Cruising along open waters is a go-to leisurely and relaxing activity for many boat owners. To make sure that this goes smooth and worry-free, you would be wise to install the best marine radar for your boat. You can’t always rely on your eyesight and binoculars to spot potential collisions and obstacles. That’s where getting a radar system comes in.
A marine radar has a lot of important functions primarily for safety. If your visibility is limited, then a radar will allow you to detect objects around you so you can avoid any bumps and crashes. That’s not all though. Marine radars usually have electronic chart systems and an AIS or Automatic Identification System. Getting a marine radar will be an invaluable asset for your boating experience.
To help you choose which marine radar will serve you well, we’ve prepared a list of our top picks. We’ll also discuss what guidelines you should keep in mind when buying your marine radar. To start, here are our top four marine radars:
Best Marine Radars
Here are our picks for the 4 best marine radars.
Raymarine’s boat radar is the one to beat. It features a high-tech separation technology for its radar system, which allows it to distinguish between different objects like rocks, boats, landmarks, etc. It does extremely well with detecting short-range objects. It also enhances the details of its targets with a minimum range of 18 ft. It does all these with unparalleled resolution.
Whereas other radars might take a while to start, Raymarine’s start-up is lightning fast since it uses a Quantum Solid-State system. You can use the radar within mere seconds of activation. Its CHIRP pulse technology allows more energy to reach its targets, so you get top imaging even throughout longer ranges. Using its Wi-Fi, you can easily connect to Raymarine powered MFDs.
The design is very lightweight and the cables are thin so the installation will be easy. Its power consumption is more efficient compared to other radars and it has safe emissions. If you want the best in technology, this radar will be perfect for you.
Dimensions: 18 x 12 x 8 in
Weight: 16.5 lbs
Notable Features You Need To Know About:
- Energy efficient
- CHIRP pulse
- Target details are enhanced
- Unparalleled resolution
This 18HD+ radar by Garmin has top clarity with its echo definition in all its ranges. It uses a dynamic gain and sea filter that adjusts depending on your environment. The power system is a 4kW transmission. Whatever your conditions are in the open water, this radar will perform excellently. It’s also convenient to install since it’s a plug-and-play system.
Dimensions: 23.6 x 11.8 x 23.6 in
Weight: 30.1 lbs
Notable Features You Need To Know About:
- Dynamic system adjusts accordingly
- Dome radar
- Uses a 4kW transmission
If you value connectivity and app-friendly options, then Furuno’s lightweight radar is a great choice. If you have an Apple device, you can connect it to the radar, which provides extra functionality. It’s also compatible with Navionics Plotter and there’s a Nobeltec app included for free. The warranty will also offer you peace of mind since it’s easy to repair or replace the product should it be defective or damaged.
Dimensions: 18 x 10 x 6 in
Weight: 25 lbs
Notable Features You Need To Know About:
- Great customer service
- Free Nobeltec app
- Compatible with Navionics Plotter
- Can connect to Apple devices
Lowrance’s radar utilizes a Solid-State technology so it can start-up in no time. It’s an energy-efficient radar that provides quick and accurate images, so you’ll always know what’s up ahead with ease. The cartography is merged with a chart overlay to display precise details. It maps all kinds of details such as marinas, buoys, debris, large or small boats alike, and more.
If you use a heading sensor, the Marpa tracking system can track a maximum of 10 targets. Its on-board 3G broadband is better than mobile phones since it creates lower emissions and is more energy-efficient.
Dimensions: 22 x 14.2 x 24.8 in
Weight: 33 lbs
Notable Features You Need To Know About:
- Display shows lots of details
- Fast start-up due to Solid-State
- Marpa tracking
Since you now have four excellent choices for your marine radar, you should also be equipped with the knowledge of what features you should keep in mind before choosing a marine radar.
Buyer’s Guide — How To Choose Your Own Marine Radar
Your marine vessel deserves a top-quality radar to help with navigation. Reliable radar systems are essential for safety and security. When it’s time to choose your radar, consider these different characteristics so that you can make choose one best suited for your boat. You’ll also be able to make the best choice for your wallet.
The most general characteristic of radars is its power. Powerful radars will have a longer range of sight and higher focusing power. This means seeing small things farther. A powerful radar will dictate this more than any other variable.
Environmental factors can reduce the range of your radar, like fog, rain, drizzle, humidity. These will also end up draining power from your radar. So if you have a more powerful radar, it will be able to contend with the environment.
The standard range for marine radars is from 4kW up to 25kW. The higher the wattage, the more powerful it can go. You can also get a budget radar of 2kW, but it’s very weak with only a range of 24 nautical miles. You will get more for your money by buying a radar with a higher wattage and a larger radius.
Not all radar systems use the same technology. Some use older, more traditional technology. This uses a pulse radar which can create microwave signals via powerful magnetrons for every voltage pulse. The newer, more modern type uses broadband radars. These are solid-state radars that use a Frequency Modulated Continuous Waves, or FMCW. This technology is comparable to modern-day sonar systems.
