Metal Detecting is a LOT of fun! However, it is can be overwhelming as a beginner to decide which metal detector is best for you to start with. There are a lot of options to consider, and the good news is you are sure to find something in any price range that meets your needs and your budget!
Many people ask us, "what is the best metal detector?" - and while we'd love to make it easy and just say, "Oh get this one" - that is not the case! There are a lot of factors to consider when you buy a metal detector and a lot of it comes to personal preference and your metal detecting goals.
Hopefully, with this guide on what things we consider are important, you'll be able to make a choice you are confident in knowing it's the best one for YOU.
6 Things to Consider When Choosing a Metal Detector
Before we dive into talking about different features and types of metal detectors, the most important thing to think about is you and your own needs.
Knowing things like where you will use the metal detector the most often and your own personal preference will make it a lot easier to understand what will work best.
1. What Do You Want to Find?
There are many different types of metal detectors, and some are better for finding different things than others. Knowing what things you want to find helps you narrow down what features are most important and are going to help you uncover the most targets.
Here are examples of different types of things you might want to look for while you are metal detecting:
- Lost Jewelry: Earrings, Rings, Bracelets, Necklaces
- Coin Shooting: Finding coins, both old and new
- Relic Hunting: Looking for historic artifacts, such as bullets or tools from bygone eras.
- Gold Prospecting: Yes, there are some metal detectors capable of helping you find gold nuggets!
While most metal detectors are capable of finding any type of metal, there are some which are specifically calibrated to have different sensitivity to make it a whole lot easier to find the exact targets you want.
For example, if your hope is to discover gold nuggets, then you are are going to need a gold prospecting metal detector.
2. Where Do you Plan to go Metal Detecting Most Often?
There are a lot of great places to metal detect, but some metal detectors are better suited for different environments than others.
Fields, Parks and Yards on Land: If you plan to metal detect in a place where there are no creeks or rivers, then you most likely don't need a metal detector that it water proof. However, you will likely need a metal detector that is capable of discovering deep targets, especially if you are going on old homesteads where items may be buried significantly under the ground.
Creeks and River Sites: If you live in an area with a lot of creeks and rivers, you may want to make sure the metal detector you choose has a waterproof coil. This way you can safely detect under water without worrying about damage to the machine.
Beach Detecting: If you plan on metal detecting at the beach, you might need to consider whether the water is salt water or fresh water. Salt water can disrupt the way metal detectors work, and so if the beach if your primarily place to search you will likely need to get a metal detector specifically designed for salt water environments. If you plan to go to only fresh water beaches such as the Great Lakes, then a general waterproof coil would likely be sufficient.
Understanding where you are detecting can make a big difference in what types of features you may need. Not all places are the same geographically, so of course it makes sense to choose a detector that is going to work best where you plan to hunt the most often.
3. What Are Your Physical Needs?
This is another important consideration - what are your own physical abilities and requirements? For example, most people prefer a lightweight metal detector because it is not so difficult to carry and hold for prolonged periods of time.
If you are thinking about metal detecting with kids, another factor to consider with kids is their height, since some metal detectors may actually be taller than they are! Fortunately, there are many different junior-sized models that are great for kids.
Another physical requirement to consider is how much space you have available at home. Do you frequently travel? Then you may prefer a metal detector that is ultra portable and can be easily assembled and disassembled to pack into your car or RV when not in use.
4. Your Learning Style: Audio or Visual?
This is another thing to consider that many people overlook: are you an audio or visual learner? Many metal detectors now have an LCD screen that will let you read the depth of a target or even identify what type of target you may find before you dig. If you are a visual learner, an easy to understand LCD display is going to make life a lot easier for you!
However, most professionals will agree: if you learn to use your ears you are going to get a lot better at metal detecting! This is why many seasoned detectorists don't even worry if a machine has an LCD display - they use headphones and are quite happy just to listen to what they may find.
Understanding your own unique learning style can be very helpful in knowing whether you need all the bells and whistles or if just the basics will do.
5. Your Budget
Of course, your own personal budget is another important factor. If you are able to spend a little more in buying your first metal detector, you will likely save a lot of money over the long run because a mid-level metal detector is a lot more sensitive than an entry-level detector.
