The Fender Stratocaster is considered by many as the greatest electric guitar of all time, and for good reason. It’s durable, easy to play, looks great, and sounds even better.
So it wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve got your eye on one! You might even be wondering if you can save any pennies on a budget model.
Well, this is the article for you. We’ll take a look at the range of Stratocasters, from the super expensive specials to the cheap and cheerful Squier models, and everything in between. We might even take a look at some non-Fender Strats!
Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
- How Much is a Fender Stratocaster?
- How Much is a Squier Stratocaster?
- Non-Fender Strat-Style Guitars
- Final Thoughts
How Much is a Fender Stratocaster?
The typical price range for a Fender Stratocaster is around $700 – $2,500, but you’ll probably find it harder to find brand-new Strats at the lower end of that price range.
What you will find, however, is the Fender Player Series.
The Cheapest Strats
The Player Series takes the place of the Fender Standard Series and offers a range of guitars aimed at new players, as a first step into the world of Fender.
Next up from the Player Series is the Player Plus Series.
These models feature ‘noiseless’ pickups, treble-bleed circuits, rolled-edge fingerboards, a wider nut width, and of course, more colors to choose from, like this tequila sunrise Strat for only $1,099.
This cosmic jade Strat is slightly more expensive and features HSS pickups and a maple fingerboard, costing around $1,129.
Both the Player Series and the Player Plus Series are made in Mexico.
Mid-Range Stratocaster Prices
Falling somewhere in the middle of the price spectrum are the American Performer Series Strats.
Made in America, and including features such as Fender Yosemite single-coil pickups, Greasebucket tone circuitry, and jumbo frets, the American Performer is the next step up in terms of build quality and price tag.
The Most Expensive Strats
Fender Custom Shop
That is just an extreme, however. There are plenty of Custom Shop guitars that retail for more down-to-earth (but still expensive!) amounts. The cheapest Custom Shop guitars go for around $3,800 – like this Ancho Poblano metallic Strat.
American Ultra Series
The next step down from the Custom Shop comes in the form of the American Ultra series, a range of high-end advanced Stratocasters with state-of-the-art modern features.
Boasting a range of bold new color finishes such as silverburst and plasma red, and ergonomically contoured with D-shaped necks, the American Ultra series doesn’t pretend to be vintage-inspired in the slightest.
They also feature medium jumbo frets and ‘ultra noiseless’ pickups, as well as modern electronic upgrades like the S-1 circuitry switching ability.
So this is a line of super modern and fine-tuned guitars, and that is reflected in the price. This Ultra Luxe Floyd Rose HSS Strat in silverburst will cost a whopping $2,699.
With no dedicated budget option available on this line, the cheapest you’ll see of this line of Fenders is this standard American Ultra Strat, which costs $2,099. Still on the expensive side!
American Professional II Series
The American Professional II is a popular line of deluxe Fender guitars. Made to classic build specs and using high-quality materials, the American Professionals are highly sought-after despite their price tag.
While the American Professional Series is still expensive, it is a lot more affordable than the Custom Shop and the American Ultra Series, and worth bearing in mind for proficient players who have some extra money to spend on a sleek and desirable new guitar.
How Much is a Squier Stratocaster?
Squier and Fender
If that’s still a little more than what you’d like to pay, there is another option. Fender’s sister company Squier, established as V.C. Squier Company in 1890 was originally a manufacturer of strings for violins, banjos, and guitars. It was acquired by Fender in 1965.
In 1982, Fender reestablished Squier as a reputable brand name for budget models of its own guitars. Squiers are built in Korea, Japan, India, Mexico, and the United States.
Squier offers affordable but high-quality beginner models even cheaper than the Fender Player Series.
A Squier Mini Strat will only cost $190! Of course, Mini Strats are obviously smaller, suited to younger players who are still learning the ropes, or maybe as a travel guitar. They also lack a second tone control knob.
Next up from the Mini Strat is the Squier Sonic Strat, which is a full-size Squier-built Fender guitar costing only $200. I’ve seen plenty of bands that are starting out relying on these Squier-made HSS Sonic Strats for live shows due to the flexibility and bang for the buck offered by this model.
And it doesn’t end there. Squier has a wide range of guitars available in different models, all for under $1000.
Squier Guitar Quality
You may be wondering how good these Squier guitars can be if they’re so cheap. Well, I can understand your suspicions. You don’t want to end up with a dodgy fake, like a Chibson!
Fear not; as I mentioned earlier, Squier IS a certified Fender company, making guitars according to Fender designs and going by Fender specifications and quality control checks.
The main difference is the materials used to make them. The tonewoods used in the construction of the body are often cheaper. Many Squier Sonic Strats are built from basswood, which can dampen high-end resonance somewhat.
The hardware, including the pickups, is less ornate as well. This may result in a slightly narrower frequency spectrum.
As you can see, these are hardly high-price trade-offs to make to own a great guitar for so cheap!
