Handheld ‘citizens band’ radios or CB radios became extremely popular in the decades following regularization of an array of two-way private radio services by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1945. Handheld CB radios with high and low channels were extensively used by truckers, hikers, motorcyclists, mountaineers, motorists, carpenters, plumbers, and smalltime traders for communicating within a limited range. Though the popularity of CB radios have waned considerably with the proliferation of satellite radios, smartphones, and other digital devices offering GPS and navigation apps, they’re still heavily used by truckers and highway travelers.
The best handheld CB radios keep the users updated on road/track or terrain and weather conditions. Individuals, for communicating with each other via a CB radio use one or more of the 40 channels available in the 27MHz bandwidth. Handheld CB radio frequencies ranging from 26.965MHz to 27.405MHz are compatible for communicating only between and amongst CB radios and not with walkie-talkies or ham radios. A noteworthy benefit of this unique two-way radio service is that you don’t need a license for tuning in to CB channels.
Finalizing the Best Handheld CB Radio
Though the craze for handheld CB radios has plummeted noticeably as people now use the Internet, smartphone, tab, and other sophisticated PDAs for mutual communication, they still retain their old-world charm. Handheld CB radios for truckers and handheld CB radios for jeep are still heavily used for emergency communication during exigencies but also for receiving updates on weather or simply engaging in some light repartees. Though almost all brands of handheld CB transceivers are simple to use, compact and portable, they differ from each other in terms of features.
So, for selecting a model from amongst the best handheld CB radios that you can use as per your preferences and convenience, you need to be aware of their basic features. Awareness about the essential attributes of portable CB radios for sale will make it easier for you to choose a model as per your requirements and budget.
Features to look for in a handheld CB radio
You’ll find the following features on every CB radio:-
- On/off knobs
- Channel switching buttons
- Volume control knob
- Control for monitoring squelching (this functionality checks static broadcast activating the mic only during the receipt of signals)
Besides the aforementioned attributes, handheld CB radios for sale Canada come equipped with some or almost all the features mentioned hereunder:-
- RF gain-RF gain functionality enables the CB radio to diminish or suppress weak transmission signals that create background noise by lessening the receiver’s section’s gain. It is a common feature
- Channels 9 and 19-Channel 9 was exclusively meant for intercommunicating during emergency situations and channel 19 for communicating while motoring on highways and interstates
- Many handheld radio CBs allow accessing of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) radio stations for latest weather forecasts
- SWR calibration meter-Standing wave ratio calibration enables the handheld CB radio external antenna to fine tune the signals for smooth reception and transmission
Considerations for choosing a portable CB radio
Before you get started with selecting an appropriate model from amongst the best handheld radios, take the following aspects into consideration:-
- There’s no minimum prescribed age limit for using a CB radio
- You don’t have to apply for a license for operating a citizens’ band transceiver
- You’ve 40 CB channels (each with its distinct RF) within the 27MHz bandwidth to choose from
- You can pick and choose from two distinct kinds of CB radios: handheld models specifically meant for indoor use and mobile/handheld CB radio car mount
- CB radios meant for home use usually have a built-in antenna but not included in a handheld CB radio mount or handheld CB radio motorcycle
- Though a CB radio is meant for communicating or interacting within a short radius you can turn the transceiver into a CB radio long range by skipping signals (a practice called ‘shooting skip’). Oftentimes, the skipping happens naturally across long distances owing to tropospheric conditions when your device catches or sends transmissions internationally
- There are prescribed rules or protocols you must follow in order to access and share the channels with others like limiting your conversation duration within 5 minutes and keeping at least a 1-minute gap between conversations
Reviewing the 5 Best Handheld CB Radio
Best of the Best
The Midland 75-822 is definitely one of the best handheld CB radios that you can go for. This handheld CB radio rechargeable lets you tune in to all 40 channels in CB’s 27MHz bandwidth. Being energy efficient, it consumes just 4W of power for delivering the paramount range transmittable with CBs and lets you connect with up to 5 channels of your choice.
