Reviews

Best CB Radios (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021

Now you can be the Rubber Duck.

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BY Hank O'Hop / LAST UPDATED ON November 10, 2021

Dreaming with the heart of a child is what keeps you alive. We might not use a playhouse as a vehicle to escape into space or to rush off to put out a fire with our best buds, but we all pretend our daily commuters are big rigs from time to time. One way to feel a little closer to that dream is to set your ride up with a sweet CB radio. Well, maybe playing trucker isn't your goal as maybe you just want a CB radio for practical uses. There's no arguing that it's a great way to keep in contact with other members of your mini convoy and maybe even seek help in an emergency. Whatever your motivation, we're going to help you find the best CB radio for your needs.

Best Overall
Cobra 29LTD Professional CB Radio
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Summary
Summary

The tried and true platform is trusted in both professional and recreational applications. This CB radio keeps things simple by minimizing the number of additional purchases you need to make but maintains optimal control in all settings. 

Pros
Pros
  • Classic design boost style points
  • In-dash installation possible
  • Professional-grade quality
  • Integrated SWR metering
Cons
Cons
  • Microphone issues are somewhat common
  • Size can prevent use in some vehicles
Best Overall
Cobra 29LTD Professional CB Radio
Best Value
President Adams FCC CB Radio
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Summary
Summary

It's affordable. That usually means performance is out the window. That's not the case here, as the President Adams gets you in the ring with the big dogs without the premium expense.

Pros
Pros
  • Compact size makes mounting simple
  • Affordable price point 
  • Easy to set up and use 
  • Decent performance despite price and size
Cons
Cons
  • May not meet aesthetic standards for some vehicle owners
  • No integrated SWR metering
Best Value
President Adams FCC CB Radio
Honorable Mention
Texas Ranger Elite TRE-936FFB Professional 40 Channel CB Radio
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Summary
Summary

While looks caught our attention, the overall quality separates this model from most. It's a pro-level CB radio designed for use in the field, and its noise-canceling mic and other premier features are proof of that. 

Pros
Pros
  • Throwback and modern cues for styling points and improved control
  • Relatively affordable price point
  • Integrated SWR monitoring 
  • Noise-canceling microphone included
Cons
Cons
  • Quality control issues are somewhat common
  • Size limits it to use in large vehicles
Honorable Mention
Texas Ranger Elite TRE-936FFB Professional 40 Channel CB Radio
Trucker CB Radio Talk
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Why Trust Us


Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Our Methodology

In picking out CB radios to feature on our list of top picks, we stuck to the typical formula. We took the time to research the world of CB radios, and YouTube reviews, as usual, were a massive help in getting the basic information down, while sites dedicated to the industry, such as rightchannelradios.com, were an essential tool in feeling out what brands to trust. After turning in our homework, we opted to think about what we'd want in CB radios. We don’t pilot big rigs to make a living and we admit our list is proof of that. What we've come up with is a list of CB radios we think are tailored to general automotive enthusiasts ready to get their feet wet in the craft. 

Best CB Radio Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall
Cobra 29 LTD Professional CB Radio

The Cobra 29 LTD is an industry standard and very popular with professional drivers. It's styled on its original design yet has been updated in several ways, including a front-panel microphone connector that makes in-dash installation simple. It gives you access to 40 channels and emergency channel 9 and has a 4-watt output and these units are real workhorses that are commonly used in the trucking industry. The device comes with an antenna warning indicator that lets you know if your system needs to be checked and it features accurate and tactile controls, and the sound is very clear on either end. It even packs heat with integrated SWR controls to keep the antenna and additional expenses in check. 


No model is perfect, though and it does seem that microphone issues are relatively common. Even if Cobra's customer service has a track record of correcting the matter, the price makes this a serious problem for many customers. We should also point out that the size is also something that may limit this from use in space-limited vehicles. 


