Best Acoustic Guitars for Under $500

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"You don't have to break the bank for an acoustic guitar that will bring you years of enjoyment...."

By James Wall

Let’s face it we all would love to have a Ferrari, Porsche, or some other sports/luxury vehicle. Guitars? Well they aren't much different. We all wish we could have that classic instrument that the famous artists have. Unfortunately, these items have a price tag that is just not practical for most of us.

The purpose of this article is to help you identify the best affordable acoustic guitar for your needs. We try to stick with some of the best acoustic guitar brands at an affordable price that are easy to play. For our purposes we've set the limit at $500.

Lets Get Started.


Our Selection of Best Acoustic Guitar under $500


Reasons to buy:

  • C shape neck for easy fretting
  • Electronics for plugging into an amplifier
  • Solid Spruce top
  • Dreadnought body produces good volume
  • easy to play
  • Comes with gig bag

Reasons to avoid:

  • Not for those looking for a solid wood design, the back and sides are layered

Here are our picks for the best acoustic guitars in 2020: 

Different products for different purposes:


Best Acoustic Guitars on the Market

Image

Product

Benefits

Spec's

  • Guild AP-1 Pickup
  • Guild Deluxe Gig Bag
  • Slim C Shape Neck
  • Matte Polyurethane Finish
  • Layered Mahogany Back/Sides
  • 25.5" Scale Length
  • 1 11/16" Nut Width
  • Body Depth 4 5/3/4"
  • Body Length 19 3/4"
  • Body Width 15 3/4"
  • Matte Finished Neck
  • Layered Rosewood Back/Sides
  • Scalloped Bracing
  • System 66 pre-amp
  • Cutaway Design
  • Piezo Pickup
  • Solid Spruce Top
  • 25 9/16" Scale Length
  • 1 11/16" Nut Width
  • Body Depth 4 5/8"
  • Body Length 19 7/8"
  • Body Width 16 1/4"
  • Short-scale allows for easier bendding of notes
  • Built in LR Baggs Equalizer and pickup
  • Vintage slotted head stock and open gear turners
  • Traditional Dovetail neck joint
  • Solid Mahogany Top
  • 24" Scale Length
  • 1 3/4" Nut Width
  • Body Depth 3.6"
  • Guitar Length 38.78"
  • Body Width 14.13"
  • Choice of two Colors
  • Venetian Cutaway Design
  • Solid Spruce Top
  • Rolled Fingerboard edges
  • Layered Mahogany back and Sides
  • Fishman Designed Pickup & Preamp
  • 25.3" Scale Length
  • 1.69" Nut Width
  • Body Depth *not available*
  • Guitar Length *not available*
  • Body Width *not available*
  • Solid Sitka Spruce Top
  • "X" Bracing style
  • Taylors Patented Neck Design
  • Largest of Taylors small body guitars
  • Taylor Padded Gig bag
  • Arched back for stability
  • 25.5" Scale Length
  • 1 11/16" Nut Width
  • Body Depth 4"
  • Body Length 19.5"
  • Body Width 15 1/10"
  • Solid Spruce Top
  • HPL (High Pressure Laminate) back and sides
  • Mortise & Tenon Neck Joint
  • Martin Gig Bag
  • Tusq Bridge and Corian Nut
  • 23" Scale Length
  • 1 11/16" Nut Width
  • Body Depth "not available"
  • Body Length "not available"
  • Body Width "not available"
  • Solid Sitka Spruce Top
  • Laminated Sapele Back & Sides
  • Bone Bridge and Nut
  • Dual Action Truss Rod
  • Tradiional Even "C" neck Profile
  • Abalone Rosette
  • 24.9" Scale Length
  • 1 3/4" Nut Width
  • Body Depth 4.25"
  • Body Length "not available
  • Body Width 15"
  • Solid Okoume Top
  • Laminate Okoume back and Sides
  • Ibanez Advantage Bridge Pins
  • Ovangkol Fretboard
  • 25 5/8" Scale Length
  • 1 11/16" Nut Width
  • Body Depth 5"
  • Body Length 20"
  • Body Width 15 3/4"
  • Select Spruce Top
  • Premium Machine Heads
  • Laminate Mahogany Back/Sides
  • Available in multiple colors (Natural/Ebony/Burst)
  • Epiphones Best Selling Dreadnought
  • 25.5" Scale Length
  •  1.69" Nut Width
  • Body Depth "not available"
  • Body Length "not available"
  • Body Width "not available"

