No matter where you plan to take your boat, a chartplotter is a must-have piece of equipment. While there are still a few people out there who will try to convince you that you don’t need one, the safety and convenience they provide make them well worth the investment – which is why I’ve listed options here for the best plotter for yachting for you to choose from.

There are three main producers of the best chartplotters for yachts: B&G, Simrad, and Garmin. If you’ve spent any time shopping for marine equipment, you’ve probably noticed these are leading names in the market. All three brands offer some great plotters, so we’ll be diving into a few different devices from each one.

Before you go on, though, remember to take note of which ones come bundled with a transducer and which ones don’t. All chartplotters rely on a range of sensors and other equipment for input, so to get the most out of your chartplotter, you’ll want to make sure you have all the other equipment it needs to function correctly.

Choose the best plotter for yachting

1. Garmin GPSMAP 78S

This plotter might look small and unassuming, but it packs a lot of features. The essentials are all there: a full-color world map with shaded relief and a fast, precise GPS receiver that can pinpoint your location even when obstacles are present. You won’t have to worry about losing your signal if you venture through deep canyons or thick vegetation.

Wondering just how accurate such a small device can be? Despite the size, the GPSMAP 78S has full WAAS capabilities. You might have seen the term WAAS while shopping around for other plotters, but not everyone knows what it means.

All you need to know is that a WAAS-enabled device can determine your location with an accuracy of 3 meters. That’s a lot of precision for a plotter this size! For now, the WAAS satellites only provide coverage in North America, but coverage may improve in the future.

The 78S has some other nice features to make it well worth your money. Right out of the box, it allows you to wirelessly share routes, waypoints, and other data with other similar units nearby.

If you want to show your friend the fishing spot you found, all it takes is one button click. And if you want more maps than the basic preloaded one, just plug in an appropriate microSD card, and you’re good to go.

View the latest prices and reviews on Amazon.

2. Garmin ECHOMAP UHD 74cv

The previous product is great for people on a budget, but the rest of these plotters, such as the ECHOMAP UHD 74cv, are for those with a bit more to spend. The 74cv comes in at a much higher price point than the 78S, but its robust set of features make it worth the cost.

The 7-inch touchscreen is easy to read in sunlight and is ideal for displaying Garmin’s detailed Bluechart g3 coastal charts, which come preloaded on the device. These charts cover the coastal U.S., the Gulf of Mexico, and the Great Lakes.

This chartplotter does come with a transducer, and it’s a nice one. It gives you a nearly photographic view of fish and structure, using both ClearVü scanning sonar and high-wide CHIRP traditional sonar. You can see individual rocks and fish, and their exact size and shape.

You can share various sonar, charts, and other kinds of data wirelessly with other UHD or Ultra devices nearby, making communication that much easier. You can also create your own fishing maps right on the screen, and if you’d like, you can upload them to Garmin’s Quickdraw community to show others.

At $750, this plotter might be a bit high-end for someone just venturing into the world of yachting. But if you’re starting to get more serious, or you want to start out with some of the best equipment, this device is a great balance of sophistication and price.

View the latest prices and reviews on Amazon.

3. Garmin ECHOMAP Ultra 126sv

The Ultra 126sv is one of Garmin’s most high-end products. It has a bright, 12-inch touchscreen display, making it even easier to see the fine details of the preloaded Bluechart g3 charts. This unit also comes with premium LakeVü g3 inland maps, so your navigation won’t be limited to just the coasts and the Great Lakes.

If you want even more detail than what the preloaded charts offer, you can upgrade to Garmin’s premium charts and maps. The superior hardware of the 126sv will have no problem displaying the precise elevation shading and satellite imagery that these charts and maps provide.

Just like the 74cv, the 126sv comes with a high-performance transducer to give you incredibly sharp underwater views. It’s also compatible with a wide variety of Garmin’s Panoptix sonar transducers, and if you want to save a bit of money, you can choose to buy the 126sv without a transducer and instead purchase one of their lower-priced transducers separately.

