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.
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The categories we ended up choosing were Best Value, Best Beginner Package, Best 12-String, Best Travel Guitar, Best Blues Style Guitar, Best Classical Guitar, and Best Finger-picking Guitar. 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.
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With these 7 categories, we believe we’ve found the best acoustic guitar under $500, regardless of what you are shopping for.
The Best Value Guitar Under $500
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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.
The “easy to play” neck, natural finish, and “Amazon’s Choice” vote of confidence helped us pick this guitar to top this category.
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.
The Best Beginner Guitar Package Under $500
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The Yamaha FG800S 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.
This is the updated version of the FG700, which was our pick in this category last year!
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 Best 12-String Guitar Under $500
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The Yamaha FG820 12-String Acoustic Guitar in many ways can be considered the big brother of the FG800S, 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 Best Travel Guitar Under $500
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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. One of the nicest features of this model is the African Ebony neck wood that is unmatched in quality for any other acoustic on this list.
The big baby is 15/16th the size of a standard Dreadnought acoustic, and while this doesn’t sound like much of a difference when the guitar is in your hand it’s surprisingly noticeable.
Going a touch smaller the Baby Taylor is 3/4th the standard Dreadnought. This size really does well on the road or with children who may struggle with a full size acoustic instrument.
The Best Blues Style Guitar Under $500
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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 sound-hole.
The style, shape and sound of this guitar also make this guitar an amazing travel guitar, and we easily could have put it in both categories.
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.
The Best Classical Guitar Under $500
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Honestly, we created a category for the Takamine GC5-NAT Classical Guitar. First off, we didn’t have a classical guitar on the list.
We also hadn’t included a Takamine, which would have been a huge oversight. This company makes a range of classical instruments at a price that makes them available to even novice guitar players.
The GC5 features a braced solid spruce top in combination with a rosewood body fingerboard. The mahogany puts a quality finishing touch and sound on the instrument.
One of our favorite features are the elegant cosmetic upgrades that Takamine added to the instrument to really make it stand out.
The Best Fingerstyle Guitar Under $500
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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 finger-picking style.
We often recommend a slightly smaller guitar to people learning to play fingerstyle. It helps move around the fretboard a bit faster and requires less movement from the right hand as well.
As far as quality of instrument… you simply can’t go wrong with Martin. This guitar has the added benefit of having a top and back made of Koa, a material that is commonly used on Ukulele and one that absolutely sings.
The Final Note
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.
For more shopping guides, guitar information, and playing tips check out the rest of StringVibe’s guitar content!