The device also commits to memory your 5 preferred channels and on repowering, automatically offers access to the last channel you were tuned in. A separate handheld CB radio headset is included in the package for communicating while your hands are on the steering wheel.
- Instant connectivity with channels 9 and 19 (emergency and updating channels respectively)
- Dual mode powering: 6 AA batteries (not included)/cigarette lighter adapter (included) for hooking up with vehicle’s powering system
- Automatic channel scanning
- Squelch control for boosting reception
- ANL (automatic noise limiter) for fine-tuning reception of weak signals
- Ready access to local NOAA radio stations
- Comes with a prominent multipurpose LCD display for easy identification during night or in darkness
- 4W and 1W transmission power settings helps derive the optimum out of the enclosed batteries and prolong their active shelf-life
- Allows access to the entire 40 channels of citizens bands’ radio service with fast automatic scanning, choice of 5 favorite channels, backup of preferred channels
- Headset jack for operating on a hands-free basis
- PL-259 connector provided for connecting with any standard CB antenna
- Highway motorists and truckers may not find this CB radio very useful as the transmission/reception range is limited
- Users will have to buy many accessories for boosting the range of this handheld CB radio in car
Best Mid-Range CB Transceiver
If you wish to stay connected with your near and dear ones and be updated on the conditions of the highway you’re driving through, then the Cobra HH 38 WX ST 4-W 40 Channel CB radio is your best bet. This handheld CB radio for truckers furnishes fast access to 40 citizens’ band channels including 10 NOAA weather forecasting radio channels. Automatic sound tracking mechanism cuts down background disturbance by 90%.
Dual watch feature lets you tune in to any two of your preferred channels. This handheld CB radio cobra can be powered both via battery (NiMh battery) and DC mains. A 12V cigarette lighter adapter is provided for plugging into the cigarette lighter port of your vehicle.
- Built-in microphone
- Dual watch channels selection
- Access to 10 local NOAA radio stations
- Power control switch for minimizing energy consumption
- Detachable belt clip and wrist strap
- Range can be increased via an external antenna
- 40 channel scanning
- Diminishes background noise and disturbance through sound tracker
- Fast access to 10 local NOAA radio stations keeps you posted about inclement weather conditions round the clock
- Can be activated using batteries as well as via DC power outlet
- Fast access to any two favorite channels on the 27MHz bandwidth
- Communication range can be boosted by connecting with external antennas
- Hi/low control switch helps in operating the gadget at low power thereby making it energy efficient
- Lightweight and compact makes it convenient to handle
- This handheld CB radio is not suitable for long range communication
- The accompanying antenna has to be gripped and you may have to rub your fingers on the entire rod for catching a strong signal
- LCD screen is a tad small
The best transceiver with maximum features
The Uniden BEARCAT 880 CB Radio with 7-color display backlighting is an eminently affordable phone that comes equipped with a surfeit of features. Showing up in a majority of reviews of handheld CB radios, the BEARCAT 880 from Uniden is instantly recognizable by its conspicuous display. Featuring 7 distinct colors, the display screen is distinguishable in any lighting condition.
An innovative microphone supplied with the CB radio is effective in cancelling out din in the background. This handheld CB radio Uniden provides fast access to 40 channels approved by FCC. A squelch control knob helps in the reception of clear and strong signals.
