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Last Updated on March 4, 2024 by Teemu Suomala

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Author: David Slavkovic

David has been playing guitar since 1998, his main focus back then was hard rock and metal. With years, his music tastes evolved and he eventually started appreciating all musical styles. Although officially an agricultural engineer, David began writing for Ultimate Guitar in 2017 where he’s currently working as a senior editor.

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Editor: Edward Bond

Edward has been playing the guitar since 2002. So Edward has over 20 years of experience as a guitarist, has authored 15 guitar books, has written for renowned music blogs, and spent a decade teaching music. He began merging his passion for writing and music in 2020 and has written for big guitar websites such as Guitar Head Publishing and KillerGuitarRigs.com.

Originally from Seattle, Edward moved to Norway in 2021 for a master’s in music. He’s studied at the Jazz Institute Berlin and Conservatorium van Amsterdam, and currently resides in Trondheim. His education includes a European Jazz Master’s, a diploma in Film and Game Scoring from Sofia, and a Bachelor’s in Jazz from University of Oregon.

Edward has played in numerous bands and currently, Edward works on his own project Starship Infinity


We can’t sugar-coat it — big-name brand guitars are getting more expensive. The largest guitar brand in the world, Fender, has almost overnight increased prices of even their “cost-friendly” lines and models.

With many brands offering much cheaper alternatives, we at Guitaristnextdoor.com end up wondering, are these guitars worth it? What’s the deal with today’s market and why are Fender guitars so expensive?

Of course, Fender is not the only brand to deal with these same questions. In fact, Gibson is getting criticized more than ever. Even the prices of subsidiary brands, like Gibson’s Epiphone and Fender’s Squier, are getting out of hand. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look into the matter, focusing on Fender guitars and their prices today.


Why Do Fender Guitars tend to cost a lot?

There isn’t a simple, single answer as to why Fender guitars are more expensive on average. Various factors influence prices of Fender Guitars including:

  • Build quality.
  • Materials & Hardware & Electronics.
  • Brand reputation. 

We’ll explore each of the important factors and help you figure out whether that Fender Stratocaster or a Fender Telecaster you saw in the store is worth the price. 

Fender’s Brand & Legacy

When you start playing guitar and searching online for some great instruments, you immediately get acquainted with Fender as one of the biggest names on the market. There’s a reason for this. They’ve not only set the standards for modern guitars, along with Gibson, but they’re well-known for their overall consistency and quality across price ranges.

Sure, there’s no denying that a brand logo adds at least a little to a guitar’s price. But with Fender and their subsidiaries, you can expect great quality control and, in most cases, a proper setup when they’re out of the factory.

Despite their enormous size, Fender still cares about their reputation and they don’t resort to PR campaigns and PR stunts to keep their spot. At the end of the day, the buyers will “punish” brands and Fender is aware of that. That’s why their goal is to manufacture great quality guitars that sound great, and they have been doing good job on that for years.

Does Fender really have a strong brand nowadays, let us know your take!
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Same Guitar, 4 Budgets! (Can you hear the difference?)

Materials Used

With a discussion like this one, there’s always talk about materials. The truth is that today, most brands use quality wood. There’s also the issue of how much impact wood really has on the tone of solid-body electric guitars. But that’s a whole different discussion.

The bottom line is that, today, you won’t have to worry about the quality of materials, be it Fender electric guitars or any other brands.

What is an issue today, however, is the availability of materials on the market, as well as the major issues with supply chains. In 2022, Fender CEO Andy Mooney addressed this issue, saying how supply challenges have affected availability. Knowing how much Fender cares about their reputation, there’s a major impact from materials on the final price of their guitars.

Fender’s Craftsmanship

Instead of focusing too much on raw materials, since that’s usually not an issue with a brand like Fender, I’d like to focus on craftsmanship and build quality instead. Whether we look at Fender’s US-based production, Mexico production with the Fender Player line, or any other outsourced manufacturing, they’re known to keep their quality at top-notch levels.

Meanwhile, all the model design traits that they’re known for are always there. The contours will always be the same and the instances of seeing poor manufacturing quality are super-rare.

And, most importantly, the consistency is incredible. For instance, you’ll play a Fender Telecaster from a particular new series and it will be exactly the same as the other one from the same run. In practice, this means that you can also try one yourself and then order it and you’ll get the guitar that you expected to get. This goes for Made-in-USA guitars, as well as Mexican-made Fender guitars.

