If you are new to the art of metal detecting, then it makes no sense to splash a lot of money for a metal detector only for you to discard it after a few uses. Budget or cheap metal detectors offer you the convenience of using a real metal detector to learn the craft before you can update to something more serious.
You need to be extra careful you do not go home with a toy instead of a metal detector. Most of the detectors that are marketed as budget-friendly in some department stores or online are simply toys and offer you little in improving your metal hunting skills.
However, there serious cheap metal detectors that come armed with some serious features that you often see in high-end models. You will find automatic or manual ground balance settings in some of these devices, and they work well for discrimination. If you are on the lookout for the best budget metal detector, you are in the right place.
Finding The Best Cheap Metal Detector
Metal detectors come in all manner of shapes and have different features. If you are a beginner, you may abandon the hobby if you start out with a complicated device. Experience level and what you are looking for will determine the kind of device that you go for.
The Budget metal detector category is filled with some cool devices that have features you will typically find in high-end models. However, you will find several toys that resemble metal detectors being sold online or in some departmental stores. We have come up with this buying guide to help you figure out the most affordable metal detector for a beginner.
Where you will be hunting
This is one of the most vital factors to consider during metal hunting. The type of grounds will determine the kind of equipment that you purchase. If you plan on prospecting along the beach, then you need to be aware of the highly mineralized soils there. A cheap gadget will keep picking up irrelevant signals hence frustrating your search.
Most of the budget metal detectors will help you detect relics, old coins, and some long lost jewelry. However, do not expect to find gold nuggets with the device. The reason being gold is often found at a higher frequency. It also exists in highly mineralized soils that most budget metal detectors find hard to discriminate. Such pursuits would work well if you have the more expensive pulse induction detectors.
Once you have, it figured out what you will be hunting, you then have to figure out where you will be hunting. The best budget metal detectors will come with manual and automatic ground balance setting. This allows you to go prospecting on highly mineralized soils. The problem with most of the cheap metal detectors is that they already have a pre-set ground balance. This means you cannot adjust it to suit the ground conditions.
Note that most of the budget metal detectors will come with waterproof coils. This allows you to go metal hunting in shallow waters but cannot be used in underwater metal prospecting. In fact, it is only the coil that is waterproof. The control box is not, and you need to protect it from occasional splashes.
Metal detector Technologies
Metal detectors come with an array of features. The more complicated and advanced they are, the more you pay for them. However, there some basic features that you will need for any metal hunts.
As a beginner, you need to check the weight of a device before purchase. If it is heavy, it will put unnecessary strain on your waists and wrists. This makes it easy to carry and swing around. Most budget metal detectors not only come with a simple design, but they are lightweight.
The operating frequency of a device will determine its efficiency in detecting objects and depth. High operating frequencies are great for finding small objects like gold nuggets, but they come with the downside of compromising on depth. Lower frequency devices have depth and make good companions for searching long lost relics in riverbeds. High-end devices mostly come with double coils that accommodate both small and large frequencies.
It can be frustrating trying to locate and item but be clueless as to how deep the object is buried. This means you can keep digging and still miss your object. To mitigate this, metal detectors will come with a depth indicator. This gives you a rough estimate as to how deep an object is buried.
If you have tried prospecting in highly mineralized ground, then you are familiar with how frustrating it is picking up unwarranted signals. Without discrimination, you may end up picking up old bottle caps, trashcans, or old nails. The discrimination feature allows you to discard unwanted signals while maintaining the valuable ones. How it works is that it ignores signals below a certain threshold level.
It is hard knowing what is buried underneath the ground. Target ID gives each metallic object that the metal detector finds a numerical number. This gives you a rough estimate of what the object is. Items like gold tend to be identified by the large numerical numbers. Most of the devices have a 0-99 numerical scale.
Automatic and manual ground balance
This is another great feature for metal hunting in highly mineralized soils. This kind of soils tends to emit various signals, and to reduce the chatter, ground balance settings eliminate some of these signals. The problem with most of the budget level metal detectors is that they come with pre-set ground balance settings. This means that you cannot adjust the ground balance to accommodate various ground conditions. As the name implies, automatic ground balance detectors allow the device to adjust its settings depending on the soil conditions.
Your skill level will determine the kind of device that you choose. Professionals in metal hunting will go for some high-end models that come with innovative features. Such kind of devices are often pulse induction detectors.
