Abstract This study investigates the effects of underground obstacles on a Rayleigh Wave dispersion curve obtained by spectral analysis of surface waves (SASW) testing. The SASW test is simulated by a transient response analysis of an axisymmetric finite element method. Both rigid obstacles and cavities with a variety of shapes and embedment depths are considered. Results show strong fluctuations in the dispersion curve obtained from the signals recorded by receivers in the vicinity of an obstacle. The fluctuations are primarily a result of wave reflections from the near and far faces of an obstacle. Results obtained from a finite element model are explained through a comparison with a simple theoretical model and experimental results are published. Fluctuations shown in the dispersion curve can result in misinterpretation of the shear wave velocity profile. Wherever obstacles are known to exist, an SASW test should be performed in a way that minimizes these effects. The parameters that will reduce or aggravate these effects were studied and are discussed.