The Best Acoustic Guitars Under $500 – Expert Recommendations

The Best Acoustic Guitars Under $500 – Expert Recommendations

I think the Under $500 range for acoustic guitars has got to be the best price point for the majority of players.

At under $200 and under $300, you’ll find tons of great acoustic guitars for learning, practice, and songwriting, but will be hard pressed to find a gig-worthy instrument. Guitars under $1000 will of course be great music makers, but are outside the budget of pretty much everyone I know.

The best acoustic guitars under $500, however, will make public performance possible, and set you up with a guitar that you won’t need to upgrade for a long time, if ever. They’re generally affordable for most people who are serious about their musical hobby, and are well worth the investment and time and effort it takes to stack your cash.

I’ll share a little secret with you now — I’ve never owned a guitar outside this price range, and I’ve never felt the need to. I’ve played paying gigs, made studio recordings, and had 16 years worth of great musical times all with guitars that didn’t break the $500 mark.

Our Recommendation

This list has some of my favorite acoustics on the market. My number one choice, the Seagull S6 Slim, is a variant of a guitar reviewed we’ve taken a look at before, the Seagull S6 Original. It’s got all the qualities that make Seagull guitars one of my favorite brand, including a solid top, quality craftsmanship, and a tone that rivals guitars several times its price point.

On the other hand, we checked out the Taylor GS Mini Mahogany. While this solid mahogany top acoustic is a decent guitar in most respects, I’d like to think $500 can get you a little more bang for your buck. It still makes the cut as one of the best (it’s a Taylor after all), but not the guitar I’d personally go home with.

So without further ado, let’s take a quick tour through the best acoustic guitars for under $500.

The 7 Top-Rated Acoustic Guitars for Under $500

#7 Taylor GS Mini Mahogany

Specs

  • Top – Solid tropical mahogany
  • Body – Layered Sapele
  • Neck – Sapele
  • Fingerboard – West African Ebony

Pros

  • Big voice in a little body
  • Taylor Guitars craftsmanship; guaranteed to last
  • Ebony fretboard for naturally oiled playing surface

Cons

  • Big price, little guitar
  • Sapele + Mahogany combo can be too murky for some players

Review

If you know anything about acoustic guitars, you probably know that Taylor is one of the biggest names in the game. They’re known for their quality, and tons of players aspire to someday own a guitar of this caliber.

If you’re just starting out, you might think a Taylor is out of your league, but with their mini series, this high-end brand can easily be your first acoustic.

The GS Mini Mahogany is beautiful looking guitar with a sound that’s better than most acoustics at this price point. It’s a soulful little instrument, with a solid mahogany top that delivers a mysterious, earthy tone and sapele back and sides that add to the darkness of its voice.

Its one downfall can also be one of its biggest perks — that is, it’s small body size. For players of small stature, this can be a huge bonus, especially for kids. I’d rather have a full-size acoustic, as I’m of rather average build, but if you’re on the small side or looking for a nice travel guitar, the Taylor GS Mini Mahogany acoustic is fantastic.

The GS Mini Mahogany isn’t Taylor’s only small guitar, either. You can read our review of their Big Baby acoustic guitar here.

#6 Martin D Jr-10 Check On Amazon >>

Specs

  • Top – Sitka spruce
  • Body – Sapele
  • Neck – Select hardwood
  • Fingerboard – FSC Certified Richlite

Pros

  • The Martin name at an affordable price
  • Softened back edges for maximum playing comfort
  • Thin 000 body depth ideal for children or smaller players

Cons

  • Artificial fingerboard
  • Unknown neck tonewoods

Review

Taylor’s competitor for top acoustic manufacturer, Martin Guitars, provides us the Martin D Jr-10 at a price point affordable for most beginner guitarists. If you’ve always dreamt of owning a Martin, this is your chance.

The D Jr-10 is a smaller-sized acoustic, with a body length almost a full three inches shorter than the standard Martin D. It’s not exactly a mini guitar, but it’s small enough that players who find dreadnoughts uncomfortable can feel at home playing it.

