LAST UPDATED: May 8, 2019
Best CB Radios: Staying in Touch Has Never Been So Easy
CB Radios are an important tool for truckers, campers, trail runners, and enthusiasts
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PUBLISHED ON May 8, 2019
Citizens band radios have long been associated with truckers, but there are also RV owners, off-road enthusiasts, motorcyclists, and hobbyists who are CB radio users. They are useful for staying informed of events, getting traffic updates, and making contact with emergency services in hard-to-reach areas. Check out our list of top of the line CB radios to help you find the right product to suit your interests.
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of CB Radios
- Cost: CB Radios have been utilizing the same basic technology since 1945, so they cost much less than other forms of mobile communication. In fact, you can get some of the best mobile CB radios on the market for under $100.
- Size: Back in the ’70s, the strongest CB radios took up a lot of room under the dash. With advances in technology, they are now very compact and come in sizes as small as an average smartphone.
- Licensing: Unlike General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS), ham radios, and others, CB Radios don’t require any special licensing through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to operate. Professional CB radio manufacturers have already built their products to FCC standards, so all you have to do is hook it up and enjoy it.
- Features: Just like everything else electronic, CB radios have advanced quite a bit over the past few decades. There are all sorts of features to enhance speaker and mic quality as well as increase antenna range.
- Community: Most people think of social media when it comes to having a community of friends to interact with, but CB radios have popular communities of its own. Truckers, trail riders, motorcycle clubs, and others all rely on CB radios to communicate.
Types of CB Radios
Mobile CB Radio
These are the most common CB radios sold. They consist of a small box with knobs and gauges that attaches underneath your dash with a corded handset attached. When figuring out where to mount a mobile CB radio, keep in mind that you don’t want it being an obstruction but also want to be able to hear the speakers clearly.
All-In-One Handset CB Radio
The big difference between these and mobile CB radios is that most of the controls are built right into the handset. To accommodate the extra controls, the handsets are bigger and are also designed to fit well in the palm of your hand. These are some of the best portable CB radios out there for smaller cars that don’t have the extra space for a dash-mounted box.
Handheld CB Radio
These walkie-talkie style CB radios are battery-operated mobile devices that come with either a cigarette lighter cord or USB attachment for car charging. The obvious advantage of this type of CB radio is the ability to take it outside of the car with you. To achieve maximum range, there are car-mounted antennas available that plug into this portable unit.
As one of the leading manufacturers of mobile electronics, Cobra has been one of the top choices of professional drivers since it was founded in Chicago back in 1951. The company is known for its radar detectors, two-way radios, marine electronics, and for having some of the best CB radios for truckers such as the 18WXSTII CB Radio.
Uniden (short for Uni Electronics Corp) is a Japanese company founded in 1966 that specializes in home and mobile electronics. The company rose to prominence during the 1970s by manufacturing millions of CB radios both under its own name as well as those of other private brands through licensing agreements. Among the more popular products Uniden offers is the R3 Extreme Long Range Radar Laser Detector.
Midland has been in business for over 50 years, and in that time this Kansas-based company has been a pioneer in developing two-way radio technology. It currently offers weather-alert radios, mobile and base stations for different government entities, and some of the best-rated CB radio equipment available. One sought after product Midland offers is the 1001LWX 40-Channel Mobile CB Radio.
CB Radio Pricing
- $50-$100: At this price range, you will find many handheld CB radios and smaller mobile units. You can expect to find solid reception within two to three miles and basic features like a backlit LED, noise limiter to reduce background static, and a jack for external speakers.
- $100-$200: Mid-range models have more features and are used in both personal and professional applications. At this price range, you can expect enhanced audio controls, better reception, and extras like an external PA system.
- $200 and up: You can find some of the most powerful mobile CB radios as well as home units at this price level. Some of the features of these high-end units include an enhanced noise filter, talkback circuit, six-digit frequency counter, and a modulation meter.
According to FCC regulations, there is a 40-channel CB radio limit everyone must follow. The channel scan will search all of them for activity (people talking), so you can keep your hands on the wheel while looking for a conversation. Popular channels on CB radios include channel nine for emergencies and channel 19 which truckers use to send out traffic updates.
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.