The 126sv has all the same sharing, and custom mapping features that the 74cv has. Also, its built-in Wi-Fi capability gives you access to the ActiveCaptain app, a powerful piece of software that allows you to access most of the plotter’s features no matter where you are on the boat.

View the latest prices and reviews on Amazon.

4. Garmin GPSMAP 8612xsv

The 8600 series of plotters are the most sophisticated that Garmin offers. It’s packed with all the special features of the previous devices, along with plenty more for the serious fisherman or sailor.

The 8612xsv is the 12-inch entry in this series. Its spacious touchscreen is designed with IPS technology, which is a high-end variant of LCD that gives much wider viewing angles than other types. Have you ever noticed how laptop or TV screens seem dimmer when you look at them from the side? With an IPS screen, that problem is pretty much-taken care of.

Built-in ANT technology allows the plotter to connect to a wide variety of wireless devices, such as Garmin’s marine watch, wireless transducer, and even remote controls. That’s right—with the 8612xsv and optional remote, you can sit back and relax while you operate the plotter instead of standing for hours in front of the screen.

This series of plotters also features the Garmin SailAssist feature, which can give you a competitive edge if you’re into racing. This software provides pre-race guidance and a number of ultra-responsive data displays, cluing you in to things like wind angle, wind speed, and set and drift, all in real-time.

This is easily the priciest Garmin plotter on this list. It’s specially designed for highly experienced users, so if you’re in the market for your first chartplotter, you probably want to look elsewhere.

View the latest prices and reviews on Amazon.

5. Simrad Cruise 5

Simrad is another major brand in the world of chartplotters. The Cruise 5 is their entry-level chartplotter. It’s designed to be straightforward and intuitive, without quite as many bells and whistles as more expensive models. That makes it a great choice if you haven’t had much experience with plotting devices.

One big difference between this plotter and the others we’ve been looking at is the display. It’s not a touchscreen, so you’ll need to use the buttons and rotary dial to operate the device. But in some cases, controls like these can sometimes be preferable. If you’re fighting strong winds and ocean spray, it helps to have something solid to hold onto. The buttons and dial on the Cruise 5 are solidly built and combined with the user-friendly menus; they’re a breeze to use.

The Cruise 5 comes preloaded with a world map and a U.S. coastal map, and if these aren’t detailed enough for you, it’s easy to add more maps from C-MAP and Navionics. C-MAP easy routing can even suggest a course for you, by taking into account your individual vessel and the conditions you might encounter along the way.

To make things even easier, the Cruise 5’s splitscreen functionality allows you to view multiple sets of data at the same time. Want to keep an eye on the map and sonar at the same time? No problem; just pull them both up on the screen.

View the latest prices and reviews on Amazon.

6. Simrad GO5 XSE

While the simplicity of the Cruise 5 can be welcoming to the beginning boater, maybe you want something just a small step up from that. The GO5 fits that description perfectly, with only a small increase in price in exchange for some handy additional features.

The most obvious upgrade over the Cruise 5 is the touchscreen. No buttons are needed to operate the GO5, making it feel a lot more like the tablets and smartphones that most of us are used to. Even if you’re unfamiliar with plotters, this feature lends the GO5 a more inviting feel than manual controls would.

While the 5-inch screen is on the small side, it still packs plenty of pixels to display the crystal clear data from the Active Imaging 3-in-1 transducer. The combination of CHIRP, SideScan, and DownScan Imaging makes it easy to see whatever you need to underwater.

Another important feature that comes with the GO5 is wireless capability. Similar to the technology found in Garmin plotters, the GO5 is able to mirror to your smartphone so that you can operate the plotter like normal from anywhere on your vessel. Meanwhile, NMEA 2000 makes it easy to expand the device’s capabilities, like using it to monitor your engine performance or control your entertainment system.

View the latest prices and reviews on Amazon.

7. Simrad GO12 XSE with HALO Radar

This is the top-of-the-line plotter in the Simrad GO series. Along with being more than twice the size of the GO5, this one comes with something we don’t often see in a chartplotter: radar compatibility.

Radar isn’t used nearly as often as sonar by the casual boater, and there’s a simple reason for this: most of the time, you can see things above water just fine. But if there’s any possibility you’ll be boating in the fog or in poor lighting conditions; you should consider using radar yourself.

