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Car HAM radios can be fairly difficult to shop for since there are numerous factors for you to consider.
This post will provide everything you need to know to find the best car HAM radio for your specific needs.
We’ve compiled some of our top picks after we tested the most popular car HAM radios available in the market.
Now that you’re acquainted with our top 3 picks, let’s delve deeper to find the best car HAM radio for you.
Best Car HAM Radio – Top 7 Reviews
#1: Best Overall Car HAM Radio – BTECH Mini UV-25X2 Review
To start off our list, we have the BTECH Mini UV-25X2 which is a dual-band HAM radio that comes in a small form factor. The small size is something that we really appreciated since the radio does not take up a lot of space on your dashboard.
It’s extremely unobtrusive and you’ll find that no matter how small your car is, you’ll be able to easily make space for it inside.
Despite its small size, the LCD display is clear and easily readable. The built-in microphone is also fairly impressive and comes with audio gain settings.
The HAM radio was also super easy to install thanks to its intuitive design and compact size.
Factors to Consider Before you Decide to Buy BTECH Mini UV-25X2
Power: The BTECH Mini UV-25X2 is a 25-watt HAM radio that is more than suitable for most amateurs and even professionals. The high power output means you’ll need to direct wire it to your car’s battery.
Size: As mentioned earlier, it’s extremely small and compact which allows it to easily be installed on the dashboard of your car.
Build quality: While the car HAM radio is fairly well-built, it’s not the most rugged out of its competitors. It’ll last you a long time as long as you treat it with care. However, we’re not so sure it would survive if something dropped on it or impacted it.
- Clear built-in microphone
- Clear LCD display
- Compact and lightweight
- Easy to install
- Reasonably priced
- Some users stated the automatic gain control is buggy
Best Overall Car HAM Radio
The best overall car HAM radio is the BTECH Mini UV-25X2 thanks to its small form factor, user-friendliness, and affordable price.
#2: Best Beginner-Friendly Car HAM Radio – AnyTone AT-778UV Radio Review
If you want an easy-to-use mobile HAM radio setup, then this product is definitely worth considering. It comes packed with a fair number of features and that’s coupled with a super simple design.
This makes it an incredible choice for novice HAM radio operators.
We were especially impressed by its backlit keypad and clear alphanumeric LCD display. Both of them are super easy to see and read in all types of lighting conditions.
Factors to Consider Before you Decide to Buy AnyTone AT-778UV Radio
Power: This is a 25-watt radio which means that it provides a fair amount of power output. It even comes with a feature to operate at lower power depending on what you’re using it for.
Size: While it’s not as small as our top pick, it still comes in a fairly small form factor. We used it in a variety of different vehicles during our tests and it wasn’t obtrusive, even in the smallest vehicles.
Build quality: The radio is made from high-quality materials and seems to be quite well-constructed. We tested it for a month under different conditions and found little to no signs of wear and tear.
- Modes for operating at low or high power
- Easy-to-read LCD display and keypad
- Easy to use
- The instruction manual is confusing
Best Beginner-Friendly Car HAM Radio
The best beginner-friendly car HAM radio is the AnyTone AT-778UV thanks to its ease of use, beginner-friendliness, and affordability.
#3: Best Quad-Band Car HAM Radio – TYT TH-9800D Review
The TYT TH-9800D is a quad-band car HAM radio which means that you can tune into four frequencies with it at the same time.
Not only were we impressed by its versatility but also by its high power output. The radio operates at 50 watts which is more than enough for amateur HAM radio operators as well as many professionals.
This becomes even more impressive when you learn its price.
The TYT TH-9800D is available at a super consumer-friendly price that makes it an extremely popular choice in the HAM radio community.
Factors to Consider Before you Decide to Buy TYT TH-9800D
Power: It’s a 50-watt radio which makes it fairly powerful. You’ll need to wire it to your car’s battery to get it to work. The high output power means you can use it to communicate over longer distances.
Size: While it’s somewhat larger than our first two entries, it’s still not large enough to be an obstruction. It fits snuggly onto most car dashboards and as long as you don’t have much else on your dashboard, using it is a breeze.
