It turns out that “What is the best acoustic guitar under 500 dollars” is a very loaded question. The sheer number of guitars available today is staggering.
As a beginner, how can you possibly know where to start? Even as an intermediate player who is upgrading from a cheap first instrument it can be hard to choose.
Big Baby Taylor
Not only are there a multitude of opinions but we found it depended greatly on the eventual owners taste. So we didn’t come up with one. We came up with 7.
The categories we ended up choosing were Best Value, Best Beginner Package, Best 12-String, Best Travel Guitar, Best Blues Style Guitar, Best Vintage Guitar, and Best Fingerpicking Guitar.
With these 7 categories, we believe we've found the best acoustic guitar under $500, regardless of what you are shopping for.
The Fender CD-60 Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar consistently had great reviews everywhere we looked. This guitar is part of the Classic Design series and comes with a laminated spruce top, mahogany sides and back and a rosewood fingerboard.
The biggest complaint we saw across the various review sites and videos is the lack of clarity while fingerpicking. Strumming, construction, action, and appearence all got glowing marks across the board.
You can see a great selection of reviews HERE, or check out this YouTube video that was extremely helpful.
If you are looking for an inexpensive instrument for your first guitar or a 2nd model for travel, campfires, and general shenanigans you can't go wrong with this unit. Not to mention it's the only guitar on this list under $250. How does $229 sound?
The Yamaha FG700S Folk Acoustic Guitar Bundle comes in at about $270 and might be the perfect setup for an up and coming guitar player. There is simply nothing this package leaves out.
Along with the guitar, you'll get a hard case, guitar strap, guitar stand, electric tuner, extra strings, picks, capo, string winder, and instructional DVD. These items could easily cost $150 by themselves, and this guitar is much better than anything you'll find for $110.
The guitar itself features a solid Sitka spruce top, rosewood fingerboard, and die-cast tuners. One comment many reviewers mentioned was that the neck is very low profile and comfortable to play. Check out the reviews HERE.
The Yamaha FG820 12-String Acoustic Guitar in many ways can be considered the big brother of the FG700S, which won the "Best Guitar Package under 500" category.
This guitar features the same Sitka spruce top and Mahogany sides and back. Coupled with a rosewood fingerboard and bridge this guitar really excels in the mid to lower ranges.
A 12-String guitar is probably not the best place to start for a beginner, as the guitarist needs to hold 2 strings at once rather than the single while playing a 6-string. On that note, a more experienced player may really enjoy the richness of the sound that is a result of the extra strings.
You may also want to consider an Acoustic Electic model instead, as the electronic pickups can help with clarity while playing a 12-string. But, sticking with the traditional Acoustic, the Yamaha FG820 is a clear cut winner.
Check out Yamaha's product page if you're interested in this unit HERE:
Or, read reviews and get a better price at Amazon HERE:
The Taylor Big Baby Taylor and it's smaller counterpart, the Baby Taylor, were the hands-down winners for this category. While this is one of the most expensive guitars on this list it's a bargain for the Taylor name, which normally (and rightfully so) sell for upwards of $1000.
This guitar boasts a solid Sitka spruce top and Sapele back and sides. The big baby is 15/16th the size of a standard Dreadnought, this doesn't sound like much of a difference but when the guitar is in your hand it's surprisingly noticeable. Going a touch smaller the Baby Taylor is 3/4th the standard Dreadnought.
The Loar Brownstone LH-204 is truly a vintage blues style guitar for a great price. It sports a solid Sitka spruce top, Mahogany sides, back, and neck, pre-war body style, and vintage-style bound soundhole.
Not only did many reviews state this was simply a 'pretty' guitar, but over and over it was said that the LH-204 was as fun to play as it's predecessor, the LH-200.
Honestly, we created a category for the Ibanez AVC4 Artwood Vintage Grand Concert Acoustic Guitar.
If not for the Taylor Big Baby Taylor it very easily could have won Best Travel Guitar as the Grand Concert design is much smaller than the standard Dreadnought. But the instrument definitely deserves recognition.
So the "Best Vintage Guitar" category was born.
The Artwood Vintage series as a whole gives a tip of the cap to pre-electric flat tops. It is built completely from Mahogany, notably, it has a solid Mahogany top. At $399 the AVC4 provides musicians with a stylish, classic instrument that plays and sounds great for the price.
Last but not least, the Best Fingerpicking Guitar. While this is not a beginner skill it is desirable for many intermediates, even those on a budget. The 1-13/16" nut width and V-shaped neck is perfect for a fingerpicking style.
Most of the Recording King guitars seem to be targeted towards fingerpicking rather than strumming, but some other models had durability questions.
Many reviews also mention this guitar really gets better with age, which isn't exactly abnormal, but not always notable or true.
At $433 this is one of the most expensive guitars on the list, but well worth it for an intermediate player looking to improve and express themselves by really improving their fingerpicking. You can check out the reviews and pricing HERE and see it played below
Finding the best guitar under 500 dollars was not an easy task. We looked at almost 100 different guitars while making this list. Most, frankly, were junk. Many others had mixed reviews or played well for a short time before falling apart.
This list is most likely not complete. We've almost surely left out some guitars that deserve mention. But, we are confident that these are the best. We are also confident that by looking at this list we've narrowed your shopping list down from thousands to 7.