The Best Metal Detectors

In-depth buyers guide to help you choose the right metal detector for you
Marc McDermott

Are you looking for the best metal detector for your treasure-hunting adventures? With so many options available, picking the right detector can seem daunting. With advances in technology and affordability, there’s now a wide range of options for finding out what lies beneath. Whether you’re metal detecting to find coins, jewelry, relics, or gold, we’ve got a recommendation that fits your needs.

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Best entry-level metal detectors

PhotoMetal DetectorOur pick for…Price
Nokta Makro SimplexOur top pickCheck Price
Fisher F22Also recommended Check Price
Garrett ACE 300NewbiesCheck Price
Garrett AT ProHigh-end featuresCheck Price

Nokta Makro Simplex Metal Detector

What we like:

  • Mid-level detector performance for entry-level price
  • Powerful DD coil
  • Fully submersible to 10 ft
  • Built-in rechargeable battery
  • Wireless audio when used with compatible headphones

What we don’t like

  • Controls not as basic as other entry-level detectors

Fisher F22 Metal Detector

What we like:

  • Weatherproof
  • Iron Audio
  • Fast Recovery (Processing) Speed
  • Digital Target ID
  • Lighter, easier to use
  • 5 Year Warranty

What we don’t like

  • No adjustable ground balance

The F22 is a great budget pick. We rank the F22 #1 in our list of the best metal detectors under $300.

Garrett ACE 300 Metal Detector

What we like:

  • Replaced the Garrett ACE 250
  • Easy to use
  • Digital Target ID
  • Adjustable search frequency
  • Enhanced Iron Resolution

What we don’t like:

  • No adjustable ground balance
  • No Iron Audio

Garrett AT Pro Metal Detector

What we like:

  • Fully waterproof and submersible to 10 ft
  • Manual and auto ground balance
  • Proportional audio
  • Iron audio

What we don’t like:

  • Underwater headphones sold separately

Best relic hunting metal detectors

Photo Metal Detector Our pick for… Price
Minelab Equinox 800Our top pickCheck Price
Minelab CTX 3030High-end featuresCheck Price
Fisher F75 LTDAdvanced usersCheck Price
Teknetics T2Also recommendedCheck Price

Minelab Equinox 800 Metal Detector

What we like:

  • All-terrain detector
  • Fully submersible up to 10ft (or 3 meters)
  • Multi-frequency
  • Wireless headphone capability
  • Switch between frequencies based on your needs
  • Weighs under 3lbs

What we don’t like:

  • Included headphones aren’t waterproof

Minelab CTX 3030​ Metal Detector

What we like:

  • Superior discrimination settings and target ID
  • Don’t need to buy separate land machine
  • Lots of coils available
  • LCD display
  • Fully submerisble
  • Full-color display

What we don’t like:

  • Price
  • Can’t be used for diving

Fisher F75 LTD Metal Detector

What we like:

  • More search coil options
  • 65 tone ID’s vs the T2’s 6
  • Static all-metal mode
  • Boost mode for enhanced sensitivity and depth
  • Cache mode for deep, large objects

What we don’t like:

  • Price

Teknetics T2 Classic Metal Detector

What we like:

  • Low price tag for such a powerful detector
  • Large LCD screen
  • Expanded iron content range
  • Can also be used for basic gold prospecting

What we don’t like:

  • No backlight
  • DD coils only
  • Does not save settings when turned off

Best waterproof PI metal detectors

PhotoMetal detector Our pick for…Price
Fisher CZ-21Top pickCheck Price
Garrett Sea HunterAlso recommendedCheck Price

Fisher CZ-21 Metal Detector

What we like:

  • Fast response time
  • Audio boost mode
  • Pinpoint button
  • Easy to hip mount
  • Clear tone on deep, faint signals

What we don’t like:

  • No threshold adjustment
  • Concentric coil

Garrett Sea Hunter​ Metal Detector

What we like:

  • Interchangeable coils and headphones
  • Has large 10×14 accessory coil
  • Independently sealed battery compartment
  • Pulse Delay for heavy iron beaches

What we don’t like:

  • No volume control

Best waterproof multi-frequency metal detectors

Photo Metal Detector Our pick for… Price
Minelab Excalibur IISaltwater-onlyCheck Price
Minelab CTX 3030Most versatileCheck Price

Minelab Excalibur II Metal Detector

What we like:

  • Excellent iron discrimination
  • Multiple frequency machine that can also be used for diving
  • Very accurate tone ID
  • Submersible to 200 ft

What we don’t like:

  • Iron signals null delay can make you miss good targets
  • Hardwired headphones
  • Requires additional kit to hip mount
  • No tone on deep, faint signals. Just threshold change.

