This is the ultimate guide to choosing the best metal detector in 2020.
In this comprehensive guide I’ll cover:
- My list of 7 best products
- Differences of detectors for the various intended use
- 3 most common types of detectors
- Common metal detector features
- Brand choosing considerations
- The list of indispensable accessories
- Lots more
So if you want to find the most suitable metal detector for you, you’ll love this guide.
Let’s get started.
7 Best Metal Detectors For The Money 2020
1. Garrett AT Pro
2. Fisher F22
3. Bounty Hunter TK4 Tracker IV
4. Fisher Gold Bug Pro
5. RM RICOMAX GC-1003
6. Garrett Sea Hunter Mark II
7. Fisher CZ21-8
- 7 Best Metal Detectors For The Money 2020
- 1. Garrett AT Pro – Best All-Around Metal Detector
- 2. Fisher F22 – Best Metal Detector For Beginners
- 3. Bounty Hunter TK4 Tracker IV – Best For The Money
- 4. Fisher Gold Bug Pro – Best Metal Detector For Gold
- 5. RM RICOMAX GC-1003 – Best Metal Detector For Kids
- 6. Garrett Sea Hunter Mark II – Best For Underwater
- 7. Fisher CZ21-8 – Best High-End Metal Detector
- Best Metal Detector Buying Guide
- Intended Use
- Types of Detectors
- Screen vs No Screen
- Search Coils
- Your Budget – How Much Does a Metal Detector Cost?
- Other Considerations
There are many things that a beginner or even a seasoned detectorist must know, and this guide will attempt to address all the most important questions.
Metal detecting can be one of the most rewarding hobbies around. After all, who doesn’t want the chance to find literal buried treasure? Even if you don’t find any gold or silver, you can often find fascinating glimpses of the past. It’s no wonder that those who enjoy this hobby tend to get a little obsessed!
Without a good understanding, it is all too easy to waste your money on an inferior metal detector. Below is the list of the best metal detectors.
1. Garrett AT Pro – Best All-Around Metal DetectorGarrett AT PRO is one of the more popular metal detectors on the market, and there are good reasons for that fact.
It’s an excellent choice for the beginner because it offers very precise control. That being said, there is a little bit of a learning curve with these controls.
We like the nice, big search coil on this thing, as it allows you to cover more ground in fewer swings. We also like the precise iron discrimination, which can be dialed to different levels of sensitivity. Because some people might be looking for iron objects (like historical relics, for instance), it’s nice to have that kind of control.
You can take this thing to the beach, the lake, or anywhere else. It can be fully submerged, which is a huge bonus for those who like to work in the water. Many models have submersible search coils, but you can submerge this entire device up to ten feet deep with no problems.
Some people have reported problems when using this detector in saltwater, as the settings have to be dialed in for that purpose. We did not see any of these problems when we tested this device, but we did have one problem with this product, and that was the range of tones that it uses.
This product only uses three tones, and one of them is a piercing noise that causes physical pain to the ears of most people. Obviously, an alert tone like this needs to get your attention, but it shouldn’t make you wish you were deaf! Still, this is a durable and powerful model that can find anything worth finding.
2. Fisher F22 – Best Metal Detector For Beginners
The audio tones and settings are completely adjustable, which can be very nice. We have already seen that some detectors will use piercing tones that hurt the ears. There is simply no need to give yourself a headache with noises like that, so it’s good that this product lets you dial in those sound settings to a precise degree.
The large, bright display screen also helps you to keep track of what is going on around you. When you are focused on a tiny little screen, it can be easy to forget about the rest of the world. Large screens like this can be read with your peripheral vision. Thus, you can keep an eye on those values without getting zoned out.
This one is very comfortable and ergonomic. It wraps neatly around the arm, and everything seems to fit in place. Of course, this kind of thing will depend on your body type, but we find it very comfortable. It also helps that this detector is very lightweight. It weighs a little over 3 pounds, which is very nice.