Product Specs:

  • Part Number: CBR29LTD
  • CB Type: Mobile/Full-Size
  • Integrated SWR Metering: Yes

Pros:

  • Classic design boost style points
  • In-dash installation possible
  • Professional-grade quality
  • Integrated SWR metering

Cons:

  • Microphone issues are somewhat common
  • Size can prevent use in some vehicles
Best Value
President Adams FCC CB Radio

Getting into CB radios isn't as easy as it seems. On top of trying to learn all of the terms and functions, you have to pick a unit that fits in your vehicle. Not only that, but it's always tough to spend a bunch of money on something you're unfamiliar with. That said, the President Adams CB radio is a great way to get your feet wet. Despite the price, it's a highly capable model that you can get plenty of use out of as the large LCD display keeps monitoring settings easy, which also works in favor of newcomers. On top of that, the small footprint makes it exceptionally easy to mount this unit in even the tightest spaces. 


Is it the best all-around option? No, it isn't the most aesthetically pleasing unit and despite working as well as any other unit, it’s design might prevent some users from mounting it in their vehicles. Also, it's worth pointing out that it does not feature integrated SWR metering, and you can expect to tack on the additional expense to get it up and running. 


Product Specs:

  • Part Number: CBR29LTD
  • CB Type: Mobile/Compact
  • Integrated SWR Metering: No

Pros:

  • Compact size makes mounting simple
  • Affordable price point 
  • Easy to set up and use 
  • Decent performance despite price and size

Cons:

  • May not meet aesthetic standards for some vehicle owners
  • No integrated SWR metering
Best Premium
Texas Ranger Elite TRE-936FFB Professional 40 Channel CB Radio

Sometimes, the blend of modern and classic styling produces a piece of equipment you just have to stop and appreciate. Though the Texas Ranger Elite isn't entirely true to its roots, you can't help but take in the many visual cues that represent an age gone by. This model isn't just a looker, though, as with integrated SWR metering, an SRA-198NC Noise Cancelling Microphone, and control over virtually every setting imaginable, it's easy to see this unit is clearly intended for professional use. Despite that, it still retains a price point enthusiasts can appreciate and many reviewers do feel it's a major step up from the typical entry-level CB that is worth considering after you've got the rhythm down. 


While it's certainly a solid unit, it's not perfect. Quality control issues spoil this unit's reputation for some consumers and the size does dedicate it to use in large vehicles with room to spare. 


Product Specs:

  • Part Number: TRE-936FFB
  • CB Type: Mobile/Full-Size
  • Integrated SWR Metering: Yes

Pros:

  • Throwback and modern cues for styling points and improved control
  • Relatively affordable price point
  • Integrated SWR monitoring 
  • Noise-canceling microphone included

Cons:

  • Quality control issues are somewhat common
  • Size limits it to use in large vehicles
Best Handheld
Midland 75-785 40-Channel CB Radio

If you're a hobbyist, your intent may be to simply surf the air to get a feel for what's going on out there rather than chiming in. No matter the reason, this Midland unit is an excellent option for those who want the simplest way in. It's a handheld unit that has all of your controls integrated into one single piece. Even the antenna is already in place, and there's no need to buy something else if you just want to listen locally. However, you can opt to attach a better antenna if you want to expand your coverage area and you can even do away with the nine AA batteries and tap into your vehicle's 12-volt port if you want to go mobile. 


It's no secret that this model isn't the best-equipped. In fact, overall performance and lack of function do make it little more than a learning tool. Though it may be a solid runner-up for Best Value, lack of refinement around the edges keeps it from getting there. 


Product Specs:

  • Part Number: 75-785
  • CB Type: Handheld 
  • Integrated SWR Metering: No

Pros:

  • Compact and easy to carry
  • No additional components necessary
  • Can be adapted for mobile use
  • Affordable price point

Cons:

  • Limited performance 
  • Not as polished as it could be
Best for Truckers
Cobra 29 LX Max Smart Professional CB Radio

Cobra is a recurring name in the world of CB radios and this particular model is sure to come up many times as you shop around. That's because the brand is a staple of quality for many and the 29 LX Max seems to be the go-to when people need a CB that's built well and functions better. One of the first things that really stands out is the fact that you have the means to dial in and control virtually every setting, yet everything is packed into a rather appealing package. On top of that, the handheld has large, easy-to-use buttons and even bundles the Bluetooth connectivity function into the layout. Of course, integrated SWR metering is always a plus, as it minimizes expenses and keeps your rig nice and tidy. 