Minelab CTX 3030​ Metal Detector

What we like:

  • Superior discrimination and target ID
  • Don’t need to buy separate land machine
  • Lots of coils available
  • LCD display
  • Digital Target ID

What we don’t like:

  • Price
  • Can’t be used for diving

Best freshwater metal detector

Photo Metal Detector Our pick for… Price
Garrett AT ProOur top pickCheck Price
Garrett AT MaxMost featuresCheck Price
Fisher 1280xWater-onlyCheck Price

Garrett AT Pro Metal Detector

What we like:

  • Fully waterproof and submersible to 10 ft
  • Manual and auto ground balance
  • Proportional audio
  • Iron audio

What we don’t like:

  • Waterproof headphones sold separately
  • Single frequency

Garrett AT Max Metal Detector

What we like:

  • Can also be used for gold prospecting
  • Better ground balancing options than AT Pro
  • “True All Metal” mode
  • Wireless headphones included

What we don’t like:

  • Waterproof headphones sold separately
  • Single-frequency

Fisher 1280x​ Metal Detector

What we like:

  • Fully submersible to 250 ft
  • Volume control
  • 75+ hours battery life
  • Low 2.4 kHz freq. which is great for coins

What we don’t like:

  • No LCD display
  • Not ideal for relic hunting or gold prospecting

Gold nugget hunting (prospecting)

Prospecting machines can range from $500 all the way up to $10,000. Most of these machines will be PI and should be used in areas where gold is known to be found. If you want the best gold prospecting detector, go with a Minelab. They can’t be beaten. Read our complete guide on the best metal detectors for gold.


All the same rules above still apply when shopping for children. The only real difference is going to be weight and probably budget. Depending on the age of your child, you might want to start with a detector that’s not super heavy. You may also want to get a machine that’s relatively easy to use with not a lot of settings. Stick to the basics.

For young treasure hunters, I typically recommend starting out with Bounty Hunter. Read our complete guide to choosing the best metal detector for kids. You may also be interested in the best metal detectors under $200.

Buyer’s guide

This buying guide will explain what to look for when choosing your first metal detector. It’s meant to take the guesswork out of your buying decision. But first, some hard truth. There is no universal “best” detector. The question you should be asking is, “what is the best detector for the type of hunting I want to do, where I live, my experience, and my budget.”

To answer that question, there are a few factors that may or may not affect your decision-making process. The purpose of this article is to break everything down in real terms, so you have a much better idea of which detector is best for YOU!

Skill levels

First and foremost, let’s talk about your experience with metal detecting. Have you ever detected before? If yes, you skip this section and move on. If no, then you’re probably going to want to start with a beginner metal detector that’s easy to use. There’s no quicker way to become frustrated with the hobby than buying a complicated detector with too high a learning curve.

All metal detectors detect all types of metal – like all cars drive down the road. What makes one detector better than another (like cars) is the additional features and enhancements. Features like notch discrimination, custom search modes, audio modes, enhanced tones, GPS function, etc, make a detector cost more. Look for a beginner or mid-range detector in the $150-300 range with a focus on user-friendliness. I don’t consider anything below that to be a real detector. I consider it a toy.


This may be the biggest factor of them all, especially when you’ve never tried a metal detector. Not everyone has $800 to drop on a hobby they aren’t sure they’ll even like. Most new hobbyists tend to spend $150-$300 on their first detector. Luckily, that buys just enough machine to get you hooked.

Intended use

The type of hunting you plan on doing makes a major difference in what machine you buy. Manufacturers design most detectors as all-around detectors for coins, jewelry, and relics. However, there are also special machines for different uses.

Coin and jewelry

Most machines are designed for coin and jewelry hunting – especially those priced under $600 or so. One thing you want to make sure of here is that you do not buy a machine with too high frequency like one designed for gold prospecting (you can read our guide here on the detectors for gold nuggets). As long as you stay under 15 kHz, you’ll be just fine for coin shooting (both silver and clad). Frequency and depth have an inverse relationship, so the higher you get, the less depth you’ll get on coin-sized targets.

You’ll also want to avoid a pulse induction machine – or PI for short. These are built more for saltwater hunting and gold prospecting. For all-purpose coin and jewelry hunting, stick to a single frequency VLF detector when first starting out.

