What is a Chartplotter?

What is a Chartplotter?

A Chartplotter is a marine navigation device that uses GPS and Electronic Navigation to navigate the sea. It displays the position, heading, speed of the vessel, and additional information from the radar. Furthermore, they may also display information from other marine applications.

Chartplotters help the captain to monitor the movement and surroundings. Their additional features make them a great tool to have onboard and make navigation easier. These plotters have surpassed paper charts in terms of ease of use and quantity of information.

Without further ado, let us have a look at how a chartplotter works and what are the best chartplotters available for boating enthusiasts.

How is it Different From a GPS?

It is common for people to confuse GPS systems with chartplotters. They both work on the same principle, but one significant difference separates the two and make chartplotters the apparent choice for buyers. GPS systems work by providing current coordinates or location to you.

However, a chart plotter uses those coordinates and plots them on a map. All chartplotters are equipped with GPS technology. GPS systems do not plot locations on maps and therefore make chartplotters a superior product. 

In addition, their display technologies work with charts to make them the preferred option, especially for sea navigation.

How Does a Chartplotter Work?

Chartplotters have a simple working mechanism. They combine GPS data with electronic charts and display that information. You can also download these charts or pay for them to be saved to your device. These maps make it easier to locate positions out in the sea.

Users can save hundreds of waypoints in their chartplotter to come up with a route and follow it. The waypoints are saved in the form of longitudes and latitudes. They are later used to compare the boat’s current location with the route and navigate it accordingly.

For example, navigating ships and ferries through narrow waters is only possible with the help of such advanced navigation systems.

How Much Do They Cost?

Chartplotters can cost from $150 to $5000. However, you can buy a basic GPS device for $70. Therefore, you do not have to spend thousands of bucks on chartplotters if you only intend to use GPS.

Moreover, expensive chartplotters usually have multifunctional displays and are used by professionals. Their functions also include finding fish, sonars, and much more.

Types of Chartplotters

There are three basic types of chartplotters, namely: 

Handheld Chartplotters

They are small chartplotters with an easy-to-use interface. They are cheap and cost around $150 to $250.

Mounted Chartplotters

Mounted chartplotters are slightly bigger than handheld ones. They come with more functionality and allow storage of routes and extra information. They cost between $250 to $500.

Multifunctional Display Chartplotters (MFDs)

Multifunctional Chartplotters cost more than $500 and use more than one screen. They display a lot of information in addition to the vessel’s location. 

This information may include route histories, system integration, sonar, alarm functions, weather report, and temperature that can be tuned accordingly.

What Are the Best Chartplotters?

All chartplotters differ based on features and abilities. Hence, it is important to do your research before settling on a chartplotter. There is a chartplotter out there for all types of boats. Also, make sure that the model you pick serves your needs well.

Some famous names are fishfinders, Axiom, Raymarine, Garmin, Simrad, and Humminbird. Here are some options you can pick from:

  • Simrad Cruise-7 Chartplotter: This chartplotter uses simple design and features. You can set it up in a few minutes and get information like battery, depth readings, and vessel position. It also comes pre-loaded with coastal maps.
  • Humminbird Helix-5: It is among the best charplotters for anglers out there. Its beams let you control structure, thermocyclers, and fish. Furthermore, its imaging technology enables you to look below and see beyond long stretches of water.
  • B&G Vulcan 7: The Vulcan is currently the leading chartplotter in the industry, with a durable and affordable design. It comes with a bright display and up-to-date navigation charts. It also offers integration with accessories.
  • Garmin GPSMAP 78S Navigator:  The Garmin 78S has a pocket-sized design. It is among the cheapest chartplotters in the market with impressive performance.


To sum it up, adding a chartplotter can be a great way to accurately navigate through rough seas or rivers. They also provide an accurate idea of what is around you, making them an essential accessory for your safety.

Combining a GPS with charts can ease your workload on the vessel. If you need a simple handheld model or a multi-display system with extra information and vibrant colors, you can count on chartplotters to deliver them to you.