Build quality: We were especially impressed by its build quality since it’s designed to last you a while. It’s made from high-quality materials and is quite resistant to spills, drops, and minor impacts.
- High and low power output modes
- Multi-function scanning function
- Simple to install
- Wide radio reception
- Sub-par built-in microphone
Best Quad-Band Car HAM Radio
The best quad-band car HAM radio is the TYT TH-9800D. The reception is exceptional and it’s extremely affordable too, despite being a quad-band radio.
#4: Best High-End Car HAM Radio – Kenwood TM-V71A Review
Kenwood is a household name and a brand that produces a variety of navigation and communication devices. When it comes to mobile amateur radio devices, the Kenwood TM-V71A is one of their best models.
It’s incredibly versatile.
You can use this mobile HAM radio for VHF+VFT, UHF+UHF, and VHF+UHF operations. Not only that but it also boasts 1000 multi-functional memory channels.
We were super impressed by how easily we were able to manage different channels and navigate between them.
It’s a great HAM radio to get if you’re an operator that communicates with a large number of different frequencies often.
Factors to Consider Before you Decide to Buy Kenwood TM-V71A
Power: It’s a 50-watt car HAM radio which is more than enough for an amateur radio operator. The high RF power output allows it to have a wide radio reception, even in rougher terrain.
Size: The radio features a low-profile design which allows it to fit into even the most compact dashboards out there. It also makes it super easy to install and adjust within your car.
Build quality: Kenwood is one of the top manufacturers out there and this HAM radio really displays why. It’s incredibly built with a sturdy exterior that is resistant to drops and impact.
- Excellent build quality
- 1000 multi-functional memory channels
- Clear audio output
- Clear LCD display
- Clear and wide radio reception
- Mic cord may be small for some users
Best High-End Car HAM Radio
The best high-end car HAM radio is the Kenwood TM-V71A thanks to its clear radio reception, user-friendliness, and low-profile design.
#5: Best Budget-Friendly Car HAM Radio – Icom IC-2730A Dual-Band Radio Review
Many HAM radios come with two different power settings but this one comes with three.
Depending on what you need, you can operate this radio at 5 watts, 15 watts, or 50 watts.
This makes it incredibly versatile and appealing to a variety of users that require a mobile HAM radio. Another great thing about it is the fact that it’s a budget mobile HAM radio. Despite its low price, it still does not skimp out on essential features that you need in a HAM radio.
To start off, it’s a dual-band radio. Furthermore, we found that you can use it to receive VHF/VHF, UHF/UHF, and VHF/UHF.
The brightly lit screen also ensured that we were able to read it with ease no matter what the lighting conditions were.
Factors to Consider Before you Decide to Buy Icom IC-2730A Dual-Band Radio
Power: As mentioned earlier, the radio is able to operate at three different power levels: 5 watts, 15 watts, and 50 watts. Naturally, higher power output will mean a longer range but also, higher power consumption.
You can choose whatever mode you want depending on what your needs are.
Size: It’s a super unobtrusive mobile HAM unit that you can easily store inside your car and still have room for other objects on your dashboard.
Build quality: It’s extremely well-built and as soon as you hold it in your hands, you can feel its great quality. The exterior is rugged and built to last you for many years to come.
- Different power settings
- Well-lit and clear display
- Great mic quality
- Audio quality is not great
Best Budget-Friendly Car HAM Radio
The best budget-friendly car HAM radio is the Icom IC-2730A Dual-Band Radio thanks to its reasonable pricing, user-friendliness, and power settings.
#6: Best Programmable Car HAM Radio – AnyTone 5888UV Review
This amateur HAM radio from AnyTone caught our attention since it comes with a wide supported frequency range. You can use it to transmit from 136 MHz to 480 MHz (FM) and receive from 108 MHz up to 490 MHz (AM).
This makes it an incredibly versatile radio and that too, for a fairly cheap price.
Similar to some other radios on this list, this radio can also be powered at a variety of different settings. It can have a power output of 5 watts, 40 watts, or 50 watts.