These modern radars are more popular not just because of their newer technology, but because they are more optimized. They do not emit as much radiation, offer a high resolution, do not need any warm-up period, are flexible in installation, and have remarkably high ranges.
Where you mount the marine radar is crucial. The radar won’t be useful if it ends up somewhere with large blind areas. Wherever you mount it, it’s best to place it higher than head height, since the electromagnetic waves being emitted from it can be somewhat harmful. The typical place to mount it is at the peak of the vessel for a 360-degree range without any blind spots. With this in mind, avoid having the masts, spreaders, and any other solid objects in view, since they will contribute to blind spots.
It will be very useful if you buy a model accompanied by a mounting toolkit. Although accompanying mounting kits are standard to come with radars, not every seller will use the same attachments and accessories. Because of this, when you purchase your radar, inspect what exactly is included among the kit that comes with it.
Since safety is a primary concern, you’ll certainly want to get a top-quality marine radar. You don’t want your marine radar to be faulty or to break down in crucial moments. To be assured of its quality, the radar should have been made by brands with a reliable reputation.
A marine radar should have the right features if you plan on using your boat frequently in different conditions. If you’re going to go fishing, then your marine radar should have a sonar system to help you find fish. If you’re staying overnight in your boat or leaving the top dock early, your marine radar should have high power. If you don’t use your boat for those purposes, then a radar with just the basic features will suit you enough. Those entry-level radars will guarantee your safety, and you won’t have to spend money on extra features you don’t plan on using.
Weight and Size
Depending on what your boat can accommodate, you should be mindful of what size and weight you plan to get. First, check if the radar model you’re buying can fit in your boat when you install it. A radar can have additional features that make it larger, so your boat should also have enough space to fit all of that in. Then, be sure to find a secure place to mount the radar where its full weight will be supported sufficiently. Marine radars can be heavy, and you wouldn’t want it to fall just because the place you mounted it in couldn’t hold the weight properly.
Be mindful of how tall the marine radar is so you don’t crash it into anything accidentally during your cruise. The antenna height also contributes to the range that the marine radar can detect. Antennas allow the radar to see past their normal limitations. If you have a tall, large boat, then it would be good to get a radar that is for long-distances. But if your boat is small enough, then don’t get a long-distance radar since your boat won’t be able to utilize the maximum range.
Many radars have a broadcast range of 1-6 degrees when it pulses. A narrower beam width means that the radar’s vibrations are more fixated and the results of target differentiation are better. However, since the beam width has a correlation with the target width, a narrow beam is more limited in visibility during short-range situations.
Stand-alone vs Multi-function Radars
Stand-alone radars use a colorless dedicated display if that’s what you prefer. They have fewer features compared to multi-function systems, so your experience will be straightforward and the radar will have fewer chances of breaking down. The more expensive multi-function radars have more features and color displays. However, all the features are connected, so if one breaks, the entire radar system also will.
To help you have a thorough awareness of marine radars, we’ll also answer some of the most common questions that potential buyers have.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are questions frequently asked about the best boat radars.
How Do Marine Radars Work?
Marine radars are made for sea vehicles to detect other things in the water. The primary purpose of radars is to keep you safe from collisions, although they can come with other extra features. Along with the radar’s electric signals, an antenna sends out microwave beams throughout the water’s surface. Objects, like ships or fish, that disrupt these beams register as obstacles on the radar for you to detect their position.
What Do Marine Radars Come With?
Many marine radars include cables and HD transducers in the kit. Manufacturers also include mounting systems in the package. It all depends on the brand if they choose to include extra accessories, so be sure to check the package’s label for what you’re getting. If the initial kit doesn’t have the accessories you want, they are most likely offered as separate purchases anyway.
How Do You Maintain Marine Radars?
When it comes to durability, marine radars are quite solid. The materials that are used in manufacturing have weather-resistance and anti-corrosion, so you don’t have to worry about any water or salt destroying its components. Of course, you should still clean it from time to time, preferably when you do the routine clean-up of your boat.
In general, always pay attention if the marine radar displays any possible problems. Mount it properly to avoid any mounting issues. If you notice anything wrong, consult the owner’s guide, call the company and inquire, or get a certified professional to check your radar.
Finally, we’ve summed up all the final reminders you need in our conclusion.
Marine Radar Review Conclusion
The water offers many challenges that boat owners will have to deal with. One way to deal with these challenges is to get a good quality marine radar. With one, you’ll be able to avoid possible collisions on your trip. You’ll also be able to determine your location with pinpoint accuracy, ensuring that you’re always on top of navigation.
Get a marine radar that sports all the features you’ll need and one that your boat can accommodate perfectly. You don’t want to spend money on extra features that you won’t take advantage of anyways. If you encounter any problems with your radar, always remember to contact the company or professionals that can take a look.
So for a safer and more relaxing voyage, get your very own marine radar now.