Many beginning uke players have a simple goal: find the best cheap ukulele on the market.
Luckily, there are a lot of great affordable ukes available these days, but it’s important to know that not all budget ukuleles are created equal.
This article is designed to help you steer clear of the junk and find the best budget ukulele for your needs.
The Best Cheap Ukuleles: My Top Picks
After scouring the web, these are three of the best affordable ukes I could find. All of these models are well-built, well-reviewed, and come from established brands with good customer service.
However, some players may find the larger concert and tenor sizes to be more comfortable and better sounding. If you’re interested in the larger sizes, you can find them in the tables below.
I’ve already written an extensive review of the KA-15S so I won’t go into too much detail here.
The takeaway from the review is that the KA-15S is a well-made entry-level uke that looks good, sounds great, and is easy to play.
The KA-15S is good option for beginners seeking a decent starter instrument, but it’s also a great option for seasoned players in search of an affordable second uke.
Kala is one of the most well-known and respected names in the realm of entry-level ukuleles, and for the money it’s tough to beat their budget-priced KA-15S.
However, the Donner and Aklot models I touch on below come with a better gig bag and include some nice extras like a clip-on tuner and additional strings.
Donner DUS-1 21
I’m a big fan of Donner’s simple styling and clean craftsmanship. For the price, they make great no-frills ukes that play well and sound good. There’s not really much more you can ask for from a uke at this price.
Donner’s ukuleles come in a package that includes a gig bag, clip-on tuner, and more. Their DUS-1 21 soprano is the cheapest uke they build, but for just a little more you can get an equally nice concert uke.
The Aklot AKS21 stands out as being one of the most affordable concert ukes available online, and the fact that it has a solid top makes it an even better deal.
Why is a solid top important? In general, a ukulele with a solid top will have a warmer, richer tone than a similar model with a laminated top.
In addition to a solid top, the AKS21 comes with a good gig bag, clip-on tuner, extra set of strings, strap, and more.
Aklot also makes a soprano (smaller) and tenor (bigger) size of this model, and as you can see in the table above they’re both very reasonably priced.
Super-Cheap Uke Options
There are good reasons why some folks would want to spend as little as possible on a ukulele. Maybe they have a tight budget, are shopping for young children, or just want a semi-disposable uke for camping or travel.
The ukes below can be found online for $30 or less at the time of writing. None of them are amazing instruments, but they’re not terrible considering their low price.
What to Avoid
You’ll find some ukes that sell for around $15-$20 online, and they’re basically just toys. Ukes in this price range are very low quality and often have a host of issues right out of the box:
- Shoddy build quality, rough fit and finish
- Low-grade tuners
- Cheap strings
- Poor, uneven fret work
- Thin, weak, sad tone
I can’t really recommend these ukes for anybody, since for just a little more money you can get a much better instrument.
Have Realistic Expectations
When reading customer reviews of inexpensive ukuleles on sites like Amazon, I see quite a few customers who I feel have unrealistic expectations from inexpensive ukes.
Some reviewers mention tiny imperfections in craftsmanship, frets that aren’t perfectly polished, tuning machines that are a little rough, and so on.
While I understand these issues can be frustrating, these are all normal with inexpensive ukuleles and shouldn’t be viewed as dealbreakers.
It’s important to remember that $40 or $50 is at the very low end of the ukulele price spectrum. As I discuss in my article on ukuleles prices, a high-quality, US-made ukulele can easily cost over $1,000.
This isn’t to say you can’t find a respectable level of quality in a budget ukulele, but buyers expecting master grade craftsmanship will be disappointed.