The Best Metal Detectors to Uncover Buried Treasure

best metal detectors
The Best Metal Detectors of 2023Popular Mechanics; Courtesy Fisher Labs

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Metal detectors can be great fun—hunting for treasure is, after all, an exciting hobby with the lure of finding potential riches (or just a cool old coin or rare bottle cap). But they can also be practical, allowing you to gather up discarded nails, screws, and other supplies or even helping you locate an important relic or memento that might have gotten accidentally buried on a job site. After careful evaluation and some hands-on detecting time, these are my recommendations for the best metal detectors, plus buying advice so you can find the right one for you.

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Best Metal Detectors

The Expert: As the former owner of a construction business, I’ve used metal detectors on job sites for more than a decade to identify discarded supplies and various pieces of scrap. From a more leisurely perspective, my husband and I have taken our kids treasure hunting on a variety of beaches along the East Coast and in forests throughout the Northeast. We’ve also searched for buried treasure in our own backyard; we live in a house built in the 1800s and still occasionally find random items apparently discarded by previous owners years ago.

What Type of Detector Do I Need?

The type of metal detector you choose will depend mainly on what type of loot you are searching for and where you will be looking for it. There are generally three types of metal detectors for different purposes: land-based coin and relic hunting, beach and underwater detecting, and prospecting for gold.

Beach and underwater detectors tend to be more robust and rust-resistant to protect against corrosion from sea air and salt water. They’re also waterproof (or have waterproof components) and designed to detect through water and sand, which have different properties than dry dirt.

Gold detectors use higher frequencies to detect the differences between gold and other metals. These are best suited to gold-rich areas in the U.S. (generally, the West Coast because you are unlikely to find any natural gold elsewhere).

A multipurpose metal detector is best for beginners. It can find coins and other metal objects and can sometimes even sniff out some gold. If you are unsure of what type of detector to get, a multipurpose one is often the way to go as it will give the most options for what and where it can hunt.

Other Considerations

  • Ease of Use vs. Sophistication: Some metal detectors (especially those at the upper end of the price range) offer plenty of high-tech features like touchpad LCD display screens, intuitive menu selections, and detailed search modes. These might appeal to the serious user but could prove overwhelming to a casual hobbyist. A more streamlined, basic model will often be easier to use and likely the better choice for a beginner.

  • Weight: You will be lugging this thing around, possibly while hunched over, and perhaps in a range of landscapes and all types of terrain. A detector that’s on the heavier side—say, more than five pounds—might quickly become a source of aches and pains.

  • Depth Detection: A detector that can find items that are buried deeper underground offers the opportunity for exciting finds that might get overlooked by less sensitive models. But detectors with higher depth capabilities often come with higher price tags to match. Keep in mind that variables, such as the size of a buried object and soil composition, impact depth detection.

How We Evaluated

In assessing a wide assortment of metal detectors, I’ve partly drawn upon my own experience. I enjoy going “treasure hunting” as a fun family activity, and while we are very casual hobbyists in this area, I have used a wide range of detectors when out with friends who have more expensive machines. I consulted manufacturer listings for relevant specs related to weight, maximum detection depth for small objects, and settings options. Finally, I considered the observations from thousands of reviewers on Amazon, The Home Depot, and other retail sites.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Professional OT-MD02</p><p>$129.99</p><p></p>

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Professional OT-MD02


This Sunpow model boasts upgraded technology that the manufacturer says allows for greater search range and more powerful sensitivity. It offers three operation modes designed to help improve accuracy and can detect a range of different types of metal. Go with the “All Metal” setting if you want to see any type of metal object, or use the ACC/REJ mode to select specific types of metal you’re interested in. If the detector finds something, you can use the pinpoint function to zero in on its exact location. Amazon users appreciate its accuracy and easy-to-use design and suggest this would be a great choice for beginners.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Ace 300</p><p>$269.95</p><p></p>

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Ace 300


Although the Garrett ACE 300 is near the price of the Fisher F22, it comes with more useful accessories. Along with the metal detector, you will receive a pair of headphones, a weather cover, and a coil cover, as well as more standard features. As a multipurpose detector, it can find everything including coins, relics, and gold in environments like iron-rich areas and shallow water. It also features a digital target ID which detects the conductivity of the object and displays it on the screen from a scale of 0 to 99. The higher conductivity will usually point to gold, whereas a lower number will present small jewelry, iron, and steel.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>F22</p><p>$229.00</p><p></p>

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Like with any new hobby, chances are you might not want to spend a fortune on something that you have never tried. This metal detector comes in under $230 and is equipped with everything you need to get treasure hunting. The Fisher features a weatherproof exterior and weighs only 2.3 pounds, so it’s durable and lightweight. It has 10 frequency levels that can detect up to 9 inches underground, along with preset search settings, such as jewelry, artifact, and coin, that can come in handy when first learning how to use your detector. However, it doesn’t have the ability to detect gold. When it comes to use, the end can be submerged in water, but the control box is not waterproof, so be sure to keep it dry. It also has a pinpoint mode, though it is not quite as accurate as an actual pin-pointer. If you still aren’t sold, consider the five-year warranty that guarantees you plenty of time with your new tool.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Equinox 800</p><p>$899.00</p><p></p>

