Top 10 Best CB Radio Reviews for Your Vehicle
You don’t need to be a trucker to enjoy the top CB radios.
Published October 7, 2018
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. CB 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 CB 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
CB 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 CB radios for many purposes. Here are the most common reasons to own a CB radio.
- 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 CB radios decreased.
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 CB 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 CB radio. What is an SSB CB 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.
CB Radio Features to Look for
Before you purchase a CB 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.
With this, you can utilize the CB 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.
If you’re a beginner CB user, the PRO505XL is a great place to start. While it doesn’t have a full list of features like some of the professional options, the price is good and it’s simple to install. This CB is a great tool to get your feet wet and see if you enjoy talking before investing in a higher dollar model.
In total, you’re looking at about 15 minutes to hook this up in the car. On top of that, the mic sends out clear, strong signals. With the minimalist design, you have very few knobs or buttons to figure out. The built-in speakers are a great quality as well so they’ll be loud and clear, even if you have your window down.
There’s even an inline fuse which stops any electric damage to your car if the radio short circuits for some reason. Unlike some of the higher priced models, this unit is made of plastic, so it isn’t as durable as others. There also isn’t an RF gain knob to control the noise. With that said, you won’t find much better in this price range.
Cobra 75WXST 40-Channel CB Radio
If you want a handheld CB radio that fits ergonomically and comfortably in your hand, the Cobra 75WXST is right for you. It doesn’t have the large, bulky display of a typical unit, so it’s one of the most compact CB radios on the market today.
This radio features 40 channels, so you’ll get access to everything happening around you. There are also 10 NOAA channels so you can check the weather from anywhere. If you need to install this in tight spaces, you’ll like that the speaker faces to the front.
When it’s not in use, the small profile makes it easy to store in your glove compartment where people can’t see it. This Cobra also offers the company’s SoundTracker System which reduces 90% of your noise.
Access the channels you use most frequently with the programmable locations plus receive instant access to Channel 9 and 19. If you’re driving in a noisy vehicle, this radio might not work well for you because the speaker isn’t overly loud. This is easily remedied by purchasing an additional external speaker.
Cobra HH 38 WX ST 4-Watt 40-Channel CB Radio
Another handheld CB radio option is this model from Cobra. This radio comes complete with a removable belt clip, high-efficiency antenna, wrist strap, operating manual, and 12V cigarette lighter plug.
The radio has access to 40 CB channels plus an additional ten weather channels. The NOAA Weather & Emergency Radio helps you to remain prepared for emergencies and storms, no matter where you are.
This CB radio with scanner features both a dual-watch and full-channel scan. You can run it through your DC power or by battery if you prefer. The best part about this option is that the scanner is lightweight at just 1.2 pounds. That makes it easy to hold without fatigue.
Cobra 29LX Professional CB Radio
This CB range goes 13 miles and is one of the most innovative on the market. With all 40 channels available, active seeking is simple and helps you tune into the channels you want quickly. There are also ten NOAA weather channels so you can receive alerts about anything abnormal happening around you.
The multi-color display makes it easy to spot your battery power, transmission level, frequency level, and time. In addition, the top-of-the-line speaker delivers some of the clearest sounds in this category. There’s also an attached PA system; you just need to purchase the extra speaker.
If you prefer to utilize Bluetooth with your CB radio, this model also has that available. Keep in mind that all of these features do jack up the price slightly.
Uniden PRO510XL Pro Series 40-Channel CB Radio
If you want a quality CB radio at a budget-friendly price, the Uniden PRO510XL might be right for you. The plastic body and simple options make this a cheaper variety for the occasional user.
The front of this unit utilizes a digital LCD while the radio offers 40 channel coverage. There’s an automatic noise limiter plus squelch control to reduce any background noise. The microphone provides good enough quality that it beats out numerous competitors, even those that cost more.
What’s most surprising about this model is that it comes with a two-year warranty for additional peace of mind. Considering the low cost, you can’t really beat it.
Cobra 18WXSTII Mobile CB Radio with Dual Watch
If you want a superior combination between control and performance, the Cobra 18WXSTII might be the best CB radio for you. You’ll have access to 40 channels and another ten NOAA weather channels.
There’s a backlit LCD so you can monitor the signal strength, channel selection, and power output even in the darkest conditions. What’s unique about this radio is the dual-watch function. This allows you to monitor two separate channels at the same time. This is a great option when you’re dealing with heavy radio traffic.
The front speaker provides clear sound and the noise-cancellation technology reduces about 90% of the external sounds. With a nine-foot microphone cord attached, you’ll also have plenty of length, no matter how big your vehicle is. Another interesting feature is the last channel retention option which lets you flip between the station you’re on and the last one you listened to.
As far as the price goes, you’ll find this one sits mid-range with all the options on the market.
Midland 1001LWX 40 Channel Mobile CB
Another mid-range option with a good balance of features and price is this mobile CB from Midland. Truckers appreciate the compact size, but the basic features make it easy enough for anyone to use. It comes with all 40 standard CB channels and four watts of power to provide five miles of range.
The channel locking system lets you stick to your choice channel plus the scanner finds emergency notifications and weather channels nearby. If you want to increase reception, you have control through the RF gain and an automatic noise limiter.
This radio comes with a PA system when you purchase a separate speaker. Plus, you can switch between the two functions easily.
Midland 75-822 40 Channel CB-Way Radio
This handheld CB radio makes it easy to talk with people even when you’re not near your vehicle. Of course, you will pay more for this type of functionality. For the money, you’re going to receive a nice long list of features to make it a great value.
It’s been a best-seller for quite some time, and for a good reason. It’s compact enough to fit on your belt and the batteries last up to ten hours on a single charge. Hook it up to your external antenna if you prefer. This radio also provides access to the NOAA weather channels, so you’ll be alerted in an emergency.
Because the shell is made of plastic, you’ll want to be careful carrying it around as it won’t survive a chance meeting with the pavement. With that said, most users like the walkie-talkie look this CB offers.
Galaxy-DX-959 40 Channel AM/SSB Mobile CB Radio with Frequency Counter
While this is the most expensive on our list, it’s also worth every penny, especially if you spend a lot of time talking on the CB radio. You’re going to receive a durable unit that offers plenty of features. It uses both SSB and AM modes as well as a driver-friendly menu so you can make adjustments on the go.
The LED back-lit display works great at night, but there’s also a dimming option if you don’t want the distraction. The primary screen shows you what channel you’re currently on while the second one adds a five-digit frequency counter. Galaxy’s Noise Filter increases your signal distance which just makes the clear audio even better. There’s also a variable talkback feature which gives you control over the volume of your voice.
Uniden BEARCAT 980SSB
If you want the best value compared to a list of features, this Uniden is your ideal option. Rounding out our list of the best CB radios, the Bearcat has everything you could want in a system. The included microphone has noise-canceling properties so you send out a clear transmission. If you’re going to use a different mic, it’s easy to add on a wireless microphone that you desire.
This CB has all 40 standard channels, adjustable backlights, seven available color options, NOAA stations, RF gain control, automatic noise limited, plus a noise blanker. This CB radio with an SWR meter is a step above many others on the market.
You would be hard-pressed to find another unit with this many features at this price point. It even comes with a mounting bracket for use in a professional vehicle.
When you’re ready to communicate with others on the road, it’s time to dive into the world of CB radios. The problem is, most people don’t know which one is the best CB radio. That’s why we’ve laid out all your choices and given you the complete rundown of features to expect. Whether you need a budget-friendly radio or the top-of-the-line model, you’re sure to find it in our reviews. The open road will never be lonely again.
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