Choosing the best metal detector for under £300 - buying guide for beginners and recommended machines

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Oxgirl
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LAST UPDATED JUNE 2023

OK so you want to get into the hobby and you have a limited budget. What should you buy?

Detecting is not a cheap hobby to get into. A decent starter machine can’t really be bought for less than £100 and you’ll struggle below £150. Below that price you are buying what is basically a machine from some make that no-one has ever heard of that’ll have you cursing it in frustration very quickly.

Below is a guide to what to look for and some suggested machines. Other makes like Fisher, Quest, Whites, Viking and C scope are worth considering too. And please buy from a reputable dealer who’ll offer good advice and answer any questions. Note there are lots of 10% off codes around for retailers and dealers will often price match each other too!

So what can I get for about £150?

You could buy a Garrett Ace 150 or a Garrett Ace200i for this price, both of which are good reliable machines with all the basic functions you need.

The other option is to buy a second hand machine. Please be very careful where you buy a second hand machine from though as you need to be sure it is working properly!

Do I get a lot more if I go for a bigger budget?

Yes you do! Over £200 will get you a machine with a lot more bells and whistles and with more things you can tweak, so you can grow into. There have been a few really good machines launched in the last 2 years in the below £300 category that include features that were only available previously in much more expensive machines, such as multi frequency, wireless headphone capability, in-built rechargeable batteries and the ability to update the firmware in the machine. Really impressive performance too with some great programmes built into the machine to start you off. Even better, you can still adapt and change your machine as you get more experienced.

What should I look for?

The main things that you need to consider are where you are going to detect. If you are detecting on pasture or cultivated land and dry sand then any of the machines will be fine. If you intend to mainly detect on the beach then you are probably better off with a machine with simultaneous multi-frequency, because they are better at dealing with mineralisation in wet sand. In the under £300 category this is only available in the Minelab Vanquish range.

Other things to consider…

Waterproof or shower proof? - both cope with the British weather but the showerproof ones mean you’ll need to have a cover over the control box and screen. These are generally supplied with the detector or you can put a clear plastic bag over it, so it’s not a biggy.

Wireless headphones functionality - then you aren’t tethered to your machine. Great if you need to put your machine down to dig and stops you getting all tangled up in the headphone wire. Note only the Simplex offers this and for the under £300 option it doesn't include the wireless headphones in the package, although they can be bought as an upgrade later.

Installed programmes - these mean you can just choose one and go. No fiddling with stuff. All the machines in this guide have at least 3 built in. Most also allow you to adjust the machine’s sensitivity and ignore (discriminate) some target types so you no longer hear them, great if the land has lots of iron.

Weight - lighter machines mean you don’t get as tired as quickly if you are swinging it for a few hours. This matters a lot as arm ache really hurts!

Power source - removable batteries or in built rechargeable ones. Not a big deal either way as you can use rechargeable removable batteries if the machine uses those.

Recommended ones to consider (in price order)

£150-200

Garrett ACE 150 - the entry level machine for the very popular Garrett Ace range. A good solid single frequency machine with simple controls. There are 3 modes to choose from and adjustable sensitivity. Uses 4 AA batteries.It has a PROformance Rhino coil 9” x 6.5”. Comes with headphones, an instructional DVD, batteries and a 2 year guarantee. Note the control box needs protecting in the rain and a cover isn’t included.

Garrett ACE 200i - for another £20 or so you can get the 200i. This has the same coil but a new digital target ID screen (0-99 scale), new stem camlock system for better stability and improved audio. It also has 3 search modes and has 4 sensitivity adjustments. The 9” x 6.5” single frequency coil is waterproof but the control box isn’t. Comes with headphones, a coil cover, an instructional DVD, batteries and a 2 year guarantee. Note the control box needs protecting in the rain and a cover isn’t included. It weighs 1.25kg.

£200-250

Quest X10 Pro - Fully submersible machine completely waterproof up to 3m. Single frequency machine at fixed 12 kHZ. Rechargeable with mini USB and has a 3.5mm jack for wired headphones. 3 search modes plus a custom slot. Weighs just 945g. Waterproof double D 9” x 5” coil. Adjustable sensitivity and tone breaks.

Quest Q20 - 9.5” x 5” TurboD waterproof search coil. Comes with a coil cover,
corded small headphones, water-resistant console, rechargeable lithium battery. 9kHz fixed frequency, 3 programs plus all metal, 3 tones, 0-99 target ID via an LCD display (note it isn’t back lit). Lightweight - only 1050g. 2 year warranty.

