5 Best Cheap Electric Guitars (Around $150 or Less)

You are currently viewing 5 Best Cheap Electric Guitars (Around $150 or Less)

Best Overall – Kramer Focus VT-211S

Reviewer: Teemu Suomala

Sound
Playability
Build/Finish Quality
Value For Money
Versatility
Hardware

Summary

Pros 
-Sounds good for the price
-Clean tones are nice!
-After setup, playability is good
-Versatile as it can be for this price
-Finish quality is usually solid
-Can handle some distortion too
-Alnico pickups

Cons
-Sometimes out of the box setup is poor
-Not the best for metal
-Tuning issues can be present
-Tuners feel cheap

Who Is This For?
Beginner or budget-minded players who are looking for a versatile and easy playing guitar!

3.8

How this Kramer Sounds:

YouTube video

Compare Prices:

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The Next Best:

Runner-Up – Donner DTC-100S 

Donner DTC-100S 39 Inch Electric Guitar Full-Size Tele Solid Body Electric Guitarra Sunburst Beginner with Bag, Strap, Cable


Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros 

  • Solid Tele tones
  • Surprisingly good quality most of the time
  • Smooth playability
  • Comes with accessories (gig bag, strap, cable)
  • Stays in tune well

Cons

  • More versatile options are available
  • Poor setup sometimes
  • Sharp fret edges
  • Accessories are not very good in quality

Who Is This For?

If looking for and nice quality cheap Telecaster that usually offers smooth playability and is versatile.

Best for Metal – Jackson Dinky JS11


Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros 

  • Mean tones
  • Fast and easy playability
  • Still versatile
  • Same Jackson High-output Humbuckers than in $200 more expensive Jackson JS32 guitars
  • Jumbo frets paired with Jacksons “speed” neck shape make playing effortless

Cons

  • Finish issues can be present
  • Clean tones are a bit dull
  • Fret buzz and rough fret edges sometimes

Who Is This For?

If you are looking for a fast playing and mean-sounding cheap guitar, this is one of the best options for around $150.

Best Single-Cut – Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker E1


Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros 

  • Pickups offer versatile single-coil tones
  • Fun to play
  • Flat 14” fretboard, paired with 60” Slim taper neck and short scale make playing easy most of the time
  • A unique twist to Les Paul
  • Hitting the frets and feel of the fretboard is good

Cons

  • The neck doesn’t have a smooth feel
  • You get better tuners with almost any other guitar
  • As usually with single-cut models, upper-frett access is not very good
  • A bit rough fret edges sometimes
  • Pickups are noisy

Who Is This For?

If you want a fun-to-play, ok sounding Les Paul Style Guitar, this is a solid option.

Best ¾ Sized – Ibanez miKro GRGM21


Our Overall Rating

Summary

Pros 

  • Really good for small and small-handed people(for kids too)
  • Versatile
  • Playing doesn’t require much finger strength because of the low string tension
  • Neck humbucker offers some meaty tones
  • Really easy to play

Cons

  • Tuning issues
  • Slightly fuzzy sound when using distortion
  • Finish and build issues can be present

Who Is This For?

If you want a smaller-sized guitar that is easy to handle, plus offers solid and versatile tones, this Mikro Gio is a good option.

Compare:

graphic compares 5 Best Cheap Electric guitars

This is probably no big secret to you…we guitar players are usually not known from their fat wallets. That’s why cheap electric guitars interest most of us.

It’s also true that all cheap guitars are not that good. Some can be pretty much worthless, to be honest. I and others here at Guitaristnextdoor.com have tested a ton of different cheap gear over the years, and we will save you the trouble of aimlessly searching for the right cheap axe.

I will reveal my 5 top picks. I will tell you why these guitars are good and what flaws they might have. I will also reveal 5 runner-up options that might also interest you.

If you are willing to spend more than around $150, check this article also: 5 Best Electric Guitars Under $200

Let’s get started!

photo reveals owner of guitaristnextdoor.com

Author: Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I also noticed that most guitar websites don’t do a really good job, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website. I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as Songsterr, Musicnotes, GuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar. I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog(I guess that went the right way…).


5 Best Cheap Electric Guitars 

Keep These 3 Key Things In Mind When Choosing:

Get clear with this. Buy a guitar that is a good pair with your music taste. I mention which genres each specific guitar handles well so I got you covered here.

