Fender has multiple lines of guitars out there.
Squier is the value line, Fender is the name brand.
If you’re just learning to play, what matters is that you get a decent guitar, period. Squiers are fine for this. By the time you’re ready for a higher grade instrument, you’ll be better able to evaluate what type of electric guitar is right for you. However they (Squiers) are made of inferior components and the workmanship isn’t nearly as good.
If you’re looking for any guitar that will last for a while, stay in tune and (and this is the big one) retain some resale/bluebook value, you want a Fender.
There are several levels of quality in the Fender line as well. From cheapest to nicest (and most expensive):
Deluxe American Standard
I would recommend a high level (read: original Japanese made)Squier over a Mexican Strat - they are not assembled very well and tend to have a lot of intonation/action issues. So much that I generally won’t work on them as I have to spend so much time getting them set up right that I lose money from the time spent.
Japanese Strats are fine instruments, and retain bluebook surprisingly well. Good solid mid-range quality. Probably the best value for the buck.
American Standards are the ‘traditional’ Strat - great guitar, holds value well, plays great. Slightly overpriced for new models, IMHO.
Deluxe American Standards - if you’re going to get an American, get a Deluxe. They play and feel better than the extra money you spend upgrading from a regular American Standard.
Custom Shop - if you can afford it, get it. They’re incredible. They actually don’t hold value proportionally to Deluxes, generally, but they’re custom tailored to you. Well worth it, I’d say. Of course, if you can afford a Fender Custom Shop, you probably also want to check out the Gibson Les Paul models (totally different feel) and the PRS’s (Paul Reed Smiths) as well, at least. Equally nice (and in many ways superior, IMO) for approximately the same money.
All Fenders and Squiers will say the country of manufacture on the headstock. To quickly ID American Standard/Deluxe/Custom (they don’t always say) check out this Fender site. Great overal resource for Fender - including wiring diagrams, schematics and the like. Serial Number dating is located under the FAQ header.
- Professional Guitar Tech/Guitarist