Hardware Quality

As far as the hardware side of things goes, it’s another territory where Fender is well-known for their quality and reliability. Sure, in most cases, it’s the basic standard 6-saddle bridge, be it a tremolo or a fixed one.

Some models may also come with vintage-style hardware. For instance, some Telecasters, particularly high-tier models, have vintage-style plate bridges with three brass saddles. These vintage traits might be too specific but we’re talking about high-end guitars that have their market.

Lastly, there are some models that come with Floyd Rose bridges. They’re also usually high-end models, although you’ll find some in the Fender Player line as well.

Again, no matter which of these categories you go with, hardware should be pretty reliable. Fender’s director of product Allen Abbassi mentioned that they’re using top-notch stuff even for the Mexican-made Player line. And, so far, it seems that he was telling the truth. 

Electronics

We all know Fender for their low-output pickups. To this day, the company focuses on lower-to-medium-output stuff, even if they use humbuckers. They’re always aiming for a specific sound that usually works well with tube-driven amps, resulting in a bright, crispy, and dynamic responsive tone with strong attack.

Now, this may not be something that all guitar players are looking for. However, Fender knows what they’re doing. They know what kind of tone they’re aiming for and that’s what you’ll get.

Certain models come with Seymour Duncan pickups although it’s mostly all stock Fender stuff in there. The Fender Player line, in most cases, comes with their own Player pickups. These may not be as good as with American Fenders, but they’re decent. And in all of these cases, it justifies the price.

On the other hand, Squiers can be a letdown in terms of pickups. It’s kind of a hit-or-miss with them depending on the series and the year of production. But generally Squier pickups, even the cheapest ones have been performing well in recent years.

Is the Stratocaster too expensive?

Old Fender Guitars

The vintage market is always interesting, be it Fender or any of the other old established brands. In recent years, it seems that the value is only going up. This is especially the case for the so-called “pre-CBS-era” models, those that were made up until 1965. It’s what many consider as “Holy Grail” Fenders.

There are also differences between the 1950s and the 1960s Stratocasters. Either way, the value can really go high, even well over $20,000. Whether the price is justified is questionable, but that’s how things usually go with vintage gear. 

In a lot of cases, these are more of collectors’ items and serve as an investment or a show-off rather than “workhorse” guitars. Those from later eras aren’t as expensive and the prices are in the thousands, not tens of thousands.

Of course, this is a whole different game compared to buying new or more recent models. The talk is more about resale value and aesthetics rather than actual performance qualities. This can be pretty tricky and requires some serious knowledge and investments so make sure that you’re well-informed about vintage Fender guitars before considering such an option.

Fender Custom Shop Guitars: Are They Worth the Extra Price Tag?

Just like other big guitar brands, Fender also has a sub-brand for the highest-quality guitars. In fact, these are widely considered to be the best Fender guitars. They also have their standardized models but these are done through custom orders.

There are two categories — Masterbuilt and Custom-Built. Masterbuilt is almost anything that comes to mind and you’ll get the company’s best builders for them. Custom-Built are the usual models with some customized specs.

Obviously, these guitars aren’t cheap and go from around $2,000 and up to well over $10,000. So is this price justified? Well, it’s not a simple question to answer. I’d say, if you’re looking for professional-grade guitars and are a pro-tier guitar player, then yes, it can be justified. But if you just want a good Fender Stratocaster, you can get something at a much lower price and it will serve you just as well.

On the other hand, these days, there are plenty of smaller custom guitar builders that can get you the same quality at a lower price. This may be a controversial thing to say, but as years go by, there seem to be fewer reasons to buy a Custom Shop Fender. The same goes for other big “legacy” guitar companies.

There is no “magic” in the materials that they use. Sure, the builders are obviously skilled, but it’s not like they’re the only ones. As for electronics and pickups, they’re using stuff that you can put into any guitar. If you really want a Custom Shop Strat or a Tele, that’s fine. But consider other options as well and spend your money wisely.

There might be some incentive to get them due to the resale value, but that’s really difficult to know. Unless you are a world-renowned famous guitar player, the chances are high that you’ll be at a significant loss over time.

How Fender Guitars Are Made – The Making Of

Pro Tip: Used Fender Guitars

We all know how prices of new guitars have kind of skyrocketed in recent years. We could even say that quality mid-priced guitars are becoming less common and that the market is realigning to cover entry-level and high-priced instruments. 

