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If you’re in search of the best budget marine GPS on the market today, you’ve come to the right place! One of the most important pieces of gear while exploring the ocean, both for finding your way and for finding fish, is a GPS. A quality unit designed for your needs on the water can mean the difference between a successful adventure, or a waste of a trip.
To help you navigate the many styles and features of marine GPS units, we’ve gathered a quick buyers guide and 5 of the most highly rated and reviewed products available today. This will help you choose which features are important for your needs on the water, and to invest in a quality unit that will last for many adventures to come.
Here are 5 of the best GPS units for marine use that will keep you on budget:
Top Marine GPS Comparison Chart
Best Budget Marine GPS Reviewed
1. Garmin Striker 4 Marine GPS
The Garmin Striker 4 has classic GPS features, but its main function is as a fish finder for days spent searching for wildlife. If you need to find fish quickly and map locations with ease, the Garmin Striker 4 is a quality option highly rated and reviewed by many happy customers.
One of the best features of this device is that you can map various locations which you have visited for later use. This finder will map stumps, obstacles, weeds, and other such things in their locations so you always know what to look for when boating. Of course, not only does the Garmin Striker 4 map locations and show you the way back to locations which you have visited, it also does a spectacular job at finding fish for you to catch.
This fishfinder uses high-frequency sonar which has the ability to provide you with images, more or less the same as a high-quality photograph. This way you can see exactly what is going on around your boat, especially regarding fish populations.
The keyed interface with simple-to-use buttons is about as easy to navigate as it gets. Users also appreciate how the Garmin Striker 4 is very easy to install- not to mention that it is also quite durable. It has a high waterproof rating and can be submerged for short periods of time without suffering water damage. In freshwater, it can find fish and map contours up to 1,600 feet down, but in saltwater, it is only effective to 750 feet.
2. Raymarine Dragonfly Pro GPS Fish Finder
If you are on the hunt for a good GPS fish finder, one that will not ruin your budget, The Raymarine Dragonfly Pro GPS Fish Finder is a good option to go with. Although it isn’t designed for fancy features, it’s ability to get the job done is reliable- which is crucial out on the water.
The Raymarine Dragonfly Pro GPS Fish Finder has a great display, one that features a 16:9 aspect ratio. It is an all-weather display, which means that it has been specially treated so it is easy to read even when the sun is glaring on it. The high-definition LED backlit display is clear, it has great resolution and great contrast; you will not be mistaking fish for other things underwater.
This unit comes complete with maps of all US coastal areas, lakes, and rivers. It has the ability to load more maps onto it. Remember that this needs to be done manually, and you will probably need to get a larger memory card. This product comes complete with a transom mount CHIRP inducer, plus a temperature sensor. Knowing the water temperature can be important when looking for certain fish.
The Raymarine Dragonfly Pro GPS Fish Finder comes with dual-channel sonar for easy fish finding. For one, it features wide spectrum down vision CHIRP sonar for clear bottom topography with photo-like quality. The other sonar is a conventional CHIRP sonar channel so you can easily find fish. What is also neat is that it allows you to stream live data to your smartphone as long as you have the right app. If you have Wi-Fi, you can even rewind and save all of the best catches of the day.
3. Humminbird GPS Fish Finder
This particular product has some outstanding features which make it well worth the investment, and certainly deserving of a spot on our best-of list. This 2-in-1 GPS and fish finder combo is a quality unit designed with marine adventurers in mind.
The Humminbird GPS Fish Finder comes with a clear 5-Inch color WVGA display. The display has good back lighting, great contrast and resolution, and is big enough to read it with ease. In terms of being a GPS, this fish finder comes with a great base map of over 10,000 US lakes, coastlines, and more. It has the ability to download more maps onto it, but only the US maps come included. To say that this finder is accurate in terms of its preloaded maps would be an understatement.This device features an automatic chart mode. When you turn it on, it will automatically begin to chart your location and bottom contours, which is great for creating accurate, up-to-date contour maps. Moreover, it features CHIRP, dual-sonar and smart-strike technology- all of which work together to find fish with ease. When it comes to finding fish, this has to be one of the best GPS fish finders available on the market today.
