What is the best metal detector?

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

You’d like to get into metal detecting but aren’t sure which detector to go with. You’ve searched high and low on all the detecting forums, and read countless opinions, reviews and case studies – most of them likely biased.

Does this sound like you? Then read on…

Jump to…

Best entry-level metal detectors

PhotoMetal DetectorBest for…Price
Fisher F22Best value Check Price
Garrett ACE 300BeginnerCheck Price
Garrett AT ProBest of the bestCheck Price

Fisher F22

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

See our full F22 review here.

Garrett ACE 300

What we like:

  • Easy to use
  • Digital Target ID
  • Adjustable Frequency
  • Enhanced Iron Resolution

What we don’t like:

  • No adjustable ground balance
  • No Iron Audio

See our full ACE 300 review here.

Garrett AT Pro

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

Best relic hunting metal detectors

Photo Metal Detector Best for… Price
Minelab Equinox 800Best valueCheck Price
Minelab CTX 3030Best of the bestCheck Price
Fisher F75 LTDAdvanced usersCheck Price
Teknetics T2Lowest priceCheck Price

Minelab Equinox 800

What we like:

  • Fully submersible up to 10ft (or 3 meters)
  • Multi-frequency for better target ID
  • Wireless headphone capability
  • Switch between frequencies based on your needs
  • Weighs under 3lbs
  • Value for money

What we don’t like:

  • Included headphones aren’t waterproof

Minelab CTX 3030​

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

Fisher F75 LTD

What we like:

  • More 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

What we like:

  • Low price for such a powerful detector
  • Large LCD screen
  • Expanded iron 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 Best for…Price
Fisher CZ-21Best performanceCheck Price
Garrett Sea HunterBest valueCheck Price

Fisher CZ-21

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​

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 Best for… Price
Minelab Excalibur IISaltwaterCheck Price
Minelab CTX 3030Most versatileCheck Price

Minelab Excalibur II

What we like:

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

What we don’t like:

  • Iron 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​

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 Best for… Price
Garrett AT ProBest valueCheck Price
Garrett AT MaxMost featuresCheck Price
Fisher 1280xWater-onlyCheck Price

Garrett AT Pro

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

What we like:

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

What we don’t like:

  • Waterproof headphones sold separately
  • Single-frequency

Fisher 1280x​

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.

Best metal detector for kids

What is the best kids metal detector? All the same rules above still apply, the only real difference, is going to be weight.

Depending on how old the child is, 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.

Read our complete guide to choosing the best metal detector for kids.

Buyer’s guide

This buying guide will go into detail on the best metal detectors and explain what to look for when choosing.

But first, some hard truth.

There is no universal “best” metal detector.

The question you should be asking is, “what is the best metal 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 level

First and foremost, let’s talk about your experience 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 an entry-level machine. There’s no quicker way to become frustrated with the hobby than buying a complicated detector you don’t understand.

All metal detectors detect metal – just like all cars drive down the road. What makes one detector better than another (like cars) is the additional features and enhancements.

Look for a beginner detector in the $150-300 range. Anything below that isn’t really considered a detector – it’s considered 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.

While most machines are designed as all-around detectors for coin, jewelry, and relics, there are also specialty 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 – i.e., one designed for gold prospecting (you can read our guide here on the best metal detectors for gold nuggets).

As long as you stay under 15 kHz, you’ll be just fine. 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 here about the best metal detector for coins.​

Relic hunting

The same rules apply for relic hunting. Most all-round machines will do just fine for relic hunting.

If however, you’re looking for a more advanced relic hunting machine, you’ll want to look for features like these:

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

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 multi-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 beach metal detectors.​

Pulse induction in saltwater

Pulse induction machines are not designed to discriminate. So if you plan to hunt beaches where there’s lots of trash, go with a multi-frequency.

PI machines also tend to be a bit heavier since many are built for diving. 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 hunters use pulse induction.

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.

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 targets.

You can also use the same machine for all of your hunting as opposed to 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 factors you need to consider here is that you get a fully submersible machine with good discrimination – that’s really it.


There are a few different technologies 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., salt water 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 (MF) detectors are typically machines that go for over $1,000 and most commonly found in the high-end Minelab detectors.

These are best if you’re serious about 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 coil that comes with your detector. There are a few points you should consider when choosing a coil.

Stock coil size

Generally speaking, the larger the coil, the better the depth.

So common sense tells you to buy the largest coil, right?


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 which means your detector has to process more signals in mineralized soil which can lead to very bad falsing, poor target ID and missed targets.

When that happens, you’re forced to reduce your sensitivity, and thus reducing your depth.

A smaller coil would see less of the ground, process less ground signals and 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 just 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.

If you’re hunting small, tight areas like playgrounds or very rocky areas like in gold country, then 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 some type of harness if you want to detect more than 30 minutes.

Screen vs. no screen

Most experienced hunters detect largely by sound, but a screen (VDI) comes in handy.

It can tell us things like depth of the target, what it thinks the target is, where our sensitivity and discrimination are set, battery life and many other things, depending on the detector.

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 that limits physical activity, it’s recommended to get a lighter detector.

Fisher and Tesoro have reputations of 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 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 what the machine is like and how it works.

YouTube features everything from reviews to testing to actual hunting scenarios, and everything in between.

Read reviews

This one may sound obvious, but 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.

You can also find my in-depth review of the Fisher F22 by clicking here.​

Whether watching youtube videos or reading online reviews, 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 salt water.

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.

