If you are looking for the best fish finders under $500, then this post is a must-read. We have compiled a list of 5 units that we feel are great values and will provide excellent performance to anglers at any skill level.
Fish Finder’s in this price range will have a 5-7″ display and provide all the basic functions you will need. Even on a budget, you can expect to have benefits such as CHIRP sonar, side imaging, down imaging, and in some cases preloaded maps and built-in Wi-Fi.
After using Fish Finder’s from all of the top brands, we feel that the Garmin Striker Vivid 7sv gives you the most bang for your buck and will work just as well on freshwater lakes or saltwater bays.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a unit that fits your needs. We have created an in-depth analysis for each Fish Finder on our list as well as a buying guide to help you understand exactly what you should be looking for when purchasing your next Fish Finder.
We believe the choice is easy when it comes to picking the Garmin Striker Vivid 7sv. We love this unit because it includes a GT52 transducer with CHIRP sonar, as well as ClearVü and SideVü. The screen size is 7″ and has a resolution of 480 × 800 pixels with 170° viewing angle and can be tilted to view in the right direction for your needs. It also includes preloaded maps up to 4000 square miles or 16 nautical miles out from the coastline. One downside is that there is no microSD memory slot for upgraded mapping capabilities.
- User friendly 7” screen
- Includes a GT52 transducer
- Internal GPS makes it easy to mark waypoints and fishing hotspots
- Includes Quickdraw Contours mapping
- Built in Wi-Fi allows you to connect to the ActiveCaptain app to easily transfer waypoints
Why You Should Buy This Fish Finder
The vivid 7″ screen combined with the well-known CHIRPsonar, ClearVü, and SideVü sonar make this one of the top fish finders under 500 dollars. Throw in the fact that a transducer is included along with built-in GPS, there are not any better fish finders under 500. If the touchscreen is a must-have, then for a couple of hundred dollars more, you can have all the great features mentioned above along with a touchscreen and 2″ more inches of display with the Garmin EchoMap UHD 93sv.
This fish finder offers excellent resolution, sensitivity, and clarity, which makes it easy to see what’s going on underwater without needing glasses. The dual-beam transducer allows anglers to quickly check depths up close while enjoying wider coverage with less clutter in the background.
If you’re looking for a versatile MFD for ice fishing as well as open water, check the Humminbird ICE Helix 7 G3N All Season.
- CHIRP Sonar technology
- Dual Beam Sonar Images
- Easy to identify fish arches, structure, and contours
- Humminbird Basemap
- Live mapping with Auto Chart Live from Humminbird
- LakeMaster Compatible
- GPS Capabilities
Why You Should Buy this Fish Finder
By looking at the benefits above, it’s easy to tell why this Humminbird fish finder GPS combo is a steal for under 500 dollars. This is the only unit on our list to offer both side imaging and a GPS chart plotter, which is a big reason why we believe this is the best value in this price range. Altogether, this one checks all the boxes while staying priced under $500.
The main difference between the 7sv and 7cv is the fact the 7cv does not offer side imaging, while the 7sv does. What we like most about this affordable Fish Finder GPS combo is the fact that you make your own and save waypoints using the Quickdraw contours. While this unit doesn’t feature a touchscreen like the ECHOMAP series from Garmin, we still think this is an incredible value.
The 7” easy-to-use MFD features impressive high contrast color palates to make it easier for anglers to interpret what is happening underwater. This fish finder comes with the GT20 transducer which delivers the best in class Garmin CHIRP traditional sonar and Clear Vü scanning sonars.
This MFD provides an easy way to create and save maps with contours that can be displayed on your computer or smartphone.
The best way to see what’s underwater is with this all-inclusive 4 pin transducer. It has a broad range and can pick up everything from objects, structures, or fish that passes below your boat!
The ActiveCaptain app is the ultimate co-pilot for your boat. Connectivity with Wi-Fi allows you to transfer waypoints, receive smart notifications, and access Garmin Quickdraw Community features like never before!
