Buying Guide to the Best Fish Finder Under 500

Beauty Giant Aquarium

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If you want to make the most of your boat or kayak adventure [R], you need a fish-finding tool that will let you see what’s around and underneath you.

Incredibly, there are best fish finder under 500 dollars to give you all the features you will need for your adventure.

In this review, we will cover:

  • Each fish finder’s key takeaways and features;
  • Unique and high-technology features;
  • Different models for different price ranges
  • Lots more!

Check out our review of the best fish finders under 500 to find the perfect one for you.

Ready to take home the trophy?

Let’s dive in.

Buying Guide to the Best Fish Finder Under $500

1. Garmin ECHOMAP Plus 63cv: Best Overall

Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 63cv Fish Finder - Chartplotter

Key Takeaways

  • 17, 000 LakeVu US lake maps
  • Quickdraw map creating technology
  • MicroSD slot and WI-FI

Display

This model has a 6.2-inch screen equipped with ClearVu and CHIRP technology for more accurate fish hunting.

It has a lot to offer anglers out there with a screen that displays the same number of pixels as the Helix 5 and 7 or Lowrance for easy usage and control.

Features

One of our most favorite features is the 77/200 kHz sonar power output RMS transducer with built-in Clearvu imaging and mind you, it was actually fun seeing the images on the screen pointing us to the right spot while providing necessary details.

But that’s not everything.

It can also connect to trolling motors with their built-in transducers, though the adapter cable is sold separately.

Quite epic.

It’s even equipped with pre-loaded lake maps [R], including 17 000 LakeVu US lake maps. 6 700 of these are high definition with 1-foot contours, making this an excellent value purchase.

You can also make your maps with Quickdraw and save sonar recordings and even a waypoint map [R].

To store all this data, it has a Micro SD card slot and WI-FI capabilities. The box comes with a gimbal mount.

Is the Garmin ECHOMAP Plus 63cv for You?

The 63cv is an excellent fish finder for anglers [R] and those who particularly like the pre-loaded maps and can make their own maps. It does not differ much from its higher-end siblings.

Suffice to say…

…if you want to be completely in charge with fully customizable settings and features, this baby’s for you.

As a tip, if you want to take advantage of the GT22 transducer available in more expensive models, you can buy the 63CV without a transducer and buy the GT22 transducer separately.

Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 63cv Fish Finder/Chartplotter Combo

Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 63cv Fish Finder - Chartplotter

Features

  • Bright, sunlight-readable 6″ combo
  • GT24 transducer for Ultra High-Definition ClearVü scanning sonar, and Garmin high wide CHIRP traditional sonar
  • Preloaded LakeVü g3 inland maps with integrated Navionics® data for more than 17,000 lakes with up to 1′ contours
  • NMEA 2000 and NMEA 0183 network support for autopilot and engine data
  • Quick-release bail mount for fast and easy mobility

Pros

  • Thousands of pre-loaded maps
  • You can create your maps
  • Excellent number of pixels
  • Micro SD slot and WI-FI
  • Comes with gimbal mount

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Only has regular 2D sonar in 200 and 77 kHz

2. Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP SI GPS G2 Fishfinder and Chartplotter: Best Value

Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP SI GPS G2 Fishfinder and Chartplotter

Key Takeaways

  • Only GPS Chart Plotter and Side Imaging
  • Compatible with Lakemaster and Gold/HotMaps cards
  • AutoChart Live

Display

The Helix 5 CHIRP SI has a 5-inch screen that displays the date and readings from its down scan imaging, side imaging, and CHIRP.

This device was once the best fish finder under 500. And while other options have overtaken it, it’s still a solid and reliable fish finder to have. Its competitors are only better interns of larger screen sizes.

But hey, talk about OG and high quality!

Its 5-inch screen is still excellent, with an 800 x 480 resolution, which means it has one of the best displays available in the best fish finders in this price range and category.

Features

Up to this day, it’s the only GPS Chart Plotter and side imaging fish finder in this price range, making it a top choice for anyone.

It comes packed with the XNT 9 SI 190 T transducer, also known as the “Compact” side imaging transducer.

