Thinking about buying a metal detector? Then you will no doubt have noticed the big price disparity. Buying a metal detector isn’t as easy as it could or should be. Having covered the best metal detectors for various reasons in the past, we wanted to look at something new today. The issue we wish to cover today is quite simple: are cheap metal detectors any good?
It’s a simple question, but the answer is more complex than one might have first expected. You see, to buy a ‘cheap’ metal detector you have to think about quite a lot of factors. And another factor to consider is the fact that cheap metal detectors are, for the most part, going to be quite uncertain in terms of performance. If you take a look at most cheap metal detectors, you can find reviews both positive and negative. The challenge stems from how you intend to use most cheap metal detectors.
The problem is that many people buy a cheap or cost-effective metal detector and expect it to rival the big boys. Few industries have quite such an obvious gap from the ‘cheap’ to ‘expensive’ models. In many industries, you are often paying extra for a brand name or a specific feature. With metal detecting, you are often paying more for reliability. The main thing that you will find when trying to buy cheap metal detectors is that you can often find that they have one or two good and useful purposes.
Spend more on a metal detector like a Garrett AT Pro model, though, and you might find that it’s actually more useful for numerous kinds of metal detecting. The main limit you will often find when buying a ‘cheap’ detector, then, comes from how versatile and adaptable it normally is.
Aren’t cheap metal detectors just toys?
This is a common question that we receive, and it’s true in some cases. Let’s be clear, though: some of the cheap metal detectors that we will cover late on in this guide are very good models. They are very much worth using, and you should have absolutely no qualms about using those particular metal detectors. However, let’s also be clear in that some cheap metal detectors are essentially gimmicks.
Many cheap metal detectors will be aimed at kids and with the aim of giving them a ‘my first metal detector’ kind of experience. It’s like buying a guitar for a child; you wouldn’t expect it to have the same features and functionality as an adult model. It’s a simplified, easy version of the metal detector that will for the most part be aimed at kids or total newbies.
For the most part, though, this will impact how much you can actually find. If you head out with the cheapest of cheap metal detectors, you should be lucky to come back with anything at all. For the most part, the lowest prices of metal detectors are aimed at giving you a very rough introduction to the art of metal detection. If you want to start making legitimate discoveries, though, you’ll probably need to invest a little bit more cash!
Please keep this in mind, as many people start out by buying cheap metal detectors and then give up because it’s not enjoyable for them. If you invest too little, you may as well have invested nothing at all into your metal detector. However, you don’t need to go and spend big bucks to get working yet cheap metal detector to start off your journey. The secret is avoiding going too cheap!
Can I get cheap metal detectors to get me started?
Yes, absolutely. This is what we’ll cover in the second half of this guide, but for now, we want to focus on making sure you can invest in the right kind of metal detector. Many times, the cheapest of cheap models will barely even register a metal product unless its virtually at surface level. It’s also likely to have absolutely no ability to filter out junk, meaning that your first find could quite literally be a piece of junk or scrap. Naturally, the aim is to avoid buying a cheap metal detector that has this limitation.
You can pick up some pretty awesome professional-tier cheap metal detectors if you are willing to look around. This can give you a much more thorough introduction and actually allow you to detect an item that is under the ground. Go too cheap and you won’t be able to do that. However, sometimes an extra $20-50 can be more than enough to get you a cheap metal detector that can actually do some proper detecting on your behalf!
Keep this in mind, as many of the models you might have your eye on could be nothing more than gimmick toys. Metal detecting is absolutely brilliant once you get your hand on a fully working metal detector, though. The first discovery, if you are lucky, could even help to pay for much of the cost of that allegedly cheap metal detector.
This is why we highly recommend you look to keep your mind on the kind of factors that make a big difference when buying cheap metal detectors. There are some big differences between a cheap detector and investing in some useless toy. So, where should you start when you are going to make that decision?
What makes a good cheap metal detector?
When you start looking around at cheap metal detectors, you will find they tend to lack much of the advanced features you might be searching for. However, you should be looking to invest in cheap metal detection tools that can get you out of a tight spot without too much issue whatsoever.
That’s why we highly recommend that you look to try and invest in cheap metal detectors that can advertise the following features. This should at least help you get started with fully enjoying your early metal detecting experience moving forward.
