Mexican vs USA Fender Telecaster: What’s the Difference?

If you’re in the market for a Fender Telecaster, you’ll need to decide if you want a more affordable Mexican Tele, or the more expensive USA-made alternative. But what exactly is the difference between them?

Mexican TelecasterAmerican Telecaster
$850-$1200 on average$1400-$2600 on average
Pau ferro fingerboardRosewood fingerboard
Usually 5-piece bodiesUsually 2 or 3-piece bodies
Polyester body finishesPolyurethane or nitrocellulose body finishes
Pickups made in Mexico or KoreaPickups made in the USA
Some models include a soft gig-bagAll models include a soft gig-bag or hard case
Mexican vs American Fender Telecaster

I’ve noticed that there is a decent bit of misinformation out there which I think originates from comparisons between older Made in America (MIA) and Made in Mexico (MIM) Telecasters. I’ve heavily researched this article to identify the precise specification differences between current models as well as played them extensively.


  • Price and Models
  • Pickups and Tone
  • Other Specification Differences
  • Build Quality
  • Fender Player vs American Performer Telecaster
  • Is the Price Difference Justifiable?
  • Which Should You Choose?

Prices and Models

Before we jump into the specification differences between the MIM and MIA Telecasters, I wanted to first address the main difference, cost.

There are several different Fender Telecaster models available which vary in price and by the manufacturing location, so here is a table to summarise.

Fender TelecasterMade InAverage Price USAAverage Price UK
Player PlusMexico$1100£870
Vintera ModifiedMexico$1200£960
American PerformerUSA$1400£1100
American Professional IIUSA$1700£1700
American OriginalUSA$2150£1900
American UltraUSA$2150£1950
American Vintage IIUSA$2200£1950
American Ultra LuxeUSA$2600£2150

Pickups and Tone

Since there are several versions of Mexican and American Teles, it’s possible to get quite different tones from guitars made in the same factory, as they all use different pickups. However, a common theme is:

  • The pickups on Mexican Telecasters are made in Mexico or Korea
  • The pickups on American Telecasters are made in the USA

Just because the USA Telecasters have USA-made pickups, does not mean they sound better. I have played all of these guitars and there are several examples where I personally prefer the tone of the Mexican Telecaster. It really is just personal preference.

I’d highly encourage you to go to your local guitar store and try doing a blind tone test, either by asking the store assistant to help or by taking a fellow guitarist. This is the best way to remove any bias and figure out which you actually like the sound of, without any preconceived notions.

In the meantime, check out this video to hear a tone comparison of different Mexico and USA Telecasters.

Also, remember that pickups are one of the easiest components of an electric guitar to upgrade. So, if you really like the tone of the American Pro II for example, but prefer all the other features (and the price) of the Vintera Modified, you can easily swap the pickups out for the best all-rounder.

Here is a table showing the different USA-made pickups and how much they cost to purchase aftermarket.

GuitarPickupsUSA PriceUK Price
American PerformerYosemite$120£100
American Professional IIV-Mod II$125£150
American OriginalPure Vintage ‘59/ ‘65$150£150
American Vintage IIPure Vintage ‘57/ ‘61/ ‘73$150£150
American Ultra/ Ultra LuxeUltra Noiseless$200£150

Other Specification Differences

Since there are so many different MIM and MIA Telecasters, there are several differences in specification even within models made in the same country, e.g. bridge design, tuning machines, fret size etc.

However, I have analysed all the current MIM and MIA Telecasters and found four tangible differences which are true for all the different models:

  • Mexican Telecasters have maple or pau ferro fingerboards, whereas American Telecasters have maple of rosewood fingerboards
  • Mexican Telecasters have a 5-piece or 7-piece body, whereas American Telecasters have a 2-piece or 3-piece body
  • Mexican Telecasters have a polyester body finish whereas American Telecasters have either a polyurethane or nitrocellulose finish
  • Mexican Telecasters either come with a soft gig bag or no bag at all, whereas all USA-made Telecasters come with a case/ bag, with the vast majority having a hard-shell case

In terms of the fingerboard material, it really doesn’t matter if you go for the maple option, but if you want the darker wood then the material is different. Rosewood is seen as a more expensive and desirable option, but some players will prefer the smoother feel of a pau ferro fretboard. Check out my article comparing rosewood and pau ferro fretboards for more info.

I’m in agreement with the general consensus that the 2-piece/ 3-piece bodies on the USA Teles look nicer than the 5-piece/ 7-piece bodies on the Mexican versions. However, this is only the case when the guitar doesn’t have a solid finish.

In the vast majority of cases, you can’t see the joins or even the grain of wood since Fender primarily use solid finishes. I personally have also found it to make no noticeable difference on tone either.

In terms of the finish, polyester (found on the MIM models) is probably the least desirable but some will prefer the glossier look. Check out my article on poly and nitro finishes to learn more.