Thanks to Martin’s superior bracing techniques, you don’t have to worry about losing a lot of volume through the lost body size. The D Jr-10 still has a big voice despite its reduced body, and its Sitka spruce top coupled with sapele back and sides provides the dreadnought tone you know and love.

An unusual bonus of this guitar is the soft angle on the back of the body. You may think, “well, I’ve never had a problem with steep angles of my guitar’s back,” but once you play the D Jr-10 you’ll see what a difference this softening can make in overall playing comfort.

Looking for a smaller Martin? Read our review of the Little Martin LX1 here. And here, you can see how a tiny Taylor matches up to a mini Martin.

#5 Yamaha FS850 Check On Amazon >>

Specs

  • Top – Solid Mahogany
  • Body – Mahogany
  • Neck – Nato
  • Fingerboard – Rosewood

Pros

  • All mahogany build for dark, rich tone
  • Solid top that ages like a fine wine
  • Rosewood fingerboard for comfort and speed

Cons

  • Nato neck is the only nontraditional tonewood

Review

Yamaha guitars routinely make our best guitars lists because they are simply top-quality. I’ve loved Yamahas since I started playing guitar and am always happy to recommend them to players of any skill and experience level.

We’ve reviewed several guitars in the Yamaha F series. They’re always great performers, with solid tops, flawless construction, and reliability that will last a lifetime.

The FS850 is remarkable in that its whole body is mahogany, making for a tone that is overall very dark, warm, and earthy, perfect for all acoustic styles but really well showcased in folk and blues music.

As a beginner guitar, this is one of the best you could hope for, and for players with a bit more experience, looking for something you can gig with, the FS850 will make you proud.

#4 Takamine GD30 Check On Amazon >>

Specs

  • Top – Solid spruce
  • Body – Mahogany
  • Neck – Mahogany
  • Fingerboard – Ovangkol

Pros

  • Richness of mahogany with clarity of spruce for an ideal tonewood combo
  • Mahogany neck keeps the tonal purity in all ranges
  • Pinless bridge for quick and easy string changes

Cons

  • Ovangkol fretboard isn’t as smooth or fast as other tonewoods

Review

I haven’t had a ton of experience playing Takamines, but the few that I’ve had a chance to play I’ve really enjoyed. The Takamine GD30 is no exception.

It sports my favorite tonewood combo of all acoustics, a spruce top with mahogany back and sides. I find this ideal because you get the harmonic complexity and warmth of mahogany with the brightness and precision of spruce. It’s perfect for fingerstyle playing and really brings those fingerpicked progressions to life.

The GD30 also has a mahogany neck, with a slim profile that is great for highspeed bluegrass riffs or bluesy acoustic solos.

You’ll find the GD30 to be one of the best acoustic guitars under $500 in nearly every regard. It’s a great dreadnought every way you can look at it.

#3 Bristol BM-15S Check On Amazon >>

Specs

  • Top – Solid mahogany
  • Body – Mahogany
  • Neck – Mahogany
  • Fingerboard – Rosewood

Pros

  • Absolute tonal purity with a 100% mahogany + rosewood build
  • Beautiful build with natural semi-gloss finish
  • Handcrafted by Blueridge Guitars luthiers

Cons

  • Artificial ABS nut and saddle

Review

If you’re looking for a guitar where every note in every range sings with the same truth and overtones, the Bristol BM-15S is the acoustic for you. From body to headstock, this beauty is all mahogany excepting the rosewood bridge placed to bring your guitar’s voice to the forefront of each performance.

I’m a sucker for mahogany guitars; my main acoustic is all mahogany, and every time I play one I feel like it resonates with my spirit. They’re dark, calm, and have a depth I feel like acoustics were made for.

Bristol is a subsidiary of Blueridge Guitars, which although aren’t as popular as the big names like Taylor and Martin, have a team of amazingly skilled luthiers that handcraft each instrument, ensuring that every detail is constructed to perfection.