If that wasn’t enough, we were further blown away by the fact that this radio is easily programmable as well. You can plug it into your PC or a laptop inside your car with the help of a USB cable. Did we mention you get one for free with the radio?
Factors to Consider Before you Decide to Buy AnyTone 5888UV
Power: It comes with three different power settings: 5 watts, 40 watts, and 50 watts. Depending on your needs, you can easily switch between them.
Size: The radio is fairly small and unobtrusive. While it won’t get in the way in bigger cars, you may have to adjust some things around to make space for it in smaller cars.
Build quality: The AnyTone 5888UV is quite sturdy and we were fairly impressed by how robust it is. The exterior is sturdy and it can easily stand up to drops or lighter impact.
- Multiple power settings
- Easily programmable
- Easy-to-read illuminated keypad
- Wide radio reception
- Great sound quality
- Scanning takes a fairly long time
Best Programmable Car HAM Radio
The best programmable car HAM radio is the AnyTone 5888UV. It’s CHIRP-compatible and can easily be connected to a PC with a USB cable.
#7: Best Car HAM Radio with 3.5 mm Jack – QYT KT-8900D Review
This budget-friendly HAM radio is a great choice for people that want a simplistic and easy-to-use product. It boasts a VHF frequency range of 136-174 MHz and a UHF range of 400-480MHz.
Since it’s highly affordable, it does cut corners in some aspects. For example, you’ll notice that while the screen is large, it’s fairly low-quality in terms of its display.
The thing that makes this radio stand out is the presence of a 3.5 mm jack in the back with both, audio in as well as audio out.
Factors to Consider Before you Decide to Buy QYT KT-8900D
Power: It features a high-power and low-power mode. The high-power mode allows it to operate at 25 watts whereas the low-power allows it to operate at 20 watts.
Size: It’s a fairly compact radio that you can easily make space for on your dashboard no matter how small your car is.
Build quality: The exterior is fairly average but not as sturdy as we’d hoped it would be. It’ll last you a while as long as you take good care of it. It won’t survive drops or any sort of impact.
- Compact size
- 3.5 mm jack
- Great audio quality
- Relatively fragile
Best Car HAM Radio with 3.5 mm Jack
The best car HAM radio with a 3.5 mm jack is the QYT KT-8900D. It’s quite affordable too and also, fairly simple to use.
Best Mobile HAM Radios – Buyers’ Guide
Many people look into the prominent aspects of a product they want to buy without considering what their own needs are. We see this a lot with car HAM radios as well.
In order to buy the most suitable HAM radio, you must assess your needs.
For example, do you want to buy a HAM radio for emergency communications over a short range? Or do you want to talk to other HAM radio operators over longer ranges?
Questions such as these will help you understand what operations you’d require your HAM radio to perform. Then, you can start to browse the market for one that fits your checklist.
The factors you must assess when buying a car or mobile HAM radio include:
It’s important to check out the output power of a HAM radio before you buy it since it affects a number of factors.
For example, higher-power radios are more expensive but they are able to communicate over longer ranges. They are also more effective in areas with uneven or rough terrain.
If you intend to communicate over shorter ranges, then you can get away with a mobile HAM radio with an output power of around 5 watts.
However, if you want to communicate over longer distances, then you’ll need something with a minimum output power of at least 25 watts.
|Quick tip: For most low-powered mobile HAM radios, the cigarette input inside your car will be enough to power them. |
However, if you have a high-powered mobile HAM radio, then you’ll have to connect it to your car’s battery.
Check out the best batteries for Ham radio in our complete guide.
You can also get a HAM radio with different modes that allow it to operate at high power or low power.
Most mobile HAM radios come in small sizes since they are specifically designed to fit into cars. However, it should go without saying that you must consider the size of the interior of your car before you decide which HAM radio to buy.
It should be unobstructed.
The best car HAM radio for you, in terms of size, will be one that does not take up too much space on your dashboard and is easily accessible. You should be able to mount it to your dashboard in a way where the screen is clearly visible and usable.