- Easy-to-use 7” screen
- Bail mount bracket included
- Includes a GT20 transducer
- Garmin CHIRP Sonar and ClearVu
- GPS capabilities to mark waypoints, create routes and monitor speed
- Includes Quickdraw mapping
- Wi-Fi built in
- ActiveCaptain app to transfer waypoints, receive notifications on your phone, and much more
Why You Should Buy this Fish Finder
The reason Garmin consistently shows up in our Best Fish Finder Guides is because of how user-friendly they all are. They are very practical and have a small learning curve. Fishing enthusiasts stick with Garmin time after time because they have great customer support and most of their fish finders feature ClearVU down imaging and SideVu side imaging. Their CHIRP Sonar is also at the top of its class when compared to other fish finders.
My favorite feature that this fish finder has to offer is FishReveal which essentially combines the down imaging with traditional sonar technology, allowing you to locate fish arches while still showing the bottom structure with the down scan.
The Hook Reveal provides a menu system that is simple and intuitive to use. With the dedicated keypad, you can navigate quickly through your options without having any trouble remembering where they are!
Apart from the amazing fish reveal feature, the Lowrance Hook also offers a 50/200kHz HDI Transom Mount Transducer and C-MAP Contour+ Card that will provide you with an incredibly detailed map of your location.
This MFD is also available as an “All Season Pack” if you are looking for an ideal fish finder for ice fishing.
- Autotuning Sonar
- SolarMAX Display
- Easy to use Keypad
Why You Should Buy This Fish Finder
The Lowrance HOOK Reveal Combo has all the traditional features you expect from a fish finder but takes it to the next level with FishReveal and built-in live mapping. FishReveal combines the proven performance of Lowrance CHIRP digital sonar and the high-resolution images of fish arches. With this feature, it has never been easier to mark fish whether you are miles offshore, in the river, ice fishing, or on the lake.
For those who spend more time fishing and less fumbling with settings, HOOK Reveal’s Autotuning Sonar is the perfect solution. The tool automatically changes your sonar’s frequency to keep up as conditions change in order make sure you get an accurate reading on whatever habitat or prey might just be lurking beneath it all!
We chose to put this fish finder GPS combo on the list for a couple of reasons, including the fact that it has a built-in GPS, MicroSD card slot, and split-screen capability. Best of all, a three-year warranty is unheard of for a fish finder.
Engineered for simplicity and affordability, Element S will quickly become your trusted cruising companion. Engineered with a quad-core processor that offers responsive performance in mind as well as beautiful color displays that deliver chart data right when you need it thanks to their all-weather presence of sunlight visibility!
The lighthouse sport operating system lets you navigate confidently whether at sea or not because they streamlined features such as integration between autopilot systems which remove distractions while sailing through open water
- Compatible with Raymarine LightHouse charts, Navionics, and C-MAP
- Compatible with Quantum wireless radar and AIS receiver
- High CHIRP imaging sonar for depth and bottom contour imaging
- Raymarine RealBathy
- Connect with NMEA2000, compatible AIS, autopilot, and VHF
- GPS Capabilities
Why Should You Buy This Fish Finder?
Raymarine’s Element is only on our list because of its wide array of capabilities and because of its easy-to-use features. The Raymarine Element has an intuitive menu layout, and it operates with one-touch access keys that make all the functions fast and simple. It is compatible with Raymarine’s Lighthouse charts as well as RealBathy personal sonar technology, which gives you crystal clear underwater views by automatically adjusting settings as fishing conditions change.
The biggest disappointment with this unit is that the charts and transducer are not included, and you will want to upgrade to the Lighthouse charts to get the most out of this fish finder under 500. If you’re looking for a reliable unit in this price range, then definitely consider checking out the Ray Marine Element!
Buyers Guide For Choosing the Best Fish Finders Under 500 Dollars
The size of the screen is one of the biggest factors in price difference amongst MFD’s. The large display options are going to be out of this price range. However, you can still find a fish finder under 500 with all the sonar capabilities that you will need and enough screen size to utilize all the features.
