Squier Guitar Review: Is Fender’s Budget Brand Right for You?

Beginner guitar players are likely going to come across one brand in particular when shopping for their first axe: Squier. As one of the most popular brands for beginners, you may be wondering if this budget brand is right for you.

I’ve been playing for more than 20 years now, but my first guitar was a Squier Strat in a burgundy red finish, so I know first-hand how great these guitars are for beginners. I hope this article helps you in your guitar buying journey.

What is a Squier?

Squier is a 130-year-old guitar brand out of Battle Creek, Michigan that was acquired by Fender Guitars in 1965. The company is best known for affordable beginner guitars that mimic the popular styles of Fender guitars, including the Stratocaster and Telecaster.

Fender vs. Squier

Fender is the genuine maker of Strats and Teles, but the company realized if it was going to sell more guitars — and eventually convince players to upgrade to high-end, American-made electrics — that it needed an entry-level product to lure in new players.

Fenders and Squiers can look very similar, but the latter brand mass produces guitars in factories in Indonesia, China, and other developing countries, and uses cheap components in those guitars. Still, these guitars are quite capable for beginners. Conversely, the higher-end Fender guitars are handcrafted in the USA and use premium components.

Are Squier Guitars Good?

Absolutely. For the price, you’re getting great value in a beginner guitar. I wouldn’t recommend them to an experienced player, because they would find the guitar to feel cheap and not sound as good as what they’re used to. But for beginners, I always highly recommend Squiers.

Here’s a quick list of the Squiers we’re reviewing in this article:

Squier Guitars: Full Reviews

Leaning toward purchasing a Squier but don’t know where to start? Let me help. Here are some quick-hitting reviews on the brand’s most popular models.

Squier Stratocaster

The most popular style by Squier is the Stratocaster. Mimicking the famous guitar from its parent company Fender, there are a handful of variations ranging from under $200 up to about $500.

We’re always recommending some kind of strat to newbies, so we decided to do a separate, more in-depth Squier Stratocaster review.

Squier Telecaster

If you’re not into Strats, maybe a Telecaster is more your style. Squier also makes a similar lineup of Telecasters at budget price points — perfect for the beginner looking to bring a little twang into those early practice sessions.

Fender vs. Squier Telecaster

The main difference between Fender and Squier Telecasters are the components used and the overall quality of the guitar.

You’re going to find cheaper parts on the Squier, in addition to inconsistent finishes. You may get a guitar with a nice finish from the factory, but there’s also a chance you get a Squier Telecaster with an imperfect finish. The chances of that happening with Fender are relatively slim.

Classic Vibe ‘50s Telecaster

The Classic Vibe ‘50s Telecaster. A Fender Squire electric guitar.

Pros:

  • Incredible value. It’s on the more expensive side, but totally worth it.
  • Clean tones. That’s not common with cheaper guitars.
  • Smooth fret edges. Mass-produced guitars don’t typically feel this smooth

Cons:

  • Cheap hardware. Knobs and switches feel like they can break, but this is expected.

The Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Telecaster may be one of the best entry-level Telecasters on the market. From its smooth neck to its ultra-clean tones, I was seriously impressed when I plugged this beginner’s guitar into an amp at my local music shop.

Now, it is on the more expensive side of the brand’s product lineup, but this could certainly be a guitar you could hang on to for several years before you ultimately decide to upgrade.

You’ll notice that the hardware feels a tad cheap, including the Telecaster knobs, but that’s the common story with Squier guitars.

Be careful when shopping, as there are similar versions of this guitar on the market:

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Affinity Telecaster

Squirer Affinity Telecaster

Pros:

  • Comfortable. The C-shape maple neck fits snugly in your hand.
  • Signature Tele tone. That’s thanks to the two single-coil pickups that are placed perfectly.
  • Affordable. This is a budget Tele to the extreme.

Cons:

  • Low-end tuners. Get ready to tune up during your practice sessions. 

The Squier Affinity Tele is about as traditional of a Telecaster that you can buy from Squier. Unless you examine the headstock, this guitar looks like a bonafide Fender. You’ll definitely notice the grain through the beautiful finish.

Now, don’t confuse what I just said. It looks like a Fender, but once you’re up close and personal, you’ll be able to tell this is a budget-friendly guitar designed for beginners. The components, especially the tuners, are on the cheaper end, which helps keep costs low.

Still, this little guitar doesn’t bad at all. Plugged in, you can get that bluesy and twangy tone synonymous with Teles. Your cleans aren’t the best, but they get the job done.

Similar to this Tele is the Affinity Series Telecaster Deluxe, which features humbuckers instead of single-coil pickups.

