How do I Choose the Best Portable CB Radio?

Mary Elizabeth

A Citizen’s Band radio, familiarly called a CB radio, can send and receive radio transmissions in the 27 MHz range on the 40 channels that have been designated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for use by unlicensed members of the public for personal and business use. The official range of a CB radio is 1–5 miles (1.6–8 km), but they are restricted to use in locations where the FCC operates. Any type of CB radio — whether a base station, a mobile CB radio, or a hand-held or portable CB radio — must be certificated by the FCC, shown by an identifying label.

Since CB radios are often used during emergencies, consumers should consider buying examples that can run off of batteries or come with adapters.
Since CB radios are often used during emergencies, consumers should consider buying examples that can run off of batteries or come with adapters.

There are a number of portable CB radio manufacturers, providing consumers with a range of choices, and as with any technology choice, intended use is likely to be a big factor in guiding your choice of which model will work best for you. A portable CB radio is valuable when you need access away from your home or vehicle. It can also be a valuable alternative when there isn’t room in your vehicle for a standard mobile CB radio. The portable CB radio can also provide a suitable solution if you need a CB radio to use in multiple vehicles by placing a mounting box in each of the vehicles and moving the radio from one to the other as needed, or in the case where you need to use it both within and outside of a vehicle. Other important uses for portable CB radios is for use in rental vehicles and as emergency backup communications systems in areas in which mobile phones don’t get service.

With a portable CB radio, one of the important questions for making your choice is that of a power source. For walking around, it’s useful to be able to use either alkaline or rechargeable batteries, while for vehicles, a 12 volt adapter lets you take advantage of the cigarette lighter. An AC adapter is also useful for charging at an electrical outlet. If the radio has a battery save mode that automatically goes into effect after a certain time with no audio, this can contribute to power conservation.

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Another important question is tuning. If an antenna connector is provided, your portable can easily gain the value of a pre-installed vehicle antenna. If you’re going to use your radio in this way, you may want to ensure that the rubber duck antenna is removable. You’ll also want to remove the rubber duck antenna if you choose to replace it with a telescopic antenna for better range out in the field.

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Discussion Comments


@Vincenzo -- believe it or not, CB radios are still in use. As you might suspect, a lot of truckers still use them but they aren't the only ones keeping that old technology alive.

It's not hard to figure out why. A cell phone is great if you know the number of the person you are calling. You don't need that information to talk with someone on a CB. Just dial in a conversation and go.


Wow. Do people even use CB radio anymore? I know that was a big deal in the 1970s and 1980s, but haven't cell phones pretty well replaced them as communications devices?

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