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Fender Custom Shop worth it?


I want to replace my current MIA Strat, and I am considering picking up a Custom Shop piece. The thing about Strats is that there are a million of them out there, and in my experience the price tag doesn't always match the quality.

I won't be able to try a stable of Custom Shop examples to compare to their bretheren, but I'd like to have some confidence if I go that route.

If you've been fortunate to play a bunch of Strats, have the Custom Shop examples been a cut above? Or have you found that many of the less expensive are at least as good as the CS stuff?

I'd be interested to hear about your experiences.


I love my Custom Shop guitars. I have '54 Strat, '60 Strat Relic, '63 Tele Closet Classic, and a '59 P Bass NOS. I've also owned 3 American Standard Strats from '95, '99, '09. I found that the Custom Shop guitars have a great feeling neck with awesome fret work. The closet classic and relic guitars have a nice broken-in feel.

You can find excellent examples of both, but for me, most Custom Shop guitars always hit the mark.
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Silver Supporting Member
I've played/owned dogs & gems at all price points...so I doubt I'd buy or order any Strat without an approval period. Heck, even a "Master Builder" might hear & feel a guitar differently than you. I've had better luck running the racks or swapping parts around on my parts-o-casters.


I think the wood, neck shapes, and finishes are what sets them apart. Ive loved almost every CS guitar ive picked up. Plus the resale on them is pretty good.


Mod Squad
Staff member
I became a Custom Shop convert after having the chance to try some 40+ models at Rocker Guitars in S.F. I now own 3 (plus 2 CS Teles) , and really couldn't imagine playing anything else. I will qualify that there are some of the vintage spec Fenders that suffer from being "vintage". What I mean is that they've done a great job to reproduce Strats warts and all.

Some guys don't like that there's no Locking Tuners, Floyd Rose, and other "modern" touches. But for Vintage Vibe......I've compared the Fenders to Suhr, Anderson, Tyler and a few others.....and there's nothing like playing a guitar made from the Original Tooling, and from the "birth place" so to speak.

But I'm no Fender Fan Boy per se, as the Suhr T-1 Tele I have is a better guitar than my two Custom Shop Tele's IMO. The bottom line is "try before you buy"....or at least get the scoop on the Return Policy.


Gold Supporting Member
I use to say yes

But after after a couple hefty price increases I'd
Say no to new

Ebay and the emporium are your friend


I've played/owned dogs & gems at all price points...so I doubt I'd buy or order any Strat without an approval period. Heck, even a "Master Builder" might hear & feel a guitar differently than you. I've had better luck running the racks or swapping parts around on my parts-o-casters.
that just about sums it up for me.
I've had Strats of every level, including Squires, AmStds, vintage 70s models, AmDlx, Clapton Signature, Custom Shop '62, and now a Suhr Classic-S. I have enjoyed them all, and consider myself primarily a Strat player. The more you learn about setup amd maintenance on a Strat, the more you can get out of even a less expensive version. When I made the move from the mid-70s Strat I had used for years, to the '89 Clapton Strat, it was a huge leap up in quality. The Clapton was a better guitar is every way than the 70s original. I now laugh at the prices people are asking for mid 70s Strats. After owning the Clapton for many years, I told myself that I needed to take that next step up the ladder, and got the opportunity to buy a Custom Shop '62. It was a beautiful guitar, and played very well. It had very nice birdseye maple in the neck, and the neck was a nice fat C-shape. I tried hard to like this guitar, and it was very nice. But I honestly didn't think I got enough difference in quality and materials to warrant the price tag. I eventually sold it, and did not lose much money. Since I had sold my Clapton to help pay for the CS, I needed another Strat. This time I found a good deal on a slightly used AmDlx Strat. This one struck me as a really great guitar, because it played as well as either the CS or the Clapton, and sounded better to my ears than the CS. I paid less than half of what the CS cost, and significantly less than the Clapton, for what felt like a "high-end" Strat. I still highly recommend AmDlx Strats, and believe they are well worth the higher price than the AmStd. But finally I ended up with the Suhr Classic-S that I now have. This is the end for me. The Classic-S cost less than most Fender CS Strat models, and the quality, detail, materials, and tone are as good as it gets. It's basically a perfect Strat. It needs no mods, and has no shortcomings for me. I did buy it slightly used, and believe I could always sell it for what I paid. I consider it a stable investment, but more importantly, a genuine keeper. I will not be buying any more CS Strats, because frankly I think they are over priced for what you get. I believe that the AmDlx and some of the Signature Strat models are way better values for the dollar than CS Strats. And if you are just wanting to pay big bucks for pretty wood, buy a PRS. But if you want a really great Strat, that is worth the price tag, I highly recommend Suhr guitars.
I've had a couple; CS Relic Nocaster and 60s Relic Strat in Daphne Blue. Both were very, very nice but not cheap. For those who say a Strat is a Strat and a Tele likewise, really need to spend some time with a few CS models.


