In this article, I’ll tell you about the best banjos under $500. A cheap banjo isn’t automatically a bad banjo, so I’m here to give you tips and suggestions about what to look for.

There are lots of reasons to look for a banjo under $500. Maybe this is the first banjo you’re going to buy. On the other hand, you could be a professional looking for a solid banjo to take on vacation. Whatever it is, I’ve got your info below.

Quick Look: Best Banjos Under $500

#1 Best Banjo Under $500 Overall: Deering Goodtime 


My name’s Ryan. I’ve been playing and teaching banjo for 10 years, and I attended Bela Fleck’s Blue Ridge Banjo Camp. While teaching beginner students, I’ve gotten the opportunity to try a lot of banjos under $500, so I know what to look for.

Are There Good Banjos Under $500?

It’s easy to think that because you’re only spending $500 or less, you won’t be able to find a good banjo. But that couldn’t be further from the truth if you know what you’re looking for and pay attention to all the tips below.

A banjo and a musical notes right next to it.

While it’s true that there are many poor-quality banjos in this price range, you can also find some real hidden gems, along with banjos that fill a specific purpose like travel banjos, kid-size banjos, or banjo ukuleles. And, of course there are some quality bluegrass and clawhammer banjos you can get on a budget, too.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Banjo Under $500

Whenever you’re going to buy a new instrument, there are a lot of things to consider. These include your level of experience and the type of playing you’re doing, along with the instrument’s size, style, materials, brand, price, and of course how it sounds.

Level of Experience

No matter what level of player you are, you’re always going to look for the best quality instrument you can find to fit your budget. The main differences in the kind of banjo you’re looking for is what you’ll use it for.

Beginner Banjos Under $500

For a beginner, the best banjo is one that’s easy to play and closest to a professional-grade banjo in the style you’re trying to learn, whether that’s bluegrass, old-time, or something else. You don’t need anything flashy, but make sure it won’t fall apart on you either.

Intermediate Banjos Under $500

If you’re an intermediate player on a budget, what you’ll be looking for is an upgrade and something that will last you until you’re ready to buy your dream banjo. You should be willing to wait for the right deal and look for solid wood and heavy metal hardware. You might even consider looking in the used market.

Pro Banjos Under $500

If you’re a professional or high-level player, chances are you already have a go-to banjo. So, you’ll likely either be looking for a backup banjo that mimics your main banjo or a banjo that does something different than your current one, like a banjo ukulele, an electric banjo, or a different style than your main instrument.


There are a lot of different sizes of banjos, so talking about the best banjos under $500 can be a bit confusing. The size varies based on style (I’ll talk about that below), and there are differences between full-scale, travel-size, and child-size banjos.


The two main styles of banjos are open back, used for old-time music, or resonator, which is used in bluegrass. But outside of that, other styles that vary quite a bit in size and form are ukulele banjos, electric banjos, 6-string banjos, and banjo mandolins, just to name a few.

Whatever the style, you should base your decision on the type of music you want to make and what style of playing you want to learn.


The materials of a banjo make a huge difference in sound, weight, and durability. Because of this, the highest quality banjos have solid wood and heavy metal hardware, but this might change if you’re looking for a travel or ultra-light banjo.

The Overall Tone & Sound

No matter what style you’re looking to play, if you’re buying a banjo, you want that signature twang. The specific sound can change depending on whether you’re going to play bluegrass, old-time, folk-rock, or jazz, so pay attention to specific qualities you want in a banjo.


For this article, I’m limited a bit in my price range (best banjos under $500), but that’s still a large range to choose from. So, make sure you’re getting your money’s worth, whether you’re spending $100 or $499.

10 Best Banjos Under $500 Overall

1. Deering Goodtime

  • Materials & parts: Violin grade maple neck and rim, guitar style tuners, 11″ head
  • Style: Open back
  • Weight: 4.5 lbs
  • What’s included: Banjo
  • Best for: Beginners/clawhammer players

The Deering Banjo Company makes some of the best banjos on the planet, and the quality of their instruments extends down to their Goodtime series. The Deering Goodtime banjo is light and comfortable to play. It has a great sound and is solid as a rock, suitable for beginner or intermediate players.

✅ Built like a tank
✅ Good sound
✅ Light
✅ Easy to play
❌ Not very loud
❌ More expensive than comparable banjos

Why I Recommend It

If you’re looking for a quality instrument that’s consistently well made and sounds and feels good, I recommend the Deering Goodtime. It’s my top choice after having played a bunch of them.


