So, you’ve decided on buying a ukulele for some reason or the other. Maybe you want to learn this instrument, or planning on presenting it as a gift for someone. Price will always be a big deciding factor in any purchasing decision.
For starters, if you’re not sure about how much is a ukulele cost, you should know that there’s no universal answer to this question – nothing one-size-fits-all. The price of these instruments can vary by large margins depending on the brand and a handful of other things.
For anyone wondering about the price tag on ukuleles, we break it down here. You’ll be able to know how much a ukulele costs and why.
How Much is a Ukulele: Price Ranges
We managed to get our hands on a wide range of ukuleles and form a conclusive list differentiating these instruments by price.
- Cheap – $35 and below
- Budget – About $50
- Beginner – $50 to $150
- Mid-Level – $160 to $500
- High-End – $510 and up
These ranges are only to give you a general idea of what you can expect to get based on how much you’re willing to spend, but there are no fixed rules when it comes to ukulele price ranges.
For one thing the lines between these varying prices can tend to be blurry, so in certain cases, these guidelines won’t apply totally.
Use these as your beginning point but make sure to conduct your own research first!
$30 and Under: Cheap & Toy Ukes
With a budget below $35, you’ll find an average array of toy-grade ukuleles. These models are often constructed of very cheap laminated wood or plastic.
It goes without saying that to keep the product within a profitable margin, the build would have to be subpar. While a few of these may pass off as actual instrument, many are almost unplayable from the moment they’re taken out of the box.
Here’s a small list of everything to look out for with these ukes:
- Unimpressive build quality.
- Low-grade tuners.
- Uneven finish and fit.
- Cheap string.
- Weak, thin, sad tone.
- Poor fret construction.
People often purchase these to conduct some sort of a test run before putting their money into a nicer model. We understand the concept, but it’s equally important to note that starting off with something that low of a quality can be discouraging and frustrating. This doesn’t mean you need to spend a ton of money on your first ukulele. Consider spending a reasonable amount to get a decent instrument.
Additionally, this category includes the models that most cartoons and movies feature. Those ukes can have a higher price tag than cheap ukes, but the quality of build still is missing, putting them in the “toy” section.
Around $50: Budget Ukuleles
There are two ways to go with a budget ukulele. There are countless amazing ukes in this part, but there’s an equal amount of garbage.
We present a general list of suggestions toward the end but we recommend you stick to the upper end of the price tier.
Things to Consider:
- These ukes are mass-produced and thus tend to be quite consistent. But there are always going to be instances of variations in playability and build quality.
- Budget ukes are the best choice for the average beginner, but players will want to upgrade with time as they improve. Before buying a ukulele within this price range, think about whether you can buy another one in the future (that is, if you wish to get better with time).
When does a budget ukulele make sense?
When should you opt for a budget uke?
- Your budget is limiting you.
- You aren’t sure if you’ll stick with it.
- It’s a present.
When to consider the next level?
- Your budget is giving you some wiggle room.
- You’re serious about this and are dedicated to learning.
- You’d rather not spend money once more on another uke as your ability progresses.
$50 to $150: Beginner Ukulele
For majority of the players, this price range hits the sweet spot. The ukes within this “beginner” range offer the comfortable blend of quality and affordability.
Thus, if you’re a new player, you’re naturally going to be inclined to them. However, many intermediate and advanced players equally enjoy the ukes in the beginner price tier.
Price Differences in Beginner Ukuleles
With the massive selection in this range, it’s almost impossible to fixate on something that delivers the one-size-fits-all benefit.
As you explore the more affordable side, you’ll come across an assortment of good-quality yet simple ukes that are perfect as starter instruments.
As you climb up the price range ladder, ukers with additional features like fancy inlays, exotic tonewood, and electronics will be presented. These options generally don’t have an enhancing effect on the sound or playability of the uke – for the most part, they’re ornamental. The only exception is the solid top that delivers better volume and tone.
What to Expect
Although they’re all within close price ranges and have similar features, most beginner ukuleles are equipped with a handful of specifications that establishes them as unique within the cheaper alternative crowd.
- Satisfactory fit, craftsmanship, and finish.
- Decent playability,
- Improved material and hardware quality.
- Usually better tone.
- Consistent build.
$160 to $500: Mid-Level Ukuleles
This price range might be the one that covers the most ground, so we’ve divided it into a few sub-sections to make it easier to understand. Remember that one uke can fall in more than one sub-section.
Bedazzled Beginner Ukuleles
Some of these mid-level ukes are just the beginner models with a fancy touch. What we meant was bedazzled was not filled with rhinestones, but something that just looks more creative or chic. When it comes to quality, these ukes are quite similar to their beginner counterparts. The upgraded look gives them an elevated price tag.
On that note, there’s nothing wrong with paying a few extra bills for a ukulele that has a unique outlook, but do remember that the looks won’t make it more playable or give it a better sound.
Solid Wood Ukuleles
A selection of ukuleles made completely from solid wood fill this mid-level price range.
In comparison to laminated wood (plywood), solid wood resonates better. Generally, the latter will have more volume, bass, warmth than the cheaper counterpart.
However, there have been exceptions in this case when a well-built laminated ukulele sounded every bit as good as the solid wood model. We aren’t saying you shouldn’t buy one, but please do your homework before spending on these. And if you’re not satisfied with the sound, don’t be afraid to return it.
Electronics and Cutaway Body
When you want to use an amplifier for the performance or record it, acoustic-electric ukuleles should be perfect for this task.
A cutaway gives easier access to higher frets which is optimum to play intricate solos or melodies. Most beginner players won’t even need the cutaway, but it could prove to be helpful down the road. Plus, it does look slightly look. So, win-win!
$510 and Up: High-End Ukuleles
At the top of the pyramid, we find only the best quality ukuleles from established brands across the world.
The price can vary drastically in this tier as even the smallest details can hike up the bargain. Factors like grade of wood, body size, ornamentation, and finish can be determining actors in the price.
With a budget of around $500, you will find a ton of fancy ukuleles that you can pick. We personally would opt for one that deliver stellar and balanced tune instead of one that’s jam-packed with additional factors that don’t add much value.
Apart from the large manufactures that are pioneers in the field of ukulele making, there happen to be quite a few small, independent builders who sell their products at premium pricing.
Their production expenses are much lower than the bigger brands but the price is high as these can often be one-off custom versions. Expect these ukes to go for $2,000 and over.
If you have a particular design in mind and wish to put it to effect, these individual builders will turn your plans into reality. You can customize the design of your ukulele, but it’s anything but a cheap affair.
But if there’s some spare money lying around for you to burn, why not construct the ukulele you always envisioned yourself playing?
Our advice is to buy the best ukulele you can find within your budget. There will always be something better than the previous, and you might deviate from your original plan and end up buying something to only regret it later on.
Don’t force yourself to spend some extra dollars “just because” when there are plenty of incredible budget options you can opt for.
On the other hand, trying to save too much on your first uke can be counterpart. So keep a decent budget at hand and have fun choosing.