Updated January 2023
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Best of the Best
Bounty Hunter Gold Digger Metal Detector
Bounty Hunter
Gold Digger Metal Detector
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Customer Favorite
Bottom Line

A great entry-level model that allows you to try out a new hobby without investing a great deal of money.


Easy to assemble, easy to use. This model is suitable for beaches, fields, and parks. "Trash Eliminator" settings ignores most unwanted items while the "Power Level" sets the depth of your search.


For smaller objects, such as coins, this unit can only go about 6 inches deep under optimum conditions.

Best Bang for the Buck
Dr. Ötek Metal Detector
Dr. Ötek
Metal Detector
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Most Comprehensive
Bottom Line

A well-designed metal detector set that includes everything you need to locate coins and valuables.


It has six detection modes: disc, all-metal, pinpoint pasture, park and sand. The DSP chip effectively blocks external interference, and the large LCD is easy to read and navigate to adjust settings. It has an IP68 waterproof coil and an adjustable stem.


The cable slides out of the head compartment too easily.

Bounty Hunter TK4 Tracker IV Metal Detector
Bounty Hunter
TK4 Tracker IV Metal Detector
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Simple Yet Solid
Bottom Line

A lower-priced metal detector with a simple design.


Good discriminator. Lightweight yet durable build with different detection modes. Decent price point, yet can handle searches in different types of ground. It’s great for beginners, although kids may need some adult help.


Learning curve for younger users is steep but not impossible. Practice with coins is encouraged. False alarms do occur.

BARSKA Winbest Pro-200 Metal Detector Field Kit
Winbest Pro-200 Metal Detector Field Kit
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Accessories Included
Bottom Line

An affordable metal detector kit that includes a few handy accessories.


This metal detector kit includes headphones, a carrying bag, and a shovel. The unit has an easy-to-read display, is sealed so it can function in shallow waters, and includes a sensitivity adjustment.


Even fully extended, some users feel this detector is a little too short for comfort.

Minelab Vanquish 540 Metal Detector
Vanquish 540 Metal Detector
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Bottom Line

A high-quality waterproof metal detector made with advanced technology.


Multi-IQ technology combines metal-detecting technologies to let users search all soil and metal surfaces. It's ready to go out of the box and is engineered to locate coins and jewelry, and adjustable bias control helps separate trash detection.


Some users found the monitor difficult to read.


We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for best metal detectors

Searching for hidden treasures can be a fun adventure or a profitable hobby. However, to be successful, you need a metal detector that is up to the task of locating those buried valuables. Unfortunately, not all of them are. There are certain features a metal detector must have in order for it to be considered the best.

A unit that has both large coils (so it doesn't miss anything on a sweep) and small coils (to help pinpoint an exact location) is ideal. Having a metal detector that can not only differentiate between materials but can block the signal of junk metals will make your hunt far more enjoyable. A volume control, a headphone jack, and a sensitivity control, are all desirable options.

If you would like more tips and legal advice, continue reading this article. If you're ready to head out on your quest for lost treasures, try one of the suggestions we've made in this article.

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A VLF metal detector sends out a ground-penetrating electromagnetic charge that causes any form of metal to become temporarily energized. A receiver coil detects this new energy and sends a signal to the unit's microprocessor. The most obvious result is a tone generated by a loudspeaker. The tone lets the user know that some form of metal has been detected.

When we've finished testing, we donate our test products to charities and other non-profit organizations. Because of the effort we put into our reviews, we feel confident that you’ll benefit from our honest reports.

Please see our product list, above, for our top recommendations in the metal detector field.

And please continue reading this shopping guide if you’d like to learn more about metal detectors.

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Did you know?
A discriminator is a small device inside a metal detector that helps you discern between a 200-year-old cache of gold and a five-year-old soda can. The discriminator compares your “hunting” results to the reaction times of known metal samples. It then displays the matching metal type.

Metal detector technology

Most consumer-grade metal detectors use an older technology called VLF (very low frequency) detection. A VLF metal detector uses two related forces, electricity and magnetism, to generate an audible signal when something is detected.

