Best Depth Finder Reviews 2018 – Top Rated For The Money
Engaging in an online search for the best depth finder may lead you to various articles and websites on fish finders instead. That’s not entirely surprising, since often they both use sonar that finds both the bottom surface of the water and the fish as well.
But those who want depth finders in particular are most concerned about the depth of the water, and not the fish. They may not be fishermen at all. Instead, they may simply be concerned about grounding their boat on shallow water.
Divers may also want a depth finder to help them discover the best diving spots in the water. So it’s true that fish finders can help. However, they may include fish finding features that can cost more but are of no use to those who aren’t interested in fishing.
Also, some fish finders may only reach certain depths because they’re concerned mainly with where the fish are. They may not be able to determine the depth of certain areas because they’re too deep.
Table of Contents
Best Depth Finder in 2018 - Comparisons
2.5 to 200 feet
2.5 to 200 feet
6 Best Depth Finder Reviews - Our Top Pick!
Here are some of the best depth finders you can use for your boat so you can make sure that your boat doesn’t end up on too-shallow waters.
1. Humminbird 407860-1 HDR650 Gauge
It’s no surprise that Humminbird is on this list, since they’re also well-known for their excellent fish finders.
But this isn’t a fish finder that doubles as a depth finder. It’s an honest-to-goodness digital depth finder.
This measures 2.4 inches and is 4.75 inches deep. It’s designed to fit the 2⅛-inch gauge opening you find in many boats. It looks like a large clock complete with a bezel, which you can find in a color that matches your other gauges installed on your boat.
This comes with the mounting hardware you need to install it. It comes with a 200 KHz transducer that sends the sonar to measure the depth, and it can measure up to 600 feet down.
The cord for the transducer is about 20 feet. If that’s not long enough, you can buy an extension cable. The display is completely waterproof. It has a LCD screen like a digital watch, and the 3-digit readings come in feet, meters, or fathoms. The 1.25-inch LCD screen is backlit.
Below the screen on the face of the gauge, there’s a menu button with “up” and “down” navigation. These let you choose the measurement units and you can also set it up the alarm for a certain depth. So you can set the alarm a foot below the bottom of your boat.
- You have all the hardware to install the gauge and the transducer. It’s already designed to fit the current the 2⅛-inch gauge opening you already have. The instructions that come with your purchase are well-written and very clear, but you can always go online to find installation demo videos.
- The display is simple, clean, and easy to read especially when you’re right in front of it. It is backlit too, so you can read it easily at night.
- The depth readings are accurate, and they work well even at 26 knots (or 30 mph). The readings even have a decimal on the display.
- The shallow depth alarm works very well, so you don’t have to keep a constant eye on the LCD display. You can easily set the alarm and you’ll hear it when the reading matches the depth you’ve specified.
- It’s fairly durable, and it’s waterproof too. You can still expect this to work even after a couple of years.
- It doesn’t have any other feature that you don’t need anyway, so that keeps the cost down.
- The installation should be fairly easy.
- Like some wristwatches, the LCD display may be hard to read if you’re at an angle.
- For some people, the cord of the transducer may not be long enough to reach the gauge.
2. HawkEye DepthTrax 1B
For some people, depths of greater than 200 feet don’t really concern them because they’re not going to run aground at such depths anyway.
Their main concern is that they have a very fast watercraft, and many depth finders find it difficult to provide accurate readings at speeds greater than 30 mph.
That’s the problem that the HawkEye DepthTrax 1B solves. Its readings are precise from 2.5 to 200 feet. It also stays accurate even when you’re traveling at (or even greater than) 60 mph. So if you need a depth finder for your speedboat, this DepthTrax is it.
This comes with a gauge and marine connectors that make it easy to install on your existing 2⅛-inch gauge opening. If you don’t have that gauge opening, you can get the ACC-DF-1000 Surface mount bracket to install it.
You also have a transducer that you can mount or glue in to the transom. This gauge looks like a wristwatch, and you have interchangeable faces and bezels to choose from. The LCD display is easy to read. It’s quite large (comparatively speaking), as it measures 1.65 inches long and 0.85 inches high.
