These affordable fitness trackers have the key features that we want in a fitness tracker, but you won’t have to pay top dollar. We have capped the list at $250 and most of these are under $200. Beyond that, the requirements to be on this list are simple but they are important.
MUST HAVES: Built-In GPS + Heart Rate Monitor
These tracker must have built-in GPS that does not require you to have your phone with you. It must have a heart rate monitor as well. We are also keenly on the hunt for fitness trackers that store their own music although this is not a requirement here. You’ll see that most of the fitness trackers under $200 with GPS cannot store music and require a phone nearby to play music during your workout.
These are the essentials for a good workout and in order to make it onto this list, each tracker must also cost less than $200. We have a mixture of pure fitness trackers here as well as some smart watches. What is the difference? That is debatable…
Fitbit Charge 4 – Original $149.95 – Now Starting at $129 & Under
- GPS + Heart + Blood O2 Sensor
- Measures Skin Temperature , Breathing Rate, Altitude
- NFC Payment Enabled
- 50m Water Restistance
- No Music Onboard
- No Color Touchscreen
- Meh Straps
This is Fitbit’s most expensive fitness tracker right now and it is a step above the Inspire 2 which does not have any GPS built-in.
The original price was $149 when this was released in early 2020. This one has the essentials required to make it onto this list – built-in GPS, heart rate monitor, but it does not store music natively on the tracker. This may be a disappointment to a lot of runners. Instead, Fitbit touts the feature that allows you to control your Spotify music from your wrist… another way of saying that you need your phone to listen to music.
This tracker is available in 3 colors and we like the selection of fitness bands, which includes both woven fitness bands and silicone fitness bands. Bands and straps for the Charge 3 are also compatible with the Charge 4.
Battery Life: Fitbit claims 7 days with up to 5 hours of use with full GPS enabled. This might sound like a drastic reduction but this is not much different than what you will find with a lot of other trackers and smart watches after you enable the GPS and heart rate monitor. These features are known to use a lot of battery power. Also notable here: The monochome display can help to save power vs some other competitors.
Are there any buttons on the Charge 4? Yes, one button on the side. You can navigate through the interface using the button as well as the touchscreen display.
What has changed vs the Fitbit Charge 3? The Charge 4 has fewer colors, built-in GPS added, more watch faces added among other features.
Coros Pace 2 – $199 Original MSRP
- Built-In GPS + Heart Rate Monitor
- Lightweight – 29 grams
- 30 Hours GPS Enabled Battery Life
- Track Running Oval GPS Correction
- Large Color Display
- Strava & Stryd Support
- No Music Onboard
- Manual GPS Satellite Updates
The Coros Pace 2 has been upgraded from the first version to include more processing power and more data storage. It is still the entry level for the Coros fitness watches, but is packs enough quality to justify paying the $200 that they ask. The case measures 42mm and it has a push button + rotating dial on the side, similar to an Apple Watch. It is priced just below the Coros Apex models but retains most of the best functionalities. The Pace 2 has a slightly shorter battery life, especially compared to the Apex 46mm (the Apex comes in 42mm and 46mm, with the 46mm having the best battery life). The Pace two only comes in one size but 42 mm is about as universal as watch sizes come… although is is considered slightly large for some female tastes.
How does the Coros Pace 2 compare with the Coros Vertix? The Pace 2 is about $400 cheaper and has about half of the battery life, also lacks some of the rugged features of the Vertix.
Track Mode – Enable this when you are running on a track to increase distance accuracy. This is a software solution that eliminates the small inaccuracies in GPS measurements. It can do this because we know the shape of a track and as long as the watch knows your general pace, it can assume that you are running in the oval shape without any of the small variations that your GPS might inflict on the data. In other words… it makes your path straight and even with no zigzags.
Additional features worth mentioning: Phone notifications and caller ID when within range of your phone, barometric altimeter, extensive workout-centered software features for activities beyond running.
Battery Life – Battery life is near the top of the class for this tracker. Coros claims up to 20 days of daily use and 30 hours of use with the GPS enabled. The watch also has a power conservation mode that will allow you to go for even more than 20 days of total usage without the GPS, getting closer to 60 hours from one charge.