Best Acoustic Guitar Reviews [Updated]

1. Guild D-240E Acoustic-Electric Guitar in Natural

Our top pick

User Rating

95%

Product Details

Top: Solid Spruce
Back/Sides: Laminate Mahogany back/sides
Fretboard: Pau Ferro
Scale Length: 25.5 Inches
Features: Padded Gig bag, Adjustable Truss Rod, C shape neck

Pros

  • Easy to Play
  • Arched Back for stability
  • Scalloped X-braking for a responsive guitar top
  • AP-1 Electronics

Cons

  • Only the top is solid wood
  • No cutaway for access to upper frets

An Elegant and Simple Guitar

Perfect for just playing around the house or plugged in for performing. The solid spruce top delivers a clear focused tone, and the Arched laminate mahogany back provides both stability to the structure of the guitar and projects the sound better than the flat backed models.

When selecting guitars to test I was a little skeptical about Guild guitars given all the recent changes in the company.   The manufacturing of these guitars have gone through some significant changes over the last 20 years and somehow they’ve managed to keep the essence of the older models that made the brand famous.  The Westerly Collection is an attempt to keep the old models relevant.

The gig bag is surprisingly solid and provides more than enough protection for the guitar when you’re not playing it.  The construction conforms to the shape of the guitar and is well padded.

The pickups performed well on the instrument we tested.  The tone was warm, we ran it through a clean setup on a Fender Blues Jr.  One minor thing that would have been nice to have, is a tuner built into the pre-amp,  but that isn’t a deal breaker.

What won us over and the reason the Guild D-240e is our number 1 choice, it is fun to play.  The action is set up well and in a room full of guitars I find this is one that I go to often to practice on.  It is also very articulate when picking out a melody.  For a guitar under $500, you can’t go wrong with this guitar.


2. Yamaha FGX830C Solid Top Cutaway Acoustic-Electric Guitar

User Rating

94%

Product Details

Top: Solid Spruce Top

Back/Sides: Layered Mahogany

Fretboard: Rosewood

Scale Length: 25 9/16 Inches

Features: Cutaway, Piezo Pickup, Scalloped Bracing

Pros

  • ​Great Sounding guitar
  • Cutaway for access to the full fingerboard
  • System 66 and piezo pickup
  • Scalloped Bracing
  • Matte Finished Neck for comfort while playing

Cons

  • ​Back and Sides are laminate

Great guitar, Great Price.

Yamaha continues to make great instruments. The FGX830C is no exception. Yamaha has developed scalloped bracing to improve overall sound. Note where the bracing is scooped out to make the top more responsive:

The cutaway design in the Yamaha acoustic guitar allow allows for easy access to frets above the 12th fret, this is a great feature for intermediate players that have moved past just the open chords.

The System 66 feature provided the ability to adjust the tone on 3 bands. The SRT piezo pickup does a nice job of capturing the tone from under the saddle. And yes the equalizer had a tuner feature.

We loved the tone of this guitar, it felt a little heavier and bulkier than the Guild D-240E we reviewed.  And we had to take a few points off for not coming with a gig bag. Despite these short comings this is still our 2nd best choice giving the quality of the Yamaha builds.

It should be noted, if you have a hard requirement of having a cut away guitar we would make this our top budget guitar pick.


3. Alvarez AP66ESHB Artist Series

User Rating

90%

Product Details

Top: Solid African Mahogany
Back/Sides:
Layered Mahogany
Fretboard:
Pau Ferro / Indian Laurel
Scale Length:
24 Inches
Features: 
LR Baggs StagePro EQ and Element pick up, Shadowburst/Gloss, slotted head

Pros

  • Shadowburst on Mahogany
  • Parlor style body perfect for finger-picking in small area
  • LR baggs electronics provide nice tone through amp
  • Classic Slotted head-stock

Cons

  • No Gig bag
  • volume may not be what some are looking for


Alvarez AP66ESHB Artist Series Guitar in room

Parlor guitars aren't always known for great sound and if your looking for volume and depth that come from a dreadnought or larger bodied guitar this may not be the right choice for you.

However, in a small setting the sound produced by this guitar is more than adequate. The electronics also provide a way to pump up the volume if needed.

