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Best Priced Garmin Running Watches

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

Garmin has a plethora of running watches and it’s becoming cumbersome to sift through all of them to decide which one to buy. I’m a bit obsessed when it comes to buying a new running watch. Just ask my wife. So I decided to share a bit of my obsession for those looking for the right watch.

However, I’m not just obsessed about getting a good watch. I’m also obsessed about buying the best possible watch for the best possible price. In other words, getting the best "Bang for your buck!"

In this review, I provide you with the best Garmin watches that I think are worth your time and money, based on what you care about. As always, I also include “What others have to say” below each recommendation. Have fun storming the castle!



The Garmin Vivoactive 3 is hands down the best bang for your buck. Not only does it look good, it is packed with a variety of features that serve well as an all-around, everyday watch that you will never need to take off. Although it might not crunch the same level of data as the $600-800 Garmin running watches, it certainly provides the most features for the cheapest price and does so in a much more compact size.

Not only do you get a touchscreen, Bluetooth and WIFI connected GPS watch that is capable of tracking running, biking, swimming, and 24/7 wrist-based heartrate, you get a device packed with smartwatch features, such as Garmin Pay, music controls, sleep tracking, available apps, watch face downloads and live tracking. All this, with a battery that lasts 7 days in smartwatch mode or 13 hours in GPS mode. In addition, it has quick-release watch bands that are the same size as a regular watch bands, which allows you to mix and match your look for work, play and every day!

(The only catch for triathletes is that this watch does not have a multi-sport mode to automatically switch between running, biking, and swimming. See the two watches at the end for that.)

But that’s not all! Garmin also has a Vivoactive 3 Music version that can hold up to 500 songs on the device so that that you can leave the phone at home when it comes to your music. If you still plan to carry your phone, Garmin also integrated Spotify. The price for this comes in at $264 or $250 when it’s on sale. I bought this version for my wife on a Black Friday Sale and she could not be happier with it.

But wait—there’s more! Garmin literally just partnered with Verizon to add a feature that I have been waiting years for Garmin to add—cellular LTE! In other words, now you truly can leave the phone at home...kind of…. Strangely, the device can send text messages and stream Spotify, but still can’t make calls—bizarre. I’m not sure how I truly feel about this version of the Vivoactive 3, because the cellular options are lacking. My advice: stick to one of the two versions above until Garmin moves this feature along and makes it available to more carriers.

What others have to say:



The Garmin Vivosport is a sport band activity tracker packed to the brim with features, such as GPS, wrist-based heartrate, sleep tracking, live tracking, smart notifications and more! It’s basically the Vivoactive 3’s little bro, ready to take him over!

If you are in the market for a sport band activity tracker, do not waste your time looking at anything else on the market. Nothing else noteworthy has GPS or even remotely compares to the data output that this little guy will give you. The battery lasts 7 days in smartwatch mode and 8 hours in GPS mode.

In truth, it’s a spin-off of the Vivosmart HR+ (the + matters), which was originally Garmin’s only sport band with GPS, up to this point. The Vivosmart HR+ actually has a bigger display than the Vivosport, just not in color, and you can get a refurbished version of that bad boy on Amazon for $76 right now.

What others have to say:



The Forerunner series is strictly meant for running. It’s really what started it all for Garmin in making them the leader in GPS watches. While the Forerunner 235 is waterproof up to 50 meters and does provide the option to track biking and “other” activities, which can be used for any sort of cardio, weight lifting or swimming, it won’t give you all of the outputs you are looking for in those categories.

It has a wrist-based heartrate tracker and tracks health stats, such as sleep tracking. It also provides smart notifications, can control your music, allows workout downloads through the Garmin app, and has a full color display. The battery life lasts 9 days in watch mode and 11 hours in GPS mode.

If you could care less about the flashy smartwatch features and want just a pure runner GPS watch, this is the pal for you. Otherwise, I would recommend the any version of the Vivoactive 3 over this watch, just based on the number of features.