- Quick tuning in to 40 FCC certified CB channels
- Dimmer switch for monitoring illumination intensity
- Dual watch functionality: fast access to channel 9 & 19
- 7-color backlighting for reading display easily
- Electronic SRF/SWR meter
- Extended mic cord
- Knob for controlling squelch
- All 40 channels are readily accessible
- Large display screen with 7-color backlighting helps in reading at a glance
- Dual watch feature furnishes access to channels 9 and 19
- Prominent S/RF/CAL/SWR Meter
- Squelch control helps in reception of crystal clear signal
- Tuning in to NOAA radio stations for live weather updates
- Compatible with wireless mic
- Memory scanning feature automatically tunes in channel last connected to
- Being highly sensitive the transceiver beeps the moment it picks up the faintest of signals which can be irritating
- The display screen is of plastic material which is prone to picking up scratches or grazes
- The screen glares during daytime which can make reading the display a problem
Best CB transceiver for mounting on vehicles
The handheld CB radio Cobra 19DXIV boasts of an extremely compact form factor and is remarkably lightweight making it supremely suitable for installing on a truck, jeep or motorcycle. Versatility of this handheld CB radio for truckers implies near instant access to all 40 citizens’ band channels, monitoring RF gain for eliminating background noise, and dual watch functionality.
Dual watch feature offers access to channels 9 and 19 for weather forecasts and updating on road conditions respectively. This portable CB radio comes with a built-in mic for crystal clear communication and backlit LCD display enables the user to see notifications and updates clearly even in complete darkness.
- Prominent display screen with excellent illumination
- Very compact and lightweight: can be taken along easily for installing on vehicles
- Electronic tuner for swift and precise tuning
- Dual watch feature enables access to channels 19 and 9
- RF gain functionality modulates the transceiver’s reception signals
- Built-in mic for clear communication
- Can be conveniently mounted on trucks, cars, jeeps and motorcycles via the provided mount bracket
- The public address system works perfectly provided you connect with a compatible PA speaker
- Compact size of the CB radio means it can be easily pushed inside the dashboard of a vehicle
- Mic speaker with 9” inch cable allows you to speak into or listen without having to change your position
- Instant tuning in to channel 9 and channel 19 for updates on weather/road conditions
- Many customers have complained about the poor quality of transmission
- Audio reproduction quality of the PA system is also not up to the mark
Most affordable transceiver
The Midland 75-780 is a heavyweight handheld CB radio for hunting as this portable two-way transceiver lets you find your way if you lose your way while trekking, hiking or hunting. An extraordinary hardwearing handheld CB radio, it lets you tune in to all 40 channels authorized by FCC while the ANL (automatic noise control) keeps noise control to a minimum. Alternatively, the RF gain functionality enables this handheld CB radio with rechargeable battery to automatically tweak weak or faint incoming signals.
Powering up the device is effortlessly easy as you just need 9 AA alkaline or nickel cadmium AA batteries to get it going. You can also operate it via the included DC charger that needs to be plugged into the cigarette lighter port in the vehicle.
- Supremely portable: weighs only 0.55lb and has a slim profile
- Tunes all 40 FCC approved channels
- Multiple powering options
- RF gain control
- Squelch control
- ANL control
- Power consumption control switch
- Built-in rubber duck antenna
- Adapter jack for connecting with headset mic or external speaker
- Hardwearing and durable construction makes this CB transceiver long lasting
- RF gain feature helps in boosting up weak signals facilitating sound two-way communication
- ANL and squelch control features further aid in improving signal quality by diminishing and muffling background noise
- Unit can be powered using AA alkaline or AA nickel cadmium batteries or through a DC charger
- Inbuilt electrostatic mic relays strong signals for hassle-free communication
- The stocky rubber duck antenna is insufficient for long range communication especially when you’re travelling
- Some customers have complained about the spring collapsing while inserting batteries
Closing up, it can be iterated that in this digital age using portable CB radios might seem outdated or old-fashioned. Yet these conventional two-way transceivers are still fancied by many seasoned truckers, experienced hunters, miners, and tradesmen. 5 of the best handheld CB radios produced by established manufacturers like Midland, Cobra, and Uniden were taken up for review.
All the reviewed models were equipped with the basic features of a handheld CB transceiver. If you wish to settle for a transceiver that comes with additional features and are willing to pay for the same then go for the Midland 75-822 or the Uniden BEARCAT. And if you’re ready to settle for a product capable of performing the basic functions, then choose from Midland 75-780, Cobra HH 38 WX ST or Cobra 19 DXIV.