Most HAM radios come with additional accessories such as mounting brackets and clips. These allow you to easily mount the HAM radio onto your dashboard and also, clip up the microphone next to it.
While the build quality is not something that amateur HAM radio operators don’t have to worry about too much, it’s still something to consider.
On the other hand, if you are someone that wants a HAM radio for emergency communications, then durability can be a major concern. This is especially true if you intend to use it in rough terrain or under harsh weather conditions.
Mobile HAM radios are exposed to dust, rain, snow, sleet, and many other natural elements as you drive around. Since it’s an emergency communication device, it’s paramount that it’s able to withstand them.
Make sure that you opt for a mobile HAM radio that comes with a metal chassis. It’s also a good idea to buy one that’s weather-resistant if you live somewhere with harsh weather conditions.
The range of your HAM radio is an important factor to consider. Once again, the range that you will need will depend on what you intend to use the HAM radio for.
We mentioned earlier how the power output of your HAM radio will determine how far its range will be. While that’s true, the output power is not the only factor that affects the range of your mobile HAM radio.
Other factors that affect the range of your car’s HAM radio include
- Frequency range
- Transmission power settings
- The size of your HAM antenna
- The quality of your HAM antenna
If you want something with a higher range, then these are the factors you must assess to find the ideal mobile HAM radio.
Most car HAM radios have a range of 10 to 30 miles.
If you want a HAM radio that has a higher range, you can look for one that has a higher output power or comes with a larger HAM antenna, etc.
Number of Memory Channels
While this is not something that may be too important for amateur radio operators, it’s something that veteran operators always consider. This is because oftentimes, they’ll need to save a myriad of different frequencies.
The more memory channels a HAM radio has, the more frequencies you can store.
Of course, the higher this is, the better this is.
However, if you’re a casual user that does not need to save several frequencies, then it won’t matter. You can just opt for a simpler HAM radio and save yourself some cash.
The scan function of a car HAM radio is an extremely important feature to have. It allows you to scan for frequencies in its supported frequency range and save the ones you need.
Higher-end car HAM radios will have a variety of different scanning functions that are able to scan their supported frequency range in different ways. You can even program your HAM radio to scan for frequencies when it starts up.
It’s an essential feature to have.
Hence, when you shop for a mobile radio, make sure to get one that has this feature, at least in its basic form.
Best Mobile HAM Radio – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a car HAM radio?
A car HAM radio (also known as a mobile HAM radio) is simply a portable version of a HAM radio station. It’s much smaller but allows users to communicate over radio frequencies with ease.
Amateur hobbyists can easily buy car HAM radios so they can communicate with other operators while in their cars.
How do mobile or car HAM radios work?
A mobile HAM radio comprises the following components:
- A transceiver
- A microphone
- An antenna
- A tuner
- A power supply
The radio works by tapping into radio frequencies present just above the AM spectrum. The actual frequencies used by HAM radios are divided into three categories:
What is a dual-band radio?
The “band” of a radio refers to how many frequencies it can tune into at the same time. Hence, a dual-band mobile HAM radio has the capability to tune into two frequencies at the same time.
Similarly, quad-band radios can tap into four radio frequencies at the same time.
How far can I communicate with a car HAM radio?
As we mentioned above, most mobile HAM radios have a range of 10 to 30 miles.
You can increase this range in a number of ways such as by using a larger HAM antenna or opting for a HAM radio with a higher power output.
What is the most used HAM radio frequency?
The most popular HAM radio frequency is the 144 MHz (2-meter) band.
This is where you’ll find the majority of your local HAM radio operators. It’s also the frequency with which most public safety announcements are made.
That’s our roundup of the best car HAM radios.
After a ton of testing, comparison and debates, we’ve concluded the BTECH Mini UV-25X2 to be the best of the best. It’s available at a budget-friendly price, it’s super simple to use and you can easily have it in your car no matter how small it is.
Which car HAM radio do you use? Tell us in the comments section below.
If you’re interested in finding all there is to know about radios, their types, and more, check out our website.