Acoustic Guitar Buying Advice

I am looking to buy an acoustic guitar for my 18 year old son for Christmas. He has been teaching himself on an inexpensive electric guitar for about 18 months and is pretty enthusiastic about it. I don’t know anything about guitars (except being familiar with the big names.)

Can you get a decent acoustic in the $500 range? Any specific makers or models to consider? If it matters, he seems to play mainly rock type stuff, but seems interested in blues as well. Thanks!

As an entry level guitar, a luthier near me sold me a Washburn D10. Although I never learned to properly play it, I can tell you that it sounds great and stays in tune a good long time.
I see used ones for under $200. I don’t see a price on the Washburn site for a new one.

When you are first starting out, any cheapie will do. Once you start developing your skills and your own personal style, then you also start to develop your own personal preferences. There are plenty of really good acoustic guitars to be had in the $500 range. My recommendation would be to take him down to the local music store and have him try a bunch of different models in your price range.

Martin and Taylor are good brands. Yamaha has a reputation for good cheapie beginner guitars but in recent years they are getting a lot better with higher quality models too. Some people don’t like the Yamaha name though since they have a reputation for being beginner guitars.

I personally have a Seagull 12 string that I really like. I like the way it plays and the way the neck feels, and it has a really good sound (IMHO). I wasn’t all that familiar with Seagull before I bought it but I went down to the music store and tried out a bunch of 12 strings and that was the one I liked best in my price range.

You can absolutely get a good guitar for $500.

I concur with the suggestion you go with him and have him try them out and find one that he likes. Even two guitars from the same reputable manufacturer can have subtle differences.

I own an Ibanez and a Fender myself. I have no problem recommending either of those brands, and both should have plenty of models in your price range.

But again, have him actually play them before you commit to one.

I bought a Alvarez for $375. I needed a cheap guitar for camping trips and vacations. Something that could get banged up.

I’m very happy with it. It’s setup quite well, easy to play and stays in tune.

Modern guitars are made on CNC machines. There is very tight tolerances. You can get well made guitars for under $500.

I wouldn’t go below $300. I’ve played some of them in the store and was disappointed. 325-500 is a better grade guitar.


I’d suggest a Alvarez Artist Series AD60 Dreadnought for a student. They sell for $329.

They’re Japanese guitars. I’ve owned several and always been impressed.

You will have to buy a case. I suggest a Gator gig bag. They’re well made and padded. Cost about $35

Is your son keen to get an acoustic guitar? It is, in some ways, a very different instrument from the electric. Perhaps a better electric guitar and an amp with built-in effects—I have one that has an “acoustic” setting. It’s a little gimmicky, but fun to play with, and I can crank into overdrive as well.

An acoustic with a pick-up might be worth exploring as well.

If it were me, I would involve him in the choice. A guitar is something that has to feel right.

Thanks for the advice. I was planning on surprising him, but it sounds like a better plan to let him pick out his own. Still interested in hearing opinions on specific brands and models, it’s very helpful.

I play my Fender special edition telecaster several times a week. Really well made with dual Seymour Duncan humbucking pickups.

They’re over the $500 budget New. You can get them used for $600.

The cheaper option is the Fender Squire at about $300 - $350. My first electric was a Squire and kept it for a year. I bought the 2nd Squire to play in a band in college. I sold it ASAP and got a better guitar.

I will never sell my Fender special edition FMT. I never get tired of playing it.

This is a good deal at $600. The guitar is $799 new and it includes a $100 Gator hard shell case.

You will need a inexpensive practice Amp.

Here’s a guide. The cheapest is $100.

Thanks, he is already set up with electric.


For, acoustic, Alvarez is my recommendation. I posted a review earlier. You can get a similar, upgraded model with a electric pickup.

I’ve played Alvarez guitars since high school. They’re really nice for the dollar. My model has a sunburst finish. I had my local shop add a pickup to it. That was a couple years ago.

You can spend twice or even 3 times as much for a Taylor or Martin guitar. I would never spend that much for a student guitar.

Yamaha is another popular student guitar. It’s also Japanese and reasonably well made.

I picked up one of these last year for about $500 and really love it:

It’s a parlor guitar, meaning a smaller body which is really comfortable to play, and it has a warm, mid-rangy tone that I find quite compelling and punchy. Very bluesy and excellent for slide. I also have a $1000 Taylor (which is entry level for a Taylor) and I like this guitar better! A parlor is a little less loud than a classic dreadnought guitar size that many people buy, so if your son wants to sing over his playing some day (or do a duet with someone that sings) that’s a big help. PRS has a very excellent rep for quality, even in their lower priced instruments, which this is as PRS also makes the $4000 custom electrics that they’re known for.

If you go shopping, try a few parlors and see what you think. A Taylor GS Mini (“Mini” because of the smaller body, not mini any other way) at about the same price is also an excellent choice and you’ll probably see some at a good guitar store.

Blues slide on a PRS P20:

Strongly disagree. Cheapie guitars have shitty actions which makes them hard to play. That leads to discouragement.

That said, $500 will get you an awesome “starter” guitar.

This, 100%

Takamine is another popular brand. They have a few models in the 400 to 500 price range. They also have higher priced models similar to Taylor and Martin.

Takamine is known for their quality electronics. The preamp and EQ is a really nice feature and sounds great. I’ve been thinking about buying one myself.

$500 but they have a store demo model for $450.

If you buy a used guitar, make sure it’s from a reputable shop. If you are buying from an individual, insist on taking it to a guitar shop before buying it. They will check that the neck is straight and that the body is sound. Also, I’d restring it right off.

My parents first bought me an Alvarez acoustic. Unfortunately, out of ignorance, it was never set up and had very high action. I never enjoyed playing it and was frustrated with it for literally years and finally gave up assuming guitar just wasn’t for me. It wasn’t until adulthood that I played a guitar with decent action and it was revelatory. I love playing now and do well at it, and am rather regretful that no one in the know could have helped me with a proper set up from day zero.

Whatever you get, make sure it is set up and a nice forgiving player, get opinions from experienced folks to try it before you buy (not just from the sales guy)