Dirt cheap project guitars for under $200
(Note: Since publishing this article I've had to change it slightly because it's very tough to find guitars under $100 new these days, so now I'm listing the best you can find for under $200. Times change, what can I say...)
Cheap guitars are fun for several reasons. You can beat the crap out of them, try your hand at custom painting a guitar (whether it works out or not doesn't matter, it's fun to try), rip them apart and figure out how to do wiring, pickup installation, etc.
There are a few standard things to know when buying guitars this cheap:
- The guitar may be "creaky", as in the body, neck and tuners among other things will make creaking noises. Over time these creaks should go away once you break the guitar in.
- You will have to spend at least an hour setting it up because it probably was never set up properly before.
- It's probably true you'll have to file off a few sharp fret edges. Have the appropriate file ready.
- The neck will probably need a truss rod adjustment.
- The nut may need to be replaced, but fortunately they're cheap even if you pay a tech to install one.
- Most important: What you get will either be GOOD or BAD, and there is no in between. There is no such thing as a "sort-of-good" guitar in this price range.
Good NEW solid-body electrics for under $200
(If the guitars below ever go out of production, you can see a list of all guitars available for under $200 right here.)
The Bullet Strat is one of the most underrated guitars out there, no question. It has vintage style Strat look and feel, and the best part of the guitar is without question the neck. Most cork-sniffer types would never even think about even touching one of these, much less playing one. But once you feel that smooth "C" shape 60s profile, oh yeah, you'll buy one on the spot. And then you can at laugh at all the morons who spend hundreds more for the same thing while you got yours for next to nothing. Yes, the necks on the Squier Bullet Strats are in fact that good.
This guitar may have only one pickup, but if there was ever a Les Paul guitar you wanted to thrash around and not care about, pick up a Junior. And to note, "Junior" does NOT mean it's a little guitar as it has the same scale length as a standard Les Paul.
If you know how a Les Paul feels and plays, you already know the Junior. My recommendation is to get one, throw in a DiMarzio Super Distortion pickup in Creme color (it works nicely with the Les Paul shape and has ridiculous amounts of output compared to the stock pickup), and you've got yourself a kick-ass rock guitar.
Strat-like guitar, but has more of a "growly" sound with its HSS layout (and for rock/metal players, you'd probably like it better than the Squier Bullet HSS). Simple, straightforward guitar, easy-to-play, easy to work on, and of course, cheap.