It’s also eligible for Humminbird’s transducer exchange program that will allow you to upgrade to the High Definition side imaging transducer (XHS 9 HDSI 180 T) for just a little extra more.

As for mapping

…the Helix 5 SI fish finder GPS Combo is compatible with Lakemaster cards and Navionics Gold/HotMaps cards [R].

To maximize this unit’s benefits, you should check the Lakemaster lake list [R] for the area you intend to use this for.

If the lakes you go to are covered well, the lake master card will be the best option so you can take advantage of its exclusive features, such as Depth Highlight and Water Level Offset.

Like all models in this lineup of units, it can perform live mapping with AutoChart Life, which allows you to paint depth contours onto your fish finder with this depth finder, right as you drive your boat.

For real!

You can also get 8 hours of recording time on these units, allowing you to create maps where there were none before. You can even extend this recording time with the Zero Lines card if you purchased that extra.

As a matter of fact…

…part of the operating systems of these units is the Bottom Hardness layer, which is a handy feature in displaying transitions from mud to the more challenging bottom to find the spots where fishes tend to go.

You can even add a Vegetation Layer that lets you record and display vegetation as its own layer on the map view so you can see weeds, turns, points, and cuts where fish may gather.

It’s also compatible with SmartStrike mapping cards that allow unique maps to interface with the software and highlight likely fish holding spots based on the inputs you choose, such as weather, season, species, etc.

Everything can be stored in a card in its microSD slot so you won’t miss a thing.

Is the HELIX 5 CHIRP SI GPS G2 for You?

If you prioritize imaging sensors, map creation, and other features over a 2-inch difference in screen size, this is a compelling fish finder under 500 for you.

With the necessary capabilities of a fish finder, multiple views, and a GPS, this baby sure was hard to pass up!

Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP SI GPS G2 Fishfinder and Chartplotter

Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP SI GPS G2 Fishfinder and Chartplotter

Features

  • Brilliant 5″ screen with 1,500-nit brightness
  • 800×480 resolution
  • CHIRP sonar with Low, Medium, and High frequency ranges
  • Cleaner returns and exceptional target separation
  • SwitchFire SONAR down to 1,500′
  • Down Imaging to 100′
  • Built-in high-sensitivity GPS receiver
  • Capacity for up to 2,500 waypoints, 45 routes, 50 tracks, and 20,000 track points
  • DualBeam Plus SONAR
  • AutoChart Live
  • Single card slot
  • Compatible with several cartographies: Humminbird LakeMaster/PLUS, Humminbird SmartStrike, Navionics+, HotMaps, Humminbird AutoChart, and AutoChart PRO
  • Built-in speedometer and surface temperature

Pros

  • Micro SD card slot
  • Down and side imaging
  • Can be exchanged for HD transducer
  • Create your own maps
  • Bottom Hardness layer displayed
  • Vegetation layer
  • Compatible with SmartStrike mapping cards

Cons

  • Not the biggest display size
  • Not portable

3. Humminbird Piranhamax 4 Fish Finder: Best Budget

Humminbird PiranhaMAX 4 Fish Finder

Key Takeaways

  • Depth and fish alarm
  • Three frequency options
  • Great for deeper waters

Display

The Humminbird PiranhaMax 197C is a reliable device. Even with this cheaper model, you still get many of the capabilities you can expect from the more expensive ones.

As a matter of fact…

…this portable fish finder has a 3.5-inch full-color display that has excellent image quality. It’s also lightweight and portable. It even comes with its own carrying case.

However, this display size may be too small for some anglers.

Features

While the PiranhaMax doesn’t have a GPS, they made up for it with a depth and fish alarm and three frequency settings that can read up to a depth of 600 feet.

It produces highly accurate readings and crystal-clear images, which is all you need in a budget fish finder. The screen is easy to read and easy to use, too.

Note, however, that it doesn’t have PC linking capabilities.

Is the Humminbird PiranhaMax 4 Fish Finder for You?

If you need an accurate device that can give you excellent image quality and reliable readings, especially at deeper levels, the Humminbird PranhaMax is a perfect choice.

For its price, it doesn’t have fancier capabilities. However, it makes up for it with its accuracy, making this one of the best fish finders you can get at a friendlier price tag.

