“You get what you pay for” may or may not apply here. It comes down to the definition of “cheap.” Here’s how to decide if “cheap” metal detectors are right for you.
Depending on whether you mean cheap regarding capability or cheap as in price, cheap metal detectors could be just fine for you depending on how “into” the hobby you want to be. Buying a low-cost but decently capable detector (whether used or new) provides you with capability at a cheap price. Buying a bargain model with little capability could easily lead you to believe this hobby stinks. Look for cheap in price, with quality performance.
Let’s define cheap price and cheap capability so you know what to stay away from.
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Cheap Metal Detectors – Price
If you’re looking for higher-end capability at low cost, you’re likely talking about a used machine.
If you want new, though, you can actually find good performance at a low (cheap) price. To successfully reach that goal, though, you need to understand what metal detectors can do and what price point you generally want to stay above.
So, if you’re unaware of features that are basic, but important, you ought to study up a little before you shop. That will keep you from opting for cheap price on a new machine, and ending up with very limited capability.
For example, simply put “metal detector prices” in your search bar and see what pops up. You’ll find a wide range of prices.
If you dig deeper and look for the $150 and less group, you’ll find some that look really low in price. These may or may not be sold by mainstream detector stores. Check the specifications and reviews before considering one of these.
Some big-box stores or tool outlets sell metal detectors. It is possible to find something decent enough to start with at those stores, but do your research. For hobby metal detecting, these could easily under-impress you and leave you wondering what the buzz was all about.
As of this date, I see a $32 kid’s metal detector on a very smiley webstore. Less than 4 stars rated, the cheap price may grab you but is it really the right level to start with? Do your reseach.
Same for the $45 metal detector on a tool outlet site. It may not give you performance you’d be happy with.
So where is the line in the sand?
Best Value Price Point
I would recommend you look no lower than $150 (new)
The reason for that is the mainstream detector companies offer some pretty solid machines down there. Think about it. They have a product line that spans prices, low to high. They want people to be happy with their lower priced offerings. That keeps them in their stable, just like car manufacturers have low, mid, and high priced offerings. Keeping buyers loyal to the brand is the goal.
With a $150 to maybe $235 machine, you can experience functionality you be pleased with. Want more functionality? Buy their next level up. Lower price machines by solid brands will give you features like:
- Customizable frequency range
- LED backlight
- 2-3 year warranty
- Submersible coil (up to 3 feet)
- Double-D coil
- All-purpose capability, some good with relic-hunting
- Sensitivity settings/indicator
- Depth indicator
- Target tones
- Decent battery life
- Detection mode presets
- Arm rest to reduce arm fatigue (almost all metal detectors have these, though)
There’s even a detector that’s good for scuba diving and doubles as a pinpointer in this price range!
In comparison, very low-price models:
- Lack feature description, limited to things like arm rest to reduce arm fatigue, earphone jack, shallow water
- Light weight (aimed more at kids)
- Limited control box display
- Manual setup of self-provided test samples to set discrimination levels
The bottom line is basic research. You don’t want to pay low price and get a toy.
Jump on over to my Recommended Gear page to view metal detectors in this low-end price range including one surprise low-cost detector with features like notch-out, sensitivity, and discrimination settings.