Fisher F22 needs only two AA batteries to function, and we found the claims of high battery life to be (mostly) true. The manufacturer claims that this product has a battery life of 25-30 hours, but we should mention that the quality of your batteries will make a difference.
3. Bounty Hunter TK4 Tracker IV – Best For The MoneyBounty Hunter Tk4 is one of the cheapest options on our list, and it does an excellent job of providing good quality at a fair price. It might be a little harder to use, and it might not impress the other hobbyists, but this thing can get the job done reliably. For a beginner, this kind of bare-bones functionality is very conducive to the learning process.
TK4 detector has a preset ground balance that is meant to neutralize the false alarms that are often caused by minerals in the ground. These minor annoyances can lead to a lot of wasted digging, and so this feature can save you a lot of time. This ground balance, along with its durable metal frame, makes it an ideal tool for ground conditions that are filthy, littered, wet, or otherwise difficult.
While the range will vary according to the settings used, this model can detect objects as far as two feet down. Of course, this range will only apply to large objects. Don’t expect to find a ring or a coin that deep in the ground, or you will be disappointed. For objects like that, 10-12 inches is a more realistic range.
This one detects all the common metals that you might want, including gold, silver, brass, aluminum, iron, and steel. However, it doesn’t give you a whole lot of precision when it comes to telling one thing from another. There is no gauge to indicate whether your find is made of one metal or the other. There is just one gauge with one needle and a few knobs.
This model also uses two 9V batteries, which are quite a bit more expensive than most others. We certainly have some concerns about this aspect, since the battery life is not good enough to justify this extra expense.
4. Fisher Gold Bug Pro – Best Metal Detector For Gold
For those who live in gold country, a tool like this can literally be worth its weight in gold. Of course, you should bear in mind that finding gold isn’t as easy as it seems.
No matter what kind of gold you are looking for, this machine can find its resting place.
It detects everything from coins to relics and does so with a remarkable degree of precision. Considering the high cost of this item, we would expect nothing less.
Also, a higher degree of soil mineralization is associated with a greater number of false alarms. We haven’t seen that many detectors that give real-time feedback on soil mineralization, but it seems to be quite helpful when looking for gold.
The 5-year warranty is quite nice and makes us feel a little better about the high price tag on this product. Indeed, when we feel how lightweight this detector is, we can’t help but worry that it might be broken from hard use. We have some serious concerns about durability, but these might or might not be valid.
This one has two different heads that perform two different jobs. One of them is more precise at shallow depths, while the other is more precise at deeper depths. This cannot really be called a “pro” or a “con,” hence why we did not list it in either column. It might hinder some people by forcing them to do the same area twice, but it might also help people who are searching within a specific depth range.
As for the screen, we like the fact that it’s large, easy to read, and fairly simple to operate. You won’t have to spend a bunch of time studying a manual here, though we think the screen could use a nice backlight for evening use.
5. RM RICOMAX GC-1003 – Best Metal Detector For Kids
This one has everything that you would want in a children’s metal detector. It’s lightweight, so children of any age should be able to carry it around. It also has a waterproof search coil in case there is a nearby pond or creek. Kids often won’t think about subtle things like the danger of ruining an expensive toy, so that waterproofing is a very nice touch.
Of course, there are bound to be a couple of problems with a product this cheap. First, this thing is held together in a plastic housing. This makes it seem more like a toy than a tool (and technically, it is both of these things). The main stem is made of a steel tube, but it’s not very thick and could bend with little abuse.
The display is both the best and the worst thing about this product. It simply shows three little waves, which illustrate the range of the tool. When something is found, the screen indicates its location with a red dot. As you might be thinking, this is not very precise. It doesn’t give you much idea as to the depth of the object, but something like is well-suited for children or beginners.