Humminbird PiranhaMAX 4 Fishfinder

Humminbird PiranhaMAX 4 Fish Finder

Features

  • 4.3″ screen
  • 20% larger screen size than past versions (4.3″ vs. 3.5″)
  • 256-color screen
  • Crisp 480×272 resolution
  • 600′ Dual Beam
  • 2,400W PTP power output
  • Dual frequency
  • Convenient tilt-mount base

Pros

  • Great image quality
  • Excellent for deeper water
  • Several frequency options
  • Portable
  • Easy to use
  • Accurate

Cons

  • Screen may be too small
  • No PC linking capabilities
  • Mount could be better
  • No GPS
  • No microSD slot

4. Humminbird Helix 5 Chirp DI G2 Down Imaging Fish Finder

Humminbird HELIX 5 CHIRP DI GPS G2 Fishfinder and Chartplotter

Key Takeaways

  • Downscan imaging capabilities
  • CHIRP and Dual Beam sonar
  • SwitchFire system

Display

As you can probably tell from its name, this has a 5-inch display size. Its resolution is 800 x 480, which is comparable to other units in this price range.

But this guy is special in some ways.

For one, we loved how it’s easy to read, even in the sunlight. It’s designed to be extra wide with a 256 vibrant, full-color display, making it easy for us to discern colors and shapes in any lighting condition.

It also provides a backlight for both daytime and nighttime settings.

Features

This is fitted with a dual GPS and GLONASS satellite receiver, giving you continuous and accurate signals.

As a result, it’s easy to see where exactly fish are hiding and any information to bring home a large game.

No hide and seek with the fishies anymore.

If that’s not enough

…the Humminbird Helix 5 features down imaging and high-resolution images for an accurate read in difficult fishing locations.

The SwitchFire Sonar also allows you to choose between two modes:

  • Clear Mode – gives you a better image of fish and small objects, and;
  • Max Mode, which works faster and works better for larger, human-made objects or thermoclines. [R]

Furthermore, it has a color-coding system to determine how close objects are to your boat and this was very helpful in keeping us alert and very much connected with our environment and location.

Nearby objects are displayed in orange, while more distant objects are in blue.

If blue and orange don’t fit your preferred color choice, you can customize the colors to your desire.

As for the sensors, CHIRP and Dual Beam allow you to balance between distance and clarity of images and readings.

Finally, SmartStrike lets you collect various data and makes it easier for you to find fishing spots depending on the factors you choose to input.

The GPS tells you up to 2 500 waypoints and 45 routes and is capable with AutoChart, like the other Helix units we have reviewed here.

Bu wait, there’s more.

It can also read other vital data, such as water depth through its depth finder, large rock formations, and nearby ports.

However, some users have reported battery leakage issues, so be sure to check your unit regularly and have a warranty with it!

This is more affordable than the CHIRP SI GPS G2 fish finders in the same lineup, though this is not capable of side imaging.

Everything can be stored in a card in its microSD slot.

Is the Humminbird Helix 5 Chirp DI G2 Down Imaging Fish Finder for You?

If you want a fish finder that’s perfect for kayaking or boating and has no problem squeezing into tight spaces, the small footprint of this device is the answer to your wishes.

Humminbird Helix 5 Chirp DI G2 Down Imaging Fish Finder

humminbird helix 5 chirp di gps

Features

  • Brilliant 5″ screen with 1,500-nit brightness
  • 800×480 resolution
  • CHIRP sonar with Low, Medium, and High frequency ranges
  • Cleaner returns and exceptional target separation
  • SwitchFire SONAR down to 1,500′
  • Down Imaging to 100′
  • Built-in high-sensitivity GPS receiver
  • Capacity for up to 2,500 waypoints, 45 routes, 50 tracks, and 20,000 track points
  • DualBeam Plus SONAR
  • AutoChart Live
  • Single card slot
  • Compatible with several cartographies: Humminbird LakeMaster/PLUS, Humminbird SmartStrike, Navionics+, HotMaps, Humminbird AutoChart, and AutoChart PRO
  • Built-in speedometer and surface temperature

Pros

  • Color coding and customization
  • Side and down imaging for accurate readings
  • Choose between Clear and Max modes
  • Good balance between distance and clarity
  • See and create maps
  • SmartStrike technology for finding fishing spots

Cons

  • Battery leakage issues
  • It takes longer to charge
  • No side imaging

5. Garmin Striker Vivid 7cv with GT20-TM Transducer

Garmin STRIKER Vivid 7 Series Fish Finders

Key Takeaways

  • Down imaging only (ClearVu)
  • Big and bright screen
  • Operates at three frequencies

Display

The STRIKER series from Garmin perfect if you’re looking for a super cheap fish finder without sacrrificing the quality and performance.

