Would you rather…

wharf rat

Buy a production Strat (new) or a used “boutique” guitar (thinking EBMM, Suhr, Tom Anderson, etc).

And why?

Budget $2500.

Strat type music.

New Strat (thinking Pro II or Ultra are right at $2k) while a used Suhr or TA is like $2500 used).
Whatever I would choose would have to have stainless steel frets regardless of the name on the headstock…
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I’d go used boutique.

Personal preference, but objectively the woods used are going to be better, resale value better, and it’s going to feel nicer to play.

All this is IMO of course, but you asked what I’d rather.
Bro - this is such an understated thing. I sold a Cutlass a while back, and filled the Strat void with this Pro II Strat and I can't get over how weird it is to bend without stainless steel frets.
Interesting, here's another (opposite) view from someone who's playing exclusively stainless steel frets:
For me it would definitely be 'boutique' even if used, although $2500 would get you pretty close to new for a basic S-style from the one 'boutique' builder I am pretty familiar with (caveat is that I haven't really paid attention to prices since 2020 or so).

Just haven't bonded with any Fender-made instrument I've had the chance to play, and stainless frets is a must-have for me (probably defective technique, but I wear traditional frets down in no time). I also like thermally-treated (aka 'roasted') necks now that I've had a couple for a few years. That and SS frets means less ongoing maintenance and I'm fundamentally lazy when it comes to that stuff.

Disclaimer is that I tend to be a brand loyalist when I find something I like, so unless I found an exceptional deal on an exceptional instrument, I really wouldn't consider Fender if I was actively looking for another strat clone.
I come across people who press way too hard and they are not well served with stainless steel frets. If you over press the frets destroy the soft windings pretty quickly. This happens far less with nickel but the plain strings destroy the frets . I think the best solution is learn to press only as hard as necessary.
I've had two EBMM. Both suffured from quality control issues that should not be present on $3500 instruments.

Really disappointing and I don't see myself trying the JP line again atleast
That sucks!
Personally I’d get a Fender EJ.

I wasn’t a fan of the neck on the Cutlass and I hate that cover on the bridge. I like the EJ pickups a lot better.

I did play a couple Suhrs that sounded maybe slightly better than my EJ but I still like everything else about the feel of the EJ better.

I’m ambivalent about SS frets. I don’t mind them, but I’ve actually started moving away from them.
I’ll 2nd this. My main 3 guitars have SS frets and it’s a dealbreaker for me anymore. Kind of don’t want to play my guitars with nickel frets.

And I’ll 3rd it. I’m sending another neck to Aperio tomorrow for an SS refret, so that’ll be 5 guitars with SS frets, and my nickel fretted guitars are a sittin’

SS frets have REALLY messed up my guitar shopping too, because MOST guitars, (at least ones I’d want), DON’T come with SS frets standard, so most guitars I see are kind of non-starters, which, could be a good thing . . .
After long periods of time spent with SS frets, it's super weird to pick up a "normal" guitar, play it for a bit and then sometime later find yourself thinking "what the hell is that weird metallic smell?"... because you've now got that unfamiliar nickel filth on your fingers. :rofl

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