The 10 Best CB Radios

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This wiki has been updated 31 times since it was first published in February of 2015. When you're out on a long haul traversing deserted highways and the coffee and No-Doze just won't cut it, perhaps a little friendly conversation over the CB radio will keep you alert. Even if you're at home, communicating with those who continue to invest in this technology can be an entertaining way to pass the time, and you might even make some new friends along the way. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Uniden Beartracker 885 Hybrid

2. Cobra HH50WXST Hand Held

3. Galaxy DX-959B Mobile

Editor's Notes

December 03, 2020:

A few of the models from our previous list have seen nice upgrades, one of the most exciting of which has got to be the Uniden Beartracker 885 Hybrid, which takes all of the functionality and reliability of the Uniden Bearcat 880 and combines it with an outstanding emergency scanner. It also fixes a minor problem with the 880 that saw some of its screens fading a bit over time, and becoming difficult to read in bright daylight.

The Cobra 29 LX Max is another upgrade that allows its users to pair the radio with their smartphones, making this a particularly smart choice for anyone that wants to set up their radio in a car or truck, as you can take calls with the microphone and not have to fumble with your phone while driving.

We also increased the number of handheld options on this iteration of our list, adding the Cobra HH50WXST Hand Held and the Uniden Pro-Series 501HH. That Cobra model is our favorite of the bunch, mainly because it has one of the cleanest sounding speakers in the business, and because its screen is bright and full of useful information.

November 26, 2019:

In revisiting this list, we wanted to be a little more strict with our definition of a CB, which should technically operate on an 11-meter band, as compared to a ham or amateur radio. The AnyTone AT-5555N on our previous list, for example, only offered a 10-meter band, with a relatively simple procedure for modification that could extend it to 11 meters. This effort we felt was unnecessary given the quality of the other models on the market and the likelihood that such an alteration would void the device's warranty.

We also said goodbye to the Cobra 29LX Camo, which had been upgraded by the company to the 29LX Max, but that has not been well-received due to a litany of issues, from the performance of its receiver to its overall build quality. To make up for these losses, we added the Midland 5001Z to our list, which is a slightly less advanced model than the Cobra 29 LTDCHR, but that offers a nice, old-school design.

4. Cobra 29 LX Max

5. President Electronics McKinley USA

6. Uniden Bearcat 880

7. Midland 75-822 40-Channel

8. Uniden Pro-Series 501HH

9. Midland 5001Z

10. Uniden Pro520XL

What Is A CB Radio?

At any given time, only one user, known as a station, may transmit a signal.

A citizens band radio, or CB radio, is type of short wave radio frequency that individuals can use to communicate with each other. It has a transmission distance of 40 to 100 miles, depending on your equipment and atmospheric conditions, and can be used for business or personal communications. Users don't need any kind of license to legally transmit over any of its 40 channels. None of the CB radio channels belong to any specific station and instead are shared by all users.

At any given time, only one user, known as a station, may transmit a signal. Other stations must wait for the communication to be over before starting their own transmission. For this reason, it is common for waiting stations to broadcast the word "break" during a period of radio silence. This is to notify the people currently using the channel that others are waiting.

Despite the advent of cell phones for personal communications, there are many consumer groups that still use CB radios on a regular basis. It is common for truckers to use CB radios to communicate with other drivers to keep themselves amused during long rides or to inform others of road conditions.

Many contractors who need to keep in constant communications with workers on other job sites often choose to use a CB radio as opposed to a cell phone as well. There are also a large number of radio hobbyist who enjoy the traditional style and lingo of CB radio communications.

A Brief History Of The CB Radio

The CB radio service was created in the United States in 1945 as one of a number of other personal radio services that were regulated by the FCC. Initially there were two classifications of CB radios, "A" and "B". Both originally operated on the 460–470 MHz UHF band, but Class B radios were limited to a smaller frequency range.

This is what evolved into the popular Citizens Band as we know it today.

In the late 1940's, a man by the name of Alfred J. Gross started the Citizens Radio Corporation with the intention of producing Class B handheld CB radios for general public use.

Unfortunately, at the time, these UHF radios were not affordable and it wasn't until 1958, with the inception of the Class D radio service that it began to catch on. Class D was created on the 27MHz radio frequency, which had 23 channels. This is what evolved into the popular Citizens Band as we know it today.

Initially CB radios were mostly used by small businesses, truck drivers, and radio hobbyists, but as the cost, weight, and size of the radio devices began to drop in the late 1960s, they started to become popular with the general public. CB slang started to evolve, CB clubs were formed, and the CB 10 codes came about.

How Does One Use A CB Radio?

Operating a CB radio is a simple endeavor that doesn't require any special training or know how. Getting started is as easy as buying a CB radio, mounting your antenna, and tuning into a popular channel.

Channel 19 is a good one to start with as it is most commonly used, so you should hear people talking relatively quickly. Channel 6 is usually jammed up by illegally over-powered pirate radios who broadcast for long periods. You can take some time to explore any of the 40 stations you choose though.

Operating a CB radio is a simple endeavor that doesn't require any special training or know how.

Once you've got yourself tuned in, you can start sending out your own communications. If there are people currently using the station, wait for a pause in the conversation and then broadcast the word "break." This will let the other users know you are waiting for your turn to transmit. Once it is your turn, begin with a radio check. This allows you to check that your transmission is being sent out loud and clear. If no one responds after a minute or two, you can re-issue another radio check.

Once someone responds, you can initiate a conversation, but take note of the other user's tone and attitude. Some operators are chatty hobbyists that can't wait to start a conversation, while others are truck drivers who are at the end of a long shift and may have no interest in talking.

Remember to always be polite and not take up too much time on a crowded channel. You should not broadcast for more than five minutes continuously, and then wait at least one or two minutes before starting another transmission. If you want to have a long and drawn out conversation with another user, agree to meet on another less crowded station.

Daniel Imperiale
Last updated by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel Imperiale holds a bachelor’s degree in writing, and proudly fled his graduate program in poetry to pursue a quiet life at a remote Alaskan fishery. After returning to the contiguous states, he took up a position as an editor and photographer of the prestigious geek culture magazine “Unwinnable” before turning his attention to the field of health and wellness. In recent years, he has worked extensively in film and music production, making him something of a know-it-all when it comes to camera equipment, musical instruments, recording devices, and other audio-visual hardware. Daniel’s recent obsessions include horology (making him a pro when it comes to all things timekeeping) and Uranium mining and enrichment (which hasn’t proven useful just yet).

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