Skip to main content

Best acoustic guitars under $500/£500: 9 budget-friendly picks

Seagull S6 Original Slim and Cutaway models next to each other on a carpet/wooden floor
(Image credit: Future)

In the realm of the best acoustic guitars under $500/£500, there’s a huge selection of instruments to choose from. The quality of budget-friendly acoustic guitars is better right now than it has ever been, and as such, the days of needing to spend big money to get a good acoustic are over. This guide is here to help you cut through the noise and find the perfect acoustic guitar for you, under $500/£500.

Our product list is stacked with guitars from some of the industry’s biggest brands, catering for anyone from beginners to professionals. Whether you’re buying your first ever acoustic guitar, or in the market for a killer backup or sofa guitar, there’s something here for you. We’ve included dreadnought, concert and parlour acoustic guitars in this guide - and even a classical nylon-string Fender too - if that’s your thing.

We know that buying a new guitar, while thoroughly exciting, can be a bit of a nerve wracking task. It’s important for you to know exactly what you’re looking for, and when you consider variables like body size, construction, materials, neck shape and electronics, it can sometimes leave you with more questions than answers. We’ve provided a varied list full of all body shapes, sizes and styles - some with cutaways, and some without. Take a look, and see what grabs your attention.

We’ve included some expert buying advice at the end of this guide to help answer some of your questions and lead to your dream sub-$500/£500 acoustic. Click the link to go straight there. If you’d rather get straight to the products and our top picks section, then keep scrolling.

Best acoustic guitars under $500/£500: Our top picks

Choosing our top picks for this guide was a tough one. All of these acoustic guitars represent true value for money in their own price brackets, and you’d be getting a great guitar no matter what you choose. However, our number one has to be the Martin LX1 (opens in new tab). For well under $500/£500, a Mexico-made Martin with a solid spruce top is a bit of a bargain, and the playability is nigh-on unbeatable.

If you want something with a longer scale and onboard electronics, then our choice is the Guild M-240E Troubadour Westerly (opens in new tab). The soundhole pickup makes this guitar extra versatile if you’re likely to be playing live, and a closer-to full-length 24.7” scale means you’re getting the best of both worlds when it comes to string tension and resonance.

For those who are working on an even tighter budget, the Yamaha FG800M (opens in new tab) is our go-to. Yamaha acoustic guitars are fundamentally safe options, but for anyone who’s just starting out or anyone who wants a solid, great sounding acoustic guitar, there are few options at this price point that do the job as well as the FG800M.

Best acoustic guitars under $500/£500: Product guide

Best acoustic guitars under $500/£500: Martin LX1

(Image credit: Future)
In our opinion, this is the best acoustic guitar under $500/£500 right now

Specifications

Launch price: $399/£399/€449
Type: Modified 0-14 fret
Top: Sitka spruce
Back & sides: High Pressure Laminate
Fretboard: FSC certified Richlite
Scale length: 23”
Hardware: Gotoh Nickel

Reasons to buy

+
Great sound
+
Comfortable to play
+
It’s a Martin! 

Reasons to avoid

-
You might outgrow it  

The Little Martin is one of the most successful guitars from Martin’s affordable X-series range. Played and enjoyed by the likes of Ed Sheeran, the LX1 is more than capable of keeping up with guitars significantly bigger than itself - and that’s down to the construction.

The LX1 is made from a combination of sitka spruce, FSC certified Richlite and High-Pressure Laminate. Although the latter two materials are man-made, the tone is surprisingly rich and classy - and the solid spruce top delivers all the crisp, punchy brightness that you’d expect from a Martin guitar. 

The LX1 is purely acoustic, with no pickup or other electronics fitted. The electrified LX1E version is available for a touch over $500/£500 - and if you ever need a pickup, we’d recommend buying that version. If the non-electronic LX1 is enough for you, then you’ll have some change from £500 for some other accessories.

Read the full Martin LX1E Little Martin review

Best acoustic guitars under $500/£500: Guild M-240E Troubadour

(Image credit: Future)
The ultimate sofa guitar, and so much more...

Specifications

Launch price: $469/£339/€498
Type: Concert
Top: Sitka spruce
Back & sides: Mahogany
Fretboard: Pau Ferro
Scale length: 24.7”
Hardware: Vintage-style open gear nickel machine heads

Reasons to buy

+
‘Burst looks great
+
Solid sitka spruce
+
Concert body very comfortable 

Reasons to avoid

-
Not all solid 

Guild is one of the unsung heroes of the acoustic guitar world. Guild’s guitars are consistently spectacular at all price points, and the M-240E Troubadour is no exception to that rule. 

With a small concert-sized body, spruce top and mahogany back and sides, the M-240E Troubadour is a great example of how simplicity can sometimes bring about wonderful results. A balanced tone is what you get from this guitar - and while there’s not loads of low-end due to the body size, it’s still enough to keep even the most particular people happy.

