Whether you are new to playing the guitar or you are looking for the perfect gift for a new guitarist, you might be a little surprised by how many options are available. Of course, there was a time when there were only two or three brands of acoustic guitars, but now there are a number of confusing options to consider.
When looking for the best acoustic guitars under $500, you will want to first ask yourself a few questions, whether the guitar is for you or someone else.
- Is the guitar for a new player?
- Is the guitar for a young (or small) player?
- Do you want a case included with the guitar?
- Do you require a tuner, strings, a strap picks, and other items?
- Are online lessons or CD-based lessons important?
- Will the guitar need to be extra sturdy for travel?
- Do you want a guitar that is particularly lightweight?
- Will you be playing classical, folk, country, or rock music?
As you can see, there is a lot about choosing the right guitar! By keeping some of these questions in mind as you read the reviews below, you should be able to find just the right guitar for your needs.
Best for Beginners: Yamaha FG850 Acoustic Guitar, Mahogany, with Yamaha Guitar Case and Accessories Pack
When you think of Yamaha, you might think only of motorcycles, watercraft, and off-road vehicles, but Yamaha is also the world’s largest manufacturer of musical equipment. From pianos and other keyboard instruments to wind instruments, brass instruments, and recording equipment, Yamaha is far and away the leader in music worldwide.
Yamaha began making both acoustic and electric guitars in the mid-1960s, with the FG line of guitars. What is particularly unique about this line of guitars is that not only are they easy to play, but they are continually being refined to produce solid, reliable sound and playability.
- 5” x 20.7” x 6.1”
- 6 Strings
- Right hand orientation
- Diecast tuners
- Revised bracing provides better sound
- Comfortable body shape
- Solid mahogany top
- Rosewood fingerboard and bridge
- Natural finish
- Two sizes available: Concert and Dreadnought
- Only natural finish is available
- The highest priced FG guitar
- Not the highest quality strings
With high ratings on online retailer sites and a competitive price, this is not only an affordable guitar but a popular one as well. Millions of players around the world have been playing the Yamaha FG series guitars over the past 50 or so years.
The dreadnought shape is more associated with country music, while the concert shape would be played by most beginners, folk guitarists, rock guitarists, and concert guitarists. What is really nice about this instrument is that it is made from mahogany and rosewood and there is no laminate in sight! This blend of natural wood gives it a unique, wholesome sound.
If you have been playing for a while, then you probably already have a preference when it comes to strings, so the fact that the FG850 comes with some rather inferior strings shouldn’t be a big deal. For the newer player, they might not even notice the difference!
All in all, we recommend this guitar for newcomers and experienced players alike who want a natural sounding, well-built guitar that is designed to last for many years of hard playing. Click on this link for a full review of this guitar.
Best Overall Value: Seagull S6 Original Acoustic Guitar Limited Edition Tennessee Red with Bag
When searching for a guitar that is really good value, you might suspect that you would have to buy one that was made overseas. What is particularly unique about Seagull guitars is that they are made from start to finish in Canada. The wood used in these guitars is sustainably sourced in Canada as well. What this means is that you are getting a very high-quality guitar, made by Canadians who are passionate about their music.
The Seagull S6 is one of the highest rated acoustic guitars in this price range in spite of it being made in Canada. When you have this beauty in your hands, what you will feel is a well-made instrument that sounds bright.
- 46” x 18.5” x 7.5”
- 6 strings
- 84” scale
- Body depth: 4.3”
- Body length: 19.”
- Nut width: 1.72”
- Lower bout: 15.37”
- Upper bout: 113”
- Waist: 10.54”
- Cedar top
- Pressure tested top
- Canadian wild cherry back and sides
- Rosewood fingerboard
- Full size body
- Very trebly, making it inappropriate for blues
- High gloss finish can get sticky
- Thick wood and coating can be distracting to some players
The Seagull S6 Original is rated high on online reviews, with a reasonable base price. It is available in natural, black, and Tennessee Red, and it comes with its own bag.
When you read some of the reviews for this guitar, what you will see time and time again is that it has a bright or “alive” sound. In other words, this is a great guitar for the beginner, as well as for anyone looking for that kind of sound.
