How to buy a Magnetic Locator - EngineerSupply

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How to buy a Magnetic Locator

Blog how to buy magnetic locator

Buying a Magnetic Locator is a decision that many surveyors and municipal employees decide to make. It seems most purchases are based on someone seeing the product used by another department or someone that has been on the job for a long time.

The need for a magnetic locator is usually to locate ferrous objects under ground, under water, or in snow. Objects such as PK nails, iron pipes, buried metal objects, valve covers, masonry nails, manhole covers, wires, cast iron water and gas lines, valve boxes, septic tanks and well casings, and surveyors' markers.

Survey markers or pins are such a strong magnetic target that almost any magnetic locator will find them. Therefore a customer has to look at other factors in determining which locator is the best to buy.

Blog how to buy magnetic locator

Things to consider when buying a locator would be:

1. Do you need a case? If yes, a hard or soft case?
2. Do you need a visual indicator, such as an LCD?
3. Do you need a headphones (in case you are in a noisy area and need to hear the locators sound better)? If yes, get a locator with a headphone jack. (*See the negative side of using headphones below).
4. Battery life and battery level indicators.
5. Sound level adjustment knobs.
6. Size of the locator itself. Do you need one that collapes?
7. Cost.
8. Warranty.
9. Weight of the locator. How long will you have to carry it around?
10. Initial Cost of the purchase. sells brands of magnetic locators like; Dunham & Morrow, Schonstedt, Subsurface Instruments, and CST (Chicago Steel Tape) Survey. All of these locators are professional grade instruments and are built to withstand the rigors of aggressive environments. We do recommend taking care of your magnetic locator since it is an electronic device. Return your locator to it's case after each use is a great way to help protect your investment.

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If you're concerned with cost of the locator you're planning to buy, consider the useful life expectancy. Some locators are used for twenty or thirty years by some surveyors. We have seen some surveyors with locating instruments that last them their entire career. You should consider the price being spread out over these years and not be as concerned with price in our opinion. We always think of the nice steak supper for $50 that lasts only a few hours. Thats a good way to think about where your money is going.


The Dunham & Morrow Magnetic Locators come with a Lifetime Warranty. The Schonstedt's warranty's vary from model to model. The Schonstedt Model GA-52Cx comes with a 7-year Warranty and the Model GA-72Cd comes with a 5-year Warranty. The CST Magna-Trak's come with a 5-year Warranty.


The use of headphones when operating a locator is considered to be dangerous due to the user cannot hear other sounds on a construction site, or in near highways. We do not recommend using headphones. If you do, it would be something to consider where and when you are using them.

Some customers have stated they like the soft case better than the hard case. You need to ask yourself if you want a case, and if so, what type. Some cases have shoulder straps that makes carrying the case in the field easier.


If you are looking for a locator that is easy to carry in the field, we recommend the Schonstedt MAC-51Bx if you want magnetic & cable locating abilities. The MAC-51Bx has optional accessories that can enable it to do a few more tasks than other locators. We have had many satisfied customers that have purchased the Dunham & Morrow brand of locator. It all depends on what you want to do and where you will carry your locator.

Some recommend that you contact the manufacturer every five or so years and have your locator calibrated and/or tested, especially if you are locating UXO (Unexploded Ordnance) or Weapons. Some manufacturers say that the need for calibration is unnecessary so its really a decision to be made by the customer if this type of maintenance is needed.

We recommend taking the time to think about what you want to accomplish with a magnetic locator. Then, putting your criteria in ranking order before you make the purchase.

Click here to View our Selection of Magnetic Locators

Disclaimer;  By reading this guide on our website, you agree to not hold anyone responsible for any misuse or misunderstandings that you may make. does NOT assume any responsibility with providing this information.


Copyright 2005 - The Product Team

Frequently Asked Questions

Blog how to buy magnetic locator

1. How Do I Use a Schonstedt Magnetic Locator?

These devices are used to detect metal objects. Use a magnetic locator to detect ferrous metals buried in the ground. Simply pass the detector over the location of a ferrous metal and listen for a change in sound. Follow the instructions on the user guide to set up, charge and operate your locator.

2. What Is a Magnetic Locator?

Unlike pipe and cable locators, a magnetic location device measures the magnetic field distortion around a metal target. This allows you to find magnetic items buried in the ground. They are popular in the construction, surveying and excavation industries. A locator device doesn’t emit any signal and can’t be used to search for wiring or non-ferrous pipes.

3. How Do Locators Work?

Use a CST magnetic locator to find buried ferrous materials. All ferrous metals have a magnetic field. A locator measures this field and alerts you to any buried ferrous item. The efficiency of a locator depends on the depth and mass of the item you’re searching for, so be sure to choose a heavy-duty locator for small items.

4. What Are Common Features of Locators?

Shop for locators that offer you the depth and low-mass readings you need. Look for a locator that comes with a durable case, long-lasting warranty and other features. Use caution when using included headphones, as these can be a workplace distraction and hazard at construction sites and other places with heavy-duty equipment.

5. Where Can I Buy a Locator?

Shop at Engineer Supply for a magnetic locator that fits your project. Shopping online allows you to compare brands, sizes and other features to ensure you pick up the correct locator. Don’t mistake a pipe and cable locator with a magnetic option, but enjoy convenient searching for the exact tool you need.
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