The internet may be slowly replacing all traditional means of communication, but there is a certain charm about car ham radios. Aside from the appeal, car radios have their uses too.
Amateur radios, also known as ham radios, are gaining some popularity nowadays in the US. But with the increase in popularity, the market for ham radios is now crowded with many off-brand, low-quality products.
Not sure how to choose a decent product for yourself? This is where we step in. This article will review 9 top options for the best ham radio for car I have come across when testing many different models.
Keeping a ham radio can be quite a fun experience as well as a hobby, so getting a license for one is definitely worth it.
Our Top 10 Best Ham Radio For Car
We are jumping straight to the review section. Each of these reviews is unbiased, so you can definitely put your trust in me. Let’s begin!
1. Uniden BEARCAT 40- Channel SSB CB Ham Radio For Car
Uniden is a global brand that originated in Japan. Today, Uniden operates in countries all around the globe in Asia, Europe, America, and Australia.
This brand is a global leader in manufacturing wireless communications in the consumer electronics industry.
All things considered, this is a brand you can put your faith in. The Bearcat radio is a CB radio that provides you with the opportunity to stay connected to others when you are out on the road. It is especially suitable for long drives.
As for the build, this is a simple generic CB radio and scanner combination that works wonderfully. Setting it up and using it is quite easy once you have the basics down.
This radio comes with a large display and illuminated control panel.
You can customize the color of the display according to your color preferences. This allows you to choose a color that is best suited for the level of natural light you are in, which is pretty handy.
The microphone that comes with is of good quality. It cancels outside noise pretty well, so you will get clear communication.
If you want to use a wireless mic with the radio instead, then you have the option to do that too. This radio comes with an integrated SWR, which allows you to match any wireless antenna.
There really isn’t much more than this can offer at this price range. So, overall, it can be considered as the best ham radio for car.
Key Features :
- 7 color customizable large illuminated display & control panel
- Laser-etched easy-to-read keys
- 40 channels
- NOAA weather channels
- Noise-canceling microphone for clear communication
- Integrated SWR makes it compatible with wireless microphones
2. BTECH Mobile UV-50X2, Mobile Radio: VHF, UHF Amateur (Ham)
Check this product from another top dog in the industry, BaoFeng Tech, in short Btech. This company is based in the united states, and they specialize in making communication equipment, namely walkie talkies.
They are always combining the latest tech with affordability and coming up with radios that offer pretty good value for their price tags.
The UV-50X2 is no different. For the size and price range, you will hardly find anything better than this model.
This series of Btech radios break away from the traditional look & design of ham radios. You will get a completely new screen design and case,
and a few extra options traditional ham radios do not have – mic gain control, display synchronization, altering channels in a pinch without using software, and more.
Let’s talk about the gain control first. This feature enables you to advance the gain when using at home and reduce it when moving to cancel background & road noise.
You can also change the DTMF gain. So, this radio is excellent for use in both home (or static) and car (or moving) situations.
Audio reports, thanks to this feature, are excellent. You can watch up to four frequencies at the same time on the display with any radio from the X series.
The scanning rate is very fast on this radio; so, you can find active repeaters in a new area without missing calls.
Key Features :
- Dual synchronized display mode
- Audio gain settings in the microphone
- Expanded frequency (up to 520 megahertz) range
- Auto power off
- Editing channel mode feature
- Quad watch delay
- Randomized privacy mode
3. BTECH Mini 25 Watt Dual Band Base, Mobile Radio: VHF, UHF Amateur (Ham)
We have another high-tech product from BaoFeng tech to share with you. It is part of the same ‘X-series’ of the previous listing.
So, you will be getting almost similar great performance from this one too. With this model, you are sure to be pleased with all the latest tech additions.
As Btech is always careful about technology, this model of ham radio is free of most of the issue older versions of Btech ham radios had.
So, if you had any doubts due to the controversy surrounding the brand, think again.
The build of the radio is pretty stylish. It does not look as plain as some of the older ones do.
