Despite the age of the internet, there is a certain charm about car ham radios. However, you need to ensure that you invest only in the best car ham radio.
Ham radios, aka amateur radios, use radio frequency and can be used in places with no cellular signal. My personal favorite brands of car ham radio are TYT, BTech, Kenwood, ICOM, Radioddity, Anytone, and QYT, which are mobile, offer uninterrupted and noise-free communication, and are very durable.
Keep in mind though that not any ham radio will do. In this guide, we will discuss some of the best car ham radio brands in the market and the factors that influence your purchase decision including durability, experience level, portability, ease of use, quality, and functionality.
Our team has conducted research as well as personally tested some of the most popular ham radios in the market. We are confident that they offer the best quality communication and feature amazing technological features.
Best Car Ham Radios for 2022
With the sheer number of car ham radios in the market, it can be quite tricky to find one that offers the best features and functionalities. Let’s review the top 7 car ham radios we hand-picked:
TYT TH-9800 Quad Band 50W Cross-Band Mobile Car Ham Radio
TYT TH-9800 Quad Band 50W Cross-Band Mobile Car Ham Radiois one of the most preferred ham radios. This device features 50-watt and 40-watt power settings and allows you to access 800 channels and four different broadcasting bands.
The Quad Band 50W comes with a microphone that has an alphanumeric keypad for easy inputs. The radio unit comes with a user-friendly volume and squelch controls that ensure better audio quality. Drivers can monitor two channels simultaneously, making it an excellent communication device that is perfect for sending and receiving information while you are camping in the wilderness or are in an emergency in a remote area.
The ham radio also comes with a convenient mounting plate that allows you to easily install it in your car.
- Equipped with dual-power settings
- Allows monitoring of two channels simultaneously
- A very user-friendly keypad
- The package does not contain an antenna
- Price is on the higher end of the spectrum
Created by top-rated manufacturer BaoFeng, BTech Mobile UV-50X2 is one of the best-in-class ham radios that offer an excellent compromise between reliability, versatility, and competitive cost. The dual-band radio is able to receive and transmit VHF and UHF and has an enhanced frequency range of 400-520MHz on VHF. The device’s 50-watt transmission power is among the highest offered by ham radios.
I found the audio quality to be pretty amazing with no distortion or muddy sounds that are produced in some other ham radio in the same price range. The control head is compact and comes with a customizable LCD display with nine available colors. It allows you to choose the type of information you want to display and provides dual synchronizing that displays both channel frequency and name.
However, its best features are DTMF and mic control gain that allows you to monitor up to four channels on a single line display or up to two channels with a channel name and frequency. The scanning system comes with a dedicated menu as well as saved scanning preferences. The channels can also be edited via front panel programming which is accompanied by standard 200-channel memory storage.
Equipped with Chirp software, the device is simple to set up and use.
- Highly customizable ham radio that offers versatility and scalability
- On-the-go editing option
- Can monitor four channels simultaneously
- Comes with an excellent manual in the English language
- An optimized scanning system
- Screen size is quite small
- Characters limited to just 7 for memory preset
Kenwood TM-281A offers an excellent balance between functionalities and affordability. It is a military-standard device that can handle a lot of abuse and has a classic design that indicates it was made for long-term use.
The TM-281A offers maximum performance of 65 watts in two different power modes, allowing you to choose the best setting for your environment. However, this ham radio has only one band and does not allow you to access other bands.
One of its major plus points is the big and bright LCD which takes up most of the space on the front panel. It is very easy to use and navigate thanks to its easy-to-use menu. The front panel also displays front-facing speakers that offer rich sounds and excellent tonality, as expected of the Kenwood brand. However, it is not equipped with a squelch knob so you should adjust it for background noise before you start your journey.
Moreover, this ham radio also offers various other useful functionalities like multiple scanning modes, reverse modes, and an automatic simplex check. It allows storage of up to 200 channels for easy access. This dual-purpose ham radio can also be transformed into a handheld receiver by using rechargeable batteries.
- Military-grade device that offers high durability
- A very high maximum power output of 65 watts
- Easy to program and use
- Offers only one band
- Has no squelch knob
ICOM 2300H Mobile Radio
ICOM 2300H is a sturdy and reliable ham radio that is a particularly good choice for beginner users. The ham radio is very compact and is a great device for smaller vehicles with less space. It is very portable and can easily be mounted in other vehicles.
The device has been built to the military-grade MIL-STD-810G standards and is waterproof and weatherproof. The display is bright and very clear allowing drivers to see the writing well on the screen. It can also be customized to amber or green colors so you can choose the one that best suits your eyes. In case of any anomalies, the device can warn you with a power supply voltage display.
One of its very best features is the multiple scan functions, allowing drivers to use a full scan, memory scan, or bank scan. It has a very loud audio output so there is no chance of you missing a transmission.
- Compact design that is easy to mount in different places
- A very clear and bright screen
- Power supply voltage display
- Multiple scan functions
- The user manual is not well written so beginners may have some confusion handling the equipment
Radioddity QB25 Quad-Standby Mobile Ham Radio
Radioddity QB25 Quad-Standby Mobile Ham Radio is equipped with a four-color LCD display, a 65-108 MHz FM radio, and a 2-band VHF and UHF. The device is compact so it is great for smaller vehicles. It has a powerful output of 50 watts and is equipped with a quad-band antenna so that you get stable signals at high frequencies. It has a dual-synchronized display mode, auto scanning, automatic power-off, auto gain setting for mic, and an alarm.