What sensors does the Coros Pace 2 have? Heart rate, barometric altimeter, accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, thermometer.
Garmin Forerunner 35 – Original $199 – Now $100 & Under
- Built-In GPS + Heart Rate Monitor
- Battery Life
- Emergency Safety Notification Feature
- Price is Right
- Connect to Strava
- No Music Onboard
- Only Controls Android Phone, Not iPhone
- No Color Display
This is the starting level of the Garmin Forerunner line and these watches are made specifically with runners in mind. We call them watches here because they look more like what we would call a smart watch instead of a fitness tracker, however, the Forerunner 35 has functionality more in line with a tracker than a full smart watch with lots of applications (like an Apple Watch).
Battery Life: Garmin claims up to 9 days of battery life without GPS enabled, up to 13 hours with GPS enabled.
More Notable Features of the Forerunner 35: Find my phone feature, GPS synced time and automatic daylight savings adjustments, activity history is viewable on watch.
Safety SOS Messaging – The Forerunner 35 comes with a safety tracking feature that sends out an emergency message to your designated contacts that contains your GPS location. It can be sent on command or sent automatically by the incident detection feature. This is the same thing as a “fall monitor” that tries to detect when you fall.
While the incident detection and SOS message feature might seem a bit novel at first, these have real world applications for almost all ages. It can be used by children when it is time for their parents to pick them up. It can be used by bicyclists in case of a fall. It can be used by elder gnomes who have racked up some serious miles and might find value in this feature as well.
What if I am running indoors and GPS can’t find my location? Select the indoor running mode. This switches the mode so that running is detected using the accelerometer which estimates the number of strides you have taken and the distance traveled. This can also be used outdoors if you can’t get a GPS signal to your watch.
Customizable data fields for display – This is another nice feature of this watch. If you want to have the time, your heart rate, and distance traveled as your 3 metrics shown,… this is exactly what you can have shown. If you prefer another metric, there is a long list to select from.
This watch was first released in 2016 so this is why the price has dropped down below the $170 mark. It was a great value when released and it still a great value now. If you want a GPS tracker that is built-in and does not require your phone, this is one of the cheapest options that you can buy.
Strap – Silicone, replaceable but requires a screwdriver. You will need to look to the aftermarket for alternatives to the factory strap here, but there is a decent amount available on amazon.
Also consider: Garmin 45S, Venu 2, Vivoactive 3. These are a step above the Forerunner 35, slightly newer, and still under $250.
Garmin Vivoactive 3 & Garmin Forerunner 45 – Both Under $200 Now
The Forerunner 35 is the oldest and cheapest model of the Forerunner model line. We recommend both of these because they have the features that they need in order to make it onto this list, they have Garmin quality, and they are below our $250 price point. We have listed and compared some of their key features in the table below.
How does the Garmins Vivoactive3 compare to the Forerunner 45? The Vivoactive 3 is slightly more expensive ($50 more) but there are several added features and sensors to justify this. You’ll get your music stored locally onboard the watch, more activities, more sensors, a touchscreen display, and NFC payments enabled among other things. These are both great watches and you can judge for yourself if you will value the added features.
