Here I’ll be exploring the best cheap mandolins and the best cheap mandolin brands out there on the market. I’ve played this double-stringed beauty for many years, and I’d like to encourage you to take your first steps with this instrument.

Quick Look: 10 Best Cheap Mandolins

#1 Best Cheap Mandolin Overall: Ibanez M510


The mandolin is not as cheap as the guitar, for example, and it’s quite difficult to find the correct one for the right price. But with my help, you can take a look at several brands and models that could be considered the best cheap mandolins.

Should You Choose a Cheap Mandolin?

We all have to start somewhere. Many of the most professional musicians started to learn with basic starter packs made by Gibson, Epiphone, and Fender. So, does this idea translate to the mandolin?

Yes, it does.

the best cheap mandolin

Nowadays, the mandolin is fabricated in huge numbers and at a relatively low cost. New brands like Rogue, Vangoa, Hola! Music and Donner are producing decent instruments at quite competitive prices, increasing accessibility for this instrument in the process.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Cheap Mandolin

We have to consider several aspects of this instrument when buying it. The most important, in my opinion, is the wood and the overall construction method, as solid body instruments give a better tone and harmonics.


Normally, most mandolins have a quite similar size, but this can vary depending on the model and the brand. The variation is minimal, however, if we don’t count the rarest types like bowlback or double top.

The Overall Tone & Sound

There is no formula for the best sound and tone. It all depends on personal taste or the musical style you want to play. Bright and clear tones are great for bluegrass and blues, and more mellow and warm tones would sound perfect for folk and classical music styles.


The mandolin is not a cheap instrument overall, but you can certainly find some great offers and starter bundles. The lowest price point for a good cheap mandolin is around $100, but it can easily go up to several hundred if you’re looking for a higher-grade instrument.

10 Best Cheap Mandolins

Here I’ve selected 10 of the best cheap mandolins I could find on the market. Some of the instruments here are made by well-known brands like Rogue and Kentucky, and there are some more budget options like Hola! Music and Donner.

1. Washburn M1S Americana A-style

  • Size: 30 x 12.35 x 5 inches
  • Weight: 3.09 pounds
  • Wood: Spruce top, maple back and sides, rosewood neck
  • Finish: Black, blue, red, and sunburst
  • Sound: Bright and natural tone

The Washburn M1s Americana A-style has a great projection and tone. This mandolin is made from solid spruce, which gives this instrument great sustain and bright harmonics. It’s a great mandolin at a reasonable price.

✅ Solid spruce body
✅ Great sustain and bright tone
✅ Easy to set up and play
❌ Case sold separately

Why I Recommend It

This mandolin, created by the renowned brand Washburn, is a perfect instrument for folk and bluegrass. With bright and natural tones, this mandolin is a good match for any beginner player that doesn’t want to spend too much on their first instrument.



2. Ibanez M510

  • Size: 27 x 3 x 10.5 inches
  • Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Wood: Spruce top, sapele back and sides, mahogany neck
  • Finish: Dark violin sunburst
  • Sound: Clear and natural

The Ibanez M510 is an amazing mandolin for this price range. A simple but elegant design and finish give this instrument a great presence. With quality materials and a solid and robust structure, this instrument is probably one of the best mandolins for this price.

✅ Solid spruce top
✅ High-quality materials
✅ Simple but beautiful finish and design
✅ Great tone for his price range
❌ Needs some setup to be playable
❌ Atypical dimensions

Why I Recommend It

This mandolin is a unique instrument that makes high-level craftsmanship more affordable for anyone. It’s perfect for folk, blues, and classical performances. This mandolin has many positive reviews and is considered one of the best for the money.



3. Rogue RM-100 F-style

  • Size: 28 x 13 x 3.75 inches
  • Weight: 3.07 pounds
  • Wood: Spruce top, maple back and sides, maple neck
  • Finish: Gloss sunburst
  • Sound: Bright and clear

The Rogue RM-100 F-style is an F-style mandolin version of the well-proven Rogue RM-100A. Elegant visually and with a great tone and high-quality materials, the Rogue RM-100 F-style is a great addition to the collection any musician with a low budget.

