It used to be that low-cost acoustic guitars were harsh on the fingers with terrible playability and woeful build quality. Thankfully those days are long gone, and the best cheap acoustic guitars can give you some serious bang for your buck.
In fact, there’s so much choice in the low-cost price bracket these days that we decided to put together this guide to pick the real gems out there. With the biggest names in the acoustic guitar game like Taylor, Martin, and Fender offering some brilliant budget acoustic guitars, you can get yourself a beautiful-sounding six-string for much less.
Perhaps you’re a new player looking for their first acoustic, or you might be in the market for a quality backup that doesn’t cost the earth. Whichever it is, you’ll find a brilliant selection of acoustic guitars here that will suit any playing level or style.
We've included some in depth buying advice at the end of this guide, so if you'd like to read more about the best budget acoustic guitars, click the link. If you’d rather get to our top choices, keep scrolling.
Best cheap acoustic guitars: MusicRadar's choice
There are two staples of the low-cost acoustic guitar world - the Taylor GS-Mini (opens in new tab) and the Martin LX1E Little Martin (opens in new tab). Both offer incredible value for money with the sound and performance to match their manufacturer’s legendary reputations.
If either of the above is too small for your tastes, you’ll find it hard to go wrong with the incredible Epiphone J-200 EC. It’s a proper gigging workhorse with an exceptional Fishman electronics system, as well as a distinctive look that will stand out on stage.
Best cheap acoustic guitars: Product guide
With a look that references Epiphone’s storied history in acoustic guitar design, the J-200 EC is a premium acoustic-electric without the accompanying price tag. There is no other conclusion to be drawn. In terms of feel, tone, and looks, it is the real deal, delivering all but flawless performance, with huge jumbo tones that really fill the mix when strumming.
During our tests we found the acoustic voice to be exceptional. The playability was such that the J-200 ECE presented severe difficulties in calling time and putting it back in the case. It sounds phenomenal particularly when strummed, delivering a solid, warm foundation in the low end and articulate highs.
But the Fishman Sonicore pickup and preamp system seals the deal, with an onboard tuner, and Presys preamp providing outstanding acoustic guitar tones when plugged in.
The Ed Sheeran-favoured Little Martin does feel a little industrial, but from the first strum, its more conventional spruce-top voice has us captivated. If you're a classic Martin fan, this is just miniaturized with a lovely crisp-edged voice. Its conventional sound perhaps leads us to traditional 'American' fingerstyle, and its pushy voice would certainly be heard above bigger guitars, both in an ensemble or a recording.
The material may be man-made, but the fingerboard and bridge look like thick ebony, while the dark-hued HPL back and sides are dark, rich mahogany with the back's central core material giving a dark binding line, which evokes a classy feel. Our Martin has only pre-set EQ, and without that engaged, things are a little middly and boxy when plugged in. It definitely sounds more conventional with the contour switch engaged, however, which cleans up the mids a little and adds some crispness.
Like its acoustic voice, the Martin sounds very 'conventional' plugged in and that's no bad thing. It's really easy to dial in: we scooped a little lower midrange and that was about it. Open-mic ready, we'd say!
Read the full Martin LX1E Little Martin review
The Mexican-made Taylor GS-Mini is equally functional as both a travel guitar and a "modern-day parlor guitar". Despite its tiny footprint, the GS Mini is no toy instrument: there's a solid Sitka spruce top, faultless build quality, and the setup is immaculate.
Rather like a good parlor-size guitar, the GS Mini outputs a sound that belies its compactness. We'd lay a considerable sum to suggest it'd be a fine recording guitar, that tight low-end giving space to a bass guitar (or bassier six-string). At the same time, the mids aren't overly honky, as some parlors can be, and the silky, sparkly highs are pure Taylor fidelity.
Far from a gimmick, this is a guitar with its own vibe and voice - and both are very appealing. The Taylor GS-Mini is without a doubt one of the best travel and recording acoustic guitars you can buy.
