Are Handmade Guitars Better? [Explained]

Factory built guitars and handmade guitars often have quite significant differences between the two depending on the brand. Handmade guitars come with a higher price tag, making the guitarist think they must be better. So, are handmade guitars better?

On average, handmade guitars are not better than production line guitars. A CNC machine is used for production line guitars, and it produces consistent guitar bodies and necks each time, erasing 99% of potential human error. From there, the guitar is still sanded down and checked by hand.

Continue reading to find out why handmade guitars are so expensive, if they are truly better, and the 2 best handmade guitar brands.

are handmade guitars better

Why Are Handmade Guitars So Expensive?

Handmade guitars are expensive because they take three times as long to produce over production line guitars. The pin router machine used to make handmade guitars takes time and expertise. This results in increased labor costs that translate into the cost of the handmade guitar.

More attention to detail is had with a handmade guitar. Luthiers often inspect every square centimeter of the guitar to ensure it is up to the exact specifications requested by the customer.

You are paying for the increase amount of labor hours as well as the expertise required to make the guitar.

Are Handmade Guitars Better?

Handmade guitars are not better than production line guitars, on average.

Some people prefer the handmade version of guitars, others the now tradition way. Handmade versions of guitars are built the old school way with a machine called the pin-router. The alternative to handmade guitars is guitars made with a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machine, the modern way.

One of the bigger aspects that production line guitars have over handmade guitars is the consistency. A CNC machine will cut the same exact body on every guitar and neck it produces. This takes out 99% of potential human error.

Find Out What The 3 Best Fender Guitars For Beginners Are Today

With handmade guitars, the opportunity for human error arises. This can take place with the pin routing machine, especially with hollow body guitars. Uneven wood from the manual / machine-guided cutting is entirely possible and often occurs.

One of the ways that handmade guitars do come out on top is if customer specific customizations are requested. These specifications may make the guitar better for that customer specifically, thus better than production line. But that is only the case for custom handmade guitars as opposed to a larger output of handmade guitars under the same specifications.

The benefits of a CNC machine in the manufacturing process greatly outweigh the benefits of a handmade guitar. Guitars are produced more consistently via the CNC and buying a handmade guitar is usually a slight gamble unless you know the luthier well and the brand has a strong reputation.

Luthier Handmade Guitars vs. Factory-Built Guitars Summary

Humans hear with our preconceptions. The idea of a handmade guitar is intriguing and niche. Unless the guitar is being handmade to your exact specifications, then handmade guitars are not better.

Most factory-built guitars are extremely well produced. This is especially the case with bigger brands that have perfected their production line. This cuts down the cost of production greatly and lowers the cost of the guitar.

On the contrary, handmade guitars often indicate a greater attention to detail. This shows in the fret work, set-up, finish, wood types, etc. It is up to the guitarist on if a marginal increase of these details is worth the 300% price hike.

2 Best Handmade Guitar Brands

The best handmade guitar brands are:

  1. Fender Custom Shop
  2. PRS – Private Stock Program

Continue reading to find out how each brand got their spot.

1. Fender – Custom Shop

Fender makes the best handmade guitars via their custom shop.

For guitar enthusiasts, this will not come as a surprise. The Fender Custom Shop has been praised and hailed for many years. They create one-of-a-kind guitars at a premium price.

Fender Custom Shop make the best handmade guitars
Fender Custom Shop Luthier painting a Jimmy Page Telecaster Relic. Source: Fender Custom Shop

The custom shop recruits only the best luthiers and each luthier comes with years of experience. Their attention to detail is second to none. This is exemplified in the relics they make that are modeled after legendary guitarists guitars.

Everything from the pickup specifications to each small detail on the body is taken into account for each handmade guitar.

These guitars rarely run south of $10,000 because of the amount of work that goes into each guitar. They are literally made from scratch, thus administering the higher price. You can find them on Reverb for less occasionally but ordering a new one to your specifications will rise the price.

Find Out If PRS is a Good Guitar Brand Here

With the Fender Custom Shop, you can order a guitar that looks and sounds exactly like Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Number 1 or John Mayer’s Black1.

2. PRS – Private Stock Program

The second-best brand for handmade guitars is PRS. Specifically, the Private Stock Program.

Started in 1996, the program uses the highest quality materials, supreme craftmanship, and greatest level of customization that the brand has to offer.

“Private Stock represents the highest quality of materials, the most personally crafted instruments, and the greatest level of customization available from PRS. Whether you choose a Limited-Edition instrument or a Built to Order guitar, every Private Stock is conceived and built with a “one-off” mentality. Through this program, we strive to deliver heirloom-quality, musical instruments.”


With this handmade program, the customer can choose every detail and specification of the guitar from the wood to the fret inlays. An example of this level of detail can be seen below.

Handmade PRS Guitar
Handmade PRS Guitar

PRS has always been known for their quality and attention to detail for their production line guitars. The Private Stock Program takes this to a whole different level. Each handmade guitar is meticulously perfected to the customers standards.

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