Though once only reserved for very large commercial or passenger vessels, radar is now compact and ubiquitous on smaller sailboats. Marine radar is 100% necessary to help you “see” through fog, darkness, and inclement weather. Even if you enjoy navigating by the stars, it’s nice to have radar available to let you know of incoming boat traffic and unseen obstacles in water, particularly if you’re boating closer to shore. Whether you’re more into multi-day cruising or just are looking to explore closer to home this upcoming season, we’ve put together this guide to help you choose the best marine radar for you and your vessel. Included in this guide is also some key vocabulary and information to help you make the most informed purchase possible. Check it out, and see you out there, sailor!
For more of our top sailing gear recommendations, check out the Best Marine GPS Chartplotters.
Quick Answer – The Best Marine RadarsRaymarine RD418HD Color RadomeView at AmazonRaymarine Quantum 2 Q24D Doppler 19”View at AmazonGarmin Fantom 18” Pulse Compression Dome RadarView at AmazonSimrad Halo 20+, 20”View at Amazon
Comparison Table – Best Marine RadarsPictureNameMaximum RangeWeightWarrantyPriceRatingRaymarine RD418HD Color Radome48 Nautical Miles21 poundsThree Years (with product registration)$$4.9Raymarine Quantum 2 Q24D Doppler 19”24 Nautical Miles12.3 poundsThree Years (with product registration)$$$4.8Garmin Fantom 18” Pulse Compression Dome Radar48 Nautical Miles11.4 poundsTwo Years$$$4.95Simrad Halo 20+, 20”36 Nautical Miles13 poundsTwo Years$$$4.75PictureNameMaximum RangeWeightWarrantyPriceRating
Want to learn more about a technical term? Check out our Features Explained section below.
Need buying advice? Take a look at these Things to Consider.Reviews – Best Marine RadarsRaymarine RD418HD Color RadomeSpecsBeam: 4.9 degrees HTransmit Power: 4 KilowattsDimensions: 20 ½” Diameter x 9 11/16” HeightWeight: 21 poundsWarranty: Three Years (with product registration)Maximum Range: 48 Nautical MilesAmperage: 3.3 AmpsFeaturesOffers A 256-Color Radar Display With Clear, Lifelike PresentationIncludes A Bird Mode For Automatically Detecting Flocks Of Sea Birds Hovering Over Schools Of FishCan Monitor Both Long And Short Range Distances Simultaneously With A Single ScannerBEST FOR: SMALLER VESSELS
If you’ve got a smaller sailboat or a fishing boat around which you’re moving a lot to catch your fish, you’re going to want a compact radar system that won’t get in the way of your enjoyment and won’t look unsightly on board your boat. This Raymarine Radome is with its moving parts inside of its dome, so you don’t have to worry about long, swinging arms that need to constantly rotate.
This device doesn’t, however, compromise on performance with its smaller size. Its automatic settings – like its adaptive digital receiver that automatically adjusts to changing environmental and sea conditions – makes this radar system efficient and easy to use. If you do like fishing, it also has an automatic Bird Mode that detects flocks of birds hovering over schools of fish out at sea. Follow the birds and you’ll find the fish!
View at AmazonRaymarine Quantum 2 Q24D Doppler 19”SpecsBeam: 4.9 degrees H x 20 degrees VTransmit Power: 20 wattsDimensions: 8.25” Height x 21.3” DiameterWeight: 12.3 poundsWarranty: Three Years (with product registration)Maximum Range: 24 Nautical MilesAmperage: 0.58 AmpsFeaturesDoppler Moving Target Display Allows For Superior Sight And Awareness24 Nautical Mile Range Helps You Prepare For Traffic, Obstacles, And WeatherLightweight And Easy To Install DesignBEST FOR: DAY CRUISING
When you are heading out on a day cruise, you’re most likely spending time traveling in and out of busier ports and traveling closer to shore. Increased traffic and obstacles like rocks in the water are much more likely in this scenario, and you’ll therefore want a radar system that can handle real-time updates and powerful transmission.
This device’s doppler moving target display updates as you move. It also color codes moving radar contacts (i.e., other boats or obstacles) for instant visual recognition, thereby reducing your risk of collision. It also features Pulse Compression technology, which ensures superior imaging at longer ranges allowing you to plan for upcoming traffic and obstacles in your pathway. Finally, this device is energy efficient and lightweight (about 50% less weight than other radar devices in its class), so it’s easy to install and mount.