The Vivid 7cv has a 7-inch display with a screen resolution of 800 x 480, though the 5 cv model has a smaller 5-inch display with the same resolution.

Features

The DownVu sonar works at three frequencies: 260 kHz, 455 kHz, and 800 kHz. This gives you a lot of choices to optimize your image for both depth and side range.

With enough practice, you can get excellent images of the fish and structures surrounding you. These will give you a view of wide and narrow sonar beams emitted by the transducer.

When it comes to the GT20-TM transducer, you can also choose to upgrade to the GT22-TM or GT23-TM for higher performance CHIRP.

In addition to this…

…it also comes with a trolling motor mount in addition to the transom bracket so that you can mount it based on your need or preference.

Note that this is equipped with GPS but doesn’t have side imaging nor a microSD card slot.

Is the Garmin Striker Vivid 7cv with GT20-TM Transducer for You?

If you want an excellent product from Garmin and don’t need side imaging, mapping, or a MicroSD slot, the Garmin STRIKER 7cv will give you accurate readings and reliable performance.

Garmin Striker Vivid 7cv with GT20-TM Transducer

Garmin STRIKER Vivid 7 Series Fish Finders

Features

  • Easy-to-use 7″ color fish finders with vivid updated, more-vidid color palettes
  • Greater contrast allows more easily distinguishable fish and structure
  • Support for best-in-class Garmin sonar
  • High-sensitivity GPS: mark waypoints, create routes, and view your boat’s speed
  • Built-in Quickdraw Contours mapping
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • ActiveCaptain app compatibility

Pros

  • Bright screen
  • Excellent build quality
  • Great screen resolution
  • Accurate down imaging

Cons

  • No side imaging
  • No microSD card slot
  • No maps

6. Garmin Striker 7sv Plus

Garmin Striker 7sv Plus

Key Takeaways

  • Excellent value option
  • Internal GPS and mapping capabilities
  • Big screen (Side, down, and CHIRP view)

Display

The Striker 7sv has a 7-inch screen with ClearVu and SideVU as well as CHIRP. It’s one of the best value fish finders in the striker series fish finders.

This 7-inch screen boasts 800 x 480 screen resolution, so you can easily see the SideVu imaging sonar, ClearVu, CHIRP, and your standard 2D sonar data on your 7sv fish finder.

Features

With the Striker 7sv, Garmin has done its best to bring together all the capabilities that matter the most in a value-driven device. It has an internal GPS for navigation and side imaging, plus mapping.

However, the 7sv doesn’t have a Micro SD card slot, making this a problematic option for many fishers.

Is the Garmin Striker 7sv for You?

If you are looking for side-scanning fish finders with the biggest screen possible, the Striker 7sv is the best fish finder under 500 for you.

No other device can give you side, down, and CHIRP in a 7-inch size and within this price range.

Garmin Striker 7sv Plus

Garmin Striker 7sv Plus

Features

  • Bright, sunlight-readable 7″ display
  • Intuitive user interface—perfect for novices and experts alike
  • Built-in Garmin Quickdraw Contours live mapping with 1′ contours for up to 2 million acres
  • Garmin CV52HW-TM transducer for built-in Garmin CHIRP traditional sonar plus CHIRP ClearVu and CHIRP SideVu scanning sonars
  • Built-in Wi-Fi
  • Built-in high-sensitivity GPS
  • Marking options: Place waypoints and create full fishing/navigation routes
  • Boat speed display
  • IPX7-rated waterproof ruggedness
  • Includes STRIKER Plus 7sv fishfinder, transducer, power/data cable, tilt/swivel mount, hardware, and documentation

Pros

  • SideVu, DownVu, and CHIRP
  • Excellent value
  • Internal GPS

Cons

  • No Micro SD card slot

7. Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP Mega DI GPS G3N Fish Finder

Humminbird HELIX 7 CHIRP MEGA DI GPS G3N GPS Fishfinder/Chartplotter

Key Takeaways

  • Split-screen display
  • Compatible with AutoChart
  • 2D sonar and down imaging

Display

The Helix 7 CHIRP Mega DI is a good balance of sonar capabilities and screen size for its price.

The display is a bright, highly-detailed 7-inch screen that allows you to view the dedicated down imaging sonar, and a split-screen feature to simultaneously see the 200/455 KHz 2D sonar or the GPS chart plotter.

Features

It has one microSD card slot that lets you use your Navionics or Lakemaster maps. You can also enjoy the benefits of CHIRP sonar and CHIRP down imaging.

If you want to, you can also save sonar recordings of your favorite lake so that you can create and display your custom lake map with the lake master AutoChart system.

Our favorite feature, to say the least!

As a bonus tip for those who don’t have the AutoChart system yet, you can create your recordings even without it and buy the program later to import all your data and create your map.

Overall, the Helix 7 DI is a great fish finder with plenty of capabilities that you will love.

Note that you can’t use it to share waypoints with another unit.

Is the Humminbird Helix 7 Chirp Mega DI GPS G3N Fish Finder for You?

If you want one of the best fish finders that allows you to create charts and has a microSD card slot, the Helix 7 is an excellent choice.

While it doesn’t have side imaging, this is great for reading deeper waters, and it makes up for it with a bigger 7-inch display.

Humminbird Helix 7 CHIRP Mega DI GPS G3N Fish Finder

Humminbird HELIX 7 CHIRP MEGA DI GPS G3N GPS Fishfinder/Chartplotter

Features

  • Powerhouse Humminbird HELIX fish finder
  • Vivid, 7″ display
  • MEGA Down Imaging
  • Dual Spectrum CHIRP
  • Low Q CHIRP transducer
  • SwitchFire Sonar dual display modes
  • Built-in Humminbird Basemap of charts and maps of more than 10,000 lakes
  • NMEA 2000 networking
  • Built-in Bluetooth wireless connectivity
  • Includes transducer, mounting hardware, power cable, and gimbal mounting bracket

Pros

  • Compatible with Navionics and Lakemaster cards
  • MicroSD card slot
  • Capable of mapping
  • Compatible with AutoChart program
  • Bigger display

Cons

  • No side imaging
  • Cannot share waypoints

Lowrance Hook2 4x Bullet

Key Takeaways

  • CHIRP sonar and down imaging
  • Split-screen display
  • DownScan overlay feature

Display

The Lowrance Hook 4x CHIRP is one of the newest budget fishfinder models available, replacing the Lowrance Hook 3x.

For its size, it’s powerful.

It has a 4.3-inch full-color screen with 16-bit color, LED backlight, and a 480 x 270-pixel resolution.

Features

The highlight of this easy-to-use model is its sonar capabilities.

It uses both CHIRP sonar and down imaging. You can view them on the split-screen or with the Lowrance exclusive DownScan Overlay mode, making all the essential information easy to see.

They say its CHIRP sonar can improve target separation on the screen display, especially in deeper water.

The DownScan Overlay is a useful feature that combines the advantages of both 2D and down imaging.

The result is you get a hybrid picture that takes the structure, revealing the ability of down imaging, and overlays it with the 2D sonar to help you distinguish between fish and objects within the same display screen.

Is the Lowrance Hook2 4x Bullet for You?

Suppose the screen resolution isn’t a big issue for the average fisherman.

In that case

…we highly recommend the Lowrance Hot 2 4x bullet portable fish finder for its remarkable sonar and CHIRP technology, which makes this one of the best fish finders under 200 bucks.

Pros

  • Downscan overlay for better target distinction
  • Powerful despite size
  • Color screen with LED backlight
  • Relatively big LCD
  • Easy to see
  • Easy to read

Cons

  • Screen resolution could be better.

How Do Fish Finders Work?

Much like how a bat uses echolocation to find their prey and navigate around them, a fish finder transmits a sound wave that has been covered by a transducer from a simple electric plus.

Once this sound wave hits the fish, it bounces back.

The latest models of fish finders are capable of distinguishing and displaying size, shape, and even composition.

However

…the accuracy and level of precision of a device will heavily depend on the frequency and the plus that has been transmitted.

The best fish finder under 500 should be able to show you what you cannot see with the naked eye, especially when you want to find out what lurks at great depths beneath you. Moreover, it should be reliable and accurate.

The best fish finder will also have a navigation system to have a safe marine voyage.

This system is necessary for all maritime vessels to keep the fishing crew on the right path. It also helps you know the exact coordinates of your boat at any given time.

This is particularly useful for fishing vessels that venture far away from the shore. Moreover, a good navigation system will help you quickly go back to the beach, port, or even a new fishing spot.

Factors You Should Pay Attention to When Choosing the Best Fish Finder for You

There are several factors and features you need to watch out for to find the best fish finder for you. Here are the most basic ones.

Transducer

Look at what transducer is equipped in the fish finder because this is one of its most critical parts. You need this to send and receive sound waves that will bounce off fish, rocks, and other obstacles.

The fish finder will only display the information that the transducer accurately sends and receives.

The transducers act as translators because they convert the bounced sonar waves into clear pictures on the display that a fisherman can comprehend.

The transducer can be mounted in several ways. The easiest will be the transom mount. However, these only work for small to medium-sized boats, so if you have a bigger boat, you at least need a thru-hull mount.

Transducers are also made with various materials, so pick one depending on the type of marine vessel you have.

If you only go out to see occasionally, a plastic transom mount will be enough for you, mainly because they are compatible with most boats.

However, steel and aluminum hulls require stainless steel mounting.

Cone Angle

The cone angle of a transducer is also essential. It stands for the total width of the signal beam that will be sent into the water from your marine vessel.

Remember:

A wider cone means a bigger coverage. Moreover, the deeper the signal, the wider the cone.

The width of the cone can vary depending on the model of the transducer.

However, they usually range between 9 and 60 degrees. Further, some can emit more than one cone, though this comes with a corresponding price increase.

Screen

Consider the clarity and size of the display of the device you will be getting.

The bigger the display, the easier it is to read from a distance.

This can be extremely useful, especially with models that show the sea and lake bed, as a big screen can be used to see any large rocks on the path that can cause potential hazards in your way.

Also, consider the portability of the device you will be getting. A bigger screen may lessen its portability.

Scanner

Side-scan and DownScan are the two available options that you can choose from in fish finders.

DownScan fish finders are powerful and best for smaller water bodies, as they are more focused on a more limited area. With this, the fish will have to pass underneath the boat to show you any reading.

On the other hand…

…side scan fish finders are for larger bodies of water. However, they’re not as effective in deeper water as they are more focused on breadth than depth.

Some fish finders can provide both scanning abilities, though they will cost more.

Top Picks

Garmin ECHOMAP Plus 63cv: Best Overall

We love the Garmin ECHOMAP as it comes equipped with thousands of lake maps and is equipped with some of the best fish finder GPS, CHIRP, Sonar, quickdraw contours, and even WI-FI capabilities.

It also has a slot for your microSD and charting capabilities and comes with a gimbal mount.

This fishfinder GPS Combo is jam-packed with all the necessary features you’d usually look for.

HELIX 5 CHIRP SI GPS G2: Best Value

For its price, the Helix 5 is unmatched when it comes to its specs. It has both downscan imaging and side imaging, CHIRP, GPS, traditional sonar, and will even let you create your customized maps.

Humminbird Piranhamax 4 Fish Finder: Best Budget

This is the best fish finding tool you can get if you have a low budget.

It’s the most affordable fish finder equipped with downscan imaging and can give you accurate readings from its three frequencies.

For its price, it is one of the cheapest fish finders under 500 you can find.

Conclusion

If you want to level up your fishing game, this guide to the best fish finders under 500 is precisely what you need. You will no longer have to wander around and guess where the fish are hiding.

Testing out these guys were as enjoyable as writing this review! Each has unique features that made it hard for each of us in my team to choose one.

Have you chosen yours? Let us know your experience!

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