The radio consists of a large screen with customizable colors for background and text. This would be particularly great for color-blind or partially color-blind people.
I like how you get the option to configure the signal bars and the menu bar separately from the display. The very compact design is a nice feature for those who do not enjoy cluttering at all.
It will not take up any more space than needed in your car. Despite its small size, this radio still has a fan!
You can also adjust the mic gain. A new addition to this model is the TRRS jack located on its back panel. This jack allows you to connect a microphone, a speaker, PTT, and headset.
You can also connect the radio to a phone through this jack, which is an excellent addition.
Key Features :
- Audio gain settings
- Auto power off
- Editable channel mode
- Dual synchronize display
- Built on previous models
4. TYT TH-9800 Quad Band 50W Cross-Band Mobile Car Ham Radio Black
TYT is a relatively newer and smaller company in the industry. They make two-way radios, along with antennas, keypads, etc.
As a small company, they have a smaller but experienced & accomplished group of employees & researchers who are always working their hardest to make the best products.
The unique feature of this radio is its quad-band set up. This radio is a very powerful transceiver. Its performance is on par with many high-end radios, along with its features.
On 50-watt power for UHF, the TH-9800 radio covers the following frequencies – 26 – 33 megahertz, 47 – 54 megahertz, and 136 – 174 megahertz.
For VHF, on 40-watt power, this radio will cover 400 – 480 megahertz frequencies. So, you will be getting quite a broad selection to use.
You can simultaneously receive U/U, V/V, and V/U bands. If you wish, you can even use the V & U cross-band repeater as a full-duplex.
This radio comes with a built-in FM radio at 76 – 108 megahertz. To keep the radio cool when it’s continuously being used, there is a built-in fan inside.
Another cool feature is the detachable front panel. You can locate it anywhere, separate from its chassis. The radio comes with an extension cable, so you can mount it anywhere in your car as you prefer.
All in all, this definitely deserves to be called the best mobile radio.
Key Features :
- Full quad 40 watt/50-watt band
- Twin display & receiver
- Cross-band repeater mode
- Direct entry keypad microphone
- Alphanumeric display
- Built-in FM radio
5. LEIXEN LX Dual Band Two Way Ham Radio For Car
Leixen Electronics Co. Ltd. is a Chinese company dedicated to developing, manufacturing, and selling two-way radios.
They have a full range of Leixen brand radios, which are widely used in various work situations such as construction, transport, security, property management, etc.
The brand focuses on producing high-quality radios that will function well to satisfy customers. This particular radio is packed with a lot of useable features. And when I say ‘a lot,’ I really mean a lot!
This VV-898 from Leixen has 199 programmable channels, along with channel scanning and CTCSS & DCS privacy codes. So, you will be able to connect to channels fast.
You can also create secure connections to talk to your intended recipient, avoiding anyone else in the channel which you did not mean to talk to.
As for the build, the VV-898 comes with a front panel backlit LCD. It also has a 400-watt speaker that can play audio loudly.
The hand-held mic that comes with contains a DTMF lighter keypad. It has a 23-inch coiled cord; so, you can pass the mic around to other passengers of your car easily.
If compactness is really important to you, then this radio is your perfect match! It is small enough to fit on the palm of your hand but powerful enough to transmit and receive clear, loud transmissions.
Key Features :
- Dual-band, transmits to frequencies 136-174 megahertz & 400-470 megahertz
- Dual display
- 199 memory channels
- Voice scrambler
- 4 watt or 10-watt selectable outputs
- Simplex operation
- Keyboard lock & VOX
6. TALKCOOP 25/20W UHF VHF Mobile Amateur Car Radio
Much like the previous brand, Talkcoop is another Chinese brand made by the company Quanzhou Talkcoop Communication Technology Co. Ltd.
They are some of the earliest manufacturers to capture the DMR digital radio market.
Their main products include UHF & VHF analogs, amplifiers, repeaters, vehicle radios, radio accessories, and digital radios. This is the brand to look into if affordability is your biggest concern.
