Best CB Radios for Truckers in 2018 and Comprehensive Buying Guide
CB Radios may not be as popular as they were several decades ago debit to cell phones, mobile apps, and social media. But you’ll be darn wrong to think that they are dead.
Thanks to the continuous technological updates, citizen band radios are predicted to remain relevant for years to come.
These gadgets have improved immensely over time they now offer lots of extra features that were just a fond wish in the 80s. I’ve discussed these extras in-depths in the buying guide section.
As at this point, here are our picks of the best CB radios for truckers this year.
We’ve analyzed 594 reviews of CB Radios for Truckers, and compared them side-by-side.
Below you will find a comparison chart.
Cobra 29 LX
Cobra 29 LTD
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|Actual Range||Audibility||Ease Of Use||Durability|
A few things to keep in mind
The technology behind how CB radios function hasn’t changed so much. However, the addition of new features (most of which are life-saving, by the way) might make buying these devices a little bit of a hassle to both the new and experienced CB’ers.
But as Gary Hill, a manager at RoadPro Brands puts it, the best radio is the one that packs all the important features that meet your needs. Here are a few guidelines to help you make a decision;
- Would you want a radio with a single side SSB feature?
- How good is its frequency RF gain?
- Which are the best brands available?
- Would you like a CB with weather update functionality? I bet you do!
- Does the radio feature a backlit display?
- Does the CB radio have Automatic Noise Limiters (ANL)?
- How much are you willing to spend?
As you’ll realize later in this article, your answers to these questions form important tips that should guide you when shopping for a CB radio.
Cobra 29 LX 40-Channel CB Radio- Best For Multi Weather Channels
The Cobra 29 LX is currently the most popular CB radio on the market today. This model has an impressive modern design and brings a pack of attractive features that will entice any CB radio enthusiast.
At a glance, the Cobra 29 LX looks quite similar to the Cobra 29 LTD. It also has almost all the basic functions that regular CBs offer: RX Gain, NB/ANL, Volume, Delta Tune, and dynamic.
But a closer look reveals a few improvements including a Radio Check diagnostic feature and a weather receiver.
Admittedly, most CB radios do offer a weather channel. But the Cobra gets even better by offering you a list of 10 NOAA weather channels.
This radio offers instant access to this list and also scans through the channels for the strongest and nearest alert signal. This ensures that you are up to date with the most recent changes in the weather in your area.
Truckers who traverse across all the 50 States appreciate that the Emergency Weather Alert is available across all the states. What’s even more interesting is that this radio has an alert tone to attract your attention to weather alerts even when it is turned off.
The Radio Check Diagnostic feature, on the other hand, ensures that all the critical aspects of the radio (RF power, battery voltage, and antenna condition) are at their best to enhance reliability.
Other impressive features of this radio include 4 selectable color displays that can be dimmed when driving in the night and PA capability. It also has a memory function that stores 10 of your favorite channels for easy access.
Midland 1001LWX CB Radio- Best For Affordability
If you are looking for a CB radio purposely for highway information and weather updates, then a unit that costs way past the one-hundred dollar mark might be overkill.
The Midland 100LWX offers a solution to truckers who want a model that offers just the basic information without spending so much on it. It might also be a good bet for truckers on budget and use at home.
A standout feature of this unit is its compact size. Measuring 4.5’’ by 7.5’’ by 1.75’, this radio is bound to fit in most vehicles without looking overly bulky. Most truck drivers also appreciate its easy installation process and the fact that the entire installation hardware is included in the package.
It also has a less busy front panel that offers even the amateurs an easy time while on the road. The 1001LWX has a 40-channel digital tuner that scans the available active channels easily and fast and also locks your preferred channels for easy access.
For all your weather alerts, this radio also performs an automatic scanning of the strongest weather channels available and locks on them to offer you first-hand information about the weather conditions in your locality.
This radio also has above-average voice output thanks to its ANL, RF Gain, and Squelch controls. Even better, it could also function as a public address system at the push of a button.
The only drawback that newbies might face with this radio is that of manually scanning for the NOAA weather channels.
Cobra 29 LTD 40-Channel CB Radio- Best For Ease Of Use
Cobra is a big name in the world of CB radios. It’s, therefore, not a surprise that our runner-up comes from the same manufacturer.
As its classic look suggests, Cobra aims at offering you a highly reliable and easy-to-use model without modifying the old-fashioned look that most CB’ers love.
Similar to the 29 LX above, the 29 LTD is a 40-channel radio. It offers you instant access to channel 9 for emergency and the truckers’ channel (Channel 19) for real-time highway information and entertainment.
All the important controls of this radio are arranged row-wise on the front panel for easy access. Unlike other models that feature small control knobs cluttered next to each other, the Cobra 29 LTD has fairly sized controls each positioned some distant from the rest for ease of use.