The same goes for Fender and Squier. While they’re still holding up, the Fender Player line isn’t exactly as affordable as the Mexican-made models used to be and Squier seems to be pushing into more expensive territories with some models.

With that in mind, getting a used Fender is a pretty good option to consider. Be it a US-made model or any from the Fender Player line, you can find some pretty reasonable deals online. Of course, there are always things to watch out for, but buying a used guitar is worth it considering the current state of the market.

Always Think of the Price

You should always consider some haggling when buying used stuff. But first, always check the price of the new model or its closest alternative if the given one isn’t in production. If someone is asking for almost the same price as a new guitar, I’d consider skipping that particular seller. It’s a used guitar, there’s no need to overpay for it unless you really want something very specific.

There are always great deals to find. Depending on the condition of the guitar, look for prices that are about 30 percent lower than the new one.

Check Before Buying

While some online marketplaces are very reliable and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be scammed, you should still practice caution when purchasing something on places like Reverb.com or eBay. I’m always a bigger fan of trying things out yourself first and checking their condition.

If you’re really buying online, I’d always prefer Reverb.com and checking ads that have detailed photos and reports of these instruments. At the same time, do proper research on what you’re buying and know if there were any mods done to the instrument or if it’s in the state that it should be.


Are There Any Alternatives?

Of course, there are always alternatives. In fact, there are incredibly good cheaper alternatives that are getting better and better each year. The obvious alternative to Fender guitars could always be anything by Squier. However, some of their stuff is getting into more expensive territories, unless we’re talking about absolute entry-level guitars like the Sonic or the Mini series.

One of the brands that I’d always recommend is Harley Benton. They have incredibly reliable yet affordable alternatives to both Fender and Gibson guitars. Their ST-Style line is the alternative to Stratocasters while the T-Style line is your usual Telecaster alternative. While there are some incredibly cheap entry-level models, you can also get more advanced models, like the Fusion series.

Fender vs Gibson: After Decades of Innovation, We’re Still Choosing Between Two Old Rivals

The Yamaha Pacifica line can also offer something great at a more reasonable price and the same can be said about some Ibanez models, like those in the RG series.

Sterling by Music Man is also a great choice that’s around the price of Fender Player guitars but offers some great Strat-style models.


Conclusion

Again, there are plenty of factors that impact the price of Fender guitars. The brand logo on the headstock may impact the price a little, but they still have a pretty good reputation within the guitar community and their prices are, for the most part, justified.

In short, you can’t go wrong with Fender in most cases. This goes for US-made models that aren’t Custom Shop, as well as Fender Player guitars. The old vintage models are a special category and that’s a whole different discussion. But overall, you shouldn’t worry if you’re overpaying for a Fender.


FAQs

Are Fender Guitars Worth the Money?

In almost all cases, Fender guitars are worth the price. Fender Custom Shop or some vintage guitars can be incredibly expensive, but their standardl models are reasonably priced for what you get.

Where Are Fender Guitars Made?

Most Fender guitars are made in the US. The Fender Player line is made in Mexico while there’s also a Japanese-made line. There were also models made in Indonesia. Squier by Fender guitars are outsourced to factories in China and Indonesia.

Do Fender Guitars Hold Their Value?

Fender guitars hold their value as much as any other big brand. However, don’t expect that you’ll earn money by simply buying any Fender guitar and waiting for the market to do its thing. They have decent resale value, but they won’t get any special increase in price over time unless there’s something very specific happening on the market which is pretty rare.

Why Are Old Fenders So Expensive?

Just like with most vintage guitars, old Fenders tend to be expensive in most cases, especially those made up until 1965 (pre-CBS era). It’s all about scarcity and demand on the market rather than actual performance qualities.

Which is for Beginners, Stratocaster or Telecaster?

When it comes to beginner guitars, there are no specific advantages or disadvantages with Stratocasters or Telecasters. Both are equally good and it just depends on what the guitar player in question is looking for.

What is The Most Famous Fender Guitar?

Fender’s Stratocaster is the company’s most famous model. The legendary double-cutaway guitar has been present on the market since 1954 and there are now many variations to it.

Is Squier Owned By Fender?

Squier is a subsidiary brand of Fender. For the most part, they are cheaper alternatives to regular Fender models. They are all manufactured overseas.

Does Fender Sound Better Than Squier?

When it comes to the tone, Fender guitars will usually have an advantage over Squiers. This is due to quality electronics and pickups, although some more expensive Squier guitars can come pretty close to Fenders.