Speaking of expenses, there's no arguing that this is priced a little higher than many would like to spend. Also, it seems that quality control issues are present as a few consumers put Cobra's solid customer service to use because of it. 


Product Specs:

  • Part Number: 29 LX MAX
  • CB Type: Mobile/Full-Size
  • Integrated SWR Metering: Yes

Pros:

  • High-quality materials used 
  • Comprehensive controls 
  • Well-thought handheld design 
  • Integrated SWR 

Cons:

  • High price point 
  • Quality control issues are somewhat common
Best Portable
Cobra HHRT50 Road Trip CB Radio

Cobra doesn't limit its sights solely to full-size CB radios, as it does a great job of servicing all ends of the industry. The HHRT50 is a prime example of what it has to offer to those needing something a little less robust. Running this CB radio in your vehicle requires little more than popping on a magnetic antenna, which is included in this package. The handheld unit uses AA batteries or a 12-volt DC port, meaning there's no need to tap into your vehicle's charging system to get going, and you can use it on foot if you need to. It also means you can quickly transport your CB radio from vehicle to vehicle. 


Of course, it can function as a 40-channel CB radio and do everything you need it to. Still, it better serves as something for use in private groups that don't roam far from one another. Also, the dependency on a total of 9 AA batteries is far from ideal.  


Product Specs:

  • Part Number: HHRT50
  • CB Type: Handheld 
  • Integrated SWR Metering: No

Pros:

  • Easy to set up and use 
  • No hardwiring required 
  • Can be used freely of vehicle 

Cons:

  • Limited range 
  • Dependent on a total of nine AA batteries
Best Mobile
President Randy FCC Handheld or Mobile CB Radio

Hear us out before you jump down our throats for calling this a mobile CB. What if you need a CB radio but don't have the room or means to carry something full-sized? Wait, let's rephrase that. What if you need a walkie-talkie on steroids? Push-to-talk cell phones aren't as common as they used to be, nor are they always the best solution. The President Randy just might be, though. This handheld CB radio is sized just right to throw on a lanyard or in your pack before you hit the trail, keeping you in contact with other hikers or riders along the way. It also features an optional DC charging port as well as external antenna and microphone adapters, meaning you can use it in your rig in a pinch. 


It should be no surprise that range and clarity are limited, and this is best-suited for small off-road clubs or anything of the likes. Also, it's worth pointing out that you pay a pretty penny for the smaller-than-average size. 


Product Specs:

  • Part Number: TXUS611
  • CB Type: Handheld 
  • Integrated SWR Metering: No

Pros:

  • Compact and easy to carry 
  • Battery and DC powered 
  • Compatible with external mic and antenna 

Cons:

  • Limited range and clarity 
  • Relatively high price point
Best All-in-One
Midland 75-822 40 Channel CB-Way Radio

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is cut the fat. In the case of CB radios, you don't always need the most capable units as there are plenty of situations where you need to keep in contact with someone whose vehicle is just a few yards away. This Midland CB Transceiver is perfect for those situations. There's no bulky unit to bolt or glue down, just a handheld with all of the functions you need to get on the air. Setting up is even made simple with the use of a 12-volt power adapter that pops into your cigarette lighter port, leaving hardwiring for another day. And despite being so simple, it's still a 40-channel CB radio that can give you the pulse on local conversations and get you in touch with authorities in an emergency situation. It even has a battery backup option for that very reason. 


Obviously, this is no pro-grade contender. The compromise in size does interfere with range and clarity, and there are also more affordable ways to obtain similar performance, though few are quite as refined. 