✅ Professional design
✅ Clear and bright tone
✅ Easy to use
❌ Case sold separately

Why I Recommend It

This mandolin is a quite affordable F-style instrument with some great features and a high-quality construction. In addition to that, you’ll get a great bright tone with its unique and beautiful F-style design. The Rogue brand never disappoints, as all instruments created by this company are always made of the best materials with uniquely special care.




4. Epiphone MM-30S

  • Size: 28.3 x 12.2 x 3.8
  • Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Wood: Spruce top, mahogany back and sides, mahogany neck
  • Finish: Antique sunburst
  • Sound: Bright and clear

The Epiphone MM-30S is a decent instrument for a low price. A bright and clean tone is a perfect match for the bluegrass musical style. It’s a simple but efficient instrument made by the budget brand Epiphone, which has provided many affordable instruments to many students and beginners over the years.

✅ Low cost
✅ Solid spruce top
✅ Easy to set up and use
❌ Bland design
❌ Lacks definition on some tones

Why I Recommend It

Although quite cheap, this mandolin is a comfortable stepping stone towards more professional instruments. Easy to set up and play, the Epiphone MM-30S is a useful starter mandolin for a decent price. Epiphone is an expert in low budget instruments, and it has several years of experience producing them.


5. Donner  DML-1 A-Style

  • Size: 24.41 x 14.17 x 4.72
  • Weight: 3.53 pounds
  • Wood: Spruce top, mahogany back and sides, mahogany neck
  • Finish: Sunburst
  • Sound: Bright and rich

The Donner DML-1 A-style is a great low budget mandolin with some useful accessories in the bundle. This brand is well known for its affordable instruments with decent quality materials and sound.

✅ Durable construction
✅ Several accessories in the bundle
✅ Easy to play and tune
❌ Lacks clarity on some tones

Why I Recommend It

This instrument is a great starting mandolin for anyone looking for something decent for a reasonable price. If you’re looking to learn to play the mandolin, you can consider this model as a starting point.


6. Hola! Music HM-3TS A-Style

  • Size: 26 x 12 x 3
  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • Wood: Maple top, maple back and sides
  • Finish: Glossy sunburst
  • Sound: Bright and clear

The Hola! Music HM-3TS A-Style is a simple and affordable mandolin made by a small family-owned brand called Hola! Music. Recently, this brand has earned its place as a great beginner and low-cost instrument company that has useful starter bundles for anyone to enjoy.

✅ Adjustable truss rod
✅ Easy to play
✅ Durable materials
❌ Difficult to tune

Why I Recommend It

If you’re looking for something decent to start learning to play on, this mandolin will give you what you need and more at a really reasonable price.


7. Rogue RM-100 A-style

  • Size: 27.3 x 13.3 x 4.25 inches
  • Weight: 2.85 pounds
  • Wood: Maple neck, rosewood fingerboard
  • Finish: Sunburst, black
  • Sound: Bright and clear

The Rogue RM-100 A-style is an amazing instrument made from durable materials that will give you many hours of entertainment for a really incredible low cost. One could certainly say that this model is one of the best cheap mandolins you can find on the market today.

✅ Easy to set up and play
✅ Durable materials
✅ Great for beginners
✅ High volume
❌ Simple design
❌ Difficult to tune

Why I Recommend It

This mandolin is a great choice for any beginner, amateur, or even professional, as the sound quality is quite good for this budget mandolin. I personally played this monster and I can certainly say it’s one of the best out there, even comparable to the most expensive and professional mandolins.


8. Ibanez M522 F-style

  • Size: 35.1 x 14.5 x 7.4
  • Weight: 3.8 pounds
  • Wood: Flamed maple body, solid spruce top
  • Finish: Brown sunburst
  • Sound: Bright and clear

The Ibanez M522 F-style is a great affordable instrument with high-grade materials and a near-professional sound and tone. This mandolin will last for years, as it was created with great care and with the best wood you can find in this price range.

