If you’re looking for the best ukuleles for beginners in 2020 you will probably not want to spend too much money, and there are cheap options out there including ukes under $100.
You might be unsure of whether or not ukulele is the hobby for you. In this case it’s understandable not to want to spend too much on buying your uke. In this guide, we will show you the top budget options for starters and those who are brand new to the hobby, and you don’t even have to spend a lot of money to get started.
Here are the best cheap ukuleles for beginners:
- Kala KA-15S
- Kohala KPP-S Player’s Pack
- Luna VMP
- Cordoba Player Pack C
- Kala MK-B
- Epiphone EpiLani
- Kala Ukadelic
- Hola! Music HM-21 Bundle
- Hricane Tenor Cutaway
- Kala Concert Waterman
1. Kala KA-15S
The best cheap ukulele under $100
It’s hard to argue that this is the very best cheap ukulele on the market. If you are looking for an affordable ukulele then a lot of your options will be smaller, soprano size models. This is one of the best in terms of materials.
Kala is one of the best brands out there and they offer reliable quality with their models, but not many of them come at this price. If you are looking for something that gives good projection, this could also be one of the best ukes as it has an incredible volume considering the size.
|Image credit: Kala Check Sweetwater||
All-in-all this is probably one of the most popular models for beginners. It’s affordable but still comes with the hallmarks of Kala quality and an exceptional mahogany design. You might also find this bundled with lots of accessories for those who don’t already own them.
2. Kohala KPP-S Player’s Pack
The best beginner pack
If you are looking for a pack that offers accessories as well as the ukulele itself, but also still comes in at under $100, the Kohala could be ideal. A lot of beginners just want something that has a reliable tone but also offers some great accessories.
The Kohala has an unusual linden body, but more conventional rosewood fingerboard and also Aquila strings which are very popular for all sorts of ukuleles. The accessories included are a gig bag and a clip-on tuner as well as a booklet to explain how to get started with your instrument.
|Image credit: Kohala Check Sweetwater||
Playing the ukulele should be simple to get started with and if you buy something like the Kohala KPP-S Player’s Pack you don’t have to spend time worrying about what accessories to buy. Everything you need is in the pack, including a decent, reliable instrument with plenty of build quality for the money. One of the best ukuleles to learn on.
3. Luna VMP
The best pineapple ukulele under $100
Pineapple ukuleles are some of the most traditional models on the market. They have a true Hawaiian feel to them, and this small but eye-catching soprano ukulele is a popular model for those who want to get something with the rounded, pineapple design.
The Luna VMP (Vintage Mahogany Pineapple) soprano ukulele is actually really comfortable to hold and play as well as being small and portable. Like the Kala model at the top of this list, it has a mahogany body which gives good projection. A C-shaped neck is also very comfortable and there is a walnut bridge which further enhances the tone by enhancing ‘vibrational transfer’.
|Image credit: Luna Guitars Check Sweetwater||
Of course, your choice of the best cheap ukuleles is largely down to what you want from the instrument. An affordable model with a traditional bright sound is what to expect here. For some, that’s exactly what they are looking for. A truly Hawaiian feel and sound to this ukulele, cheap yet full of quality.
4. Cordoba Player Pack C
The best cheap concert ukulele starter pack
If you feel that a concert-sized ukulele is going to be more comfortable for you then you might think you have to pay a lot more for the instrument, but the Cordoba Concert Ukulele Player Pack is a cheap model that is very popular and gives you some accessories, too, all for under the $100 price tag.
It’s got everything you need within to let you get started, so there is a chromatic tuner and even a little lesson book to help teach you your first chords. There are a number of picks, spare strings and even a carry bag. This is all a bonus as the instrument itself is pretty well-priced.
In terms of build-quality, it has a mahogany build which helps with the resonance and getting volume out of the small instrument. There is also a quality rosewood neck.
|Image credit: Sweetwater / Cordoba Check Sweetwater||
This is a great model for those who want a cheap ukulele that is in the concert size. This is one of the easiest to play options especially if your hands are a bit too big for a soprano.
5. Kala MK-B
The best baritone uke under $100
If you are looking for an inexpensive ukulele then you might think that a baritone uke is out of the question. Kala have some very affordable ukes, though, and if you do want to take advantage of the baritone design, with its extra projection and larger size, the Makala Classic could be a good option.
Remember that this is tuned differently to most ukes, and has a guitar style to it, so it might not be ideal if you are looking to play in a traditional way.
It’s yet another mahogany model, which projects loudly and clearly. If you are used to playing the guitar then you might want to shift to a baritone model, also for bigger hands this can be a great model. The excellent walnut fingerboard feels great to play and adds a rich tone and attack to the sound of the instrument.
|Image credit: Kala Check Sweetwater||
Some people know what they want from a ukulele, and if they are looking for a bigger model which suits big hands or those transferring from guitar, this can be a fantastic option.
6. Epiphone EpiLani
An affordable ukulele that looks very elegant
You might associate this brand more with making guitars than with any other instruments, but the interesting EpiLani series is great for those who want an affordable model of uke with a very good build quality. You know what you are getting from the brand. They might not be elite instruments, but they are certainly reliable.
The design is almost totally mahogany, which is very good for projection even for a tiny little instrument. The rope-style binding looks brilliant, and though this design isn’t as characterful as some of the other budget beginner ukes on the market, it has a really professional finish with natural satin.
|Image credit: Epiphone Check Sweetwater||
In general, if you are looking for something that looks simple but elegant, this could be the answer for you. If you want a traditional ukulele manufacturer with a lot of history then maybe avoid the Epiphone.
