You don’t have to break the bank to get a decent metal detector – even an affordable metal detector can detect different types of treasures, as long as it’s the right one.
We’ve reviewed nearly 100 metal detectors in the last couple of months and narrowed down on the three topmost inexpensive metal detectors.
We present them to you in this article to help you quickly nail down the best metal detector.
Also, go over our buying tips – a little education can make a lot of difference when selecting the best cheap metal detector for your favorite hobby.
Let’s jump right in…
Types of Metal Detectors
Overall, metal detectors are broadly classified into three major types.
We explain each here together with their respective advantages and disadvantages.
Pulse induction (PI) metal detectors (most popular)
PI metal detectors send super powerful pulses (short bursts of electrical current) through a coil(s) deep into the ground, creating a very brief magnetic field when over a metal treasure.
Biggest Pro: The pulse searches the deepest and detects every kind of metal including tiny gold even on mineralized areas.
Biggest Con: It’s unable to eliminate trash targets or discriminate different metals.
Very Low Frequency (VLF)/ induction balance (IB) metal detectors (in between option)
These are simply the most versatile class of metal detectors on sale today.
There is a transmitter to send current forming an electromagnetic field and a receiver coil to pick up signals from target objects.
Biggest Pro: Finds the biggest range of buried valuables and perfectly discriminate among myriad types of objects.
Biggest Con: They don’t achieve the same depth as PI metal detectors.
Beat-frequency oscillation (BFO) metal detectors (outdated)
The oldest and simplest, this features a pair of radio frequency oscillators -one acting as the search oscillator and the other reference oscillator.
These two are tuned almost to the same frequencies but there will be a change in the search oscillator’s frequency as soon as it detects a metal object, signaling a find to the detector.
Biggest Pro: Easiest to learn and the cheapest.
Biggest Con: Very poor accuracy levels.
Up next is the considerations that matter most when selecting a budget-priced metal detector..
Buying Guide (What to look out for)
Unlike when money is not an issue, you must approach the purchasing decision in a sober way when hunting for the best cheap metal detector.
Hint: The fancy features and some of the most advanced technical functions like Cache mode (for deep, larger targets) are to be found on pricey models.
Here we want basic functionalities and good enough prospecting capabilities to help you find coins, precious metals, relics, etc.
Learn how to go about selecting an ideal low-cost metal detector below:
Understand the basic tech Specs
- Operating Frequency- refers to the number of times/second the oscillator forms a magnetic field. As a general rule, anything between 5 to10 Khz is considered satisfactory for non-specialized treasure hunting.
- Coil Size – as a rule of the thumb, larger search coils (coil size printed on the description) will search deeper below the surface for coins and other treasures.
Additional Features to consider
- Discrimination Control– this is a wonderful addition as it eliminates undesirable targets (think of cans, nails, and tops).
- Sensitivity Control– with this feature, you can adjust the sensitivity of the machine to detect various types and sizes of metal (even the tiniest, irregular-shaped pieces).
- Target identification indicator- present day metal detectors indicate what target they’re signaling via this handy invention. It’s not always available in cheaper brands but for a few exceptions.
- LCD Display – a large LCD screen to display all the essentials (detecting depth, operating mode, discrimination, overload warning, battery level, sensitivity level, and more) should clearly be welcome.
Also worth to keep in mind:
- Avoid heavy metal detectors– you’ll get tired fast.
- Stay away from refurbished metal detectors (unless you’ll save massively)- The problem with refurbished metal detectors is that if your product has more defects than you anticipated, return shipping is usually on you and it may get expensive very quickly.
- Look for good ergonomics– an ergonomically refined piece is comfier and more convenient to use.
A word on Ground Balance
Having the right ground balance is vital too, particularly when finding treasures in highly mineralized locations (it helps bypass interfering minerals such as iron).
Now, an automatic ground balance is every hunter’s dream (it detects the ground conditions and adjusts automatically) but you’re likely to find more models with a pre-set ground balance (set by manufacturers) at this price range.
