Best Metal Detectors Under $300 in 2023
Whether you’re just getting started metal detecting or need to find a lost ring but there aren’t any rental options near you, making the most of the money you have to spend on a metal detector matters.
If you have less than $100 to spend, you’re better off renting a metal detector or hiring a specialist. There are no cheap metal detectors that are also good.
However, if you have a budget of $300, you can get a highly capable machine with features beneficial to beginners and advanced detectorists alike.
This guide provides an overview of what we believe are the best metal detectors under $300 available in 2023.
These are detectors we’ve personally used, and ones we rent out nearly every day. So we’re more acquainted than most reviewers with the quirks and bright spots of each particular model.
We’ve selected metal detectors that are, above all, top performers in technology, build quality, and the customer experience—things that truly matter in choosing a detector that will be your daily driver.
What Matters in a Metal Detector Under $300
If this is your first foray into the hobby, you need a detector with enough capability to grow into as you hone your skills as a detectorist. And you need a machine that is sturdy enough to last for years to come.
If you’re looking for a lost object, you need a detector that is dead simple to use, and actually able to detect what you’re trying to find.
For both of these use cases, you need a metal detector that can adapt to your needs as they change (adjustability), is built to last (build quality), and has a customer experience that has been well thought-out.
We think of adjustability both in terms of whether the detector can adapt to you physically, and how adjustable the various settings are to meet your needs.
We evaluate how sturdy the detector is in day-to-day usage, and how well it holds up over time.
We consider the customer experience across the lifecycle of your time with the product. How easy is it to use day-to-day? Are common tasks like changing batteries frustrating? If you need a repair, what is that process like?
1. Minelab Vanquish 440 ($289)
First introduced in 2019, the Minelab Vanquish 440 is the mid-range option in its Vanquish series of lightweight, collapsible detectors.
The Vanquish series leverages the company’s Multi-IQ multi-frequency detection system, making it a truly multi-purpose metal detector capable of finding rings and gold jewelry, keys, phones, coins, and buried treasure up to 10” deep.
A. How Adjustable Is It?
The Vanquish 440 has four search modes for different use cases: Coins, Relics, Jewelry and Custom. Each mode modifies which metals the detector prioritizes.
In Jewelry mode, for instance, metals that jewelry and rings are commonly made of are given preference (like gold, platinum, or silver).
Custom mode allows you to set the priority with a custom discrimination pattern. The Vanquish 440 provides 12 segments of discrimination that can be set to detect or ignore the corresponding metals.
Outside of software, the stem (which connects the detector’s coil to the controls) length is easily adjustable with two snap-locks. This makes it a breeze to change the length for different people. It can also collapse to a compact 30” for transport.
B. How is the Build Quality?
We use the Vanquish 440 every day, and its build quality is superb compared to other detectors.
Comparably-priced models (like Garrett’s ACE 300) often feel unsteady to use and poorly-made.
The Vanquish 440, in comparison, is a night-and-day difference. Every piece of the machine feels sturdy and built to last. From a square-ish metal stem to prevent wobbling, to matte-finish textured plastic housing that can take a beating, it’s a detector designed to be used.
C. How is the Customer Experience?
The Vanquish 440 has 8 buttons. Nearly everything you need to adjust can be done with one hand.
Icons near the buttons correspond to icons on the screen, which is more than we can say for other metal detectors (namely Garrett’s ACE series).
While in use, the tones and Target ID numbers registered by the Vanquish 440 are more consistent and stable than most detectors. This is thanks to Minelab’s Multi-IQ multi-frequency detection technology.
There is no bluetooth connectivity on the Vanquish 440, but it has a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack that works with any wired headphones you may have.
Changing the batteries (see our picks for rechargeable options) is an easier process than with most other metal detectors. The battery cover pulls straight up with relatively little effort, revealing the batteries beneath. They can then be easily removed, charged, and replaced.
This entire process can be done one-handed, making this detector a good fit for those with mobility issues.
The Vanquish 440 has a Micro-USB port in the battery compartment that can be used to perform occasional firmware updates via a computer.
The detector has a 3-year warranty. Pre-pandemic, Minelab had a 10 business day turnaround on repairs. These days, with national parts shortages and logistics difficulties, repairs average 2 to 3 weeks at best. Their US authorized service center is located in Pennsylvania.Buy Vanquish 440 on Amazon
Upgrade pick: Minelab Vanquish 540
2. Nokta Makro Simplex+ ($255)
First introduced in 2019, the Nokta Makro Simplex+ bills itself as a metal detector with high-end features at an affordable price.
Unlike other detectors at this price pint, the Simplex+ is waterproof to 10 ft (3 m). It uses a 12 kHz single-frequency VLF detection system that sits in a middle ground of the frequency spectrum, making it a great choice for a variety of uses.
