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7 Best Telecaster Guitars of 2021 – Fender Telecaster for the Money

The Fender Telecaster has been making waves since it first appeared on the music scene in the 1950s. That original design is still recognizable in the Telecasters on the market today. But if you’re thinking of buying one, you’ll find there are lots of options to choose between.

That’s where we come in! We’re going to list seven of the best Telecasters out there right now, together with their pros and cons. And our buying guide will help you match their features to your own requirements and playing style.

So if you’re ready, let’s go!

Quick Glance: The Best Fender Telecaster Guitar for the Money

 

The Best Telecaster Guitar on the Market 2021

1. Squier by Fender Affinity Telecaster (Our Top Pick)

Fender 6 String Solid-Body Electric Guitar, Right Handed, Arctic White (0310202580)

The Affinity Telecaster comes from Squier, Fender’s more affordably priced range of guitars. It’s the cheapest Tele on our list – you’ll have to pay almost twice as much for the next most expensive. And it offers exceptional value for money.

It has all the good looks of more expensive guitars, with the distinctive Telecaster shape. It’s available in a wide choice of finishes too. Traditionalists will like the butterscotch blonde and sunburst, while there’s a classic black for an edgier look.

There are options for those who like a pop of color too. Choose between race green, race red, competition orange and slick silver. The Squier Fender logo appears on the headstock in gold and black.

The body is made of poplar, while the fingerboard is laurel and maple. The fingerboard is crafted in a C-profile, making it comfortable to hold and giving it a vintage appearance.

There are standard single-coil pickups, with minimal hum, and the bridge pickup has a good bite with the classic Tele tone. There’s a six-saddle bridge, which allows accurate intonation on each string. The sealed-gear die-cast chrome tuning machines look the business.

And whether you play left or right-handed, this could be the guitar for you. It’s made in both configurations.

So are there any compromises with a guitar at this price point?

Well, the finish on the neck isn’t great. You may find it discolors over time with the oils from your hands.

And the tuners are serviceable, but a little stiff. If you find them hard to use, you can upgrade them without spending too much money.

You may also find you need to do a little setup out of the box to get the best results. Some people find the saddle rather high, ditto the action.

But for beginners, these are minor niggles. And even more advanced players will get excellent results with a little fine tuning. At this price, this guitar really is a steal.

Pros:

  • Beautiful looks and finish
  • The C-profile fingerboard looks great and is comfortable to hold
  • Classic Telecaster twang from the bridge pickup

Cons:

  • The finish on the fingerboard has a tendency to discolor
  • The tuners are rather stiff.

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2. Squier by Fender 50’s Telecaster

Squier by Fender 50's Telecaster - Maple - Butterscotch Blonde

The Squier 50s Telecaster is modeled on Fender’s vintage guitars. It’s a step up in price from the Affinity series, but the cost still compares well to many other Telecasters.

It’s finished in white blonde and bears the Squier Fender logo in gold and black on the headstock. The top here is made of pine, the back and sides are poplars, and the fingerboard is maple. The nuts are made of synthetic bone, and the pickguard is one ply black.

Like the Affinity series, the fingerboard has the C-shaped profile of classic 50s guitars. It has an attractive vintage-tint to the gloss finish. And with a 9.5-inch radius, it’s comfortable to hold and play too.

The scale is 25.5 inches long with 22 medium jumbo, narrow-tall frets. The tuning machines are easy to adjust and hold steadily in place, and all the hardware is made of polished nickel.

The bridge here utilizes vintage-style chrome barrel saddles and a string-through-body.

The combination delivers a beautifully resonant tone. And while the pine body is a little heavier than some more expensive tonewoods, it enhances that mellow voice. The pickups are Fender-designed Alnico single-coil, creating the characteristic Telecaster sound.

It’s ready straight out of the box too. The action is nice and low and the intonation just right. And lefties won’t have to miss out – it’s available in a left-handed version too.

There is very little not to like about the guitar. It’s won loads of rave reviews for its beauty and sound.

But there are some variations between individual instruments that it’s worth being aware of. This guitar is produced in both China and Indonesia, and the different locations may be behind the differences.