From my first guitar book(The Guitar Handbook by Ralph Denyer), I got an amazing tip: ”buy the best guitar you can afford”. This has stuck with me since then. That tip will get you far. Don’t overspend, but don’t save just for the sake of saving. 

Focus on getting a guitar that has pickups that support your musical preferences. Don’t go crazy with tonewoods etc.

Best Overall – Kramer Focus VT-211S

Look at what Kramer can do:

YouTube video

Couldn’t resist…but jokes aside…

Kramer guitars are nowadays part of the Gibson Guitar Corporation, but Kramer was founded in 1976 in New Jersey. So Kramer’s have been in the guitar field for a long time.

What makes this Focus VT-211S a great model?

Playability

Its slim neck paired with quite flat 12” fretboard radius makes neck smooth playing and corners of the fretboard are easy to access. Sometimes the setup out of the box can be a bit “naah”, but most of the time, there’s nothing to complain. And when the setup with this thin is spot on, playability is smooth.

21 Medium jumbo frets make playing not-so-energy-consuming, and body shape fit even smaller players well.

Sound

Kramer Alnico V pickups are probably the thing I like most about this axe. These pups offer a surprising amount of good tones and can handle stuff from soft cleans to distorted riffs. And this is why I chose this to be the best overall. There’s no other guitar around the $150 price point that is this versatile.

What music I would recommend for this axe?

  • Hard Rock
  • Rock
  • Classic rock
  • Blues
  • Jazz
  • Soft Metal

But for really heavy stuff, there are better options available.

Check a sound demo:

YouTube video

Quality

Overall, the finish quality is usually great. Pickups work great and the fret edges are not too rough(they can be a bit rough sometimes).

But there are couple of flaws in quality…The tuners. They feel super cheap. The tuning stability is ok when I keep the price in my mind, but I would still love to get better tuners with this guitar.

Out-of-the-box setup can be hit or miss with any guitar on this price range, and this Kramer is no exception. If you decide to go with this, keep your fingers crossed. But of course, you can always set up the guitar by yourself or take it to a luthier.

Summary 

Pros 

  • Sounds good for the price
  • Clean tones are nice!
  • After setup, playability is good
  • Versatile as it can be for this price
  • Finish quality is usually solid
  • Can handle some distortion too
  • Alnico pickups

Cons

  • Sometimes out of the box setup is poor
  • Not the best for metal
  • Tuning issues can be present
  • Tuners feel cheap

Who Is This For?

Beginner or budget-minded players who are looking for a versatile and easy playing guitar!

Check Price on:


Runner-Up – Donner DTC-100S 

displays a Donner DTC 100

Donner guitars have been gaining popularity over the last 5 years, and after looking closer at this DTC-100 I can see why. I’m currently running my in-depth tests to this bad boy, check the unboxing:

YouTube video

Playability

Most of the time, playability is smooth. Popular C- neck shape fits most hands well and moving your hand up and down the neck feels good. Sometimes fret edges can be a bit rough, but usually, this axe is good to go without any fret smoothening.

Telecaster shape is comfortable to me, but doesn’t have the smooth and curvy edges of a Strat. I still think that most people are not going to face any issues with Tele shape.

Sound

This guitar does a good job delivering twangy Tele tones. It’s equipped with a familiar Tele SS combo(2 single-coil pickups) and it’s versatile as a budget Telecaster can be, and it will bend from bright cleans to hard rock like a charm.

The tone is surprisingly balanced and doesn’t sound tinny to me. The pretty good-sounding affordable guitar actually!

What music I would recommend for this axe?

  • Hard rock
  • Rock
  • Classic rock
  • Blues
  • Funk
  • Jazz

This is tonally a not very good option for metal, but you can play metal with it if you want.

Check a sound demo:

YouTube video

Quality

Probably the best aspect of this Donner. Quality is really good for the price, best from all these cheap guitars I investigated.

Still, this can guitar can have issues too. I’m mainly talking about sharp fret edges and poor setup. These can be annoying but also fixable.

Then the accessories…it’s nice that this guitar comes with accessories, but the quality of this extra gear is not very good. The strap is uncomfortable and feels cheap. Gig bag has low protection and the zipper is probably not going to last very long. The cable is ok and will get you started. But of course, I didn’t expect premium quality from this gear, so this is no big issue.