It’s not all-solid, which is a shame - but then, for under $500/£500, not much is. We fell in love with how easy this guitar is to play, and how convenient and comfortable the small body makes it. If you want something beginner friendly that will see you through a good few years of playing, then this could be it.

Read the full Guild M-240E Troubadour review

Best acoustic guitars under $500/£500: Yamaha FG800M

(Image credit: Future)
A beginner-friendly masterpiece from Yamaha

Specifications

Launch price: $219/£255/€299
Type: Dreadnought
Top: Spruce
Back & sides: Nato/Okoume
Fretboard: Rosewood
Scale length: 25 9/16”
Hardware: Die-cast Chrome (TM29T)

Reasons to buy

+
Very cheap for a solid top acoustic
+
Yamaha’s build quality is impressive
+
Sounds great 

Reasons to avoid

-
Dreadnoughts can be bulky 

Yamaha is a music industry juggernaut. Their brand name is all over some of the industry’s best acoustic guitars, electric guitars, brass, woodwind and drum sets - so you won’t be too surprised to hear that the FG800 - one of our favourite cheap acoustic guitars - is featured in this list.

The FG800’s price tag suggests beginner levels of quality, but the construction and sound you get are more similar to guitars worth two or three times as much. Equipped with a solid spruce top and nato/okoume back and sides, this Yamaha acoustic guitar is an impressively resonant and punchy sounding acoustic guitar, with a balanced tone to see you through most - if not all - of your musical escapades.

Dreadnought guitars are some of the biggest acoustic guitars you can buy, and while they sound massive as a result, the body size can pose a challenge for some smaller players. This is definitely something to consider when buying one of the best acoustic guitars under $500/£500 - especially if it’s a first guitar for a child.

Read the full Yamaha FG800M review

Best acoustic guitars under $500/£500: PRS SE P20E Parlour

(Image credit: Future)

4. PRS SE P20E Parlour

A sweet Parlour tone from one of the biggest brands

Specifications

Launch price: $499/£499/€465
Type: Parlour
Top: Mahogany
Back & sides: Mahogany
Fretboard: Ebony
Scale length: 24.7”
Hardware: PRS designed machine heads, PRS voiced Fishman Sonitone pickup

Reasons to buy

+
PRS build quality is great
+
Compact
+
All finishes look amazing 

Reasons to avoid

-
No crazy finishes available 

PRS’s acoustic SE range has been developing at a rate of knots, and one of its most recent additions - the SE P20E - offers any player the chance to own a high-quality instrument for a fraction of what it should cost.

The P20E’s voice is much larger and louder than anyone would expect. A combination of a mahogany top, back and sides and PRS’ “X”/Classical hybrid bracing allows this guitar to fully resonate and ring out to its fullest potential. The all-mahogany setup provides a truly enjoyable organic warmth that’s pretty addictive, and with the parlour body size making the P20E a comfortable, easy-to-play instrument which is perfect for the sofa, you won’t want to ever put it down.

If you want one of the best acoustic guitars under $500/£500, then the P20E should be way up your shortlist. A great acoustic guitar for anyone who wants something smaller and more compact, expect to have your mind blown.

Best acoustic guitars under $500/£500: Taylor Big Baby

(Image credit: Future)
Taylor's take on the big-but-little guitar

Specifications

Launch price: $399/£379/€449
Type: Small-body Dreadnought
Top: Solid sitka spruce
Back & sides: Walnut ply
Fretboard: Ebony
Scale length: 25.5”
Hardware: Chrome machine heads

Reasons to buy

+
15/16ths size is convenient 
+
Still a full scale length
+
Great build quality 

Reasons to avoid

-
Back & sides are ply 

Taylor guitars are some of the most well known acoustics on the market today. At all price points they make premium acoustic guitars, and although most offerings from the Taylor catalogue are four-digits, they’ve got their fingers firmly in the budget-friendly pie too.

The Big Baby Taylor lies in between the three-quarter and full-size guitar, coming in at a cool 15/16ths size. This small shrinkage of the body makes the dreadnought body style much more manageable for smaller players who may otherwise find the body shape too bulky. The scale length is still a full 25.5” to help players get a feel for proper string tension, and this also potentially enables an easier adjustment to a full-size acoustic guitar in the future.

A solid sitka spruce top is where the majority of the Big Baby’s tone comes from, with lots of punchiness, brightness and tonal presence being tempered by the walnut plywood back and sides. Overall, the tone from this guitar is thoroughly impressive. We’d have liked to have seen a fully-solid wood Big Baby, but for the money, we can’t complain.