As far as the feel of the fretboard goes, it has a very low action, again making it great for younger or newer players. The full body is obviously a selling point, and the double action truss rod and compensated saddle add to the quality sound.
Best Mini Acoustic: Taylor GS Mini Mahogany GS Mini Acoustic Guitar, Sapele, Mahogany Top
There are more than a few reasons why so many players are now choosing mini acoustic guitars. While they are great for young people, they are also ideal for smaller adults who have smaller hands, people who want a smaller guitar for travel, and for overall easier playing. A mini guitar enables you to reach across the entire fretboard with ease when you might otherwise really have to stretch that pinky on a full-size guitar.
The Taylor GS Mini Mahogany is made by Taylor, one of the leaders in guitars for many years. Taylor was founded in 1974 and currently produces its guitars in California and Baja, Mexico. Musicians of all types prefer their guitars because they are made with close attention to detail, not to mention the highest quality materials.
The “GS” stands for “Grand Symphony”, and as such, it is known for its high quality, big sound that sounds as good in a symphony hall as it does on a back porch. This particular model is made from solid mahogany (on both sides and back) and layered Sapele wood. It has a unique bracing pattern that gives it the Taylor sound that you’ll love.
It has a matte finish, which is ideal if you are playing in warm climates or you just hate getting your sweaty arm stuck to lacquer finishes. The fingerboard is made from a beautiful African Ebony wood which will only get better the longer you play it.
What many people find remarkable about this guitar is that although it is of a smaller size, it still has a big sound. You might be surprised at the volume, depth, and tone of your playing, while also appreciating that you can reach every note with ease.
- 18” x 42” x 8”
- 6 strings
- Right-hand orientation
- Sapele neck
- Ebony fretboard
- Nut width: 1-11/16”
- Easy to play
- Great beginner guitar
- Perfect for travel
- High-quality materials
- Includes gig bag for protection
- Short fretboard requires tuning more often
- Higher action than full size guitars
This guitar is highly rated with very many reviews on online retailer sites. What many of the reviews mention is that once you play this size guitar, it is sort of hard to go back to a full-size one. If you are a new player and have yet to become comfortable with notes and chords that require you to really stretch, or you simply have smaller hands, this is going to make a huge difference in your playing.
Another factor that a lot of people mention is that it is really well-made. Having a guitar that is made in the United States is a big selling point (even though some of these guitars may be made in Taylor’s Baja location).
It’s nice to know that you don’t need a big guitar to get a big sound! The Taylor GS Mini Mahogany is one smaller size guitar that all levels of players can enjoy for years.
Best Traveling Guitar: Taylor BBT Big Baby Taylor Acoustic Guitar
Taking any guitar on the road can be a hassle, and so opting for a slightly smaller model can save you a little hassle. However, not everyone is willing to go all the way and choose a true mini acoustic. The Taylor BBT Big Baby Taylor acoustic guitar seems to hit the market for a smaller size just right – it is 15/16th scale, which might not sound like a big difference, but it is.
What you will find when you first pick up this guitar is that reaching every note is simply a little bit easier. The difference in scale really shows in terms of stretching four or five frets away, yet you aren’t going to pay a price in terms of sound quality. This guitar sounds like a full-size one, but with all of the benefits of a mini guitar.
Taylor is obviously well-known for making high-quality guitars, both in their California and Baja, Mexico factory. What you will get see when you pick up this guitar is that the solid Sitka spruce back and sides really stand out – they are smooth and deep, and laminated to last.
The neck is made from mahogany, with an ebony fretboard. The benefit of this kind of fretboard is that the oil from your fingers will, over the years, make it smoother and easier to navigate – so much so that you will never want to trade this one in for a newer model.
The pickguard has a complementary tone with a unique shape, and the full-size nut ensures that you won’t spend all your time tuning. The action is low and fast and the sound is full-bodied, smooth, crisp, and shows no sign of emanating from a less than full-size instrument.