Lets face it the allure of this guitar is its looks.   The African mahogany top has a beautiful finish, slotted head design, open gear tuners and the subtle shimmer from the rosette make for a beautiful guitar.  

I try to be impartial on my reviews, but must confess owning one of these and it sits prominently in my bedroom so I can pick it up and play it as the mood strikes me.   I've included a shameless photo plug for my guitar.  Note the beautiful grain on the mahogany top and it sounds great.

All that aside, here are the two main reasons it does not make the number one position on our list.   

  • Lack of gig bag
  • Smaller body doesn't project volume

All in all this is fun guitar to play, comes with electronics and it is a real head turner, giving you a lot for your money.   Coming in at number 3 on our list this would be a great choice for anyone looking for a smaller guitar that is under $500.


4. Fender CD-60SCE Acoustic-Electric Guitar-Dreadnought

User Rating

88%

Product Details

Top: Solid Spruce Top
Back/Sides:
Mahogany
Fretboard:
Walnut
Scale Length:
25.3 Inches
Features:
Fishman® low-profile pickup/preamp, choice of colors, rolled fingerboard edges

Pros

  • Choice of colors
  • Traditional Dreadnought shape
  • On-board electronics
  • X bracing
  • Cutway body for easy access

Cons

  • Tone lacks depth when not plugged in
  • No gig-bag or case comes with the guitar

Fender guitar makers have been in the business of making guitars for a long time.  The CD-60SCE is a great model for the guitarist that needs lots of features from their guitar. 

This Fender acoustic guitar has the full sound of a dreadnought with easy access to the upper frets thanks to its cutaway design.  the coll

Need to plug in?  No worries it has a Fishman low-profile pickup and pre-amp that works fine in a gig situation.  In our test we found the pickups did a good job of picking up the tone of the guitar.  The equalizer has a tuner as well as bass and treble adjustments.

This guitar is very similar to the Yamaha guitar we ranked as number 2 on our list.   For us when testing the Yamaha construction felt a little sturdier.  However, this guitar has the rolled finger board edges for comfort and the walnut fret-board is a nice touch.

In the end we felt the Yamaha guitar and slight edge in tone, for this reason we had to place this guitar as number 4 on our list.  But if you have a brand preference of Fender,  this also a good choice for an inexpensive Swiss-army knife guitar.

5. Taylor Guitars Big Baby Taylor, BBT, Natural 

User Rating

87%

Product Details

Top: Solid Spruce
Back/Sides: Sapele, also available in Walnut
Fretboard: Ebony
Scale Length: 25.5 Inches
Features: padded Gig bag, X bracing, 15/16 scale slightly smaller than full sized guitar.

Pros

  • Solid Spruce Tope
  • popular x-bracing for a responsive guitar top
  • No frills design
  • Perfect for Rock, Folk, Country, and Bluegrass Music

Cons

  • Relatively high price
  • No cutaway for access to upper frets

I know, why is Taylor so far down the list? They make some of the finest guitars out there. There is only one catch, making a top notch guitar costs money and that usually translates into more than $500 for the consumer.


The Big Baby guitar is a good starter guitar that just fits under our limit, it is not quite full sized but it is the largest of Taylor’s small body guitars. It comes with Taylor's patented neck design so it is easy to adjust the neck angle as the guitar changes over time. This is a nice benefit to have, just ask anyone who has had to have a neck reset done.

The BBT uses top notch materials and the workmanship is flawless. There is an model that comes with electronics if you need it (BBTe) but this guitar is really meant for taking on a campy trip or playing in a hotel room. It also comes with sturdy gig bag to protect it as you travel with it.


Because there are no extra’s other than the gig bag we’ve got this guitar ranked at number 5 on the list. This  doesn’t make it a lesser guitar, it just has fewer features. If you just want a plain guitar with no frills that is made really well. This is the perfect guitar.


6. Martin LX1 Little Martin Acoustic Guitar 

User Rating

86%

Product Details

Top: Sitka Spruce

Back/Sides: Mahogany HPL (High Pressure Laminate)

Fretboard: FSC® Certified Richlite®

Scale Length: 23 Inches

Features: Solid Sitka Spruce Top, Sustainable wood certified parts, gig bag

Pros

  • ​​Martin Quality Craftsmanship
  • Use of sustainable wood materials
  • Sitka spruce top
  • Gig bag
  • Traditional martin non-scalloped bracing

Cons

  • ​A little pricey for small guitar
  • no electronics

As with Taylor, Martin is not a brand you would expect to find on a less than $500 guitar list.  But their build is so good we feel they deserve at least one of their guitars on this list.