Read the full Taylor Big Baby review

Best acoustic guitars under $500/£500: Seagull S6 Original Slim

(Image credit: Future)
A Canada-made acoustic that doesn't cost the world

Specifications

Launch price: $499/£499/€530
Type: Dreadnought
Top: Solid cedar
Back & sides: Cherry
Fretboard: Rosewood
Scale length: 25.5”
Hardware: Chrome machine heads

Reasons to buy

+
It's an icon
+
Cedar top sounds great
+
Made sustainably in Canada

Reasons to avoid

-
Looks a bit boring

Seagull Guitars has been making acoustic guitars by hand in LaPatrie, Quebec since 1982. While usually, the word 'handmade' leaves people fearing for their wallets, Seagull guitars offer many guitars, including this iconic S6, at affordable and reasonable prices.

This S6 Original Slim is cedar-topped, and when combined with the cherry back and sides, the tone that is produced is warm, rounded and punchy - without taking anyone's head off. Seagull guitars are known for usually having quite a wide nut - so this 'slim' version takes the nut width down a notch to enable easier playability down in those lower frets, and overall makes the playing experience a little kinder on the wrists and fingers.

Yeah, the finish looks a little bit less exciting than some of the other guitars on this list, but some corners have to be cut in order to be able to sell such a high quality product for under $500/£500. And the natural finish still looks pretty nice, too.

This guitar does sometimes retail for over $500 in certain configurations, but is available for $499 the vast majority of the time - and it's still worth paying the extra, in our opinion.

Read the full Seagull S6 Original review

Best acoustic guitars under $500/£500: Epiphone J-45 Studio

(Image credit: Future)

7. Epiphone J-45 Studio

An affordable take on the iconic J-45

Specifications

Launch price: $289/£209/€249
Type: Slope-Shoulder Dreadnought
Top: Solid sitka spruce
Back & sides: Mahogany
Fretboard: Rosewood
Scale length: 25.5”
Hardware: Premium Nickel tuners

Reasons to buy

+
Tonally versatile
+
Slope-shoulders look so good
+
Tone is impressive

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn't sound as sophisticated as the more expensive models

The Epiphone J-45 Studio is a fantastic option for those who want the iconic look of the Gibson equivalent for much much less. The sound, while not quite the same as the full-fat Gibson version, is versatile, and pretty impressive - so if you’re looking for that slope-shoulder vibe on a budget, then this guitar is worth your attention.

A solid spruce top delivers loads of  punch and note definition which is brilliantly offset by the mahogany back and sides. This balance of brightness and warmth is what makes the J-45 such a firm favourite among acoustic guitarists - and we found that the J-45 Studio covered an impressive range of frequencies, as well as a great reaction to dynamic playing.

Granted, it doesn’t sound quite as sophisticated as the all-solid Epiphone models, but that’s to be expected as they all cost at least twice as much as the J-45 Studio. If you’re working on a tighter budget than the aforementioned $500/£500, then this guitar needs to be in your shortlist.

Best acoustic guitars under $500/£500: Fender CC-60S

(Image credit: Future)

8. Fender CC-60S

A concert-sized Fender on a budget

Specifications

Launch price: $229/£165/€200
Type: Concert
Top: Solid spruce
Back & sides: Mahogany
Fretboard: Walnut
Scale length: 25.3”
Hardware: Chrome Die-Cast

Reasons to buy

+
Solid top at this price!
+
Super comfortable to play
+
Neck is slim

Reasons to avoid

-
Neck is more electric-esque

Like all the other guitars in this guide, Fender's CC-60S is one of the best beginner-friendly acoustic guitars on the market today. If you want a safe, ultra-playable and great sounding acoustic guitar to get you off the ground, then the CC-60S needs to be on your shortlist.

A solid top is one of the factors which sets this guitar apart from other acoustics under $230/£200. At this price point, solid tops are an unlikely feature, but the combination of solid spruce and mahogany puts this Fender option on a par with acoustic guitars of a much higher price-point. The concert body shape ensures you get loads of comfort and a balanced tone from this guitar, while the slim neck delivers an almost electric guitar-feeling playability.

This slim neck won't be for everyone - especially if you're into your more traditional acoustic guitars - but if you're an electric player looking for a great acoustic, or someone who's just starting out, we found this neck to play like an absolute dream.

Best acoustic guitars under $500/£500: Fender CN-140SCE

(Image credit: Future)

9. Fender CN-140SCE

An electro-acoustic nylon string acoustic? Yes please

Specifications

Launch price: $449/£289/€349
Type: Thinline Concert
Top: Solid cedar
Back & sides: Ovangkol laminated
Fretboard: Walnut
Scale length: 25.3”
Hardware: Chrome machine heads

Reasons to buy

+
Super playable
+
Pickup sounds good
+
Hard case included

Reasons to avoid

-
Gloss finish = fingerprint central

We'd be doing you a disservice if we didn't include a nylon-stringed classical guitar in this guide - and this, the Fender CN-140SCE, is a killer choice for players looking for a budget-friendly electro-acoustic option.

