The Best Fish Finders Under $500 Don’t Scrimp at All on Features

best fish finder under 500

There’s no question that a fish finder can be a useful tool. Exactly how useful, though, depends on the model selected. I’ve had a couple of different models under my belt. I started with one of the cheapest ones I could get and—surprise, surprise—it didn’t work well at all.

So, for my next purchase, I went the other way and got a top-of-the-line model. The difference was like night and day.  I got a range of impressive features and awesome image quality.

What’s my gripe here? I use maybe three or four of the features on my expensive model regularly. Most of the others I used once and never again. I could have gotten all the features I’d use for $500 or less. For those on a much tighter budget, you are going to love this post.

I don’t want my readers to make the same mistake I did, so I’ve looked for the best fish finder under 500. I found a few great models, and that’s what this review is all about. Ready to see how you could save yourself over a thousand dollars?

Our Top Pick

Choosing our top pick for the best fish finder under $500 was tough because there were a lot of different options. In the end, the title of best fishfinder GPS combo under $500 goes to the Lowrance Elite-5 Ti DownScan.

It produces clear images and comes with GPS with some great maps included in the deal. The clincher, though, is the Advanced Signal Processing system that adjusts for you so that you always get the best image.

Product Reviews  

Humminbird PiranhaMax 197C Color Fish Finder

This sturdy little model will still put you in good standing if you have a smaller budget. It’s a fish finder pure and simple and performs admirably for this function.

Key Features

  • Pixel Matrix of 240H by 320V
  • 3.5-inch color display
  • Dual-frequency sonar
  • Fish ID+
  • Depth alarm
  • Fish alarm
  • Zoom
  • 1600W power
  • Comes with transducer

The PiranhaMax comes in at the lower end of our budget range, so it leaves you a lot more money to buy new rods and reels. It gives a decent image, is accurate, and couldn’t be easier to use. However, it doesn’t feature CHIRP sonar, so image definition is not as good as with other models. There is also no GPS, and the display is pretty small.

Pros

  • The screen is bright, and the image is clear
  • Waterproof
  • The alarms are useful
  • Can reach decent depths
  • Fish ID+
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Waterproof
  • Can be wired to the boat battery

Cons

  • No CHIRP
  • No GPS
  • You can’t upgrade it
  • The display is small
  • The Fish ID+ sometimes confuses other items as fish

Overall, this is a really basic model, and that’s reflected in the price. It’s ideal for the fishers who like to fish in shallower waters or those out kayaking.

Overall Rating

3 out of 5

Proof that simple will win out over flashy every time.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

Raymarine Dragonfly 7 Pro – Top Value Pick Overall

Raymarine has a reputation for creating innovative products. The Dragonfly 7 Pro won’t disappoint. It offers great quality images and reliable performance.

Key Features

  • CHIRP DownVision
  • Depth of up to 600 ft
  • GPS With Navionics
  • Waterproof
  • Wi-Fi built-in
  • All-weather display that won’t fog up
  • Bright, full-color 7-inch display

The Dragonfly 7 produces a crystal-clear image and has a fantastic range. The Wi-Fi makes streaming the data to my smartphone simple. The display itself is a good size and easy to read in any weather – even bright sunshine.  

What I don’t like about this model, though, is that you don’t get a manual in the box, you have to look it up online.  I’m not one for reading instruction manuals, but with a fish finder, you need to at least give it one read through to understand all the features.

It’s a minor annoyance rather than a deal-breaker, but I did think that they could put at least a Quick-Start guide in there.

Pros

  • Good, solid mount that swivels
  • Simple enough to use, once you know how
  • The screen is a good size
  • Image is clear and very defined
  • Depth of up to 600 ft
  • Accurate results
  • Has GPS

Cons

  • Would have liked some form of printed instructions, even if they were abridged

The price here is also pretty good, considering all the features you get. That earns this product my vote as top value pick overall.