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Equinox 800


This detector is an investment for the hard-core treasure hunter. It has four search modes, each of which can save two custom search profiles, allowing the machine to immediately recognize your individual search preferences for things like sensitivity, target depth, and volume. It’s totally waterproof, making it a great choice for the beach or underwater excursions. And the Equinox can detect many types of metal, including gold nuggets.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Pro Series</p><p>$130.55</p><p></p>

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Pro Series


If there’s a name that conjures up visions of searching the world on exotic quests, it’s National Geographic. It’s fitting, then, that the brand should create this metal detector that anyone can use—including young explorers-in-training. It’s light and simple enough for kids but has sophisticated features adults can appreciate. The detection modes allow you to skip over “junk metals” so you can focus on more valuable buried treasures, but some Amazon users report that false positives and inaccurate results are fairly common.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>F75</p><p>$464.12</p><p></p>

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The Fisher F75 is certainly a bigger investment than the F22, but it also comes with some considerable upgrades. First of all, its multipurpose design means that it is capable of detecting coins, relics, gold, and more, and the detector can produce accurate readings through a variety of surfaces. Although it’s more than a pound heavier than the F22, the F75 is balanced and easy to navigate with. “Most importantly, the detector does a great job of finding relics and coins even in iron-infested areas,” says “This is due to the dual-filter discrimination modes, which allow you to ignore iron signals.” And despite its higher cost than some other beginner options, this model also features an 11-inch coil so you can scan larger areas faster.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Gold Digger</p><p>$59.99</p><p></p>

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Gold Digger


Bounty Hunter is among the most well-known brands for metal detectors, and you have a broad spectrum of options among its offerings. I think this Gold Digger model is a great choice partly because it is versatile enough to appeal to a wide range of users, and it’s also inexpensive enough that you can use it as a trial to see if metal detecting is an activity you enjoy. As the name implies, you can use it to search for gold coins and jewelry, along with other types of metal.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>The Legend Pro Pack</p><p>$699.00</p><p></p>

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The Legend Pro Pack


There are many things to love about the beach—but it’s friendliness to electronics (or lack thereof) isn’t one of them. Between the sand, the water (possibly saltwater), and a tendency to be windy in some areas, this is an environment that can be tough on electronics, so it’s important to choose a metal detector designed to withstand these challenges. On the plus side, all sorts of random things get lost in the sand or are washed up from the water, so you never know what you’ll find. This Nokta Makro Pro is perfect for beach expeditions; it’s fully submersible up to 10 feet and has a specific beach mode with settings for wet or dry sand. It is also designed to protect against dust infiltration. If you want something a little less pricey, try the Nokta Makro Simplex+ WHP, which would also do well at the beach.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Pro-Pointer AT</p><p>$127.95</p><p></p>

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Pro-Pointer AT


Whether you like to scan your local lakes or pilfer through streams, this submersible detector can help you find some lost treasure. About the size of a flashlight, the Pro-Pointer AT can function underwater up to 10 feet and has three sensitivity settings to help you pinpoint small targets. The bright orange color is easy to see underwater, and its flashlight will help illuminate the ground underwater. It also has a fast retune button that can narrow your detection field for more precise pinpointing of larger targets.

<p><a href="" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Shop Now;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">Shop Now</a></p><p>Junior T.I.D.</p><p>$70.49</p><p></p>

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Junior T.I.D.


When your kids are young, they want to do everything you are doing—take advantage of that fleeting time and teach them a new hobby that could last a lifetime. This junior metal detector is easy to use and ideally sized for kids under the age of 10. It features an easy-to-read screen that will let them know when they have found something and how deep it is buried. The coils can be placed in the water or in wet environments, and it can detect objects such as coins and gold. While it is certainly more advanced than your typical children’s toy, be aware that it does come with only a one-year warranty.

Expert Bobbi Dempsey’s Coolest Find and More Tips for Metal Detecting

PM: Tell us about your best or most interesting find.

B.D.: My family and I once found some old military dog tags on our property, which we were able to return to the soldier’s family. No gold or items of significant monetary value, but we have found a few interesting old toys that we’re assuming some of the previous owner’s grandchildren may have buried there years ago.

PM: How does metal detecting differ when searching on a beach compared to searching in dirt?

B.D.: For one thing, the beach has conditions that can be tough on electronics, so you need to pick a detector designed for that environment. Digging in sand is much different than digging in soil, and you’ll want to bring a sand scoop or strainer. Pay attention to the tides—there’s different territory to explore during low tide. If you’ll be on a public beach, check the rules regarding metal detecting. Some places don’t allow it at all, while others prohibit you from digging up anything you might detect.

PM: What features do you prioritize when looking for a new metal detector?

B.D.: We’re very casual hobbyists, so we don’t necessarily need sophisticated features or complicated technology. We like machines that are user-friendly, simple to operate, and lightweight. We also appreciate the ability to set it to ignore trash such as old nails, so that we’re not getting frequent false alarms.

Editors’ Note: Gabrielle Hondorp, a commerce editor for Popular Mechanics, contributed to this article.

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