Read more about the best metal detector for coins.​

Relic hunting

The same rules apply to relic hunting. Most all-around machines will do just fine for relic hunting. If, however, you’re looking for a more advanced machine for the job, you’ll want to look for features like these:

  • Large search coil – preferably DD
  • Slightly higher frequency (10-20 kHz)
  • Adjustable threshold
  • Iron Audio
  • Both manual and auto ground balance

Saltwater beach hunting

If you plan to do most of your hunting in and around saltwater, you’ll need a specialty machine. Note that you do NOT need a specialty machine if you’re hunting on the dry sand of a saltwater beach. If hunting in the wet sand, surf, or water, you’ll need a machine that’s either PI or multiple frequency. Do NOT buy a single frequency machine for saltwater – despite the marketing material of the company! Will they work? Sure. But you’re depth will be severely limited to the point where it’s not even worth it to detect. While either PI or multi-frequency will work, there are some pros and cons to each. See our complete guide on the best metal detectors for the beach.​

Pulse induction in saltwater

PI machines are not designed to discriminate; a major downside. So if you plan to hunt beaches where there’s lots of trash, go with a multi-frequency. Metal detector makers build most PI machines for diving, so they are heavier. So you’ll also want to buy something like a chest/shoulder harness to bear the weight. The major benefit to PI machines is their superior depth in highly mineralized areas like saltwater beaches. You just can’t beat it. Most serious beach detectorists use PI.

When choosing any detector for the beach, it goes without saying that you want a machine that’s fully waterproof and submersible – which most detectors are not. Almost all detectors have a waterproof coil and shaft, but the control box is not. All you need is to be hit by one wave while digging your hole, and the machine is toast if it’s not waterproof.

Multiple frequency in saltwater

The benefit of using a multi-frequency detector in saltwater is that you can discriminate out unwanted junk iron targets or pull tabs. You can also use the same machine for all of your hunting instead of the PI, where you should only really use it for beach hunting. The only real con to using a multi-frequency machine on the beach is that you won’t get the type of depth you would with a PI – although it will still be excellent.

Freshwater hunting

Freshwater hunting is a MUCH easier beast to tackle. The only factor you need to consider here is that you get a fully submersible machine with good discrimination – that’s it.


There are a few types of metal detectors you should familiarize yourself with when choosing which detector to buy. I will summarize each below very broadly:

Very low frequency (VLF)

Very low frequency (VLF) is the technology built into most detectors – pretty much any machine under $1,000. These are signal frequency machines used for coin, jewelry, and relic hunting. If you’re just starting out, get yourself a VLF.

Pulse induction (PI)

Pulse induction (PI) is a technology used in specialty machines for areas of high mineralization – i.e., saltwater beaches and gold country. These machines will punch through ground minerals like salt and iron and will report on all metal objects without the ability to discriminate.

Multiple frequency (MF)

Multi-frequency technology detectors typically go for over $1,000 and are most commonly found in the high-end Minelab detectors. These are best if you’re serious about metal detecting and have the budget to back it up. They’re also great for doing both saltwater and all-around detecting without having to buy two machines. I use the Minelab CTX 3030 for this very reason.

Search coils

Another thing to consider is the stock search coil that comes with your detector. There are a few points you should consider when choosing a coil.

Stock coil size

As a rule of thumb, the larger the coil, the better the depth and the greater the search area. So common sense tells you to buy the largest coil, right? Wrong.

There are other factors to consider. First, ground conditions and mineralization play a huge role in which size coil to use. While large coils get better depth, they also see more of the ground. That means your detector has to process more signals in mineralized soil, leading to very bad falsing, poor target ID, and missed targets. When that happens, you’re forced to reduce your sensitivity settings, and thus reducing your depth. A smaller coil would see less of the ground and process fewer ground signals. They also allow you to increase your sensitivity to the point where you could be getting the same depth as you would with the larger coil in neutral ground.

Make sense so far? Ok, let’s confuse this further now…

Not only would a smaller coil give you comparable depth in mineralized ground, but it would also give you better target separation so you can better identify multiple targets under your coil (picking up good targets amongst trash).

And speaking of target separation, let’s talk about coil configuration.

Stock coil type

There are several types of coil configurations – the most widely used being the concentric and the double d (DD). Without getting into too much detail, DD coils will get you better detection depth and deal with ground mineralization better than a concentric. Concentric coils are typically more cost-effective. The only real advantage it has over the DD (in my opinion) is that it can be easier to pinpoint your target. Pinpointing with a DD coil takes more practice.