Overall Rating

4 ½ out of 5

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

Lowrance Elite-5 Ti DownScan — Best Overall Pick

The Elite-5 gets my vote as best overall pick because of its clear imaging and advanced signal processing. The maps included are also excellent.

Key Features

  • Chart plotting and fish finding capabilities
  • GPS
  • Downscan imaging and CHIRP sonar
  • Trackbet – Allows you to stream historical data for analysis at a later stage
  • Advanced Signal Processing
  • 5-inch full-color display with split-screen capabilities

The image with this fish finder comes back completely clear. You’ll be able to see what’s going on under your boat with life-like accuracy. The screen is big enough to see the pic clearly and bright enough on a sunny day.

The kicker, though, is the Advanced Signal Processing – you won’t have to worry about making manual adjustments again. There isn’t much not to like about this unit, though some users report some vibration in the mounting post.

Pros

  • The screen is a good size
  • Maps are awesome
  • The picture is clear and in high definition
  • Performance is accurate and reliable
  • Has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities
  • Versatile because of the dual-beam sonar
  • Manual adjustments aren’t necessary
  • TrackBet allows you to check through historical data

Cons

  • There is some vibration in the post

The price here is bound to surprise you considering all the features that you’re getting. Lowrance’s Elite-5 comes up as our top overall pick because of the range of useful features and the amazing image quality.

Overall Rating

4 ½ out of 5

Why spend a fortune when you can get the best for less?

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

Raymarine Dragonfly 7 Pro Sonar/GPS

If the 7-inch Dragonfly is more screen than you need, this smaller version might be just the ticket for you.

Key Features

  • 5-inch full-color, all-weather screen
  • Dual-beam sonar
  • CHIRP sonar
  • Works with the WI-Fish app
  • The mounting ball can be removed to increase mounting options
  • Can store 15 tracks and 3,000 waypoints
  • Increase storage capacity with a microSD card

The high-resolution images the Dragonfly 7 is capable of are part of what I really like about this product. I do, however, also have to tip my hat to the maps. They’re highly-detailed and will serve you well on fishing trips in North America. I’m less fond of the fact, though, that if you want to upgrade those maps, you’ll need to get a new MicroSD card. The one that the company has provided is not quite large enough.

Pros

  • Sturdy and durable
  • Will work in all weather conditions
  • The screen is a good size
  • Easy to operate
  • Has a backlit display for night fishing
  • High-res images
  • Gimbal mount comes standard
  • Can store a lot of routes and waypoints
  • GPS included
  • Maps included

Cons

  • The Wi-Fi can be spotty
  • Getting more maps means upgrading the MicroSD card

Overall, this is a solid buy that comes in at a reasonable price. The unit is sturdy, reliable and produces accurate results.

Overall Rating

3 ½ out of 5

Allow your fishing to take flight with the Dragonfly 7.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

Lowrance Elite-5 Touch Fish Finder  

Lowrance is acknowledged as one of the leading brands in this area. When you look at this model, it’s not hard to see why. It’s easy to use, gives impressive results, and won’t break the bank. Check out more Lowrance models.

Key Features

  • 5-inch display, full-color, backlit display
  • The transducer must be bought separately
  • Simple to use with touchscreen
  • CHIRP sonar and down scanning

The Elite-5 is a reasonably compact model that has an outstanding display. I love the image quality and how easy it is to use. With Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities, you can easily link through to your smartphone to save data or update your maps.  Unfortunately, you don’t get a transducer with this model and buying one will up the cost.

Here’s a video that highlights the awesome touch feature.

Pros

  • Reputable brand
  • Big touch screen
  • Outstanding image quality
  • Easy to use
  • Not badly priced
  • Has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Cons

  • No transducer

Overall, we’ll have to mark this model down because of the lack of transducer. That said, it’s still a great device to consider. The quality you’re getting with this does make up for what’s lacking.

Overall Rating

3 out of 5

Are you ready to fish up a storm?

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP DI GPS G2  

You have to hand it to Humminbird – they always deliver in spades when it comes to value for money. This model might be easy on the budget, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve taken shortcuts with what counts – the image quality.