Instant Emergency Channel
In 1969, the FCC designated channel nine for emergency use only. To help you out, CB radio manufacturers have incorporated a channel nine switch so you can get a hold of the authorities quickly.
Automatic Noise Limiter
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.
- Antenna: While handheld units will come with their own antenna, mobile CB radios do not. This means you need to purchase an antenna or else the radio will not work. There are a bunch of different antennas available as well as ways to mount them to your vehicle.
- Bluetooth: Higher-end mobile CB radios have the ability to sync up mobile devices through Bluetooth. Users can make phone calls through their radio as well as see all the phone’s information on the display.
Best CB Radio Reviews & Recommendations 2020
The 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.
If you want a dependable and good-sounding CB radio, then this is the one for you. These units are real workhorses and 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. It features accurate and tactile controls, and the sound is very clear and not distorted on either end.
However, there may be problems with the microphone, and it may not come with instructions. It may also be too big to fit in some vehicles, such as a Jeep. Also, there's not much volume control on the PA function.
This mobile CB radio is a great choice if you are in the market for an affordable product with some great features and a compact design that won’t get in the way. The PRO510XL boasts a high-performance 40-channel operation utilizing a superheterodyne circuit with phase lock loop technology that gives it tight frequency control to avoid static-filled miscommunications.
Among this radio’s more notable features are an automatic noise limiter and squelch control which work together to mitigate background noise from your car’s engine or any other noise polluting sounds in the immediate vicinity. Added to those is RF gain control to increase the signal and communicate over longer distances. The easy-to-read LED-backlit display lets you know at a glance what channel is on, and the faceplate design makes adjusting the squelch or finding a new channel quick and easy.
There have been some problems with being able to install the PRO510XL due to the placement of the holes for the mounting bracket, and a custom mounting setup may be needed. Also, this model lacks a scan mode, which can be frustrating if you’re on the road and want to find a new station to talk on.
Our pick for our honorable mention comes from Cobra in the form of this compact designed CB radio with tons of features and a classic design that harkens back to the 1970s. The 29LTD comes with a silver faceplate, chrome knobs, an easy-to-read LCD display, and level meters that complete the look, while its many features put it at the cutting edge of CB radio technology.
The 29LTD comes with features to enhance your CB radio experience such as Standing Wave Ratio (SWR) calibration to improve antenna reception, an antenna warning indicator if it becomes unaligned, and an instant channel 9 switches to locate emergency services quickly. The public address system lets you make announcements outside of your car (speakers sold separately) and a microphone booster will make sure everyone hears you loud and clear. There is also an RF gain switch to mitigate background noise.
There are a couple of issues that have cropped up involving the 29LTD. First, it is Bluetooth capable, but in order for it to work, the unit has to be sent back to the factory for a firmware update. Second, the radio sometimes has problems with fuses blowing out easily, even after old ones are switched out.
Another excellent CB radio from Cobra, this one features a multitude of features and uses that make it stand apart from the rest. It comes with the iRadar App, which tunes in live to police channels to warn you about things like red light cameras, speed traps, and road hazards. It has Bluetooth, allowing you to take phone calls while keeping your hands free. The noise cancelling microphone allows calls to be crisp and clear even over the general sound of traffic and your car’s engine.
You are able to rewind the last 10 seconds of a message and even record a 10-second memo for yourself. This CB radio comes with NOAA weather channels to keep you updated on the forecast and warn you about weather-related disasters and hazards. It also comes with a fully illuminated LCD display that can be customized red, blue, green, or amber for ease of viewing at night and in harsh sunlight. This is not a cheap radio, certainly. It is not too heavy, weighing just over five pounds.
However, you are unable to turn the weather alarm off, even if the radio itself is off. There have been some reported issues of durability with the microphone cord. There are also some reports of high battery usage, even when the CB radio is supposedly off.
Another solid CB radio from Uniden, the Bearcat has four watts of transmit power and 40 channels. It comes with NOAA weather alerts, keeping you safe and informed. There is instant channel 9 access for emergencies. One of its added perks is the large, simple display with seven different backlight colors to make it easy to see no matter the conditions. Additional features include dynamic squelch control, Hi/Lo mic grain control, a memory channel scan, noise filters, and a noise cancelling microphone. The entire kit includes the radio, microphone, mounting bracket, power cord, microphone adapter, and a manual. It also comes with a two-year extended manufacturer’s warranty.