This detector comes with a small spade and fork set, which is obviously included so that kids can dig up the things that they find. However, they made a serious mistake here. The spade and fork are made of plastic, which makes them completely worthless. To be quite honest, this seems like a silly thing to include. If a child can be trusted with a metal detector, then they can probably be trusted with a shovel.
6. Garrett Sea Hunter Mark II – Best For Underwater
We like the large and easily adjustable knobs on the control module, as these are a must for an underwater model. When using one of these things, you will almost certainly be wearing gloves. That makes it impractical to fool around with a bunch of buttons. Those who enjoy simple control systems may also want to go with this model, even if they aren’t planning to detect underwater.
This one comes with a set of waterproof headphones, which are essential for a detector of this type. A speaker would not work underwater as the water would muffle the sound.
We really think this thing would be a lot better with the inclusion of a flashlight. When operating underwater, you can never really have too much light. Because this machine takes up both hands, it is not practical to use a large flashlight at the same time. Thus, a light on the end of the stem would do a lot to augment the normally-dim light of a headlamp.
One other problem is the buoyancy of this tool. It’s nice in one way because the tool is a little harder to lose. However, its desire to rise makes it a little harder to control underwater. You will invariably waste a little bit of time wrestling with this device as it tries to rise to the surface.
7. Fisher CZ21-8 – Best High-End Metal Detector
This one operates on multiple frequencies, thus increasing its sensitivity and its ability to detect treasure. Its discrimination and other features are completely adjustable, including audio performance. You have several different tones that can be configured in a multitude of different ways.
As for problems, we don’t see a whole lot of them, but the biggest (and most obvious) problem is the high cost. This one is really going to be a significant expense, so you will need to think hard before you decide if it’s worth the money. For the average user, this is just more than necessary. However, professionals and others that are serious about metal detecting will find this to be a tool fit for the highest levels of use.
This one is a little heavier than the others at roughly 5.5 pounds, but you do get something for that extra weight. The metal of the stem and housing are pretty thick compared to most of our other models, making it likely that they will hold up far longer. Considering the excessive price of this model, we would not be happy with anything less.
Best Metal Detector Buying Guide
At this point, you have seen seven good examples of what you should look for in a good metal detector. Obviously, you have to think about your specific habits and needs before you choose one. That is the entire lesson that we were trying to teach you. Having looked at some good examples, let’s turn our attention to more specific matters.
The first thing you need to consider is the intended use of this metal detector. Depending on your conditions, a particular model might be perfect or terrible. So, let’s think about some specific kinds of metal detecting.
Metal Detectors For Gold
Gold is probably the number one thing that people hope to find when picking up a metal detector for the first time. Unfortunately for them, gold is probably the most highly-sought substance on earth. As a result, most of the best sources have already been mined out. However, you might be surprised at how often a little piece of gold can slip through the cracks.
As you might remember from reading about the gold metal detectors above, soil mineralization will play a much more important role when you are looking for gold. You see, certain minerals in the soil can give a reading that is similar to gold. This has led to many people digging large holes in the ground because they thought they just found a gold mine.
For this reason, you need to use the ground balance aspect of your tool to maximum advantage. This is a quality that is found on all good metal detectors and is used to reduce the likelihood of false positives. If your detector has an automatic ground balance feature, you won’t have to worry about this. Otherwise, you will need to adjust the depth until it filters out the ground noise.
Metal Detectors For Underwater
Underwater metal detecting has become more common in recent years since it’s getting harder to find good treasure on land. With so many people out hunting for lost gold, silver, etc., you might find it very difficult to get anything of real value. In fact, some people can metal detect on land for their entire lives without ever finding an object of serious worth.
On the other hand, treasure hunting with the best underwater metal detector is a little more likely to yield results. Why is that? Because fewer people are willing to do so! For years, virtually no one engaged in underwater metal detection as a hobby. Other than law enforcement, no one needed these things.
