Key Factors To Consider When Buying a Metal Detector


When you are considering shopping for a metal detector, it is no different than shopping for say, a TV.  You can find metal detectors and TVs in the $200, $800, and $2,000 ranges. If you have a local metal detecting club you can get plenty of advice from anyone there on what they recommend. Or jump online and find a metal detecting forum and ask your questions in there, I will link to some of the top forums at the bottom of this article for you.

Some of the key factors to consider when buying a metal detector are as follows:

  • Where do you plan on using your detector? (Parks, beaches, lakes, or rivers)
  • How much have you budgeted for your detector purchase?
  • How many people will be using the detector?
  • What do you plan on mainly searching for? (Coins, jewelry, gold, or relics)

Ultimately it comes down to your decision on what you want to buy. Answering those questions will certainly help narrow down your search for the correct device for your needs. It is your hard-earned money after all. Just like any purchase you should certainly do your own research so you feel comfortable in the fact that you made the right decision for what detector is going to be right for you and fit your needs. Make sure you find one to not only fit your needs but something you can grow into.

Where Do You Plan To Use Your Detector?

Although there are many different locations, schools, parks, fairgrounds, deserts, mountains, beaches, lakes, rivers, or the ocean, there are really just two big factors to consider.  Are you mainly metal detecting on land or in the water?  If you in Nebraska, you more than likely will not be detecting by the ocean and more than likely not by any lakes either. Thus getting a waterproof detector is not something you really need to look into, unless you want to detect in the rain a lot.

Living on the coast or near the ocean or a lake does not mean you will need a Minelab Excalibur II or Garrett Sea Hunter Mark II unless you plan to go scuba diving with your metal detector.  Most “waterproof” metal detectors will let you go in depths of up to five to ten feet of water just fine. Even if you are near water but do not plan to put your detector underwater, virtually any all-purpose metal detector has a waterproof coil that will work just fine underwater, and the top half of your detector can still stay dry.

One thing you don’t necessarily have control over is where you live or if you live near the ocean or a lake/swimming area, but the fact is that more gold rings and jewelry have been found at those locations more than anywhere else.

How Much Have You Budgeted For Your Detector?

No matter what amount you are looking to invest in a metal detector, and I say invest because metal detecting is one of the few, if not an only hobby, that can pay for itself based on what you find. You could purchase a White’s GoldMaster 24k for around $800 and then after some hunting, find a nice 1 oz. gold nugget. In today’s market 1 oz. of gold is roughly $1,500, leaving you with about $700 in profit.  Will you find gold your first day or week out?  Probably unlikely, but with practice and patience and the right location you certainly could.

Even if you are not just after gold, finding coins, even some very rare coins or a gold bracelet, or a few diamond rings will add up fairly quickly to recoup your investment in the detector itself.  KellyCo has about 100 pages and growing of pictures people sent in of their treasure finds.

There are three main price ranges for metal detectors.  Detectors for kids or just some basic beginner type detectors run about $200~$400.  These would be your Garrett Ace line of detectors as an example.  You have your mid-range all-purpose detectors like the Garrett AT Pro that will find rings, relics, and coins along with being waterproof.  These run about $600~$800.  I know I keep using Garrett, but that’s just an example, there are many other brands out there.  The Garrett line of products is just the most well-known and just currently the most popular brand out there.

Then finally you have your specialty metal detectors which will run anywhere from $1,000 up to about $3,000 or more.  These are your gold nugget metal detectors like the Minelab Equinox 800. The completely submersible up to 200 feet types like the Aquascan line. and your Also the Garrett ATX Deepseeker that can detect all targets at the same time without switching modes will work underwater up to ten feet and will find targets close to three feet underground.

How Many People Will Be Using Your Metal Detector?

I know some sites pose this as a question to consider, but it is mainly geared towards children.  Do you have children and do you plan on letting them use it?  They can certainly be taught how to use a mid-ranged/all-purpose metal detector just given some time and practice.  The only real factors that come into play here are the weight and size of the detector.

Some models are, for example, quite lightweight so they are easier to operate than the heavier ones. Metal detecting is an activity that generally requires a lot of energy because it usually takes hours of constant work. You have to hold the device in your hand during those moments so the weight plays an important role. A lightweight detector is definitely a better solution for beginners or kids because they can learn more easily with such a device.

There are suitable detectors developed specifically for children to use. They are much smaller in shape so the children can operate them normally without any assistance. Lightweight metal detectors normally only have just the basic functions as well.

