Best CB Radios Reviews – Radios that Serious CB’ers Count On in 2018
We can’t deny the fact that CB radios have lost the popularity they enjoyed during their heydays in the 1960s. But we also have to admit that the CB’ers community is still very much active.
CB radios are no longer a mainstay for truckers. Today, almost everyone uses them; RV owners, motorcyclists, hunters, anglers, business owners, and even hobbyists who just love the lingo.
But as you can imagine, the best CB radio for truckers might be quite different from what a hobbyist needs.
So, how do you get the best CB radio for your needs?
That’s exactly what we’ll be finding out here. Stay tuned!
We’ve analyzed 1513 reviews of CB radios, and compared them side-by-side.
Below you will find comparison chart.
Uniden Pro 510 XL
Cobra Electronics 29 LX
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|Actual Range||Audibility||Ease Of Use||Durability|
A few things to keep in mind
I have spared several pages for an in-depth guide on how to buy a CB radio after the reviews. So, read on if this is your first purchase or if you want to learn something new.
You could also consider your answers to these questions as a quick-second guide on how to get the best CB radio for your needs;
- What type of CB radio are you looking for, handheld, portable, or fix-mounted?
- If you want a radio for your vehicle, how much installation space do you have in the cab?
- What type of antenna does the radio come with?
- How good is its display?
- Would you like a radio with a PA system?
- Is the radio engineered for durability?
- What features does it use to reduce noise interference?
- Would you like a model with weather capabilities?
- Does it accommodate aftermarket accessories?
Best CB Radios Reviews
Uniden Pro 510 XL – Best For Durability
The Uniden Pro 510 XL isn’t the absolute best that you can get. However, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another model that offers the durability that this radio brings especially at its price.
At slightly above thirty bucks, the Pro 510 XL is among the most affordable CB radios that you’ll find on the market today. Make no mistake though. This radio’s affordability doesn’t necessarily reflect cheap construction.
On the contrary, this is among a few other hardcore CB radios that have been designed to withstand the rigors of the road without giving in.
Considering its small size, this radio will suffice if you are looking for a compact CB radio for jeeps and other vehicles with minimal installation space.
One thing that is clearly visible about the Uniden Pro 510 XL is its straightforward control interface. This panel has been kept simple to allow easy and fast communications in mines and construction companies and among off-roaders.
Another thing that we like about this radio is the availability of some of the most important features that make a great CB radio.
Take the signal/RF meter, for instance. In all honesty, this is the last feature that I’d expect in a 30-dollar unit. This feature ensures that your antenna has been tuned correctly to enhance optimum signal performance in relation to power output.
As most of its previous users note, this meter comes well in handy if you’ll be switching the radio between several vehicles with permanently fixed antennas.
This radio also has 2 other important features; an Automatic Noise Limiter (ANL) and the Squelch. The ANL works by minimizing unwanted interferences coming from power lines, ignition noise, and inverters.
On the other hand, the Squelch reduces unwanted weak signals coming from distant weak signals. Opening this knob makes it easy for you to maintain a clear conversation with buddies close to you with fewer disturbances.
Cobra Electronics 29 LX Realtree CB Radio – Best For Versatility
At the other side of the price spectrum is one of the most advanced CB radios available for truckers, serious preppers, and hobbyists; the Cobra Electronics 29 LX Realtree.
Admittedly, this radio is several folds pricier than our first pick and therefore, not a viable choice for CB’ers on a strict budget.
But what we like most is that Cobra strives to give you the best bang for each buck by incorporating almost every feature that you might expect to see in a high-end CB radio.
This is confirmed by its control panel which is far much busier than that of the Uniden Pro 510 XL above.
Among other prominent features of this radio is its LCD quality display. What’s so interesting about it is that you can choose from 4 color variations (red, amber, blue, and green) to suit your mood.
You can also adjust the color intensity to make it easy to read the display irrespective of the time of the day and light intensity.
Mother Nature won’t get you off-guard thanks to the 10 NOAA weather alert channels built into this radio. It also has an Emergency Weather Alert tone that ensures that you are always up to date in terms of adverse weather changes.
