5 Best GPS Running Watches Under $200 in 2022

January 8, 2022

pinterest pin that reads 'best gps running watches under $200' with a background image of the COROS PACE 2 displaying run data

GPS watches are expensive, and it took me over 9 years of running to finally invest in one in December 2018. Since then, I’ve had the chance to test and compare 12 of the most popular GPS watches (through loaners or borrowing from friends—I’m not loaded and can’t buy GPS watches willy-nilly). I think I can safely say now that I’m a big GPS watch nerd.

If you’re in the market for a GPS watch, but don’t want to spend tons of money, I’ve got you covered. Based on my experience, here are the best GPS running watches under $200. And lucky for you, there are only 5 on the list, because decision fatigue is no fun.

As some quick background and context for my opinions, I’m a long-time distance runner who trains mostly for marathons and half marathons, and tries to go for PRs. I used to cross-train quite a bit though, and basically trained triathlon-style for marathons. I’ve also dabbled in trail running. So, you can expect my perspective to be that of a pretty motivated road runner who also has other fitness activities.

5 Best Budget GPS Running Watches Under $200

The following watches all track running and biking, and everyday fitness stats (steps, sleep, calories, distance traveled). They also have basic smartwatch features (text notifications, calendar, weather).

I’ll be going over their unique pros and cons, and listing differences in costs.

I also want to note that this post contains affiliate links, meaning that I may earn commission on any purchases you make through the links. It doesn’t cost you any extra, and your purchases help me keep my blog running, so I can keep writing posts like these to try to offer helpful advice. 

Most Features + Training Metrics: COROS PACE 2

Price: $200 (COROS/Amazon) Use my code CAP-Fang on the COROS site to get a free extra watch band!

COROS PACE 2 in white with a nylon bandside profile of the COROS PACE 2 with a nylon band

COROS is a newcomer to the GPS watch scene, having been founded in 2018. But in that short time, it’s garnered the endorsements of 2018 Boston Marathon champ Des Linden and marathon world record holder Eluid Kipchoge.

I personally own a COROS APEX for the extra trail running features, but I did seriously consider the PACE 2. At this price point, the PACE 2 packs a ton of value with its training data and multisport modes, which are only found in higher-end Garmins that cost $100+ more.

Pros:

  • You can track many types of activities, including pool and open water swimming. There’s also a triathlon mode. The full list of tracking profiles are: Run, Indoor Run, Track Run, Walk, Bike, Indoor Bike, Pool Swim, Open Water, Triathlon, Gym Cardio, GPS Cardio, Strength, Training.
  • Battery life is out of this world with 30 hours in full GPS mode, 60 hours in UltraMax mode, and 20 days of regular use.
  • The watch is extremely light and comfortable to wear, especially if you get the nylon strap. With the nylon strap, the PACE 2 is the lightest watch on the market at 29g.
  • There is a barometric altimeter, so your elevation stats will be more accurate. You can even see the barometric data from the watch, allowing you to predict short-term changes in weather.
  • You get advanced training data, including stamina remaining, running power, and training effect (aerobic and anaerobic). Stamina remaining lets you know how much energy you have left after a workout, and how long you should wait before a hard workout. Running power tells you how efficient your running is. Training effect shows how effective your workout was.
  • COROS also continues to bring updates to watches, and the PACE 2 also has Race Predictor, Running Performance, and Training Load as of June 2021.

Cons:

  • The knob/dial navigation can take some getting used to. To ensure you don’t accidentally brush up against the dial, you can autolock the screen during regular use or workouts. You can also customize the type of screen unlocking (long hold or scroll), the direction of the scroll, and the orientation of the watch face (great for lefties). It’s easy once you get the hang of it, though!
  • You can’t track mileage on your shoes or your menstrual cycle from the COROS app (unlike in Garmin). You’ll need third-party apps for that (Strava can track shoe mileage).
  • There’s no way to adjust screen brightness. I didn’t have any issues with visibility, but this is just something to note.
  • No trail running mode or breadcrumb navigation. (You can still do trail running using the normal run mode though).

If you buy any watch from COROS, be sure to use my code CAP-Fang. You’ll be able to get a free, extra watch band or any other accessory (minus gift cards and the explorer pack). Just add both the accessory and the watch to your cart before applying the code at checkout.

Best Running-Focused Budget Watch: Garmin Forerunner 55

Price: retails at $200 (check the price on Amazon or Garmin)

aqua Forerunner 55 on wrist
Forerunner 55 on its side

The Forerunner 55 is the most recent of these watches, having been released in June 2021.

It offers much better value than its predecessor (the FR45), and is basically a “lite” version of the Forerunner 245, which retails at $300-350. Here are its pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Up to 20 hours of battery life on GPS and 2 weeks in smartwatch mode.
  • Has PacePro (creates a pacing plan and lets you know if you’re on-track) and suggested workouts
  • Has Treadmill Running, Track Running, Indoor Track Running, and Virtual Running.
  • The first of this entry-level Forerunner series to track pool swimming. It also tracks Cardio, Elliptical Training, Stair Stepping, HIIT, Pilates, and Yoga.
  • Has safety features like Incident Detection and LiveTrack. Incident Detection alerts your emergency contacts if you have an accident like a fall. LiveTrack allows your loved ones to track you in real time. For both, your watch must be connected to your phone.
  • Has Body Battery, which is a metric that lets you know your energy levels on a scale of 0-100. This is based on your heart rate variability, stress, and activity levels.