This ham radio offers high and clear sound fidelity which is crucial for accurate and effective communication. To make sure the radio does not overheat, the device is equipped with a temperature-cooling fan.
- Four-color LD with multi-function display
- Quad-band and standby
- Compact size
- Great sound fidelity
- It may be tricky to turn the channel knob because of the mic input
Anytone AT-778UV Transceiver Car Radio
Anytone AT-778UV Transceiver Car Radio is a dual-band radio that has a bright LCD that can be easily viewed even in dim-light conditions. The menu consists of large icons and numbers and is smartly designed to offer drivers all important information at a single glance.
The front panel of the device has six programmable buttons which allow you to quickly access your most-used functions. The hand mic is easy to use and offers a comfortable grip, though its design is a bit bulky. The AT-778UV is equipped with a backlit keypad, a second speaker, and an A/B frequency toggle.
The company is known for offering a great user experience and the AT-778UV is no exception. It has a smooth and streamlined interface that is easy to work with and has a beginner-friendly setup.
The device offers a maximum power output of 25 watts in three different power modes and audio fidelity with its internal speakers. Although the power output is low, you can use the mounted antenna to boost it somewhat. It also offers dual-band monitoring at the same time on the screen.
- Very visible LCD screen with a smooth interface
- Speaker and mic or radio that ensures audio fidelity
- Easy setup and use
- Programmable function keys
- Maximum power output is lower than other ham radios on the list
- Does not have a dual-receive feature
- Does not have a volume knob. Drivers will need to take their eyes off the road to press the soft keys for squelch and volume control which can be very dangerous
QYT KT-8900D Two-Way Radio
QYT KT-8900D Two-Way Radio is a small and compact transceiver that can easily fit into a vehicle of any size. The ham radio offers a maximum output of 25 watts. In spite of its lower-than-average transmission power, it is extremely sensitive and selective and offers a very clean dual-band communication. It has a coverage ranging from 134MHz to 174MHz on the VHF band and 400MHz to 480MHz on UHF. A mounted antenna can also boost the coverage.
This ham radio offers crisp sound quality even at its highest setting. However, you can also use an external speaker that comes with a 3.5 mm jack if you want to hear louder.
The front panel of the radio is very customizable with three colors and can improve visibility in any condition. The LCD is also bright and clear and allows drivers to read even in low-light conditions. It allows you to add customized info on the startup screen and lets you organize the layout according to your preference.
Since it is very compact, most controls can be accessed via a microphone, which is very handy. Its main benefit is that it allows you to monitor four different frequencies simultaneously when the radio is idle.
- Reversible and visible LCD screen
- Very small and compact
- Customizable interface, which is easy to learn
- Allows quad-monitoring
- Designed for tough conditions
- No dedicated volume knob
- Manual is complicated
Buyer’s Guide: Factors to Consider to Get the Best Car Ham Radio
If you want to find a car ham radio that offers you the best value for the money, you need to consider a few things.
The installation and mounting process of the ham radio should be simple and convenient and a single person should be able to do it. There are some ham radio models that come with complex or confusing manuals that may not be very helpful to beginner ham radio users.
To avoid this, make sure you check the instructions online.
Your ham radio will be mounted in a safe and protected place in your car so do they need to be hardy as well? If you like off-road and use your ham radio in rough and tough situations, then it will expose the radio to harsh environments. So low-quality radios will not last you a long time.
If you like to go camping in the wilderness or explore uncharted territories on your vehicle, I advise you to pay special attention to the durability of the radio.
As we saw in the reviews above, ham radio comes in a range of power. For the best performance, I recommend you get a ham radio with a power of 25 watts and above. Equipped with an antenna, the ham radio will have coverage for a few dozen miles. Many adaptable ham radios come with adjustable high and low power settings.
Also, remember that you do not need to use your radio at full power since it can drain your car's battery pretty fast.
Your ham radio should always deliver crisp, loud, and clear sound quality without any distortion or interference for accurate communication. In the same way, your mic should also transmit clear audio from you.
A ham radio that offers multiple memory channels will help you store more frequencies. This should depend on your intended use, though more memory channels are always a good bet. If you use your radio for only casual communication, this should not be an issue.
Scan functioning is very useful as it allows you to quickly locate saved frequencies that you need to use. Different ham radios come with different scan functionalities, including ones that restart automatically after an interruption and ones that start automatically on power-up
Your ham radio’s antenna should be long enough so that it transmits signals well. It should also be compatible with your radio. Keep in mind that some antennas will need a power supply of their own. Typically, the manufacturer will recommend a specific antenna for a specific ham radio model. You should follow their recommendations.
The radio display needs to be easily readable in all light conditions. Backlit displays offer superior visibility so they can be a great choice. In addition, some displays come with different background color options that can be customized according to the natural light available. This is particularly useful for people with color blindness.
A ham radio should be easy to program and set up. This feature is very important for beginners since you don’t want to have to spend hours learning its functions. Check out the process to program your radio and see if it can be programmed manually or require computer interference. If this is the first time you are using a car ham radio, then computer programmed ones are a better choice for you.
The affordability of a car ham radio matters a good deal. You do not want to end up buying a car ham radio that fits your criteria but costs you an arm and a leg. There are plenty of good-quality car ham radios in the market that can offer you a great balance between functionality and affordability.
The right ham radio can open up a lot of possibilities for you and allow you to have a lot of fun on your journey into the wilderness.
About THE AUTHOR
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding