Best Fish Finders Under $500 in 2018 – Unbiased Reviews & Buying Guide

What Can You Get for Under $500 Dollars?

Are you looking for a great fish finder at a bargain price point?

As with every other electronic device, fast-advancing technical innovations in the marine electronics space have chipped away at prices. New developments in fish finder display and transducer technology have now brought major manufacturer’s prices down to the point where tools formerly only found on multi-thousand dollar rigs can be had by the weekend fisherman for just a few hundred dollars.

Now is a great time to outfit your boat or kayak with the ultimate in fish-hunting and navigation capabilities. Light-weight, improved durability, network connectivity, and user-friendly operating systems are all readily available in fish finders that cost less than $500. The only difficulty is choosing from among the many great models available.

Start Your Fish Finder Search Here

We wrote this review with the budget-conscious fisherman in mind. By searching the catalogues of the world’s top marine technology manufacturers, we narrowed down a selection of some of best fish finders on the market in the sub-$500 price range.

We found equipment with capabilities that were only dreamed of a few years ago. And we found fish finders that offer great value for the money. Take a look at our review and get ready to up your fishing game.

Best Fish Finders Under $500 – Comparisons

ImageProduct NameDimensionsDisplayPrice
Raymarine Dragonfly 7 ProRaymarine Dragonfly 7 Pro13.8 x 13.8 x 13.8

LCD display

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Lowrance ELITE-5 TILowrance ELITE-5 TI10.9 x 8.2 x 9.2

Led display

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Humminbird 410300-1 HELIX 7Humminbird 410300-1 HELIX 71.1 x 10.5 x 5.8

Lcd display

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Garmin 010-01809-00Garmin 010-01809-009.3 x 2.3 x 5.5

Led display

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Garmin 010-01798-01Garmin 010-01798-016.8 x 1.7 x 5.4

Led display

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Best Fish Finders Under $500 Reviews

1. Raymarine Dragonfly 7 Pro with US Navionics

The Raymarine Dragonfly 7 Pro puts very powerful sonar and navigation suites together in a package that fits neatly almost anywhere on your boat. The mounting footprint is even small enough for use on a kayak.

Meanwhile, the mount has the swivel and tilt functions we like while maintaining good quick-release capability and high security with the optional Thule locking cylinder. Compact and sleek, the unit is barely bigger than a smartphone, yet it packs in dual channel wide-spectrum CHIRP sonar capabilities that reach down to 600 feet, and a split screen that lets you watch the structure and target fish simultaneously.

The CPT-60 transducer is purpose-built to match the Dragonfly unit and has both wide- and conical-beam elements to support DownVision imaging and fish targeting. Hydrodynamic design ensures transducer performance and accurate bottom tracking at speed. An optional trolling motor mount expands the overall capabilities of the Dragonfly.

We found the 7” widescreen display to be bright and clear even in direct sunlight. This Raymarine was the only fish finder to use the optical bonding LCD display technology that is the same as what you would find on high-end all-weather displays costing thousands of dollars. The effect is a depth and clarity similar to the best smartphone displays.

Speaking of smartphones, the 7 Pro supports sonar streaming to your phone or tablet with the WiFish mobile app. You can also create custom depth charts and sonar logs. The built-in GPS comes with Navionics+ and can also download and run Jeppesen C-Map or Raymarine Lighthouse charts.

The Dragonfly 7 Pro was our favorite fish finder in this price range because of its very adaptable mounting system and many cool features. We like a unit that can mount anywhere then twist and turn in any direction. The screen detail and color were also great. This would be the ultimate kayak fish finder in our opinion.

What we liked

  • Small mounting footprint
  • Flexible swiveling mount
  • Simple and intuitive operations
  • Sleek form factor

What we didn’t like

  • Difficult to secure

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2. Lowrance Elite-5 Ti DownScan (000-12421-001)

Fisherman looking for a powerful unit that offers multiple control modes will like the Lowrance Elite-5 Ti. This compact fish finder puts the power of CHIRP sonar together with the life-like image generation afforded by a Hybrid Dual Imaging Transducer with Medium and High CHIRP and DownScan Imaging capabilities.