|Garmin Vivoactive 3||Garmin Forerunner 45|
|Original Price $249||Original Price $199|
|Onboard Music||No Onboard Music|
|7 Days Max Battery Life||7 Days Max Battery Life|
|13 Hours Battery w/ GPS, 5 Hours w/ GPS + Music||13 Hours w/ GPS|
|Safety/Emergency Tracking||Safety/Emergency Tracking|
|Garmin Pay NFC Enabled||No NFC Chip|
|Built-In GPS & Heart Rate||Built-In GPS & Heart Rate|
|Corning Gorilla Glass 3||Chemically Strengthened Glass|
|Touchscreen Color Display||Color display|
|50m Water Resistance||50m Water Resistance|
|14 Days Activity Tracking||200 Hours Activity Tracking|
|Thermometer, Barometric Altimeter||No|
|More Activities (including skiing)||Fewer Activities|
|Activites: Strength, Cardio and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Floor Climbing, Indoor Rowing, Yoga, Running, Indoor Track Running, Treadmill Running, Golf, Skiing, Snowboarding, XC Skiing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, Rowing, Cycling Swimming||Cardio and Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, Yoga, Running, Treadmill Running, Indoor Track Running, cycling|
|Check Price On Amazon||Check Price On Amazon|
Polar M430 – $199
- GPS + 6 Photodiode Heart Rate Sensor
- Compatible with Polar’s Chest Heart Rate Sensors
- Vibration Alerts
- GPS and HR Power Conservation Mode
- No Music Onboard
- Long Bands
- Sports/Fitness-Only Design
- Only 30m of Water Resistance
- Limited Non-Running Features
- Poor Display
Polar was a leader in the heart rate monitor game for decades before smart watches ever existed, so the Polar products are used heavily by serious runners, athletes, and athletic testing labs. The M430 is compatible with Polar’s heart rate monitors which you can expect to be more accurate and reliable than the wrist-based optical sensors. The chest sensor detects the electricity from the heart’s beat instead of using optical sensors, similar to an ECG.
Additional notable features: GPS altimeter (not barometric), training plans for 1/2 marathon, marathon etc, calorie counts and estimations, sleep tracking, structured warmups, and activity tracking features. You won’t find extensive activity tracking features for other sports like some other trackers because this is built largely for runners. There are still activity features like weight lifting and swimming among others. The optical heart rate sensor here is active during swim mode, although reports are that it is not very accurate (many other watches just turn off the heart rate sensor for swimming).
The watch has a design that looks just like a fitness-oriented watch should look, but it won’t pass very well for other occasions. Some of the other trackers and watches on this list can at least get by unnoticed in a lot of settings. This one will look like a fitness tracker no matter how you wear it so don’t expect this to double as a smart watch for formal occasions. This one is for fitness only.
Battery: Polar is claiming 30 hours of battery when using the conservation mode. This limits the time interval when it checks your GPS location from 1 second to either 30 seconds or 60 seconds. You’ll get up to 8 hours with full GPS and heart rate enabled at the 1 second interval.
How many charging cycles can I get from my Polar M430 before the battery deteriorates? Polar claims that you should get at least 300 charging cycles from your device before you start to see any major shortening of daily battery life.
Apple Watch Series 3 – Originally $329 – Now $199 & Under
- GPS + Heart Rate
- 8 GB or More Music Stored Onboard
- 4G Phone Call Enabled Option
- Abundant Straps Available
- Apple Ecosystem Integration, Android Compatible
- Barometric Altimeter
- No Longer Available w/ 4G
- Apple’s Native Fitness App
The Apple Watch is the leader of the pack when it comes to all smartwatches and fitness trackers. The number of ways that the Apple Watch can integrate into your life is long and quickly growing, but if a workout/fitness watch is what you crave the most, than the series 3 may be one of your best options. You’ll get the fitness tracking features that you want + all the bells & whistles that you could ask for in this price range.
Once Offered as 4G Capable, now as GPS only – This was the first smart watch with true Dick Tracy capabilities. You can make a phone call from this watch without having your phone anywhere near you. There are 4G and non-4G versions of the Series 3 out there but you cannot buy the 4G enabled version from Apple anymore. You can still buy the 4G Series 3 Apple Watch refurbished on Amazon. If your phone has 4G capabilities and you have added your watch to your phone plan, you can make calls straight from the watch while you are running and you won’t need your phone with you.
Music Onboard – Not many watches and fitness trackers in this price range will allow you to store your music on the device and leave your phone behind, but the Series 3 is one of them! You’ll get 8 GB of storage in the GPS version and 16 GB in the cellular version.
Battery Life – Apple claims 18 hours of battery life with “regular use”. Battery life is highly variable because of the wide range of things that you can do on this watch that effect battery life. You can get well over 1 day of battery life if your use is limited. If you go full boar with GPS, music, and fitness app to go running (on full display brightness of course), you will have no problem going through a full battery cycle in less than 5 hours. When the watch is new you should be able to come close to this and you can depend on it to last for a full workout in most circumstances well into its life. The phone can also kill your battery quickly. Expect 1 hour of talk time if you are talking on your phone in LTE mode. The newer iPhone 6 only offers 1.5 hours of straight talking time so this is not far behind the newest model. See more details about Apple Watches here.