For its price, this radio offers you basic ham radio services that work well. You really should not expect extraordinary things from this radio.
Keeping that in mind, let’s get into specifics. The build quality of this radio is decent. It is sturdy and does not feel cheap.
Programming this radio on the fly is not simple, but you can easily combat that by using the programming cable.
The quality of audio transmission is good, but it can be made better if you replace the microphone with something better. As for sound, it is loud and clear enough, but definitely not as good as it could be.
This radio is compact in size. The receivers & repeaters work amazingly, although you do get a bit of intermod interference. I miss a headset jack in this product, but that might not be important to some people.
All in all, I was happy with this radio considering its price in mind. It is worth checking out.
Key Features :
- Both high power and low power settings
- Push to talk ID
- Remote stun & kill
- CTCSS & DCS toes
- Optional signal settings
- Editable channel names
7. Dual Band Mini Car Two Way Ham Radio Mobile Transceiver VHF UHF
This one is very similar to the previous listing – it is only far more popular! And the popularity of this model is well deserved. This is another little bomb in a budget.
The company, QYT Electronics Co. Ltd., is a Chinese company working on research and development of radio communications equipment.
They have a specialized research and development team that has a good understanding of consumer needs and market demands, so their products are always a hit.
This KT-8900D from QYT is dubbed as the finest mobile radio by some. It is an ultra-compact dual-band transceiver that works with both UF and VHF.
For VHF, it covers the frequency range 136 – 174 megahertz at 25-watt power; for UHF, it covers 400 – 480 megahertz at 20-watt power.
The performance of this radio is, in a word, flawless. Many users were quite happy with how the transmit output worked – it exceeded expectations.
For a very compact radio, its speaker produces an exceptionally loud sound. So, no complaints on the audio either. It is loud and clear.
However, the build of this radio leaves a bit to be desired. It is not very durable. If you are not careful, the plastic on the knobs may come off easily.
But keeping in mind that this is a very powerful radio under $100, I am not mad at this minor build mishap.
Key Features :
- Quad standby
- Built-in FM radio
- Alarm system
- 1750Hz burst tone
- High & Low power modes
- Remote stun & kill
8. Original Yaesu Mobile Transceiver 80 Watts Mobile Ham Radio For The Money
Up until now, many of the companies we have discussed were in the radio & consumer electronics market.
On the other hand, Yaesu is a company that focuses solely on making premium quality ham radios. So, if you want the top of the line premium & reliable product, check out this brand!
This radio is solid if you are judging it by performance. It is surprising that you can get this level of performance from a ham radio at this price level.
The 80-watt power is definitely a selling point for the FT-2980R. Coupled with the radio’s wideband receive, it performs exceptionally well.
The sensitivity of this radio is impressive, better than many of the other ham radios I have tested in this price range.
You get a lot of flexibility, too, thanks to the 4 level power options. I prefer the medium power setting for basic use. The 3 watts of audio sounds very loud and clear.
One potential drawback is that you do not get dual bands with this radio. So, you cannot tune in to UHF frequencies. However, many people, especially beginners, do not use the dual-band function anyway.
This radio comes packed with additional features other than the core performance.
You will be getting a huge LCD display, smart search operation, interactive programming menu along with dual watch FT, great scanning & memory features, etc.
Key Features :
- Up to 80-watt RF power with 4 selectable levels – 80/ 30/ 10/ 5 watts
- Big 6-digit backlit LCD screen
- 200 memory channels
- Built-in versatile scanning
- Smart search
- Interactive programming menu
9. ANYSECU 3G/4G LTE FDD Mobile Radio IP Network PTT Radio
At the end of our review section is the newest Chinese brand, Anysecu. They make professional & high-quality wireless communication products and accessories.
The brand aims to become synonymous with the industry leader someday, so you know they mean business.
This 4G-W2 N60 radio is one of the latest radios on the market. It uses 4G signals for the fastest communication without delay.