The multiple CHIRP frequencies and 455/800 kHz DownScan Imaging impressed us with detailed views of bottom structure and fish arches. Everything was crystal clear even in shallow, choppy waters. The view can be controlled from the touchscreen on the bright, LED-backlit high-resolution display or with a tablet or smartphone connected via the built-in wireless and Bluetooth connections.

You can also enable a track back feature to save and scroll back through the sonar history for a closer look at structure and to mark the spots where fish were biting.

The built-in GPS unit is one of the more powerful we found among these sub-$500 machines. It has the capacity to mark 3000 waypoints and save tracks with up to 10,000 points each. Micro-SD storage up to 32GB allows everything to be saved for future reference as well as analysis, archiving, and sharing. Accessory charts including Jeppessen C-Map Max-N Wide, Navionics Gold, and Lake Insight are supported. We thought the included onboard cartography was great.

The Lowrance Enhanced Elite basemap gives detailed depth and shoreline information for over 3,000 lakes – enough to get any fisherman started without having to buy anything. The Elite-5 Ti offers a lot of power in a small package and comes in just under our $500 price point.

What we liked

  • Multiple operation modes
  • Great maps included
  • Extremely high definition imaging

What we didn’t like

  • Post mount vibrates a lot
  • No back-up button operating system

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3. Humminbird HELIX 7 CHIRP DI GPS G2 Fish Finder (410300-1)

Humminbird has been building some of the most popular fish finders in America for the past 40 years. The Helix line features some great technology, and the HELIX 7 CHIRP GPS G2 is no exception. The first thing we noticed was that the 7-inch WVGA color display was easy to see even from a couple of yards away. Bright, clear, and wide, it gives you the capability to split the screen between the CHIRP Down Imaging Sonar, the 200/455 kHz 2D beam, or the chart plotter. Basic depth, temperature, and speed data is displayed to the left, with a large digit option that lets you take it all in at a glance.

The chart plotting function is strong on this unit. It comes with the Hummingbird Basemap, and Lake Master, Navionics +, Auto Chart, and Auto Chart Pro can all be supported by the single microSD card slot. The SD also lets you save routes and waypoints to share later from your home computer. The sonar offers an excellent range of functions, with the standard transducer generating 455 and 800 kHx CHIRP Frequencies that put up clear images from depths down to 600 feet.

Humminbird’sSwitchFire function lets you dial in an extremely detailed view or remove the clutter for a clear look at what’s below. This is a very useful tool when you need to adapt for depth, temperature, and turbulence.

We like the simple controls and easy-to-master operating systems of the HELIX 7. As with many of these fish finders, it would be nice if the buttons were bigger, but the center navigation toggle is perfect. The unit has a slim profile that keeps it out of the way, and it is very portable when the gimbal mount is used. If you are looking for a 7” screen fish finder, this Humminbird is one of the best of the bunch.

What we liked

  • Durable and sturdy construction
  • Simple menu
  • Clear imaging
  • Good chart options included

What we didn’t like

  • Mount tilts but does not swivel
  • Small function buttons
  • SD card and PC kit not included

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Also Read: Garmin Echo 551DV Fish Finder Review – Impressive Features

4. Garmin Striker 7SV (010-01809-00)

The Garmin Striker 7SV gives you the quality and reliability associated with the Garmin name while coming in at a very nice price point. The Striker 7SV features a full-color 7-inch WVGA display with split-screen function. With input from the bundled CHIRP ClearVü and SideVü transducer, the 7SV provides amazing near-photographic images of the fish and bottom structures under and around your boat. The CHIRP sonar sweeps a broad frequency range to generate clear, crisp fish arches and separate targets that are only inches apart. The Striker 7SV also has a built-in flasher view that lets you use a classic sonar format for vertical still fishing or ice fishing applications. This bottom lock flasher setting will show the sonar return from the bottom to the surface in up to 2300 feet of freshwater. Turn on the A-scope function to see a real-time view of any fish that passes through the transducer beam. An internal high-sensitivity GPS unit handles tracking and waypoint marking to let you track locations and mark fishing holes, boat ramps, and docks for later return.