Garrett ACE 250 - 5 modes, full range of notch discrimination, 8 sensitivity settings, pin-point feature, graphic target ID with coin depth indicator. This is a single frequency machine. The coil is 9” x 6.5”. Comes with headphones, an instructional DVD, batteries and a 2 year guarantee (no rain cover for the control box).

Minelab Vanquish 340 - The main thing is it’s a simultaneous multi frequency machine. It’s lightweight (1.2kg) and comes with 3 pre-set detecting modes. There are 4 sensitivity setting, high iron bias, 5 discrimination segments, 3 volume levels and 3 target tones. You get a mono LCD screen with a target ID range from -9 to 40 and a depth indicator. The coil is waterproof but the control box isn’t. You get the detector, a guide, batteries and a V10 10” x 7” DD waterproof coil plus a coil cover and control box cover (no headphones). It has a 3 year guarantee.

Quest X5 - The coil has FloatResin chemical technology is specially designed to make it lightweight but still rugged. The TurboD coils are combined with two kidney shape coils to provide deeper penetration and higher mineralization resistance.3.5mm audio jack and USB rechargeable battery. The total unit weight is only 945g. You can break it down so it packs away easily.

£250-300

Garrett ACE 300i - You get all the features of the 200i, but with a larger 7” x 10” concentric coil (compared to a 6.5” x 92 one for the 200i). It runs at a higher frequency (8kHz versus 6.5kHz) and the frequency is adjustable, instead of being fixed. It weighs 1.27 kg. Additionally you get 5 search modes (versus 3), adjustable notch discrimination and a pin-point function. Comes with headphones, the control box rain cover, the coil cover, batteries and a 2 year guarantee.

Garrett EuroAce - This is a model just sold in Europe for the particular search conditions in this part of the world. It comes with 5 search modes (programmes), full range notch discrimination, 8 sensitivity settings, pin-point feature, graphic target ID with coin depth indicator. It has higher iron discrimination. The coil is a larger 28 x 22cm Double D search coil. This is a single frequency machine. It’s quite heavy at 1.9kg.
Comes with headphones, an instructional DVD, batteries and a 2 year guarantee (no control box rain cover).

Nokta Makro Simplex BT - An updated version of the very popular Simplex for 2023. Fully waterproof up to 5 m (16 ft) and all at an impressive reduced weight of 1.2kg (2.6lbs). Single frequency fixed at 15 kHz. 5 search modes, notch facility, LED display with backlight and light, blue tooth enabled, adjustable sensitivity. Waterproof 11” double D search coil. Shaft retracts down to 63cm (25''). Great for easy transport, storage as well as diving!

Minelab Vanquish 440 - The next step up from the Vanquish 340. It has an additional custom mode, additional sensitivity levels (10 instead of 4) and more volume control (10 levels instead of 3), 12 discrimination segments (versus 5 for the 340) plus a notch function and a pinpoint mode. You get a 3 year guarantee and the same accessories as the 340 plus a set of wired headphones. It weighs 1.2kg.

Quest Q30 - The Q30 comes with the 11” X 9.5” TurboD double D search coil with a fixed 13 kHz operating frequency. Quest claim the machine is optimised for highly mineralized soils and salty beach conditions. Fully waterproof, rechargeable lithium battery, backlit LCD screen and integrated flashlight for low-light conditions. It has a 1-99 numeric target ID plus a 25 segment visual target ID and multi-tone audio. 4 programmes, adjustable sensitivity, target depth indicator, magnetic connect USB charging port, 3.5mm audio jack and is supplied with wired headphones. 2 year guarantee and 1.15kg.

Minelab X Terra pro - introduced in 2013 this is a fully-waterproof single frequency machine. The X-TERRA PRO offers PRO-SWITCH - switchable frequency technology - so you can set it to 5, 8, 10, or 15 kHz at the press of a button and take control of any environment or situation that comes your way. Fully IP68 waterproof to 5 m (16 ft) and loaded with features like 5-audio modes, control pod flashlight, and handgrip vibration. 3 year guarantee. Weighs 1.3kg. Numerous notch, tones, sensitivity and other adjustments. Can be used with wired and wireless headphones.

