Are you on a budget of $300 or less and want to get the most bang for your buck? After extensive testing with over 10 years of metal detecting experience, our top pick is the Fisher F22. Whether you’re just starting out, or looking for a backup machine, the F22 boasts technology not normally found in entry-level detectors.
For my complete guide of the best metal detectors, click here.
You really cannot go wrong with any of the machines listed above. Just because I give something four stars instead of four doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it.
In fact, a lot of times choosing the best detector comes down to personal preference (for example the lack of LCD screen on the Tesoro Compadre).
Let’s dive into each one of these machines and talk about the pros and cons of each to help you make a more informed decision:
The Fisher F22 is the new version of the super-popular F2.
It has everything found on the F2, which a few additions.
- Smaller, lighter control box (2.3 lbs vs. 2.6 lbs) to give you arms a break.
- Nine target ID segments vs. eight for better target identification.
- Four search modes vs. one for better discrimination options.
- Volume adjustment.
- New coil design. The F22 comes with a 9″ triangulated coil for better maneuverability in tight spaces. You can also get better target separation by using the smaller end of the coil.
- Iron audio so you don’t get fooled by iffy signals.
The F22 is also rain and weatherproof, so you never have to worry about getting caught in the rain on those long hunts!
Like the F2, the F22 also has features like pinpoint mode, a large 1-99 target ID readout on the LCD screen, four tone audio ID, and super-fast recovery speed for those extra trashy spots!
The only real con to this machine is that it does not allow you to ground balance manually. This is the main con for every metal detector under $300.
Read my in-depth review of the F22 here.
Garrett ACE 300
The Garrett ACE 300 is the new model of the world-famous ACE 250.
Even know the ACE 250 was the world’s best-selling entry-level detector for years, I still give my top pick to the Fisher F22.
The main reason for that is because Fisher machines are known to have slightly better recovery speed than the Garrett’s.
What is recovery speed?
Imagine you’re in a somewhat trashy park, and there is a silver coin buried right next to a nail.
When your detector swings over one of those targets, it will give you an ID reading before getting ready to detect the next target – or ‘recovering’.
The faster it can recover, the better your chances are that you’ll be able to detect the target right next to the trash.
Slow recovery speeds mean your detector will not recover in time, and you’ll completely miss out on the good target.
This is a bit confusing to understand at first, but you’ll get once you’re out in the field and start finding silver coins buried in the same hole as iron nails!
Let’s dive into some of the new features on the ACE 300 that were not found on the ACE 250:
- Digital target ID: 0-99 readout for better target ID
- Larger 7×10″ coil to cover more ground faster.
- Better iron resolution to weed out those bad targets.
- Higher frequency for better sensitivity on smaller targets as well as lower conductivity items like gold and lead.
A common misconception is that the larger search coil on the ACE 300 means more depth.
While normally that would be the case, this machine ALSO has a higher frequency than the ACE 250 (8 kHz vs. 6.5 kHz).
Because frequency and depth have an inverse relationship, this will counteract the larger search coil’s increased depth abilities.
So, in essence, the maximum depth will be about the same between the two machines (sorry for the tech talk!).
Some of the cons for the ACE 300 are:
- Lack of ground balance adjustment.
- Not as fast recovery speed as the F22.
Tesoro Silver uMax
The Silver uMax is a classic entry-level machine and loved by so many.
In fact, I find Tesoro users to be more like a cult – obsessed with the simplicity and performance of the machines.
The ONLY reason I have this at #3 on my list is that there is a love/hate relationship with Tesoro machines.
What I mean by that is Tesoro uses a classic ‘knob’ interface instead of the more modern LCD displays.
While this does not affect the performance in any way, a lot of folks just like to have a screen to look at.
You can see how simple these controls are – essentially just basic adjustments for the Sensitivity and Discrimination levels.
But don’t let this image fool you – this machine packs a punch and might very well be considered the best performing metal detecting under $300.
When talking about Tesoro machines, it comes down to personal preference.
If you like the ease of use without all the fuss, then this machine is for you.
Teknetics Eurotek Pro
It’s important to note that the Teknetics brand is owned by the same company that owns Fisher (First Texas Products).
With that being said, their detectors are often quite similar, albeit smartly positioned in the market.
What I mean by that is the Eurotek Pro came out at a time when the Fisher F2 was competing with the Garrett ACE 250 for the entry-level market.
At the time the F2 was priced at $199 and the ACE 250 $212.
So Teknetics smartly comes along with their Eurotek Pro and priced it just slightly higher and built it just slightly better than both the F2 and ACE 250.
(Fisher has since come back with the F22 using the same mindset).
One could say that the Eurotek Pro blazed the trail for features never before seen in entry-level machines such as a host of options to deal with iron.
So if you tend to hunt in trash-filled areas or areas of the country with highly mineralized ground, the Eurotek Pro is probably the machine for you. And if you opt for the DD coil, you’ll get even better performance and target separation.
Minelab X-terra 305
Ok here’s a bonus – the Minelab X-terra 305 (this detector is not under $300 but I couldn’t leave it out).
The Minelab brand is known for having superior technology and high-end machines.
But like every brand, they need to have a full lineup of detectors to cater to the full market.
So we have the Xterra 305.
The technology built into this detector is far superior to any other on the market. Here are just a few of those features:
VFLEX Technology. Most entry to mid-level machines use a technology called VLF (very low frequency). They all operate at a signal frequency which is determined by the manufacturer.
VFLEX is an enhanced version of VLF and allows you to change your operating frequency dramatically just by changing your search coil.
Why would you want to change the frequency? One example of using a lower frequency is if you’re at an older home and only want to dig for deep, silver coins. Lower frequency works best for this.
Likewise, a higher frequency should be used if you are searching for smaller, shallower objects like round ball bullets or even gold nuggets.
So having the ability to change frequency gives you huge amounts of flexibility. Maybe that’s why they named it VFLEX?
Manual ground balance. Again most entry to mid-level machines have a ground balance level which is preset at the factory and intended for the ‘average’ user.
But since the optimal performance of any detector is largely based on the adjustment to the site you’re on, the ability to manual ground balance is a huge advantage.
Simply put, proper ground balance adjustment allows you to ignore the negative ground effects which will give you more depth and better target ID. What more can you ask for?
Threshold adjustment. Also not a feature found on any of the low to mid-level machine. Without going into a ton of detail, the threshold function is a very low audio hum which changes in tone as you pass over a target.
This allows you to pick up on very faint signals that don’t produce a strong enough signal to register with a ‘beep.’
Noise cancel. Similar to ground balance, noise cancel allows you to cancel out the unwanted electromagnetic noise that’s all-around use. For example, if you’re near power lines or a house with WiFi, your detector will pick up on those signals and can cause some erratic falsing. So this feature helps to ignore those signals.
Ok now the question I’m sure you’re asking is, “why did I rank this machine last?”
It’s an excellent question considering the technology in the 305 is superior to any other entry-level detector.
The only reason I don’t rank this number one is because of the price.
This guide is all about the best metal detector under $300, and the X-terra is priced at $379.
And I’d be heart-pressed if I left it out of this guide (also the price only recently changed from $299).
So there you have it – my top five metal detectors under $300.
Choose any one of these five detectors and you can’t go wrong.
I hope this guide was helpful to you. Now get out there and start finding treasure!
You may also be interested in our guide to the best coin metal detectors.