More notable features: Ping your phone, Apple Pay enabled, WiFi calling for non 4G enabled versions, sleep tracking, camera viewfinder for phone, prompts from the Maps app, ask Siri, water ejection for swimming activities.
Don’t forget… there is a great foundation of apps available in the Apple Store and in the pipeline. The Apple ecosystem is one of the big advantages of buying an Apple Watch over another brand.
Galaxy Watch Active 2 – Originally $249 for Non-4G, Now $219 & Below
- GPS + Heart Rate + LTE Capable
- 4GB Music Stored Onboard
- 8 Photodiode Heart Rate Monitor
- iPhone + Android Compatible
- Large, Bright, Full Color Screen w/ Minimal Bezel
- Can be Charged from Samsung Phone
- Workout Map Visible on the Watch
- Tizen OS instead of Google OS
This is the toned-down version of Samsung’s Galaxy Smart Watch. It is LTE capable in addition to having the onboard GPS and heart rate monitor required to make it onto this list. This means you can make phone calls from the watch and completely leave your phone behind.
The Non-4G version will cost just over $200 right now depending on where you buy it. The 4G LTE version will cost $279 right now if you buy through the Samsung website. LTE service for the Galaxy Active 2 is provided by more than 50 carriers including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile… all of the big ones. See the full list of carriers supporting Galaxy Watch Active 2 here.
Battery Life: Samsung does not like to make promises, perhaps wisely so, but they will tell you that the 40mm version has a 247 MaH battery while the 44m version has a 340 MaH battery. This compares against the Apple Watch Series 3’s battery that has 279 mAh in the 38mm version and 341 MaH in the 42mm version. What does this mean? It can last more than a day with reasonable use. If you are using full GPS, heart rate, and listening to music during your workout, you can expect a few hours of real use… very similar to the Apple Watch. Don’t expect it to last 24 hours with a heavy workout, heavy usage, and lots of phone calls. You will be out of juice before your evening workout is done if you are a heavy smart watch user. Always On Display will effect battery life greatly, either doubling it or cutting it in half roughly.
More notable features: 50m water resistance, golf edition, sleep detection, auto workout detection with 39 activities available to track, always-on display, wireless charger, fall detection, water ejection from speakers for after swimming.
Samsung Gear Fit 2 & Gear Fit 2 Pro – Original Price $179
- GPS + Heart Rate
- Music Stored Onboard
- GPS Accuracy
- Heart Rate Accuracy
- Overall Reliability
- Band Requires Aftermarket Loop/Keeper
Perhaps the closest to being obsolete on the list…
The Gear Fit 2 is a legacy product from Samsung, not to be confused with the newer GALAXY Fit 2 which DOES NOT have built-in GPS. You can still buy the Gear Fit 2 on Amazon and elsewhere. This can be a good candidate if you are hunting for refurbished devices to save money. The Pro version is also available but will cost more.
Be warned: The band on these trackers is weak and probably the worst detail of this device. We suggest purchasing a band keeper to secure the band like one of these.
On the positive side, this tracker has everything that you really need for your workout. You won’t need to carry your phone with you and you will have access to GPS tracking, your music and a heart rate monitor.
On the downside, the heart rate monitor is not very accurate and the GPS is not nearly as reliable as competitors and less outdated devices.
How accurate is the GPS on the Gear Fit 2? The GPS may be intermittent so not all of your runs will be tracked as desired. However, when working properly it can be accurate enough for it to fill its role in your running activities. The biggest problem is not accuracy as much as it is reliability.
How can I save money on a fitness tracker? If you don’t feel like you need the GPS function to be built-in, you might be able to save some money by neglecting this feature because the GPS function adds to the price. Check out our list of fitness trackers under $100. If you are going to carry your phone with you anyway this is a very viable option for runners.