2. Recording King RKH-05 Dirty Thirties

  • Materials & parts: Maple neck and resonator, multi-ply rim, 24-hook plate flange
  • Style: Resonator
  • Weight: 5.1 lbs
  • What’s included: Banjo
  • Best for: Beginners/bluegrass players

Though it’s a bit lighter because it lacks a tone ring, the RKH-05 has the look, feel, and sound of the best bluegrass banjos at a fraction of the cost. Recording King makes many great banjos, and this instrument has many of the same perks and the same quality build.

✅ Classic bluegrass banjo look
✅ Well built
✅ Good bluegrass sound
✅ Fantastic value
❌ No tone ring
❌ Not as loud as pro banjos

Why I Recommend It

The RKH-05 is a great entry-level banjo that’s built to last. It has a very solid bluegrass sound despite the low price.



3. Rogue Travel/Starter Banjo

  • Materials & parts: Vintage style head, guitar style tuning machines
  • Style: Open back
  • Weight: 6.4 lbs
  • What’s included: Banjo
  • Best for: Beginners on a very tight budget

Outside of the used market, the Rogue Travel/Starter Banjo is the least expensive banjo I’d recommend to anyone. It’s well built, easy to play, light, and it has a good sound. Plus, it’s durable and easy to maintain.

✅ Very affordable
✅ Light
✅ Durable
✅ Decent sound
❌ Low-grade materials
❌ Feels cheap

Why I Recommend It

If you’re on a budget or need a banjo that can take a licking, the Rogue Travel/Starter Banjo is a great low-cost option for new pickers.


4. Deering Goodtime Banjo Ukulele

  • Materials & parts: 3-ply violin grade maple rim and neck, 11″ Renaissance head
  • Style: Open back ukulele
  • Weight: 4 lbs
  • What’s included: Banjo
  • Best for: Ukulele players looking for a unique sound

I know, this Deering Goodtime Banjo Ukulele is a bit of a departure from the other banjos on this list, but I love this ukulele from Deering. Made to the quality standards of the Goodtime series with a solid maple construction, this banjo has an 11″ head and a uke body that make a rich sound you won’t find anywhere else.

✅ Amazing sound
✅ Easy to play
✅ Well built
✅ Solid materials
❌ More expensive than other ukes
❌ Not a 5-string banjo

Why I Recommend It

I think that when you’re looking at instruments under $500, you also want to find unique instruments that give you something that other instruments won’t. The Deering Goodtime Banjo Ukulele does that well.


5. Ibanez B200

  • Materials & parts: Rolled brass tone ring, mahogany neck, basswood block rim
  • Style: Resonator
  • Weight: 12.5 lbs
  • What’s included: Banjo
  • Best for: Beginner bluegrass players

The Ibanez B200 is one of the few banjos below $500 with a brass tone ring. Therefore, it offers the best feel of a bluegrass banjo in this price range. On top of that, it has a beautiful, intricate inlay pattern and other classic bluegrass banjo stylings.

✅ Pretty inlays
✅ Proper bluegrass banjo weight
✅ Decent sound
✅ Tone ring
❌ Basswood not desirable
❌ Unreliable setup

Why I Recommend It

In terms of materials, the B200 is a bit of a mixed bag, but out of all the banjos below $500, this has the best bluegrass look and feel.



6. Washburn B6-A Americana Series

  • Materials & parts: Mahogany neck and rim, guitar style tuners
  • Style: Six string open back
  • Weight: 9 lbs
  • What’s included: Banjo
  • Best for: Guitar players

For anybody looking for a 6-string banjo on a budget, the Washburn B6 is a great pickup. With a mahogany neck and rim and an open back, you get a full rich tone from a light and portable instrument. It also comes as the B7-A for a 5-string version.

✅ Light
✅ Affordable
✅ Good plunky sound
✅ Guitar tuning
❌ Unreliable build
❌ Cheap hardware

Why I Recommend It

This is a very good sounding and playing option for a low-cost 6-string banjo for guitar players on a budget looking for the best 6-string banjo.


7. Gold Tone AC-1

  • Materials & parts: Composite neck and rim, zero glide nut
  • Style: Open back
  • Weight: 1 lb
  • What’s included: Banjo, gig bag
  • Best for: Lightweight travel

With its composite open-back build, the Gold Tone AC-1 is likely the lightest and most durable banjo you could find at any price. Because of the composite material, you lose a little bit of tone, but it’s the perfect instrument to take on the trail or on the road.