Summary 

Pros 

  • Solid Tele tones
  • Surprisingly good quality most of the time
  • Smooth playability
  • Comes with accessories (gig bag, strap, cable)
  • Stays in tune well

Cons

  • More versatile options are available
  • Poor setup sometimes
  • Sharp fret edges
  • Accessories are not very good in quality

Who Is This For?

If looking for and nice quality cheap Telecaster that usually offers smooth playability and is versatile.

Check Price on:


Best for Metal – Jackson Dinky JS11 

I had the big brother of this Dinky, the JS22 in my home testing in 2021, and oh boy it was awesome! But what about this little brother…is it any good?

Playability

You don’t get the compound radius or 24 frets of JS22 with this JS11, but you get pretty much all the other stuff related to smooth playability. Jacksons “speed” neck shape is really comfortable and made for fast playing.

Low action and jumbo frets make playing effortless, and pretty much all the frets are easy to access. When it comes to the feeling I prefer the more expensive JS22 I had in my home testing over this JS11, but this is not a toy either.

Sound

Jackson High-output Humbuckers churn out really mean distorted tones. If you are after a cheap metal guitar, this is a great pick. These pickups are surprisingly versatile, but the cleans are a bit dull sounding and lose for the cleans Kramer Alnico V pickups.

What music I would recommend for this axe?

  • Metal
  • Hard rock
  • Rock
  • Classic rock

It’s not my go-to blues or jazz guitar, but those genres are not a no-no for this axe either.

Check a sound demo:

YouTube video

Quality

Minor finish issues bother some Jackson Dinky JS-series guitars, but most of the time, they look stunning out of the box. Fret buzz and rough fret edges also bother JS11’s sometimes, but gladly this is not the case usually.

When it comes to set up, and this comes from my own experience, Jackson’s have always been really playable out of the box.

Summary 

Pros 

  • Mean tones
  • Fast and easy playability
  • Still versatile
  • Same Jackson High-output Humbuckers than in $200 more expensive Jackson JS32 guitars
  • Jumbo frets paired with Jacksons “speed” neck shape make playing effortless

Cons

  • Finish issues can be present
  • Clean tones are a bit dull
  • Fret buzz and rough fret edges sometimes

Who Is This For?

If you are looking for a fast playing and mean-sounding cheap guitar, this is one of the best options for around $150.

Check Price on:


Best Single-Cut – Epiphone Les Paul Melody Maker E1

Les Paul with double humbu….wait? Single-coils?! Yep, that’s right, I was shocked too at first. But this unique twist to Les Paul works actually pretty well.

Playability

I like the short scale (24.75”), it makes string tension lower, and pressing strings down requires less power because of that. I also like the flat 14” fretboard and 60” Slim taper D neck shape. Also, I like how hitting the frets feels, it’s comfortable. These make playing fun and easy. Most of the time…

There are a couple of things I don’t like about the playability. First, the gloss finish on the neck doesn’t feel smooth. It can be just a personal preference only, but I just love when the neck is smooth and fast to handle. This neck doesn’t have that feel.

Also, limited upper fret access (frets below 13th fret on low E and A strings) is present as usually with Single-cut/Les Paul models.

Sound

It feels alien and a bit “wrong” to play Les Paul with double single-coils. But I actually like this combination. Fresh. But how it sound?

It’s a great classic rock and rock guitar. Single-coil tones are not that spanky, but are still bright and that familiar SC coldness shines through. Don’t expect perfect Fender cleans from this axe, but you can for sure get some of those sparkling tones out of this Epiphone. 

But these pickups are quite noisy. I mean hum. It doesn’t ruin the experience, but especially when you dial some gain the noise starts.

What music I would recommend for this axe?

  • Rock
  • Classic rock
  • Blues (Clapton for example)
  • Jazz

It’s not very good for heavier stuff, but it can handle some hard rock for sure.

Check a sound demo:

YouTube video

Quality

The quality of this Epiphone is usually solid, but couple of things can cause issues. First, tuners of these cheapest Epiphones are not very stable. I noticed this when testing Epiphone Les Paul Special VE. Tuning instability doesn’t ruin the experience, but you might need to tune this guitar a bit more than others. Of course, this issue is not present with every copy of this guitar. Some users have stated that their Epi stays in tune great.

Also, fret edges are a bit rough sometimes. Nothing too bad, but this is a bit annoying.