You might not get every drool-worthy feature in the book, but you do get everything that you could need when fishing.

Key Features

  • High-precision GPS
  • 5-inch full color, well-lit screen
  • SwitchFire System
  • CHIRP sonar
  • Reads up to a depth of 1,500 ft

You get a high definition representation of what’s going on below the water. You’ll be able to pick up individual fish and also take a look at the bottom. With the SwitchFire function, you can easily tidy up distortion that occurs in the shallow end of the water.

It’s not a bad-sized screen either, but the buttons are on the small side. It takes some getting used to if you’ve got clumsy fingers like me.

Pros

  • Great price
  • Top-notch imaging
  • Portable
  • Has the basic functions you need
  • No trouble to install

Cons

  • The buttons are difficult to get used to at first

If you’re looking for a basic model that won’t break the bank, this is a good choice. When it comes to imaging, it’s more than a match for my very expensive model. It might not have a lot of extra features, but the company has been smart to focus on quality instead.  

Overall Rating

My overall rating is 3 ½ out of 5.

Getting back to basics means outstanding performance.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

Lowrance Elite-5X CHIRP Fish Finder

Here’s another offering from our friends at Lowrance. This budget-friendly model offers superb image quality and a convenient mounting system. It doesn’t have GPS, but then I guess no relationship is perfect.

Key Features

  • 5-inch, full-color display
  • Easy to mount
  • Quick release mount
  • CHIRP sonar
  • Down scan imaging
  • Simple to use
  • Transom mounted
  • Dual frequency
  • Down scan imaging
  • One-year limited warranty

The image quality with the Elite-5X is spectacular, and I do like the fact that it can easily be mounted or dismounted. It is a good option if you want to fish out of several different watercraft. There’s no GPS, though. Now, granted that’s not essential, but it would have been nice to have.

Pros

  • High-quality image
  • Simple to use
  • Buttons are easy to get a grip on
  • Has a one-year warranty
  • Dual frequency makes it more versatile
  • Accurate and reliable results.

Cons  

  • No GPS

Overall, if I had to choose between better imaging and GPS, the better imaging would win out every time. GPS is nice to have but not essential. Overall, this is still a good buy, even without the GPS.

Overall Rating

3 out of 5

Sleek and sexy model that you’ll want to get your hands on

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

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

Why is Humminbird a fisherman’s best friend? Because they create their products to be highly effective and also ensure that they’re affordable. The Helix 7 may not be the newest model out there but will turn heads.  

Key Features  

  • 7-Inch full-color display
  • CHIRP sonar with down imaging
  • GPS gives you 50 routes and 2,500 waypoints
  • Get Auto Chart, Auto Chart Pro, Navionics, and Hummingbird Lake Master easily using the micro SD card slot
  • Reaches up to 600 ft down

I like the size of the screen and the detailed images that you can get with the HELIX 7. That you also have GPS on here is the icing on the cake. 

The only downside—and this is nitpicking—is that the buttons are a little on the small side. I do have to admit that when I first checked out the different options for maps, I did think they’d all be included. That would be nice, but it’s not the case.

Pros

  • Well-built and durable
  • Will handle a beating
  • Easy to use
  • Images are sharp and clear
  • You can plug in a lot of different chart types
  • Big screen

Cons  

  • The buttons are on the small side
  • You don’t get the micro SD card or a PC cable

Overall, considering the number of features that are included, it’s phenomenal that this model is priced under $500.

Overall Rating

4 ½ out of 5

Humminbird knocks another one out of the park. View our detailed review of this model here.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

Garmin Striker 7SV

Garmin products are always reliable. They’re not always that affordable, though. The Striker breaks this mold by offering reliable features, amazing image clarity, and a good-sized display.