Accessory coil sizes

Ground mineralization aside, there are a few other reasons why you might want to have additional coil sizes in your bag. Suppose you’re hunting small, tight areas like playgrounds or very rocky areas like in gold country. In that case, you should consider a smaller coil for better maneuverability. These coils are called sniper coils.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to cover large, open areas like beaches and farm fields, a larger coil might be a better option. Just remember, larger coils will be a lot heavier, so you may need to get a harness if you want to detect more than 30 minutes.

Screen vs. no screen

Most experienced hunters detect largely by sound, but an LCD screen (VDI) comes in handy. Depending on the detector, a screen can tell you things like target depth, target ID, detector settings, battery life, and many other things

Some folks think it’s silly to own a machine without a screen, while others are just fine with a Tesoro-type detector that features only knobs. The Fisher F5 integrated both of those worlds. It has a screen and knobs. For those who like the best of both worlds, that may be a detector worth looking into. Metal detectors without a screen are commonly referred to as beep and dig machines since there’s no display telling you what the detector thinks it has found in the ground

Detector weight

Some metal detectors are light as a feather, while others are built like bricks and can be quite heavy. If you have elbow or shoulder problems or another ailment limiting physical activity, buy a lighter detector. Fisher and Tesoro have reputations for being the lightest in the industry. Mid and high-level machines like the AT Pro are quite a bit heavier but still not a monster. When considering your first machine, pay close attention to how much it weighs, especially if you plan on treasure hunting for several hours at a time.

Additional research

YouTube Research

Once you have narrowed your choices down to two or three detectors, watch them in action on YouTube. There is nothing like seeing them and hearing the owners talk about them to give us a great idea of what the machine is like and how it works. YouTube features everything from consumer reviews to testing to actual hunting scenarios and everything in between.

Read reviews

This one may sound obvious. Still, you’d be surprised how many people purchase a detector ‘completely blind,’ so to speak, having never read a single review on the machine. So, if you are thinking of the Fisher F22, for example, type Fisher F22 reviews into your search engine and read as many as you can find. They truly do help.

Whether watching youtube videos or reading online review sites, take everything with a grain of salt. Don’t let a negative review affect your buying decision. Most negative reviews are a result of someone buying the wrong detector. Remember, the ‘right’ detector depends on factors like skill, budget, use, location, etc.

A perfect example of this is when people say the AT Pro is awesome in saltwater. Look at where they’re located. Are they near the Gulf of Mexico, where salt levels aren’t as extreme as the Atlantic and Pacific oceans? They almost always are.

Another example is when people try to use an entry-level detector in areas like the pacific northwest where the soil is extremely mineralized. It’s not that the detector is bad, it’s just the wrong application.

Metal detector brands

The best metal detector brands are Bounty Hunter, Fisher, Garrett, Minelab, Nokta Makro, Teknetics, and XP. I typically recommend you stick to models from these top brands for their quality and customer support.


You should also understand how the warranty works for the brand you decide. Most brands will have a warranty ranging 2-5 years. If you’re buying a water machine, the warranty is usually much less (1-2 years). Also, if you decide to buy used, make sure the warranty is transferrable as some brands do not allow this.

Accessories included

Finally, you might also want to consider any accessories that might come with your detector – especially if you’re trying to stay on budget. If you’re new to the hobby, some accessories you’re going to find yourself buying at some point are:

  • Pinpointer
  • Headphones
  • Digger
  • Pouch
  • Carry bag
  • Scoop (if beach hunting)

Don’t be fooled by some retailers who include cheap accessories with their detectors – especially with pinpointers and diggers. We call these ‘dollar store accessories’.

Usually, these items are about the same quality as you’d find in the dollar store – despite the retailer claiming “hundreds of dollars in value!”

Final thoughts

Metal detecting is a hobby you can grow into over time. There’s no need to buy the most expensive top-of-the-line detector right away and have no idea what you’re doing. Don’t overthink your first purchase. This article talks about many factors to consider, but it’s not intended to scare you away from your first purchase. The bottom line is to stick to your price point with one of the major brands, you really can’t go wrong. The best metal detector is the one that works best for your budget, skill-level, and intended use.

Our top picks

To recap, here are our top picks:

  1. Garrett AT Pro: our top pick overall
  2. Nokta Makro Simplex: our pick for entry-level users
  3. Fisher F22: runner-up for entry-level users
  4. Minelab Equinox 800: our pick for relic hunting
  5. Minelab Excalibur II: our pick for saltwater beach hunting
  6. Minelab CTX 3030: our pick for high-end features