Nokta Makro Simplex Ultra - just gets into the under £300 category if you chose the package without headphones and use your own and get the usual 10% discount retailers offer. New for 2023, part of the Nokta SIMPLEX New Generation series. Fully waterproof up to 5 m (16 ft) with an 11” double D waterproof coil. Weighs 1.2kg (2.6lbs). Fully submersible up to 5 meters (16ft) with 6 search modes. Up dateable so new features can be added later. Adjustable sensitivity, reactivity and both tone frequency and volume plus notch facility. Fixed 15kHz frequency operating mode with shift facility to reduce interference. Bluetooth enabled to offer wired and wireless headphone options. 2 year guarantee.
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torrin
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An excellent summary of the machines available for the beginner. I suppose when you're first starting in the hobby prices are the main consideration followed by capabilities of each of the detectors.
Unless you're technically minded even the most simplistic of machines can be a little confusing although technology has come a long way since the 70s. These days we have vdi and discrim options, submersibles, wireless, pinpointers you name it we have it. There has never been such an exciting time in the detecting world.
Dave The Slave
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Another excellent guide, Cath.
Budget is the main constraint for most people.
You want a decent machine, that will actually find items, while you are deciding whether the hobby is for you.
If you are not finding anything, in your early detecting days that can put you off.
As someone who is heavily constrained by budget, the only one from your list i can comment on is the 300i, which is the same as the 400i but with a smaller coil. Providing you walk over it, in an area where there have been people, you will find, Bronze, Brass, Copper, Lead, Silver as well as iron ,Aluminium etc. Will also find Gold but so far that has only been while testing.
Buying a machine nearing a £1000 will not guarantee success but any of your listed examples should give a chance.
Regards, :thumbsup:
Dave.
BigG1984
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Can i just mention ideal detector for beginner the dr ortec from amazon my friend purchased 1 and for a cheap machine it has excellent pin pointer built in finds coins at good depth easy tones i can honestly say for the price works just as good as 300 pound machines worth a look guys
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Easylife
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Oxgirl wrote: Fri Jul 17, 2020 7:28 pm LAST UPDATED JUNE 2021

Quest Q30 ....... 2 year guarantee but is heavy at 2.7 kg.
I thought surely it cannot weigh 2.7kg, no it weighs 1.15kg. :thumbsup:
D2 - 13"x11" coil - audio only.
clint
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FWIW my first detector was the Euroace. No good on wet salt beach but fine on the dry sand,absolutely great on pasture and plough...I found loads of stuff with mine!
Contrary to the Etrac I found running it with zero descrim to be the best setting.
I still have it but its going soon .
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Oxgirl
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Easylife wrote: Fri Oct 21, 2022 7:37 pm I thought surely it cannot weigh 2.7kg, no it weighs 1.15kg. :thumbsup:
Thanks Ian. I got the info from Joan Allen :shock: Seems they have amended it since, but now gone the other way and claim 115g https://joanallen.co.uk/quest-q30-plus- ... ector.html
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Sparrowlegs
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buy second hand in mint nick and yer should get a nice tidy detector, if yer doing beach multi frequency tbh cheers geoff
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figgis
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Sparrowlegs wrote: Sat Oct 22, 2022 1:50 pm buy second hand in mint nick and yer should get a nice tidy detector, if yer doing beach multi frequency tbh cheers geoff
That's how I got my Deus1. Always, always worth looking second hand first, as so many enter the hobby expecting riches rather than the scraps which are the reality and then sell up.
Pjh
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That’s some great advice very well written thanks. I see that there are some silly prices fore used Nox 800 units almost give away at the moment keep an eye out cos I love mine and would not part with it. There are some very good vintage machines being sold for very little that will still perform very well in the field. The important thing is don’t get caught up in all the hype of must have the latest model syndrome it will ruin your enjoyment of this hobby.
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Saffron
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Pjh wrote: Mon Dec 11, 2023 7:58 am That’s some great advice very well written thanks. I see that there are some silly prices fore used Nox 800 units almost give away at the moment keep an eye out cos I love mine and would not part with it. There are some very good vintage machines being sold for very little that will still perform very well in the field. The important thing is don’t get caught up in all the hype of must have the latest model syndrome it will ruin your enjoyment of this hobby.
The reason there are a lot of Nox 800 machines on the second hand market is that a lot of detectorists like to stick to the one manufacturer, now the Manticore is more easily available a lot of Minelab users have upgraded to that from the Nox.

However, scammers are aware of this so be very careful if buying on-line from sites such as FB markeplace or from an individual as there are sadly a lot of scams out there and I have seen several cases on FB groups where people have said about sending money and never hearing any more let alone getting the detector.

Evan
Pjh
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Yes I would agree with that. Just got a used phone and that market is scam city.
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ladge1
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I want a Minelab Manticore for Christmas please 😉
Seek and you shall find...
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