• • •

Other Squier Guitars: Beyond Strats and Teles

Squier doesn’t just produce Strats and Teles. Over the years, the company has also delved into other popular Fender models. Here are some of our favorites:

Bullet Mustang HH

Pros:

  • Indie rocker look (especially in black!). As expected, Squier nailed the look of the Fender Mustang.
  • Super affordable. It’s one of the most affordable Squiers on the market.
  • 24-inch scale length. Perfect for beginners and those with smaller hands.

Cons:

  • Sticky frets. They don’t feel smooth out of the box.

If you’re a beginner looking for a no-nonsense electric to learn how to play rock, the Squier Bullet Mustang HH is a suitable guitar — especially for the money.

At this price point, don’t expect the components typical of a high-quality guitar or the cleanest tones from its dual humbucker pickup system. This is the most affordable Squier on the market for a reason.

That being said, this is designed for beginners. If you end up giving up the guitar, you’re not going to be mad about how much money you spent on it.

I like how Squier makes these (and others) on a 24-inch scale length. Beginners need something comfortable to learn on, and this fits the bill.

• • •

Affinity Jazzmaster

Pros:

  • Two great color options. Lake Placid Blue and Burgundy Mist are classic Fender colors.
  • Decent tone. This guitar is pretty balanced when it comes to the lows and highs.
  • Surprisingly powerful. When you need to crank things up, this guitar delivers.

Cons:

  • Poor tuning. Especially if you’re using the whammy bar.

Want to look extra cool when learning how to play the guitar? Check out the Affinity Jazzmaster.

Jazzmasters are the epitome of cool, used by greats like Elvis Costello and the Beach Boys. And for a bargain, you can purchase the Squier version of the Jazzmaster without breaking the bank.

I’m a big fan of the colors used on this model. In terms of tone, it’s what you would expect. You’ll get a decent sound from the two single-coil pickups, but it’s not the cleanest. For practicing at home, though, it’ll do just fine.

• • •

Classic Vibe ‘70s Jaguar

Pros:

  • Authentically styled. It looks and feels like a Fender Jaguar
  • Comfortable scale length. Anyone can play on the 24” scale length
  • Lightweight. Great guitar for marathon practice sessions or gigging.

Cons:

  • Pricey. Still affordable, but high for a Squier.

Fender designed the 1970s-era Jaguar single-coils that are used in the Squier Classic Vibe ‘70s Jaguar, which automatically makes it more of a premium guitar. It sounds better than cheaper models and should hold up for a lot longer.

This Jaguar is a perfect example of the type of quality work Squier is capable of, but realize that it’s going to cost you more than twice the amount than the brand’s cheapest guitars.

I recently played on this model and can attest to the warm tones it can produce. This guitar definitely toes the line between beginner and intermediate levels. 

• • •

Classic Vibe ‘60s Precision Bass

Pros:

  • Iconic design. This is one of the brand’s best looking basses.
  • Great value. This bass can last a long time.
  • Punchy bass tone. It sounds great.

Cons:

  • Some cheap components. The jack can come loose — little things like that.

Surprise! Squier has replicated some of Fender’s most iconic basses as well. That includes the Squier Classic Vibe ‘60s Precision Bass, which does an incredible job of replicating those classic 1960s P-basses from yesteryear.

If you’re looking for a capable bass at a great price that can produce warm, punchy tones, don’t look any further.

Squier also makes a ‘50s Precision Bass and a Bullet Mini Precision Bass. The Mini is a smaller version at a budget price — perfect for those looking to learn the bass.

• • •

Squier Starter Pack

The Squier starter pack, which includes a guitar, an amplifier, and a case, a strap, picks, and cables, is one of the best beginner electric guitar packages money can buy. If you have absolutely no idea where to start in your guitar buying journey, I highly recommend you take a look at it.

• • •

Understanding the Squier Series

If you’re set on buying a Squier, but aren’t sure which series to go with, we can help. There are eight different series, or trims, to choose from. Here are the details:

Classic Vibe

The Squier Classic Vibe series highlights everything there is to love about Strats, Teles, and other popular Fender models from the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. This series is the brand’s most expensive, but it’s also its highest quality and offers the most choices in terms of models and colors.

Affinity

Squier’s most popular series is the Affinity. It features Strats, Teles and Jazzmasters — all of which are priced aggressively low. It’s not their most affordable model, but it’s still pretty cheap, making it a great option for beginners. 

Bullet

Fender Squire guitars

The Bullet is Squier’s most affordable series. All models are priced under the $200 range. With a low price, though, comes poor quality. In terms of tone, these guitars are great for beginners, but if you play hard on them, there’s a chance that the cheaper components could wear out over time. That’s the main difference when you look at Bullet vs. Affinity. 

Contemporary

Squier best to worst article.

The Squier Contemporary series is tied with the Classic Vibe series in terms of price, but the designs are certainly more modern. You won’t find any traditional Fender designs in this series — including pickup setups. Squier uses this series to test out different configurations, many of which are preferred for rockers.

