Looking for the best sonar units under 500 bucks? If this is your first time buying one, try to keep your budget above 500 dollars if you want to get the most value for the money.
I’m going to walk you through what I would expect from these fish finders while keeping the budget in this range and then give you a list of the best fish finders under 500 that I would buy right now.
If you have, let’s say, three or four hundred dollars saved up, I would save up a little longer to hit that five hundred mark because, at that price point, the fish finders meet all the requirements that are needed for an angler on a budget.
In a nutshell, you don’t need anything crazy. Things you will need are high chirp, ability to mark a location on the chart (digital), ability to upgrade in the future, down view, and user-friendly controls.
I know it’s a lot of money, but this is the mark that really gets you into the meat of the fish finder market. If you don’t have the time to read through all of the technical details, here is a quick rundown of the best fish finder under 500 dollars.
Fish Finder Under $500 Comparison Table
5 Best GPS Fish Finder Under 500
When it comes to fish finders, you can’t really go wrong with big brands. Keeping that in mind, I’ve handpicked only 5 of them that are very reputable, reliable, and has user-friendly controls.
1. Humminbird 410940-1 HELIX 7 CHIRP MDI GPS G3 Fish Finder
This fish finder has a bright and large 7-Inch screen with a resolution of 800×480. It’s a TFT color display that gives you a clearer view of what’s beneath your boat.
Speaking of display, there are two display modes. You can check the temperature, turbulence, and water depth. There is also an option to watch the lure presentation.
The HELIX 7 is powered by Humminbird’s proprietary Dual Spectrum CHIRP and Low Q CHIRP transducer. It’s a powerful unit that allows for dual search modes. You can select the narrow mode to get maximum detail or use the wide mode to cover more water and get a rough idea of the lake.
Lastly, the feature that makes it unique is its MEGA down imaging. This gives you amazing underwater clarity that’s highly detailed. The range is also superb. You can easily see down to 125 feet below of your fishing boat. It’s three times more powerful than regular down imaging sonar.
- Powerful mega down imaging sonar
- Dual Spectrum & Low Q CHIRP
- Easy to read TFT color display
- Dual search mode
- Slightly above 500 dollars
2. Garmin Striker 7SV with Transducer
The Garmin Striker 7sv is an outstanding fish finder for the money that’s also remarkably intuitive. When you first use this device for fishing, you will feel like you have been using this for years. There is a slight learning curve at first, but the whole operation becomes flawless afterward.
It’s the most sought-after fish finder for its awesome sonar: the ClearVu and SideVu. These are the features that make it one of the best depth finders under 500 dollars. It’s so easy to use that you won’t even have to look at the manual to understand the basic functions. Every feature is self-explanatory.
It’s complicated in terms of specs but simple enough for a novice to use. Kudos to Garmin for putting together something like this. Spec-wise, you are looking at a 7-inch LCD display that vivid and colorful. It’s bright enough to see in broad daylight with ease. The display isn’t the only good part of this fish finder.
This device allows you to mark waypoints, view boat speeds, create routes, and even draw custom maps with is 1′ contours. The activeCaptain app is built into the device, and it also supports Wi-Fi connectivity. You can also use the app on your mobile to store even more data.
- Three powerful CHIRP sonar: Traditional, ClearVu & SideVu
- Very user-friendly controls and easy to read instructions
- 800 x 480 sunlight-readable screen
- Reliable and powerful fish finder
- Nothing to nitpick about
3. Humminbird 410230-1 HELIX 5 CHIRP SI GPS G2 Fish Finder
The HELIX 5 from Humminbird is the smaller version of the HELIX 7. In terms of specification, both of them are nearly identical, with the only difference being the display. Instead of 7, it has a 5-inch LED-backlit widescreen display. With all the features, this fish finder will easily meet and exceed your expectations.
This user-friendly fish finder is a sophisticated device that is designed for electronics dummies. You won’t have to spend hours studying the user manual to figure it out. The built-in GPS map allows you to mark your location, create a custom route, and see where your boat is heading.
The down imaging sonar is very detailed, and at this price point, no other fish finder can offer you this much clarity. The enhanced built-in base map gives you a lot of details right out of the box. There are enough details on the map to enjoy an amazing angling experience. You can even build maps of your own.
Thanks to its built-in GPS and Autochart Live function, making richly detailed maps of your preferred fishing spots is a breeze. The down imaging and side imaging give your fish-eye’s view of the world below. With its powerful CHIRP, you will never miss any details.
Note: This is best for kayak fishing and small boats.
