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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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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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
- 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.