It’s illuminated with “SoftGlow” backlighting so you can read it even at night. It’s also waterproof. The readings are either in feet or meters, and you can pick the measurement unit on the buttons underneath the display.
You also use these buttons to set your 2 alarms for shallow and deep water. The alarm is in 3 stages, so you have different sets of warnings. There’s also a function for keel offsetting so the readings can be adjusted for the vessel draft.
- This lets you get very accurate depth readings even if you’re going fast across the water. The readings are updated 4 times per second.
- It’s actually fairly easy to put in.
- The display is large and very easy to read.
- It offers 2 alarms and 3 stages for each. So you will know just how close you are to reaching the depth settings you’ve set.
- The keel offset function helps you deal with the vessel draft (without having to do the math yourself).
- It’s durable and waterproof.
- The customer support is superb.
- Sometimes you may get false readings when you know you’re in deep waters and there’s an object under the water surface.
- At other times you may not get any readings at all. This happens when you’re going too fast and you have additional complications like a very soft bottom, deep waters, and very dirty water.
3. HawkEye D10DX.01T Depth Sounder
Sometimes you may want more information than what the basic Hawkeye depth finder provides. If that’s the case, then you may want to check out this version.
This offers depth measurements, as well as water and air temperature readings. This also lets you choose between a transom-mounted transducer and a thru-hull transducer.
Let’s start with the depth readings. The display is very large, as it measures 1.65 by 0.85 inches. That size makes it easy to read, even at night since it is also backlit by the glare-free SoftGlow Backlighting.
The readings are in either feet or meters, and they’re updated constantly. They work well for up to 30 mph, and it even has special programming that reduces the number of false readings. The depth finder comes with dual depth alarms, so you can be warned of shallow or deep waters.
It comes with 3-stage beeps and visual alarms, so you can be informed when you’re getting too close to the depths you’re most concerned about. There’s also a keel offset function that offer depth readings needed for vessel drafts.
Now we come to the air and water temperature readings. Water temperature can help a lot with fishing enthusiasts, but both air and water temperature can also have safety considerations.
Many serious injuries occur with very cold water, and the temperature is good to know if you and your friends are going water skiing. Here the readings are in either Celsius or Fahrenheit. You just need to press the button on the gauge to get the temperature reading in the unit you want.
It’s easy enough to install this special depth finder, since you also get marine-grade “plug and play” electrical connectors. You also get different colors for your gauge face plates and trims, so you can match the look of your helm station.
- It’s fairly easy to install with its clear-cut instruction manual. Plus you can also just go online to find installation videos.
- It offers fairly accurate depth readings even when you’re going fast in the water.
- It has alarms for shallow and depth settings you prefer. The alarms come in 3 stages, and they’re both audio and visual alarms.
- The additional air and water temperature readings can be useful, and you get them instantly.
- The gauge looks great.
- The display is easy to read even at night.
- It’s waterproof and durable.
- You have your choice of transducers.
- This may not be all that accurate when you get near speeds of 60 mph.
- You also may have problems with muddy bottoms and very dirty water.
4. Garmin Echo 501c Transducer
This is a starter-level fish finder, and as a fish finder it’s very basic and not really what you would call “excellent”.
But it works great as a depth finder, and many people actually use this just for this very purpose.
This can work with a transducer, but it can also work without it. That’s because it already has built-in HD-ID sonar.
It produces peak power of up to 4,000 watts so it can reach the bottom of deep waters. The maximum depth it can measure is 2,300 feet.
The info comes in a very large 5-inch QVGA color display. It displays the contours of the bottom, and also shows whatever structures there are under the water. It can even display fish icons if you’re interested in finding fish, but if it’s just the depth you want then you can leave that out so it won’t clutter the screen.
You can add a depth flat line to the screens so you can measure it against the contours of the water bottom. There are also warnings that can activate at 3 feet or under. There is a reading for water temperature too. Also, you can rewind the sonar history to see the underwater details of where you’ve been.