Best Cheap Metal Detector Reviews
As promised at the start, you don’t have to search far and wide for the best cheap metal detector..
The most precious budget metal detectors including the best all round metal detector are right here.
Renowned discrimination circuitry, proven treasure performance, and easy-to-use technology has made this a firm favorite among hordes of treasure hunters.
More importantly, it comes at an incredible price.
This model is teeming with features that are usually found on much pricier metal detectors.
For example, it’s equipped with an automatic ground balancing feature (it hasn’t been common at this price level) so ground balancing is no longer an issue for starters.
The other winner is the disc/notch control – it’s great when it comes to distinguishing between targets and trash.
Throw into the bargain its fantastic specs- the 8-inch waterproof coil (among the top 3) and a reasonable 6.7 kHz operating frequency- and you have a true gem.
Plus, it’s extremely friendly to hunt with…simply toggle the switch to your preferred mode (choose between discrimination mode, all metal mode, and the tone mode.
Its rugged construction means you can use it to explore extreme ground situations from highly mineralized inland sites to salt wet beaches without losing sensitivity.
Overall, the Tracker IV Metal detector finds all manner of metal starting with iron relics and coins all the way to household items plus precious metals such as silver and gold.
- Lightweight- weighs just 4.2 lbs.
- Straightforward to use.
- Amazing batteries.
- No LCD display.
We’re delighted to see Garret finally serving up a stunner for the budget metal detector market in this Garrett ACE300 model.
You’ll pay a bit more than the Bounty Hunter TK4 but there’s serious value here.
Everything that should be delivered in a top-of-class, low-priced metal detector is, with the unit supporting five search modes, eight sensitivity settings, and a built-in pinpoint feature.
What’s more, the coin depth indicator combined with the digital target ID (0 to 99) will help you know precisely what you’re digging and how far down it is.
We also like that it comes with an extensive collection of freebies- a search coil cover, an all-weather cover (for the display), and easy stow headphones.
The headphones are not world-beaters though but they work and sound dependable.
It’s worth noting the ACE300 metal detector is generally built for advanced users – it definitely has a steeper learning curve compared to Tracker IV and similar entry level products.
In terms of applications, we especially recommend it for passionate coin and jewelry hunters.
- Lighter than even Tracker IV.
- Customizable modes.
- High sensitivity levels.
- Huge learning curve.
This bargain is fully weatherproof and handles nearly all environments including wet sands like a champion!
Also winning it praise is its standout target separation (because of the superfast retune speed) and easy-to-use design.
As hinted, this is built to be used right out of the box..
The sensitivity, discrimination, notch, and even the pinpoint features are so simplistic to engage/play around with not to forget that you can easily set your own tones.
Get to effortlessly and quickly identify buried treasures with its 9-segment target categories backed by a useful numerical Target-ID (0-99).
The F22 offers 4 operational modes (jewelry, artifact, coin, and custom) and is one of the best bets if you’re looking for a model that discriminates out iron- it even has a unique Iron Identifier Icon.
The specs are not badly off either led by the 9-Inch waterproof search coil and the 7.69 kHz operating frequency.
As a bonus, you get absolutely long lasting batteries (we are looking at 25-30 hours here!).
- Feels pretty solid.
- Easy-to-read display.
- We are struggling to find a notable problem point.
Best Affordable Metal Detector – Take Away
Inexpensive metal detectors today are beyond impressive: they offer a world of practical features including built-in ground control (in some cases), more detection modes, and improved sensitivity.
And to make your life easier, we have introduced the brands we think are worthy of your time- the fast selling Bounty Hunter TK4 (Tracker IV), the impressive Garrett ACE300, and the best-for-any-weather Fisher F22.
That being said, there are a few differentiating features that take a metal detector from being illustrious to next-level.
These include good ergonomics, a large LCD Display, and lightweight build.
Keep them (and the rest) in mind if you want to make an investment you’ll be happy with for years to come.