Whether you’re a professional contractor, utilities company or other user of cable locating equipment, buying the correct unit for your needs is a very important step.
With the wide range of underground cable locators on the market today, knowing which to buy can be complicated.
To help in that search we have pulled together 5 top rated locators covering a series of pricepoints and functionality.
For our findings at a glance, just head to the table below. For in depth reviews of each of our picks, plus a details buyer’s guide, keep on reading.
Best Underground Cable/Wire Locators
Underground Locater Reviews
There are different models of underground locators available today. However, these tools can be rated based on their features, build quality, depth estimate and frequency levels, cost-performance benefits as well as warranty duration and overall brand reputation.
Based on these rating criteria, 5 of the best underground wire, cable and utility locators have been identified and chosen for review.
1. BEST UTILITY LOCATOR: RIDGID 21893 SeekTech SR-20 Locator, (Line Tracer and Underground Utilities)
The RIGID 21893 Underground Utility Locator comes with a large LCD screen which graphically displays the signal. From the graphic representation, you can get data such as the signal strength, target line, proximity signal, and guidance arrows.
The different parameters lead to fast detection of the underground wires.
It uses Omni seek technology which increases the accuracy and the efficiency when searching for underground wires in passive mode.
The tool is useful in tracing any pipe from the frequencies of 10HZ to 35, 000 kHz. Let’s take a closer look at the features of the Rigid 21893.
Large LCD screen
The wire locater has a large LCD screen which makes it highly effective in locating underground wires.
The readings are displayed which makes it easy to locate the wires after studying different parameters of the buried wires on the screen.
From the screen, various forms of data can be obtained such as the target line which helps in mapping up the difficult locations.
Omni seek technology
Omni seek technology is useful in locating wires when the tool is in passive mode. It searches continuously till it finds the wires while avoiding unknown metallic lines.
The technology makes the wire locator highly reliable when searching in places where there are several underground wires, but your focus is on a given line.
Wide range of frequency
The wire locator works over a long range of frequency. It can detect wires from a range of 10 Hz to 35, 000 kHz making it an effective wire locator which you can apply to achieve great success when trying to locate underground wires. It is highly effective in locating underground utility lines.
Picks up the signal in any orientation
The wire locator comes with three antennas which lay at 120 degrees to each other hence offsetting each other. There are also additional antennas which ensure the tool can pick signal at any orientation. It is a highly effective tool you can apply to pick signal in any direction.
The arrangement of the antennas makes the tool highly effective in picking signals at different angles to make it highly effective.
Continual depth features
When wires or pipes are buried underground, they may change depth from time to time. The continual depth feature makes it possible for the tool to show depth changes of the signal from the underground pipes in real time.
You get a clear visual representation of the wires as they change in depth making it easy for you to strategize on how to remove them.
The RIDGID 21893 is our top pick utilities locator because it balances professional features and cost in a manner that sets it apart from the competition.
With it’s large LCD screen, Omni seek technology and in built continual depth feature this is a tool that gets the job done. Highly recommended.
2. BEST CABLE LOCATOR: Greenlee 501 Tracker II
The Greenlee 501 Tracker II is a powerful wire locator which works very well in locating underground wires. With a tracker which determines the depth at which the cables are buried, it makes it easy to come up with the right strategies on how to extract the wires.
It can detect wires on both active as well as dead systems. The receiver is lightweight making it possible to quickly move with it to remote locations where you can carry out the metal detection processes.
Accurate determination of the depth of wires
Wires can be buried underground at different depths. To quickly locate the cables you need to know the extent at which the wires have been buried; it becomes easy to identify the exact depth of the wires if you decide to use the metal detectors.
It has inbuilt mechanisms which work very well in determining the extent at which cables have been buried. It is a useful tool which can be applied to know the exact depth of wires when working on a large project. The depth readings obtained are accurately making it a highly reliable wire locator.
The receiver is lightweight. There is no stress of carrying heavy items around. The lightweight receiver in the system provides both audio and visual indications of the signal strength.
Audio and visual indication
The availability of signals in both audio and visual indication makes the operations very reliable on the Greenlee 501 Tracker. You can easily take measurements by relying on the two signals. With a transmitter frequency of 447.5 kHz, it is a powerful wire locator you can apply to realize great results in your fieldwork.
Adjustable receiver sensitivity and transmitter output
There are places where you would like to realize the highest level of sensitivity. In such a case you need a tool which you can adjust the receiver sensitivity.