Product Specs:

  • Part Number: 75-822
  • CB Type: Handheld 
  • Integrated SWR Metering: No

Pros:

  • Compact size limits space taken up in vehicle
  • Easy to set up and use 
  • Battery back-up function 

Cons:

  • Range and clarity are limited by size
  • Relatively high price point

Our Verdict on CB Radios

If you're looking for a solid CB to hit the ground running with, the Cobra 29LTD Professional CB Radio is hard to ignore as necessary additional equipment is limited, and the quality is hard to beat. Still, the President Adams FCC CB Radio is a fantastic option for the budget-oriented. 

What to Consider When Buying a CB Radio

Now that we have the suggestions out of the way, let's get into how you can select a CB radio for yourself as, after all, nobody knows what you like more than you do. This guide is here to help you sort through all the jargon and variables to hone in on what model best suits your needs. 

Types of CB Radios

Mobile CB Radio

A mobile CB radio is the type that's likely the first thing to come to mind when anyone brings up CB radios. They're about the same size as the single-din AM FM radios that cars used to come with before navigation systems took over. Only, the selection of dials and features vary greatly and you're not exactly changing channels to find the station that pumps out your guilty pleasure songs. 

We'll take the time now to say that you need to be mindful of where you mount these units. Because you don't want to obstruct the speakers or the heatsinks if present. Most opt to simply mount them under the dash, but careful mounting can keep them out of sight to prevent an obviously aftermarket piece of equipment from dragging down the interior's looks. 

All-In-One Handset CB Radio

An alternative to the traditional mobile CB radio, all-in-one units to limit the amount of room a CB takes up in your vehicle. Making the central unit smaller, or even non-existent in many cases, is achieved by moving a majority of the controls to the handset itself. 

It's not always feasible to mount a full-size CB radio. Jeeps, UTV's, and many other small vehicles simply don't have the room to spare. By compromising some functions, you can still equip your vehicle with a CB system with one of these units. 

Handheld CB Radio

Modern technology makes it possible to downsize communications equipment. Think about how much smaller cell phones are and how much more capable they are than the original models introduced in the early 1980s. It should be no surprise that CB radios can also be scaled down into a single handheld device. 

Handheld CB radios are great for a number of situations but are best suited to groups that tend to stay within a few miles of each other. Unlike cell phones, handheld CB radios are limited to their larger counterparts. The range is typically limited to just one or two miles, which is why you may only want to consider them for your off-roading club. 

CB Radio Key Features

Channel Scan

You already know what channel scanning is all about. It's what your old AM/FM radio used to do. You know, it'd automatically scan through channels, giving you a glimpse of hot tracks playing on various channels until you stopped it. Channel scanning on a CB radio does the same thing, except it automatically stops when it finds a channel that people are talking on. 

The obvious benefit of channel scanning is that it keeps your eyes on the road while you search for discussions to chime into. This is typically a standard feature but is worth keeping an eye out for and making use of. 

Instant Emergency Channel

In 1969, the FCC designated Channel 9 for emergency use only. To help you out, CB radio manufacturers have incorporated a Channel 9 switch so you can get a hold of the authorities quickly. At the very least, this is something to keep an eye out for in a CB radio as it can obviously get you in contact with the right people when things go wrong. 

Another great channel to be mindful of is Channel 19, which is dedicated to truckers or other drivers who can provide traffic updates to one another. Some CB radios also come equipped with an instant Channel 19 switch, which is a feature you will get plenty of use out of. 

Automatic Noise Limiter (ANL) and RF Gain

The automatic noise limiter reduces the amplitude of impulse noise by clipping incoming audio signals. This lets users avoid ear-piercing signals that not only hurt but can also damage the speakers. Along with ANL, one of the most important features any CB radio can have is RF gain. Basically, it allows you to quiet the radio by opening and closing the receiver instead of using the radio’s squelch control. The result is improved reception over a greater distance.

In short, these two features are in place to ensure clear transmissions from one unit to another. Thankfully, they are standard features for most units and you don’t have to worry much about them being left off the table.