In some guitars, the pickguard has five screws, like the 1950s Fenders it’s modeled on. In others, there are eight. And we’ve heard of occasional issues with the output jack cup being slightly loose. Overall, however, the construction quality of both the Chinese and Indonesian instruments is high.

If you’re looking for a great guitar that doesn’t cost a fortune, this one is well worth considering.

Pros:

  • Mellow resonant tone, with classic Telecaster sound
  • Flawless finish
  • Minimal set-up required

Cons:

  • You may find minor variations between online images and the instrument you receive – for example, in the number of screws in the pickguard
  • We’ve heard of cases where the output jack cup has been slightly loose.

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3. Squier by Fender Classic Vibe 60’s Telecaster Thinline

Squier by Fender Classic Vibe 60's Telecaster Thinline - Maple Fingerboard - Natural

If you’re looking for a Telecaster with a 1960s look, you’ll love the Thinline from the Classic Vibe range.

This distinctive guitar is based on the 1960s Fender Telecasters, with a distinctive elongated f-hole on the body. It produces a warm, semi-hollow tone and rounder twang.

The body is made of nato – similar in tone to mahogany, but more readily available. The C-shaped neck is made of maple and the nuts are bone. The fingerboard has a 9.5-inch radius, so it’s easy to reach around, even for guitarists with smaller hands.

A beautiful tinted gloss gives the neck a vintage look and feel. And the four-ply aged white Pearloid pickguard, nickel-plated hardware and die-cast tuning machines echo the retro style.

The bridge uses three chrome barrel saddles combined with a string-through-body to produce resonant sound and easy adjustment. This is another guitar that uses the Fender-designed single-coil Alnico pickups for the classic Fender tone.

The scale here is 25.5 inches long and there are 21 narrow-tall frets.

The tuning machines have a smooth action and they stay put nicely. The Squier Fender logo appears on the headstock in gold and black.

One thing to note is that there’s no left-handed version of this guitar. And while we love the golden butterscotch finish, there aren’t any other options to choose from.

But with these the only niggles we’ve found, this is a great choice for those who love 60s style.

Pros:

  • Distinctive 1960s style
  • Delivers the classic Thinline semi-hollow tone
  • Steady, smooth-action tuning machines

Cons:

  • Not available in a left-handed version
  • Only available in a butterscotch finish, so won’t suit anyone looking for a brighter colorway.

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4. Squier by Fender Classic Vibe 70’s Telecaster Custom

Squier by Fender Classic Vibe 70's Telecaster Custom Electric Guitar - Maple - Black

Another offering from the Classic Vibe series, this Telecaster Custom takes inspiration from the guitars of the 1970s. It comes in at about the same price point as the 60s Thinline, and has lots to recommend it.

With this one, you’ll get a choice of classic finishes. Choose between black, Olympic white, natural and three-color sunburst. The body is constructed from poplar wood, and the fingerboard is made of maple.

The pickup configuration differs from the earlier Classic Vibe models. Here, you’ll get a combination of an Alnico single coil bridge pickup and a humbucking wide range neck pickup. Both are designed by Fender and produce that distinctive Fender sound, with the versatility to get different tones.

The bridge features a string-through-body and three barrel saddles. That means it will keep your strings stable while allowing a full, resonant tone. It’s non-compensated, though, which can cause issues. The intonation is tricky, and the saddle adjustment is iffy too.

If you find it too much like hard work, swap it for a six-saddle bridge. Even with the extra expenditure, you’ll still be getting decent value for money. And it will give you a much more playable guitar.

You may also find the action is a little high. Spend some time on adjustments out of the box and you will be repaid with better results.

The neck has the classic C-shaped profile, making it comfortable to hold. The maple is finished with a vintage tint that complements the three-ply black pickguard. The Squier and Fender logos are in black on the headstock, and the tuning machines and hardware are nickel-plated.

This isn’t a flawless guitar, but with some adjustments it can be great. And if you’re looking for an instrument that oozes classic 1970s style, it will be hard to resist. Unfortunately, though, there’s no left-handed version available.

