Despite the terminology for phones, for ham radio the term “mobile” is quite different.
If you want to use a ham radio for use while you’re hiking or walking about, you need a portable unit or handheld unit.
But if you want to use it while you’re driving, then you’re looking for the best mobile home radio. You can use this to communicate with another car when you’re driving with a group of cars on a long road trip.
Best Mobile Ham Radio Reviews
In this article, we have reviewed 3 types mobile ham radio: Dual Band, Tri Band and Quad Band. Let’s start..
Best Dual Band Mobile Ham Radio Reviews
A dual band ham is almost standard these days for the best models. With thus type of radio, you’re able to operate on VHF and UHF frequencies. So, which one is the best dual band mobile ham radio? You can start your search with these excellent models.
1. BTECH Mobile UV-50X2 50-Watt Dual Band Base Ham Radio
Plenty of people find this particular model easy enough to program and use. That’s surprising for a mobile ham radio this affordable, but it’s a pretty common opinion that the UV-50X2 may be the best mobile ham radio for the money.
There are too many plenty technical details to mention here, but this has some special features you need to know about. One is its use of an improved power chipset. This is a relief, since quite a few other ham radios put in a smaller one that eventually burns out.
With this you get 200 programmable memory channels, and you can easily edit channel preferences. that means you can put in additional squelch info, edit tones, and put in or take out channels from your scanning list.
The display is also good, and you can adjust it completely. You can have it display 2 channels with both sowing the channel name and frequency. You also transmit great sound from the mic, as you can customize the mic output.
This also offers several new modes for scanning, including auto scan during reboot, scan resume for interrupted scanning, and variable frequency scanning that lets you edit and scan the way you like it through the frequencies.
This also supports analog tones, along with CTCSS, 2Tone, 5Tone, DTMF, and DCS calling methods. You can set up your calling methods to call by group tones.
- Comprehensive user’s guide
- New scanning modes
- Auto power off
- Customable mic output
- Easy for you to program and use
2. TYT TH-7800 50W Dual Band Dual Display Repeater Car Truck Ham Radio
Installation for the TH-7800 is no problem, with fuses, brackets, and enough cable to get it right. The programming for this ham radio is quick and easy, using either the set software or CHIRP. The 2W speaker so terrific too, with clear audio and ample volume. You won’t have to wonder about what you just heard.
This gives you 809 memory channels. The full duplex feature you can listen to two different frequencies, or listen and speak using different frequencies.
This is also a solid unit, and can withstand use in rough road when you put it in an SUV or pickup truck. It can take bumps on the road, and you can open your windows as it deals with dust nicely. If you’re looking for the mobile ham radio for truck drivers, this may suit you.
The LCD display is also large and clear, with dual frequency display as well. It’s also a rather compact unit, with dimensions of 5.5 by 1.6 by 6.6 inches. All in all, this is a ham radio you shouldn’t have any problems with. The list of features is quite long, so you can have fun trying to learn your way around.
- 5, 10, 20, and 50W power output options for 144 MHz
- 5, 10, 20, and 35W power output options for 430 MHz
- Easy installation
- You won’t have trouble programming the ham radio
- Rugged ham radio with solid build quality, can handle rough roads
3. AnyTone AT-778UV Dual Band Transceiver Mobile Ham Radio
The price may seem a bit too affordable, and that might make you suspicious. But the quality of this ham radio can compare to more expensive models. It’s inexpensive due to the power limitations at 25W, but then other features and functions more than make up for this. This is still a dual band ham radio, with a frequency range of 136-174MHz (VHF) and 400-480 MHz (UHF).
With this you can make several types of calls. You can send single and group calls, selective calls, and emergency calls. You get 200 channels, CTCSS, DCS,DTMF and 5Tone functions. The display is in color, and you can rotate it 180 degrees.
This comes with a lighted keypad microphone, speakers in both the radio and the microphone, and a built-in cooling fan. The menu system is logical, and the interface is intuitive. Make your transmissions, and the audio your listeners get is loud and clear. You get that same audio quality with your own ham radio speakers.
- Small enough at 8 by 6.9 by 3.5 inches
- 200 memory channels
- Very useful programming software
- Lighted keypad microphone, with speakers in the mic
- Built-in cooling fan to avoid overheating
- Good receive and transmit audio
4. AnyTone Dual Band Transceiver VHF/UHF AT-5888UV Two Way and Amateur Radio
Now if the 25W power output of the AnyTone AT-778UV isn’t good enough for you, then you can switch to this 50W/40W ham radio instead. The power can be adjusted all the way down to 5W. This also comes with a lot of highly technical features, stating with 758 channels.