Quality brands

I typically recommend you stick to the known brands for their quality and customer support.

Those brands are:

  • Fisher
  • Garrett
  • Makro
  • Minelab
  • Teknetics
  • Tesoro
  • XP
  • Whites


You should also understand how the warranty works for the brand you decide.

Most brands will have a warranty ranging 2-5 years except for Tesoro which is lifetime.

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 overtime. There’s no need to buy the most expensive detector right away and have no idea what you’re doing.

Don’t overthink your first purchase. This article talks about a lot of factors to consider, but it’s not intended to scare you away from your first purchase.

As long as you stick to your price point with one of the major brands, you really can’t go wrong.

I hope this guide was helpful and that you now have a better idea of the best metal detector for YOU!

Good luck and happy hunting.

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Great article. Thanks for the in-depth reviews. I’m interested in starting to explore the world of metal detecting. I’m currently living in Europe (Germany). Based on what I read, the Garret 400i might be a nice starting point for me. Any other thoughts or recommendations? Thank you. MD


My 12 year old son would like to start metal detecting. I am an only parent and my budget is quite Limited. I would like to spend anywhere from $100 to $200 for his first one. I don’t want to buy him garbage but I can’t afford the very best what do you think a great beginning metal detector would be? Any help that you can give me would be greatly appreciated thank you and God bless. PS. We live in Ohio so we’ll do lots of field but we also travel to Florida lot and possibly be able to… Read more »


Great info – thanks for providing. Shopping for first detector. Just purchased a 40 acre farm in Missouri and want to find metal but also arrow heads. What should I look for in terms of specs? I’m assuming the detector just sees an arrow head as a normal rock? Thanks!

Jim Jose

Hello Mark, I am very impressed with your knowledge, and willingness to help other people, for free. That being said, I too am going to buy my first metal detector, and I am attempting to learn what machine is best for “my area, and intended uses”. I live in Massachusetts, and do intend on doing some searching at beaches, but very little. However, I live in an area that dates back to the mid 1600s, (1650). Therefore, most of my searching will be in wooded areas, and around some fresh water ponds, and streams. Not diving, just around the water.… Read more »


Hi Mark Like your site a lot, I an learning plenty from reading your pages Do you think the new Minelab equinox 800 can match / surpass the At Pro as an all rounder ? I am awaiting the first reviews from the public however the specs look amazing. I am in the market for a good all round detector and like the idea of a waterproof machine for the beach and river, I am also just as likely to explore a few fields some clay some heavy peat, even a few trashy public areas, I live in the Swansea… Read more »


Great article… Why didn’t White’s make any lists? I was thinking of buying a Treasure Pro with a DD coil. I’ve seen a lot of great reviews for it.


Great article. How about the Garrett’s 400?


Hi Mark,

I love your article and really appreciate the time you took to put it together. But I still don’t feel confident to answer my own question. Much of where I want to detect will be fields and pastures that have quite a bit of hard red clay near the surface. I’m a newbie so my adventure hasn’t started yet. In the case of red clay would I be wanting a PI machine? Thank you for you help!

Keith Dean

Great article with some useful points. I’ve been using a C-scope TR.770D (I bought it second-hand for £30-00 with some warranty still on it!!) for about 35 years and think its due for a change. I have been looking at XP for the lightweight use but am being drawn to the Garrett AT Pro. As semi-retired I have to think about cost. Does anyone know if the newer AT Pro International is any better than the AT Pro? Nearly all of my searching has been on the UK south coast beaches but I’m looking for permissions for inland searching. I’m… Read more »


Great article but just seems there are no places to search. Most everything is private land with owners who are hard to locate or not willing to let you detect.public land similar and or all picked over and over. My coinmaster collects dust.

Lanny harrison

Found your article informative and objectiv. I intend to start with an intro unit for primarily beach use. But I live in the Pacific Northwest – oregon coast to be exact. What unit do you recommend for that environment?

Thanks for your help


i used an arado 120b for 18 years, detected once a week for 18 years, it took about 7 months to master the machine, after mastering the arado i VERY RARELY dug up rubbish. 90% of discrimination happens in your head, the machine gives you the information and the decision is yours, i am aware the learning curve takes a long time but it was well worth the effort. retired now but still many many roman coins including a silver dinari of otho and a few full and half sovereigns, in fact name it and i have probably dug it… Read more »


your web is inspirational by far, so far, so good!: for inexperienced entusiastic –
still, a lot to learn, to experiment and hope.
hope is dangerous, but, without it, no future, and present is in danger.
A – nation, would not survive without Hope and without Faith.
thank you for your wonderful tour,i will hear from you again and pass the word to somebody who truly wants to learn.
mr. orwig, its my pleasure, thank you!
yours truly, marko

jason callaghan

whoever has done this article is pretty switched on to metal detecting and has given proper information to new beginners to start from scratch no biased brand naming like most other reviewers who prabably get perks for name dropping


Great article Mark, I have had a whites classic for 20 years and it’s finally time to upgrade. I have been scavenging the Internet for articles to help my decision with my next purchase. Your article was well put together answering questions that were great food for thought and direction, thank you.


I bought a metal detector about a year ago, and have found that a lot of cool places are off limits . the mission in san diego is one such place I have tried but not on the mission itself but along the river in front of it the next day there was a fence put up with a no trespassing sign! anything where there is some history is off limits. I bought a whites pro mxt still learning.

john horton

good article and very truthful. I went thru many articles and much time to come up with basicly the same conclusions well done