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What’s The Best Cheap Telecaster?

To your average guitar geek, everything about the Telecaster oozes class

But here’s the thing:​

An American built Fender Telecaster costs an arm and a leg (and probably other body parts too). 

Think you’ll just have to resign yourself to daydreaming?

Hell No!

Here are three of the best cheap telecaster copies on the market. No, they might not be the exact same Telecaster you wanted, but plug them in and your average listener won't tell the difference.  

The best part? They cost a fraction of the price. 

At a Glance: Our Choice Of The 3 Best Cheap Telecaster Copies On The Market

Note: The links above take you to more information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon. If you do purchase something we get a small commission, which has absolutely no effect on the eventual price that you pay.

Buyer's Tips: What to look for when buying the best cheap telecaster

  • One of the keys to the Telecaster sound is the single coil pickup. Generally speaking, these help to deliver the bright chimey tone. However, done wrong they’ll simply deliver a harsh tone that’s more like nails on a chalkboard than a comfortable twang.

  • Ideally an ash or alder body, with maple or rosewood for the fretboard. However, since we’re looking for a cheap tele copy, don’t ignore those with pine bodies as it can still do the job

  • To get the most out of the bright sound, try to find one with 22 rather than 21 frets

  • You'll find that these guitars are manufactured in South East Asia, usually in China. They're not for everyone, but they are inexpensive telecaster guitars that sound good for the money

3 Best Cheap Telecaster Copies (Review)

1. Squier Classic Vibe 50's Telecaster 

Squier by Fender 303027550 Classic Vibe 50's Telecaster Electric Guitar - Butterscotch Blonde - Maple Fingerboard

As far as a Telecaster copy goes, it’s almost unfair to include this one. Squier is one of Fender’s divisions, and as such the quality is on par with a Fender tele. Some people like to get a bit snobby about the name, but they’re kidding themselves.

  • Bright tone with strong midrange too without being “screechy”.
  • Strong sustain from the thick (you’ll notice the weight for sure!) pine body and great Alcino pickups.
  • Well chosen hardware that performs well and stays in good shape with regular care and attention.
  • The C shape neck is much thinner than what you will likely be used to on a Tele, or any other guitar you own for that matter. Despite this, as a matter of personal preference you might enjoy using a thinner neck, so don’t be put off by this without trying it first.
  • It’s a dull looking guitar, so you might want to consider customising it with a new look to suit your style.
  • The single coil pickup will restrict your music to lighter styles, so you won’t be able to go full on Djent with this particular guitar (then again, why would you be looking at a Telecaster for something that heavy anyway?)

2. Fender Modern Player Telecaster Plus (Editor's Choice)

Fender Modern Player Tele Plus  Electric Guitar, Honey Burst, Maple Fretboard

Compared to the Classic Vibe Squier, it can be hard to tell the difference between the two. They’re both decent Telecasters, with a different name slapped on them. The real difference is what kind of guitar you’re looking for, not the quality. If you want to be able to hit a heavier metal tone then you’ll need a humbucker, and this is what this cheap telecaster offers that the others don’t

  • Powerful gain that can hold those ominous drones or violent squeals with an ease that isn’t often found in a Telecaster.
  • 5 way switching plus a coil tap for the humbucker makes for a versatile instrument that can produce the right tone for a ton of different styles.
  • Not too shabby to look at compared to other Telecasters, this one takes the simple Telecaster layout and takes full advantage of that to show of the beautiful body and pickguard.
  • Frets will need gentle levelling.
  • As this guitar is produced in China (don’t panic, it’s actually one of the best guitars to come from there!) the transport process is known to have an effect as it gets shipped halfway around the world and different heats and humidities play on the instrument. Be prepared to get it serviced to offset this.
  • For a guitar that is functionally equal in quality to the Squier, it seems that some of the extra money you pay is for the Fender name. If you don’t need the versatility of this instrument, stick with a single coil model.

3. Squier Affinity Tele (Budget Choice)

Squier by Fender Affinity Tele Beginner Electric Guitar Pack with Fender FM 15G Amplifier, Clip-On Tuner, Cable, Strap, Picks, and gig bag - Brown Sunburst

This particular guitar is one that suits those with more delicate hands. So if you’re buying this for one of your kids, it’s a good option as they’ll have an easier time handling it than a more traditionally bulky telecaster. It’s still solid enough to hold a good sustain. In fact, this makes for a perfect starter guitar as you can buy it with an amp included for a ludicrously low price whilst still getting the proper quality you need to see you through the early days.

  • You can safely say this is one of the cheapest guitars you’ll ever get and not feel like you’ve actually just purchased a piece of junk. It’s affordable and plays better than it has any right to do so for what it costs.
  • Looks much better than the Classic Vibe, with the brown sunburst pattern being particularly pleasing to the eye.
  • When paired with some lighter gauge strings, this is an easy guitar to play for those who lack the finger strength and reach of experienced guitarists.
  • The fixed bridge means you won’t be able to go pulling off crazy tremelo bar action that you might’ve grown up admiring as the coolest thing ever, but something such as this should not be used as a crutch when you can get equally awesome music by developing your other techniques!
  • Pickups aren’t as high quality as you would expect even for a cheap telecaster copy, but they still have a recognisable tele twang.
  • Part of the reason the guitar is so cheap is that some of the hardware won’t last for years and years like you would expect from an ultra high end guitar, so be prepared to start replacing (and ideally, upgrading) some of the components after a few months of daily use.

So which should I buy?

​So, which of the three cheap telecasters mentioned do we recommend?

Although the Squier Affinity seems like the best option for a newbie thanks to its included extras, it’s the Fender Modern Player Telecaster Plus that takes the cake here.

Why?

It’s so versatile that you can experiment enough with different sounds to find a genre that you’re most interested in. It looks good and has Fender prominently slapped on the headstock, so you can impress your friends and fans alike. Plus, those humbuckers really make a nice difference that you don’t often get with a Telecaster.

Of course, you might already know exactly what kind of music you want to play. I’d still recommend this one though, as it has a higher level of craftsmanship than either of the Squier models.

Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Djangology’ and when he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his Campervan.

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