The only thing that keeps this guitar from being number one on this list is the choice for ABS as the nut and saddle. If you’ve got the time, money, and enthusiasm, swapping these artificial bits out for authentic bone pieces can make the Bristol BM-15S a truly perfect acoustic guitar. This article by Fender will tell you about the finer points of nut and saddle materials.

 #2 Alvarez Artists Series ABT60 Check On Amazon >>

Specs

  • Top – Solid A+ Sitka spruce
  • Body – Mahogany
  • Neck – Mahogany
  • Fingerboard – Indian Laurel or Rosewood

Pros

  • The ideal tonewood combo, spruce and mahogany
  • Rosewood or Indian Laurel fingerboard for a perfect playing surface
  • Solid Sitka spruce top from only the best cuts of wood

Cons

  • Unconventional setup; tuned from B to B

Review

This is an interesting guitar, and if you’re an adventurous player, you’ll love everything about it.

The Alvarez ABT60 looks an first glance to be a standard dreadnought acoustic, but once you pick it up and play, you’ll immediately notice that something is different.

That difference is a change in the setup of the tuning. Whereas acoustic guitars are usually tuned from E to E, the ABT60 is a whole 5th below this, designed to play in a B to B tuning. This means that your string pitches are B-E-A-D-F#-B.

This might be problematic to you if you’re a by-the-book guitarist, but the chord voicings are all the same as on a standard acoustic, and a capo can bring you up to the usual pitch with no problem. You can read here about the finesse and techniques from a pro when playing with B tuning.

With its spruce + mahogany body, these tones bellow with a depth that I can feel in my bones. I’m a big metal fan and love dropped tunings, even setting my guitar up usually play in a D to D configuration, but I never imagined going this low on an acoustic.

I’m glad Alvarez thought of it, because I can’t get enough of this Alvarez ABT60.

#1 Seagull S6 SLIM Check On Amazon >>

Specs

  • Top – Solid cedar
  • Body – Wild cherry
  • Neck – Silverleaf maple
  • Fingerboard – Rosewood

Pros

  • Locally sourced tonewoods for the eco-minded player
  • Slim body design sits comfortably in any playing posture
  • Tapered headstock for optimized tuning stability

Cons

  • None

Review

Seagull is one of my favorite acoustic guitar brands. Robert Godin, the director and founder of Godin Guitars and all its subsidiaries, including Seagull, is a world-renowned luthier who makes sure that every guitar attached to his name is crafted with the utmost care and attention to detail.

The Seagull S6 Slim is the new and improved revamp of the original S6, with a reduced body depth that makes playing as comfortable as can be.

All the woods in Seagull guitars are hand-selected, guaranteed to be free from flaws and defects and to increase in tonal complexity with age.

In the S6 Slim, the crisp warmth of the cedar top combines with the wild cherry body to create a bright, lively sound that outperforms all other guitars in this price range.

It’s a smart-designed guitar, with a compensated saddle and tapered headstock that ensure that you stay in tone throughout your practice or performance and that reduce stress on the instruments structure, so you can be positive that you can play this guitar with increasing satisfaction over many years.

For a slight boost in price, you can get the S6 Slim equipped with QIT Godin electronics, bringing your tone to the modern age with top-of-the-line acoustic electronics.

Buyer’s Guide

What Should I Look For in an Acoustic Guitar Under $500

I’ve talked before about the general checklist you cover when you buy any guitar. To overview, the first thing you need to look for are any obvious signs of damage. This means cracks, chips, scratches, dents, etc. If you see any of these, first determine whether it’s a fatal flaw.

If it will affect the tone or playability, move on. If it’s merely cosmetic, or if it can be easily and cheaply repaired, ask the seller if they can reduce the price for you due to the damage. If not, move on.

After looking for damage, make sure it’s built the way it’s supposed to be. This will include a straight neck that is firmly attached to the body, and a bridge that is seated completely, with no gap between the back end of the bridge and the guitar’s top.

Make sure it stays in tune. Make sure it’s properly intoned by playing a string open and then with a natural harmonic at the 12th fret. If these two pitches don’t match for each string, ask the seller if they can fix it. If not, move on.