Read the full Taylor GS Mini review
The PRS SE P20 is a newer addition to PRS’ ever-growing acoustic SE range. For a parlor-size acoustic guitar, its voice is larger than you’d expect, with PRS’ “X”/Classical hybrid bracing pattern to thank for that. An all-mahogany construction provides an organic warmth that is pretty addictive, and the smaller size makes this the ultimate ‘sofa’ guitar; comfortable and easy to play.
PRS has nailed the historic ‘blues box’ vibe with the P20, with its no-frills, post-war-esque approach. While that isn’t common for PRS, the plain, simple finishes available on the P20 range allow the guitar's voice to be the main focus. However, Mr. Smith and the gang still leave a calling card with those iconic bird inlays.
Overall, it’s a fantastic option for anyone that fancies something a bit different. PRS isn’t a massive name in the world of acoustics, but the quality of these instruments happily rivals any of the big brands.
Cort, albeit a smaller name in the world of acoustic guitars, is producing some of the highest-quality instruments coming out of China at the moment. Cort is much more widely known for its electric and bass guitar ranges, but the Core-OC series proves that they’ve arrived, and their acoustic guitars mean business.
Like the rest of the Core-OC series, the Core-OC Mahogany possesses the OM cutaway body style. We found that this body shape and size delivers the perfect blend of tone and comfort - not quite as bulky as a dreadnought, but with a broadly similar depth of tone.
This model, as the name suggests, is constructed completely of Mahogany. This creates a warmer, more mid-focused tone than you’d find from something with a Spruce top - which we love to bits. Onboard electronics in the form of a Fishman Sonicore/Sonitone acoustic guitar pickup provide a smooth, balanced, and true-to-life representation of your tone, too - making this option from Cort even more versatile than you thought.
Read the full Cort Core-OC Series review
When it comes to the best cheap acoustic guitars, you’ll have to go some way to beat this little parlor from Art & Lutherie - a sub-brand of Godin guitars. It is a stripped-back little acoustic built to play hard, and while it will welcome most styles, the Roadhouse Tennessee Red will break out the good stuff for players with a sound knowledge of cowboy chords or just enough mojo to work that Robert Johnson-style blues style.
Its slimmed-down size means those of us with larger hands may struggle a little on the neck, but for anyone who isn't a giant, the small size makes for a seriously comfortable playing platform. The small size comes with another benefit too - you can take it anywhere with a minimum of fuss.
The look of the Tennessee Red might put some people off with its retro pawnshop vibe, but sometimes acoustic guitar design can be a little well-mannered. Besides, this is available in a vintage-style Bourbon Burst or Faded Cream, should you want something a little more mannered. Whatever, this is a great guitar, a tone machine with a rebel spirit, no matter how you look at it.
Read the Art & Lutherie Guitars Roadhouse Tennessee Red review
With a very handsome solid Sitka spruce top and a solid and convincing performance, it’s no surprise that Alvarez’s AD60 is a best-seller. To get a solid-wood top on a guitar at this price point is no mean feat, but that’s exactly the sort of value Alvarez can offer.
The AD60 has a mahogany laminate build on the back and sides, offering an elegant book-matched finish. During our testing we found the tone to be clear, and well-balanced, with the hand-sanded scalloped bracing just the thing to get that solid top resonating.
This beautiful budget acoustic has a loud authoritative voice, with excellent hardware and a real bone bridge. At the same time, the newly designed neck offers a thinner profile for a truly accessible acoustic in terms of price and playability.
Seagull Guitars has been operating out of the same small Quebec village of LaPatrie since 1982, making instruments by hand from day one. The word ‘handmade’ usually leaves people seeing dollar signs, but Seagull likes to do things a bit differently.
