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Fender Squier Vintage Modified Strat or American Special? Is it worth the extra $700?

Is it worth the extra cash to buy an American Fender Stratocaster over a cheaper made in Mexico or Fender Squier Strat? I wrestle with spending the extra cash often. This weekend I got the idea in my head that I really “needed” a new Strat. I spent a lot of time thinking about it until I finally made my decision.

I have always loved the classic 1970’s Fender Strat big headstock. I have owned 2 strats in the past but neither had one.

1996 Made in Mexico Fender Stratocaster

I previously owned a MIM (made in Mexico) strat that I upgraded the pickups and pickguard for $200. I originally bought it on Ebay for $300. The pickguard was signed by John Fogerty. The guitar had a nice feel to it although the neck was slightly thicker than I prefer. It was a maple next and had 21 frets. I eventually sold it on Reverb.com for $250. I enjoyed it while I had it. It cost me $250 to try it out for the couple of years that I had it.


1996 Made in Mexico Fender Stratocaster

2013 Fender Blacktop Strat HH with Floyd Rose

The other strat I previously owned I got by trading for an Ibanez 5 string bass. It was a great deal for me and the other guy needed a bass so it was really a win-win. I was really impressed with this guitar as well. It had 2 humbuckers so it got some good meaty crunch not normally expected from a strat. It was made in Mexico as well. It had a somewhat smaller radius neck and a 22-fret Rosewood fretboard. This strat also had a licensed Floyd Rose locking tremolo. I ended up selling this guitar for $525.


Fender Blacktop Strat HH Floyd Rose, Rosewood Fretboard 2013

When I look at both of these guitars I wish I would have kept them. They were both different and both sounded great.

I have actually owned one other strat in my life but these are the 2 most recent and are what helped me make my decision.

Time to Buy a New Strat

I had been thinking about getting a Strat for some time but this past weekend the bug really hit. I researched the types of guitars that Fender made with the big 1970’s headstocks and the choices were really limited. The truth is I really liked the look of the Squier guitars. There were quite a few that had that headstock. It made me nervous to buy a Squier since they cost so little.

Eventually I narrowed it down to 2 guitars. The Fender Squier Vintage Modified Stratocaster and the Fender American Special Stratocaster. Both look very similar.



Here’s what I was looking for in my new Strat:

  • Maple fretboard
  • Big 1970’s classic Fender headstock
  • SSS – 3 single coil pickups
  • 22 frets (the Vintage Modified only has 21)

Fender Squier Vintage Modified Stratocaster

First off, this guitar looks amazing. It’s made in Mexico and the quality is excellent.  It has a nice maple neck with the 21 jumbo frets and the big 1970’s headstock. It is limited to 21 frets but that didn’t matter to Jimi Hendrix. It matters to me though so that was a negative.

It is only available in black if you want the maple neck. The hardware on the guitar (tuning keys, tremolo, etc) are okay but I would definitely upgrade those. There are three Duncan Designed SC-101 single-coil pickups which sound fantastic based on the demos on YouTube. The body was made of basswood which is a plus in my book.


  • Price – Less than $300 new
  • Maple Fretboard
  • Large 1970’s headstock
  • SSS pickup configuration
  • Basswood body


  • 21 frets
  • hardware not the best
  • it’s a Squier

Check prices for Fender Squier Vintage Modified Stratocaster

Fender American Special Stratocaster

As you can see, the American Special is almost identical in looks to the Vintage Modified Squier. There are more color choices for the American Special but not many. I wanted a maple neck so I was limited to a white or red body.  At one point they had surf green bodies but none were available at this time. I was leaning towards a white one so this wasn’t an issue for me.

Made in America means quality for Fender. Honestly, every Strat that I’ve owned has been top quality. I have never owned a Squier so I can’t vouch for those.

The hardware on the American Special is a bit better than the Squier. It’s expected. The pickups are also an upgrade with three Texas Specials. They also included  a greasebucket tone circuit reducing treble without increasing bass.

Overall, the upgrades are not major in my opinion. They are nice to have but you pay for it.


  • Made in America
  • Maple Fretboard
  • Large 1970’s headstock
  • SSS pickup configuration
  • Alder body
  • Fender Cast/Sealed tuning machines
  • 22 frets
  • Texas Special pickups
  • Greasebucket tone circuit


  • Price is $999

Check prices for Fender American Special Stratocaster

So, when it came down to it, the question I was left with was:

Is the Fender American Special worth $700 more than the Squier Vintage Modified Strat?

I have no doubt that I could make both guitars sound great through any of my amps. I also am 100% sure that I would upgrade the hardware or electronics on the both of them at some point. I don’t mind the color black but I prefer white. Both had maple necks so that was good. Having only 21 frets was a bit of a bummer with the Squier though.

In the end I ended up ordering the Fender American Special Stratocaster.  I could have bought 3 of the Squiers.

The main reason I bought the American Special was because my ears can hear the difference. If I had the same choice of guitars when I first started playing guitar I would definitely have saved my money and bought the Squier. At this point, I can hear the difference and it’s all about what I hear when I’m playing the guitar.

If your guitar sounds good to your ears it makes it a lot easier to play.

How To Decide On What Guitar To Buy

It’s really simple. Does it sound good to you? Is it easy for you to play? Lastly, is it within your budget?

The bottom line is this – there are a lot of really nice sounding and playing guitars available now. Don’t write off the ones that cost less.

What guitar or piece of gear have you bought in the past that sounds awesome but was super cheap? Answer in the comments below.

About the author

Craig Kelley

Hi, I'm Craig and I write most of the stuff on this website. Feel free to catch up with me on Twitter. You can learn more about me on my site here and listen to my music here.