What's the Truth on American Strats vs. Mexican Strats?

Alex Najarian

Senior Member
At Guitar Center, one of the workers said that the wood, wiring, electronics are all better on the American Strats. At a privately owned store, about an hour away, the salesman told me that, as of about 4 years ago, the parts are all the same and the only difference is where they are built. What's the truth? Somebody is bullsh1tting.



What does 'better' even mean? Nickel vs chrome? 2 piece vs 3 piece bodies?

Of course it depends on what you buy, but my MIMs are every bit as good as my production MIAs.

Of course this topic will never go away.

Frankly, it all varies to the point that one cannot generalize categorically. MIMs have some cheaper parts, but are they noticeably worse?

Alex Najarian

Senior Member
So, are you asking us, or telling us?
I am asking but if that video is 5 years old or more, it would not address what the salesman told me. I watched on Youtube and it says the video was published in 2015, so it should be accurate.


MIM Strats usually don't have the same quality hardware (as referenced in the video above), but are just as good as MIA Strats. I've played a few, and thought they were all very nice guitars.

The only reason I don't have one is that I've never seen a 22 fret one in person to play it and buy it. I need that fret!


Mexican guitars are more likely to have three piece bodies. The Mexican Strats (standard series) have six screw trems where the American Standards (now professional series) have two points. The wiring might be nicer on the Americans. The pickups in the Mexicans last I heard were the same formula as the American Standards done prior to the 2012 revision with Fat 50's pickups on Strats and Nocaster/Twisted Tele pickups.

The hardware on the last revision of American standards was also allegedly chromed brass. The finishes were also thinner. Shot with a nitro undercoat then a thin poly finish.

Hope that helps.


I have not been overly "inspired" by all the "improvements" Fender has done to the MIA line over the last 4-5 years. I generally prefer std USA Fenders from the 90s to early 2000s overy any MIM Fender. So I got a Strat Plus from 1995 and I can tell you, it is better than a mexican strat. Better wood, better components and it just FEELS right, which is probably the most important thing in a guitar.


I've owned, and setup probably 100+ MIM and USA Strats and Teles in the last 8 years. During that time, I have put a lot of thought into this exact question and here is my opinion.

When I first started playing guitar I assumed that USA Fenders would always be better when compared to their MIM equivalent. Even though sometimes I couldn't feel or hear the difference, they must be better right? The short answer is no.

Once I started working in a shop and started getting trained on basic guitar maintenance and setups I was shown what some of the differences actually were. The most obvious being that the recent USA ones had rolled edges on the side of the fingerboard, which does feel nice. I assumed that I wasn't knowledgable enough to notice every artisan detail on these instruments. I assumed everything else I couldn't differentiate at the time, such as woods, finish, pickups, hardware, must be better on the USA guitars.

Heres what I think now:
-MIM necks and USA necks do feel different. MIM necks have a slightly slimmer nut width that you can feel. The hand rolled edges on the USA stuff does feel great. Personally, I like the finish on the ~2008 and up USA Fender necks better than about anything they've put out. MIM necks are no slouch. I have a Classic Player JM neck that I love as much as anything I own.
-MIM pots, caps, jacks, tuners, and switches are the same exact parts.
-American pickups do sound a little more Fendery. the 2012 and up ones with the custom shop pickups are a nice touch. In a Strat, Id prefer to buy a SSL1/SSL1/SSL5 set to either, making the point moot. In a Tele Im fine with the current offerings int the USA standard. Some people may prefer the tone of the MIM pickups as they are a little more aggressive.
-I'd be very surprised if the woods weren't the same on both the MIM and USA. After playing and studying on countless examples for countless hours both plugged in an acoustically I cannot hear or see enough of the sonic difference to justify the price based on tone woods. The maple on the neck appears to be the same grade on both necks. Ive seen many 3 and 4 piece USA Strat bodies as well as MIM ones.
-the 2 point tremolo on the USA does work better than the vintage synchronized type of the MIM. The MIM bridge on the Tele can be a turnoff to some but it can be easily swapped for a ashtray type, unlike its USA equivalent. The new USA Professional Tele's bridge looks promising.
-All of these guitars need a setup after purchasing, especially if you bought at GC or an equivalent.
-IMO the MIM, along with MIJ, are the highest quality imports out there. Not just talking Fender here.
-I'd still pick a new USA over the new MIM stuff but EITHER will do the job. There are some duds on both sides of the fence.
-If given the choice between a 90s USA and a 2008 up MIM Fender, I'd probably take the 2008 & up MIM in most cases.

The most important thing is that you try the guitar yourself. A great guitar is the one that you can stop analyzing while playing. Its one that everytime you pick it up you get lost and and forget about all of life's distractions. Its the one that puts a smile on your face after your done and makes you glad you bought it. Its NOT the one that some random guy you've never met told you was better, even though he himself was just regurgitating what somebody else had told him on whatever forum he was into at the time. They all have their quirks but its about finding the one thats quirks don't bother you,or that you may actually enjoy. Personally the one thing that is a no go for me when it comes to certain Fenders is a certain type of fret rattle. All Fenders have some but it seems certain types of rosewood board Fenders accentuate it in a way that is extremely unpleasing to my ear. Ive owned a USA and 2 MIMS that had this exact problem and just couldn't make them work for me. The sound drove me crazy. Ive played maybe 8-10 more with this problem and all had rosewood boards. None of the maple Fenders I have owned have had this problem. I currently only own rosewood fenders as I prefer the feel of the rosewood necks. None of the current ones I own have the aforementioned problem though. I encourage anyone that is looking at buying a new guitar to just go play bunch of them and figure it o


Silver Supporting Member
I had a MIA strat that was very nice, well-built, excellent fit and finish, sounded good, etc. I recently traded it for a MIM strat. The MIM was more fun to play and had more...<insert synonym for 'mojo'>. It was just more inspiring to play. The MIA was "stiff" by comparison.

Now, all three of my guitars are MIM and I am quite happy. I play all of them regularly ("eeny, meeny, miny, moe").

I should add that I had the same experience in a music store. I played a number of MIA Telecasters and then picked up a Baja and was immediately inspired to play it in a way that I wasn't with the MIAs. That's the truth as I have experienced it.


I've been working on guitars for about 35 years now. I was going to type up a long response, but pedalparty nailed it. I would especially pay attention to the last paragraph. Buy what makes you get lost in ecstasy, not what you conclude in your mind is the best guitar, part by part. I have 40+ guitars, from PRS, vintage strats, custom shop strats, squier strats, vintage LP and Samick SG. They are all good. I have two teles, and I was going to buy a custom shop tele. I played one and decided I liked my MIM and my Squier (all stock but it has a SD five-two pup installed before I bought it used (little bonus), and a GFS fatbody neck pup) better than the CS tele. I know the CS is a better overall instrument based on parts, but I like the two I got. The MIM has brass saddles, Fender vintage noiseless pups, and quality tuners, so it's as good as any high end guitar, and it came stock like that. So, don't overanalyze ever detail. Go in a shop, play what catches your eye, and find the one that makes your heart go pitter-patter. Buy that one. It may take a few weeks and a lot of guitars, but who cares where it was made? Buy what you like.

I will finalize with this: some guitars are greater than the sum of their parts, some are equal to that, and some are not as good as they sum of their parts. Learn to hear with your ears and feel with your hands, not your eyes and preconceived notions.


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