The HALO20+ radar that works with the GO12 does an excellent job of detecting objects and terrain above water. It completes a 360-degree sweep every second, so it can pick up even faster-moving things, like approaching vessels.

The GO12 XSE is right up there with the Garmin 8612xsv in terms of price and only intended for the most serious boaters. But if you have the experience to use an advanced plotter, you can’t go wrong with this one.

View the latest prices and reviews on Amazon.

8. B&G Vulcan 7

The Vulcan 7 is B&G’s entry-level chartplotter. With a 7-inch touchscreen, it focuses on packing lots of value into a small space and a relatively small price tag. It’s so small that it only sticks out 8 millimeters from the bulkhead when mounted, creating a sleek “glass helm” appearance and lending your boat a premium feel.

This plotter has many of the basic features that we’ve seen in other models. Its 10 Hz GPS receiver supports WAAS, making it both fast and highly accurate. Built-in Wi-Fi allows you to mirror the plotter’s screen to your mobile device, and with built-in Bluetooth, you can even send and receive text messages right on the plotter’s screen.

It’s important to note that the Vulcan 7 is best used as a powerful hub for a variety of other instruments, such as radar, wind sensors, and transducers. All of these are sold separately. Buying them all at once could start to add up, but if you already own those instruments, the Vulcan 7 is a great way to bring them all together.

B&G doesn’t put many of their products on Amazon, but you can still find the Vulcan 7 at their website if you’re interested.

9. B&G Zeus³ 7

The Zeus³ series is B&G’s mid-level range of chartplotters, and the Zeus³ 7 is the first entry in this series. The SolarMAX HD screen shows up bright and clear even on the sunniest days and has no trouble responding even in rough conditions when you have ocean spray to contend with. And for really serious whether the key and dial controls function as backup.

If you sail with a twin helm setup, the Zeus³ 7 has you covered. It has an Ethernet port that can connect two units for lag-free communication when you need it most. And just like the Vulcan 7, it’s compatible with a wide variety of additional instruments, including an autopilot system.

This plotter also features a special high-speed processor, providing enough power to run just about all the device’s functions simultaneously, if needed. It also has no trouble dealing with the most complex cartography available, like maps and charts from C-MAP and Navionics.

Once again, B&G allows you to buy the Zeus³ 7 on its own, so you can select your own transducer separately.

Click here to see it on B&G’s website.

10. B&G Zeus³S Glass Helm

The Glass Helm is the absolute best chartplotter that B&G has to offer. The touchscreen delivers full HD resolution, whether you buy the 16-inch, 19-inch, or 24-inch model. Similar to the  Zeus³ 7, there’s a keypad to supplement the touchscreen controls in extreme weather, but with the Glass Helm, the keypad comes in the form of a remote control, allowing you more freedom than the other B&G models.

With its iMX six-core processor, this plotter packs twice as much computing power as the Zeus³ 7. It has no trouble keeping track of six different processes at once, and the HD screen has enough space to display them all side-by-side.

It’s compatible with the widest range of devices yet, including HALO radar and autopilot, and comes with a robust collection of sailing features, such as SailingTime (which calculates the time between waypoints) and WindPredict (which can forecast wind conditions and adjust your route accordingly).

This is by far the most expensive plotter on this list. It’s likely to be outside the price range of the majority of boaters. But if you’re a business owner with some room in the budget or a diehard yachting lover with plenty to spend, the Glass Helm is a surefire way to spare no expense.

Click here if you’re interested.

Choosing the best chartplotter for yachts

When it comes to choosing the best plotter for yachting, there’s a surprising number of options out there, with an even more surprising range of prices. How serious are you about yachting, and how much can you realistically spend on it? Consider these questions carefully since your plotter is one of the most important investments you can make for your boat.

Because there are so many options and price points on this list, this chart might come in handy. The best chartplotters for yachts are arranged from least to most expensive, with a note as to whether they’re sold with a transducer included.

Remember, sonar is important, and you should think twice before going without it.