If you are getting used to the hobby, what you do not want is something complicated. Such kind of devices will come with LCD screens that take ages to learn. Most of the budget-friendly metal detectors have different and minimal features depending on the brand type. Minelab, for example, will extend its technologies to some of their entry-level models.
You also need to be careful; you do not end up purchasing a toy. This are often marketed as metal detectors but do very little. When making a purchase, also check the kind of accessories being offered with the device. Waterproof headphones or sand scoop will come in handy when you are prospecting for metals.
As a beginner, you need to be clear on the type of metals you will be hunting for. This will, in turn, influence your decision on detector frequency. A VLF detector will work fine for prospecting relics and old coins while a PI detector works fine for gold hunts.
The 5 Best Cheap Metal Detectors
1. Fisher F22 Weather Resistant Metal Detector
The Fisher F22 is arguably one of the best budget Metal detectors in the market. It is a device that a beginner or older teen can use to learn about metal hunting. The Fisher is versatile, pocket-friendly, and comes armed with some cool features to get your metal hunting hobby started. You can use the Fisher F22 for detecting jewelry, coins, and artifacts.
When you are a beginner, you want something simple and lightweight. The Fisher weighs just 2.3lbs, and you can easily place it on your shoulders and arms. It is comfortable to carry and swing around. It is weather-resistant and can be used for metal hunting to a depth of 9 inches.
The Fisher comes with a serious iron audio feature that allows you to adjust the device volume depending on the targets. With the feature, you have a clue of what is underneath. This saves you time and strength as you can now avoid digging up nails and trashcans.
The LCD screen is decent, and you get information like a full numerical target ID, pre-set discrimination patterns, and a depth indicator. You can’t find such features in a toy.
Fisher is one of the best entry-level metal detectors in the market. It comes with a 9” coil that is waterproof. This means you can use it for you shallow water metal prospecting. But, you need to take extra care of the control box as it is not waterproof. Lastly, the fisher comes with a fast re-tune speed, which saves you time metal hunting. You can move on to the next signal without waiting too long for the device to re-boot.
Overall, the Fisher F22 is a decent device for those starting out on metal hunting. It is versatile, simple to use and comes packed with all the features that you need to take your skill to the next level.
The fisher would also be one of the best metal detectors for kids.
What we liked:
- Fast re-tune speed
- Waterproof coil
- The large and readable LCD screen
- Discrimination modes
2. Garrett Ace 300 Metal Detector
This is another serious contender for the position of best budget Garrett ACE metal detector. If you have a teen you want to teach the art of metal hunting, you can start them off with the Garrett Ace 300. The device comes in an ergonomic design that is lightweight and easy to understand controls.
The fact that it is budget-friendly does not mean the company has compromised on features in any way. For one, it comes with a large 7” X 10” submersible search coil. This gives you great depth and sensitivity for capturing small objects. The Garrett Ace 300 operates at a frequency of 8 kHz, and the best part is that it is adjustable. With this feature, you can detect objects like relics and coins while increasing the frequency allows you to detect gold nuggets signals.
Wondering where your favorite bracelet got lost, try the Garrett Ace 300 submersible coil to check out your riverbed. The device comes with five search modes – custom, jewelry, coins, relics, and no discrimination. You can switch among the search modes with ease.
You also have a target ID that shows you various object signals on a numerical scale. With the feature, you can easily tell whether it is gold or iron that is underneath. Items like gold tend to have higher numbers on the numerical scale of 0-99. The feature comes in handy in an area with a lot of trash. The discrimination modes are aided by three audio tones – low, medium, and high.
The Garrett Ace 300 measures 22 X 11 X 6 inches and weighs 2.8lbs. It is powered by 4 AA batteries.
You can also our Garrett 400 review here.
What we liked:
- Target ID and three audio tones
- Lightweight and easy to use
- Five search modes
- Great device for teens and beginners
3. Minelab X-Terra 305 Metal Detector
Most Minelab products are costly. The company is at the forefront of developing leading technologies in metal hunting. The Minelab X-Terra 305 is a budget-friendly device that benefits from Minelab reputation of producing high-quality equipment. You benefit from some innovative technologies common in other top-end models.
The Minelab comes with a few features that work in your favor is detecting valuable items. For one, you can choose from various frequencies. It comes with a 7kHz and 18.75 kHz. You can use the smaller frequency for depth and sensitivity while the larger frequency for prospecting larger areas.
