For the most part, the difference between good but inexpensive guitars and guitars for beginners comes down to one thing: playing on-stage. On the whole, the guitars we discussed in our best guitars under $500 post can all hold their own when playing live. They’re guitars for players, so they use solid components even despite their relatively low price tag.
When shopping for guitars for beginners, playing on-stage is still far off in the distance. Sure, some people are prodigies and yes, you can certainly play any guitar you like in any setting, but as a general rule, the guitar you learn to play on just needs to have all the elements in the right place. You’re working on fundamentals and getting a sense of the instrument, so it probably won’t matter much to you what pickups it has, or even the body wood. The components of truly cheap beginner guitar are indeed the lesser versions, but that won’t stop you from learning chords or running scales.
To that end, there are many cheap guitars aimed at beginners. Your time with this first guitar will be spent making a lot of mistakes, and generally sounding less than stellar. You won’t even necessarily be thinking much about tone or playability, though you should pick something that feels good to you or learning will be more frustration than it’s worth. It’s also good to keep the price low in case you discover that guitar just isn’t for you. Investing a lot up front isn’t necessary, so keep it simple and cheap.