Pros:

  • Classic 1970s style and a choice of finishes
  • Versatile sound from the single-coil and humbucking pickups
  • C-shaped profile neck is comfortable and easy to play

Cons:

  • The bridge isn’t great – you may want to swap it for a six-saddle version
  • The action is a little high out of the box.

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5. Squier by Fender Classic Vibe 70’s Telecaster Deluxe (Upgrade Pick)

Squier by Fender Classic Vibe 70's Telecaster Deluxe Electric Guitar - Maple - Olympic White

The Deluxe model of the 70s Telecaster actually retails for exactly the same price as the Custom. So what are the similarities and differences between the two?

Let’s start with what’s alike. The materials are pretty much the same. The bodies of both guitars are made from poplar wood, and they have the same maple necks. All the hardware is nickel-plated, and the logos on the headstocks are a similar design.

You’ll even get the same choice of finishes – three-color sunburst, natural, Olympic white and black. The neck has the same C-shaped profile, so it’s comfortable and easy to play.

In both cases, the neck has the same subtle tint for a vintage look. And like the Custom, the Deluxe features a vintage-style string-through-body and individual steel saddles.

The major difference between the two models comes in the pickups. Whereas the Custom model features a single-coil and humbucker configuration, here you’ll get two humbucker pickups. The result is a deeper, louder and smoother sound.

We’ve heard of different experiences when it comes to the amount of set-up required here. Most have found the guitar playable pretty much out of the box, or with minimal adjustment. Others have, however, identified sharp fret ends and high action. And in a couple of cases, a screw has been missing.

The quality assurance certainly doesn’t seem to be consistent.

Having said that, none of the issues have been deal breakers. If you’re reasonably skilled at set-up, you’ll be able to sort them out yourself. If you’re not, you’ll need to take the guitar to a music shop.

Either way, you may have some additional expenses. But even factoring that in, the affordability of the Squier means this remains a good buy.

If you want the deeper humbucker sound, this is well worth considering.

Pros:

  • Range of good-looking finishes
  • Attractive and comfortable maple neck
  • Dual humbucker configuration for a deeper, louder sound

Cons:

  • You may need to do some work to deal with sharp fret ends …
  • … or loose or missing screws.

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6. Fender Player Telecaster

Fender Player Telecaster Electric Guitar - Maple Fingerboard - Tidepool

If your budget will stretch a little further, check out the Player Telecaster. This is from Fender’s main line, so it will set you back more than the Squier options. But the investment does deliver some impressive features.

This is a very handsome guitar. It comes in a choice of six different finishes: sunburst, three-color sunburst, butterscotch blonde, black, polar white and tidepool. The latter is a very attractive shade of teal.

The body is made of alder for a bright, resonant tone. You can choose between maple or pau ferro for the neck – both options retail for the same price. There’s also the option of paying a little more and getting a hard carry case alongside the guitar.

The pickups here are both single-coil, bright and crisp. They contain Alnico five magnetic pole pieces, designed to produce a balanced, rich bass response, punchy mids and crystal clear highs.

With this Telecaster, the barrel saddles are replaced by block saddles in the string-through-body bridge. This enhances the classic Telecaster bite and twang. It’s intended to deliver precise intonation and a long sustain.

The pots and five-way switch are top quality too.  The result is a durable instrument that should last for decades.

The fretboard has 22 frets. The C-shaped profile, 9.5-inch radius and smooth finish on the neck make it very comfortable to play. And the action is nice and low too.

This is another instance where we’ve heard varying experiences of the amount of set-up required. If you get lucky, you may find you need to do nothing at all. Others have needed to adjust the action and experienced issues with the volume control.

If you can check out your guitar in person before buying, it’s well worth doing. That will give you the opportunity to look at the set-up, as well as to spot any off-putting knots in the fingerboard.

Pros:

  • Range of six attractive finishes
  • Choice of maple or pau ferro neck
  • Classic Telecaster sound

Cons:

  • Variable amounts of set-up required
  • The quality control is inconsistent – watch out for issues like knots in the fingerboard.

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7. Fender Deluxe Nashville Telecaster

Fender Deluxe Nashville Telecaster Electric Guitar - Pau Ferro Fingerboard - Daphne Blue

Last but by no means least is the beautiful Deluxe Nashville Telecaster. You will need deep pockets for this one – it’s the most expensive guitar on our list by some way.