We found the Minelab X-Terra 305 very accurate in discriminating against iron in highly mineralized soils. You have manual ground balance, all-metal mode, two pre-set search patterns, threshold adjustment, and three-tone IDs. You also have a noise cancelation function whenever you are prospecting in areas with a lot of trash. The device has the ability to detect objects to a depth of 9 inches.
What we liked:
- Ability to choose from small to high frequency
- Accurate discrimination capabilities
- Manual ground balance
- Easy to understand LCD screen
4. Teknetics EuroTek PRO Metal Detector
If you are looking for a gift for your teen who is interested in metal hunting, then the Teknetics EuroTek is a perfect choice to get started with. Its 8-inch waterproof concentric coil is well capable of detecting objects in river streams.
One of the most frustrating aspects of metal hunting is digging for iron nails. For one, if you have a poor metal detector, you will keep getting false signals. To mitigate this, the Teknetics comes with a special “Fe Tone” variable iron discrimination, iron target indicator, and motion discrimination mode. With the “Fe Tone” you can adjust any tones that are coming from targets. This prevents you from worthless pursuits where you dig only to find nails or trashcans.
The iron identifier LED is one of a kind as it lights up whenever it detects any iron objects. You can also locate targets easily through the easy to use pinpointer. This prevents you from the hassle of constantly moving over objects in an effort to get a signal.
Gold is at the top of the food table when it comes to metal hunting. To help you identify gold nuggets, the Teknetics EuroTek comes with three audio tones. Gold objects can be distinguished by the high pitched tones.
When prospecting in highly mineralized soils, you can adjust the sensitivity so that it can even pick the most minute objects. The LCD screen is simple and easy to understand. The Teknetics measures 50 X 8 X 14 inches and weighs 2.4 pounds. This makes it very lightweight for beginners just getting used to metal hunting. The device is powered up by a 1 9V battery.
Overall, this is a great device for someone who is just getting started metal hunting and does not have a large budget to splash around for high-end models. It is simple to use and reduces your learning curve.
What we liked:
- Great pinpointer
- Iron detector LED
- Adjustable for sensitivity
5. Bounty Hunter TK4 Tracker IV Metal Detector
If you are looking for something really cheap, but that still does not compromise on performance, then the Bounty Hunter Tracker IV is an excellent choice. The Bounty hunter comes with a 6.7 kHz frequency and three search modes. Its design is for rugged environments evidenced by its adjustable stem.
You can find targets by listening to signals being emitted by its large loudspeakers or having a pair of headphones to muffle out background noises. The basic design is simple to use as it uses only two knobs – one for the audio the other for sensitivity. You have a small analog screen that displays the signal strength. With this information, you can know where an object is and how deep it is hidden.
Due to its budget-friendly price, you may confuse the Bounty Hunter for a toy. While it lacks some much-needed features like depth indicators, iron audio, or target ID, the Hunter IV does an amazing job of detecting targets. On the downside, it is not a device that we would recommend for your children. For one, it is heavy at 4.2lbs, and the controls need some understanding to know what you are looking for.
What really stands out for the Bounty Hunter Tracker IV is its simple controls. You have knobs for search mode, sensitivity, and discrimination. For the search mode, you can choose between tone, all-metal, and full discriminate. This allows the detector to eliminate trash objects. With the all-metal mode, you can categorize objects depending on the metals – copper, brass, silver, iron, and gold. You get a high pitched beep as you move around different metals.
The Hunter IV features an 8” waterproof concentric search coil that helps you take your metal prospecting into shallow waters. The coil works well to separate metals in highly mineralized soils. It runs on 9V batteries that deliver over 30 hours of run-time.
What we liked:
- Simple design with few dial knobs
- Waterproof search coil that can be used in shallow waters
- Three search modes
- Does a great job of discriminating against trash
Concluding our Guide
Identifying the right metal detector is challenging when you are a beginner. Firstly, you need to contend with an array of terminologies that simply don’t make sense. This guide has broken down some of the key features you need to consider before purchasing a budget metal detector. The more complicated the features, the more expensive a device is. Highly mineralized soils will require a different device than searching in freshwater. You will also need to decide whether you are going to be prospecting for relics only or extend to gold nuggets. The Fisher F22 is our pick for the best budget metal detector.