4. Garmin Echomap Chirp
Thanks to the ability of this Garmin Echomap Chirp to send continuous frequencies through the water, people fishing will have a much easier time navigating. This makes it easier to find fish so that you’re not wasting your time in areas without much action. Thanks to the one-foot contour lines that this equipment shows, mapping the bottom of a body of water has never been faster or easier.
The internal 5 HZ GPS instantly updates your position five times each second, which makes marking your sites and returning to it later easier than ever. This is great for people who want to map out their favorite fishing spots, with the ability to find them quickly again late on.
Thanks to the large display on this unit, it’s much easier to see from across the boat than other options are. Additionally, the screen is designed to be easy to read in the hot glaring sun, ensuring they can view maps and see fish with ease- even in glare.
Not only is this unit incredibly easy to use, but it’s also easy to understand. The fish symbols shown on the screen allow any person to use this equipment with ease and see what's happening on the screen. With a strong and durable mount on the dash, there isn’t any concern of the Garmin Echomap Chirp coming loose and being damaged while adventuring on the water.
5. Garmin GPSMAP 78sc Handheld GPS
This handheld GPS is a great option for anyone who wants the reliability of Garmin when they are out on the water so that they can not only track their position, but also communicate it to others. Thanks to the ability of this device to share tracks, waypoints, routes, and even geocaches with other users, you won’t ever really be on your own when you rely on this equipment while on the water.
This Garmin GPS features an impressive selection of built-in coastal charges. Not only will you be able to see where you are in relation to the coast, but you can also easily track depth contours, shorelines, marinas, harbors, navaids, and more. This makes it easy to plan your trip and also to get help when you are in an emergency situation, which can be important when you are out in open water.
Enjoy an impressive electronic compass that features a barometric altimeter so that you can not only check the weather, but also your heading or altitude. This is a great feature for this equipment to have and can reduce the number of items that you need to bring with you on your trip. Since you can easily track yourself using this electronic compass, you won’t need to have another one with you.
Enjoy the microSD card slot if you want to include additional optional mapping or if you want to store data about your routes and trip. This allows you to track where you are going and where you have been so that you can easily return in the future, if desired.
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose the Right Marine GPS
GPS technology is satellite navigation that can find your location in an instant, and track your surroundings with ease. Portable marine systems have the ability to guide you through the water, locate fish at any location, and find topographical information of your surroundings.
With endless options on the market today, finding the right GPS unit for your needs can be overwhelming, so we’re here to help you navigate the features you’ll want in your unit. Use this guide to dive into the water with confidence as soon as possible!
Here are some of the key features to search for when investing in a GPS unit designed for marine use:
Screen Resolution and Screen Size
Depending on where you’ll be using your marine GPS unit, the screen size and resolution will be determined by how you’ll be using the device. If you’re kayaking along the seaside, for example, you’ll want a model that is small, portable and easy to handle in tight quarters. Alternatively, if you’ll be driving a boat it’s likely best to invest in an option that’s large enough so you won’t have to strain your eyes while reading it.
The reason these top 5 products made our best marine GPS unit for a budget list is because they all feature impressive displays. When you read about the resolution of a screen, ideally you’ll want a high number- which means a better picture. Many factors determine the best style of screen and resolution for your needs on the water, such as whether you’ll be looking at the device in direct sunlight. There are products on the market that are designed specifically for this type of environment, and worth the investment.
