The other day someone pointed me to a couple of Craig's List self-steering gears to illustrate the argument that it was impossible to sort out a cruising boat on a frugal budget.
One of the gears was a Hydrovane for $4K and the other was a Monitor for $3.8K... Which, I suppose, means that if you find two expensive wind vanes that proves all vanes are expensive?
So, I got on Craig's List and spent ten minutes searching and found an Aires for $450, a Navik for $895, and an ATOMS for a kiss under $600. All of the gears appeared to be in very good to excellent condition. Such good condition in the case of the apparently pristine ATOMS that I was very tempted to call the owner and ask how much he would charge to ship it down the Caribbean because the ATOMS is a truly great windvane and, in my opinion, much better design than either the Hydrovane or Monitor.
Still, as it only costs me about $300 all up to build a vane it would not exactly be the frugal thing to do...
Think of it all like a hamburger. You could go to some super hip bespoke cafe and spend a hundred bucks on a burger, then again you could to someplace that makes great burgers for $12, and, lest we forget, you can always buy the fixings for a super burger to grill at home for a whole lot less.
The fact is you can almost always make do with something up to the required task on a given budget if you just bother to do your homework and apply the need/want/utility test.