View at AmazonGarmin Fantom 18” Pulse Compression Dome RadarSpecsBeam: 5.2 degrees HTransmit Power: 40 wattsDimensions: 9.8” Height x 20” DiameterWeight: 11.4 poundsWarranty: Two YearsMaximum Range: 48 Nautical MilesAmperage: 12 WattsFeaturesUses Doppler Technology To Identify And Display Moving TargetsProduces Color-Coded, High Resolution Images For Easy Visual RecognitionCompatible With Garmin Chartplotters For Clear, Concise Voyage PlanningBEST FOR: LONG RANGE DETECTION
This Garmin radar device packs a lot of power into a small, compact package. Its Doppler technology works really well to highlight moving targets to avoid potential collisions, find flocks of birds if you’re looking to drop your fishing line into the water, and track weather formations. This motion detection works from 20 feet from your vessel all the way out to 48 nautical miles; if you’re headed out on a multi-day cruise, you’ll truly be able to plan your route with all the information to stay safe out on the ocean.
Finally, this radar system also color codes its moving targets and provides extremely high resolution so that you can see any objects or weather in your path with a quick glance at your screen and without coordinating a series of complicated nautical charts.
View at AmazonSimrad Halo 20+, 20”SpecsBeam: 4.9 degrees H x 25 degrees VTransmit Power: 25 wattsDimensions: 8.8” Height x 20” DiameterWeight: 13 poundsWarranty: Two YearsMaximum Range: 36 Nautical MilesAmperage: 0.17 ampsFeaturesFeatures Dual Range Mode That Allows You To See Both Short And Long Range Distances At The Same TimeProvides Almost Real-Time View At Closer RangesReady Instantly From Stand-By Mode Without The Need For A Long Warm-Up TimeBEST FOR: COASTAL CRUISING
Though it may seem like cruising far out at sea would be more dangerous than closer to the coast, coastal cruising brings with it lots of hazards not found far from shore. From boat traffic to rocks and other obstacles in the water to variable weather systems, you’re going to want a robust radar system that can keep up with all of these quickly changing variables.
This Simrad marine radar device offers an almost real-time view of moving objects so that you can plan your route around oncoming boat traffic and avoid collisions. The addition of its VelocityTrack technology will give you instant feedback on whether a target is moving toward or away from you and color codes obstacles for easy-to-read visuals, thereby further reducing your chance for a collision.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING MARINE RADAR
Before purchasing your radar system, you’re going to want to make sure that it’s compatible with your existing GPS or chartplotter system to be able to display your radar images as well as your electronic capacity on your boat. No need to overdo the size and capacity of your radar for the size of your vessel or how you enjoy using your vessel. Multi-day cruises require a different scope of radar technology.
For more information about choosing the right marine radar for your sound system, check out this article from West Marine.
DO YOU HAVE A SMALL OR LARGE VESSEL?
You’re installing your subwoofer on your sailboat, and so you’re going to want to make sure that you have the proper infrastructure to handle your radar system. The devices can be compact and lightweight or quite heavy and wide. Make sure you measure before purchasing and attempting to install.
WHAT KIND OF RADAR RANGE WILL YOU NEED?
If you spend most of your time cruising around your local harbor and along your local shoreline, it’s unlikely that you’ll need seriously long range radar. After all, you’ll only really need something that can see as far out as your day-cruise can take you. If you’re headed out on a multi-day cruise, then you’re going to want marine radar that has quite a long range to look out for weather and boat traffic in unfamiliar waters.
WHY DO I NEED RADAR?
Even if you feel like you know your local waters really well, unexpected inclement weather or fog can really obscure what was once in plain sight. It’s very easy to get turned around or not recognize low tide coming in if your sight is obscured. Additionally, if you enjoy fishing, radar that comes with a Bird Mode to check for flocks of seabirds feeding on schools of fish can be really useful as you’re looking for a good place to drop your line.
A system for detecting the presence, direction, distance, and speed of moving objects out of sight. Pulses of high-frequency electromagnetic waves are reflected off an object and sent back to the device.
A unit that measures distance at sea, equal to approximately 2,025 yards (1,852 meters).
A technology used to increase the range resolution as well as signal of radar.
A dome or structure that protects the radar equipment.
The strength of an electric current in amperes.
The distance that a radar device can detect. It typically has both a minimum and maximum range.