7. Kala Ukadelic
Cheapest ukulele with a good tone
Are you looking for the absolute cheapest uke that still has a decent tone? A lot of people are in the market for something that is affordable. If you’re brand new to it, or your child wants to get started playing uke, for example then you might just want a budget pick that is still decent. To be able to get a model like this from Kala is a bonus.
The basic concept of this model is that it is made with cheaper materials, and maybe doesn’t have quite such a nice finish, but the tone holds up surprisingly well considering.
The materials are different from the standard mahogany and traditional uke materials, poplar back, sides and top are combined with a pine neck and a laurel fingerboard. For such an unusual set of materials the sound and projection are decent.
|Image credit: Kala Check Sweetwater||
A lot of people just want what’s cheapest but still acceptable, this is a good first ukulele and makes a great option for kids and other beginners.
8. Hola! Music HM-21 Bundle
Cheapest ukulele bundle
If you are looking for the cheapest ukulele but you want a full bundle rather than just the instrument on its own (like the Kala model above) then it might be worth going for something like this, the Hola! HM-21 Bundle. It’s another soprano uke, but this comes with a lot of free accessories.
The instrument itself is pretty well made and has a rosewood bridge as well as maple top, back and sides. It has a warm tone and of course, the bonus of lots of added extras including a bag, strap and plectrums.
It has Aquila strings, and while a lot of the models of ukulele at this price point feel a bit like toys, this certainly doesn’t have this feeling to it, with much more of a professional feel. It is never going to rival the models three or four times the price, but for one of the most affordable ukes out there it is a good option.
|Image credit: Hola! Music Check Amazon||
This model is popular among parents whose kids are starting to play the ukulele at school, for instance. Spending more will get you higher quality, but for the cheapest uke bundle, this is a fantastic option.
9. Hricane Tenor Cutaway
Easiest ukulele to play with bigger hands
We wanted to include a tenor ukulele, the biggest size that has the standard ukulele tuning, but one that will be far easier for people with larger hands to play. This is a common problem among beginners who can’t get their hand positions right with little soprano models.
The Hricane also has an easier design to play due to the cutaway shape. This model is ultra-thin, so it still manages to be relatively compact. It’s just 43 mm in thickness, great for taking out and about with you. It has a comfy walnut fingerboard and generally feels pretty well made.
|Image credit: Hricane Check Amazon||
If you need lots of space on the frets for moving between chords and playing solos this could be the very best beginner ukulele for your needs. A tenor uke can be a wise pick for those who are larger but are often more expensive, this is an affordable ukulele with plenty to like.
10. Kala Concert Waterman
A durable, water-resistant uke on a budget
You might well be looking for something cheap, but also a ukulele that can take a bit of a beating! This is not made from tonewood which would be the traditional way to make a ukulele, instead it has an ABS construction. It is even a waterproof design, take it to the beach, splash about and you won’t have to worry about it getting wet.
For this reason, you probably won’t be using it for things like recording or even some live shows, but a lot of people have a backup uke that they can take on planes or to the beach and not have to worry too much if anything happens to it. The Waterman Series ukulele can be exactly that.
It’s available in a couple of different finishes, and of course it is easy to clean. The projection and tone isn’t as good as some competing options due to the design.
|Image credit: Kala Check Sweetwater||
Like some of the other models on the list, this is best for specific needs. Some people are not necessarily looking for something waterproof or hard-wearing, but if you are, the Waterman could be a great, affordable option.
Beginner’s guide to buying a ukulele
If it’s your first uke then you might have some questions about finding the best beginner ukulele and what you need to think about. We answer some of these questions below.
How important is tonewood?
A decent tonewood can make all the difference. Traditionally, ukuleles are made out of woods like koa. This can give a traditional bright ukulele sound. Koa is widely available in Hawaii. These days, mahogany is arguably the most popular cheap ukulele material for tonewood. It isn’t too expensive but it offers a good sound and plenty of projection, important for a smaller instrument.
How much is a cheap ukulele?
What do we mean when we are talking about a cheap uke? How much should you be looking to spend? Some of the cheapest ukulele models are around $50, or even cheaper than that. However, many of the models on the list are between $50 and $100, which is a fairly reasonable price for a musical instrument.
When you are looking for a ukulele, you should consider whether or not you want to buy a model that comes with accessories or not. If you do opt for a bundled product, you can often get a lot better value, with some very cheap ukes available for those who want to buy the whole kit from one manufacturer.
Some of the things included with ukuleles are often gig bags and straps, but you can also find picks and even books on playing your new instrument.
Choosing the size can be another difficult thing to get your head around.
The smallest uke size is the soprano. Many of these are cheaper instruments but they can be tough for bigger hands.
Then comes the concert, better for adults and normal sized hands but also offering a bit more projection.
The second biggest size is the tenor uke, this can start to lose a bit of the signature brightness but has a good projection and can be great for people with larger hands who might otherwise struggle with smaller instruments.
The biggest size on the list is the baritone, but this is something of a guitar and uke hybrid. It’s tuned differently to the rest of the ukulele sizes so it can be awkward if you plan to move to a smaller ukulele in the future.
There are plenty of cheap options for beginners on the market as ukuleles are one of the most affordable instruments to produce, but you need to be vigilant and make sure you get one of the best budget ukuleles rather than ending up with a substandard product. Low price shouldn’t mean low quality.
Ben is a writer, musician and former studio engineer from the UK with qualifications including music technology. A self-confessed audiophile, Ben can also play multiple instruments.
Ben has worked in recording studios in the East of England, and written about all aspects of music equipment and the music business, as well as production and engineering.