A solid cedar top and laminated ovangkol back and sides provide the player with a tonally satisfying response. With cedar delivering a little more warmth and delicacy to the tone, and the ovangkol warming up the mid-range while keeping some precise note definition, this guitar is an exceptionally versatile option for those on a budget.

This guitar features Fender's 'SCE' suffix, which stands for solid (top), cutaway and electric - meaning it has an onboard pickup for when you need to plug in - whether it's a direct recording, jam session or a proper gig. While the electronics onboard aren't the most high-end, they still deliver a fairly tasteful and accurate representation of your tone - and with a hard case included as standard, you'll be finding an excuse to take this to any gig, jam or practice session you can think of.

Best acoustic guitars under $500/£500: Buying advice

Close-up shot of the soundhole and pickup of the Guild M-240E Troubadour

(Image credit: Future)

What body shape is best for me? 

Choosing the correct acoustic guitar body shape is one of the biggest and most important decisions you can make when buying any new acoustic - let alone one of the best acoustic guitars under $500/£500. The body shape and size will make a huge impact on its sound and playability, and for this reason it’s pretty crucial that you get it right. 

The dreadnought body size is one of the biggest, and the largest body that features in this guide. Historically, this body size and shape has long been considered a singer-songwriter’s dream, as the tone it creates is rich, full and has plenty of low-end. The larger size does mean the dreadnought can be a little uncomfortable for smaller players, however. It’s worth doing some research to see whether the fuller tone of the Dreadnought is worth the potential sacrifice in comfort for you.

Concert and Grand-Auditorium acoustic guitars have slightly smaller proportions. The ‘waist’ (the narrowest part of the guitar body) on both of these body shapes is narrower than a dreadnought, and as a result it can be significantly easier to play, especially when sitting. The tone of these guitars is generally well balanced, as they produce a little more top-end than a Dreadnought, but a little less low-end too.

A parlour body shape is even smaller still, and is generally narrower than a standard concert shape. As you might expect, the tone produced by a parlour guitar is a bit ‘smaller’ sounding than a concert, grand-auditorium or a dreadnought, but still delivers a balanced combination of bass and brightness.

Solid wood vs laminate wood 

The solid vs laminate argument is one that is as old as time. In the not too distant past, every affordable acoustic guitar would have a laminate construction - and while that’s not the worst thing ever for a beginner guitar, a guitar made from solid wood will be more resonant and likely sound a little sweeter.

Many budget acoustic guitars - most notably the Yamaha FG800M - now feature solid tops at seriously low prices, so you’ll be able to harness that quality tone for less.

Closeup of the bridge, pickguard and soundhole of the Guild M-240E Troubadour

(Image credit: Future)

Steel string vs nylon string 

Steel string acoustic guitars are generally the most popular option when it comes to acoustic guitars. If you’re playing an acoustic guitar to emulate, imitate or recreate your favourite bands, artists or songs, then you’ll need a steel string acoustic guitar 99% of the time.

A steel string acoustic guitar offers more volume, tonal projection and versatility than a nylon string guitar for multiple different reasons - the most notable being that the tension of a steel string is higher, and therefore it resonates more easily. More string resonance equates to more body resonance, which is where the volume and tonal projection will come from.

Nylon strings are made from a softer material, and as a result, the strings are at a lower tension. This means that they might feel a little easier to play, but the tone you get will be different - and not quite as sweet. Nylon string classical guitars are ideal for first time players - especially young children - as the strings are less likely to cause any discomfort that may put off a new player.

Should I spend more than $500/£500? 

Good quality acoustic guitars are available at all price points. In this guide we’ve shown that it’s entirely realistic to get a good acoustic guitar for as little as $200/£200, but top-end acoustic guitars can go well into four- or five-digit sums. It depends entirely on what you want from your acoustic, and how much cash you’re willing to part with.

Fundamentally, we don’t think you need to spend more than $500/£500 to get something great. If you want the most impressive materials, ultra-sophisticated manufacturing techniques and the exclusivity that comes with the best high-end acoustic guitars, then knock yourself out - but it’s not essential to spend thousands when trying to buy a solid, well-made acoustic guitar.

I’m one of MusicRadar’s Junior Deals Writers. Along with the rest of the eCommerce team, I write, manage and update buyer’s guides, as well as bringing you deals on the latest and coolest gear. I’m a drummer and guitarist and I’ve worked in various parts of the industry for the last four years including online music distributors RouteNote, and local music store Modern Music where I was the drum department manager for nearly two years. I’ve also toured the UK and Europe with my old band Hypophora. When I’m not matching players with their perfect gear, you’ll find me getting very nerdy about coffee, writing songs, or on the beach with my dog.