Stratocaster Range Explained: Which Model is Best for You?


The Stratocaster is one of the most popular electric guitars of all time, so it’s no surprise that there are a lot of different models available. In this article, I’ll take you through the Fender Stratocaster and Squier Stratocaster ranges so you can understand the differences between all the models and decide which one to buy.

At a Glance

There are over 10 main models in the Stratocaster range by Fender and Squier. The Fender Stratocaster models are the most premium and are made in either Mexico, Japan or America. Squier Stratocasters are made in China and Indonesia and offer more affordable options as well as entry-level models.

Fender make their Stratocasters start at around $750 and Squier models range between $180 to $500. Check out my comparison between Squier and Fender to learn more.

I’ve split this article into the Fender and Squier ranges to keep things simple.

Fender Stratocaster Range

There are 9 main models in the Fender Stratocaster range:

  • Player
  • Vintera
  • Deluxe
  • Noventa
  • Boxer
  • American Performer
  • American Professional
  • American Ultra
  • American Original

These models are made in either Mexico, Japan or America. All the American models have this in the name.

The main differences between the models are the price, origin, pickup configurations, heel joint, tuners, fret numbers and the presence of additional premium features. These features include having a bone instead of synthetic nut, hard shell instead of soft shell case, upgraded pickups and rolled fingerboard edges.

Here is a table comparing the features of the different models of Fender Stratocaster.

ModelOriginPickupsNeckContoured HeelLocking TunersFrets
PlayerMexicoSSS or HSSModern CNoNo22
Player PlusMexicoSSS or HSSModern CNoYes22
Vintera ‘50sMexicoSSS‘60s CNoNo21
Vintera ‘60sMexicoSSSSoft VNoNo21
DeluxeMexicoSSS or HSSModern CNoNo22
NoventaMexico2 x P90Modern CNoNo21
BoxerJapanHHThin CNoNo22
American PerformerAmericaSSS or HSSModern CNoNo22
American ProfessionalAmericaSSS or HSSDeep CYesNo22
American UltraAmericaSSS or HSSModern DYesYes22
American Original ‘50sAmericaSSSSoft VNoNo21
American Original ‘60sAmericaSSSThick CNoNo21
Fender Stratocaster models compared.

Fender Player Stratocaster

The Fender Player Stratocaster is made in Mexico and starts at around $750. It has an upgraded tremolo system compared to the most expensive Squier model, however, it has a plastic nut which is really a downgrade from the Squier Classic Vibe.

There is also the Fender Player Plus model which has an upgraded finish, locking tuners, flatter fingerboard, rolled edges, noiseless pickups, and push/ pull tone pot for the neck pickup. This model costs around $1000.

Fender Deluxe Stratocaster

The Fender Deluxe Stratocaster is made in Mexico and starts at around $950. It comes in SSS and HSS configurations and has vintage noiseless pickups. It has a plastic nut, locking tuners, contoured heel joint and oversized headstock.

It is a great option if you’re looking for a more premium Stratocaster without venturing into the American range.

Fender Noventa Stratocaster

The Fender Noventa Stratocaster starts at around $1100 and is made in Mexico.

The main difference between the Noventa and other Stratocaster models, is that it has two P90 pickups instead of the more traditional SSS or HSS configurations.

Fender Vintera Stratocaster

There are two versions of the Fender Vintera Stratocaster, the ’50s model and the ’60s model, with the main difference being the neck profile.

These Mexican-made Stratocaster start at around $950 and are designed to give you a true vintage style Strat at a more affordable price point. They come in many colour options in the standard finish and as well as the “road worn” finish

Fender Boxer Stratocaster

The Fender Boxer is made in Japan and offers something a bit different to the rest of the range. The dual-humbucker pickup configuration and black pickguard give it a unique tone and look which make it more suited to rock and metal than the more traditional options in the range.

Other notable differences are the basswood body, thinner neck and treble bass expander control.

Fender Boxer models cost around $1200.

Fender American Performer Stratocaster

The Fender American Performer Stratocaster is the most affordable American model in the range starting at around $1200. The most notable upgrades are the vintage modified pickups, bone nut, rolled fretboard edges and pop-in tremolo (as opposed to screw in).

It is available in a few different colours and the SSS or HSS pickup configurations. It also has a push/pull tone pot for parallel switching.

Fender American Professional Stratocaster

The Fender American Professional II Stratocaster is considered the flagship model and starts at around $1500. It comes in a wide range of colours and is available in the HSS or SSS configurations.

Notable upgrades from the Performer include the bone nut, double action truss rod, two-point tremolo, contoured heel joint and hard case.

Fender American Ultra Stratocaster

The Fender American Ultra Stratocaster starts at around $1900 and is the option designed for modern players. It comes in traditional and unique colour options, has noiseless pickups, S-1 switching and a modern D neck profile.

Other premium features include the bone nut, rolled fingerboard edges, bi-flex truss rod, contoured heel and hard shell case.

