That's a goooood question! There are lots of people who have been in the hobby for many years who still try different machines on a steady basis. (I'm one of them 🙂 ) There are others who have found a detector they are comfortable with, and have stuck with it, having no desire to change. That's fine too!
If you're a person considering getting into this great hobby, I suggest finding someone who already has a metal detector and asking them if you can try it. If they will let you, spend some time throwing coins on the ground, listening to the sounds the detector makes. If the person is REALLY generous maybe they'll let you borrow it for a few days to make sure this hobby is really one you would like.
Now, you've taken the above suggestion and tried out metal detecting, and you think "This is a hobby for me!"... What next?
Well, it's time for you to buy your own. There are lots of good metal detectors out there. The huge variety is due to different preferences and needs. Generally, there are three "financial" categories of metal detectors.
- First is the "bargain" or entry level machines. They are the least expensive, and generally offer the least number of options, or somewhat subdued performance. These usually run in the $100 to $300 range.
- Second is the "mid-level" detector. These are a middle of the road machine, usually offering higher performance or more features than the entry level, but not quite as much as the next category, the high end detector. Here you're looking at the $350 to $600 dollar range (give or take). For the most part, these detectors have very respectable performance and offer enough to satisfy even the avid hunters.
- Last, is the "high end" detector. These are the pinnacle of current hobby detectors. They usually offer the best a company has in performance and user options. Now, I know you're thinking "THAT'S WHAT I WANT!", please consider that a lot of new users have bought this type right from the beginning and felt frustration when trying to learn so much at one time. Other new users have bought these and been just fine... Here you're looking at the $700 to $1200 dollar range. That's a lot of cash!
Ultimately the choice is yours, but my suggestion is either the mid level detector or certain entry level machines for first time hunters. Why? Well, the first thing that causes new detectorists to "fall out" of the hobby is frustration. Frustration of not understanding what the detector is "telling" you, frustration of not finding good stuff every time you dig, frustration from the weight or ergonomics of your detector.
A good entry level machine will let you do what you want....find cool stuff! The definition of "good machine" in this context is one that comes from a reputable company. (Fisher, Bounty Hunter, Garrett, White's, Minelab, Tesoro, etc.) I, of course, have my "favorite" companies for my own detectors, but I'm not going to suggest them, because I feel that would be unfair to you as a new person to the hobby.
There are many good metal detecting sites where people in this hobby talk about their detectors...here are a few.. this one of course 🙂 www.detectorstuff.com , www.findmall.com, www.thetreasuredepot.com, www.detectorx.com . Most people on these sites are polite and friendly and will be more than willing to offer suggestions and advice to new users. However, be aware, just like some folks like Chevy more than Ford (or vice-versa) there are some who will swear by a certain brand of detector. Take it all with a grain of salt, accumulate all the info. you can, and visit a local detector dealer to check out what they have. DO NOT succumb to strong sales tactics (ie: "Oh, you don't want that cheap detector! Buy this one *they point at the most expensive one in the store* You'll like it MUCH better!" 🙂 ) You will also find detector website "sponsors" to be a good moral choice. By "moral" I mean they are the one's who pay the websites for advertising. As such, the sites are available for reading and information due to their contributions. Without them, little to no info.
Buying used is another option. The sites I listed above will usually have a buy/trade/sell forum where hobbyists swap around detectors. Caution, of course, is advised, and be aware most companies do not allow transferable warranties.
Once you've found a good general purpose metal detector, and not paid a fortune for it 🙂 after a while, you may think "Hmmmm, I really like this hobby! I think I'm gonna stick with it!" At this point you're ready to "consider" buying that "high end" machine you've been lusting over 🙂 You should know enough about the hobby by this point to understand what it is you want out of a detector. Who knows? You may find enough with that entry/mid level detector to PAY FOR that top end machine!
Welcome to one of the greatest hobbies in the world!