Inexpensive CB Radio & Antennas to Consider
With the price of fuel, equipment, and maintenance on your vehicle creeping up every day, commercial drivers and truckers need to be on the lookout for savings wherever they can find them! You can see a great deal of savings by carefully selecting the CB radio that will meet your needs. Of course, this piece of equipment is one that you just can’t do without, however, there are many affordable CB radios that could meet your needs.
While it’s possible to spend a lot of money on a unit with loads of bells and whistles, for most users, an inexpensive CB radio will be more than adequate. Keep in mind that all CB radios are limited by the FCC to a legal standard of 4 Watts of transmitting power. So, your next step is to figure out what your needs are.
CB radios include models designated by function: base stations (Example: for use on a building or in a house), handheld transceivers (handheld radios) and mobile radios. Each class of radio is designed to meet a specific set of requirements. Truckers and commercial drivers need a radio in their vehicle to be in contact with their company or customers, stay in touch with their families, and keep up to date on what’s happening on the road, from weather and traffic, to speed traps, and other hazards. A base station isn’t going to meet their needs, while handheld radios need special tweaking to be adapted for use in a vehicle.
If this describes your situation, a mobile CB is your most appropriate choice, and luckily for you, a wide variety of mobile models are available and they are often relatively cheap. CB radios intended for mobile use are typically designed for easy mounting and have features that will serve you well when you hit the road. An additional advantage, and another opportunity to save a few bucks, is that easy to install, powerful, inexpensive CB antennas are available to match your inexpensive CB radio.
While inexpensive CB radio kits are not usually as packed with great features as the more expensive models might be, you should be able to come up with a unit that meets your needs without breaking the bank. Let’s take a look at some of the features you absolutely need, some that you may want but that aren’t absolutely necessary, and a few that would be nice to have, but only if it can fit within your budget.
Must Have Features in a CB Radio
- Squelch - With this feature, you’re in luck—sort of. Every CB radio, even a cheap CB radio, comes with a squelch control, which will help you reduce the reception of weaker channels and other static. However, the downside is that the reception power is somewhat reduced using the squelch. The good news is that there are other noise reduction features that will serve the same function without that downside, such as the following noise filters.
- Noise filters - Noise filters, such as Automatic Noise Limiter (ANL), Noise Blanker (NB) and SoundTracker reduce the noise of weak channels and static without reducing the distance from which you can receive signals as squelch does.
- External speaker jack - Most mobile CBs come with a rear jack for an external speaker, which is particularly useful when the vehicle environment is noisy. Oftentimes, the CB radio speaker is on top of the radio which can make it more difficult to hear transmissions. If you do get yourself an external speaker, you will hear the transmissions through the external speaker rather than directly through the CB radio.
- Weather - Some CBs are able to receive NOAA’s 24/7 weather broadcasts, and some include the automatic emergency alert system. Frequent travelers might consider these essential safety features. Others, who use their vehicles locally, may not find the weather feature as useful.
Nice to Have Features in a CB Radio
- BlueTooth - This “newest kid on the block” feature allows you to use your cell phone hands free as some states require. The phone call comes through the CB radio speaker. Bluetooth is offered on some Cobra CB models.
- Channel scan - The scan feature allows a quick check for activity on any/all channels. It’s a good feature to use to keep your eyes on the road, while still checking all channels.
- Instant emergency channel - Channel 9 is the FCC designated emergency channel for CB radios, set aside for only emergency radio traffic. If you have an emergency, you push one button to find it if you have this feature. Without that button, however, you can still manually tune in channel 9.
- Memory buttons - Some radios have memory buttons to allow you to go right to a few of your favorite channels. If you have this feature, you could set a memory button to channel 9 (if you don’t have instant emergency channel).
- RF Gain - This feature functions as a high-end, advanced squelch. It’s not on all CB radio, but it’s a good feature to have. It allows the radio to filter out weaker signals and accept the stronger ones. The advantage of RF gain over squelch is that you won’t give up reception power in the process.
- SWR meter - A built-in Standing Wave Ratio (SWR) meter isn’t essential but you will need some kind of SWR meter. They are an additional expense, however, an SWR meter is necessary when any changes are made to a CB radio system, such as the initial installation, adding equipment, changing location of the radio or antenna, etc. A built-in SWR meter is convenient if the radio is moved often from vehicle to vehicle, however, the external SWR meters tend to be more accurate.
You Might Need These Features—or Not?