The Striker 7SV works well as boat-mounted fish finder in either gimbal mount or flush mount configurations. It is also highly portable, with a compact profile and a weight of just over 1 pound. Quick release it from the gimbal mount for secure storage or add the accessory ice fishing kit and a battery to use the Striker as an ice fishing flasher. The case of this unit is rugged and waterproofed to IPX7 standards.

For a 7-inch display fish finder with side-view sonar capabilities, the Striker 7SV is the best we found in the sub-$500 price range. The only downsides we found with the unit were the lack of a microSD card slot for accessory charting capabilities, and a tendency for the gimbal mount to vibrate when the boat was running at speed over rough water. If you are looking for a range of sonar capabilities in a portable unit the Striker 7SV will work well.

What we liked

  • Compact, portable, and durable
  • Generously-sized button set up
  • Full-featured sonar at a good price point

What we didn’t like

  • Gimbal mount bracket is not sturdy enough
  • No microSD card slot

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5. Garmin echoMap CHIRP 53cv (010-01798-01)

The echoMap series of fish finder from Garmin capitalizes on the company’s deep GPS experience to combine solid navigation capabilities with dual frequency CHIRP sonar. This unit includes a Low/Mid/High transducer that supports both traditional sonar and Garmin CHIRP ClearVü high frequency sonar that generates incredibly detailed images of the structure and fish around your boat. On the 53cv, the images are sent to a 5” screen that allows the unit to maintain a small form factor while still offering a bright, clear view of the sonar output. The screen has a split screen function, with the data readout displayed across the top. True, it can be a bit hard to see at times, but this is a very nice small boat or kayak fish finder with plenty of sonar power down to 2300 feet in freshwater and great chart plotting capabilities.

As expected from Garmin, the navigation and charting functions are the strong point of the echoMap 53cv. The unit features a best-in-class 5 Hz internal GPS that updates 5 times per second. GarminLakeVü HD maps are preloaded and cover 17,000 lakes. HD coverage is provided on 13,000 of these, meaning they are mapped with 1-foot contours from shore to shore. As if this were not impressive enough, you get designated fishing areas, boat ramps, and docks as well as marinas, campgrounds, and even roads and highways. A microSD slot lets you upgrade to run accessory maps like BluChart HD. The thing we had the most fun with was the QuickDraw Contours function that allows users to build 1-foot interval contour maps while fishing. These maps can then be saved and shared online with the QuickDraw community. There is a lot of potential here for the kayak fisherman who would like to map out local ponds or favorite river holes, and we put this Garmin on our list with kayaks in mind.

What we liked

  • Super compact
  • Powerful sonar
  • Amazing map collection included
  • Easy to operate

What we didn’t like

  • Mount will need tweaking for best kayak use
  • No cover included

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Five Under $500

There really is some awesome fish finding gear available today for less than 500 bucks. We liked the portability of many of the units we looked at here. A couple of them, the Raymarine and Helix 7, had displays that were incredible in terms of resolution, color, and brightness.

All of them had excellent sonar tools – functions that only pros spending 4-5 thousand dollars had access to just a few years ago. It is hard to go wrong with such a good selection. Simply match one of these units to your boat and the way you like to fish. Then you will have the best fish finder under $500.

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David Valle
 

I started this blog to provide advanced material, guiding you towards a better and more comfortable fishing experience. I deliver more than fishing gear guides, and motivate people to hit the water!

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