With this price range, many fish finders are going to fit on your helm, so lack of space shouldn’t be an issue. We always recommend the bigger screen size, especially so you can utilize a split-screen option and not find yourself constantly squinting and leaning in towards your helm.
All the fish finders on this list are waterproof to a certain degree. However, in some cases, you might that certain brands stand behind the durability of their product more than others. If you expect to get wet, then the manufacturer’s warranty should play a part in your purchasing decision.
There are a few different sonar options and it’s important to choose the one that will be best for your specific needs. Seasoned anglers are beginning to prefer to use their sonars in dual screen mode or multiple screens to take advantage of the modern dual frequency/dual cone transducers. As a result, they are seeing the benefits of both cones/frequencies at the same time.
The most common recreational frequencies used are 50 and 200 kHz.
The sound wave of a 50 kHz pulse is just over 1.15″ in length and provides more than enough energy to penetrate the water at considerable depths. A downside to 50 kHz is that the pulse is less sensitive to smaller fish.
The sound wave of a 200 kHz pulse is roughly 1/4″ in length therefore emits less energy and limits depth capability but is very sensitive to smaller targets and is most useful for finding bait fish
Be sure to pick a Fish Finder display that is capable of integrating with the transducer that you will be using.
CHIRP (Compressed High-Intensity Radiated Pulse) sonar continuously sweeps through a range of frequencies, compared to a traditional signal frequency sonar that only releases a single pulse.
Transducers with CHIRP sonar transmit a longer pulse than traditional sonar, putting more energy into the water column, and essentially capturing and producing a more detailed image of fish, structure, and the bottom.
All the fish finders on this list have 2D CHIRP sonar.
One major consideration when buying your next MFD is whether it should have built-in GPS.
This will allow you to mark your favorite spots and allow you to navigate back to them easily.
Another benefit from having a GPS fish finder combo is that some devices are compatible with autopilot and AIS-which allows users to see other boats within radio contact without manually scanning for each.
Down imaging uses sound waves to create a profile or cross-sectional image beneath your boat, so you can see what’s happening on the bottom before casting out into unknown territory.
Down imaging is more advantageous for deeper water. It allows you to see fish on a vertical plane, so it’s better suited when fishing at greater depths.
The benefits of down imaging are:
- Seeing baitfish with clarity
- Finding structure
- Higher resolution images when traveling at higher speeds
- Typically a more affordable featured compared to side imaging
Disadvantages of Down Imaging:
- Obvious but applicable-you only see beneath you and not beside
- The fact that they are a more affordable feature means that they are easier to manufacturer, which may result in a poor product
- Forced to move at higher speeds in order to see more area
Side imaging on a fish finder is the ability to see fish and other objects on a horizontal plane. This is more advantageous when fishing at shallower depths.
If you are using a trolling motor in shallower water, this is the feature you want to have on your fish finder.
Advantages of Side imaging are:
- You scan more area at once with two separate views
- If you buy a fish finder with side imaging you will almost always have down imaging as well
- Resolution tends to be clearer when compared to down imaging
Disadvantages of Side Imaging are:
- Forced to move at slower speeds to achieve clear scans
- Does not provide images beneath the boat
Best Fish Finder Under $500?
If you’re simply not a Garmin fan, then opt for the Humminbird Helix 5 CHIRP.
If you are more of a cruiser and just do the occasional fishing, then the Raymarine Element 7 S is best suited for you.
If you find yourself in deeper water then Down Imaging Sonar will be a must-have and the best fish finder for you is the Lowrance Hook Reveal 5.
If you have more than $500 to spend on your next Fish Finder then be sure to check out our guide on The 7 Best Fish Finder GPS Combo’s Under $1000.
For even more review pages on the best fish finder available, check out the pages below:
- Best Fish Finder GPS Combo
- Best Fish Finder for Small Boats
- Best Fish Finder Brands
- Best Fish Finders for Kayaks
- Best Fish Finder for Shallow Water
- Best Offshore Fish Finder GPS Combo
I hope this guide has been helpful and if you end up purchasing one of these or another Fish Finder, leave a comment below and let us know what you went with and why.