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The Best Ham Radios for Your Vehicle

Contrary to what cable television sitcoms may have led you to believe, a ham radio is not a primitive communication device solely for blue-collar truckers sharing their tales along the turnpike. And no matter how entertaining 2003’s highway-thriller Joy Ride is, there aren’t any maniacs pursuing troublesome teens on its frequencies either. Rather, a ham radio is a wholly useful broadcasting tool that allows riders on the road to transmit and receive important information regarding potentially disastrous weather, car accidents, and other local emergencies. Although yes, sometimes really neat, fun conversations and stories are shared. The point being, there is an entire community of dedicated and licensed amateur radio operators who relay what they can throughout ham radios everywhere. If you’re looking to take part in that community, here are a few we recommend.

What to Consider Before Buying a Ham Radio

Keep these things in mind before installing your next ham radio:

  • Battery Power: The last thing you want on your drive out of town is a dead battery and (literal) radio silence. Your next ham radio should be a step up when it comes to battery power and life. If you’re on the road with little time to spare for charging during pit-stops, consider a ham radio with an above-average battery that will carry you the entire way through. Be sure to check the radio’s charging time as well as the battery life, if possible.
  • Frequency: The storied use of the ham radio is to reach travelers far and wide, but you’ll only get as far as your device can take you. Not all ham radios are created equal in this regard. Longer radio waves will cover longer distances and use less power in the process. Find a dependable ham radio that carries your frequency across the plains, day and night. A ham radio’s frequency will be listed in Megahertz (MHz). Be on the lookout for models that are listed as very high frequency (VHF). Keep in mind that rather than one set frequency, most ham radios will offer a range (ex: 136-174 MHz) since the radio’s precise frequency will vary in different locations depending on the terrain and other outside factors.
  • Easy Use: Just as it transmits conversations and weather updates, your next ham radio should also offer at least moderate convenience. You shouldn’t feel the need to go out of your way to use your radio or fiddle around with it when you’re supposed to be concentrating on the road. It should be your traveling companion, not a backseat driver. Invest in a ham radio that is easily adjustable, quick to read, and well within arm’s reach. Some models come included with extra accessories and/or features that can make your ham radio more convenient to use.

Best Customization: BaoFeng High Power Dual Band Ham Radio

 

A new and improved version of a classic ham radio that you’ll be able to program and tweak to your exacting standards. There are an impressive 128 potentially programmable memory channels from which you can choose. The free CHIRP computer software offers a scanning list that makes it a breeze to add or remove channels at will, and you also have the option to give the different channels alphanumeric names. This makes it quicker and easier to locate the channel you’re looking for at any given moment. Not only are the channels highly customizable, but there are three different power levels (high, medium, and low) so you can decide how far you want to communicate with you ham radio. And there are several useful features, including work mode and busy channel lockout. This ham radio has a VHF of 136-174 MHz to provide you with a good, high frequency and can function in temperatures as low as -20 degrees F and as high as 120 degrees F. Comes included with the UV-82HP radio itself, a 1800mAh lithium battery, V85 dual Band antenna, charger, CH-8 110V adapter, earpiece kit, wrist strap, belt clip, and user manual.

Best for Beginners: BaoFeng BF-F8HP  8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio

With twice the output power as previous models in its class, the BaoFeng Two-Way Radio makes for a dependable handheld transmitter to stow in your glove compartment. Its new generation chipset and 30 percent larger battery grant users more transmit power and hourly usage, even while using the device’s built-in flashlight or FM radio. Its V-85 High Gain Antenna provides twice the antenna performance of previous models. For those who may be new to using ham radios, this device provides users with a new in-depth manual that guides them through each feature. In addition to the instructions, new users can call an exclusive concierge customer care number if they run into any difficulties.

Most Accessories: Greaval UV-5R 8W Ham Radio Set

 

One of the trickiest aspects of buying any sort of technology, no matter what kind, is buying extra accessories after the fact; if your purchase or kit doesn’t come with the pieces you need, finding the correct, compatible accessories can be a royal pain. This ham radio and its included well-equipped kit ensure that this won’t be a problem. Besides the UV-5R 8W radio itself and the two batteries, you receive a programming cable, three different antennae, a hand microphone, car charger adapter, regular power adapter, an earpiece, belt clip, and hand strip for your radio. A user’s manual also comes included for anyone who needs some help or guidance getting started. The batteries are rechargeable and can support 12-20 hours of nonstop use, depending on whether you’re using the high, medium, or lower power output. The included car charger adapter allows you to conveniently charge the batteries while you’re on the go. You can monitor and transmit on two different channels at any given moment. This radio is also highly compatible with many other types of radios, and has an impressive 128 channel memory. If you ever want to use this ham radio elsewhere, it can support a keyboard or PC programming for the home or workplace.

Most Accessories

Ham Radio Walkie Talkie (UV-5R 8W) Dual Band 2-Way Radio with 2 Rechargeable 2100mAh Battery Handheld Walkie Talkies Complete Set with Earpiece and Programming Cable

This ham radio comes with a full arsenal of accessories so you never have to worry about finding the right, compatible ones later on.

Best Display Screen: BTECH UV-5X3 Tri-Band Radio

You’ll love the display screen on this ham radio. Unlike some other models, it lights up purple instead of the usual greenish-gray, which makes it easier to see and read in the dark. It also isn’t cluttered with any extra numbers or lettings, and displays the battery’s power level in the upper right corner. Capable of holding 128 memory channels in its system, this ham radio allows you to scan, remove, and add channels right on the menu, without needing a computer. You can also edit your channels rather than having to delete and recreate them in order to modify their privacy tones or power level. The radio comes with the rechargeable battery, as well as a charger, adapter, a dual band antenna, single band antenna, user manual, and earpiece kit. Weighing in at only half a pound, this ham radio is highly portable, and also includes a wrist strap and belt clips so you can easily bring it along wherever you go.

Best Display Screen
Hollis Mills Hollis Mills
Hollis Mills is a freelance journalist and a content writer for LifeSavvy. He has a bachelor's degree in English literature, and as an undergraduate at Texas A&M University, Hollis wrote and edited for the nationally recognized student newspaper, The Battalion. When he's not writing, you can find him complaining about Boston Celtics basketball or giving plenty of peanut butter biscuits to his always-hungry Catahoula dog, Blue. Read Full Bio »

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