Video: 5 Strats, 5 Prices—What's the Difference?

As one of the most popular guitar models of all time, Stratocasters come in many varieties, even just within Fender's own lineup. If you're in the market for a Fender Strat, but don't know quite how to navigate the varying product lines, we've got you covered.

Today, Andy Martin is taking five different Stratocasters available at five different price points to explain and demonstrate their most important differences. From the budget-friendly Squier brand to a vintage, pre-CBS '63 Fender, Andy demonstrates a range of options available under the Fender umbrella. He plays them all through the same amp, a '68 Custom Deluxe Reverb, as well as through a Fulltone OCD overdrive pedal for a bit of dirt.

If you'd like to learn more about the various iterations of one of the most enduring guitar models, take a look at our "A Brief History of the Stratocaster," Part One and Part Two.


As Fender's budget brand, Squier offers many varieties of the Strat: the Bullet Strat, Affinity Strat, Classic Vibe '50s, Classic Vibe '60s, Classic Vibe '70s, and the particularly prized Made-in-Japan Squier Strats from the '80s.

The quality of some older Squiers (outside of MIJ) may have made a bad impression on players in days gone by, but today's Squiers, especially the Classic Vibe and Vintage Modified series, as played by Andy above, are beloved for offering quality guitars at truly affordable prices.

While the wood, hardware, and electronics will not be of the same quality found in a Fender, a Squier Strat will be a dependable instrument and a great starting point for classic Fender tones.


The next step up is a Fender Stratocaster made in the company's factory in Mexico (as opposed to the company's U.S. facilities).

With these entry-level Fenders, you'll be able to find bodies made out of the tonewoods most associated with the iconic guitar, like ash and alder. The bridge, tuners, and pickups will likewise be a bit better and more dependable than those found on Squier.

Until 2018, Fender referred to its MIM Strats as Standard Stratocasters. As Andy notes, you can often find a used Fender Standard Stratocaster for about the price of some new Squiers. In 2018, Fender dropped its "Standard" line and rechristened its MIM instruments as the Player Series. A new Player Series Stratocaster will cost about $600 USD, and they're available in many configurations: with three single-coil pickups, humbucker and two single-coils, HSH, dual humbuckers, and other variants.


Like Fender's MIM guitars, American-made Stratocasters are available in many different models.

Since 1987, the Fender American Standard Stratocaster had been the company's most affordable U.S.-built model.

As of late 2018, that distinction now goes to the American Performer Stratocaster. Built at the company's Corona, California factory, you can expect to find in these or any other American-made Strat the durability, craftsmanship, and consistency that have made Fender's reputation.

If looking for deals on a used Strat, you'll be able to find plenty from the American Standard Series or American Deluxe Series on Reverb, as well as new models from the American Performer and American Professional Series, the next step up in Fender's product line. (In 2016, the American Deluxe line became the new American Elite Series.)


In addition to Fender's production models, the company creates a number of Custom Shop Stratocasters every year, built by a small team of dedicated luthiers.

Sometimes they take the shape of artist signature models, relic'd vintage-style clones, and other masterbuilt guitars. In the video above, Andy is playing a Custom Shop 1955 Stratocaster with a Journeyman Relic Desert Tan finish.

There are numerous Custom Shop Strats on Reverb, including signature models for the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Dick Dale, and more, as well as plenty of creative limited-edition Strats.


The Stratocasters and other innovative guitars that Fender built in the '50s and '60s are why the brand became famous to begin with.

They continue to be the basis for the rest of the company's offerings.

If you can afford a vintage Stratocaster, you'll be able to get the tone and feel of the real thing—and, because of the continued collectability of such instruments, it can also be a wise investment. In the video above, Andy plays a sunburst 1963 Stratocaster. You can find hundreds of vintage Stratocasters from the '50s, '60s, and '70s on Reverb here.


Do you have a favorite Strat of your own? Let us know in the comments below. And to take a look at all of the Fender Stratocasters we have available on Reverb now, click the banner below.

comments powered by Disqus