Cons:

  • No barometric altimeter, so elevation stats won’t be as accurate, and you can’t track floors climbed. You can correct your elevation data in Strava though.
  • Can’t hold music.
  • No open water swimming or triathlon mode.
  • No trail running mode or breadcrumb navigation.

Classic and Capable: Garmin Forerunner 245

Price: Retails at $300-350, but can be found for around $200 secondhand (check prices on eBay). If you want a more basic version, check out the older Forerunner 235, which is cheaper both used and new. 

garmin forerunner 245 held in hand garmin forerunner 245 side profile

The Forerunner 245 is a mid-tier watch whose lineup has always been the “go-to” for active runners. Because the model is now almost 3 years old, you can find cheaper used watches and even steep discounts on new ones (Garmin itself reduced the price to $200-250 during Black Friday 2021).

I actually used to include the older FR235 in this list, but it seems silly to recommend a 2015 watch in 2022, especially when the newer one can be found for around $200. 

Here are the main features and drawbacks of the FR245.

Pros:

  • Has Training Status, Training Load, and Training Effect (aerobic and anaerobic). These metrics help you understand how your training is trending over time, and how each specific run is improving your fitness.
  • Like the FR245, it also has Recovery Time, Race Predictor, PacePro, and suggested workouts.
  • Has a music version that allows you to store music on your watch and download playlists from Spotify Premium, Deezer, and Amazon Music.
  • Tracks Pulse Ox (blood oxygen saturation), which can be helpful for sleep tracking and altitude acclimation.
  • Tracks everything the FR55 does, plus indoor rowing and trail running (also has breadcrumb navigation).
  • Up to 24 hours of battery life on GPS mode, 6 hours on GPS mode with music, and 1 week on smartwatch mode.
  • Has Incident Detection and LiveTrack.
  • Has Body Battery.

Cons:

  • No barometric altimeter.
  • No open water swimming or triathlon mode.
  • More expensive than the others, though you can find good deals used.

Best Lifestyle Watch: Garmin Vivoactive 4

Price: Retails at $300-350, but can be found for under $200 secondhand (check prices on eBay). If you want a more basic version, check out the older Vivoactive 3 or Vivoactive 3 Music. 

garmin vivoactive 4s display vivoactive 4s side profile

The Vivoactive series is known as being a more “lifestyle” model, as it has more smartwatch functions and fewer running metrics. 

I had the previous version of this watch (Vivoactive 3 Music) until May 2021. I used to recommend that model in this list, but it’s also pretty dated. Plus, you can find the Vivoactive 4 for under $200 used, and sometimes $200 new.

Here are its pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Comes in two sizes—the 4 and 4S. The 4S is pictured above and better suits small wrists. It has slightly less battery life as a result.
  • Has a touchscreen—this can be seen as both a pro or con, as it can be harder to use in colder weather; I personally liked the touchscreen and didn’t have problems with it, even in the rain (though it will sometimes be annoying in the shower).
  • Has a wider range of tracking profiles than the FR245. Tracks Pilates, Golfing, Floor climbing, XC Skiing, Snowboarding, Stand up paddleboarding, and Outdoor rowing. 
  • Has a barometric altimeter, which allows you to track elevation stats more accurately, and see floors climbed throughout the day.
  • You can follow on-screen workouts for yoga and pilates.
  • Make contactless payments with your watch using Garmin Pay.
  • Has Incident Detection and LiveTrack.
  • Has Body Battery.

Cons:

  • No advanced training stats at all (no Race Predictor, Recovery Advisor, Training Status/Load/Effect).
  • No open water swimming or triathlon mode.
  • No trail running mode or breadcrumb navigation.

For a very similar watch that has a crisper display (but lower battery life), check out the Garmin Venu or Venu SQ, both of which can be found secondhand for under $200. 

Simple Entry-Level Watch: Garmin Forerunner 45

Price: Varies, but goes as low as $140 on Amazon; $200 on Garmin. Goes for under $100 used.

Garmin forerunner 45s garmin forerunner 45s

The Forerunner 45 is the previous version of the FR55. It doesn’t have as many features, but it’s still a decent entry-level GPS watch, especially since you can find it at a much lower price now. Here are its pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Super light and comfortable to wear (I tried the Forerunner 45S, which has the same size watch face but smaller case, for smaller wrists). The Forerunner 45 is about 15% lighter than the other Garmin watches on this list, and the 45S is 25% lighter. The weight is comparable to the COROS PACE 2 with a silicone band.
  • Tracks other gym activities, like Cardio, Elliptical, Stair Stepping, Indoor Biking, and Yoga.
  • The button navigation is also easy to use.
  • Has Body Battery.
  • Has Incident Detection and LiveTrack.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t track swimming or triathlon.
  • No trail running mode or breadcrumb navigation.
  • Lacks specialized training data like Race Predictor and Recovery Time.
  • No barometric altimeter.
  • Can’t hold music.