Taking a technical device onto the water means it’ll need to feature certain protections to keep inside components protected from water. No matter the type of boat you’re riding in, your device is likely to get wet, either by storm or wave, and thus needs to feature water resistant design features. If you’ll be using the GPS unit for an ocean sport like kayaking or paddle boarding, for example, it’ll require more water protection than a device used specifically on a motor boat. Either way, your marine unit should be able to withstand the marine environment. Ideally, your marine GPS will be waterproof, not just water resistant, to ensure your investment is safe while adventuring. When it comes to this type of device, there’s a general scale used to determine the level of water resistance. On the low end, IPX0 means there is no waterproofing in the device, while IPX8 models will allow the device to be fully submerged up to a certain depth. Consider how you’ll be using your GPS unit, and what type of protection it’ll need before making your investment to ensure you’re getting the most for your money.
It’s important that your device power lasts the length of your adventure. There are a few different power options on the market which all feature their advantages and disadvantages. Additionally, there are backup power sources available should you run out of power while exploring the water.
Some GPS units need to be charged through an external battery, which is ideal on a boat with a battery source where the GPS is a permanent feature while driving. This setup ensures you never have to worry about running out of power, but does require initial installation.
Other devices available on the market use traditional batteries, such as AA batteries. It’s important to keep in mind that these devices will run out of power when the batteries are done, and backups will be imperative to continue using the GPS and its features. An additional power option available are models built with rechargeable batteries. While these batteries will run out of power, they can be recharged- often by an external device such as a portable solar panel.
Portability and Reliability
Two very important considerations when investing in a marine GPS units are portability and reliability.
The level of portability you’ll need from your marine GPS depends entirely on how you’ll be using it on the water. It’s important to decide if you want a unit which secures to your vessel, or if you’ll need a model which fits comfortably in your hand or pocket for easy use while exploring the water. For example, if you’re kayaking it’s unlikely that you’ll have the ability to carry around an external battery for your GPS unit- making something more portable ideal.
When exploring water bodies, especially those with heavy currents like the ocean, you’ll want to make sure to invest in a GPS unit that gets strong signal, and comes with known reliability. The quickest way to an accident is buying a poor quality device which drops signal or breaks while out on an adventure. Avoid this by choosing reliable brands, that are highly rated and reviewed by many happy customers- like those listed in our guide here.
GPS units are great for many things, but it’s the added features that make them truly versatile devices. Where a GPS will tell you where you are located, if you’re not moving then it can’t tell you when direction you’re facing- without the addition of a compass.
Through incorporating an electric compass in the device, the user is able to find the correct direction without needing to move. It is, however, important that you understand that with added features comes extra cost. Additionally, something to keep in mind is that an electronic compass requires battery power- and will use some of the device power to use.
Charts and Maps
Marine GPS devices feature a variety of mapping, which should be considered before you choose which unit to invest in. Some products come with a plethora of built-in maps, while others only feature the basics. Additionally, you’ll find that the detail will vary from map to map. Although you can often add maps to units after purchase, the more built-in maps the GPS has available in your area, the less there is to do after receiving the product. It’s important to remember that if you do plan to add data to your device, such as additional maps and charts, then your device memory will need the ability to handle the additional storage.
Choosing the right GPS unit for your needs starts with identifying how you’ll be using the device during your marine adventures. Having a boating navigation system can be absolutely vital for your safety, and in making your way through the open water. Whether you’re hitting the waves of the open sea, or paddling the waves of a river, it’s important to have access to your location, and a route out, at all times. Additionally, marine GPS devices feature many other abilities such as tracking weather and locations, searching for fish, and guiding you along guided paths.
Whether you’re looking to invest in a portable unit that’s easy to pack away when you’re not using it, or a mounted device that you don’t have to worry about throughout use during the day, many of these products will fit your every need.
Our goal is to provide you with the tools and resources needed to get you out onto the water with confidence and ease. If this guide has brought you one step closer to diving in, let us know in the comment section below!Additionally, check out some of our other related product review guides in the blog, such as the best portable beach speaker or the best waterproof duffel bag.
Megan Jones leads the editorial staff of Seaside Planet. They are a multidisciplinary team of outdoor adventurers, water sports lovers, and passionate beach goers. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.