This radio offers all the basic control functions including Mic gain that makes you audible to other drivers. It also has an RF Gain that makes it possible to capture distant signals.
You’ll also find a 2-mode channel selector, a switchable NB/ANL switch, delta tune, and an adjustable dynamic boost.
Some of the latest extras include the talk-back function which allows you to listen to your voice for proper adjustment before transmission.
We also like the Antenna Warning Indicator and the SWR calibration functions that work together to ensure optimum antennae performance.
Other interesting features here include its 9-foot microphone cord and PA capability.
The minor drawbacks that a few people point out include its traditional look that gives it a cheaper look. Others claim that its lit display is quite bright even at its dim setting.
Uniden Bearcat 880 CB Radio- Best Affordable CB Radio With SSB Mode
Uniden is another popular and highly recommendable Japanese brand with commercial operations in the USA, Taiwan, China, New Zealand, Australia, and the Philippines. This is a giant company that also manufactures products for other private label brands including Cobra, Craig, President, and Philips.
Anyone who is eyeing this manufacturer is definitely in need of a high-end CB radio, and the Bearcat 880 is a great bet, in my opinion.
This is among the most affordable CB radios that feature the Single Sideband Mode. We’ve seen its price soar way past the two-hundred dollar mark some years back. So, this might be your chance to grab it at half this price.
The Bearcat 880 allows access to all FCC approved channels. It also has several knobs and buttons to ensure signal clarity during transmission and reception. These include volume, S/RF/CAL/SWR, ANL, NB, mic gain, and Talkback functions.
It also boasts a dedicated button that allows you to access CH 9 and CH 19 instantly and another one that switches the CB radio to a Public Address system.
Speaking of the PA system, the Bearcat 880 has a fairly long mic cord and a 6/4 pin mic adapter that allows you to upgrade to a range of high-end microphones.
This microphone also has a noise-canceling feature that promises crisp and clear communication. What’s even more interesting is that the Bearcat 880 is compatible with wireless mics and will offer you more freedom.
Another thing that makes the Bearcat 880 a go-to model for most truckers is its contemporary design that is enhanced by its backlit knobs, laser-edged keys, and a large 7-color backlit display.
As expected, this display can get uncomfortably bright especially at night. Luckily, there’s a dim function to keep that in control.
In addition, its backlit display might be a tad hard to see in direct sunlight. But this shouldn’t be a showstopper if you are not always hitting the keys and turning the control knobs.
Cobra 18WXSTII CB Radio – Best Dual Watch Radio For In-Dash Installation
Cobra Citizen Band radios are known to come at a relatively higher but justified price. Fortunately, this brand also has several affordable models for drivers on a low budget including the 18WXTSTII.
This radio is worth checking out if you are looking for a unit that you’ll slide into the dash and hit the road.
The Cobra 18WXSTII is among the fastest selling CB radios today not only because of its great price and sleek design but what it offers too.
This radio has a dual-watch function that allows you to monitor two pre-selected channels alternately. There is also a built-in memory that restores the radio to its last channel after powering.
Similar to other high-end radios from this manufacturer, the Cobra 18WXSTII also has ten weather channels that keep you up to date with weather information.
Unique from other radios in our list, this radio has a heavy-duty front-firing speaker for clarity. It also has a long mic cord and PA functionality for versatility.
As good as the Cobra 18WXSTII seems, it does not come without a drawback.
This radio uses a soundtrack system in place of the NB/ANL switch. Despite the manufacturer’s claims that this system cuts noise by up to 90%, most users report that it gets a lot of mechanical interference, especially when driving through busy areas with construction equipment and power lines.
Choosing the Best CB Radio for your truck- what matters?
CB radios have several common features that make them technically similar to some degree including squelch, volume, and channel selector.
But as I told you before, technological advancement has seen the addition of a few extra features that add up to these gadgets’ glossary. Most of these additions make the radio much more effective by giving you a good bang for your bucks besides making your road trips safer and enjoyable.
Here are some of the features that make great trucking CB Radios
This is one of the basic functions that you won’t lack in CB radios. It works by muting the background noise when the signal is not sufficiently strong. If you’ve used a citizen band radio before, you know how annoying the background noise can get, right.
So, the squelch control works by silencing the receiver until a strong signal is detected. Generally, the squelch will mute distant, less powerful signals to pave the way for the strong signals that are near you.
You control this function by turning it right or left to listen to strong and weak signals respectively. It’s important that you don’t turn it unnecessarily higher than you need as this may reduce the reception range.
Automatic Noise Limiter
As the name suggests, the Automatic Noise Limiter (a.k.a ANL) improves the reception sound quality. It does this by filtering out wideband interferences such as engine noise and static before elbowing into the front end of your radio.
Needless to mention, this feature will come in handy especially if you drive a big truck.
The ANL circuit is built around the AM mode of your CB radio and should not be confused with the Noise Blanker (NB) below. Read on.