With the Greenlee wire locator, you have the freedom to adjust both the transmitter output and the receiver sensitivity so that you can realize the best signal output. The process of adjusting the sensitivity is easy making the unit easy to use.
The results displayed by the tool are highly reliable due to the fact that the settings can be adjusted to achieve a high level of sensitivity.
Three methods of connection
You can connect the tool in different methods. For instance, you can use a direct connection, inductive antenna, and inductive coupler. The tool has a wide range of up to 4000 feet making the process of detecting underground wires easy.
Affordability and ease of use are the name of the game here. The Greenlee 501 Tracker II Cable Locator offers great functionality for those needing a high quality cable locator without breaking the bank.
With a decent range under the hood, three methods of connection and both audio and visual indicators this is a tool that delivers. However, be aware that reliability does waver at depth.
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3. Armada Technologies Pro290 Underground Wire and Cable Locator
The Pro290 from Armada Technologies is a compact tool which offers clear signals. The transmitter is inbuilt making it easy to analyze the signals as a way of locating wires.
The hard shell carrying case makes the transmitter very durable. You can carry it to any rugged location, and it will still stay safe. You will always feel comfortable when handling the transmitter due to the easy to carry case.
The built-in speaker has volume controls for easy adjustment of sound so that you can get clear signals of the easy location of the underground wires. Features of the Pro290 include:
You need a tool which you can easily carry to the field. In most cases, wire location is carried out in remote areas where you need to carry the tools.
The compact design of the wire locator makes it highly effective. You can carry it to different locations where you can carry out the wire detection process. Careful design of the tool makes it easy to carry around.
Although it is built into a compact design, it is a highly reliable tool which works very well in displaying the features.
Durable wire locator
The built-in transmitter is housed in a hard shell which protects it against damage. When walking in rugged areas while trying to get signals, it becomes easy for the tools to be exposed to damage. Even if the tool falls when in the jungle trying to get signals, you do not have to worry, the hard case provides maximum protection.
The tool is built to be lightweight. It becomes very easy to carry around. In most cases, the process of carrying out metal detection is carried out in remote areas.
You do not have to be stressed on how you can carry the metal detector around. The lightweight design of the tool makes it very easy to carry around.
Adjustable volume built-in speakers
If you are working in a noisy place, you do not have to worry about accessing the signal. The inbuilt speakers have adjustable volume control where you can adjust the volume till you reach a level where you can quickly get the accurate signals.
Using the highly reliable tool is easy. Detachable antennae make the process maintenance easy in case of damage to the tool.
The speakers are highly durable. They are easy to operate making them highly reliable. The clear audio display is achieved upon tunning them. The general design of the speakers makes them very reliable.
Lacking in a decent digital read out, while still matching our top picks as far as price point the Armada Technologies Pro290 is a capable locator. However, we feel there are better options available.
4. Mastech Wire Tracker Test Cable Network Cable Telephone Cable Underground Pipe Ms6818
The Mastech Wire Tracker transmitter works on both AC/DC voltages coming in at 12 to 400V AC/DC volts on a linear basis.
There’s no shortage of data displayed on the small, transmitter screen either. Preset transmitting power, transmitted codes, the AC/DC status of mains voltage as well as a warning symbol for mains voltage detected, all of this is clearly presented where applicable.
It has an in-built battery making it convenient to operate it in remote locations. Its LCD screen makes it very easy when working in the field.
Adjustable sensitivity on the receiver allows for accurate signal detection. The adjustment can be done manually or automatically.
For silent operation, both the transmitter and the receiver can work under mute mode.
Overall the Mastech works well under varying locate conditions.
The Mastech Wire Tracker is another underground locator worthy of its top 5 position. Quality functionality with some great features for the price this unit comes highly recommended.
Doesn’t match the offering from Rigid in terms of technological sophistication, and cannot compete with the Kolsol as far as price point. A good locator nonetheless.
5. BEST BUDGET OPTION: Kolsol Underground Wire Locator Cable Tester F02
The Kolsol Underground wire locator is highly useful in tracking and locating hidden wires. It is a versatile tool which can be sued to find wires of different functions.
For example, it can be applied to locate metal wires, pet fence wires, metal pipes, and electric fence among other wires. The design of the metal detector makes the process of finding wires very easy.
Features of the Kolsol Underground Wire Locator Cable Tester F02 include:
Easy to use
The design of the wire detector makes it very easy to use. It comes with all the instructions which you can easily follow and get started.