They are great guitars but I'd also suggest you review some of these which are about $2000 which is $1000 less than the same custom Fender.
Rust (13th St Guitars)


Silver Supporting Member
No, plain and simple. Don't get me wrong, they do good work, but they don't do any better a job than Danocaster, Suhr, etc., all of which can be had at a significantly lower cost.

They're cool guitars, you do get that classic name, but they're not the best bang for your buck, new or used.


Very pricey, especially new, given what else is available in the market place & can be truly customized per your desires.


Silver Supporting Member
I own a Fender CS '51 Nocaster and a CS '56 Strat. Both are nice instruments and I'm happy to have them. Got nice deals on them as well!

Having said this, I will not order another CS Fender again. As mentioned earlier, pricing is out of hand and even moreso for the lefthand player. In the future, I'll be happy to roll my own if I feel the need.


I've owned lots of teles but I must admit that the best playing one that I ever came across was a 51 CS Nocaster that I got as part of a trade---I didn't plan to keep it but it plays so nice and sounds so good that I couldn't bear to get rid of it


I have a CS Strat, and it's the best Strat I've owned. It's one of those guitars that you take out of the shipping box and immediately strikes you as a very well crafted instrument. I really like the AVRI series too.


I highly recommend buying Used.

Those guitars usually sell new for (about $3K?), and that's just a lot of money to pay for a guitar IMO. You can save at least a third or so buying on the Used market. At that point I think you've got a decent "investment" and can at least get most of your money back if you ever decide to resell it. Yes, "try before you buy" is always best, but unless you're very picky about your guitars and are looking for something very specific, it's hard to get burned shopping online via eBay or the Emporium for this stuff by using just common sense, etc.

I have a '56 relic that I bought on eBay and it plays great, no regrets. I've played several production strats at my local shoppe, and it's a little- to-a lot better than all the high-end production ones I've tried so far. If there's a "better" non-CS strat out there for me, I've not found it yet and I've played any number of all makes and models.


The CS Fenders are really sweet! But the bottom line is.... if you practice and improve your playing, you'll sound better on your regular production model than you'd sound on a CS if you didn't practice at all.

Having said that..... if I had the money to spare.... I'd have me a nice collection of CS Strats and Teles!! :cool:


Analog with a side of DSP
The only reason to pay that much for a Tele or Strat style guitar is because you want the name and the headstock shape and are willing to pay a huge premium for it. Danocasters look, play and sound better than any CS guitar I've played (I've owned a couple of CS's too) and are way less money. You've got builders like Thorn and Elliott that will make a masterpiece to your specifications for $3000-ish; I don't think Fender is capable of making a guitar as special as either of my Elliotts, but if they did, they'd be double the money at least.


Before you do anything, you should find the time to visit a store with a good selection of C/S models and A/B it against your MIA. See if it's worth the extra dough to you (then if it is, buy a used one LOL!)
You might be surprised.
Buying sight unseen is really hit and miss unless you know what you want and go with a small builder like Scott Lentz.

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