✅ Ultra light
✅ Cheap
✅ Includes gig bag
✅ Durable
❌ Not great sound
❌ Cheap materials

Why I Recommend It

Though this banjo isn’t great for playing on stage, if you need a banjo for the road it’s a great low-cost option. It’s great for kids too because of the light weight.



8. Rogue B30 Deluxe

  • Materials & parts: Nato resonator and neck, geared tuners, chrome armrest
  • Style: Resonator
  • Weight: 8.2 lbs
  • What’s included: Banjo
  • Best for: Beginner bluegrass players on a budget

For those on the tightest of budgets, the Rogue B30 Deluxe offers a solid resonator bluegrass banjo for a very low price. And on top of that, it still has a quality look and feel reminiscent of more expensive banjos.

✅ Very affordable
✅ Decent sound
✅ Good feel
✅ Good build
❌ Thin sounding
❌ Setups sometimes uneven

Why I Recommend It

A barebones banjo at a very affordable price, the Rogue B30 Deluxe offers a quality bluegrass experience for new pickers.


9. Gold Tone CC Mini

  • Materials & parts: Maple rim and neck, 8″ Remo head, 19 3/4″ scale, rolled brass tone ring
  • Style: Mini open back
  • Weight: 4 lbs
  • What’s included: Banjo, gig bag
  • Best for: Kids

The Gold Tone CC Mini is the ideal banjo for kids learning the banjo. With a shorter scale and lighter weight, it’s easier to hold and play, but it still has a solid maple construction and an open back style tone ring for a strong banjo pop.

✅ Perfect size for kids
✅ Solid materials
✅ Sounds great for old time or bluegrass
✅ Well built
❌ C tuning instead of G
❌ A bit expensive

Why I Recommend It

It’s a great option for a child or a travel size banjo that maintains the solid wood feel of a full size banjo.


10. Recording King RKOH-05

  • Materials & parts: Mahogany rim, maple neck with two way truss rod, presto tailpiece
  • Style: Open back
  • Weight: 5.1 lbs
  • What’s included: Banjo
  • Best for: Beginner clawhammer players

The RKOH-05 is a well built and great sounding open back banjo for those on a budget who are looking for a reliably built banjo. Recording King is known for their quality builds, and this banjo is well put together and surprisingly loud and resonant.

✅ Good loud sound
✅ Affordable
✅ Solidly built
✅ Good hardware
❌ Needs proper setup
❌ Cheaper materials

Why I Recommend It

I recommend the RKOH-05 to anyone looking for their first clawhammer banjo or as a quality backup for professionals.



Best Brands for Banjos Under $500

When looking for the best banjos under $500, you need to start with the brand. At lower prices, the build quality of an instrument can vary widely, so you want to make sure you’re buying an instrument from a brand you can trust.

Best Banjos


With Gibson closing the door on building new banjos, Deering (founded in 1975 in California) is now the undisputed king of banjo making in the US, if not the world. Their Goodtime series for beginners are well built and easy to play. They’re a great addition to any best-of list.

Recording King

Originally the house brand for Montgomery Ward’s lineup of string instruments in the late 19th century, Recording King has been making instruments for a long time. Their lineup ranges from quality low-cost options to some extremely good professional banjos.

Gold Tone

Newer to the game, Gold Tone was started in 1993 to build a wide range of affordable banjos. They’ve expanded to many other string instruments, and they now offer one of the widest range of styles and prices out there.


Primarily a guitar maker, Ibanez had a period in the 1970s where they focused hard on banjos. They still make some quality new instruments. If you’re looking for budget used instruments, Ibanez and other companies that built banjos in Korea and Japan in the 1960s and ’70s make some great banjos that are available for cheap now.


Though they mainly focus on budget instruments today, Washburn has a deep history of making quality instruments, which dates back to 1883 when George Washburn started building banjos.

What Comes with Banjos Under $500?

Many banjos come with various accessories like a bag or case, extra strings or picks, a tuner, a capo, a strap, and sometimes a cleaning cloth and maintenance tools.

Bag or Case

It’s best not to carry around a loose instrument without a case to avoid damage when going from place to place. Many budget banjos come with a lightweight gig bag, which is convenient but offers minimal protection. It’s unlikely at this price range to find a hard shell case included.