But I like the fact that you get a Rosewood fretboard and Mahogany neck with this guitar. These make this axe really upgradeable.

Summary 

Pros 

  • Pickups offer versatile single-coil tones
  • Fun to play
  • Flat 14” fretboard, paired with 60” Slim taper neck and short scale make playing easy most of the time
  • A unique twist to Les Paul
  • Hitting the frets and feel of the fretboard is good

Cons

  • The neck doesn’t have a smooth feel
  • You get better tuners with almost any other guitar
  • As usually with single-cut models, upper-frett access is not very good
  • A bit rough fret edges sometimes
  • Pickups are noisy

Who Is This For?

If you want a fun-to-play, ok sounding Les Paul Style Guitar, this is a solid option.

Check Price on:


Best ¾ Sized – Ibanez miKro GRGM21

This GIO is one of my favorite ¾ guitars, but it’s not for everyone. Let’s dive deeper!

Playability

Low string action and 22-1/5″ scale make strings very easy to press down. Strings don’t have much tension and especially for beginners and kids, this is a huge plus. Playing this guitar doesn’t require much finger strength, and causes less headache because of that.

It’s really easy to access every corner of the fretboard with this narrow neck, so all small-handed players out there, this is great news!

All perfect? Nope. The fret edges can be quite rough sometimes and the neck has a bit of cheap feel in it. But these are not deal-breakers for me.

Sound

Infinity Humbuckers provide well-balanced tones. But this axe doesn’t exactly give you that warmness and thickness some of us are used to with more expensive humbuckers. Tones are slightly brighter but some of that humbucker thickness still shines through. 

Still, these humbuckers are versatile and I especially like how the neck pickup sounds, it offers some of those more meaty humbucker tones. From gentle cleans to mean distorted riffs, this guitar can hang on.

What music I would recommend for this axe?

  • Metal
  • Rock
  • Hard rock
  • Blues
  • Classic Rock

Versatile guitar, but shines with budget rock and metal tones the most.

My Ibanez GRX70QA has these same Infinity Humbuckers, and I think that these are pretty great!

Check a sound demo:

YouTube video

Quality

Quality is ok. Rough fret edges and fret buzz happen now and then. But the biggest problem relates to tuning stability. I don’t know if it’s the low string tension paired with string bends that makes this guitar go out of tune quite often or what, but the tuning stability is only ok at its best.

The paint job is usually great, but minor scratches and blemishes can be present sometimes. But all these issues are common with cheap guitars, so I’m not going to complain too much about these.

Summary 

Pros 

  • Really good for small and small-handed people(for kids too)
  • Versatile
  • Playing doesn’t require much finger strength because of the low string tension
  • Neck humbucker offers some meaty tones
  • Really easy to play

Cons

  • Tuning issues
  • Slightly fuzzy sound when using distortion
  • Finish and build issues can be present

Who Is This For?

If you want a smaller-sized guitar that is easy to handle, plus offers solid and versatile tones, this Mikro Gio is a good option.

Check Price on:


Runner-Ups That Just Missed The Top 5


Buyer’s Guide – FAQ

What you should know before buying?

1. Don’t expect perfection. You can get a solid instrument at an affordable price, but don’t expect it to be perfect.

2. Know what you want. Get clear on what music you want to play, what body style and pickups seem like the best option.

Humbuckers provide thick tones that are great for 

  • Metal
  • Hard rock
  • Rock
  • Blues
  • Punk
  • Jazz

Single-coils provide bright and cold tones that are great for

  • Rock
  • Blues
  • Funk
  • Jazz

When it comes to body style, which looks the best to you? Stratocaster and Modern/Super Stratocaster shapes are the most comfortable to me, but Telecaster and Les Paul/Single-Cut models are not impossible to handle to anyone either.

3. Know your budget. Buy the best guitar you can afford. Don’t overspend, but don’t be cheap just for the sake of saving. Decide a sum you can afford to spend and go for it!

4. You will need an amp, guitar cable, and picks too.

Here are a couple of our articles that will help you out:

Just buy some picks for your own testing, they are cheap.

How to Choose The Right Cheap Electric Guitar for You?

The most important thing: Get clear on what music you want to play and choose pickups that support your musical taste. Above you can see what genres 2 main pickup styles handle. Also, watch sound demos on Youtube and choose a guitar that sounds good to you.