Here’s a list of the gig bag/ cases included with each model:

  • Fender Player (Mexican): no gig bag or case
  • Fender Player Plus (Mexican): soft gig bag
  • Fender Vintera (Mexican): soft gig bag
  • Fender American Performer: soft gig bag
  • Fender American Professional II: hard shell case
  • Fender American Original: hard shell case
  • Fender American Vintage II: hard shell case
  • Fender American Ultra/ Ultra Luxe: hard shell case

Build Quality

I want to start by saying that Fender guitars made in both the USA and Mexico are generally very well made. Although unlikely, it is still possible however to run into QC issues with guitars made in either location.

  • USA-made Fender Telecasters are made in California
  • Mexican-made Fender Telecasters are made in Ensenada

These factories are both owned by Fender (which is a very good thing) and are actually only 186 miles away from each other. It’s not uncommon for parts to be sent between factories.

It’s no secret that the USA has the best reputation for producing guitars worldwide. They are extensively QC checked and use the highest quality materials.

However, Mexican Fender guitars also undergo rigorous QC checks and I have tried many myself and noticed no issues.

The only real differences you may notice are:

  • USA-made Telecasters typically have smoother fretwork
  • USA-made Telecasters generally have more rolled fingerboard edges (although this is far more noticeable on Custom Shop models)
  • The nut edges are typically slightly smoother on USA-made Teles
  • The setup out of the box is usually a bit better and requires less tweaking on an American Fender guitar

Check out my article on where Fender guitars are made to learn more.

Resale Value

American Fender Telecasters are often regarded as a better investment as they hold a higher percentage of their value when it comes to reselling them. However, since Mexican Telecasters are cheaper to begin with, you lose less money if you sell the guitar compared to with a USA-made Telecaster.

Here is a table showing the price of second-hand Telecasters compared to brand-new ones. The prices are averaged from 10 different guitars in “excellent condition” from Guitar Center and Reverb.

Fender TelecasterNew PriceSecond-Hand PriceDifference
Player$850$700$150 (18%)
Vintera$1100$800$300 (27%)
Player Plus$1100$870$230 (21%)
Vintera Modified$1200$820$380 (32%)
American Performer$1400$1200$200 (14%)
American Professional II$1700$1400$300 (18%)
American Ultra$2150$1700$450 (21%)
American Original$2150$1800$350 (16%)
American Ultra Luxe$2600$2200$400 (15%)

Fender Player vs American Performer Telecaster

Now let’s compare the specifications of the most popular Mexican Tele (the Fender Player series model) with the cheapest American Tele (the Fender American Performer series model).

FeaturePlayer TelecasterAmerican Performer Telecaster
FretboardMaple/ Pau FerroMaple/ Rosewood
Body FinishGloss PolyesterSatin/ Gloss Polyurethane
Fret SizeMedium JumboJumbo
Truss Rod Nut3/16” Hex Adjustment1/8” American Series
PickupsPlayer Series Alnico VYosemite
Bridge6-Saddle String-Through3-Saddle String-Through
Tuning MachinesStandard CastFender ClassicGear
HeadstockStandardOversized ‘70s
Gigbag IncludedNoYes
Made InMexicoUSA

Check out my in-depth comparison between the Player and American Performer series for more detail.

Is the Price Difference Justifiable?

The price difference between a brand-new Fender Player and American Performer Telecaster is $600.

Here is a table showing the different components and how much they cost to purchase aftermarket.

Player TelecasterAmerican Performer TelecasterPrice Difference
Neck = $300Neck = $500$200
Pickups = $80Pickup = $120$40
Bridge = $60Bridge = $70$10
Standard Cast Tuners = $70Fender ClassicGear Tuners = $70$0
No Gig Bag = $0Gig Bag = $120$120

The total price difference of these parts = $370

Keep in mind that this is the cost to purchase parts aftermarket. It will cost Fender a lot less than this to make these parts.

Since most of the QC/ build quality improvements that the USA-model has over the Mexican-model are related to the neck, I’ve not added any extra costs here.

The only other differences that could affect the cost that we’ve not addressed are:

  • How many pieces the body is made from
  • The body finish

This means that we have $230 left unaccounted for, which is the premium that comes with purchasing a USA-made Telecaster and the prestige it comes with.

Which Should You Choose?

It really depends on which you prefer the sound of, and the specific features you’re looking for. I’d recommend trying the different models in your budget and trying to ignore where they are made from (even do a blind-test if you can).

Reasons to Choose a Mexican Telecaster:

  • Better value for money
  • Still feels and sounds excellent
  • Can be upgraded and still works out cheaper than the USA version

Reasons to Choose an American Telecaster:

  • Best possible build quality, hardware and pickups
  • More prestige and heritage
  • Better quality accessories included

Here are more articles you might find useful:
– Fender Player vs Player Plus
– Fender Player vs Vintera
– Fender American Performer vs American Professional II


Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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