The best CB radio

From bestreviews.com
By
Lauren Corona
BestReviews

CB radios operate on 40 shared channels. While you can use any of them, channel 9 must only be used for emergencies.

Although CB radios might seem like a relic from the past, they're still regularly used by truckers, security personnel, boat owners, and anyone in remote areas with no cell service, not to mention hobbyists. They allow you to communicate with others in your area using 40 public channels.

This guide contains all the information you require to choose the best CB radio. Our top CB radio choice is the Cobra 29 LX MAX. This professional-grade CB has a wide range of features, including Bluetooth compatibility and a "say-again" function to replay 10 seconds of missed messages.

Considerations when choosing CB radios

Size and weight

Although modern CB radios tend to be fairly compact, it's still worth considering the size and weight of any models you're considering. This won't matter so much if you intend to set up your CB radio at home and leave it in one spot, but if you need to mount it in a vehicle or move it between vehicles, a lightweight and compact option is ideal.

Antenna

CB radios require an antenna to work. This is usually sold separately from the radio itself but is a must-have accessory, so you should factor the cost in if you don't already own one. No matter how excellent your CB radio is, you won't get the desired results with a poor-quality antenna, so it's just as important a purchase.

SWR meter

In order to tune your CB radio, you'll need an SWR meter. Although traditionally SWR meters were separate units, a fair amount of new CB radios have built-in SWR meters, making the tuning process far less of a chore.

Clarity

One of the biggest complaints about CB radios is a lack of clarity due to static and other similar issues. The two features a CB radio should have for better clarity are squelch control and RF gain.

Squelch control stops the annoying sounds you can hear in between transmissions by adjusting the minimum signal strength required in order to hear transmissions through your speakers.
RF gain also helps quiet the radio but without limiting the distance over which you can receive transmissions.

Features

Bluetooth

If your CB radio is Bluetooth compatible, you can link it to your smartphone to take your calls hands-free, an excellent feature for drivers.

Noise filter

A built-in noise factor helps to reduce static and other unwanted noises through your CB radio.

NOAA weather radio

Some CB radios can also receive NOAA weather channels, which is great for keeping abreast of changing weather conditions while you're on the road.

CB radio prices

Expect to pay anywhere between $40, for a basic CB radio with few extra features, and $300, for a high-end model with all the features you could want.

FAQ

Q. Do I need a "handle" to operate a CB radio?

A. In the past, it was a legal requirement by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that all CB radio-users have a licence and a corresponding call sign, or "handle," to identify themselves with. Although CB licences are no longer needed, many people who use CB radios still prefer a handle to let other users know who they are. It isn't a legal requirement, however.

Q. What range will I get on my CB radio?

A. While a variety of factors can affect the range of a CB radio, such as weather conditions and the terrain, you should generally expect to get a range of around a mile for each foot of antenna.

CB radios we recommend

Best of the best: Cobra 29 LX MAX

Our take: This high-end model is perfect for serious CB radio enthusiasts or people who use them regularly for work.

What we like: Bluetooth lets you answer your phone hands-free. Includes access to 10 NOAA weather channels. Connects to iRadar app to receive live police alerts.

What we dislike: Can be tricky to use for beginners.

Best bang for your buck: Uniden PRO520XL Pro Series 40-Channel CB Radio

Our take: If you're looking for a basic CB radio at a low price, this model should be at the top of your list.

What we like: Extremely compact and lightweight. Suitable for mounting. Features RF gain and squelch control. Built-in noise limiter.

What we dislike: A little on the quiet side.

Choice 3: Galaxy-DX-959 40-Channel AM/SSB Mobile CB Radio With Frequency Counter

Our take: It might be a fairly complex option for newbies to get the hang of, but once you've mastered it, this is a truly excellent unit.

What we like: Built-in SWR meter. High-quality noise filter. Easy-to-read display. Driver-friendly layout. Offers a PA mode.

What we dislike: No presets or easy access to common channels.

Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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