Regardless which detector you choose, you’re going to be spending at least $50 (if not, don’t buy it!), so you want to make sure you do your homework and choose wisely. Even if you’re just trying it out to see if you like the hobby, you want to give yourself a fair shot at being successful, so regardless your budget, you want to get the best machine your money can buy.
I know of more than one would-be metal detectorist who never really got a fair start in the hobby, because they bought a price instead of a machine. The supposed “detector” ended up being a piece of junk and didn’t work, leading to frustration for the new user, who decided the pursuit was too hard and just gave up.
I’ve met these people through my own digging, and have let them use one of my machines—which actually work—and they’re hooked! Then they lament all the time that passed since their false start with the junk machine, and all the digging and finding they could have been doing! So here are some tips to help you avoid this sad situation:
- Spend some time online researching the various types of detectors available.
- Spend more time online and off, hanging out where other diggers hang out (I recommend Facebook. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of groups and pages where diggers share their finds, their experiences, and their opinions.)
- Find a reputable dealer and to be safe, stick with established, brand-name manufacturers when making your final purchase decision.
- Make sure the dealer representative is patient and willing to answer all your questions. Even if it’s your first detector, this person should recognize the opportunity to really help you and turn you into a customer for life.
- Ask about warranties, accessories, and service after the sale.
What about used machines?
Yes, there are lots of used machines out there. You can buy them in pawn shops, on eBay or other similar websites, even on Facebook nowadays. There are also lots of smartphone apps that let you buy used equipment. But as a beginner, you really aren’t in any position to fairly and knowledgeably evaluate what you’re buying. So unless you have a digger friend who’s willing to help you with evaluating, I’d say stick with new until you know.