This is a more affordable CB radio, priced at nearly $100 less than the Cobra LX MAX. It weighs barely over four pounds.
It does use a lot of power, though, and the screen’s brightness isn’t as bright as you would expect compared to other products on the market, making it hard to see in the dark and in harsh light.
This CB radio from Midland is simple, functional, and meets all the needs you would expect without extra features. This also drives its price down compared to other competitors. It comes with 40 channels as well as 10 NOAA channels for weather alerts and forecasts. It has four watts of output power that is fueled by six AA batteries or an adapter. You will have access to emergency channel 9 and the ability to have channel 9 active along with another channel via its Dual Watch mode. It automatically limits and controls noise for a clearer sound. A great benefit of this radio is that it comes with a one-year manufacturer's warranty.
However, it is very light, weighing only a half pound. This radio is very simple, and you won’t get a great deal of extra features for the cost. The reception at a distance is not very good, particularly when lined up against similar products for the same price.
A more pricey CB radio from Galaxy, this has strong backlighting to make it easy to read at night or during the day. It features large scales to tell you the power output, modulation, and incoming signal. It has variable controls for the power output and talkback circuit along with a Roger Beep. It features a five-digit frequency counter and a two-digit channel display. Along with the radio, it comes with a handheld microphone, mounting brackets and hardware, a power cord, and the owner’s manual.
However, it is a bit heavy for its features, weighing more than 4 pounds. This is also an expensive radio—nearly twice as much as others on the market. The blue backlight is exceptionally bright, making it difficult to see while driving at night. There are some issues with reception and microphone functionality. Although when these issues arise, it appears customer service is excellent at resolving the issue promptly. It doesn’t have a lot of extra features, but it is simple and has a nice old-school vibe.
Coming in at about mid-range in terms of price, the Stryker CB radio has a lot going for it. It is a 10- and 12-meter 45-plus watt radio with backlit keys for enhanced viewing. It has MIC/RF Gain Controls and Dual Channel watch. It also comes with a noise blanker feature, quick access channels, Roger Beep function, squelch control, and a microphone. It weighs a mere two and half pounds. It has a very simple conversation aspect, and it is small and durable.
For the price, you do get a high-quality product. You are, perhaps, missing out on the fancier features other CB radios have. Because of its compact size, it is easily portable and doesn’t take up much room in your car.
The noise blank feature, however, is not super powerful. It can run hot, so keep that in mind if you leave it out in the sun.
- Don’t underestimate the importance of a properly mounted antenna. To get the maximum range out of an antenna, make sure it is mounted to the roof or another high point of your car and that it’s properly grounded.
- If you are planning on installing the CB radio yourself, make sure you know which wires and connectors are safe to use. Miswiring your radio could blow out fuses, short out the ignition, or start a fire.
- An important piece of hardware that gets overlooked while trying to diagnose reception problems is the coaxial cable. This cable connects the antenna to the radio and any kinks, knicks, or other damage will severely inhibit its effectiveness.
- When tuning your antenna, make sure to do so with the doors, trunk, and hood all closed. Leaving them open can mess with the SWR meter which will lead to poor reception.
Q: How far can my CB radio transmit?
A: The general rule of thumb is one mile per watt of power output. Since almost all CB radios on the market use the maximum legally allowed the amount of 4 watts of power, the average range is four miles.
Q: What is “shooting skip?”
A: This refers to a technique where radio waves are bounced off the ionosphere to communicate with someone who is very far away. You can communicate over hundreds or even thousands of miles using this technique. However, it is not allowed per FCC rules.
Q: What is the best antenna for my CB radio?
A: There is no exact answer to this question as there are many different variables in play. Generally, you want an antenna that is tall enough to not be inhibited by your car or the surrounding terrain.
The Cobra 29LTD Professional CB Radio is our overall CB radio pick for its many features, all-in-one handset, and crisp, clear reception.
With the number of features, sound quality, and affordability, the Uniden PRO510XL makes the cut for our best value CB radio.