Key Features  

  • High-quality scanning sonar and CHIRP sonar
  • Very easy to set up and use
  • Basic GPS with easy to use waypoint map
  • Works up to a depth of 2,300 ft
  • Flush mount or gimbal mount as you like
  • A-scope function gives a real-time view of anything passing through the beam

This product is easy to use and has an impressive range considering the price point. The images are clear, and the targets are well-defined. The waypoint mapping feature is useful and also fun to play with.

However, there are no maps on this model. That’s understandable at this price point. What I can’t fathom, though, is why there’s no micro SD slot. So, even if you have maps, you can’t load them.

Pros

  • Durable, portable, compact in nature
  • Great screen
  • Buttons are accessible and easy to use
  • It’s simple to figure out how to use it
  • You’ll get great imaging
  • Basic GPS included

Cons

  • There is no microSD slot
  • No maps included

This Striker 7SV offers excellent imaging and an impressive range considering the lower price. The fact that maps can’t be added is not necessarily a bad thing if you’re sticking to waters that you know reasonably well.

Overall Rating

3 out of 5

Garmin has some serious fish finding game.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

Garmin echoMap CHIRP 53cv

If the Garmin Striker’s lack of maps is a problem for you, then consider the Garmin echoMap instead. It offers powerful navigation facilities, comes preloaded with 17,000 lake maps, and puts out some great pictures to boot.

Key Features  

  • Clearvu Sonar
  • CHIRP Sonar
  • HD Maps built-in covering 17,000 lakes
  • 5 Hz GPS built-in
  • Store up to 5,000 waypoints
  • 5-inch screen

If you like going out and exploring, this model is perfect. Marking up all 5,000 waypoints will take you some time. For me, though, the lake maps are what I really like about it. All of the models that we’ve looked at here give excellent image quality. This Garmin is the only one that also brings some serious quality maps with it.

If you’re a kayaker, though, this is going to be a problematic install for you. You can make it work, but it will take some finessing. Also, it’s beyond me why Garmin didn’t include a cover here.

Pros

  • Compact
  • Great imaging capabilities
  • Durable
  • Excellent GPS
  • Thousands of maps
  • Simple to install and use on a boat

Cons

  • You don’t get a cover
  • Kayakers will find it troublesome to mount

Overall, you’re getting Garmin quality for a really great price. This model is going to up your fish finding game. You’ll not only be able to find the fish but also guide yourself back to those perfect fishing spots again.

Overall Rating

4 out of 5

Why I’m a Garmin guy.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW ON AMAZON

Buying Guide and Features to Expect at this Price Range

You’d think that at this price range you’d have to settle for pared-back features and lower image quality. You’d be wrong. As you’ll see from most of my top picks, CHIRP sonar comes standard at this price point. This feature is crucial because it allows you to get a very clear image.

Another feature that you can expect to find is some form of Wi-Fi or Bluetooth capabilities and a reasonable amount of memory on the device itself. Most devices at this price point will come with a microSD slot at the very least.

GPS here is not a given as you’ll notice, not all the models that we review below have GPS or even chart-mapping facilities. That’s something you’ll need to decide if you really need or not.

You can expect to have reasonable sonar scanning capabilities. A reputable make will produce an image comparable to machines that are a lot more expensive.

In this price range, you’re paying enough to ensure that you get a taste of what the big leagues offer. The companies operating at this level will usually focus on important features like scanning abilities to keep the prices down.

It’s kind of like the difference between a Mercedes A class and a Mercedes C class. You’re still getting some awesome features, and a touch of luxury, but you’re not getting the full Mercedes experience.

Final Thoughts

Overall, it was tough to pick a clear winner out of this lot. I ended up settling on the Lowrance Elite 5 at the end of the day. It’s a great product that provides you with excellent imaging and so much more besides. It’s hard to find that much value packed into a fish finder under $500. If price is no object, view our top fish finders here.

The honors for best value model had to go to the Raymarine Dragonfly 7. It’s got a big screen, shows incredible detail, and comes in at a more than fair price.

We did need to narrow it down a bit and choose an overall winner. That said, all of the products that we reviewed today can be considered winners in their own right. 

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email
Share on whatsapp
top