A couple of other key things are:

  • Feel of the neck and guitar overall. If you can visit a music store and test different guitars, do it. You will get a clear picture of how different guitars feel and you will be able to make a better decision. I have bought many guitars without testing them at first and have been happy, so if you can’t visit a music store, don’t worry.
    • C-shape is the most popular neck shape, and works the best for most beginners. Another common in beginner models is the D-shape, it feels good for sure, but I prefer C and modern C shapes for beginners.
    • Aim for 9,5” or larger fretboard radius. This determines how curved the fretboard is. The higher the radius is, the less curve there will be.
    • A shorter scale lowers string tension. The normal scale length is 25.5” and it definitely doesn’t feel bad, but sometimes lower string tension is a good option. It can work well for small hands.
    • Nut width (measured from the nut) gives an indication of how narrow the neck is. Usually all beginner models have easy to handle 1.65-1.68” nut width.
  • Don’t focus on tonewoods too much. Pickups affect tone the most. Don’t go crazy with different tonewood options when shopping for a budget electric guitar.

What Makes A Great Cheap Electric Guitar?

Cheap eclectic guitars

  • Offer high value
  • Have workable and solid sounding pickups
  • Can have small finish issues, but nothing major
  • Easy and fun to play, but edges of the frets/fretboard can feel a bit rough sometimes(usually not)
  • Tuning stability is at least OK

So everything is not perfect, but as an overall package, cheap electric guitars offer amazing value for the money.

Are Cheap Electric Guitars Difficult to Play?

Usually no. But

  • fret edges can be  a bit rough sometimes, which lowers the comfort
  • out of the box setup can be poor which can make things a bit harder

But if these issues are not present or are fixed, cheap electric guitars are usually really fun and easy to play. They can feel cheaper than more expensive ones, but I have had an equally fun time with both. Cheap and hard to play are not synonyms.

Can You Upgrade A Cheap Electric Guitar?

Absolutely. Cheap electric guitars are usually awesome project guitars. You can definitely make a dirt-cheap electric sound like a premium one with some upgrades.

How Long Do Cheap Electric Guitars Last?

Usually for a lifetime. This is no joke. Of course, some cheap guitars break in rugged use, or maybe they were not assembled so well. And you probably have to replace parts at some points (nut, pickups etc.). But in general, I expect the guitar to last for a lifetime. Even if it cost only $150.

Can You Play Metal With Cheap Electric Guitar?

Yes, you can. Let’s take a Jackson JS11 Dinky for example. It’s made for metal, and it handles distortion really well. Especially when I keep the price of this thing in my mind.

Of course, all cheap guitars are not true metal-machines, Stratocaster with 3 single-coils for example. But you can both djent and chug with cheap guitars.

Are Cheap Electric Guitars Any Good?

Yes, they are. You can get a completely workable instrument with a very small amount of money. A cheap electric guitar can sound good, be fun/easy to play, and be versatile. The quality is also usually surprisingly good.

Of course, cheap guitars are not perfect and lemons slip through sometimes, but you can definitely get a good instrument at a cheap price nowadays.

I recommend you check this article I recently crafted: Do Cheap Electric Guitars Sound Bad? – Tone Tests!

How Cheap Guitars Are Different From Expensive Ones?

I’ll lay out the key differences:

  • Expensive guitars sound better. They have better quality pickups and are build from better materials.
  • More comfortable to play. Everything is more detailed and smoothened. There usually are no rough edges etc.
  • Better tuning stability. Expensive guitars are equipped with better turners that hold the tune better.
  • Overall build materials are better. Everything from fret wires to nut material to bridge is usually higher in quality.
  • Quality is better. Guitars get more time and attention during the manufacturing process. This improves the quality.

Cheap electric guitars are not bad, but more expensive guitars are just better. It’s simple.


Conclusion

It’s amazing what we can get for around $150 nowadays. Amazing. We shouldn’t expect perfection, but we can get workable instruments that are a ton of fun to play. And that’s awesome. But remember, 

  1. Buy the best guitar you can afford
  2. Choose a guitar that enables you to play the music you love. 

You will go far by following these 2 rules of thumb.

I hope that this post helped you to choose the right cheap electric guitar for you. If you have any questions, just leave a comment. I wish you all the best and keep rocking!

Teemu