The unique feature of this device is its integration of android OS with radio. It is basically like an android phone, but with additional radio functions.
Android is a great choice for this radio, as it supports a lot of radio software easily – Echolink, BlueDV, Peanut, Zello, DVSM, just to name a few.
So, you will be getting easy access to all the radio software you desire in your car with this device. The PTT microphone performs well with these radio apps.
Moreover, the use of Wi-Fi and LTE really enhances the radio experience to a new level. The audio from this device is excellent. It is very easy to set up this device and get it running.
As a cherry on top, you can use other basic android apps too. Apps that show maps, radar, GPS et cetera can be really helpful in the car.
The audio of this device is very loud & clear, much more so than an average phone. So, while you might think a cellphone can replace it, I believe it has its own uses as a radio.
Key Features :
- Quad-core processor
- 64-bit 1 GB RAM & 8 GB ROM
- Android OS 7.0
- 5-inch display
- GPS antenna
- Built-in Wi-Fi antenna
Top 10 Car Ham Radio Comparison Chart
Frequency Ranges (MHz)
Maximum Power (watt)
Uniden BEARCAT 980
3.5 x 15 x 8.5
162.4 – 162.55, 26.405 – 27.405
BTECH Mobile UV-50X2
5.7 x 1.85 x 7.5
136 - 174, 400 - 520, 65 - 108
BTECH Mini UV-25X2
3.85 x 1.38 x 4.65
136 - 174, 400 - 520, 65 - 108
11.6 x 4.5 x 8
26 - 33, 136 - 174, 400 - 480, 47 - 54
LEIXEN LX VV-898
4.72 x 3.54 x 1.57
400 – 470, 136 - 174
4.7 x 3.9 x 1.4
136 – 174, 400 - 480
4.96 x 4.05 x 1.85
136 - 174, 400 - 480
7.3 x 6.3 x 2
136 - 174
ANYSECU 4G-W2 N60
13.86 x 9.65 x 3.98
144–148, 70–70.5, LTE band 1 / 2/ 4/ 5/ 7/ 12/ 13/ 17/ 28a/ 28b
Things to Consider Before Buying Ham Radio For Car
If you want to find the best mobile ham radio for the money, you should first be aware of a few considerations. They will help you get the best value out of your money. Without further ado, here are things you should consider –
The type of amateur radio you should choose will depend on how you wish to use your radio. Below are brief descriptions of the basic types –
These radios are easy to carry and keep in person. Manufacturers make them light and portable. To be able to do that, they have to compromise power and rage.
Hence, these radios have a minimal range, suitable for local use only. You can get maximum power of 8 watts with these.
These radios are similar to the handheld ones, but with more range. You can get up to 50 watts of power from mobile radios.
They can also access more than a single band. Mobile radios, in my opinion, are the best car ham radio.
The base station is the most powerful among ham radios. They are not very large. Carrying them around is not an issue either.
But they cost a lot more than the previous two types. This is why they are not the most popular among radio users.
The installation process should be easy and doable by one person. Chinese radios often come with an incomplete and confusing instruction manual that does not help at all.
To avoid such situations, look for instructions online. Particularly for a beginner, not having clear instructions can be a big hurdle.
Use & Purpose
How you actually want to use the ham radio will dictate many specifications you should be looking for. If you want local communication, consider getting handheld radios.
For anything more than that, mobile radios would be great. Identify your required power range, budget, and features through your purpose.
Usually, the more you spend on your ham radio, the better build it will have. However, does a strong build really matter? The radio will be inside your car in a safe, protected place.
So, it does not actually need to very sturdy. This is why many inexpensive car ham radios can last for a long time,
That being said, this is not the same case with off-roader vehicles. Activities like mudding will expose the inside of your car to a harsh environment. So, cheap radios will not hold up.
Off-roading is not as harsh as mudding, but it can cause a lot of jolts and vibrations in your car, which can transmit the shock to the radio. So, it is best to have a durable radio for such vehicles.