✅ Stylish finish and design
✅ Adjustable bridge
✅ Perfect for bluegrass
✅ High-quality construction
❌ Case sold separately

Why I Recommend It

It’s a truly amazing instrument made with the typical care provided by the Ibanez brand. Easy to play and tune, this mandolin will give you infinite hours of entertainment for a reasonable price.


9. Kentucky KM-150

  • Size: 29 x 13 x 4 inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds
  • Wood: Solid maple back and sides, solid spruce top
  • Finish: Traditional sunburst
  • Sound: Balanced tone

The Kentucky KM-150 is a battle-proven veteran made of solid maple and spruce. This mandolin is perfect for blues and bluegrass, and it’s fabricated by the world-famous brand Kentucky.

✅ Easy to set up and play
✅ High-quality materials
✅ Solid wood body
✅ Great high tones
❌ Simple finish
❌ Lack of definition on the low notes

Why I Recommend It

This instrument, although quite cheap, has professional standards and an amazing sound. I personally recommend this one, and I’ve played it several times and it’s a solid choice if you’re looking for something durable and great sounding.


10. The Loar LM-520

  • Size: 27 x 12 x 2 inches
  • Weight: 3.25 pounds
  • Wood: Solid spruce top, solid maple back and sides
  • Finish: Vintage sunburst
  • Sound: Clear and natural

The Loar LM-520 is in the highest range of budget mandolins. This instrument is a high-grade mandolin made from the best materials and with great attention to detail. The Loar LM-520 is a budget version of the bestselling Loar LM-600 and is made in the same specialized workshops with high precision and quality.

✅ Hand-carved wood
✅ Great tone and projection
✅ High-quality construction
❌ The high end of the “cheap” price range

Why I Recommend It

This mandolin can be considered on the amateur or almost professional spectrum. The Loar brand makes sure any instrument they fabricate has same high standards and professional sound no matter the price.



Best Cheap Mandolin Brands

As of today, you can find a huge amount of new budget brands for this instrument. These mandolin brands offer decent quality instruments at very affordable prices. But, some consumers might want to stick to the well-known and battle-proven brands like Ibanez, Kentucky, and Rogue.

one of the best cheap mandolins on the market


Founded in 1990, Rogue started as a Gibson and Fender low budget store. But, in later years they evolved into a proper low-cost brand that creates their own models with great success.

A great example of this is the Rogue RM-100 A-style, as it stands out today as a bestselling mandolin and will probably continue to dominate the market in the future.


Ibanez is a world-renowned brand that creates top-level guitars and basses. This brand later expanded into different string instruments like ukuleles, banjos, and mandolins. Their fabrication methods always produce high-grade instruments with professional sound and design.

Hola! Music

Hola! Music is a family-owned company that specializes in low-cost instruments and starter bundles. Although quite young, this brand was able to earn its place in the world of budget range mandolins.


Founded in 1883 in Chicago, Washburn is a company that specializes in string instruments with an American flavor. This brand is one of the most respected in the world, as it always creates the best high-quality instruments with excellent results.


Donner is a low budget brand that always delivers on good quality instruments. Although quite new in this market, Donner is rapidly gaining terrain thanks to many positive reviews and great accessibility.

Mandolin Craftsmanship

The fabrication method is quite important for the final result and overall sound quality. The different types of wood as well as varnish types and finish application all influence the final tone and harmonics of your instrument.


The most important factor for the sound is the wood type. The most common ones are spruce and maple, but you can find different configurations such as mahogany, rosewood, cedar, sapele, and redwood.

All of them have different qualities and different sounds and tones as a result. Spruce, for example, produces bright tones, and cedar has warmer and smoother tones.

You can clearly see how different brands and companies experiment with different mixes of wood for the top, back, and sides of their mandolins. There is no best wood to use, and each mix gives you different results.


Here I’ll talk about the varnish used in the final finish of the mandolin. The most common ones are spirit varnish and oil varnish. Each one changes the final sound and tone of the mandolin.

Spirit varnish uses shellac dissolved in alcohol for better wood protection, but it might dampen the sound.

Oil varnish, on the other hand, will maintain the natural tone and sound of your mandolin, but the thin layer of oil might not be able to totally protect your instrument.