If you’re planning on playing standing up or sitting down with a lighter instrument, it’s useful to have a strap. Many banjos come with a strap included, and they come in two styles: clip-on or cradle straps.


For bluegrass-style playing, a thumb pick and finger picks are a must. Some banjos come with a set included. If not, look for picks made by Dunlop or National.


Most banjos come with strings already attached, but the bridge (a small wooden arched saddle the string sits on) isn’t placed under them yet. Some, though, even come with a replacement set of strings for when they break or your first set gets old.


A clip-on electric tuner is a convenient and easy way to check the tuning on any string instrument, and many banjos include one in the package. If it doesn’t, don’t fret, because your phone almost certainly can download a free tuning app.


Other extras that may be included or that you might need to buy yourself are a stand, a cleaning cloth, a capo, or tools to adjust and maintain your banjo.

Banjo Build and Materials

Banjos are an interesting instrument because, unlike other string instruments, there are dozens if not hundreds of interlocking parts. So, there are lots of materials to sort through like the wood, metals, finishes, and colors.


The wood used for a banjo is one of the biggest factors in its sound and construction. Higher quality instruments have solid wood necks and rims with more natural finishes.


Most high-quality banjos don’t have a glossy finish and instead opt for a more matte or unvarnished finish. This really shows off the wood and allows for smoother hand movement along the neck.


The wood on a banjo is typically stained in natural wood tones from tan to brown to red. It’s often based on the type of wood and personal preference. The metal hardware can also vary, with chrome, gold, and brass colors being most popular.


The heavier and more substantial the metal hardware on a banjo is, the more stable and full the sound will be. So, if you want a deep tone, look for brass (brass is best), steel, and iron as opposed to aluminum.

Buying New vs Used

For a new player, buying new is a great way to go. You know what you’re getting, there are free returns, and the options are much easier to sort through. But, if you’re looking to upgrade on a budget and know what you’re looking for, a lot of great used professional-grade banjos around $500 are out there if you’re willing to put in some effort.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Here are some answers to commonly asked questions.

What Are the Best Banjos Under $500?

Deering Goodtime: Best for Beginner Clawhammer Players

Deering Goodtime banjos are built to last, sound good, and feel good under your hands. They’re always near the top of my recommendations.

Recording King RKH-05: Best for Beginner Bluegrass Players

For a banjo that sounds and feels like a legit bluegrass banjo (albeit a bit lighter), it’s hard to beat the RKH-05 at this price.

Gold Tone AC-1: Best for Taking on the Road

If you need a durable, lightweight, and reliable banjo to take camping or on vacation, the AC-1 is a great choice.

Where Are the Best Banjos Under $500 Made?

Many sub-$500 banjos are made outside of the US, but the best banjos you can find are usually made in America.

What Is the Best Sounding Banjo Under $500?

The best sounding banjo under $500 can depend on what style you’re looking for. In resonator banjos, you can’t beat the Recording King RKH-05, and for open back banjos, it’s hands down the Deering Goodtime.

Where to Buy Banjos Under $500

There are a ton of different places you can buy banjos and a bunch of pros and cons for each method. Depending on what you’re looking for, the biggest decision usually comes down to online vs in-store buying.

one of the best banjo

Online retailers like Amazon or Guitar Center can be great places to find variety, low prices, and great return policies, though it’s sometimes hard to sort through all the options. On the other hand, buying in-store might be less convenient and a bit pricier, but you can ask questions, try out a few instruments, and meet other local musicians.


It’s hard to beat the prices and selection for anything on Amazon, and that includes if you’re looking for instruments. Amazon offers a wide range of banjos under $500, easy no hassle returns, quick shipping, and often the best prices.

Online Music Retailers

In addition to Amazon, other online retailers like Musician’s Friend, Guitar Center, or Sweetwater all offer convenience, low prices, and a wide selection. On top of that, with dedicated music retailers you often get more detailed information and a site dedicated to nothing but music gear, so there’s less noise to sift through.

Your Local Music Store

But, if you’re looking for some person-to-person communication, you can’t beat your local music store if you have access to one. Most stores will have a selection of instruments to try, friendly staff to answer questions, and even lessons or community events you can attend.

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In Conclusion

Thanks for spending the time with me to learn about the best banjos under $500. I hope you learned a bit about why you might want a budget banjo and also what to look for when you’re shopping for one.

If you have any questions, comments, or your own suggestion for what you think is the best banjo under $500, feel free to comment below to let me know what you think! Thanks again and I hope you enjoyed the article.