So if you have smaller children that will be joining you, it might be best to just get them their own detectors since they are more than likely going to be much smaller in size and you are not going to want to get something that small for yourself to try and use while you share with them.  Amazon carries many kids models for about $50~$100 and most come with their own case/backpack and shovels.

What Do You Plan On Searching For?

This is kind of a trick question, but only because most modern metal detectors made today are considered all-purpose.  This just means they can find everything for you, jewelry, coins, rings, relics, and gold nuggets.  These all-purpose ones are the basic types like the Garrett ace 300 at about $300 or the mid-ranges ones like the Garrett AT Pro for about $700.

What I have learned over the years is while these detectors are very good at finding coins, relics, gold rings, and jewelry.  They aren’t the best at finding actual gold nuggets.  Will they find gold nuggets, yes, but what I learned is that my Garrett AT Pro struggled to find a small gold nugget that was just placed on the surface of the ground.  Now if there was a baseball-sized nugget buried in the ground the Garrett AT Pro would have no issues finding it.

While virtually any all-purpose detector will assist you in finding just about anything you are looking for, you are probably going to want to invest in a White’s GoldMaster or similar detector that is designed specifically for searching for gold.  Those types operate at a higher frequency with smaller coils and they are built to be much more sensitive to small gold nuggets or gold flakes.

If you want to pass on the gold nuggets but you want to find gold rings or jewelry, you do not need a specialty gold metal detector.  An all-purpose metal detector will find gold rings and jewelry just fine.

Other Things To Consider

How often do you plan on going out detecting?

Are you retired and plan to get out as much as possible?  Can you only get out on the weekends, or are you planning to go out every night after work? Or do you only plan on taking your detector when you go on vacations once a year or once every few years? The more you use your device the more potential it has to get a little banged up, so you might want to consider getting one that is a little more rugged, and built to last if you want to use it every day.

If your main goal is just to get out and enjoy nature while having fun and getting some exercise, then metal detecting is perfect for you. The first few times that you go, you will come back sore.  You might think that walking around a little and digging a few holes doesn’t seem like that much work, but you will get quite the workout from just “walking around and digging a few holes.”

How much experience do you have?

If you are just starting out there are plenty of YouTube channels dedicated to metal detecting and educating you on getting started.  Even just the manual that will come with your metal detector is a perfect place to start to get you familiar with your particular model. Even if you have plenty of experience and you are looking to upgrade your model, just make sure you check out review videos or just reviews online before buying a new detector. Also, make sure to keep an eye out for the type of warranty you will be getting with your new detector.

Accessories

This might not even be something to consider, and I only say that because while most detectors are sold individually, for an extra $100~$200 more you can get it as a bundle, or package. Meaning that you will get many items along with your detectors, such as a carry bag, pinpointer, hand shovel, side pouch to store your finds, headphones, books that cover locations and a manual for instructions, a larger shovel, and many times even a second search coil, or a sand scoop.

If you do not buy the accessories as a bundle you will of course have to purchase all or most of those items separately. Although there are accessory bundles as well that normally include a hand shovel, pinpointer, and carry pouch. At a VERY bare minimum, you will need the detector, a small hand shovel, and a bag of some sorts to carry your finds in, now if you are just looking for coins, your pocket will do just fine.  The more you get out metal detecting you will find that all the other accessories will be extremely handy to have.

Many things that I did not mention in accessories that might seem like common sense I am going to list here anyway, just because maybe not everyone will have thought about some of these things since it may be their first time out.  They will be very handy to have depending on your situation or location as well. A hat, cloth to keep around your neck, and or sunscreen. Walking around outside all day in the sun will do a number on your ears and neck. Bug spray especially for mosquitos or in wooded areas to keep off ticks and other bugs. Waterproof boots if you are near water and it is cold. A full-sized shovel if you are out on BLM land out in the middle of nowhere and you can or need to dig bigger holes.  Knee pads, only because getting up and down onto your knees many multiple times in a day will make them much sorer than they need to be.  Hand-held and or full-sized sand scoops. Finally, a good pair of gloves, mainly because you are more than likely going to be digging up some kind of metal, and many times that metal might have a sharp edge to it and you will save your fingers by getting a good pair of gloves.  I prefer the DEX FIT gloves because they have excellent grip and a level A6 cut resistance. Which just means they can withstand up to 7.7 pounds on the blade without the material being cut through.  When measuring, there are now 9 levels of cut resistance, A1 through A9. I think that covers most of the accessories that you will need while going out.  If there is anything I missed I will certainly come back and update this.