The great variety of colors for the mandolin is as wide as for the guitar. You can find brown, black, blue, green, vintage red, sunburst, and many more.

The most common ones are vintage, glossy, or antique sunburst, as well as a classic natural color finish.

Buying New vs Used

A new instrument will provide you with a warranty and some accessories. Also, when you’re buying a new mandolin, you’ll certainly get a well packaged and professional product.

If you’re looking for a used mandolin, make sure there are no defects or cracks in the wood. But, there are some advantages to used instruments. Some mandolins will sound better the older they get, as the wood evolves through the years.

So, when you’re buying a used mandolin, you might find something cheaper and also better sounding if you’re lucky enough. But, this way you won’t get the warranty or some of the accessories a newly bought instrument can provide.

What’s in the Cheap Mandolin Box?

Some low-cost mandolins come in useful packages or bundles with several accessories for you to use.

A close-up mandolin musical instrument

Solid Case/Gig Bag

Some brands like Donner and Hola! Music might include a solid case or gig bag in their bundle. This accessory is a quite useful one, as the gig bag/solid case will protect your precious instrument for years to come.

Set of Strings

You can find a simple and basic set of strings in some packs and starter bundles. Nothing fancy here, just non-expensive and the most common strings you can find in any store.

Set of Picks

Some bundles might have a simple set of differently colored picks for you to use.

Chromatic Tuner

This might be the most important accessory for the mandolin. The double-stringed beauty won’t tune by itself, and sometimes it can be quite a chore.

You might need to use a chromatic tuner, as it will make the tuning process quite easy for you. This accessory will provide easy tuning for each string, as well as better harmonics for each pair.


Some starter bundles might have low-quality strings, and you might need to buy a more professional set by yourself. Some instruments might not include the solid case/gig bag, as you might need to buy one with the specific dimensions of your instrument.

Cheap Mandolin Brands to Avoid

I recommend avoiding unknown brands and “too cheap to be good” models. The mandolin is a unique instrument that requires some attention and good quality fabrication methods to have a decent sound and tone.

El Degas, Alpha, and Hondo are some of the cheapest and worst sounding brands. Some brands specializing in guitars, like Gibson and Fender, have some poorly fabricated and bad-sounding mandolins too.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Here are some commonly asked questions about mandolins.

Are There Other Types of Mandolins?

There are many more types of mandolins you can find out there. Some of them are direct descendants of the traditional medieval mandolin and mandola. Bowlback, doubletop, and mandolinetto are some of the most unique and rarest types out there.

Most of them are created in low numbers by dedicated luthiers. Those instruments might get quite expensive and might require a great amount of maintenance.

What Are the Best String Brands for Mandolins?

There are several companies that produce high-quality strings for your mandolin.

Some of the best string brands for mandolins are:

  • Elixir: Easy to tune and quite comfortable to use
  • Newtone: Handmade and natural sounding
  • D’Addario: High-quality and with a great tone
  • Thomastik: Durable and easy to play

How Popular Is the Mandolin Nowadays?

As of today, the mandolin is becoming more prominent thanks to its use in several movies and video game soundtracks. The indie-folk sound of this instrument creates a warm and smooth prairie experience that adds immersion to any entertainment media.

And with the resurgence of modern folk, this instrument is gaining more importance each year.

F-style or A-style?

Those two mandolin types have quite different sounds and overtones, as the different sound holes and overall construction give different qualities to their sound.

The F-style gives us a crisp, bright and clean tone that’s perfect for bluegrass and blues, while the A-style is more traditional sounding with warmer and smoother tones that are ideal for folk and classical music. The F-style is normally more expensive, as its construction requires more elements and work.

Visually, those two types are quite different, as the F-style has a unique and elegant design with some ornaments, and the A-style is a simple and classically designed mandolin.

Is It Difficult to Tune the Double Strings?

It might be if you don’t have experience with them. Be careful to tune them correctly, as you need to tune each string to the correct note and its pair with some double harmonics, which creates that chorus effect so typical of the mandolin.

A chromatic tuner will make your life much easier, as it’s specially designed to help with those tricky harmonics and overtones. This tuner will give you the tuning of the main double strings and the pairs in relation to each other.

