While high-end drones can be quite expensive, there are multiple affordable options available for under $400 that can give you breathtaking footage without breaking the bank. However, not all drones are created equally, so it can be hard to find a model that will meet your needs perfectly.
Hello everyone! My name is Lavelle and I am a drone pilot who has been flying my drones across the United States for nearly a decade now. When I first started out on my drone journey, the budget was my main concern. As such, I quickly learned what to look for in a good drone and how to find those qualities at a budget price.
In this article, I will go over some of the things you should look for in a good drone and provide the information you have to consider to get a really good drone for under $400. I will also share with you my list of the best drones that I’ve found for that price point.
- Consider features like flight time, battery life, transmission range, and camera quality that will help you get the most out of your flying experience.
- If your goal is to capture photos and videos, consider drones with gimbals as they are more stable.
- Look for drones with smart features such as auto return to home, obstacle avoidance, and follow me mode.
Are drones under $400 made of cheap quality?
Drones in the under $400 category are actually designed of good quality construction. Most of the drones at this price point are designed to withstand environmental factors such as wind, heat, and cold and are constructed to endure several considerations.
Do I need a cellular phone to fly a drone?
No, you do not need a cellular phone to fly a drone. Drones can be flown without a wifi connection or cellular service. Most drones can communicate between the drone and the controller using the drone’s internal connection.
What to Look for in a Good Drone Under $400
Certain considerations help you maximize your drone experience. Having these features/qualities gives you the best opportunity to enjoy your drone flying journey while using your drone in practical ways.
- Flight Time: This is one of the most important features of your future drone. Being able to stay in the air for a lengthy amount of time is a great feeling and keeps you from having to stop and recharge too quickly.
- Battery Life: Batteries, like drones, typically cost more for better quality. I usually keep 3 spare batteries with me, fully charged, at all times. This allows me to be more efficient when operating my drones. While batteries can be expensive, they are a good investment. You may want to consider battery price when you’re factoring in the total cost of a good drone.
- Transmission Range: Having a good transmission range is a vital piece in the drone flying experience. Generally, transmission ranges are between 55 and 110 yards for hobby drones and can be more than 3 miles for intermediate and advanced drones.
- Camera Quality: Most drones now come with cameras onboard. Some models require you to add a separate camera, however, in most cases, a camera will come with the drone.
A few other considerations should be the intelligent features of the drone, such as headless mode, return to home feature, and a gimbal.
The Best Drones for Under $400 Reviewed
Now that we have discussed some of the features and qualities you want to look for in a drone, let’s get to the good part of this article.
1. DJI Mavic Mini (Best Overall)
- Camera: 1080p FHD; 12 MP resolution
- Video: 2.7K resolution
- Flight Time: 30-minutes
- Range: 4.2 miles
- Gimbal: Yes, 3-axis
For my #1 pick, I’ve chosen the DJI Mavic Mini. This is by far one of my favorite drones, especially for under $400. I currently own the Mavic Mini 3 Pro but let me tell you this…the Mavic Mini is a great drone for this price point.
While it does have a modest, HD camera, the image quality is very good on this drone. At a 12 MP resolution, you still get clear, quality images and the 2.7k video resolution is also respectable.
One of the impressive features of this drone is the 3-axis gimbal. This design gives this mini drone exceptional stability and coupled with 30 minutes of flight time, you can produce some excellent video footage and can stay in the air for a lengthy amount of time.
Another outstanding quality of this drone is the 4.2-mile flight range. This is a remarkable feature for any model and especially for a drone of this size.
It’s difficult to find a flaw in the DJI Mini, however, there is always room for improvement. I would like to see DJI improve the camera resolution on this drone to 20 MP. Doing this would give users a much better image quality.
My Verdict: This is the best overall value for under $400. You get exceptional quality and one of the best brands in the industry, all for a great price. The only improvement here is on the FHD camera. Perhaps a 4K resolution is better but then you’d have to go over the price point.
2. Potensic Dreamer Pro (Best Flight Time)
- Camera: 16 MP resolution
- Video: 4k resolution
- Flight Time: 31-minutes
- Range: 1.2 miles
- Gimbal: Yes, 3-axis
Next on my list is the Potensic Dreamer Pro. This impressive drone is an upgrade from the original Dreamer and still falls under the $400 price point. The design of this model is sturdy and withstands heavy winds very well.
