Fender Mexican Vs American Stratocaster: What’s The Difference?

If you’re a guitarist or aspiring to be one, then you will know that choosing the right guitar is one of the most important things you can do.

Fender Mexican Vs American Stratocaster: What's The Difference?

Guitars come in all shapes and sizes, and that’s not just between brands.

Guitars of the same brand can be vastly different as well, so it is important to not only pick a brand you love but to pick a specific guitar within that brand, too. 

This brings us to the Fender Stratocasters. These are some of the most popular instruments in the world of guitar, but did you know the two most popular types, Mexican and American, actually have some differences? 

It is important to understand these differences before investing in a guitar. But what exactly are the differences?

And which one is better? We have all the answers to your Fender-related questions – so read on for more! 

What Are Fender Stratocasters?

There are two types of Fender Stratocaster guitars, one is made in Mexico and another in America.

Both have similar features but there are some differences between them that you should know about before buying a guitar. Fender Stratocasters are amongst the most popular guitars out there!

Where Are Stratocasters Manufactured? 

The American Stratocaster and the Fender Mexican are both manufactured in different places.

The former is made in Corona, California, where they have a specific focus on emphasizing quality, tone, and playability.

The Fender Mexican is made in the Fender factory, located in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.

Around one in five people in Mexico can play the guitar, so it’s likely that any guitars there will have been handcrafted by a guitarist – unlike most other factories! 

What Is The History Of The Fender Stratocaster?

Fender Stratocasters have such an interesting history!

The Precision Bass and Telecaster were already hugely successful brands, and so in 1954, Leo Fender, an inventor from California, decided he wanted to build upon them.

With friends Freddie Tavares and George Fullerton, he created a guitar that had a more diverse tone than previous guitars and increased in comfort and playability. 

From here, the Stratocaster moved from being a gimmick to being seen as the pinnacle of electric guitars. 

The very first Fender Stratocaster has a body made from two or three pieces of ash that had been glued together.

It had a unique design, primarily because of the body shape contours built into it, which were incorporated into the design after guitarists who primarily used Telecasters began complaining about its hard edges. 

By creating a guitar with a contoured body, Fender made it much easier for guitarists to access certain frets, which they approved of.

In addition to this, Fender included a middle, single-coil pickup on the Strat that allowed it to have a much more tonal versatility, as opposed to the Telecaster, which only had two pickups. 

What Are Some Of The Key Differences Between Mexican And American Stratocasters?

Fender Mexican Vs American Stratocaster: What's The Difference?

Despite coming under the same name, there are many differences between the Mexican and American Fender Stratocasters. Let’s check out a few examples! 

Difference In Costs 

It will cost around $700 for any Stratocaster from the Mexican Player Series.

Meanwhile, if you want to invest in an American Performer or Professional Strat, then this will cost you $1,150 and $1,450 respectively.

Depending on their configuration, some American Stratocasters will cost up to $2000.

Of course, prices can fluctuate and change from time to time, but this is the average pricing you’re looking at for these popular guitars. 

There are two main reasons American Strats cost more than Mexican Strats.

The first is that the cost of labor in America is higher compared to Mexico, and the second is that the Fender Stratocaster factories in America place more emphasis on “quality craftsmanship.” Although, there is still not much of a difference between the two.

Difference In Electronics 

Firstly, there are many similarities in the electrical components of American and Mexican Fender Strats.

For both models, the five-way stitches are Mexican-made, while their bows and Potentiometers are made in Taiwan.

Additionally, the pickups for both models of Stats are made in either South Korea or Mexico.

The final similarity is where the pick cards are made. For both models, the pick cards are made in the American Fender factory. 

However, despite the many similarities in electronics, there are also many differences! The main differences are in the bridge of the guitars.

For example, in Mexican Fenders, the bridge is made in Korea. They are not as robust as the American Fender bridges because they are made from steel and pop-metal.

American Strats use a two-point system. 

Additionally, the saddles of Mexican Stratocasters are chrome dipped. This is vastly different from American Strats, which all have nickel-plated saddles. 

Additionally, American Strats have unique truss rods. They are called Bi-Flex truss rods, and under the seventh fret of the guitar, there is a screw that anchors the truss rod to the guitar.

Because of this design, the neck of the guitar can be pushed in two directions. Meanwhile, Mexican Fenders have traditional truss rods, which can only be pushed in a single direction.

