The 9 Best Cell Boosters for Cars
This wiki has been updated 19 times since it was first published in February of 2017. If you're a frequent traveler to rural areas that have limited mobile phone service, or a long-distance truck driver, you could probably use one of these cell boosters. They improve phone reception inside cars and other vehicles by pulling signals from distant towers and amplifying them, ensuring that your calls won't drop and that your data-heavy apps will still work. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
November 17, 2020:
As these devices are designed to boost signal rather than create it, even the best choices can do nothing in an area that offers absolutely zero reception. If you’re unsure if a device will work in your region, it might be prudent to opt for a choice that offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, such as the Phonetone AN-L45AV or any of the WeBoost items on the list, like the WeBoost Drive Sleek, the WeBoost 475021, the WeBoost Drive 4G-X OTR, and the WeBoost Drive Reach.
In the interest of including some low-budget options, we retained the WeBoost Drive Sleek and added the Phonetone AN-L45AV. The former is compatible with all U.S. networks and carriers, however, it can only support a single device at a time. Whereas our new selection is limited to bands 12/17 and 13, so you'll need to check what frequency your cell operates on before purchasing, the upside is that it can connect to up to 50 devices at a time.
For a mid-range choice we added the WeBoost 475021, which the company claims can connect to cell towers up to 33 percent further away than their own WeBoost Drive Sleek. It can support multiple devices that are within a 36-inch range of the internal antenna, so it's great for car use but it might not provide total coverage to some large recreational vehicles. If you are looking to increase your signal throughout a motorhome, you're better off with the SureCall Fusion2Go 3.0 RV. It's designed specifically for this purpose and offers a good range from the internal antenna, however, it is up there with some of the most expensive items on the list.
July 10, 2019:
Cell boosters are incredibly useful if you spend a lot of time driving through rural areas. Incidentally, outdoor units are restricted by FCC rules to 50 decibels of gain or less, so that's ceiling for vehicle cell boosters. If you need one for a building, whether an office or home, there are a few more options to choose from. For that matter, if you need a new phone to use with any of them, we also have a great list of unlocked mobile devices that you should check out. One more thing worth mentioning is that two of Sprint's bands (26 and 41) are legally not allowed to be boosted, so that's another characteristic that all these have in common.
With that out of the way, there are two main varieties of receiver/transmitter combos available: single- and multi-user. Single-user models, like the Drive Sleek and SureCall N-Range, tend to be considerably less expensive, but they don't have a very wide transmission radius and can't accommodate more than one device. Multi-user models like the SureCall FusionGo, SmoothTalker X6, and Drive Reach are great for RVs because they promise to cover the vehicle's entire interior. There's also the matter of which antenna you should go with. The WeBoost Drive 4G-X OTR package that we highlighted is especially effective for truckers thanks to its super-high-quality aerial, which is designed for flexible installation and ruggedness that truck drivers will really appreciate. On the other end of the spectrum is the SureCall N-Range, which has a fin-style antenna that would be hampered if it was anywhere near a tall cab or trailer, or an RV air conditioning system. But, it's considerably sleeker, and if you're at all concerned about your car's looks, it's worth a shot, because it is quite effective.
A Brief History Of Cell Phones
The first attempts at making a wireless telephone came in Germany in 1918, when the military tried to create a system for military trains to communicate.
For most people of a certain age, their first introduction to cell phones came when they saw Michael Douglas use one in Wall Street. For the younger generations, they likely can't even fathom a time when cell phones didn't exist — like, what did you do all the time?
The first attempts at making a wireless telephone came in Germany in 1918, when the military tried to create a system for military trains to communicate. They tried to use this in the public sphere six years later, and soon people on one train were able to communicate with those on another.
WWII saw the rise of radio telephony, and following the war, Bell Labs attempted to create a way to make phone calls from cars. The first networks were extremely bulky, required lots of power and a human operator to connect calls, and were capable of sustaining only a few conversations at a time.
AT&T then began tinkering with the idea of mobile telephoning, and by 1965 they had a system that could support more simultaneous calls, as well as allow for the user to dial numbers on their own.
A few years later, the first cell towers started being installed. These used directional antennas to improve call quality, but users had to stay within the tower's range for them to be effective.
The first handheld mobile phone hit the scene in 1973, when a researcher at Motorola called his counterpart at Bell Labs, presumably to find out whether his refrigerator was running. This prototype wouldn't be made available to the public, however, and the first commercially-released handheld phone was issued a decade later.
That phone, the DynaTAC 8000X, cost a decent amount to develop — but the results were worth it, as it offered 30 minutes of talk time, took 10 hours to charge, and weighed roughly as much as a fat baby. It wasn't cheap to buy either. Still, demand for it was high, especially among the wealthy.
The second generation of cell phones came along in the early 1990s. They brought with them the future of communication: text messaging. After all, the worst thing about having a phone is that it required you to talk to people.
By the turn of the 21st century, 3G networks were starting to crop up, and with them came mobile broadband data. This meant that streaming both radio and TV broadcasts was possible. However, these networks weren't up to the task of handling that kind of data, so companies began to focus on developing 4G networks.
Public perception had shifted on these devices by this time, and they began to be viewed less as a trinket and more as a necessity. By the time the first iPhone debuted in 2007, they also began to be seen as both a personal statement and status symbol.
Today, just about everyone has a smartphone, and most people feel absolutely naked without one. In fact, some people think that the reliance on cell phones is undermining face-to-face conversa — hold on. We're getting a text.
Now what were you saying again?
How To Get The Best Reception Possible
It never fails — you've been on hold for 30 minutes, and just when a customer service representative gets on the line, your phone drops the call.
If this happens to you a lot, then there are a few simple tricks you can try to boost your cell reception while in your car.
You may find better service on the other side of that mountain, or once you're out of the woods.
The best thing to do is also the hardest. Once you get good reception, stop driving. You might be in a location where only a few spots get decent service, so don't squander one when you find it. Conversely, if you're not getting any service, keep driving until you do, and then stop there.
While you're driving, look around for any obstructions. You may find better service on the other side of that mountain, or once you're out of the woods.
Make sure your phone is fully charged, as well. Your phone needs juice to find the nearest signal, so keep it plugged in to your car charger as much as possible.
Also, if you have a case on your phone, try removing it. Some cases block your phone's internal antenna, hindering the reception.
If all of this fails, you might have to just suck it up and wait until you get closer to civilization to try again — or stay out in the boonies, if you're trying to avoid that call from your boss.
Talking While Driving: How Dangerous Is It Really?
You already know you shouldn't talk on the phone while driving, but chances are, you do it anyway. After all, how dangerous could it possibly be?
Actually, it turns out that it's extremely dangerous. You know how bad drunk driving is? Well, it turns out that talking and driving is worse.
Don't think you can get out of this by using your hands-free link, either.
It's not just talking on the phone that could kill you, either. Chatting with passengers is also incredibly dangerous, especially if you're the type who needs to make frequent eye-contact.
Don't think you can get out of this by using your hands-free link, either. That's just as bad as holding it up to your ear.
It seems that any activity that draws your attention away from the road — whether it's talking to literally anyone, texting, fiddling with the radio, searching for your lip balm, etc. — is akin to playing Russian roulette with your car.
So, believe the experts when they can tell you that your call or text can wait. It's not worth your life.