Built using sustainably sourced materials, the Entourage’s fat, full tone is what makes this guitar so special. The spruce top and cherry back and sides offer up plenty of punch and presence, which compliments the low-end you’d expect from a dreadnought. The maple neck is slim and comfortable, making the Entourage series especially great for beginners or those used to playing an electric guitar.
As this guitar is entirely made by hand for less than $/£500, Seagull has cut a few corners. The quality of the satin finish is great, but it lacks the slightly classier-looking gloss urethane finishes of other guitars. Also, this Entourage is only available in ‘Autumn burst’, although we think that’s a pretty stunning finish to be stuck with.
All in all, the Seagull Entourage represents a great opportunity to get hold of a no-frills, handmade instrument that won’t leave you broke or starving.
Yamaha has a reputation for making high-quality, well-priced products - and the FG800 is undeniable proof of that. It’s something of an icon in the world of cheap acoustic guitars, having graced the hands of many beginner and intermediate acoustic guitarists over the years.
The FG800’s construction, while pretty standard, is closer to acoustic guitars costing double the price. A solid Spruce top enables the guitar to resonate wonderfully while providing a punchy and vibrant quality to the notes and chords you’re playing.
The dreadnought body size welcomes in loads of warm low-end to round out and fatten up your tone - and while the larger body size might take some getting used to, the massive, sweet sound makes it more than worth it.
This FA-235E Concert electro-acoustic will give the Epiphone jumbo a run for its money in the looks department, with a flame-maple laminate top offering an eye-popping tiger stripe that’s just on the right side of subtle to be premium without coming across as over-dressed.
It's got a really lovely sound to it, lots of warmth despite the small size, and a nice crispness in the high end. Paired with a comfortable 'C' profile neck, you get a playing platform that will suit many playing styles.
It has a laminate mahogany back and sides, too, with an Indian laurel Viking bridge. The onboard Fishman electronics have a two-band EQ and are more than adequate for gigging. And this is the thing; here you’ve got a playable, gig-ready electro-acoustic with for less than $/£350. That’s value.
Yamaha introduced the Storia series in 2019 promising “designs that evoke the natural colors of your day.” To that end, we have got champagne gold tuners, brass-topped bridge pins, and fancy inlay on the rosette that really make you wonder what sort of day the Yamaha R&D department has.
But we have to concede that all that champagne gold and brass really does complement the all-mahogany top, back, and sides. It’s a nice departure from the light-blonde spruce and mahogany template. Heck! The neck and fretboard are walnut.
Feel-wise, the Storia II has a super-comfortable modern C-profile that’s definitely carved with the contemporary player in mind. There are no tone controls for the under-saddle piezo but that’s no big deal. Bold looks, a comfortable bevel-edged body, and an effervescent upper-midrange make the Storia a compelling new addition to the affordable acoustic market.
Read the full Yamaha Storia II review
If your budget won’t stretch to 200 bucks but you really would like an acoustic-electric, something from Ibanez’s Performance Series is always a solid option. The evocatively titled PF15ECE (what is it with acoustic nomenclature?) runs with the classic dreadnought spruce laminate top, mahogany laminate back and sides template, with a welcoming mahogany neck, and rosewood fretboard.
A slightly shortish scale length just adds to the easy feel, making it a superb option for the beginner or those with smaller dimensions. The X-bracing helps in projecting a punchy tone that's articulate, with the body size helping add some warmth in the low end.
The Ibanez AEQ2T preamp does a great job of translating this guitar's unplugged sound and there's a two-band EQ for further sculpting of your tone. Add in an onboard tuner and you've got a great-sounding acoustic that's ready to gig from the off.
For a cheap-as-chips acoustic with heaps of vintage kudos, the Jim Dandy Flat Top from Gretsch’s Roots Series is as good an option as any. Based on the classic 1930s Rex-era acoustics, when Rex built ‘em and Gretsch shipped ‘em, this agathis-bodied Vintage Sunburst model was rolled out at Winter NAMM 2020.