"Valuable metals such as gold and silver have different electromagnetic properties than “junk” metals such as iron and tin. A quality metal detector's discriminator filters out common metal hits electronically, allowing only hits from possible gold or silver sources."

How it works

A metal detector's circular base contains two wire coils: a larger transmitter coil and a smaller receiver coil. When the user activates the detector and begins a sweep, the electricity from the battery flows into the outer transmitter coil, creating a ground-penetrating electromagnetic field. Any metal object that receives this electromagnetic charge becomes “excited” at an atomic level. In a sense, the outer transmitter coil creates a magnetic “glow” around metal objects.

Once the transmitter has “excited” any metallic objects in the ground, a smaller receiver coil takes over. This coil looks for any changes in the charged ground's magnetic field. Metal objects send out a second magnetic current in reaction to the transmitter coil's energy. This change in magnetic polarity is what the receiver coil actually detects. A signal is sent to a loudspeaker, which issues a tone based on the characteristics and strength of the charged metal.


Many high-end metal detectors also contain a microprocessor-controlled analyzer known as a discriminator. A discriminator compares the signals sent by the receiver coil to the known signals of various metals. For example, the typical gold signal is noticeably different than the typical aluminum signal.

A discriminator can be set to squelch signals from common “junk” metals, such as steel and aluminum. This allows the user to concentrate on more valuable metals that could be lurking underground, such as gold and silver.

Search parameters

The models on our shortlist offer various search parameters based on their intended audience. After all, a child searching for quarters on the beach has different needs than an adult treasure hunter in the field.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when evaluating different products:

What is the metal detector’s coin depth?

This is a measure of how deep underground the device can actually detect coin-sized pieces of metal. Not all manufacturers provide this information. Bounty Hunter advertises that its TK4 can detect coins eight inches down; the Time Ranger is advertised as having a nine-inch coin depth.

Is it waterproof?

Some metal detectors are completely waterproof, some up to 10 feet.

Others have waterproof coils but can’t be completely submerged. Users should never submerge the electronic parts of these devices. Some cannot be used near water at all.

How big are the coils?

Arguably the most important thing about a metal detector’s coil size is the amount of ground you can cover. The challenge with small coils is that if you sweep too quickly, you could miss things. Larger coils help to eliminate this. However, smaller coils can help pinpoint objects.

Some metal detectors will have both coils so they can do both jobs.

Hope for treasure but expect to find trash. Keep your goals realistic, and don't be disappointed if you have a bad day — or a run of them. Keep persevering!

Special features

When it comes to informational displays and other features, big differences exist among the metal detectors on today’s market. When considering a purchase, look for these special features. Granted, some of them may not appeal to you, but it’s nice to know what you’re buying into.

Volume knob

Your metal detector will beep frequently. If you’re interested in controlling the volume, you’ll want a volume knob.

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Did you know?
Your metal detector needs regular maintenance. Lubricate the wires, brush dirt off of the joints, and clean it with fresh water after long hunts.

Headphones/headphone jack

Metal detecting is a somewhat noisy hobby. If you’d rather keep your business to yourself, look for a detector with a headphone jack. Some products include headphones, too. But remember, the price of a complete kit is higher than the price of a lone detector.

Sensitivity knobs

Many metal detectors offer a range of sensitivities, which you can adjust to filter out junk and focus on what you’re looking for.

LCD screen

Some basic models do not have an LCD screen, but such an interface is a great place for the user to gather information.

The frequency at which a metal detector operates reflects its ability to discriminate between wanted and unwanted metals. If you’re looking for gold, you will probably want a higher-frequency detector.

Ground balancing

This feature gives you the ability to “tune out” interference from natural metals in the soil (like iron).

Custom notching

Notching is a lot like discrimination in that it allows the user to filter out some unwanted results. However, a bad notching system could lead to missed findings.

Metal detection and the law

You don’t need a special license to own a metal detector. However, as a hobbyist, it’s important to know the general rules and regulations that apply to metal detector use.

  • Some cities allow amateur metal detectors to search public properties such as fairgrounds, city parks, and beaches. It may (or may not) be possible for you to keep what you discover. In either case, the ground must be returned to its original condition.