Another very important feature of this radio is its programmable memory. This allows you to store some of the channels that you use regularly for instant access.
Speaking of channels, this radio allows instant access to Channels 9 and 19. These 2 are used for true emergencies and information.
But the most important feature that I can’t fail to note is the Radio Check. This feature simply gives you a glimpse of the RF power, antenna condition, and battery voltage to ensure that your CB radio system has top-notch performance before heading out.
Cobra 75WXST 40-Channel CB Radio- Best For Saving Space
If you are strapped for space in your vehicle’s cab, then an all-in-handset CB radio might be a great choice.
As its name depicts, this type of radio incorporates everything including the control panel and the output speaker in the microphone unit.
Besides saving you space and the hassle of installing a bulky radio either overhead or under the dash, this type of radio means that you can switch it between vehicles in a snap.
This radio also has the real meaning of a portable CB radio in that you can uninstall it from your vehicle’s dashboard and use it as a handheld unit while on foot.
What will certainly amaze you is the fact that this radio has more features than the Uniden Pro 510 XL that is several folds larger.
The first impressive feature is its dual channel monitoring function. This allows you to keep an eye on 2 important channels concurrently to alert you of any relevant occurrences around you.
Accessing channels 9 and 19 at the push of a button is another interesting feature that the Cobra 75WXST brings.
Moreover, it has 4 programmable memory channels that you can use to store 4 of your favorite channels.
Its 10 NOAA weather frequencies and emergency alerts mean that you’ll always be prepared.
Most users are stocked by the convenience it brings in terms of saving space. Others appreciate its 10 NOAA weather channels and ease of use.
Among other complaints, however, include a few users who say that the buttons can be quite smaller for users with pudgy fingers.
Midland 1001Z CB Radio- Best for PA Function
Yet another option for smaller budgets, the Midland 1001Z offers a favorable choice for beginners who are looking for a balance between affordability and functionality.
This radio’s features also make it a go-to model for seasoned CB’ers who want to add another radio to their kit.
A key feature of the Midland 1001Z is the CB/PA button that switches the radio into a Public Address system when paired with an external speaker. You can use the PA system to address other drivers or even for fun with your family.
We love that this radio is compact enough to be installed in most pickup trucks, jeeps, SUVs, and RVs. But what’s more interesting is its less busy panel with intuitive controls that make operations straightforward right out of the box.
The 1001Z has 3 primary knobs; an on/off knob, a channel scan knob, and RF Gain and Squelch knob. The RF Gain allows you minimize interferences from close sources thereby allowing distant signals to be more audible.
On the other hand, the squelch knob mutes unwanted and weak distant signals to allow you to maintain a clear conversation with buddies near you.
This radio lacks the sophisticated display that most high-end models bring. But we like that it has an easily readable LED signal strength indicator and frequency display both which are easy to read at night and during the day.
President McKinley USA CB Radio- Best For SSB Mode
Our last item here comes from President- the manufacturer that commands a lot of respect in this industry due to its invention of the Automatic Squelch Control.
This is a high-technology radio that boasts the SSB mode that most enthusiastic CB’ers always look for in high-end CB radios.
While a regular CB radio is only allowed to transmit at 4 watts, an SSB CB radio allows you to transmit by up to 12 watts legally.
As I have explained in another article of the best walkie talkies reviews, signal range in 2-way radios increases with increase in power output. This means that the President McKinley USA will offer you up to 3 times the range you’d expect from a typical CB radio.
I bet the most outstanding feature of the McKinley USB is that it can be powered by 12-24 volts DC. Although a seemingly simple feature, it highly increases your chances of being able to make contacts irrespective of the source of power available to you.
Another great feature includes a 3-color customizable LED display and a dual watch function that monitors 2 stations for you simultaneously. It also has RF and Mic gain functions for reception audio quality.
It also has an Automatic Noise Limiter (ANL) and Noise Blanker functions to minimize noise. A talkback feature, on the other hand, let’s you listen to yourself to ensure that your buddies and rescue operations get you clearly.
How to Choose a CB Radio for your needs
Choosing a CB radio is not a matter of getting the model with the most output. They all average at 4 watts although some are illegally tweaked to put out more.