The body is finished in “Daphne blue”, a sort of ice blue shade. The neck and fingerboard are made of pau ferro and the body is alder for a sweet, resonant tone. And all the hardware is polished nickel-plated. The result is an extremely attractive instrument.

The tuning machines lock, so they’re easy to use and stay in position. They also make restringing a simpler business – great if you break a string in the middle of your set!

But the most distinctive feature is the three vintage noiseless pickups. There are two Tele pickups on the bridge and neck, and a third Strat pickup. It’s almost like having two guitars in one.

The three pickups are accompanied by a five-way switch to select your preferred tones, creating an exceptionally versatile sound. The only styles it won’t work well for are exceptionally mellow ones, like smooth jazz.

The 12-inch radius fingerboard creates a flat canvas for you to find your notes. It may, though, be more difficult to manage than a 9.5-inch radius for players with smaller hands.

The frets are narrow-tall for precise intonation and clear notes. It also means that you can get a really low action. The finish is flawless too, and the set-up is near perfect straight from the box.

Pros:

  • Two Tele and one Strat pickup for exceptionally versatile sound
  • Locking tuning machines for easy tuning and restringing
  • Beautiful build quality and finish

Cons:

  • Not suited to the mellowest genres, like smooth jazz
  • The 12-inch radius fingerboard may not be comfortable for guitarists with smaller hands.

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Buying Guide

If you’re still wondering which is the right Telecaster for you, don’t worry! Here are a few questions that can help you narrow down the field.

Left- or right-handed?

Let’s start with the easiest question – do you play left- or right-handed? If you’re a right-handed guitarist, the Telecaster world is your oyster. All the models on our list are made in right-handed versions.

But if you’re a leftie, your choice will be more limited. Don’t let that worry you – there are still plenty of great guitars to choose from.

But check whether the model you’re looking at comes in a left-handed version at the outset. That way you’ll avoid wasting time delving into the specifications of an instrument that just won’t work for you.

Pickups

Pickups are one of the most important elements in creating the sound quality of an individual guitar. That makes it crucial to choose the right pickups for your playing style.

The two main kinds of pickups are single-coil and humbucker. Some guitars will have two pickups, and they can be two of the same kind, or one of each. Others, like the Deluxe Nashville, incorporate a third pickup for greater sound versatility.

One kind of pickup isn’t better than another – it’s just a matter of personal taste.

Single-coils have a twangier, brighter sound – often described as having more “bite”. They’re particularly well suited to country and blues but are pretty versatile. Humbuckers, on the other hand, have a fuller, thicker sound. They’re well-suited to rock and metal.

And if you want both, look for a guitar that combines single-coil and humbucker pickups.

How much set-up are you prepared to do?

Finally, it’s worth considering how much set-up you’re comfortable with doing. Some guitars are beautifully playable straight out of the box. Others will require adjustments – for example, to the bridge, saddle or truss rod.

If you’re not confident in carrying out those adjustments yourself, you can get them done for you at a music shop. But if you’re planning to buy your instrument online, check that the shop will still be happy to do that. You may have to pay a small charge, which you’ll want to factor into your budget.

Some guitarists, of course, enjoy adjusting their instruments to get the perfect fit for them. If that’s you, a guitar that requires some set-up can be a positive advantage.

Ready to Choose Your New Telecaster?

We hope you’ve enjoyed our round-up of seven of the best Telecaster guitars on the market right now. Whatever your budget, you can enjoy classic Telecaster looks and sound. Just take some time to think through the features you need in your guitar before you part with your money.

Our top pick is actually the least expensive guitar on our list – the Squier by Fender Affinity Telecaster. It sounds and looks great. The bridge pickup produces that authentic Telecaster twang. And we love the classic lines and beautiful range of finishes.

But if you’ve got more cash to splash, the versatility of the Deluxe Nashville’s three pickups is hard to beat. And that Daphne blue finish is just gorgeous.

Whichever option is right for you, we hope your new Telecaster brings you hours of musical pleasure.

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