Benefits of CB Radios 

Back-Up on Command 

The benefits of using a CB radio are obvious to professionals. Those who make a living on the highway already know the value, and they probably keep them in their personal vehicles because of it. So, why should you? You instantly tap into a network, or community for that matter, of individuals who can provide company on lonely highways. 

Aside from getting to use cool trucker jargon, a CB radio really can be a life-saving piece of equipment. Other drivers can give you a heads up on obstacles ahead or a helping hand when you're left stranded. It's also a great way to stay connected with the people who are road tripping or exploring off-road trails with you. 

Instant Go 

Setting up a CB radio isn't difficult. In fact, a few simple leads and locating the mounting bracket is really all it takes to get rolling. Today's models also aren’t all reliant on that big hulking antenna made famous by a certain orange hot-rod roaming the backroads of Georgia. That is unless you are chasing nostalgic vibes or superior signal quality.

Not only that, but they're relatively affordable. We'll come back to pricing in a moment, but you really don't need to spend an arm and a leg to get your hands on a reliable piece of potentially life-saving technology. Nor do you need any kind of special licensing to start communicating on public channels. 

Years of Experience 

CB radios may have been made famous in the 1970s and 1980s, but what you see in film and television programs from then isn't what you get today. Today's models are designed to give you plenty of options to adjust sound and mic quality.

Also, like many other things in the electronic world, CB radios can be built in compact layouts.  There's some room for an exception for professional models, but even then, you get the classic look and feel with modern performance—something we can all appreciate in the automotive industry. 

CB Radio Pricing

You can spend a few hundred dollars on a high-end CB radio, but you don't need much to get started. $50 to $100 can get you handheld CB radios and smaller mobile units. These smaller units usually only have a 2- to 3-mile range, but are great for new hobbyists or use in smaller clubs. Moving up to the $100-$200 range starts to draw in some better quality models with better signal quality and enhanced audio controls, some of which are suitable for even professional use. Going above the $200 price point brings you exclusively into the territory of professional-grade CB radios. Some of the features of these high-end units include an enhanced noise filter, talkback circuit, six-digit frequency counter, and a modulation meter.

Tips and Tricks

As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and CB radios. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.

  • Learn the Etiquette. No, the fun trucker talk isn't just for the movies. While it gets played up, terms like "10-4", "over and out," and the many nicknames are often a real part of the language you’ll pick up on the air. 
  • Have Fun With It. Don't be intimidated to communicate with others in the community. You can use this as a tool to get vital information about conditions down the road, seek help, or just to keep you company on long trips. 
  • Double-Check the SWR Meter. Think of an SWR meter as a means to dial in your antenna. Actually, that's exactly what it's for. If your unit doesn't have an integrated SWR meter, you will need to buy one separately. 
  • Get a Good Antenna. Your CB radio is highly dependent on the antenna to function. It's worth spending a little extra money on a good one and setting it up properly—with a good SWR meter, if necessary—to ensure a strong signal. 

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!

Q: How many miles can a CB radio transmit?

A: For the most part, CB radios have a range of just a few miles. Better units in ideal conditions can sometimes expand their range to 20 miles, but all transmit with 4 watts of power, as required by the law. In some instances, a rare phenomenon known as "skip" can essentially expand your range to hundreds, if not thousands of miles. 

Q: What is ''shooting skip''?

A: Atmospheric conditions can cause the range of a CB radio to fluctuate but, but not always for the worst. When the atmospheric conditions are just right, your CB radio may be able to make contact with operators that are thousands of miles away. The phenomenon of shooting skip gets its name because you're essentially able to get your radio waves to "skip" along the earth's surface and reach much further than they normally would. 

Q: What is the best antenna for my CB radio?

A: Proper antenna selection for a CB radio is worthy of another discussion on its own. It is dependent on the model you select, the intended range, and personal preference. Unfortunately, because of all the variables that come into play, it's hard for us to give a clear answer here.