A. How Adjustable is it?
The Simplex+ has five search modes, but these are based on search location, rather than what you’re looking for. They include: Field, Park 1, Park 2, Beach, and All Metal. This philosophy is aligned with more professional-grade metal detectors, like Minelab’s Equinox 800 or Nokta Makro’s The Legend.
Like the Vanquish, it offers the option of setting a custom discrimination pattern when you know exactly what you’re looking for. There are 20 segments of discrimination available to detect or ignore.
The Simplex+ also has a simple snap-lock system to adjust stem length. It collapses to 25” for easy transport.
B. How is the Build Quality?
The Simplex+ feels just as sturdy as our top pick. Both detectors are constructed of similar-feeling materials—textured plastics and aluminum—putting them leaps and bounds beyond the feel of other metal detectors.
The buttons on the Simplex+ are smooth, so your fingers are more likely to press the wrong ones if you’re not paying attention. They are, however, sealed from dust and water, so that’s a plus.
C. How is the Customer Experience?
The Simplex+ interface is not as straightforward as that of the Vanquish 440.
It has six buttons arranged to be used one-handed. As a result of fewer buttons, each button serves multiple functions. Some adjustments that are easily accessible on the Vanquish 440 (like changing the volume) are buried in the Settings menu.
When it detects a target, it emits an audio tone, displays a Target ID Number, and, unlike nearly any other detector on the market, vibrates the handle.
The Simplex+ includes a blue-light backlight for night detecting.
While this detector does have wireless headphone capability, it uses a proprietary wireless system instead of Bluetooth, which locks you into using Nokta Makro headphones.
Unlike the Vanquish, the Simplex+ has a built-in battery that cannot be quickly swapped while out in the field. However, it can run off a portable USB power pack (like this one from Anker) with a proprietary adapter.
The battery takes 2-3 hours to charge.
Like the Vanquish 440, Nokta Makro’s Simplex+ has firmware that can be updated via a USB port.
The detector has a 2-year warranty. Nokta Makro has had an inconsistent turnaround time on repairs, both before and post-pandemic.
Their US authorized service center is located in Missouri.Buy Simplex+ on Amazon
Another option: Garrett ACE 300 ($270)
Garrett’s ACE 300 is one of the top-selling metal detectors on the market, but in using it daily, we have more to complain about than applaud. It’s here only because we’ve run out of excellent options.
First introduced in 2016, the detector operates on a single 8 kHz frequency, and uses VLF detection technology.
The ACE 300 has five search modes: Zero-Disc (all metal), Coins, Relics, Jewelry, and Custom.
Custom mode, like our other picks, lets you set a discrimination pattern that suits your needs. There are 12 segments of discrimination available to filter out particular targets.
There is no way to adjust the volume; it is preset to what we feel is a little too loud.
B. Build Quality
As mentioned earlier, the build quality is poor. While it may be Made in America, it is not made well.
The buttons are squishy and will (at around 6-8 months of daily usage) stop making contact with the circuits beneath, making it frustratingly difficult to power on and off. So frustrating that you might want to throw it out a window, if you weren’t already outside.
The mechanism for adjusting the length of the detector’s shaft is also a pain in the ass (especially if you have mobility issues).
You need to first loosen the locks by turning them counter-clockwise. Dirt and sand gets stuck in the parts you need to turn, which makes them difficult to unlock.
Next, you press in a pair of metal pins with one hand, wedge the detector between your legs or against a sturdy ~something~, and yank the shaft in whichever direction you want to adjust it. Release the metal pins, and turn the locks clockwise to keep it there.
C. Customer Experience
The interface that the buttons operate leaves much to be desired. Compared to the Vanquish or Simplex, it feels immediately outdated.
Like our other picks, when metal is detected, it will emit an audio tone and display Target ID numbers on the screen. These numbers are not as stable as the Vanquish 440 or Simplex+.
There is no backlight or wireless headphone capability. It uses a non-standard 1/4” (6 mm) headphone jack, so you’ll need an adapter for wired headphones you may have around.
Changing the batteries is a frustrating multi-step process. Like adjusting the stem length, it feels designed for someone with three hands.
To change the batteries, first you’ll need to adjust the stem length (see above) by about two inches (5 cm) so there’s enough room to slide the battery cover off. Next, you’ll slide the battery cover down toward the search coil. This requires two hands or exceptional grip strength. Hold the detector steady with your third hand while doing this.
Then simply replace the batteries, slide the cover back on, adjust the stem length to its default position, and get back to detecting. Easy, right?
Firmware on the ACE 300 cannot be updated.
The ACE 300 has a two-year warranty. When it breaks, repairs within the warranty period are usually free, but take 6 to 8 weeks to complete.
Garrett’s service center is located in Texas.Buy ACE 300 on Amazon
About the Author
Gary Iverson is a staff writer at Metro Metal Detectors covering all things metal and metal-adjacent.