We have already established that mobile ham radios contain more power than handheld ones. But there is still a range of power for these radios, and you will come across many different power levels.
My recommendation would be to get a radio with a power of 25 watts. You cannot get more power from your car. When paired with an antenna, it will work well within a range of a few dozen miles.
Keep in mind that you need not use your radio at full power always. This can drain your vehicle’s battery pretty fast. Also, you might accidentally keep sending signals to people far away unintendedly.
Sound and Audio
The radio you get should be able to deliver crisp, clear, and loud enough sound without any noise or interference. Similarly, the microphone should transmit clear audio from your part.
Look into the quality of the mic you will be getting with the radio. If it is not great, you can replace it with something better.
Antenna & Antenna Mounts
Which antenna you should get depends on the bands your radio has. The antenna should be long enough to transmit your signals well and have a compatible voltage with your radio.
Some antennas need a separate power supply of their own, which is something to keep in mind when looking at antennas.
Generally, for a particular ham radio model, the manufacturer will recommend an antenna best suited to that model.
If you are confused about which one to get, you cannot go wrong with the manufacturer’s recommended one.
Antennas should be mounted on top of your car. The most common mount for antennas is a magnetic mount.
They are easy to use, and they work well with smaller antennas. For larger antennas, such as quad-band antenna, get clip-in mounting brackets.
One advantage of magnetic mounts is that you can take the antenna off and keep it inside your car when it is not in use. This will prevent theft.
There is no use in getting a ham radio if you end up not being able to program it. Especially for beginners, this is really important. You do not want to have to spend hours learning how a radio functions, do you?
Look into the process to program the radio you are considering—some need to be programmed manually, while others can be programmed with computer software. For novices, the latter is the right choice.
The display of your radio should be big enough to be easily readable. Look for backlit displays as they are the best option.
Customizable background color on displays can get adjust the display according to the amount of natural light available.
Another pro of customizable colors is that color blind or partially color-blind people can customize the background to suit their eyes.
You should choose a budget range first and stick to that range when browsing. Very few things are sadder than finding the perfect radio with all of your requirements,
only to realize it costs triple the amount of your maximum budget. You wouldn’t want that, would you?
Additional features mean features other than core radio functions. They are not necessary but can make the experience of using a radio much better.
For example, a flashlight can help you when it gets dark. FM radios are fun to tune in when you are driving.
The weather alert is another such feature. It can come in handy when you are out and about. With weather alerts, you can respond to incoming harsh-weather quickly.
Other features include a touch screen display, headphone jack, Wi-Fi support, auto power-off, memory channels, quick scan, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is amateur radio the same as CB radio?
While there are some similarities, they are not the same. CB radios use only one band, and they do not require any licensing to use.
Amateur radios offer multiple bands and other operating modes. You also need a license before you can use a ham radio.
2. Can I use emergency radios instead of ham radios during disasters?
You can, but in large scale disasters, they will not be of much help. If the disaster is a large scale, power will not be available.
So, most emergency radio stations will likely shut down. On the other hand, ham radios can be very useful for independent communication during disasters.
3. What are the different kinds of licenses for ham radio?
There are three levels of license for amateur radio – technician, general, and extra. The technician is a popular choice for novices.
It gives access to a lot of frequencies, but access to frequencies below 10 meters is limited.
The General offers a lot of frequencies below 10 meters. In contrast, the extra license offers the most access.
4. Can I buy a ham radio without a license?
You certainly can, but it would be the same as buying a gun but not knowing how to fire it. Put in the effort to understand what you are buying first.
5. Can I just listen without having to talk?
Yes. If listening is your only goal, then you can get very inexpensive equipment to do that – shortwave radio, handheld transceiver, etc.
This is all from us for today. To find the best car ham radio, go through the buyer’s guide and pinpoint your requirements from the radio first. Then, check out the reviews to find the one best suited for you.
With the perfect radio, you will have a lot of possibilities and fun as you get acquainted with a new kind of hobby. We wish you all the best on your journey. Hope you end up loving radios as much as we do!