- Powerful side imaging and down imaging
- High-frequency sonar provides crystal clear details
- Built-in GPS for easy navigation
- Built-in, highly detailed base map
- Only suitable for small fishing boats and kayaks
4. Garmin Striker Plus 7Cv with Cv20-TM transducer
The Striker Plus from Garmin is a great unit for the price. The overall performance of this fish finder will make you want to purchase it again and again. It has very user-friendly controls and won’t take more than half an hour to know all the features. It’s that easy to use.
Performance-wise, this unit is powered by traditional sonar plus CHIRP and also includes a transducer for Garmin’s built-in CHIRP. It also features CLearVu and SideVu scanning sonar. This fish finder can easily detect schools of fish and also give you a clear image of what’s beneath your boat.
As for the screen, it has a 7-inch large, sunlight-readable display. The color display is very bright, and you can easily use three display modes at once for maximum efficiency. It also has built-in GPS that allows you to view your boat’s speed, create routes, and mark waypoints for easy navigation.
It also supports Quickdraw Contours. The mapping software allows you to create your own custom map as well as store them. Garmin CHIRP is a powerful sonar that is renowned for its remarkable target separation. If you want to get crystal clear images that are nearly photographic, go with this fish finder.
- ClearVu sonar provides true to life images
- Powerful CHIRP for target separation
- Intuitive controls that are beginner-friendly
- Sunlight readable display
- Doesn’t have built-in maps
5. Lowrance HOOK Reveal 5 SplitShot – 5-inch Fish Finder with SplitShot Transducer
Need built-in maps? Want to quickly find and locate fishing hotspots? Well, the Lowrance HOOK Reveal 5 is a great fish finder under 500 bucks. It comes preloaded with almost 4000 US inland lake maps that are highly detailed. In addition, you can also create your own custom contour maps.
This allows you to locate fish even faster since you can your own details over existing maps. As for the fish finder itself, it has DownScan Imaging function that works in combination with Lowrance CHIRP sonar to light up fish on display. The function is called FishReveal, which makes it easier to find and identify fish.
If you are fishing on a kayak, you will love the SplitShot transducer. This gives you a better view of what’s beneath your kayak. This transducer also takes advantage of this unit’s high-resolution images and wide-angle high CHIRP sonar. As the name suggests, this finder will reveal anything and everything down below.
The sonar of this unit will change its settings automatically depending on the fishing conditions. This means, you won’t have waste time tuning the settings every time you go out for fishing. The autotuning sonar will adjust its settings automatically to give you the best possible sonar images.
- It comes preloaded with highly detailed inland maps
- Powerful transducer
- Clear and crisp 5-inch display
- Autotuning sonar that changes as fishing conditions change
- Only suitable for smaller bodies of water
Finding The Best Fish Finder Under 500 Dollars | A Definitive Buyer’s Guide
There are fish finders out there that will cost more than your trailer, motor, and boat combined. Don’t go overboard here. Know your needs first before you decide on a model for your next fishing trip.
The first requirement is 2d or traditional sonar. When you think about it, it’s not really a requirement since all the fish finders out there have this function. 2D sonar is great for determining the size of the object or fish directly below your boat, thanks to its color palette.
It will depend on the kind of color palette you have. A darker color tone flashing on the screen will indicate that there are bigger fish right below your boat. It can also mean bigger pieces of structure.
This is something you will get the hang of after countless trials and errors. Pretty much on all fish finder units, traditional sonar is a universal feature. However, this alone won’t do a good job of finding fish. This is where down imaging and side imaging comes into play.
The second thing is down imaging, down scan, or down view, whatever you want to call it. These are called different things, depending on the manufacturer. For example, Lowrance calls it down scan, Humminbird calls it down imaging, and Garmin uses down view.
While the name may differ, they all do the same thing, which is to look directly below your boat. The sonar cone is a little bit wider than your regular 2D sonar.
But what makes this down imaging shine is the separation between fish and a brush pile or fish in the bottom. This separation is a lot clearer compared to your traditional or 2D sonar.
If you fish a lot of brush piles or you fish a lot of rocks or maybe fish that are on the bottom like walleye or catfish or something that are fairly consistently on the bottom, that separation between the actual lake bottom or river bottom becomes very clear with down imaging.
Last but certainly not least, I would highly recommend you save up. If you don’t have the 500 saved up yet, you save up to that mark specifically for a more advanced feature, and that is side imaging sonar.
This side imaging sonar is the key when trying to make the most of your fishing and being out of the water. This feature becomes really useful, especially if you are on a new body of water.