Paranormal

You can find some pretty cool guitars in the Squier Paranormal series, including a pair of baritone guitars, which are pretty rare in terms of beginner models. As its name suggests, you can find some odd-looking guitars as well, including the Super-Sonic and a shell pink offset Telecaster.

Artist

There’s only one model in Squier’s Artist lineup. That’s the J Mascis Signature Jazzmaster in Vintage White. It’s a beautiful guitar that sounds great — especially distorted. It is expensive though for a Squier model.

Mini

Mini guitars by Squier are considered ¾ instruments because they have a scale length of 22.75”. These guitars are great for young children learning how to play guitar, or if you just want something small to practice on when traveling.

Vintage Modified

The Vintage Modified series has officially retired, but the Jaguar in this series remains quite popular. There’s likely inventory out there when you search for a used Squier. Check out Reverb or eBay.

• • •

Squier Guitar Parts

You’ve probably noticed in the reviews above that we frequently mention “cheaper components.” Well, Squier sells affordable guitars and cuts costs by using parts that are not as high quality as Fender parts.

Squier Headstock

Squier and Fender headstocks look nearly identical, which makes it difficult to tell the difference between the two at first glance. As you zoom in on the branding, though, you can clearly see the Squier name instead of the Fender name, although it is written in the same font.

Squier Tuning Machines

Squier uses lower-quality tuners compared to most Fenders, but some of the components are likely closer when compared to Fender’s lowest-end models, which are typically produced in Mexico.

Squier Neck

Squier makes several smaller guitars with shorter scale lengths compared to Fender. You can find Squier necks in maple and walnut.

Squier Body

Squier does a good job of mimicking the body design of Strats and Telecasters, but the overall quality of the wood isn’t the best. You commonly find that Squier uses basswood, while Fender uses more traditional tonewoods, like Alder.

Squier Pickups

There is a noticeable difference in pickups when comparing Squier to Fender. The higher-end Fenders use American-made pickups, while the electronic components for Squiers are typically manufactured overseas.

Squier Bridge

Squier bridges (along with tuners) are often complained about because they’re made using low-quality components. Fender makes high-quality bridges that help keep your strings in tune for longer.

• • •

History & Rare Models

Squier manufactured all kinds of string instruments at the turn of the 20th Century, including violins, banjos, and, of course, guitars.

A Squier Jagmaster

Through its acquisition, Fender decided to use the Squier brand to reproduce cheaper models of its Stratocaster and Telecaster. The company initially manufactured those guitars in Japan, where countless Fender copycat guitars were being produced.

While the idea was to produce value-friendly guitars using budget components, the JV Squier Strat actually ended up being a really nice guitar manufactured with American-made pickups. In subsequent years, these guitars became very popular and have sold for high prices on the secondary market.

The Fender Squier Showmaster, which was initially crafted in Indonesia, ended up being one of the more popular models on the market. These guitars were made with great components, including a Floyd Rose vibrato system.

Another rare model is the Squier Vista Jagmaster — a cross between the Jaguar and Jazzmaster. This guitar has since been discontinued, but you may be able to find it on the second-hand market. Expect to pay closer to $1,000 for it, though.

• • •

Squier Guitars FAQ

Is Squier a good beginner guitar?

A Squier is a good beginner guitar because it’s priced low and is quite capable when a newbie is learning the basics of playing guitar. We recommend never spending a lot of money on your first guitar, which is why we often encourage new players to check out Squier.

How much does a Squier guitar cost?

The cost of a Squier depends on which model you ultimately end up purchasing, but it’s quite possible to spend less than $200 on one of them. Squiers are priced up to about $500.

What’s the most expensive Squier guitar?

The most expensive Squier you can buy on the market today is any model in the Classic Vibe trim. All of these guitars top out at $500. Of course, there are also cases like the Squier-branded guitar once owned by George Harrison that fetched $30,000 at auction — which is still quite reasonable compared with the couple hundred thousand some of his other guitars have sold for! (1).

Start Jammin’ With Squier Today

If you’re a beginner to the guitar and are stuck on finding your first instrument — and if you want to start on an electric guitar — I can’t stress enough purchasing a Squier. For the price, you can learn how to play guitar on an instrument that’s shaped like any of your favorite Fenders, and which is very comfortable to play.

If I had to purchase any of these guitars today, I’d go with the Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Telecaster in White Blonde. I’m a big fan of the 1950s sound of the surf era. If you need further help deciding on your first guitar and basic gear, make sure to check out our article on how to choose a guitar that helps you succeed, and our review of the best practice amps on the market today. Best of luck on your guitar journey!

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References

  1. “George Harrison’s first electric guitar up for auction,” retrieved from https://apnews.com/article/dbdbddf75b484eb5a98a2877023ea2ad

Image Credits

Squier Jagmaster image: John Clift, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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