When searching in a populated area, there is a higher chance that you will uncover something disturbing. This might include criminal evidence, human or animal remains, discarded weapons, etc. It is all too common for criminals to dispose of evidence by throwing things in the water, so try not to contaminate any evidence you might find. Call your local authorities immediately so that your find can be properly investigated.
Metal Detectors For Beginners
Everyone wants to go out and find the next Comstock lode, but not all of us know how to get started. When you get started in this hobby, you might be fortunate enough to have a friend who can properly educate you. They can show you how to use the equipment, how to find good places to metal detect, how to filter out false positives, and all manner of other things. Unfortunately, many of us are not that lucky.
For one thing, you should make sure you choose a model of metal detector for beginners that is not too specialized. You are trying to learn the ways of metal detecting in general, so you don’t want a tool that is focused on just one kind of treasure (read our article on metal detecting tips and tricks for more effective hunting). You also need to take a look at the display panel of any model that you are considering.
Don’t worry so much about the visual appeal of the display, as this is not important. Instead, think about its complexity. You don’t want to go with something that has a sharp learning curve. If you go with something like this, it will be a lot longer before you can actually start effectively using your device.
As a beginner, you should take some time to play with your device and learn how it works. That is a large part of the skill in this hobby: Learning how to get the most out of your detector. This might not be easy because every brand and every model has its preferred display setup.
For practice, you might even try burying small metal objects in the yard so that they can be found. Of course, you won’t really get the full benefits of this exercise unless you do it with a partner. Have them hide some coins or jewelry for you, and see how long it takes you to find them.
Metal Detectors For Kids
As with a beginner, children cannot be expected to operate high-end tools with efficiency. Even if they could do so, the risk of breakage would be too high. Thus, children should get the simplest kind of detector that is available.
There are quite a few detectors on the market that are meant specifically for children, such as the one we reviewed above. You need to choose a detector for your child that is within their intellectual ability to use. Otherwise, it will probably just sit on a shelf and never be used.
Most children’s metal detectors will have a very simple display that tells you when something is detected and nothing more. A bunch of complex information wouldn’t help a child anyway, so any detector you get for them should have a simple indicator rather than gauge.
Also, there is a need to mention safety when we talk about children using metal detectors. While the tool itself is not dangerous, trespassing can be dangerous, so make sure your kids understand the boundaries. You also want to make sure that they don’t put themselves in dangerous situations in the hopes of finding treasure.
Metal Detectors For Coins and Jewelry
Coins and jewelry are two of the most sought-after items in the world of metal detecting. That’s because these items can have great worth in a small package, and both of them are objects that frequently get lost. While it may not be a good thing that someone lost their valuable property, why not be the one who finds that property?
There are some metal detectors on the market that are specialized for coin hunting. These things can tell you the difference between a coin and some random chunk of metal, which we find pretty impressive. Sometimes, certain models will even tell you what kind of coin you have found. For instance, the first product that we reviewed has a setting that allows the user to detect coins specifically, and to estimate their size/worth.
Metal Detectors For Beach and Saltwater
A lot of people tend to lose valuable items on the beach. The constantly-shifting sand along the shoreline can make it very difficult to retrieve lost items, so they are often lost. At the same time, there are also plenty of “beachcombers” who spend their days finding these lost items.
When choosing a beach metal detector, the main thing is to choose a waterproof model. Bear in mind that some detectors are only partly waterproof, while others can only be submerged a few feet before being ruined. Further, you need to know that freshwater-proof doesn’t necessarily mean saltwater-proof. Make sure you get one that says it is suitable for saltwater usage.
Types of Detectors
There are many different types of metal detectors out there, so let’s go over three of the most common types:
Very Low Frequency (VLF) Detectors
These are the most popular types on the market, and this popularity is mostly due to their great versatility. You can tune these kinds of detectors in many different ways, and that is why they are still the best option.