Many people do not believe this makes a significant difference, but others consider the Bi-Flex truss rod a great addition to the guitar. 

The final difference between the Mexican Strat and the American Strat is the neck. In American Strats, all necks have a micro tilt that lets players change the angle of the guitar with ease.

This may seem like a minor difference, but it actually helps to improve the performance of the Stratocaster a significant amount. 

Difference In Wood 

This is perhaps one of the most significant differences between the two Fender models. 

American Fender Stratocasters all have a three-piece body that is made from ash. Meanwhile, Mexican Stratocasters are made from alder. 

These woods are vastly different. Ash is considered to be extremely robust and dense. It is a type of hardwood that features a straight grain and light color.

Sound-wise, ash guitars will generally have a great sustain and more treble, which results in a pronounced, bright tone. The tone of an ash guitar can also be described as mellow or round.

Additionally, ash also has a wide range. It can produce anything from chiming highs to a nice and clear midrange, to strong, bold low notes.

Because of their grain, ash guitars look great when finished with a natural, transparent look. 

To summarize this, guitars made with ask will generate sound excellently and produce beautiful harmonies. 

Guitars made from Alder have closed ports and closed grain.

They will produce a blanched tone, which produces a resonant sound complete with excellent sustain and a quality, upper-midrange.

Additionally, the sound of alder guitars packs more of a punch than guitars made from ash. 

Alder guitars are usually finished in brilliant, solid colors.

Ultimately, both types of woods have their strengths and weaknesses, but none is worse than the other.

The guitar you choose to invest in can come down to whatever tone you prefer, and whichever aesthetic suits you best. 

Difference In Hardware 

Again, there are some big differences between the hardware of Mexican and American Stratocasters. These differences mostly culminate in the neck of the guitars. 

American Strats have necks with 22 frets, while Mexican Strats have 21. This difference happened in the 80s.

Back then, every Fender Stratocaster had 21 frets, but shredders decided they needed more, and so another fret was added. 

Since the American Strat has more frets, naturally the guitar neck board is longer than that of  Mexican Strats. 

Difference In Paint 

When it comes to the paint of the respective guitars, they couldn’t be more different! The American Strat is finished with polyurethane.

Polyurethane is a clear coat that protects the wood and gives it a glossy finish. Meanwhile, the Mexican Fender Stratocaster is finished with polyester. This gives it a matte finish. 

The only real downside to having a matte finish on your guitar is that it tends to wear off over time.

However, many guitarists love this faded look for their guitar, as it makes it unique to them and a reminder of their time spent playing the instrument. 

Again, what model of Fender Stratocaster you choose all comes down to personal taste.

If you like hard, shiny finishes that will become unique over time, then go for the Mexican Fender.

If you prefer a different look to your guitars, you may be better off with an American Fender. 

Reasons Why You Should Pick A Mexican Fender Stratocaster 

So, you’ve just read about all of the differences between an American Strat and a Mexican Strat, but you’re confused about which one you want.

We’ve been there! So, we’ve compiled a small list of the respective reasons why you should choose them both, to help you decide. 

The Mexican Fender Stratocaster Is Cost-Effective

If you’re a guitarist on a budget, then the Mexican Fender would be a great choice for you!

In terms of what the guitar looks like, it can be hard to tell the difference between a Mexican Fender Stratocaster and an American Fender Stratocaster, except for, of course, their paint job.

Because these Fenders are more budget-friendly than their American counterparts, it means their quality is reduced, too.

However, they are by no means bad guitars, and you will be able to practice, perform, and compose very well with them. These guitars will also last you a long time! 

The Mexican Fender Stratocaster Has A Versatile Sound 

It is difficult to compare the performance quality of the American Strat and the Mexican Strat.

You may think that the latter wouldn’t sound as good because it is not as high quality as the former, but this is actually not the case.

In truth, both Fender models are very similar in tone, and whichever one you choose comes down to personal preference. 

A Mexican Fender Stratocaster’s tone is slightly warmer than that of its American counterpart.

It can also produce great alternative rock and blues sounds.

If you have the sixth string tuned to D, then this makes a wonderful esoteric chord voicing. 

Mexican Fender Stratocasters have a low-powered valve combination, which makes for a more robust sound, and it will not have the same sound as heavy bottom rhythms. 

You can also change the sound of your Mexican Strat based on the position of the neck.

Depending on where you hold it, it can sound very smoky, and reminiscent of electric blues, or it can sound very clean and crisp. 