- 21” x 43” x 9”
- 6 Strings
- 15/16th scale cutaway model
- Right-hand orientation
- Sitka Spruce top
- Mahogany neck
- Ebony fretboard
- 1-11/16” nut width
- 25-1/2” scale length
- 20 frets
- Comes with a gig bag
- Matte finish
- Full quality sound in a smaller size
- Easier for youngsters and smaller fingers to play
- Leaner, 4” depth body
- Higher action than a full-size guitar
- Natural color is the only option
This guitar is one of the few mini acoustic guitars that is best-rated on online retailer sites. Although there is only a limited number of reviews for this particular model, what you will see is that there are no complaints at all about this model. In fact, many guitar sites rank this guitar as the top guitar in the mini acoustic category, not only because it is a well-made small model, but because it packs a punch in terms of sound quality.
You really cannot overestimate the importance of having a guitar that is easy to play, and that is why so many people are now opting for high-quality mini acoustic guitars. They aren’t just for kids anymore! If you want a guitar that is easy to travel with, easy to play, and still provides high-quality sound at a fairly affordable price then this is going to be the one for you.
Best Blues Guitar: The Loar LH-204-BR Brownstone Small Body Acoustic Guitar
The Loar is one of the leading manufacturers of mandolins, as well as electric and acoustic archtop guitars and small body acoustics. Their focus is on creating traditional, well-made instruments that look and feel like instruments that were in use a century ago.
The Loar LH0204-BR looks like it came out of a black and white movie. It is made with solid Sitka spruce, mahogany, and African Padauk wood for the fretboard. The body has a deep brown satin finish that makes it look old and weathered – something you really want in a blues guitar!
- 41” x 14.75” x 4.25”
- 6 strings
- Right-hand orientation
- 4” scale
- 1-11/16” bone nut
- Lifetime warranty
- Natural, traditional style
- Solid Sitka Spruce top
- High-quality tuning machines
- Mahogany neck
- Rosewood fretboard
- Lifetime warranty
- Small body equals small sound
- Not ideal for all types of playing
This is again a reasonably priced guitar with super high ratings. When you read the reviews, what you will see is that there are very few negative words about this guitar. People love it not only because of the warm, deep, bluesy sound that you get out of it, but because it looks like a throwback to a time when guitars were made by artisans.
Whether you are looking for a guitar to perfect your finger-picking, or you want a sound that harkens back to the days of old, the Loar LH0204-BR is one guitar that will feel as good in your hands as it will look when mounted on a wall.
Best Guitar Bundle: Yamaha FG840 Solid Top Folk Acoustic Guitar – Natural Bundle with Gig Bag, Tuner, Strings, Strap, Picks, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
After you have been playing guitar for a few years, you tend to collect all the gear that is necessary for playing – strings, straps, picks, tuners, gig bags, etc. But, as a new player, you are going to need a lot of this stuff up front. That is why a lot of newcomers tend to buy guitar bundles rather than simply a guitar as their first purchase.
The Yamaha FG840 is one of the best selling guitar bundles online right now for a number of reasons. First of all, this guitar is made by Yamaha, the leader in musical instruments worldwide. Any Yamaha guitar is going to be a high-quality guitar, even the more affordable models.
But, this particular model comes with a rather impressive list of items that can help any newcomer to the instrument feel more at ease. Not only will you get an extra set of strings, a tuner, strap, picks, polishing cloth, and gig bag, but this model also comes with an instructional DVD to help you get started.
- Available in 3 color options
- Maple body
- Satin finish
- 20 frets
- Solid Sitka spruce top
- Laminated Nato mahogany back and sides
- Everything you need to get started
- New bracing for stability
- Quality sound for a lower-priced model
- Color options
- Laminate top is troublesome to some players
- Relatively high action
- Treble-heavy sound
This bundle is highly rated with just over a dozen reviews I could find. Many of these reviews are written by people who have given this bundle to a new player, often a youngster, who wanted to learn how to play guitar. By providing them with absolutely everything they need to get started – including instruction – they have seen just what a great deal this is.
Obviously, if you are in the market for a guitar that comes with everything, then you are probably not going to be too picky about the bridge, the nut, the fretboard material, or the bracing, but it’s still nice to know that you are getting a quality product. The Yamaha FG840 Solid Top Acoustic is definitely a great choice for any new player. If you are ready to start learning guitar, then you aren’t going to get any better bundle than this at any price.