It works very well in locating different types of wires. If you run a project where you need to discover different types of buried wires, the tool can work very well for you. It is among highly reliable tools which are very easy to use.
Can trace up to 3 feet deep and 1000 feet length
The wired detector works well when trying to detect wires buried in less than 3 feet deep. It has a wide range of up to 100 feet. The field is not very long, but when taking into consideration the cost of the wire detector.
It works very well for small projects where wire detection is required. The simple tool works very well under different conditions.
Works on wires with less than 24V If you are trashing wires which do not carry current, it works very well. You should avoid using the tester on live wires of more than 24 V because it can lead to damage.
The careful design of the tester works on different wires provided they carry less voltage. It is a great tool you can buy as a start and it will serve you very well.
Compact and lightweight
You do not have to worry about where you are about to carry out the wire detection services. The tool is lightweight but highly effective when carrying out wire detection. You can easily carry it to your job site where you need wire location services.
The use of the latest technology makes the wire locator easy to use but highly reliable. You can apply it to achieve the best performance when locating different types of wires.
Its lightweight and compact design make it ideal for various applications irrespective of the location where you intend to carry out the wire detection.
The Kolsol Underground Wire Locator Cable Tester is out top pick budget option for good reason. Balancing adequate functionality at a really good price, this is an excellent entry level locator for those needing to detect wires but cannot afford to spend 1000’s of dollars to do so.
Factors to consider when buying an underground wire locator
A professional cable locator is a substantial investment, therefore you will want to purchase the correct unit for your needs.
To ascertain which of the many locator products available, is the right one for you, here are some issues to consider.
Depth Estimate, frequencies & Power levels
These are the most important specifications to focus on. While some units will efficiently detect the presence of cables and piping, they may not provide accurate information on depth. (Some omit these details altogether).
If you are working on site where depth estimates are necessary, you will need a cable locator with these features built in.
Other specs to consider are to do with the receiver; check that this has the capability to operate over multiple frequencies and multiple power levels. Are more powerful unit will clearly provide better results over long ranges and difficult detecting environments.
Also, if you are an electric utility contractor, a system that has a volt ohm meter and is able to can fault find and locate at the same time will help to substantially reduce your work load.
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Internal GPS/GNSS Receiver
An internal GPS/GNSS receiver is a very useful function that will reduce your work load. A unit that offers this will automatically add positional data to the log records.
Not only will this keep a record of how the operator was working, (great for training purposes), but also where the locator was used.
Areas where cabling has been detected are fully traceable as a result.
Clear LCD screen
No matter the type of work you are doing, any operator benefits from a large, clear LCD screen that gives a precise reading in all weather conditions.
It will make your job easier, while also reducing any potential mistakes caused by poor visibility and a missed reading.
A clear strike alert function is another important feature to look out for when buying an underground wire locator.
This in built technology is designed to inform the unit operator that they have located something below the surface that could be problematic should digging commence.
It enables the user to log all potential underground hazards. On a locator that has the aforementioned depth estimate function, such details can also be recorded.
In some situations, overload protection is a feature an operator may need. A dynamic overload protection will assist in difficult locations where excessive signals present.
Where high voltage overhead or underground lines are present, the unit will still be able to give a precise reading despite the level of outside interference.
A unit that has a good range of after market accessories available is a good sign.
Not only does this mean it has been widely accepted by the locator community, it is also a unit that is versatile as and when your needs change.
Accessories such as 2”, 4” or 8” coupler clamps, a good stethoscope, current direction receiver and transmitter clamps, and sondes are all worthwhile additions that a professional could use in their kit bag from time to time.
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Cost and manufacturer Reputation
As with most things you do get what you pay for when it comes to underground cable locators.
Scrimp to buy the cheapest and it is likely you are buying a sub-par unit from a less than reputable manufacturer.
We recommend that you spend as much as you can afford, to ensure that you buy the highest quality option within your specific budget.
A good company will provide a competitive warranty, and along with the superior build quality and features the unit will provide, you will end up saving money over the long haul.
- PDF Guide: Locating 101 Handbook A Quick Guide to Underground Locating
- PDF Guide: Utility Locating Terminology & Equipment Guide
- Video: Locating Pipe & Tracer Wire: Applying Signal Using Inductive Method
- Website: How cable locators work – Principles of buried utility detection
- Utility Products: Successful Locating Depends on Knowing Which Frequency to Use