This technology works by making use of magnetic fields. The search coil consists of a transmitter, which sends magnetic waves into the ground, and a receiver which receives the signals once they have been bounced back. Like sonar, this kind of detection works by bouncing waves off the target.
Pulse Induction (PI) Detectors
Pulse induction metal detectors are a little bit more expensive, as they tend to be more accurate. The metal detectors that you see in stores and courthouses are most likely PI-type detectors. They use a single coil as both transmitter and receiver, but they don’t work like VLF models.
Instead of bouncing magnetic waves like sonar, these models send a strong electromagnetic pulse into the ground. This produces an equal but opposite reaction in the magnetic field of the targeted object. The detector is then able to read these magnetic disturbances and make determinations about the size and content of the target object.
Multi Frequency (MF) Detectors
Because these machines make use of electromagnetic waves, frequency is a very important quality. Different frequencies work better for detecting different substances. Incidentally, that’s why they make specialized detectors that are focused on a certain precious substance like gold or silver.
Multi-frequency detectors attempt to solve this problem by using more than one frequency at a time. The machine will emit one primary frequency, but it will also emit a number of secondary frequencies that will normally be close to the primary frequency. Even though they still focus on one frequency, these detectors give a much wider range of detection and more specific information.
Let’s look at some common metal detector features so that you will understand them when they are encountered.
Ground balance refers to the ability of a detector to filter out ground noise. As we have explained, detectors work by picking up vibrational frequencies from the ground, but the ground can contain many different things. Thus, ground balance is yet another mechanism that works to weed out false readings and save you time on digging.
Sensitivity is the ability of a detector to pick up indications from a wide variety of different objects. Unfortunately, a higher degree of sensitivity also creates a thousand false readings. The key is to dial in the sensitivity over time so that it can find valuable items without being triggered by everything else.
As the word implies, many detectors will discriminate against things that are not considered worthwhile. For instance, many people will set their detectors to ignore ferrous metals like steel and iron. These metals are usually not worth digging up and are usually too corroded to be useful. Thus, it helps to have a detector with strong discrimination to weed out unwanted finds.
While any frequency can detect an object in the ground, there are certain frequencies of energy that work better. Gold responds better to certain frequencies, and less so to others. The same is true of all metals, so it’s good to adjust your frequency from time to time.
Some detectors will merely tell you that you have found something, while others will give you a specific idea about what you have found. For instance, it might tell you that you have found gold or silver, or it might be able to identify coins or rings.
You don’t want a detector that is too reactive. If so, you will be chasing false leads all day long. Digging holes all day is no fun, even if the holes are not all that deep.
When your detector finds something, it may give you an idea of its depth. While not all detectors have this function, many of them will tell you how deep the object is buried. This will be an approximate measurement, but it should be close enough to be helpful.
Tone ID is a feature that associates certain sounds with certain metals. For instance, you might have one tone for gold and another for steel/iron. This is especially useful for detectors that don’t have a display screen.
Screen vs No Screen
Some metal detectors have a screen while others do not. To be honest, there are good reasons for and against both options. In most cases, a detector that has no screen will instead have a small indicator light. This will light up when something is detected, but there is usually little to no indication of what the object might be.
A screen or gauge will give you a more exact idea of what you are looking at, but you cannot always trust that information. This might be why even some high-level users prefer to have an indicator light rather than a complex display.
For beginners, we would recommend going with the simple indicator light option. A gauge or LCD can be too confusing at first, so keep it nice and simple. You can always upgrade to something a little more precise in the future. At the same time, you should look for one that gives you some audio cues. That way, you will at least have some basic information before you pick up the shovel.
The search coil might be said to be the heart of the device, so let’s look more closely at that factor.
Much like the head of a weed-eater, the coil of your detector will have a lot to do with its working characteristics. Of course, bigger is not always better, and that’s an important point to remember. A large coil can make it harder to pinpoint small items like rings and coins, forcing you to dig a hole that is about the same size as the search coil.