The Agathis used for the body is related to pine but is a little more hard-wearing. Tonally, it’s somewhere between alder and mahogany. Despite its small size, it's got a hearty voice, and the note articulation is really quite good.
While you won’t mistake it for a high-end acoustic, the Jim Dandy is a compact little 12-fret acoustic with an elongated body to help it project a tone that belies the price tag.
Read the full Gretsch G9500 Jim Dandy Flat Top review
Best cheap acoustic guitars: Buying advice
Despite the fact that you’re looking for a cheap acoustic guitar, there’s no reason to think that you’ll be settling for anything less than a stellar instrument here. However, if you’re unsure of what you might require for your personal tastes, these top tips will point you in the right direction, making certain you pick the perfect guitar.
How much do I need to spend?
All of the choices here are capped at $/£500, but you don’t need to spend that much to get a great guitar. If you want one of the legendary guitar names like Taylor or Martin on your headstock, then you’ll have to spend closer to the limit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get something really nice for much less.
You can go as low as $/£150 and still grab something really good, with Fender, Gretsch, and Ibanez all offering models at this price point. They’re not unplayable horror shows though, in fact, they offer a surprising amount of tone, versatility, and playability.
It’s also worth paying attention to sales, b-stock products, and clearance deals from major music retailers, as you may find a high-end acoustic guitar on sale for much less. You could also save money for later if time isn’t an issue, and wait for those vast Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day discounts to arise. These kinds of tactics mean you can often double your money, getting a killer deal on an acoustic guitar.
What acoustic guitar body size should I choose?
Body size is as personal to guitar players as their taste in music. It also is one of the most important factors in determining how the guitar sounds, so it’s important to get it right.
At the top end of the size spectrum, we have jumbo and dreadnought acoustic guitars. Their large body size means they deliver the most volume, with a full voice that really captures the low end well. However, because of their size, they can also be unwieldy, especially for players with smaller dimensions. You’ll also need a big case to transport them, which makes a dreadnought or jumbo not such a good choice for the traveling guitar player.
Smaller-size guitars consist of concert, grand auditorium, parlor, or travel guitars. These come with a much smaller body size which lends them a quieter voice and different tone to that of their bigger body cousins. They’re easier to travel with and certainly much more comfortable for younger players or those with smaller hands, but they lack the power and projection of a dreadnought or jumbo-size acoustic.
At the end of the day this decision all comes down to what you want from the guitar. If you’re playing around the house, or just getting started, a smaller-sized acoustic will most likely provide an easier pathway into the instrument. If you’re a regularly gigging player, we’d say go for the dreadnought or jumbo.
How important is wood type?
Whilst there are endless debates on the characteristics of different types of acoustic guitar tonewoods, there is a definite agreement across the guitar world that a solid top wood is better than a laminated one. A laminate top is not a deal-breaker if you’re a beginner, but a solid wood top is preferred by pretty much every guitar player.
The reason most players prefer solid tops is that the wood itself is denser. This means it resonates better when you strike the strings, delivering more sustain and a richer guitar tone. The top of the guitar is where your acoustic gets the majority of its voice from, so even if the back and sides are laminated wood, you’ll still benefit massively from a solid wood top.
As with many things in the world of music, this is a matter of taste. Don’t get put off a guitar you love just because it has a laminated top! There are plenty of guitarists who prefer the sound of laminated wood, and if you’re a beginner, you aren’t likely to be able to tell the difference anyway.
Do I need electronics on my acoustic guitar?
The majority of modern acoustic guitars come with electronics already fitted. That said, if you want to get more out of your budget, you could grab a higher-end acoustic guitar minus the electronics. If you’re not planning on playing live, then you likely won’t use electronics anyway.
If you feel like you’d quite like to play an open mic night, plugging into an acoustic guitar amp or PA speakers will be necessary, and thus you’ll need electronics too. You can always fit acoustic guitar pickups at a later date, but they will nearly always end up being more expensive.
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