1. Solid depth
The first thing we recommend you look for in any cheap metal detectors worth buying is a detection depth of 6-8” at a minimum. While going above 8” might mean spending a bit more than you were intending, you will find that there is a generally solid depth to a beginner metal detector if it can hit a level of around 6 to 8”.
This should be enough to give you enough depth to help you keep things moving along comfortably enough, ensuring you have enough depth to actually find something. Don’t discount the importance of having a depth that is deep enough to actually go beyond the skin of the ground beneath your feet.
A good beginner metal detector should be able to detect smaller items like coins and jewelry as far down as 8”. If it can’t get as far down as that, expand your search.
2. Depth indication
Related to the above, though, you want something that can tell you the actual depth of any of your finds. A metal detector that cannot tell you how deep down you are going to be digging is not actually much use to you. So, when browsing any and all cheap metal detectors you should definitely look for something with good depth indication.
This should let you know how far you are going to need to be digging down with your shovel/trowel to get into the ground properly. The more that you know about this, the more likely it is that you can avoid digging too deep or not digging deep enough.
When you don’t have any kind of indication about how far down you should be going, though, it can become quite hard for you to actually locate anything of worthwhile value. So, factor that into your thoughts moving forward.
3. Target identification
Another useful part of the process is to make sure that it has strong enough target identification features. Many people don’t realize just how important this is to make a good call on identifying a good yet cheap metal detector. You should definitely look for something that allows you to filter out different kinds of targets.
This is something that you should definitely focus on as a big part of metal detecting is not having to settle for scraps. While an all-purpose search can be fun, it makes more sense to head out there with a solid idea in mind about what you want. That’s why we highly recommend investing some time into understanding target identification.
It’s a big part of the process and often means understanding what you are out searching for. This can make the search more fun, though, and also more rewarding from your perspective.
4. Notch discrimination
Notch discrimination builds on from the above, meaning that you can get rid of certain kinds of trash items from being found. While beginner metal detectors are encouraged to go and dip up most items to get used to the art of hunting for treasure, after a certain period of time you’ll grow tired of picking up trash and junk.
To avoid undesirable goods, you want to be looking for a cheap metal detector that comes with notch discrimination included. This allows you to use the DISC/NOTCH knob to a level that allows you to get rid of junk and trash. Many junk and trash items will be made from materials that you know nothing valuable will be made from, so you can safely rule them out of the equation during a search.
Any, any cheap metal detectors that cannot provide discrimination aren’t much use beyond the short-term.
What will you hunt for as a beginner?
Before evaluating any cheap metal detectors, we want to cover one very important factor in making a choice – what kind of metal detector will you be needing to begin with?
So, for the most part, any of the cheap metal detectors that you will be looking at should be designed for a bit of everything. Leave the specific metal detectors to those with a particular hunt in mind when they are going to be out and about metal detecting. You want something that can do a bit of hunting for everything and in as many places as you want.
Typically, the best cheap metal detectors will be able to handle sand, dirt, and grass with the same kind of comfort. While if you find that you do most of your metal detecting in a particular surface type you could buy something more specific, we recommend all cheap metal detector buyers look for an all-purpose solution.
This is going to be useful for most beginners, as it will give you more variety in terms of the places that you can go hunting in the first place. This is a highly recommended part of the discussion for the most part, mainly because it can take quite a lot of work to find cheap metal detectors that are specific to a particular purpose. These are mostly aimed at people with very specific aims, and thus are more experienced.
However, one thing to note is that just about all cheap metal detectors will NOT be made for hunting gold nuggets. This is often left to something a bit more powerful like a Garrett AT Gold metal detector. While you might be able to hunt down gold jewelry, finding those unprocessed little nuggets and flakes is going to need a tool that is even more powerful than what you have in your hands at the moment.
You will likely need to look at a more robust model if you intend to go hold hunting. This needs a more powerful tool and something that is going to be very specific and purposeful. Until you know that you are going to keep on metal detecting, we recommend looking at all-purpose cheap metal detectors.
This will give you enough to get started with, meaning you don’t have to splash out on an expensive model like a Minelab GPZ 7000, to begin with.
Digging Deeper: The Sound of Gold: What to Listen to on a Metal Detector
What cheap metal detector models should I look to buy?
In a bid to help you make a wise choice when looking at cheap metal detectors, here are some very impressive models that we highly recommend you take the time to go and evaluate.