When you use a smaller coil, you can narrow things down much more, which means less area that needs to be dug. Not only that, but these narrow coils will often penetrate more deeply into objects and the ground. Larger coils, on the other hand, are definitely superior for wide, open spaces. When you are trying to cover a whole field, you need a way to cover more ground with each step.
There are many different kinds of coils, each of which is used for detecting different substances, or for detecting under different conditions. While most search coils are general-purpose, it never hurts to have a few special tools.
Metal detectors will often come with extra coils, both to replace existing ones when they wear out and to provide more variety. In many cases, these additional coils are just gimmicks that aren’t really needed, but you will need to judge the situation based on your needs.
When you choose a brand, you should do so with no regard for personal feelings. You might feel that a certain brand is more trustworthy because they have a better reputation, but that won’t get you a quality metal detector. You need to be a slave to quality and nothing else. Other than warranty considerations, it doesn’t matter which brand you choose.
Here are some of the most known and popular brands of metal detectors available on the market today: Bounty Hunter, Fisher, Minelab, Garrett. Each brand has its pros and cons. You can read reviews on our site to make a more weighted choice.
Your Budget – How Much Does a Metal Detector Cost?
There is a very wide price range for these products. The small children’s models can cost as little as $50, while the high-end versions can cost as much as $1000 or more. This is actually a good thing because it provides options for everyone.
When evaluating your budget, you just need to ask yourself how important this tool might be. If this thing won’t be used that often, you might as well go with something cheap and basic. If you’re planning to get really serious, you want a tool that reflects your attitude.
The metal detector can be equipped with various additional tools and accessories to make the search for metal objects more convenient, simple, and effective. Each such accessory is specially designed to work with a metal detector and often becomes indispensable. Let’s consider them one by one.
Pinpointer is just a smaller coil on the end of a wand. Once your large coil finds an object, you can use your pinpointer to get its exact location. Obviously, you will be looking for a reading that matches your first one.
Without headphones, you would have to listen very closely while using a metal detector. A speaker just cannot deliver the same subtle quality. When you are using headphones, it is far easier to tell one tone from the other.
Some searchers rely on an ordinary garden tool, which is not always justified in terms of convenience and durability. In any case, you will have to extract the finds, and digging tools, such as, shovels, knives, lesche diggers, etc. will help with this. Convenience in use was shown by tools that can be attached to belts.
Sand Scoop is a necessary accessory when you are metal detecting on the beach or in the sand. The specifics of beach search with a metal detector involves the use of a scoop for sifting sand because it is not very convenient to hunt with a regular shovel, even if it is not large. Moreover, it is not very effective. There are two types of scoops, manual and with a handle like a shovel.
A pouch or treasure bag will be useful to you for finds. Exclusively for found items. Let it be small and simple, but it’s better than pulling your finds into your pockets. For convenience, instead of a bag, you can use a patch pocket, which is best to be fixed on your trousers. So the “treasure” will not be lost, and you will not have to carry a bag with you.
We would advise you to think a lot about durability when choosing an item of this type. Some people might disagree, saying that they plan to be very careful with their metal detectors. Unfortunately, real life is not always cooperative with these plans.
A metal detector is a tool that must be used outside, sometimes for long durations. It must be able to deal with everything that nature can dish out, and it has to do so without being extremely heavy. All in all, you just want to make sure you get something tough so that you don’t waste all that money. These tools aren’t cheap, so make your purchase last.
Metal detecting offers so much potential for excitement and gains that people are willing to pay substantial amounts of money for that pleasure. Thankfully, it isn’t necessary to go out and buy the biggest, fanciest model on earth.
As a beginner, you can get good results from a bargain model, or you might even start with a children’s detector. Your friends might laugh, but you will have saved quite a bit of cash, and so you can laugh, too…all the way to the bank. We hope that this article has given you all the information you need to make an informed choice and that you will return to enjoy more of our expert advice.