Don't buy Fender or Gibson. These companies have been around for so long that they don't have to make good instruments anymore, just slap "Gibson" or "Fender" on the headstock and sell millions.
So it goes. Everyone wants to own a Fender Strat or a Gibson Les Paul, so they jack up the price, mass produce it in Taiwan and call it an instrument.
The list of alternative guitar makers is voluminous, but to name a few, there's Washburn, Hamer, Fernandes, Ibanez, Jackson, Paul Reed Smith, Takamine...the list goes on and on.
Of course, you can still buy a nice Gibson - and you could also put a down payment on a house. I suggest shopping around for other brands. You'll find hundreds of guitar makers that do fine work for a lot less...well, sometimes not less, but you will NOT be disappointed in a Paul Reed Smith.
A luthier friend told me about Fender, and how even the high-end USA strats pale in comparison with the classic models. Likewise, the owner of the music store I teach at reports nothing but problems and hassles and runarounds with Gibson. A young man bought a very nice Gibson from his store for over $1000 and this guy wanted some custom work done, so they gave him two weeks.
Six months later, no guitar - and he'd paid!!
Needless to say, they no longer carry Gibson, or Epiphone or Fender (unless it's used.)
Moral? Don't buy them. I am personally a big fan of Fernandes. They do an excellent job of creating solid Fender/Gibson lookalikes that play unbelievably well, and sound damn good too. Not to mention a whole line of originals that are also quality and not too expensive. You can get sustainer pickups, floyd rose bridge, a whole host of custom options - and you GET A GUITAR!!
Big companies don't care about you, they care about keeping the government out of thier books and a new Mercedes in the garage. Don't take my word for it, this is coming from a music store owner and a guy that builds guitars.