  • Some states require hobbyists to register before searching public properties. The laws on public metal detecting vary from state to state, so be sure to consult your local government agency before searching for treasure on public property.

  • If you’re to search private property with your metal detector, the owner of the property must first give permission. The owner can add conditions to your use of his/her land, such as ownership rights or time limits.

  • If the private property you search can be claimed as protected land under an antiquities law, it’s illegal to remove any items from the site.

Penalties for violating these laws and restrictions can range from a stern warning to thousands of dollars in fines. We urge amateur metal detectors to do some research and obtain all pertinent clearances before starting a search on any private or city-owned property.

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Did you know?
Antiquities laws trump most property rights when it comes to the removal of metals and other objects of value.

Where you can hunt

With all of these rules and limitations, you may be wondering where you can actually use your metal detector lawfully. In truth, there are still a number of locations open to hobbyists. The key is to find places where people have actually lived, worked, or played. Consider these areas:

  • Schoolyards

  • Old home sites

  • Former factories

  • Beach fronts

  • Amusement parks

  • Recreational lakes

Note: Some states allow metal detection on sandy beach areas between the water and the dune line. Others require searchers to obtain special permission before gaining access to state parks and bodies of water.

"Places like fairgrounds, parks, sport fields, picnic spots, and schoolyards can be very rewarding for metal hunters, as they are very likely to have bits and bobs left behind by the crowds. If you are looking for silver coins or relics, try your luck at “old” and “historical” areas. Beaches are a treasure trove and regularly yield jewelry, coins, and the like."

Ergonomics & performance

If you're going treasure hunting, you need a machine that's comfortable for you to use over the long haul. Look for these features to find the most ergonomically sound metal detector for you:

Adjustable length

The length of some metal detectors can be adjusted based on the arm size of the user.


How much does the metal detector of your choice weigh? It may seem like a small matter, but if you’re planning to spend an afternoon waving the detector around, you’ll probably want something that doesn’t strain you. Anything around four pounds will work best.

Battery requirements

Most metal detectors require batteries and few are rechargeable. Be sure to check your owner's manual for the specific needs of your detector.

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Did you know?
A metal object doesn't necessarily have to be magnetic in order to become charged by the electromagnetic field the detector generates.


  • Before you go treasure hunting, be sure to understand the correct settings and capabilities of your metal detector. Read through the manual and research online, if needed.

  • Like golf, metal detectors require a proper swing to work well. Swing your detector slowly from side to side, keeping it as close to the ground as possible — but make sure it does not touch the ground.

  • Similar to having the right digging tools, your choice of clothing is important when you’re on a hunt. Wear comfortable clothes that are appropriate for the weather, knee pads to protect your knees when you have to dig, shoes that help you wade through terrain, and gloves for your hands so you don't get them dirty or cut yourself when scooping up soil.

  • Educate yourself on the local laws regarding metal detecting before you start. That way, you know which areas are permissible and what kind of digging is allowed. Remember, even public areas may not allow metal detecting if they have landscaping that could be damaged.

  • If you’re new to this hobby, be prepared to find more trash than treasure. But don’t lose hope, as you never know when your luck may change. That’s part of the excitement and appeal of metal detection.


Q: How deep will a typical metal detector penetrate the ground?

A: The answer to this question depends largely on the detector's make and model, but in general, the average detector can find larger pieces of metal 12 to 16 inches below the surface. Deeper searches would require a more powerful device, such as a ground-penetrating radar.

Q: Do I need a special kind of metal detector to hunt for gold?

A: While most metal detectors can detect the presence of gold in a general sweep, many discriminators have difficulty tuning out other metal signatures. This is why dedicated gold hunters often purchase a special metal detector designed to “listen” specifically for smaller gold fragments.

Q: Metal detecting seems very straightforward to me. What do the pros know that I don't?

A: For one thing, experienced hobbyists and professionals use several different types of sweeping and search patterns, not just a simple back-and-forth or up-and-down motion. Through experience and mastery, they can tell the difference between valuable metal hits and “trash” hits by the subtle changes in signal tones. Mastering the art of metal detection takes time, patience, and practice.

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