My previous post posed the question of how much more is a brand name guitar worth than a less expensive copy. I used two examples from Gibson and compared these to equivalent Epiphone models. Today’s post is going to compare Fender guitars. Gibson and Epiphone are part of the same parent company and you can presume the Epiphone copies are fairly true to the originals, but of course costs have to be cut somewhere. Fender doesn’t have a differently named division for their overseas value priced guitars. Everything is a Fender. But they do segregate the guitars by other model line designations.
You can purchase a Stratocaster from Fender for about $100 (Bullet models) or pay thousands for one. The current segregation of models is Standard, Deluxe,Vintage, Limited and Artist. This doesn’t include Squire and Bullet lines of Fender Stratocasters. Here are some comparisons.
The guitar on the left is Eric Johnson Stratocaster from Fender’s Artist series. The price is approximately $1900 1. An American Deluxe Ash Stratocaster is about $50 less. I owned one of those until last year. 2
The guitar on the right is a Classic Player ’60s Stratocaster which sells for about $800. A genuine Stratocaster for less than 1/2 the price seems like a good deal. But you can do better. It all depends on what you’re looking for. In fact, there are so many variations of Strats from Fender the job of finding the perfect trade-off of price and value can be overwhelming.
You can shave some more money off the cost by going to the Squire line of guitars. These say Stratocaster on the head but the Squire designation stands out and a small “by Fender” decal appears beneath the Squire logo. The guitar on the right is a Squier by Fender Classic Vibe 50’s Stratocaster and sells for about $340.
Still, this isn’t the least expensive Stratocaster you can buy. The Fender Bullet is the ultimate inexpensive beginners Stratocaster and the most saving you can find in a new instrument. An example is shown to the left. Ball park price is barely over $100.
As you go down in price, you will find the selection of woods go to lower grades and more common varieties. The quality of the hardware will decrease as well as the amount of time and care spent in the finish. At the lowest end of the Fender scale (Affinity Squire and Bullet models) the thickness of the body decreases. Is it worth it? Only you can say. Is a 3X or 10X savings worth it?
Let’s try this with the other famous Fender model, the Telecaster. Specifically, because I recently mentioned the Thinline Telecaster with Humbucking pickups, I’ll compare those models.
The guitar on the left is a Fender Classic Series ’72 Telecaster Thinline and sells for about $800. The good news, is compared model choices among Stratocasters, there are far fewer models of Telecaster Thinline guitars. The guitar on the right is Squier by Fender Vintage Modified ’72 TELE Thinline. It’s price is about $300 so you would save more than half compared to the Classic Fender model on the left.
As always, I can’t tell you where to make the trade-off between price and value. But I’d certainly be tempted to choose the Squire model between these two. If you needed to upgrade the pickups – one of the most common upgrades guitar players make when buying less expensive models, I’m sure you could do so for less than the $500 you’d be saving.