How do I Choose the Best CB Radio?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Popularly called a CB radio, a Citizen’s Band radio is one that has the 40 channels designated for public, unlicensed use by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The CB radio is characterized by being able to send and receive radio transmissions in the range of around 27 MHz and by having a stated range of about 1–5 miles (approximately 1.6–8 km). CB radio use is restricted to areas where the FCC operates, and the radios must be certificated by the FCC, indicated by an identifying label. Since there are different models of CB radios, as well as different features, choosing the best CB radio involves featuring out which model and features will best suit your needs.

CB radios can be mounted or portable devices.
CB radios can be mounted or portable devices.

First of all, choosing the best CB radio involves identifying which model type is of use to you. This is primarily determined by where you will be using the radio. If the radio will be used at a single, fixed location, then the CB base station is what you need. If you want a CB radio to mount in a single vehicle, including cars, trucks, RVs, boats, etc., then in most cases a mobile CB radio is the choice to make. If you want to move your CB radio around — whether from vehicle to vehicle or being able to carry it around with you — then a portable, or handheld, model is the best CB radio for you. There are a range of sizes of mobile CB radios to fit in various vehicles, and in the smallest vehicles, a portable CB radio can be used instead if a car adapter kit is available.

CB radios have 40 channels designated for public, unlicensed use.
CB radios have 40 channels designated for public, unlicensed use.

If having weather and emergency information available at all times is essential to you, then the best CB radio for you will be one that is equipped to receive the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio (NWR) “All Hazards” broadcast. This broadcast provides alerts for severe weather, fires and floods, and other emergency issues such as AMBER alerts and 911 outages. NWR operates in a completely different frequency range than CB radios, so it has to be specifically added, and not all CB radios have it.

Other features that may prove important in your choice of the best CB radio for your purposes include the ways it can be powered and the ability to attach an external antenna. If you anticipate using the radio in the dark, or want to be prepared for a power outage, a backlit display or “nightwatch” feature can be important. Having instant access to Channel 9, which has emergency broadcasts, and Channel 19, which has information for highway driving can also be important.

When people are looking for the best CB radio, they need to figure out which model and features will best suit their needs.
When people are looking for the best CB radio, they need to figure out which model and features will best suit their needs.
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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