Side imaging allows you to be very efficient when finding fish or structure. You can scan left and right, and both depending on the manufacturer. The coverage is about 100 to 150 feet left and right of the boat.
You can even find weed edges, brush piles, trees, rock piles, and also schools of fish. There is a slight learning curve to it, but it is worth learning. Side imaging is the key with these units. And that’s why I highly recommend you save up to this 500-dollar mark to get that side imaging feature.
GPS Mapping Technology
What really separates out the units that I have listed here is the GPS mapping technology. Some of these fish finders have preloaded maps, and some of them feature SD card slots.
You can upload new maps depending on the region that you are fishing. This is what is really going to separate the best ones from the rest. Some of the units can take both the Navionics mapping card and the LakeMaster mapping card.
For those who don’t know what those are, Navionics is a popular company that produces mapping contour chips. You can upload your own maps to the units that support these contour chips.
LakeMaster is a separate company that produces similar topographic maps and contour maps for lakes. Now the difference is, in some areas of the country, Navionics is much better in terms of contour lines being relative to what you actually see on your lake river.
In some parts of the country, LakeMaster shines when it comes to the accuracy of contours and depths. So, depending on where you live and the local lakes that you fish, you want to do your research first.
Navionics & LakeMaster have their own list based on region. You can actually look those up. Just go to their official website. The best depth finder unit is the one that can accept or feature both of these.
Let’s say you have a smaller watercraft, kayak, canoe, or sometimes those inflatable pontoons; you can buy a portable fish finder. These models usually come with a battery as well as a recharging system.
These portable models are also great for ice fishing as well. Speaking of ice fishing, go with an ice fishing bundle to get the most value for your money.
Also, there are models with GPS mapping units. However, those are only a base mapping unit. You will only get the outline of the body of water, but unfortunately, they won’t provide a topographic map or contour map detailing the lake bottom.
You also can’t really get an upgrade for those models, so keep that in mind when you are really going down the budget route. If GPS mapping systems aren’t that important to you, you can definitely go with those smaller, portable units.
Garmin and Lowrance units are what a lot of people would argue are the most user-friendly units on the market. They are fairly basic. There are some units that are more advanced in terms of manual settings.
If you are brand new to fishing sonar and you don’t have any idea how to adjust the sonar, go with a model that features Autotuning sonar. The Lowrance Hook series of fish finders is a prime example of what I’m talking about.
Once you get into the kind of advance settings, and you know how to use these sonars and tweak them in terms of manual settings, then those beginner-friendly units might actually bother you a little bit.
The Humminbird units are fairly manual user friendly and give you a lot of options to tweak and customize the sonar.
A larger display is always better. If you are mounting your fishfinder on the bow of your boat, or it is at a distance from where you are sitting, maybe it is at your helm, then a 7-inch display might be a requirement for you.
If you don’t care about a large display, then any sonar unit with a solid performance will be a good option for you. You can downsize a bit and go with a 5-inch display to save a couple of bucks if you are on a tight budget.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What to expect from a fish finder under 500 dollars?
At this price point, you can enjoy some of the features that the top of the line models has. While you can’t expect to have them all, however, the basic must-have features are there. For example, CHIRP is pretty standard in these models.
You can also expect side imaging and down imaging functions to be present, as well as GPS mapping technology.
2. What are the most popular fishfinder brands out there at this price range?
Under 500 dollars, you can get your hands on some of the most popular and leading fish finder brands on the market. For example, Garmin, Humminbird, Lowrance, Deeper have units in this price range.
Over the years, fish finders have become very accurate, and you can now get different types of them depending on how you plan on fishing.
3. Are depth finders’ waterproof?
The main unit, which is the control box, and the display are not waterproof. However, the parts that go below the water certainly are. You should always keep your device away from water. Try using a case to protect it. The castable units on the hand are completely waterproof.
4. Can you see water temperature on a fish finder?
Yes. Some of the depth finders allow you to check the water temperature. Within the transducer, there is a temperature gauge. It comes standard, and the majority of the fish finders have this unit built in.
It’s important to know the water temp. Judging by the water temperature, you can easily determine the type of fish that are in that location.
The HELIX 7 from Humminbird is arguably the best bang for your buck under 500 dollars for a lot of reasons. It has 2D sonar, the down imaging, and side imaging, and its ability to take a Navionics map card and a LakeMaster’s mapping card.
Considering all that, there are hardly any units that can rival this model at this price range. Finding the best fish finder under 500 dollars isn’t that hard because this is the sweet spot of these sonar units. You can get small devices that are packed with features.