Not all runners need the latest technology in a running watch. Some runners just want a watch that tracks a route and basic data—nothing else!
In the world of running watches, Garmin is a big name. One of the best things about the company is that they create products for every type of person. But they tend to cost more than other brands of watches.
Luckily, if you don’t mind not having the latest watch and its growing list of features, you can usually find a discontinued Garmin watch marked down from its original price. They typically even come with a warranty.
But you probably won’t get additional firmware updates. And there is a limited supply of these watches, so sometimes they can be hard to find.
In this article, we’ve gathered up the best cheap Garmin watches. All except the first are their best discontinued watches. Still great – just not the latest model.
Top 3 Best and Favorites
Garmin Forerunner 45/45S
Garmin Forerunner 35
Garmin Forerunner 935
1. Garmin Forerunner 45 and 45S
The Garmin Forerunner 45—and the 45S, which is the smaller version—are sporty-looking watches that offer a variety of useful functions for runners or those who don’t need many features. This watch is Garmin’s latest budget model, and as of April 2021 has not been replaced in Garmin’s lineup.
It’s available in 42mm and 39mm, so no matter the size of your wrist, there’ll be a size that suits you. They also come in a variety of different colors, although the biggest change in appearance is the strap—there’s some small change on the bezel.
This simple GPS watch will track your heart rate, speed, distance, intervals, and time. There are multiple sports modes on the watch so you can also track much of your cross-training. Garmin Coach Training Plan allows you to create custom workouts.
One of the best features is the safety features on this watch. Incident detection sends an automatic message to your emergency contact if it detects a problem, so someone can contact you to make sure if you’re okay.
It doesn’t have a touch screen, so you will have to scroll through screens using the buttons. Some may find this to be inconvenient.
- Multiple sports modes
- Garmin Coach Training Plan support
- Smaller sized watch for comfort
- Safety and tracking features
- Some people may find that the lack of a touch screen is inconvenient
2. Garmin Forerunner 35
The Garmin Forerunner 35 is the watch the Forerunner 45 replaced. It features a square face, for those who prefer the shape to the traditional circular one, and comes in various colors.
You can track your heart rate 24/7 using Garmin Elevate wrist-based HR technology. The watch also calculates calories burned, steps taken, distance traveled, and intensity level. When you have been sitting for too long, it also reminds you to move around for a bit.
It’s absolutely nothing fancy, but the Forerunner 35 is a fantastic watch for runners to track their basic vitals. If you compare it to some later versions, the screen quality may not be great.
- Square-shaped watch face
- Garmin Elevate wrist-based HR technology
- Smart notifications
- All-day activity tracking
- The screen quality is basic at best
3. Garmin vivoactive 3
The Garmin vivoactive 3 is definitely great for runners, but it features 15 built-in training programs for other sports too. You’ll have access to more advanced running metrics than most other cheap Garmins, which makes it even more impressive for its price.
A host of onboard sports apps allow you to choose your cross-training and track it. Not only that, but you can listen to music on your watch while you’re doing it!
But the best thing for runners is that this watch shows you some semi-advanced metrics like VO2 max, heart rate variability, and fitness age.
You can choose from a huge range of different watch faces so you never get bored of how it looks. With a sleek design that goes back to the circular face, the vivoactive 3 is for runners who wish to take the extra step and get a slightly pricier watch.
- Sleek design
- Can get it with music
- More than 15 sports apps
- Semi-advanced running metrics
- The heart rate monitor may be inaccurate
4. Garmin Forerunner 735XT
The Garmin Forerunner 735XT is quite a step up from the 35. It shows all your basic metrics like a step counter, a move reminder, and your heart rate.
But it also offers advanced dynamics, like lactate threshold, a virtual pacer, Race Predictor, Recovery Advisor, a Stress score, and other advanced running dynamics.
It’s a multisport watch that caters for a large variety of activities, but specifically, it works well for triathletes. In GPS mode, if you’re following maps, you can get 14 hours of battery, so it gets thumbs up for that. You can sync it up to a heart rate monitor, chest strap, or running power foot pod.
It can also upload automatically to Garmin Connect, use live tracking, and notify you of emails and messages right on your wrist.
The heart rate monitor on this watch may not be very accurate if it is taking wrist-based measurements. It would be more accurate if wearing a chest strap, which will need to be bought separately.
- Multisport features
- Provides advanced dynamics
- Up to 14 hours of use in GPS mode
- Virtual Pacer and Race Predictor
- The heart rate monitor may be less accurate if you aren’t wearing a chest strap
5. Garmin Forerunner 935
The Forerunner 935 is one of Garmin’s more feature-packed discontinued watches. It has your everyday ABC sensors, time, distance, calories, and steps. But you can also find multiple built-in sports modes, some of which offer advanced data.
You can get advanced metrics for running—ground contact time, cadence, vertical oscillation, stride length, etc.—as well as for cycling and swimming. If you are a swimmer, keep in mind that this watch’s heart rate monitor won’t work underwater.
You will also be able to track your training load, and the watch will be able to tell you if you’re working out too hard or not enough. At 49 grams in weight, it’s light and comfy. You can get about 24 hours out of full charge if you’re using it in GPS mode.
- Monitor training load and recovery
- Up to 24-hour battery in GPS mode
- Lightweight at 49 grams
- Multisport programs
- Wrist heart rate monitor doesn’t work in water
6. Garmin fenix 5
The fenix is also a high-quality watch. It’s on the higher end of Garmin watches, but it’s affordable thanks to its return on investment. It’s a rugged watch compared to some of the others, made to withstand the rigors of everyday life and adventure.
Runners will be delighted with the advanced metrics. Check your cadence, stride length and lactate threshold. Make sure the watch has a good fit around your wrist – otherwise the heart rate monitor may not be accurate.
An easy-read screen helps you see the necessary data while you’re running. You can customize your watch face so you can see exactly the information you want.
- Comes in 4 different sizes/models
- Rugged design
- Easy-read screen
- Advanced running dynamics
- The heart rate monitor can be a little inaccurate depending on how tight the watch is
Pros of Cheap Garmin Watches
Cheap Garmin watches are your chance to have one of the best brand-name watches in the running world at a smaller price. The lower price is one of the biggest pros.
These watches usually do the basic data very well, like time, distance, steps, and pace. Even though the watches are more limited than their fancy ones, you’ll still receive Garmin support and a limited warranty.
Cons of Cheap Garmin Watches
These watches miss out on Garmin’s latest features. Not all runners need these, however, so it really depends on what you are looking for. After all, these watches were all cutting-edge three years ago. Technology does move fast, but it’s not as if we were in the dark ages that recently.
They may also have heavier and thicker batteries than the newer, sleeker models. Some older watches may no longer receive firmware updates.