This comes with a mount, and you can just take the monitor out and place it in the glove compartment if you’re not using it. But it’s also waterproof against rain or showers. It’s powered by a 12V battery, but that should last for 12 hours of straight use with no problem.
- It may not be a good fish finder, but it’s excellent for finding the depth. It’s also accurate even when you’re going 20 mph.
- There are warnings when the depth of the water becomes too shallow.
- The installation is clear enough for DIY enthusiasts.
- It provides a clearer picture of the underwater bottom, plus you can even find structure and fish.
- It offers temperature readings too.
- It can be taken out of the mount and secured in a glove compartment, or you can take it with you.
- If you’re just interested in finding the depth, this may be giving out too much information.
- The alarms can’t be set for the depths you want.
- Since it was designed for fishing enthusiasts, it may not work when you go past 30 mph.
5. Humminbird 409670-1 PiranhaMax 197C
This is another fish finder that works very well as a depth finder. While it does offer multiple features for finding fish, as a depth finder it is really excellent.
It’s also true that for many people that’s its main purpose.
Unlike basic depth finders, you get your info on a large color display screen that measures 3.5 inches.
It’s very easy to read, and not just at night. It’s not a problem even if you’re under the sun. It shows you a reading of the depth, the temperature of the water, and an image of the contours and various objects under the water.
It checks the depth constantly with its 1600 watts of power, and it comes with dual frequencies and Down Imaging so you really get a good idea of what’s under your boat. As a depth finder, it also offers depth alarms so you can be warned when you’re going too shallow. But as a fish finder, it also offers alarms when it finds the fish you’re looking for.
Even if you’re not an avid fisherman, this also works for you if you’re into diving. After all, it’s great to see fish under the water. You can always get down and find the fish, or explore the structures that this Humminbird finds for you.
- The instructions are very straightforward so the installation isn’t much of a problem.
- The display is very clear whether it’s nighttime or in bright sunlight.
- The display is adjustable so you don’t have to clutter it with too much info.
- There are alarms for set depths so you can be warned.
- It can find fish and structures that you may find interesting if you’re a diver.
- It does come with too many features so it may be overwhelming if you just want the depth.
- With too many features, it has the price to match. It’s more expensive than your basic depth finder.
- It may not work very well if you’re going too fast.
6. Lowrance 000-12635-001 Hook-3X Sonar
Here’s another example of how affordable starter fish finders work well as just depth finders.
This Lowrance 000-12635-001 has 2 frequencies that cover areas of the water in cones, so to that you can then see the depth of large areas on the water bottom surface.
Like other fish finders, this comes with a large color display. It measures 3-inches, and it can be easily read in full sunlight and from different angles. Since this is a fish finder, it shows you large amounts of info.
It shows you the contour of the bottom, how hard that bottom is, thermoclines, and of course it shows you where the fish are. While people may debate on how good it really is in finding the fish, it’s really good at finding and showing the depth of the water.
If you’re also interested in knowing the water temperature, this is superb as well. The “Skimmer” transducer has a water temperature sensor that gives you accurate readings even when you’re traveling at 75 mph.
- Despite the many doubts about how effective this really is in finding fish, there is no doubt that it really is good at finding the depth even when you’re traveling fast on the water.
- The display is nice, and you can see the contour of the water bottom. It’s also easy to read regardless of the brightness of the sun.
- Whether it finds structures or fish, this is great if you’re diving for good stuff to see under the water.
- If you’re using this as a depth finder, it’s actually very easy to use.
- You can use this on your kayak.
- If you’re a beginner in installing fish finders, you need to go online and find videos that can help.
- TMI for some people who just want depth readings.
Yes, it’s true that many fish finders can tell you the depth of the water. But often this is only true for shallow waters. If you’re not a fisherman, you can just find the best depth finder and save yourself the extra expense of fish finder features you won’t use anyway. And even if you are a fisherman, you can always use both a depth finder and a fish finder at the same time.
So if you want to make sure that you don’t run aground, get one of these depth finders. It’s one of the most crucial accessories for every sailor.