Rather, it boils down to the type of radio, where you intend to use it, and the features that you’d like to see on the radio.
Let’s dig in.
Types of CB radios
I bet the very first thing that you want to do when purchasing a CB radio is to determine where you’ll be using it.
There are basically 4 types of CB radios from this point of view; handheld, mobile, all-in-handset, and base station.
As the name suggests, a handheld radio is a small device that you simply hold in your hands. These models come in handy when you need a communication device while on foot.
There are no limitations though. You could also use it in your vehicle or as a base station at home. The catch, however, is that a handheld radio’s compact design compromises certain useful features found in bigger radios.
Mobile/Portable CB radios
These models are a little bit bigger in size than handheld radios. They are mostly used in vehicles including motorcycles.
They have a slightly higher power demand due to the additional features. Thus, they draw power from your vehicle’s battery.
When purchasing a radio for your truck, jeep, SUV, or RV, it really pays to get the dimensions right depending on where you plan to install it.
If you want a radio that will fit in your car’s dashboard stereo kit, then it’s important to measure the size of the kit and get a model that fits.
If you don’t have enough space in the dashboard, consider a radio that can be installed overhead, under the dash, or under the seat.
Wherever, you plan to fix it, make sure that it won’t stand in the way of your leg’s movement or your passenger’s.
On this note, inquire whether the radio does ship with the necessary installation bracket or whether there’s a specific model that the manufacturer recommends.
All-in-handset CB radios
True to its name, an all-in-one handset incorporates all the controls in the handset. This means that rather than having a separate chassis with the control interface and speaker and a separate microphone, everything is fitted in the ‘microphone.’
These models do, however, feature a small connector box that offers connections to the antenna and power supply. It also offers a way to add an external speaker when necessary.
An all-in-one handset will come in handy in vehicles that have minimal installation space for radios with huge chassis. They also make a good choice for motorcycles, especially when complemented with the best motorcycle intercom.
Base Station CB radios
Similar to HAM radio base stations, a CB radio base station is a complex unit with multifarious features. These models are designed for stationary use, for instance, at home, in industries, and in camps.
CB radio base stations are the best for professional use and incorporate a series of bells and whistles.
There are a few definite advantages to these systems. First, they allow you to add a high-end, tall antenna for optimum range and good performance.
Designed for professional use, these radios also have lots of features that allow more user control and audio quality.
While there isn’t a lot of difference in terms of transmission when compared to handheld and portable radios, even a low-end base station CB radio will receive signals a lot more clearly and quietly than high-end handheld and portable alternatives.
Important Features that You Need to Consider
Seeing that all CB radios have equal power output, manufacturers try to outdo each other by fitting their systems with the best antennas.
This is what creates the difference in signal clarity and coverage. A CB radio’s performance is highly dependent on the type of antenna it is connected to.
Note that portable/mobile CB radios require a different type of antenna from what a base station CB radio requires.
For a mobile CB radio, here are the 3 possible solutions;
These antennas are crafted from a fiberglass rod. Therefore, they are the most durable. They are available in different sizes ranging from 2’’ to 7’’ and offer 2-7 miles worth of coverage depending on the size of the antenna.
The good news with fiberglass antennas is that they hold up to regular rigors better than other models. Secondly, these antennas are compatible with different types of mounts. This brings versatile options in terms of mountable locations.
Magnet mount antennas
These models use a magnet to secure on your vehicle. Compared to fiberglass antennas, magnet mount systems have a slightly longer signal range.
Therefore, they are a little bit more reliable. These antennas come in 3-5 inches and offer a Transmit and Receive range of between 3 and 7 miles. However, do know that range might be affected by weather conditions and land terrain.
Center-loaded antennas have the best range at up to 10 miles. These antennas are most common with semi-trucks. In fact, they have been dubbed trucker antennas.
Unfortunately, these antennas are the most expensive. They are also the more prone to damage and, therefore, not the best choice for rough riders.
SWR (Standard Wave Ratio) meter
A good antenna goes hand in hand with an SWR meter. You really don’t want to forego this feature if you want the best performance out of your mobile or base station CB radio.