Non-Fender Strat-Style Guitars
But that is not where the story ends!
The Stratocaster, being as popular as it is, has inspired countless dupes and copies over the years, and many of them are just as good as the original Fender.
Of course, Stratocaster is a registered Fender trademark, so you won’t find the Stratocaster name on any of these Strat-style guitars.
But what you will find is the same body shape (or very close to it), similar wiring and build specs, and a high-quality guitar that you can rely on. Often with a much smaller price tag!
PRS Silver Sky
PRS (Paul Reed Smith, the founder of the company) makes a Stratocaster-style guitar called the Silver Sky. While it shares a similar body shape with the beloved Fender original, it varies in many other ways.
It has the same scale length and three single-coil pickup placements, and the input jack is also located in a similar position. The radius is much smaller on the Silver Sky, clocking in at 7.25”, which when compared to a Strat’s 9.5”, is much smaller. Fender favored this size radius in the early days, but switched to the larger style in the ‘80s.
Of course, the headstock is different, as to copy the Fender design would be blatant plagiarism. The PRS headstock design has its own benefits, however. Aside from its aesthetic symmetry, the PRS headstock is famous for almost never slipping out of tune. This is due to the almost perfect parallel lines that the strings run in after the nut.
While it is famously hard for other manufacturers to capture that authentic Stratocaster sound, the Silver Sky comes pretty close, before veering off toward its own tonal goals. This was an intentional decision by the craftsmen at PRS, and John Mayer, who worked alongside them to design the Silver Sky.
The sound of the PRS Silver Sky has been described as ‘articulate and dynamic… rich in upper-mid tones… sounds substantially different than [the Fender Stratocaster].’
PRS Silver Sky Prices
When it comes to the Silver Sky, there are two major models available, with some slight differences between them.
The Silver Sky is the more expensive model. It is made in the USA using high-end materials, such as alder for the body and bone for the nut. It also has an 8.5” radius, locking tuners, and a six-point tremolo bridge. Available in a range of colors such as roxy pink and dodgem blue, the Silver Sky USA retails at around $2,649.
The Silver Sky SE (student edition) is the cheaper alternative to the USA model. Outsourced to Asia for its construction, the SE has a smaller neck radius, non-locking tuners, two-point tremolo bridge, and is made using poplar.
However, it is still an incredible guitar, and available at a similar price to the Fender Player Series. The Silver Sky SE comes in its own range of colors including evergreen and moon white, and retails for around $849.
Aside from Squier, G&L is perhaps the closest to Fender non-Fender you can buy. G&L was set up by Leo Fender himself, and his partner George Fullerton, after the initial sale of Fender Musical Instruments in 1965.
They named the company using their first initials and went on to make instruments that both honor and improve upon their classic designs with Fender.
The G&L workshop was small and allowed Leo and George time and freedom to work out improvements and changes that could never be implemented on the large scale at which Fender was operating at the time.
The G&L Legacy line is a proud homage to the Stratocaster, which also comes as a budget model called the Tribute Legacy
The main difference between these two models is where they were built (USA and Asia, respectively), and the materials used in their construction. As always with these high-end and budget model comparisons, the deluxe models are made using high-quality materials which significantly increases their price tag.
The Asian-made Tribute models are made with poplar or sassafras bodies and utilize a ‘medium-c’ neck profile. There are also reports of rough fret-ends on the Korean-made Tribute models.
The G&L workshop, being so small, functions closer to the Fender Custom Shop in terms of workmanship and time spent on each individual guitar. There is a level of personalization and customization available when buying G&L Legacy guitars that is simply not possible when buying mass-produced Tribute’s from Asia.
G&L Legacy and Tribute Prices
At the high end of the price scale, we have the G&L Custom Shop Deluxe HSS Legacy. A beautiful guitar that comes with a hefty $3,300 price tag!
As you can see, the American-made models come with a hefty price tag attached. Of course, this is due to the levels of personal craftsmanship that are put into each guitar.
For those on a budget, models such as this black Tribute Legacy cost a very respectable $549.
You can see from the differing prices in this article that most manufacturers cater to those on a budget, but these guitars often come with some minor drawbacks.
Yes, they may be built overseas, but that alone is not a case for shelling out more cash on a high-end model. The construction process and materials used in these overseas factories lead to the (in some people’s opinion) lesser quality of these cheaper models.
Of course, you can’t expect to get the same standard of quality from a budget version of a legendary guitar as you would from the genuine article itself. But what you do get is an official, manufacturer-approved version of a classic, with a few concessions made with tonewoods, extra electrical features, and certain build specifications.
These cheap versions are nothing to be scoffed at! Squier especially has gone from strength to strength over the years, producing many high-quality Fender-derived guitars at a fraction of the cost of the official Stratocaster.
Which one you buy depends on your own personal finances, and what you expect for your money. Go into a sale with realistic expectations, and don’t neglect shopping around and trying things out for yourself!