Do Soundholes Matter?

The soundhole configuration certainly matters, as it will define the sound and tone of your mandolin. The F-style soundholes, inspired by the violin design, have a sharper high-end tone and sound, but you might get less volume.

The central oval soundhole will give you more volume with a more natural and smoother sound, which is perfect for folk and traditional music.

There isn’t a best configuration, it’s just a matter of taste or personal preference.

Electric or Acoustic Mandolin?

An acoustic mandolin will give you a more natural sound with no contamination by electronics. The electric mandolin has the advantage of being able to amplify its sound and be played in a live show or a band.

I’ve personally used some electric mandolins, and some of them have some problems with feedback and noises in their pickups, but you can certainly find a great electric instrument for a decent price too. Always remember to try them out before buying to find out about those small defects and details.

How Much Do Cheap Mandolins Cost?

The cheapest ones you’ll find around $100, and they go up to $500 or more. The mandolin is quite expensive in its production methods and materials, but nowadays you can find several low-cost companies and brands.

The price could define the overall sound and material quality, so you might need to think about how much use you’ll give this instrument before buying it.

What Are the Best Cheap Mandolins?

Here are some of the best cheap mandolins you can find on this list.

Ibanez M510: Best Cheap Mandolin Overall

The Ibanez M510 is an amazing mandolin for this price. High-quality materials with great attention to detail make this instrument the best one of its kind.

Donner DLM-1 A-Style: Best Cheap Mandolin Bundle

The Donner DLM-1 A-style has a simple design and a decent sound, all wrapped up in a single bundle full of useful accessories.

Kentucky KM-150: Best Cheap Mandolin Under $500

Kentucky KM-150 is an all-American mandolin with the best wood and a unique sound. This mandolin is a perfect fit for blues and bluegrass styles.

Where Are the Best Cheap Mandolins Made?

The most traditional ones are made in Europe and the USA. But, there’s a different tendency in each continent. American brands create crisper sounding instruments that are perfect for blues and bluegrass, and European ones continue with the more natural and clean sounding tradition.

Nowadays, you can find some new Spanish brands that create decent mandolins for a reasonable price.

What Is the Best Sounding Cheap Mandolin?

The best sounding models are the Ibanez M510, Rogue RM-100, and Kentucky KM-150, as these instruments have a great sound and a decent price tag. But as always, sound is quite subjective, as it’s a matter of personal taste and the musical style you’re trying to perform.

Where to Buy the Cheapest Mandolin Online

There are many different online stores today. Some might offer great packages and bundles, as well as year-long warranties and services. Some websites have short sample recordings of several melodies and riffs played by the mandolin, so it might make the choice easier for you.

An up close of one of the best cheap mandolins

But, if you want to go to the store in person, you might find many different mandolins to try with different amplifiers and accessories. Simple advice from the vendor could make your decision easier too. Although there might be not that much variety in the store, you can surely explore in detail any instrument around you.


Amazon is a world leader in online retail, thanks to its competitive prices and fast delivery. You can find many different mandolins for a reasonable price there with some useful specifications and user reviews.

Online Music Retailers

There are many online music retailers out there to choose from. Some of them, like,, and, offer a great variety of instruments with good availability in stock.

It’s always better to buy your instrument in the online store that specializes in string instruments, as they’ll provide you with a useful warranty and services.

Your Local Music Store

If you visit your local music store, you might not find the specific model you’re looking for, but you can certainly try any instruments they have in stock and get some useful tips and advice from the vendor.

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In Conclusion

Now that we’ve explored the best cheap mandolins, you might have a better idea of what to look for when looking for your budget mandolin. Throughout the years, the mandolin has become less expensive each year, as newly formed brands have started to create very affordable starter mandolins.

As of today, you might not have any excuses to find the perfect match for you, as you can find budget mandolins in any store online or in-person. The great affordability and easy setup of this instrument will make it more popular for years to come.

If this article helped you to know a little more about the best budget mandolins,  feel free to share or comment here with any doubts or questions you may have.

Stay safe, and good luck with your sonic adventures!