- PA - The PA feature shunts the received CB signals from the radio speaker to a public address horn that is usually installed under the hood. The horn is not very loud; to get a loud PA system would require the addition of an amplifier.
- Roger beep - A roger beep is an audible tone that’s apparent at the end of a transmission when the operator releases the mic button (unkeys it). That lets the listener know that the transmission is over, making the “over” code outdated and unnecessary.
- SSB - Single side band is used in amateur (ham) radio, and it is a capability of some CB radios with this feature. SSB is another way that the radio waves are carried over the air. The FCC allows 12 Watts of transmit power for SSB, but both sending and receiving CBs need to have that capability to communicate.
- Talk back - The talk back feature allows you to hear your own voice transmissions as they are heard over your CB radio. It would be interesting to some (the first time, at least), but might be annoying or distracting to others.
Recommended Inexpensive CB radios
In the case of this selection of CB radios, a “cheap CB radio” does not mean “of poor quality.” It means inexpensive. Even relatively inexpensive CB radios probably include many or all of the essential features.
This small Uniden radio, the PRO 505XL (http://www.wearecb.com/uniden-pro505xl-40-channel-cb-radios.html) features squelch, an external speaker jack, instant emergency channel and a CB/PA switch. It doesn’t include channel scan, memory buttons, roger beep, or SSB. The features that you may want that aren’t included are weather and mic gain. A word of caution is that the power cord comes permanently attached to the back of this radio, which means that the power cord has to be routed from the back of the radio to the power source. The radio comes in the box with a microphone, mounting bracket and hardware. Buy it.
The Cobra 19 DXIV 40-channel radio (http://www.wearecb.com/cobra-19dxiv-40-channel-compact-mobile-cb-radio.html) is another choice for cheap CB radios for sale if you’re looking for a basic radio without frills. It has basic features: PA, instant emergency channel, squelch, and a jack for an external antenna. This model boasts a highly visible display and good audio. It lacks scanning, memory buttons, roger beep, SSB and talk back as well as mic gain and weather capability. As with the previous Uniden, you may miss the latter two features more than the others, and the power cord also is permanently attached to the back of the radio. It comes with a mounting bracket and hardware, including two thumb screws to attach the radio to the mount easily. Buy it.
The Uniden BC680 Bearcat (http://www.wearecb.com/uniden-bc680-bearcat-680-cb-radio.html), one of the newest Uniden radios, might be the best cheap CB radio around. Why? In addition to the features that the others have, this model has some desirable features that others lack such as: a hi/lo button for mic gain, ANL/NB control to provide better squelch and instant emergency channels 9/19. Also, this model is compatible with a wireless microphone. The box contains a separate power cord (not attached to the back, as the other two radios mentioned are), the usual mounting bracket and hardware, a mic and a convenient mic hanger. With this radio, you get a lot of bang for the buck. Buy it.
Our Recommended Cheap CB Antennas
If you want an excellent but cheap CB antenna, FireStik is known for high quality materials and workmanship, and this FireStik 5/8-wave antenna (http://www.wearecb.com/firestik-road-pal-cb-antennas.html) is no exception. This affordable fiberglass antenna is compatible with all kinds of vehicles that have to have an adequate ground plane ((http://www.wearecb.com/cb-antenna-ground-plane.html) unless it’s used in a dual installation with another, well-grounded antenna. Buy it.
The inexpensive Everhardt Super Flex CB antenna (http://www.wearecb.com/everhardt-super-flex-cb-antenna.html) is a ¾ wave, flexible, cheap CB antenna. It’s called SuperFlex because that’s the material the 1/4 “ fiberglass rod is covered with. It has an impressive 1.5 to 1 SWR for all 40 channels. For an explanation about SWR, visit here. (http://www.wearecb.com/what-is-swr.html) This antenna is an excellent choice at a great price. Buy it.
The Procomm quarterwave (http://www.wearecb.com/procomm-base-loaded-quarterwave-cb-antenna.html) is a base-loaded coil whip antenna. To learn more about base-loaded and other types of antennas, visit here (http://www.wearecb.com/the-best-cb-antenna.html). This stainless steel whip antenna can be raised or lowered for excellent SWR readings, attested to in the product reviews (http://www.wearecb.com/procomm-base-loaded-quarterwave-cb-antenna.html). This is your best choice for a cheap whip antenna. Buy it.
We hope this helps you narrow your choices when shopping for a CB radio (and/or antenna) on a budget. You can still get a quality piece of equipment that will do the job you need as long as you determine what your needs are and then evaluate your options. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us. We are here to help!