Updated by Bobby
Updated on March 29th, 2022
The BC Rich model I had posted has been discontinued (thank goodness), but I've left it included for reference. We've also made some updates to the formatting of this page but most of the content remains the same.
Picking out a guitar can be a bit daunting. And since there’s a lot of subjectivity involved, new players trying to pick out an instrument often find a lot of ambiguity and guesswork awaiting them. For someone buying their first guitar, the goals become fairly simple. Get a decent, budget guitar that you can afford and see if you stick with it. In so doing, avoid the worst guitars.
Worst Guitars in this List
Ibanez GRG Series (Gio models)
B.C. Rich Warlock (discontinued)
Yamaha PAC Series
Dean AXS Series
To that end, I’ll offer advice on what brands and models to avoid when you’re spending your hard-earned cash. Now, to be fair, some of the budget guitars available are high-quality products and worth the money.
Some of these instruments can even have staying power when the higher-priced guitars roll into your life. However, it is more often true that guitars with the “economy” tag are a waste of money. Avoiding them is what this post is about.
Listing the Worst Guitars and Our Links
Just so you could do a little research for yourself, and know exactly which guitars I’m talking about, I’ve linked to the Amazon page for each product. They’re affiliate links but, they’ll help both of us out as Amazon almost always has cheaper prices and plenty of used options.
We’ve also listed some preferable alternatives beneath each worst guitar entry as well.
Let’s jump in.
First up, the overrated Squier line.
1. Squier Stratocasters
A lot of folks really like Squier guitars. In most cases, I'm not one of them. Squier guitars are cheap, coming in under $400 (often $200 or less), which can be an attractive option for a first-time buyer. However the price difference between a Squier Strat and a real deal Fender Strat isn’t big enough to make up for the quality hit you take when you buy a Squier.
- Typical Squier Price: $200 - $300
- Price of a Fender Standard Stratocaster: $500 - $700
For just a couple hundred dollars more you can get the real deal Fender Strat with a number of notable upgrades:
- Alder Body (Agathis on the Squier version)
- Six-saddle vintage style tremolo
- Parchment pickguard
It’s subtle but, cost-cutting areas are easily identified in the Squier guitars, particularly in areas of tonewood (Agathis is fairly cheap) and hardware. There’s always a reason that something is cheaper than something else. The engine of capitalism makes no exceptions for guitars.
2. Ibanez GRG Series
The Ibanez GRG guitars look sharp, but they’re not worth the $200-$300 you’ll spend. The hardware is cheap and everything is stock. Pickups, tuners and bridge are all produced in-house for the express purpose of selling a cheaper guitar.
Here’s the specs list:
- Neck type: GRG maple neck
- Body: Mahogany body
- Fretboard: Bound rosewood fretboard with shark tooth inlay
- Fret: Jumbo frets
- Bridge: Fixed bridge
- Neck pickup: IBZ-6 (H) neck pickup (passive/ceramic)
- Bridge pickup: IBZ-6 (H) bridge pickup (passive/ceramic)
- Hardware color: Black
A mahogany body is pretty standard - not bad, not great. But the rest of the guitar is a jumbled mess of cut corners, with stock pickups that look tantalizingly similar to the Seymour Duncan designs. Alas, a set of Seymour Duncan pickups cost nearly as much as this entire guitar.
Thanks but, I’ll pass.
3. B.C. Rich Warlocks
This guitar has been discontinued, though we've left this page up for reference.
B.C. Rich is marketing these guitars to the young metal head crowd. And while that may be an attractive option when you’ve got your learner’s permit, these guitars are good candidates for future garage sale fodder. Cheap pickups and hardware are par for the course here.
Other disappointments include Agathis wood for the body of the guitar and a bolt-on neck. Even at $200, you can do better.
4. Rogue Acoustics
Rogue is barely a step above the Wal-Mart "First Act" guitars, as they have minimal redeemable value. To be honest, I‘m not so sure that Wal-Mart doesn’t carry some of these. No offense to Wal-Mart, but I buy toothpaste there, not guitars.
You’ll be hard pressed to find one of these for over $150, and there are plenty of good reasons for that. Sound quality and parts are both of the lowest grade.
5. Yamaha PAC Series
Yamaha has some more expensive guitars available that are excellent. However, their primary market tends to be economy instruments. The cheap electric guitars they offer leave a lot to be desired.
They fall into more or less the same problem as the Rogue models do. Agathis wood, a bolt-on neck and stock everything are to be expected. As a result, this guitar has poor sound and virtually no lasting value.
6. Dean Dreadnought Acoustics
Dean fairs a little better in the realm of electric guitars.
However their dreadnought acoustics are cheaply made and don’t resonate like an acoustic guitar should. All-laminate construction is partly to blame.
They come cheap at around $200 but, will leave even the casual player wanting.
7. Jasmine S35
People like the Jasmine acoustics and tend to give them positive reviews, perhaps largely due to the low price tag.
In all fairness, it is hard to complain about a guitar that costs less than $80.
Then again, all laminate construction, cheap tuners and less-than-impressive acoustic resonance doesn’t do much to excite the guitar-enthusiast in me.
8. Jackson JS Series
Jackson makes good guitars once you get into the middle price ranges ($500 and up).
Their economy models, like the JS series, are a steep drop-off in nearly every capacity. Poplar wood and a bolt-on neck are both cheap solutions while the pickups, bridge and tuning heads are all some form of Jackson stock.
If you do buy one of these, don’t plan on getting much longevity out of it and be ready to deal with breaking components and poor sound-quality.
I suppose there’s some subjectivity involved but, one thing to consider is that the quality of instrument you play will have a say in your experience as a musician.
In other words, beginner guitarists don’t want to cheap out too much on their first axe, since it could mean a cheap (and potentially frustrating) playing experience.
Though not everyone agrees with me.
Of particular issue is the inclusion of the Squiers, which is a fairly regular dispute as it relates to their actual value.
Some people love them and others don’t.
I’m in the “don’t category,” so if you feel differently, let us know about it in the comments section.
What do you think?
Are these budget guitars worth any kind of investment?
Maybe you wouldn’t say these are the worst guitars on the market.
Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.
Flick Commons Image Courtesy of matt.searles