You might find that none of them are suited to you, which would be fair enough. Still, we think each of the following key cheap metal detectors should be a high-value purchase for just about anyone looking to invest their time and energy into metal detecting.
So, which are some of the most reliable and affordable metal detectors out there?
Bounty Hunter Fast Tracker
A fine starting model that isn’t going to cost you too much would be the Bounty Hunter Fast Tracker. We are big fans of the Fast Tracker here, and we think it might just the wisest choice for most people who are new to the industry. It’s great for beginners and it offers so many useful features for a newbie to learn about in full before moving forward.
It comes with a 7” search coil capable of providing a frequency of 6.7kHz; that should be more than enough to find most find out there, really.
It’s also got some very useful solutions for carrying around, too, as it weighs just 2.5lbs. so, you should have no problem carrying this thing around. With twin discrimination and differing audio tones, the Fast Tracker really does make it easy to start your adventures without spending in excess.
Minelab Go Find 22
We mentioned Minelab above, and we want to try attention to the Minelab Go Find 20 as one of the best value cheap metal detectors out there today. it’s a great choice because it has a very interesting style and a very precise style that should really give you a good introduction to more specific kinds of metal detection.
This has become a good model for both adults and youngsters, and it comes with a very impressive weight at just 2.2lbs. Add in an 8” waterproof coil and this is a good one for those who want cheap metal detectors that they can use outdoors. It also comes with easy-to-follow signals and icons making it easy for you to discriminate based on what you actually want to find when out and about.
With a 20-hour battery life on 4x AA batteries, it’s a conservative spenders dream.
Arguably the best of the affordable and cheap metal detectors out there, the Fisher F22 is a real fan favorite for most people who love the experience. Weighing just 2.3lbs, it’s a very impressive solution and one that should be easily carried around by anyone who is up for an adventure.
It’s got a great solution for picking out your finds, too, with volume adjustment for more ferrous targets. This allows you to easily pick out what you want and what you might decide to take with you, ensuring that you can easily and effectively pick out products suited to your exact needs.
With 10 sensitivity levels to choose from and numerical target IDs, too, it’s a brilliant introduction to some of the more advanced models that you might happen to find out on the market today. Add in a 5-year warranty, and this is a must-purchase for most beginners.
If you are looking for a beginner-friendly companion to help you get into metal detecting without confusion, this is definitely a companion to think about investing in. Instead of wasting hours digging up debris, this helps to make your finds more accurate and effective.
Garrett Ace 300
The Garrett Ace 300 is definitely a high-quality choice if you are looking for a friendly solution both in budget and inactivity. It’s got some very nice features included to make it a very wise choice for most beginners, not least the fact it has some features normally only found in more advanced purchases.
For one, it comes with everything we would expect from more high-end professional models. This includes things like depth indication for coins and numerical target identification. Add in some extra discrimination filtering for sound, and it’s very easy to set up the Ace 300 to be just the solution you are looking for.
While a bit more costly than some of the options on this list, it definitely still falls into the list of cheap metal detectors that we would be more than happy to use ourselves. Definitely one for your list!
Teknetics EuroTek Pro
Some might beg to differ, but the Teknetics EuroTek Pro is definitely a model worth keeping an eye on. it’s great for using outdoors when the weather isn’t being kind, making it a good alternative to the F22. However, it’s also got one of the best LEDs that you will find on cheaper metal detectors. It lights up quite well and ensures you can make sure you are looking at something with genuine value as opposed to more trash.
It’s also a useful choice if you like audio cues to help you find what you have discovered, with the 3-tone audio detection that ensures you can get the audio tone that you want for specific materials. This allows for easier interaction with the environment, ensuring that you know what to search for and follow in terms of the noise(s) being made. At just 2.4lbs, too, it’s another lightweight tool that most kids should enjoy using!
If you are looking for a solid tool that works well in less harmonious weather, take a look at the Teknetics EuroTek Pro.
Conclusion – Are Cheap Metal Detectors Any Good?
Now that you know what to look out for, we highly recommend that you make a wise choice based on all of the information we have provided above. This means taking the time to make a wise choice based on the details that we have given above. However, remember that not all cheap metal detectors are going to be right for you.
Each of the above is a metal detector choice that we think would be suitable to the majority, especially those new to metal detecting or looking for value. Good luck!
Cory Haasnoot is an author, entrepreneur, metal detecting enthusiast, antique, coin collector, and founder of Treasure Seekr.