Are Fender Guitars Better Than Gibson?

The Fender vs. Gibson debate does not have a definitive answer. Whether Gibson or Fender guitars are better comes down to what a guitar player in question prefers. However, in more recent years, Fender had a better reputation for their quality control.

Which is Better, Fender or Yamaha?

Just like with any brand comparison, it’s difficult to have a definitive answer to what is “better.” Yamaha has a pretty wide range of guitars and they’re fairly underrated and worth considering. Yamaha also offers quite good hardware and pickups on some of their guitars, for example Yamaha Pacifica 612V that costs under $800 has Seymour Duncan pickups, Wilkinson tremolo bridge and Grover locking tuners. However, choosing the “better” brand comes down to what guitarists prefer.

How Do I Know If My Fender Is American-Made?

Every Fender guitar has its serial number and you can use it to check when and where the guitar was made. Other than that, you can also check whether there are other indicators, like the old “Made in Mexico” of the current Fender Player line. US made Fenders usually have “Made in USA” text on them, usually at the back of the headstock. As for the fakes, this can be a little tough but there are guides that can help you with that, like this video.

What Fender Series/Guitar is Made or Has Been Made in Indonesia?

There were numerous Fender models made in Indonesian factories. In 2008, Fender moved some of their production to Indonesia. While it’s a little tricky to find the complete list of models, these guitars can be noticed with their specific serial numbers, which start with either “IC” or “ICF” and are followed by eight digits. These guitars were made in Cort factories and were branded as Fender.

David Slavkovic

David has been playing guitar since 1998, David’s main focus back then was hard rock and metal. With years, his music tastes evolved and he eventually started appreciating all musical styles. Although officially an agricultural engineer, David began writing for Ultimate Guitar in 2017 where he’s currently working as a senior editor. Expertise: electric guitars, guitar amplifiers, music theory, the guitar industry, metal, and rock. You can connect with David on LinkedIn or just email him.
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philly slim

There’s a little company called Paul Reed Smith!! They’re quality, looks and sounds far exceed fender! I have several stratocasters and 2 prs silver skys. They are around 800 and they are killing fender stratocasters. So much so that fender has laid off hundreds of workers! I love my fender telecasters. But my new schecter is awesome.!! Many great alternatives to Fenders are out there!!

Teemu Suomala

Hi Philly! Just waiting for 1 cool PRS model to arrive…I will put that to the test, let’s see how it is!

Pranshu

Absolutely agree!! PRS SE lineup are imo the best value guitars under 1k. Also some of the most versatile ones I’ve played…

Tim

If you want a Fender with twice the quality at half the price, check out Leo Fender’s other company—G&L. Absolutely incredible instruments and value, even in their Tribute series.

Teemu Suomala

Hi Tim and thanks for commenting! Also, thanks for pointing G&L out! I haven’t personally played them a lot, but gladly couple guys on our team are and there’s a buyer’s guide about them coming soon. Hopefully more and more people will discover G&L, I’ve heard good things about them. Take care!

Dale Eckholm

Hi guys! I may be assuming you guys aren’t near my age but I truly believe that we are repeating the pre lawsuit era days of the early to mid 70’s! Why you ask, well that time frame guitars were getting crazy expensive for what you get. True the quality of stuff now beats the unholy crap outta what was available then, but still guys like me wanted more guitar for less buck. Which was the reason guys like Dean Zelinsky, Grover Jackson, Wayne Charvel and even the G and L and Heritage guys got started. They could make or BUILD/ASSEMBLE or HOT ROD a better quality, more personalized guitar with better features at cost not out of reach of the common guy. Now also we got digital capabilities we didn’t have then and you can literally make a so-so guitar sound amazing! Now that I am an old guy, I think of why am I spending this much $ on guitar stuff that these people I am playing for couldn’t tell (or care about) the difference anyway! Just food for thought! Thanks guys!

Teemu Suomala

Thanks for the insights Dale! I 100% agree, nowadays you can get excellent guitars really cheaply. It’s amazing!

Tim

I second that! I own an S500 and an ASAT classic. Absolutely incredible value for the money!

Teemu Suomala

Personally, the craftmanship, feel, and quality with Fenders I have played has always been spot-on. And the brand is doing well nowadays IMO.

Of course some other brand could make as good as Fender guitar for a bit cheaper price, but we have to remember…we might think that those don’t sound the same, even if they do…Fender feel just isn’t there, if you know what I mean.
 
What do you think?