A CB radio means Citizens Band radio and they were first created in 1945 by the FCC. They are powerful, reliable, cost-effective, and don’t require any special training or licenses to operate. These radios use 40 channels and some of them are used for specific purposes. For example, truckers use Channel 19 to communicate. CB radios have more power than an FRS radio, but they’re still only meant for short-distance communication.
Looking at all the options on the market can be quite confusing if you don’t understand radios. If you’ve been dreaming of getting involved in some of the conversation, we’ll help you find the best CB radio with our top ten choices.
How to Use a CB Radio
These radios work through radio waves, just like the VHF radios, televisions, and AM/FM radios. Each one comes with a long antenna, usually measuring around ten feet. Normally, the antenna is mounted on the rear of your passenger vehicle. This antenna catches the signals and then broadcasts them through your CB speakers.
The CB itself is a transceiver. That means it’s used to transmit and receive messages. If you want to talk, you’ll hold the microphone up, press the button, and talk. That message is converted to an electric signal and transmitted through your antenna. As it travels through the air via radio waves, other CB antennas in the area pick up the signal and hear your message.
Uses of a CB Radio
People use radios for many purposes, when a regular cell phone just won’t do. Here are the most common reasons to own a radio like this:
- Get weather, travel, and traffic updates while on the road. This is good for passenger travel as well as professional operations.
- Report an emergency.
- Talking with other friends traveling in other vehicles.
History of the CB Radio
In 1945, the FCC created the CB radio. Their goal was to empower small businesses and individuals to communicate in a manner that wasn’t hard to operate. They became most popular during the 1960s and 1970s.
During the oil crisis of 1963, the government imposed a speed limit of 55 mph nationwide. This sparked an increase in CB sales as drivers sought to warn one another about where the police cars were. They were also used to alert each other about which gas stations ran out of fuel.
As time went on, radio clubs were formed and people started to invent unique jargon to talk on the road. Many people think that this concept is how Internet chat rooms got their start because they both feature an anonymity factor. Once the Internet got bigger, the use of radios decreased. Note: they aren’t the same as HAM radio units!
Mobile vs. Handheld CB Radios
There are base CB radios on the market that can be installed at home, but most people use them in their vehicle. Of this option, there are two choices available: the handheld or mobile CB radio. A mobile radio is compact and mounts under your dashboard. Some people also put it on their transmission hump in a truck. To reduce the static feedback, some people wire the unit directly into the car battery.
A more compact version is the handheld radio. This is a device that fits into your hand. It fits easily on the dash when it’s not in use. These aren’t as powerful as the mobile option, but they’re ideal for maximum portability.
The Range of CB Radios
Many people want to evaluate CB radios for sale by their range, only to find out that they all run on the same four watts of power. The only main difference between these radios is the features they come with and their size. They’ll all reach the same range and put out the same amount of power.
The only exception to this rule is an SSB type radio. What is an SSB radio? They transmit at 12 watts instead of the typical four. It’s called a single side band radio. Overall, you gain three times the range of transmission with this design. The only downside to this is that for others to hear you, they must also use a SSB CB radio. All SSB radios work on the standard channels if you can’t find people to talk to on the 3x range.
Features To Look For
Before you purchase a radio, you’ll want to understand the various features available to you so you can buy exactly what you want. Some of the CB lingoes can be slightly confusing, so we’ll explain a few of the essential things to look for.
Automatic Noise Limiter (ANL)
This filters out any static, interference, and engine noises to improve your sound quality.
CB channel scanners work like your radio scanner does. You can scan all the channels for any communication. Once it spots talking, the scanner stops and allows you to listen. This is an ideal way to find people to talk to without manually going through all of the channels.
Instant Channel 9 & 19
Jump to two of the most popular channels easily with this feature. Channel 9 is used for emergency purposes while Channel 19 is geared toward truckers and highway travel.
High-priced model have a backlit display for safer operation in low-light situations, like nighttime. If the radio is used during the night, this is well worth the extra expense.
Public Address Capability
With this, you can utilize the radio as a PA system. You’ll need to purchase a PA horn because they aren’t generally included. Simply mount the horn to the top of your vehicle or under the hood and you have a way to get a lot of attention.
With this feature, you can filter out transmissions based on the strength of the signal. Many people find it’s useful to block out the distant communications to reduce background noise while communicating with others that have a stronger signal. It’s also possible to use this when you want to pick up the weaker signals.
This standard feature keeps you from having to listen to static when no one is talking. The speaker is activated when transmissions are received. Otherwise, the sound is silent.
Some CB radios have the ability to tap into a local NOAA station and receive real-time weather updates and reports.
Best CB Radio Reviews
Whether you need a CB radio for truckers, or you just want to get in on the action, we’ve evaluated all the options available and found ten of the best choices to consider.