Most metal detectors are within the range of $150 to $750. Of course, the higher priced models come with a lot more features that are not available in the cheaper models. With a higher price tag often comes higher sensitivity and better ability to discriminate between finds.
My first metal detector was the Minelab X-terra 505. This series was first introduced in 2005 - well, here we are in 2018 and it's only since improved and still a great metal detector for beginners! It was within my budget as a beginner, and is a great beginner all-purpose type of metal detector.
Minelab X-Terra 505 Metal Detector
- Minelab's proprietary True Digital VFLEX technology the new class of single frequency detectors change the frequency easily by changing coils
- Compatible with Low Frequency 3khz Medium Frequency 7kHz and High Frequency 18.75kHz coils 6 accessory coil options offer increased versatility
- Accurate Ground Balance capability with manual adjustment of 0-50 allows the user to easily adjust mineralization easily
- Noise Cancel function with 5 manual settings allowing the user to pick the quietest channel for detecting
- Choice of up to 4 tone IDs plus multi-tone Target ID which allows greater flexibility in deciding how targets are represented
While it is not the cheapest metal detector out there, it is also not the most expensive. As is true with many things, it's better to pay a little bit more upfront than to start with a cheap metal detector that makes it very difficult to find anything and then still have to buy a better detector later down the road!
6. Technology Used & Features of the Metal Detector Itself
Now that we understand all of your own personal needs, the last thing of course to understand is what types of features different detectors offer. If you are new to the world of metal detecting, some of these terms can be confusing, so we'll try to explain them here.
Ground Balance: Most areas have naturally occurring metals in the dirt. For example, the beaches along the ocean will have salt from the salt water. Deep red clay soil may actually have little particles of iron in the dirt. These minerals can affect the sensitivity of the machine and your ability to find things. Some machines have automatic ground balance, but it is often a nice feature to have the ability to manually adjust ground balance.
Ability to Change Coils: While most metal detectors only come with one coil when you purchase it, several on the market have interchangeable coils that can be purchased in addition. Different sized coils available can be swapped depending on what types of things you are wanting to uncover. This makes it possible to use the right coil for the right environment and target simply by changing the coil - there is no need for a completely different machine.
Threshold and Discrimination Settings: This is another feature that will vary from machine to machine. Threshold is the continuous sound made by a machine when the detector is on. It is nice to be able to adjust this setting for whether it is nearly inaudible or loud, depending on the location and what you are looking for. Some machines also have the ability to ignore certain frequencies, which is known as discrimination. So, if you're looking for coins for example, you can set it to ignore anything that would not be a coin.
Depth Indicators: It can be helpful, though not always accurate, to have a decent idea of depth when you are searching for targets. For example, if you discover something while detecting, it's very nice to know whether it's an inch under the ground or 6 inches deep. This gives you a good idea of how deep to dig when you do discover something.
Warranty & Service: This is another factor to think about - does the brand or manufacturer offer any sort of warranty or do they offer service for a machine if it needs fixed? Most major metal detector manufacturers offer some sort of warranty or can easily be serviced by contacting the company or dealer. It can sometimes be helpful to know about these things before you buy just to make sure you choose a trusted brand that offers a good customer service experience.
Where Do I Buy a Metal Detector?
Now that we've looked at all the different options out there, you are probably wondering where you might get one, right?
Well, as you can imagine, this is not something you can typically just buy at your average retail store. In most cases, you will need to either visit a local dealer near you or order the detector online.
I purchased my metal detector from a dealer who is located about 2 hours away from my house - which is also the closest dealer near where I live. It worked out because we were traveling in the area and had some time to stop by, but I don't think I would normally go that far out of the way.
The main advantage of going to a dealer is because it can be very beneficial to talk with the store owner since they typically have a lot of experience. However, if you are already pretty confident from what you read online and know what you want, and there is no local dealer available, then I definitely recommend to shop on Amazon.
Here are some popular choices to consider and research:
These are all very reputable brands and manufacturers for metal detectors, and most are wonderful choices to consider - you just need to find which one is best for your own personal needs.
And of course, don't forget to check out our other metal detecting gear reviews - you are sure to find a ton of information there to help you make a choice you are confident in!
Most of all - have fun and if you have any questions at any time feel free to ask questions in the comments below or reach out to us on our contact page - we're always happy to help you choose a metal detector and find exactly what you might need to start successfully metal detecting today!