The 4K camera gives great image quality and the 31 minutes of flight time is remarkable for a drone of this size. The auto return-to-home feature and the 1.2-mile range are also nice additions to this drone.
The 3-axis gimbal also offers incredible stability in the air and allows this drone to produce some exceptional videos and capture excellent images from the air.
My concern with this drone is not mechanical, rather it’s cosmetic. The propeller blades are marked with a color code for correct application. However, the drone itself is not marked with any color coding, making it difficult to know exactly where each blade needs to go.
My Verdict: This is certainly a solid #2 choice for under $400. This drone offers some good features, is durable, and is a good value.
3. Ruko F11 (Best Stability)
- Camera: 4K UHD camera
- Video: 2.9k resolution
- Flight Time: 28-minutes
- Range: 1.8 miles
- Gimbal: Yes, 2-axis
Continuing with the list, we now come to the Ruko F11. This is another good value for under $400. It sports a 4k UHD camera, a 2-axis gimbal, and 28 minutes of flight time. The auto return-to-home feature and 1.8-mile range also make it another attractive drone in this category.
For the first time on this list, we see a drone with anti-shake technology. It appears that Ruko added this technology to compensate for the 2-axis gimbal since other drones in this category have a 3-axis gimbal.
The adjustment is pretty good and this drone does create good video footage and is quite stable in the air.
The main drawback of the F11 is the video quality. I would like to see the video quality improved to a pure 4k resolution. At long distances, the current 2.9k resolution becomes distorted.
My Verdict: This drone provides good value for what it has to offer. I’d like to see a little longer transmission range but it is still a good range. The features are comparable to others on this list and the camera quality is good.
4. Contixo F35 (Best Camera/Video)
- Camera: 4K UHD resolution
- Video: 4k UHD resolution
- Flight Time: 28-minutes
- Range: 1-mile
- Gimbal: Yes, 2-axis
For me, the Contixo brand is a new consideration. The Contixo F35 model has some impressive features to compete with other drones in this category.
I haven’t heard a lot about this brand but surprisingly, it has some good features and attributes to offer to the list. Like others on this list, it has a good quality 4K camera and it comes with 2 excellent batteries (2500 mAh).
The flight time of 28 minutes is also very good and the 2-axis gimbal creates a stable flight, albeit not quite as stable as the drones with the 3-axis gimbal. The 1-mile range is also decent but again, not as good as the others on this list.
My concern with this drone is that older versions of the Android and iOS devices are not compatible with it. Therefore, you have to have a newer device to use the associated applications.
My Verdict: I like what this drone has to offer. Without having direct experience with it, I’m relying on consumer reports to judge it. However, it does have some good specs. It’s priced a little high in my opinion but it is still under the $400 price point.
5. Potensic T25 (Best for Beginners)
- Camera: 2K resolution
- Video: 2k resolution
- Flight Time: 18-minutes
- Range: Less than ¼ mile flight
- Gimbal: Yes, 2-axis gimbal
The last drone on my list brings us back to the Potensic brand. The Potensic T25 is a nice drone to consider for under $400. The 2K camera is a good, decent quality for images. The wifi feature is also commendable. In addition, this drone boasts other smart functions such as auto return to home, follow me, and altitude holds.
This drone is amazingly stable in the air. Its body design is well constructed and it handles heavy winds extremely well. It also has many nice features including the auto return to home feature, one button launch, and the follow me mode.
I’m somewhat concerned with 1000 mAh batteries since these don’t give you quite as long of a charge life, however, having two of them included with the drone is nice. The 18 minutes of flight time is what primarily places it at number five on my list.
Another concern I have is the relatively short transmission range of less than a quarter mile. This is by far the shorter range of the drones on this list.
My Verdict: The Potensic brand has a good reputation and the features on this drone are pretty good. I’m satisfied that this drone does provide a good value for the price point. I’d suggest upgrading to a higher-quality battery.
Finding the best drone for the best value is a challenge in and of itself. If you’re still uncertain about which drone to choose, don’t worry. There are plenty of options available in the market.
The list I’ve shared with you is what I consider to be the best value for under $400. Just remember to prioritize your needs and preferences when making your selection.
Are there any other models that you are considering within this price range? Share your thoughts with us and if you have any questions, please leave them below as well.
Until next time, happy flying and be safe!