Obviously, budgetary constraints will be an important determining factor in your choice. Most modern fishfinder manufacturers price their units on a fairly level playing field. Basic, mid-level, and top-shelf fishfinders of the same size will usually be similarly priced.
Screen size is another critical factor. The larger the screen, the happier you’re likely to be. In fact, many experienced anglers will base their choice on just how large a unit they can fit at the helm and will often opt for a larger but simpler unit, versus a smaller but more advanced one.
You may find the interface on one brand of fishfinder completely intuitive, while another leaves you flummoxed every time you power it up. So before making a purchase, it’s a good idea to go to a big-box store that has multiple brands on display. Start pressing buttons and see which user interface best meshes with you, personally. Many people prefer a touchscreen versus tactile buttons. This is another personal choice, and many relatively low-cost options include touch-screen functionality. So, if you’re a fan of one or the other, be sure to consider this factor as well.
Historically, fishfinders just looked down, but this is no longer the case. Today you can get units that look off to the sides of your boat, in front of it, or even display 3D images. Do you really need all that advanced tech? In some cases, such as searching for structure over long stretches of otherwise barren water, it can give you a huge leg up. But in others, like vertically jigging over schools of fish in deep water, it’s more or less irrelevant. So ask yourself what sorts of fishing you enjoy the most, and how likely it is that those types of features will really help you find and catch more fish.
The bottom line? Tech has come such a long way in recent years that today’s inexpensive units are often as impressive as the top-shelf fishfinders of decades past. Choose wisely, and it’s a fair bet that you’ll be catching more fish before you know it.