The Mexican Fender Stratocaster Is Great For Live Performances 

While the sound is not always there with Mexican Stratocasters in live performances, with the right pickups and other modifications, you can get most of it.

These upgrades are budget-friendly, too, as most of them can be completed for just under $300. Bargain! 

We almost guarantee that nobody will be able to tell the difference between the Fender models in terms of sound or look. Because of this, many guitarists prefer to gig and tour with their Mexican Strat. 

The Mexican Fender Stratocaster Is Easy To Upgrade And Modify 

The Mexican Strat is a great option because it is very easy to modify and upgrade. This means it is a very convenient guitar to have, and easy to fix if it gets damaged.

And, if you want to make a change to the sound of your Mexican Fender, then this is very easy to do with mods, too.

And not only that, but the sound can change so dramatically that it can feel like a whole new instrument. 

Take, for instance, the die-cast saddles. If you decide to replace them with sheet metal saddles, then your guitar will take on more of a vintage tone.

It is also very easy to change the primary tone of your Mexican Strat with tuners. The heavier the tuner, the more sustained the primary tone. 

Also, with the Mexican Fender Stratocaster, you do not need single-coil pickups. All you need to do is install your new pickups like a reverse-polarity or reverse-would middle up.

This is a great aspect of this Fender model since you do not need to worry about the usual 60-cycle hum that negatively affects single coils. 

Finally, another part of the Mexican Stratocaster that is easy to change or modify if the nut material.

If you want to change the sound of your Fender model then this is a great way to do it!

Most of the time, Mexican Strats come with plastic string nuts that end up insulating the guitar thanks to the vibration from the strings. This worsens the tone and sustain of the guitar as time goes on. 

Luckily, as previously mentioned, this can be fixed with ease. A great alternative to the plastic string nut is the bone nut because it is far more durable and will result in a sweeter tone. 

If you want to improve the stability of the tune even more, then you should block the tremolo. 

The Mexican Fender Stratocaster Is A Great Guitar For Beginners

If you are new to guitar or have only just started playing, then the Mexican Stratocaster is a wonderful first guitar to have.

This is because Fenders are comfortable to use, can easily be modified to find a tone you like, and they’re budget-friendly!

You can choose to purchase a different guitar when you want to, or you can upgrade your trusty Mexican Fender to create a whole new sound. The choice is yours! 

Reasons Why You Should Pick An American Fender Stratocaster 

Fender Mexican Vs American Stratocaster: What's The Difference?

While there are some good reasons to pick a Mexican Strat, there are also excellent reasons to choose their American counterpart. Just check out these examples below to see what we mean:

The American Fender Stratocaster Has A Lot Of Prestige 

The American Fender Stratocaster has a huge legacy, and this is a big deal for many guitarists. Many legendary guitarists have played this instrument.

David Gilmore, Jimi Hendrix, Beck, Blackmore, and Malmsteen have all been fans of the instrument. Many guitarists want to get in on and become a part of this legacy. 

The American Fender Stratocaster Is Great For Performing 

The American Stratocaster can play pretty much any genre. It shines brightly in-country, metal, blues, alternative rock, funk, EDM, and pretty much anything and everything in between. 

Not only that, but the American Strat sounds amazing when unplugged. Its tone is innate, bright, and airy. The instrument has a great sustain and is put together well with its seated bone nut and tone pots.

And let’s not forget how it sounds when it is plugged in! This guitar has a great tonal balance. It can sound bright and loud but is still listenable.

Perhaps the best thing about the performance quality of this guitar is that it will never lose treble when you reduce the volume. This is thanks to the treble bleed bypass mod. 

Overall, you’ll always sound great if you play with an American Stratocaster. 

The American Fender Stratocaster Has Excellent Playability 

Fender Mexican Vs American Stratocaster: What's The Difference?

American Fenders will provide more noticeable note separations compared to Mexican Fenders. A lot of the time, they sound more crisp and distinct, even if slightly.

This means that the American Strats have more staggered tuners, which means the string posts are shorter the closer to the high E string you get.

This is a more optimal angle for players because it helps to remove any buzz from the frets.

Additionally, the tuners are more stable and will rarely, if ever, go out of tune.

This is a huge advantage when it comes to playability, and is important to keep in mind when it comes to choosing the right Fender model for you. 

Finally, because the American Strats have 22 frets, players can reach extremely high notes that make crowds go wild!

