Best Electric Guitar Under $1000 (Our Top Pick)
PRS SE Custom 24
The PRS SE Custom 24 is the best electric guitar under $1000 that I can recommend. Its versatile, able to hang in both rhythm and lead styles, and has an incredible tone quality that's rich, full, and percussive. For budget-friendly guitars that give you a pro-level experience, the SE Series is extremely hard to beat.
You want to buy a new electric guitar under $1000. That's a great place to be, because you have plenty of options. But those options are not necessarily all great, which is where this post comes in. Based on my experience working in the industry and playing guitars for over two decades, I've put together this list of the best electric guitars under $1000 that I know to recommend.
And it's important to note: I'm not necessarily reviewing each of these guitars individually.
Instead, we've put them in a table with a link to Sweetwater and Compare buttons that allow you to see pricing and basic specs side by side. Because I don't think you need a bunch of paragraphs telling you what kind of features each guitar has. Instead, I've made fewer recommendations based on actual experience, giving you a post that's easier to read, more succinct, and - hopefully - more helpful.
Our favorite electric guitar recommendation is at the top of this page while our full five-part table is below this paragraph. I'll cover additional questions and issues in following paragraphs, but first, we'll get you to the guitars. If you have clarifying questions about them, use the compare buttons or you can post questions in the comments section below the article.
Enjoy, and happy guitar shopping.
Best Electric Guitars Under $1000 (top 5 picks)
Note that we've made electric guitar recommendations that are based on series or broad model categories. For example, we've recommended the PRS SE Custom 24, but it should be said that the SE series as a whole is also getting a recommendation.
The same is true of the Ibanez Iron Label series.
Once we deviate from recommending specific guitars, it's important to note that the price point could potentially change. But for the most part, all of these guitars - and similar models within each series - are going to retail under $1000.
What features should I expect in this price range?
What do you get in an electric guitar under $1000? What should you expect at that price point?
Here are a few features we like to see in the $650 to $1000 price range:
- Name brand pickups (Seymour Duncan, DiMarzio, etc.)
- Nicer hardware
- Upgraded internal electronics (pots, wiring)
- Higher-grade tonewood
- Better construction and aesthetics (top pieces, body carving, etc.)
While not every electric guitar under $1000 will have all these features, you should expect to see at least two or three of them. Also note that there has to be a price floor set, which - as we mentioned - could be around $650 or so.
In that range, we expect to get at least some of the features in that list, if not all of them.
Where manufacturers often cheat is in the pickups. For example, the PRS SE and Fender Player series are still typically going to use some kind of a stock pickup.
If possible, look for models with pickups from third party manufacturers.
Read more: Best guitar pickups
Which is the most versatile option in this price range?
What I like about this price range is that many of the guitars in it are fairly versatile.
The PRS SE Custom 24 and both Fender guitars are going to have a lot of flexibility in terms of which styles they can accommodate. I'd say the Stratocaster is more of a lead guitar while the PRS is more comfortable as a rhythm guitar.
Read more: Best rhythm guitars
The Telecaster is sort of right in the middle.
But all three of those can give you a lot of grace if you're jumping around to different styles of music.
The Ibanez Iron Label and Epiphone Les Paul Custom are less flexible, focusing more on rock and speed. But even those can cover a decently wide range of musical styles.
If flexibility is a priority for you, this is a great price range to be in.
Should I go with humbuckers or single coils?
What about the difference between single coils and humbuckers? In the list we've provided, here's how those break down.
Single Coil Guitars
- Fender Player Stratocaster
- Fender Player Telecasters
- PRS SE Custom 24
- Ibanez Iron Label series
- Epiphone Les Paul Custom
Fender is known for focusing primarily on single coil pickup configurations (three in the Stratocaster and two in the Telecaster), while the other guitar brands in our list are more likely to use a dual humbucker configuration (humbucker at the bridge and neck).
The difference between the two types of pickups is fairly significant.
Difference Between Single Coils and Humbuckers
Single coil pickups are brighter and sound more bluesy, good for lead guitar and lighter musical styles.
Humbuckers - in stark contrast - tend to be heavier and darker, with more bass and a much thicker tone profile. This makes them a favorite of those in heavier rock styles and metal. Personally, I've always preferred an electric guitar with humbuckers, because I like that heavier sound.
I'm also more of a rhythm guitar player.
But, an argument can be made for single coil pickups if you like the bluesier, lighter tones that are better for lead guitar styles.
It's truly just a matter of preference.
Argument for Spending Less
Remember, we've put a "floor" for our price range around $750.
What's the argument for spending less and avoiding the $1000 price tag altogether?
Obviously, there's the issue of saving money. You might be able to buy one of these guitars used, perhaps on Reverb, and save some money while getting a similar guitar that's just a few years old.
You might also not need a guitar that's quite as nice as what you're seeing in our list.
Maybe you'd be happy with a Squier or a cheaper Epiphone model.
Here are a couple of posts that might be able to help you in that regard:
Argument for Spending More
I think the most powerful argument for spending more is the pickup issue.
If you aren't getting the nicer name brand pickups in this price range, that's a huge disappointment. For those wanting to get in on the Seymour Duncan, Fishman, or DiMarzio band wagon, you've got a few options:
- Hold out for a guitar with these pickups already installed
- Buy a nicer guitar (go more expensive) with these pickups already installed
- Buy a guitar with stock pickups then mod/upgrade later
Going a bit pricier than $1000 gives you a good chance to get a guitar with nicer pickups, while staying in the $750 to $1000 range is hit or miss. If you want to spend a bit more and get pickups that you don't have to replace, it might be worth upping your salary cap to maybe $1300-$1400.
Is it "okay" to buy an electric guitar online?
What about the issue of spending that kind of money online? Is it okay to buy a guitar online that you haven't actually played?
I would say yes, but that's easier for me because I have a lot of familiarity with these guitars and I've known the market for a long time. I've played a ton of them, so there isn't a lot of mystery surrounding what they sound like and how they feel.
If you aren't sure about buying without holding a guitar in your hand, it might be worth your while to try some of these guitars out, at a local music gear store with a brick and mortar location.
While I'm not a huge fan of Guitar Center, they're one of the few consistent places that allow you to go and try guitars.
Most local musical instrument shops will let you try things out as well.
Though I would add - if you try guitars at a particular place and you decide to buy, make sure you buy from the store to support them.
If you're comfortable buying online, use the orange buttons above and support us.
If you've already done the work of setting a budget for yourself, we think these electric guitars give you the best chance of getting something with high value. In other words, they're going to give you the most quality for the amount of money you're paying. We'd also argue that they are some of the most versatile options and are most likely to work for the widest range of styles.
But you can also view them as a guide or a framework for what to look for. In other words, it might not be exactly these guitars that work for you, but maybe something like them, or a guitar from the same (or similar) series within a given brand.
Use it as a reference and not as a rulebook.
Even then, if you still have questions or need help finding the best electric guitars under 1000 dollars for your situation, drop those in the comments section below and I'll help out as much as possible.
We'll see you there.