A more upgraded version of this watch is the Forerunner 630, which has a touchscreen and music controls. It goes for $299 on Amazon. The Forerunner 645 is the exact same watch, but stores up to 500 songs and goes for $400 at the cheapest everywhere else. Now, are you starting to see why the Vivoactive 3 series won best all-around?

What others have to say:



The Forerunner 35 is the kid sister to the Forerunner 235 and much better priced for a pure runner watch. She packs all the basics that you need to track your runs, biking and “other,” and still provides basic smartphone notifications with a black and white screen.

While the watch itself is not as aesthetic as her big sister, she does have a few color choices for the wristband. She also has a wrist-based heartrate sensor, tracks your sleep, and has music controls. Not to mention that the battery lasts 9 days in smartwatch mode and up to 13 hours in GPS mode. Not bad at all for $126. If I had to choose between this and the 235, I would get this, just based on the price value.

What others have to say:



If you are just looking for a small everyday GPS watch with the bare minimum smartwatch features than this is what you need. The Forerunner 25 gives you all of the basics to track your runs, it’s the size of a classic non-GPS sports watch, and it still connects via Bluetooth to upload your running data to your phone and gives you basic text and call notifications on the watch. Plus it lasts up to 10 hours in GPS mode and an insane 10 weeks in smartwatch mode!

What others have to say:



Instinct - $297

The Instinct is a new product from Garmin. It's meant to provide a variety of outdoor tracking options with rugged durability. It’s basically the child of the Garmin’s Fenix line. This watch is definitely going for the Cassio G-Shock look and durability, but with all of the GPS capabilities that only Garmin truly provides.

That little beast packs a whopping battery life of 14 days in smartwatch mode, 16 hours in GPS mode, and up to 40 hours in Garmin’s UltraTrac™ battery saver mode. It also goes up to 100 meters deep in water, provides all-day heartrate, and still provides smart notifications using a black and white screen. This watch would work very well for an ultrarunner or outdoorsman in general.

What others have to say:



This is my love and the watch I will wear for quite some time! Some of you may be asking, “What about the Fenix 5 series?” Here’s the number one reason—it’s double the price of a refurbished Fenix 3 HR.

The Fenix 3 HR has everything you could ever want in a GPS sport watch. It tracks running, skiing, swimming, biking, sailing, rocking climbing—you name it! It's battery life lasts up to 14 days in smartwatch mode (depending on settings), up to 16 hours in GPS mode or up to 40 hours in UltraTrac™ battery saver mode.

Plus it has a sapphire glass screen, smart notifications, controls your music, sleep tracking, all-day heartrate—the list is endless. Not only that, but the quick-release wrist bands for the Fenix 5X, fit perfectly on the Fenix 3 HR. Plus, Amazon has really quality knock-off bands that you can buy for $13!

Don’t waste your time or money with the Fenix 5 series! The Fenix 5 series makes you pay out the backside for every extra little feature and actually pulls some features from the lower 5 models, which the Fenix 3 HR already had. The only upgrades the Fenix 5 series has over the Fenix 3 HR is a higher resolution screen, downloadable maps, on-board music, and a couple of extra data outputs—all of which will cost you $600 - $800, depending on the model. Plus, the Fenix 5X is the only Fenix 5 series version that come with a sapphire glass screen.

Buying a refurbished Fenix 3 HR over a Fenix 5 series is a no-brainer! Refurbished electronics have a bad stigma. But whenever Garmin has replaced a watch for me or my wife, they didn’t send us a brand new watch—they sent a refurbished watch. And guess what? The refurbished watches never had a problem compared to the brand new watches we bought. Just an idea to get your monies worth!

What others have to say:



Well, his real name is actually Dave...but "The Average Joe Runner" seemed like a catchy name for a blog. Born a sprinter, but converted to distance running in adulthood, Dave has run for more than 25 years. He is the father of four awesome kids and the husband to one amazingly talented, smart and fast-running wife.

The Average Joe Runner blog and website was born after Dave continued to get questions from friends and family alike for running tips and gear advice. However, this blog is also meant to hear from other Average Joe and Jane Runners out there. You can contribute to the blog by clicking Submit or Request. Follow The Average Joe Runner on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @TheAvgJoeRun. Read More.



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