The Bottom Line

If you need a basic entry-level watch that tracks running, the Forerunner 45 is your best bet. 

If you want more training metrics to improve your PRs, I’d recommend the COROS PACE 2 or Garmin Forerunner 245. The Forerunner 55 is also a solid option, especially if you can’t find the FR245 at a lower price.

If you want a lifestyle watch that still tracks running and many other activities, go for the Vivoactive 4. 

For more in-depth comparisons of these watches, check out these posts:

How to Save Money on GPS Running Watches

If you’re not satisfied by the prices of these watches and want to save even more, here are my tips.

1. Look on Amazon.

I’m not a huge fan of Amazon as a company because of their business practices, and try to avoid them wherever possible. That said, they do offer some of the best prices on GPS watches, and that can make a big difference if you’re on a tighter budget. You can also track prices on Amazon using camelcamelcamel—simply enter the product link you want to track, set your desired price, and enter your email. You’ll be notified when the price drops to your desired price.

You can also try the original retailer if the prices are the same, as you may save money on taxes. COROS, for instance, doesn’t charge extra sales tax.

2. Buy secondhand.

If you want to avoid Amazon or save even more money, consider looking for used or refurbished watches on eBay or Swappa (sometimes, there are even new ones at a big discount!). You can also try Facebook Marketplace, or running Facebook groups specifically for buying and selling watches, like Garmin Trading Post. I’ve also had luck on resale apps like Poshmark (referral link) and Mercari.

3. Find an older model.

You can find decent GPS watches for under $100 if you’re willing to buy used, older models. Some to look out for include the Forerunner 235, Vivoactive 3, and Forerunner 35, which are discontinued but still available on Amazon and resale sites. Be sure to do your research and compare the specs of the watches though, as they won’t be the same as the current models.

4. Be wary of lifestyle and general fitness tracking watches.

There are of course even cheaper watches that can track your running (Garmin even has a couple Fitbit-style watches under $100 on Amazon), but many of them aren’t made for running specifically. If you want a brand-new GPS running watch with more than just bare-minimum functionalities, expect to spend at least $100. The last thing you want is to buy something cheaper only to outgrow it quickly, as you’ll end up spending more money overall.


 

I hope this post was helpful in providing an overview of some of the best and cheapest GPS running watches. Let me know if you have any questions!

I also want to encourage you to buy from local small businesses if you can. I obviously don’t get paid through affiliate links if you do that, so if this post helped you and you want to show your appreciation, you’re always welcome to buy me a virtual coffee. I put a lot of work into these posts, and it means a lot to know if it helped you!

Happy running,

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2 Comments

  • Derek January 18, 2021 at 2:07 pm

    Hi Lily,

    Thank you for such a comprehensive review of cheaper running watches. When I read your first line, I could see myself writing such a line sometime in the future! 🙂

    I’m actually more of a soccer player than a runner but in these COVID times, I can see that I’m going to switch between the two sports as we move into and out of lockdown here in Malaysia. The Strava readings on my old Iphone6 too has also served to irritate me because it can never seem to get a GPS connection these days hence another reason for me to look into GPS watches. However I don’t want to blow a load of cash on one (I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the Fenix 6 price!) so the above article was very useful to me!

    So my question is this – if you disregard triathlete settings (I’m a bad swimmer and don’t own a bike!), which watch would you recommend?

    I would only use running and (occasionally) hiking features and would like the options of a training programme (although I’m not sure I would stick to it!). I usually listen to podcasts on my regular slow/HR runs so having that option would be nice but not a massive dealbreaker (as I could still carry my phone using a waist pouch). My main running goal is to do a half marathon every year in around 1.55hr now I’m over 40 so I’m definitely not an elite athlete. 😛

    I was originally looking at the Forerunner 45 but then the Vivoactive 4 came on the scene together with the Venu SQ (music). Reading multiple reviews together with yours, they all seem very similar. The Forerunner Music 245 seems great but is a bit pricy. And after reading your article, I see a new kid on the block in Coros so there is the Pace 2 and Apex to consider! 😀 The choices are quite overwhelming!

    Thank you for taking the time to write your reviews above once again. I look forward to any advice that you can give!

    • Lily January 18, 2021 at 8:17 pm

      Hi Derek! If you’re going to be hiking and want accurate real-time elevation gain, I’d recommend COROS (the PACE 2 should be enough, but there’s no walking/hiking mode, so you’ll need to track it as run). They also have training plans. They don’t have the ability to store music, however.

      Otherwise, I think the Vivoactive 3 Music (what I have) is a great option, as it’s a similar price. It has an altimeter for more accurate elevation (but no real-time data), a walking mode, training plans via Garmin Connect, and music storage. Hope this helps!

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