manufacturer, model, pickups, and other features we mentioned that can impact price.
As you browse between models, these will be the primary mechanisms driving the price up or down.
Your Questions & Comments
Do you have questions about the electric guitars we've listed here, or how we've explained the pricing systems?
If so, leave a comment below and I'll see what I can do to help out.
See ya there.