The LX1 little martin is a quality instrument that is probably best suited for beginner guitarists or people that like really small guitars.  Its nod toward sustainable components also has its appeal to the younger audience.

The sound from these guitars is quite good.  I have to admit that I was a little surprised as I had very little expectation from the HPL (High Pressure Laminate) materials.   The guitar has the Sitka spruce where it counts on the guitar top, and Martin effectively uses the laminates for neck, back, and sides of the guitar.

Given the gig bag and the high quality build we had to include this guitar on our list, even if the little martin doesn’t have all the bells and whistles.


7. Eastman PCH1-OM Orchestra model

Martin

User Rating

86%

Product Details

Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
Back/Sides: 
Laminated Sapele 
Fret-board: Rosewood
Scale Length: 
24.9"
Features: 
Maple Neck, Bone nut and bridge, Abalone rosette

Pros

  • Solid Sitka Spruce Top
  • Ideal guitar for finger picking
  • great sound for a smaller bodied guitar

Cons

  • No Cutaway for complete access to the fingerboard
  • No Electronics
  • no gig bag

As stated in many of our other articles you know those of us here at Knight of Music love Eastman guitars.  For this reason it should be no surprise they had a model that made our under $500 list.

In playing this guitar we couldn’t really put our finger on it, but it didn’t have anything that screamed this is the guitar!

That being said, the build quality was good, the wood grains were very attractive and the tone of the guitar was on par with the other guitars that made this list.

We do like that the nut and saddle are bone.   This is usually a feature on more expensive guitars.  It also may have ranked higher if it came with a gig bag.   While this is a good guitar and meets our criteria, there other guitars on this list you may want to consider first.  But if you have a preference for the Orchestra body shape this is probably the best one on the list.


8. Ibanez AW54OPN Artwood Dreadnought - Open Pore Natural

User Rating

85%

Product Details

Top: Solid Okoume top
Back/Sides:
Laminate Okoume 
Fretboard:
Ovangkol
Scale Length:
25 5/8"
Features:
Open Pore Finish, Ibanez Advantage Bridge Pins, Dreadnought shape for full sound.

Pros

  • Great value 
  • Warm Tone
  • Guitar is setup well and plays well
  • Great for casual play and performing

Cons

  • no electronics
  • no gig bag or case

Ibanez Artwood series guitars are basic are basic in design and are well made. The guitar produces a warm tone.  Especially the AW54 model. 

The Okoume wood top produces a warm, woody tone similar to mahogany.  This guitar doesn’t come with electronics or a cutaway.  However there is a cutaway version that is a little more expensive but still under $500.

The neck is a tapered design and is comfortable to play.  Ibanez guitars also come with the Advantage Bridge pins that are designed to seat the pin properly.

This isn’t one of our top choices do to the lack of electronics and a gig bag but it is a nice starter guitar and comes in well under the $500 limit we set.    


9. Epiphone DR-100 Acoustic Guitar

User Rating

80%

Product Details

Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
Back/Sides:
Nato/Okume
Fretboard:
Rosewood
Scale Length:
25 9/16” Inches
Features:
Solid Wood Top, new scalloped bracing pattern, 4 color options

Pros

  • Low Price
  • Better volume with the new scalloped bracing pattern
  • Simple Design
  • Quality Craftsmanship

Cons

  • No Electronics
  • No Case

The last guitar on our list is the Epiphone DR-100 Model.  The price tag for this guitar is well under our limit of $500 and is full sized dreadnought.

This is a great guitar for the money,  it is a less expensive guitar and the edges of the frets can be a little rough on some of the models,  but the low price tag and the slim taper neck from a brand that has been in on some pretty amazing models through the years make this a worthy candidate for a beginners guitar. 

There is not case,  no electronics and the build is not quite as solid as some of the other models.  But this guitar does play well and comes with multiple color choices and has a very friendly price tag.   If budget is your main concern,  a beginning guitarist, or you are just looking for a camping guitar, you should take a look at this model.


Conclusion


Guild D-240e