Many Cheap Guitars vs One Expensive Guitar: What’s Best?

Guitars are a guitar player’s best friend and I can speak for a majority of players that believe that more guitars are always better than fewer guitars.

But is this reasonable?

Would you be objectively better of with just one great guitar rather than with many average ones?

Well, here’s a quick answer to that question:

Having a really good guitar is the superior alternative. A professional tool will not only sound better but be more reliable and stay in working shape for longer, with less work. However, and being honest, having many cheaper guitars is really fun, and switching between them can even inspire you.

In this article, I will share my opinion about the age-old debate of having many guitars versus having only a really good one.

After leaving this page you will have a clearer idea about what’s best for you in your current situation and given what you intend on doing in the future of your guitar journey.

Are you ready to get started?

Let’s go!

The case for getting many cheap guitars

To begin with, let’s get down to earth: Having many guitars is extremely fun.

Thankfully, being a musician doesn’t imply a monogamous relationship with your instrument, and finding inspiration in the variety of those you own is completely normal and intended.

However, I’ve seen cases of musicians that become enamored with a particular guitar model and just get 3 extremely similar affordable versions of it.

I think the main benefit of opting for many affordable guitars is the ability to have options.

Different sounds and feels inspire us, musicians.

In addition, you could choose to leave your guitars with different tunings each, or if you play live regularly, you could use them as a backup if anything wrong were to happen.

There are many reasons to have multiple guitars, and in this other article I talk about them:

Cons of getting many cheap guitars

Cheap guitars are cheap for different reasons.

In most cases, they only lack cosmetic features or are built abroad with cheaper labor costs.

In many others, their build quality is just lower and could be prone to more issues that affect their playability and tone.

Certain construction types and materials could be more sensitive to weather and require constant work when on tour.

And, as I mentioned earlier, another good reason to not get multiple affordable guitars is that there is no point in having very similar instruments.

You will still lack alternatives and all of the benefits of more expensive instruments.

The case for getting only one expensive guitar

There comes a point on guitar pricing where you start finding work tools.

These guitars are made to last and to be played every night at a gig, and still perform as if it was their first day.

At this level, you reach peak functionality and playability, and anything above it is just luxury.

I’m talking about the $1000 to $1500 range. I consider these “expensive” guitars.

These are instruments you can trust your performance on.

Cons of getting only one expensive guitar

But expensive guitars might only be expensive for the sake of it.

It’s true that the higher labor cost of producing guitars in the USA will only drive the cost of these instruments up.

Manufacturers are then forced to produce only their most expensive lines in the US and to incorporate the best components available on them.

Here’s an article where I talk about this in more depth:

Does this always mean these instruments are better?

Of course not.

You might be getting a guitar that’s just a bit prettier than one made in Mexico, Korea, or even China.

This is the main point against going for the expensive guitar, but there’s another reason I have already hinted.

Choosing to have only one guitar will probably limit the versatility of your sound, and even leave you without any backup if something were to break down during a show.

What’s better many one-trick pony cheap guitars or a versatile expensive one?

The answer to this question is very personal, and I think you should come up with your own solution to this dilemma on your own.

I will try to be neutral with my answer, anyway.

If this was the choice to be made, it will depend on if you are a gigging musician, and even on what kind of gigs do you play.

Having to play many different genres night after night might make me feel I would rather have a high-quality versatile instrument.

However, if I were a session player, or my career was more focused on recording, I think I would choose to have many one-trick pony guitars that just do something good.

I firmly believe that there are better tones to be achieved that way.

But again, if reliability was an issue, a versatile model from a reputable brand would be the way to go.

How many guitars do you actually need?

The number of guitars required on your arsenal will depend on your needs as a player only.

Well, and maybe also on your bank statement.

Many players will work wonders with only one guitar for most of their careers.

Did you know Hendrix didn’t even own a guitar for a while? And I’m talking not when he was 5, but when he already had changed guitar playing forever.

Some other guys tour with 15 instruments on a wardrobe-size vault and still achieve amazing things.

Who’s wrong and who’s right?

Nobody is, ever.

You should go for what your heart dictates you.

But if you were to ask me for a concrete answer, I would say that I’d like to have 4 or 5 guitars:

  • Acoustic
  • Strat
  • Super strat
  • LP
  • P90/Hollow body

Are more expensive guitars actually better?

This is an age-old discussion that we will not settle today, but let’s give it a shot.

“Better” is something hard to measure and to define.

I mainly think of it in terms of tone and reliability.

And as I mentioned earlier, I think that guitars at a certain price point, on average start being catered to working musicians where a certain level of reliability is required and a usable tone is a must.

However, I will admit that a lot of mid-tier instruments, with just a few not that expensive upgrades, such as pickups, a better nut, maybe tuners, and a bridge could go toe to toe with a made in USA more expensive counterpart.

But again, personal preferences come into play here yet again.

If you are a modder by nature, and a tweaker, upgrading a mid-tier could be the way to go.

However, if you prefer replaceable off-the-shelf solutions, a more expensive workhorse guitar will be the option for you.

What’s the best value price range for guitars

In my opinion, a great price range for guitar value is between $1000 to $1500.

At this point, you can find a lot of options from Fender USA, some great alternatives from Gibson more popular models, and even amazing PRS S2 models.

Going a bit lower, from $400 to $900 you could find great completely usable guitars from the PRS SE line, for instance.

And upwards from $1500 you will hit a point of diminishing returns where you will be paying for luxuries such as vintage specs, exotic or more figured woods, special features, and many other things that might be worth it, but will not define your playing.