Best Starter Kit: Fender CD-60SCE Dreadnought Acoustic-Electric Guitar – All Mahogany Bundle with Hard Case, Tuner, Strap, Strings, Picks, Austin Bazaar Instructional DVD, and Polishing Cloth
Most players begin with an acoustic guitar and quickly move on to an electric guitar when they realize that playing rock music loudly is a whole lot of fun! But, having an acoustic guitar that is also electrified can be a nice middle-step. The acoustic-electric market has really grown in recent years, due in part to the modernization of onboard amplification technology.
This Fender can be played just like any other acoustic, or you can plug it into your stereo, an amp, or use your headphones and you will have an electrified acoustic. This won’t sound the same as a traditional electric guitar, but having the ability to amplify your sound can be a lot of fun nonetheless!
Fender is one of the most well-known guitar makers in history, most notably they have created the Stratocaster and the Telecaster, two guitars that have been played by just about every rock legend. Because of that, when you tell someone that you have a Fender, they know you mean business.
The Fender CD-60CE is available in black, mahogany, sunburst, and natural, with the dreadnought design that makes getting to those higher frets a lot easier. This model is also available in a twelve string natural model as well as a left-handed model which is a little lighter in color than the traditional natural color.
For the beginning player, this bundle really has all that you need to get started – a ten foot cable for amplification, a free trial to Fender Play, an extra set of strings, an instructional DVD, a clip-on guitar tuner, picks, strap, and a rather luxurious hardshell guitar case to protect your instrument.
- 47” x 7” x 19”
- Full-size model
- Mahogany body
- Scalloped x-bracing for sound quality and strength
- Venetian cutaway design
- Valuable extras including instructional DVD
- Hardshell case
- Guitar strings and string winder
- Polishing cloth
- Guitar picks and clip-on tuner
- Dreadnought design
- Fishman Isys III System electronics
- Active on-board preamp
- Mother of pearl soundhole design
- 4 color options, 12 string, and left handed available
- Some customers report problems with packaging
- May need adjustments to neck and truss rod
I have read tens of reviews about this guitar and the overall rating has been high. Therfore, it is obvious that this Fender has been well-received, not only by beginners but by experienced players as well. Its unique appearance, sound, and the fact that it comes with everything you need is a huge selling point.
The Fender CD-60SCE Dreadnought acoustic-electric guitar is an incredible buy. You are getting a high quality, much sought after Fender, but the instructional program, cable, picks, strap, and hard case are a benefit, too.
Click here to read my in-depth review of this guitar.
Which Guitar Is Right for You?
If you thought that buying a guitar was going to be easy, you can see that it’s not! There are far more options than most new players ever think of. The good news is that none of the above guitars are overly expensive, so you might find yourself buying another make or model down the line. It is certainly not unusual for guitar players to begin collecting guitars, preferring different brands, designs, materials, shapes, and sizes for different situations.
For young players or new players, choosing a smaller size guitar is a huge benefit. Even a small difference in size, such as the Taylor BBT which is 15/16th size can make a huge difference in playability. When you have never played guitar before, it can be frustrating to find that your fingers can’t reach certain notes and a smaller guitar can really help with that.
Buying a bundle is also a great way to alleviate a lot of the initial confusion that comes with playing an instrument for the first time. Most people don’t know what types of strings to buy, how to put them on, or how to tune the guitar, so a bundle is a great first step to learning a new instrument.
Finally, having an instrument that gives you the kind of sound you enjoy is important. The Loar has a great bluesy sound and feel while the Seagull is more pop-like, trebly, and jangly. A newer player might not be terribly concerned about tonality, range, or projection, but those are factors to a great number of experienced players.
The key is to do your research, keeping in mind all of these factors before making your purchase, and find the guitar that fits your hands, your style, your favorite type of music, and your lifestyle.
On a separate note, and referring to the budget range as discussed in this post, you may want to also look at our post related to bass guitars under $500.
Here are also a couple of similar posts for different budgets, or in case your budget range will change in the future:
Best Acoustic Guitar under $300
Best Acoustic Guitar under $1000