It is easier to access them, too, since the frets are tall and narrow which makes bending much easier. 

The American Fender Stratocaster Has Excellent Resale Value 

Modern American Fender Stratocasters will not typically increase in value. However, older models may be able to do just that.

In any case, the American Strat holds its typical value well, and if kept in a good condition you may only lose around 15%, that’s not bad at all!

However, it is possible to lose around 50% of the value as a whole, which is important to keep in mind if you’re looking to sell your guitar. 

If you’re looking to buy an American Fender Stratocaster, then this is good news. You could potentially save a lot of money if you buy a used guitar.

So, if you have your eye on an American Strat, but it’s not quite in your budget, then we cannot recommend buying second-hand enough! 

The American Fender Stratocaster Is Great To Keep For Life 

It is possible to keep your American Stratocaster for life. They were made for nostalgic purposes, and are supposed to be vintage – a collectible that is still fully functional and perfect to use in many ways. 

If you intend on keeping one guitar your whole life, then you cannot go wrong with the American Fender Stratocaster! 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is An American Fender Better Than A Mexican Fender?

Not at all. Both guitars are excellent instruments and have different advantages and disadvantages.

For example, Mexican Fenders tend to be cheaper, while American Fenders tend to be more expensive. But, both types of guitars are fantastic, so there really isn’t anything wrong with either type.

Why Do Strats Only Have 21 Frets?

This was done intentionally by Fender. The idea behind this was to allow players to bend higher strings without having to worry about buzzing.

If you look closely at most modern Fenders, you’ll notice that the frets are very thin and short. This allows players to easily reach those higher notes.

Also, the spacing between frets is smaller, making it easier to bend the strings.

What Are The Differences Between The Standard And Deluxe Models Of The Fender Stratocaster?

There aren’t any differences between the standard and deluxe versions of the Fender Stratocaster.

They are essentially identical, except for the fact that the deluxe version has a slightly thicker neck than the standard version.

This is because the deluxe version was designed to withstand heavier playing.

Where Can I Buy A Mexican Fender Stratocaster? 

You can find these guitars online or in music stores. There are plenty of places where you can get a Mexican Fender Stratocaster. Just search online for “Mexican Strat” and browse away!

Can I Use A Mexican Fender Strat Onstage?

Yes, you can. All you need to do is contact your local venue manager and ask them what they require. Most venues won’t care whether your guitar is American or Mexican.

They want to know how loud the amp is, and how much amplification you will be using. If you are unsure, then just play around with it until you feel comfortable.

Are There Different Types Of Fender Stratocasters?

Yes, there are several different types of Fender Stratocasters. These include the American Fender Strat, the Mexican Fender Strat, and the British Fender Strat.

Each of these models has its own unique features and characteristics. Some of these include:

The American Fender strat has a thinner neck than the other two styles. This makes it easier to bend high notes.

The Mexican Fender Strat has a wider fretboard than the other two styles, which makes it easier to fingerpick.

The British Fender Strat has a longer scale length than the other two styles of Fender Strat. This means that the string action is lower than in the other two styles.

Final Thoughts 

The Fender Stratocaster is without a doubt, one of the most iconic and popular guitars around today.

It has been loved by many legendary guitarists from around the world, and players of all abilities are dying to get their hands on one. Namely, either a Mexican or American Strat. 

Are They Different? Certainly. But Which One Is Better?

The truth is, neither! Both are fantastic guitars and have their own strengths and weaknesses. For example, Mexican Strats are more budget-friendly than American Strats.

They are made from alder and have a vastly different electronic makeup that gives them a different sound from their American Counterpart.

And speaking of sound, the Mexican strat couldn’t be more versatile!

These Fender models can be played in a variety of genres and sound different depending on how they’re modified – which is so easy to do!

Overall, Mexican Strats are a wise investment for beginner guitarists and those who want to be able to change up their sound easily.

And you don’t need to worry about gigs either – these Strats sound just as good as their American counterparts!

Meanwhile, the American Strat is made from ash and is of excellent quality. It is also versatile and is favored by many different artists in different genres.

The American Fender Stratocaster may be more expensive than its Mexican counterpart, and cannot be modified as easily, but it is excellent live and has long-term playability – it really is a guitar you can keep forever!

If you want to get your hands on one, then you can find one second-hand with ease!

So, while there are some differences between a Mexican and American Fender, the one you choose is a matter of preference, and is down to every individual guitarist to decide what they prefer.

Howard Matthews