Are Metal Detectors Legal 

It is fully legal to purchase a metal detector, and you do not have to have any special permission to do so. However, it is necessary to know there are laws and rules that regulate metal detecting. You can freely purchase a device, but it does not mean you have the right to use it wherever you want. Some locations are protected from such activities, such as historical sites and national parks, for example. You are not allowed to dig any kind of artifacts from such areas. If you wish to go digging in these areas and are caught, you might be fined or even jailed, depending on the level of your offense.

It is also not allowed to metal detect on private lands and properties without the clear permission of the owners. However, you can typically detect metal in local and state parks, beaches, riverbanks, meadows, and in many other similar locations.  Be sure to check with your local city or town or wherever you plan on going because some will require you to purchase a permit to detect in that particular city.

Where To Buy Your Metal Detector

Metal detectors can be purchased offline or online, depending on your needs, and it is definitely easier than ever to get an appropriate model for yourself. If you are part of a local metal detecting club or even if you just find your local metal detecting club you will normally find a local sales rep from one of the larger companies that keeps detectors on hand to sell, so you could get started that day if you’d like.

Amazon of course sells just about any metal detector as well.  You can also look into companies that specialize in selling metal detectors and also offer excellent customer support and warranties for their detectors, such as KellyCo.

Even places like Facebook marketplace or your local metal detecting club will often have used metal detectors for sale. Of course, be very careful when going this route because you will not get any kind of warranty or support if something happens to your purchase.  Here is a full listing of metal detecting clubs across all 50 US states if you need to look for one in your area.

Resources

I know I covered a lot in this article but there is a 32 page PDF by Lee Wiese of mdhtalk.org on “Before You Buy That Metal Detector” that goes into way more details than you will probably ever want to know.  Although if you are really into all the techie stats, numbers, or more details than you can shake a stick at, it might be for you.

There are probably some other forums out there but these are some of the more active ones.

Findmall

Findmall is the 3rd largest metal detecting forum on the internet. It appears to be more heavily sponsor-driven. It used to look fairly outdated but they have upgraded to XenForo to give this one a more modern look and feel.

Friendly Metal Detecting Forum

This is the 2nd largest detecting forum on the internet.  This is one I have visited many times and is always filled with great information. The moderation team seems to be very knowledgeable about metal detecting and very willing to help with any questions.  Unlike Findmall, Friendly has more of a support type option for the community to pitch in to support it. The forum software is more modern with user-created groups.  There is also a rating system for each user to easily identify a trust level, especially when buying or trading from someone on the forum.  It just seems to have more features available on it than most others do. It is running on vBulletin but still has an older look and feel to it than some of the others.

Dankowski Forum

This forum is run by Tom Dankowski (aka NASA Tom). Compared to other forums this one tends to lean more on the technical side.  Meaning if you want to get into the geeky, very technical aspects of metal detecting, this forum is for you. Bring your taped-up glasses, pocket protector, and slide ruler. Be prepared for convos about the angle of the moon, algorithms, and why precise frequencies matter. The members are still very open to amateurs and newcomers, so don’t be scared away if you are a complete newbie.  This forum also has an older look and feel just like Findmall does, and is running Phorum software.  That doesn’t take away from the vast amount of detailed knowledge in this forum.  Tom site http://www.dankowskidetectors.com is loaded with articles and information as well, again all very technical in nature.

Detector Prospector

This forum has one main focus and that is the yellow shiny stuff called gold.  If you are looking for a gold prospecting forum, this is about the one and only one you will need. This site is run by an extremely knowledgeable prospector/miner, Steve Herschbach.  If you don’t think there is any gold left out there in the world, stop on in for a bit and you will have stories and picture proof that there is plenty of gold still out there to be found.  Even if you are not into prospecting for gold there is still plenty of helpful advice here for the relic or coin hunter. This forum runs Invision Community and has a nice clean modern look to it.

TreasureNet

TreasureNet is the largest and most popular metal detecting forums on the internet. As the tagline says “The Original Treasure Hunting Website.” As of March 2021, it has over 144,000 members, 6.4 million posts, and over 600,000 threads.  You will be hard-pressed to go to this site any day and find a post older than a few hours. The reason it is so large is the sheer number of topics and categories it has. Coins, Relics, Bottles, Diving, Tech, Different Brands, and Gold Prospecting, just to name a few.

Jason Smith

Former Marine, IT Guy & Builder of Websites.  I have 5 US states left to visit. I enjoy hot springs, adventures, hiking, photography, sci-fi, wine, coffee & whiskey.  I am fluent in sarcasm, name that tune, & speak in movie quotes.  I spend most of my time building websites, fixing computers, metal detecting, magnet fishing, and gaming occasionally.

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