An SWR meter tells you if your antenna is tuned properly. It shows you a ratio of how much power is delivered to the antenna versus the amount of power that the antenna reflects back.
Needless to mention, you want an antenna that converts all the available power into signals. This can only be possible if it is tuned properly.
Only an SWR meter can let you know when you are getting the best signal and when you need to make some adjustments.
Now, most mobile and base station CB radios come with a built-in meter. But you can also buy one from any CB radio store near and add it to your kit.
This is a must-have feature for portable radios that are regularly being switched from one vehicle to another.
SSB (Single Side Band) Mode
Not all CB radios will feature this mode. But it can be very important especially if you want to be able to communicate with CBers who are a little bit far from the normal range.
A radio with the SSB mode allows you to legally transmit at a whopping 12 watts using your CB radio. This means that you’ll be getting 3x the range that a normal 4-watt CB radio offers.
Well, there’s a catch to this feature. To be able to communicate with other CBers via this mode, they’ll need to have a radio with built-in SSB mode as well.
While it seems useless for a hobbyist who finds enough fun from the community of CBers within the normal range, it might be an invaluable feature for a fleet of vehicles.
Channels and Channel Scanning
All CB radios have 40 channels. But there’s a very huge difference between a manually tuned radio and a model that scans the channels automatically for you in search for activity.
On the same note, enquire whether the radio has programmable memory. This makes scanning fast since it is done on a few pre-programmed channels at a time.
Squelch Control and RF Gain
These are 2 important control features that you want on your CB radio. Previously a preserve for high-end models, these 2 features are quite common in almost all low-end radios today.
All in all, it’s important to check out whether your target CB radio has them on the control panel.
The squelch control basically mutes weak distant signals in favor of the strong signals near you. This means that the audios will suffer from minimal noise.
The RF gain works similarly to the Squelch but in a slightly different manner. The RF gain lets you listen to distant signals by ‘muting’ the signals closest to you.
This means that if you want to maintain a conversation with another person who is far away, you’ll need to open the RF Gain so that there is minimal interference from the strong signals around you.
Instant Emergency Channels
Channels 9 and 19 are designated as emergency channels. It might pay to get a radio with a dedicated button that switches to these 2 channels at the slightest push.
This instant access not only saves you the hassle of scanning through the entire 40 channels. But it also increases your chances of getting help and surviving.
Ch 9 is never as crowded as it used to be a few years back.
If you are stuck on a lonely highway in the middle of nowhere, I bet you are more likely to get some help through Ch 19 (trucker’s channel) than 9.
Don’t ignore Ch 9 altogether though. There are still some police and Emergency Response Units that monitor it.
If you live or will be driving through areas that are prone to adverse weather changes (think of hurricanes and tornados), a radio that continuously monitors NOAA weather frequencies is a must-have.
Radios with this feature will switch to these channels automatically in case there’s an alert on weather change.
Other features that improve usability
- A colored display- allows you to change the channels in different weather intensities
- Dimmer- makes it possible to dim the light especially at night so the colored display won’t ‘blind’ you
- Talkback- comes in handy when setting the microphone to enhance quality audio transmissions
- Bluetooth- most of the latest Cobra CB radios have this feature. It allows you to use your cell phone via the radio
That’s it for now. It’s our hope that our picks of the best CB radios and buying guide will put you in the right direction of getting a reliable model for your needs.
As I did point out, the best radio for your needs is that which meets your needs in terms of versatility, ease of use, functionality, reliability, range, and value for money.
If you are just starting out with CB radios, affordable models such as the Uniden Pro 510 XL and the Midland 1001Z CB Radio might be your things.
On the other hand, if you are serious into CB radios, then it pays not to economize on features. In that case, our choice of the best CB radio overall is the Cobra Electronics 29 LX Realtree.
What we like about this radio is that it offers almost all the features that you might require at its price. It has a 4-color customizable LCD display, NOAA weather emergency channels, and a weather scan.
It also has a Radio Check Feature that diagnoses any problems with the antenna-SWR meter and voltage status to ensure that you are getting the best signal range ratio versus power output.