Popularly known as NB in CB slang, this is yet another circuit that is used to alleviate interference from unwanted static from the ignition, power lines, and inverters among other sources.
This circuit is a little bit different from the ANL in that it is generally larger. It mutes the front end of the radio temporarily in case the antenna picks high amplitude spikes.
This feature takes care of disturbances from spark plug noise and lightning, etc. It’s advisable not to turn it on unless necessary since it affects sensitivity.
Most CB radios rely solely on the Automatic Noise Limiter. But some models incorporate these two filter circuits in the same unit. These are the most recommendable and will work like a charm in minimizing disturbances.
The RF Gain works similarly to the squelch in that the two adjust the receiver’s sensitivity. But there’s one major difference between the CB radio RF Gain and the squelch.
While the squelch works by blocking distant, weak signals, the RF gain makes it possible to capture distant signals. This means that if you want to know how the situation is like far down the road, you’ll want to crank this control almost all the way up to capture the farthest signals possible.
Not all radios have this function. But as you can imagine, it is a really important feature if you want to receive signals from as far as possible.
Can I use the Squelch and RF Gain controls at the same time?
Sure! A CB radio with these 2 functionalities will offer you the best service. Here are 2 scenarios to help you understand how these 2 circuits complement each other.
Imagine you are getting important traffic updates from a buddy several miles ahead of you, but the vehicles passing close to you keep on disrupting your chat.
A simple remedy for this would be to turn the squelch down, and ‘open’ the RF Gain more. This will allow more of the distant signals and less of the close signals.
On the other hand, if your conversation with a fellow driver who is close to you keeps on being disrupted by another CB’er who is very far, you could neutralize the interference by turning the RF Gain down (far to the left) and turning the squelch clockwise.
The purpose of a mic gain is to make you sound loud and clear enough to other drivers. This control is quite tricky, and most drivers tend to turn it all the way up thereby blasting everybody else off the channel.
Usually, how far you turn this knob depends on the type of microphone that you are using. On the same note, your preferred type of microphone will dictate whether to buy a radio with a mic gain or not.
For instance, if you have a dynamic/stock microphone (these are generally loud), turning the mic gain so high will only make you sound over-modulated or distorted on the other side. The same case applies to amplified/powered mics.
Noise-canceling mics which are the most recommendable for truckers don’t get as loud as amplified and dynamic microphones.
That being said, you’ll need a radio with the mic gain function to make yourself loud and clear to others if you use this type of mic.
This is a vital feature that no one would want to hit the road without. It is a potentially life-saving feature that is standard in most mid to high-end units and some low-end models too.
A radio with NOAA weather channel built into it keeps you up to date with weather information and hazards 24 hours a day and all around the year.
Instant Channel Function
It might also be important to consider a radio that allows you to jump instantly to channel 9 and 19 which are the most popular. Usually, such a radio will have a button that allows you to jump from the current channel to any of these channels.
Channel 9 is dedicated to emergency cases. It is still functional although most people now don’t use it thanks to cell phones.
In most instances, it is monitored by the local or state police and REACT (Radio Emergency Associated Communications Team).
It is used to report accidents, serious injuries, and life-threatening road conditions. You may also listen to this channel to get instant updates on weather-related incidents or accident sites along the highway.
Channel 19, on the other hand, is purposely meant for truck drivers on highways. This channel offers you highway traffic information.
Nicknamed ‘Sesame Street’ by some truckers, this channel will also keep you entertained thanks to its frequently childish content.
Of course, you don’t want a radio whose display you can’t read without pulling out your flashlight. This is not only inconveniencing, but it could also lead to loss of important info.
In that case, consider a CB radio that has a backlit display. This makes it effortless to use no matter the light intensity in your truck’s cab. Of importance, check out whether the backlit function has a way of dimming the brightness when driving at night.
Public Address Capabilities
A citizen band radio with public address capabilities allows you to address other drivers and people on the street through a small speaker. This is not vital but might be of great help when talking to a group of people.
Despite the ever-raging competition from a communication gadgets point of view, Citizen Band radios continue to reign supreme.
These devices link you to a network of fellow drivers quickly thereby making it easy to get relevant information instantly. Their ability to connect and obtain up-to-the-minute weather alerts from NOAA, on the other hand, keeps you safe from storms and other hazardous conditions that might be life-threatening.
Did you get an ideal CB radio for your needs?
If you would like a little more help in picking the best model from the list above, the Cobra 29 LX might be a good bet.
One thing that attracts most drivers to this model is its sturdy construction and look. Its multi-colored display makes it easy to monitor all radio functions and can be dimmed when driving at night.
Besides the basic features that any other CB radio at its price offers, the Cobra 29 LX has two great features that you won’t come easily at this price: a Radio Diagnostic Function to keep all the critical aspects in check and an Antennae Calibration system to ensure maximum performance.