After this initial checklist, if the guitar passes, there are a few quality standards you should care about when choosing to spend $500 on an acoustic guitar.

At this price point, guitars should have solid tops. Laminate tops are acceptable at $300 and below, but at $500, if you’re not getting a solid top, you’re not getting your money’s worth.

It should sound good. This is, of course, largely subjective, but in general it should have a pleasing, loud tone that doesn’t fizzle out at the high end and that holds a fair amount of sustain in the low end. The midrange shouldn’t be flat, and harmonics at all the major points (4th fret, 5th fret, 7th fret, and 12th fret) should ring out clear and true.

$500 isn’t a ton of money when it comes to buying a guitar, but it’s enough that you should make sure you’re getting a guitar that you will want to play not just for the next year, but for the next decade.

Is it Worth Buying an Acoustic Guitar for this Price?

Short answer, absolutely! Like I said in the beginning of this review, I think this is an ideal price point for acoustic guitars.

As long as you know the standard of quality to look for, you can find many acoustic guitars for under $500 that will perform in every situation you’ll need one for.

I’d say the same about guitars under and over $1000, and mostly the same for guitars under $300, while I might be a bit hesitant to recommend a guitar for under $200 unless you’re just dipping your toes in the water, so to speak, and are not sure that guitar is the right hobby for you.

However, if you’ve got your heart and mind set on playing guitar, whether you’re just starting out or have been playing for years, an acoustic for under $500 can be an instrument that will last you a lifetime.

Just make sure you want to play before you go spending half a grand on an instrument, and I guarantee you won’t be sad about spending this much on an acoustic.

I’ve had my under $500 acoustic guitars on stages in Hollywood, on busy intersections busking for fun, in hours and countless hours of playing for my own satisfaction in my bedroom, and at so many campfire circle jams that if you sniff just right, you’ll catch a hint of woodsmoke coming from the soundhole.

Under $500 is a great price range for finding an amazing acoustic that will bring you years upon years of satisfaction.

Should I Buy a Used Guitar

This is up to you, and how much you trust your knowledge when it comes to checking a guitar for quality.

If you can with assurance check a guitar for all the markers of playability and proper tone, and if you have the time and patience to shop around, you might get lucky enough to score an amazing bargain instrument.

I’ve seen some deals that were heartbreakingly good that I had to pass up because I didn’t have the spare cash, like vintage Martins and flawless Taylors whose owners were unaware of their value, all priced for under $500 and worth three times as much.

There are, of course, some people who prefer to have things new, and if this is you, that’s totally fine. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of breaking in a new acoustic, and it can be a mark of pride to know you’re the first person to play a particular instrument.

Just know yourself and your wishes, shop within your means, and I’m sure you’ll find the perfect guitar for you.

Who Should Buy an Acoustic Guitar Under 500 Dollars?

I’d recommend an acoustic guitar for under $500 to just about anyone, depending on your financial situation. If you’re an entry-level beginner who’s not sure about the depth and longevity of your musical passion, it might be better to get a guitar for a bit less, but if you’ve got the cash to spare, you’re sure to get a great sounding and fun-to-play instrument at this price point.

Intermediate to advanced players can’t go wrong with this range. The best guitars in this category are suited to nearly every need and can compete in all practical ways with the highest-end guitars on the market.

If you’re a touring musician with the budget to buy something better, I won’t recommend against it. But for the average player, an acoustic for under $500 should be just right.

The Final Word

So, if you’re a small-framed player or a parent searching for your child, you know about the Taylor GS Mini Mahogany and the slightly reduced-size Martin D Jr-10. They’re a bit on the high-priced end for small guitars, but they’re from big names who are considered the best guitar brands with good reason.

You might never have heard of Bristol guitars before, but if that’s the one that calls to you, it’s sure to satisfy your musical cravings.

And lastly, you know my favorite to be the Seagull S6 Slim, whose hand-selected tonewoods have sung a song that plucked my heartstrings.

These are all fantastic instruments, and all that I would be overjoyed to play in any situation. As I always say, let your heart be your guide and the guitar that was made for you will sing out above all the others.

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