Fender American Original Stratocaster

The Fender American Original Stratocaster comes in ’50s and ’60s variants and starts at around $2000.

It is based on vintage Stratocasters and doesn’t come with many frills but is the option to go for if you want an iconic Strat model.

Colour options are limited but the classic choices are available, as well as a left-handed version.

I’ve written a complete buyer’s guide for electric guitars which takes you through all the things you need to consider and a step-by-step method to narrowing down your selection and choosing the best option. Here is a link to the article.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to questions you might still have about the Fender Strat range.

What is the difference between the Fender American Performer and American Professional Models?

The Fender American Professional Stratocaster costs roughly $300 more than the American Performer. The most notable upgrades are the bone nut (as opposed to synthetic), hard shell case, two-point tremolo and contoured heel joint. The American Professional also has a thicker neck than the American Performer.

Which Stratocaster models are made in the USA?

The Stratocaster models which are made in the USA are the: American Performer, American Professional, American Ultra and American Original.

Which Stratocaster models are made in Mexico?

The Stratocaster models which are made in Mexico are the: Player, Vintera, Deluxe and Noventa.

Squier Stratocaster Range

The Squier Stratocaster range consists of four main models:

  • Bullet
  • Affinity
  • Contemporary
  • Classic Vibe

Here is a table comparing the features of the different models of Fender Stratocaster.

FeatureBulletAffinityContemporaryClassic Vibe ‘50sClassic Vibe ‘60sClassic Vibe ‘70s
Pickup Config.SSS or HSSSSS, HSS, HHHH or SSSSSSSSSSSS
Pickup MaterialCeramicAlnicoAlnicoFender Designed AlnicoFender Designed AlnicoFender Designed Alnico
Tone Controls21 or 212 2
Neck ShapeC-shapeC-shapeC-shapeC-shapeC-shapeC-shape
Neck FinishSatinSatinSatinGlossGlossGloss
BridgeFixed or Synchronous Trem2-Point TremFixed or Floating Tremolo6-Saddle Synchronised Trem6-Saddle Synchronised Trem6-Saddle Synchronised Trem
NutPlasticPlasticGraphiteBoneBoneBone
Body WoodBasswood/ PoplarPoplarPoplarPineNatoPoplar
Neck WoodMapleMapleMapleMapleMapleMaple
Fretboard MaterialLaurelLaurel or MapleLaurel or MapleMapleLaurelMaple or Laurel
Squier Stratocaster Models Compared

Here is a link to each model on Amazon so you can check current prices. Remember that the price often varies due to the different colours and finishes available within each series.

Squier Bullet Stratocaster

This is the entry level Squier Stratocaster and costs around $180. It comes in HSS and SSS pickup configurations, left and right-handed versions, 3/4 and full sizes.

It’s perfect for beginners and is coincidentally the first guitar I ever had.

Squier Affinity Stratocaster

The Squier Affinity Stratocaster offers a step-up in terms of price and quality compared to the Squier Bullet. It has a poplar body, tremolo bridge and C-shape neck.

You also get a 5-way pickup selector and the option to have either HH, HSS or SSS pickup configurations.

Squier Contemporary Stratocaster

The Squier Contemporary Stratocaster offers a more modern take on the classic model. It comes in unique colour options and is available in SSS or HS pickup configurations, however the SSS configuration is arranged differently compared to most models. There are multiple versions, some with hardtail and some with floyd rose bridges.

Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster

The Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster is the most expensive variant in the Squier Strat range. The most noticable differences between the Classic Vibe and cheaper models are the improved tuners, Fender designed alnico pickups, and bone nut.

However, it still has small tone/ volume pots unlike the Fender Stratocasters. Also, it has a gloss neck compared to the satin finish found on most models.

There are three versions of the Classic Vibe: ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. They vary mostly due to the body and fretboard woods used.

I’ve written a complete buyer’s guide for electric guitars which takes you through all the things you need to consider and a step-by-step method to narrowing down your selection and choosing the best option. Here is a link to the article.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some questions you might still have about the Squier Stratocaster range.

Is the Stratocaster good for beginners?

The Stratocaster guitar is a great guitar for beginners because it has a slim neck, lightweight design and comfortable shape to sit and stand with. It is often selected as a guitar for beginners because the entry-level models are excellent value for money and very good to learn to play on.

What is the difference between the Squier Classic Vibe and Affinity Stratocasters?

The Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster is roughly double the price of Affinity Stratocasters and comes with more premium features. The Classic Vibe model has a bone nut (compared to synthetic), a gloss neck (compared to satin) and upgraded Fender-designed pickups compared to the Affinity Strat.

What is the difference between the Squier Affinity and Squier Bullet Stratocasters?

The Squier Affinity Stratocaster is roughly $50 more expensive than the Squier Bullet Strat. The Affinity model has upgraded alnico pickups compared to ceramic on the Bullet model. The Bullet Strat is usually lighter due to the basswood body found on most models in the series.

Heather

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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