The display uses 3 colors, and it’s backlit as well for great clarity. You can easily see the 2 frequencies you’re monitoring at a glance. Here the keypad in the microphone is lighted as well, making it easier for you to press the right buttons.
The built-in speaker is also switchable, as you can put it in the ham radio body or in the mic. If you have an optional external speaker, you can use that too. Installation isn’t a problem, especially with the removable control head. When you can take off this faceplate, mounting this ham radio is a more flexible process.
This is programmable by PC, and you can download the software you need. This even acknowledges your smartphone, as it has a USB port to charge that smartphone of yours.
- Power output up to 50W
- Transmits on 136-174Mhz and 400-490 MHz
- Separate volume and squelch controls
- Backlit color display
- CTCSS, DCS (PL & DPL), ANI, DTMF
- Exceptionally sensitive receiver
5. Kenwood Original TM-V71A 144/440 MHz Dual-Band Amateur Mobile
This is a rather pricier model, but then its features give you your money’s worth. You can experiment with those features easily enough, as the user’s manual is very clear and helpful. These features include a high-power output at 50W along with 1,000 multifunction memory channels and multi-scan features.
This is also a true dual-band radio, as you can operate on VHF and UHF frequencies, or on two VHF or UHF frequencies. The display is nice enough, and it even lets you pick your backlight colors (2 different shades of green). The screen clearly displays the 2 frequencies even at a glance.
The build quality is also solid, so you won’t have to worry too much about bumps on the road. This ham radio can handle whatever your vehicle can.
It also helps that the interface is very simple, with knobs for the volume and squelch. Setting this up the way you want it won’t give you any problems. This is also easy to program, even without the programming software (which you need to get separately). The front panel is also invertible.
Kenwood has made another winner with this solid and easy to use ham radio, and it’s not surprising that many consider this their favorite model.
- Solid build quality
- Easy to use interface
- Clear and legible display
- 1,000 memory channels
- Easy to program
6. QYT KT-8900D 25W/20W UHF/VHF Two-Way Radios Dual Band Car Radio
Now we’re back to a really affordable model, which explains the 25/20W power output. It’s not too big at 10.6 by 6.1 by 2.6 inches and that’s no trouble in a sedan. Use CHIRP to program this (or the downloadable software), and pretty soon you’re good to go. Many think it’s the best ham radio for car drivers in its price range.
This is extremely easy to use, and even programming manually from the unit doesn’t give you a frustrating time. The sound you get is loud and crisp, and so is the transmit sound. You also still get 200 memory channels as well.
For those looking for a basic ham radio model with dual band capabilities, this is great. That’s especially true for those on a tight budget. This is even cheaper than some handheld units!
- Very inexpensive
- Easy to use
- Programming with CHIRP gives you no trouble at all
- Clear audio for receive and transmit
- 200 memory channels, and you can name frequencies with alphanumeric characters
- Comes with radio and microphone brackets, cooling fan, cigarette plug connector, and programming cable
Best Tri Band Ham Radio Reviews
With the tri band ham radio you get even more frequencies to operate in than dual band.
7. BTECH Mini UV-25X4 25-Watt Tri-Band Base, Mobile Radio
This is another BTECH, which means you can fit this more easily on a tight budget. If you can work with 25W power output, this should be considered. Just because it’s inexpensive doesn’t mean it doesn’t have all the other great features that you can find in the other ham radios.
This gives you several scanning modes, including auto scan, scan resume, and variable frequency scan. You get the improved power chipset that won’t burn out eventually, dual display mode featuring the channel name and frequency, great sound from your microphone, and the auto power off to save the battery.
With this you can edit saved memory channels without having to delete a channel and saving a new one. There are 200 channels for you to use for the frequencies you like. You get support for DCS, CTCSS, DTMF, and 2/5tone calling methods.
Even beginners will like this, since things are easy to figure out. It helps that the manual offers clear information, as it was written in the US. Your purchase includes the mounting bracket and hardware, along with the cigarette plug connector.
- Multiple scanning modes
- 20 channels
- Improved power chipset
- Can send DTMF tones
- Can edit channels on the fly
- Adjustable microphone gain
Best Quad Band Ham Radio Reviews
Some of these models are the top rated quad band ham radios, meaning you have 4 bands instead of 3.
8. Radioddity QB25 Pro Quad Band Quad-Standby Mobile Ham Amateur Radio
Radioddity is known for the quality of their handheld ham radios, but they’ve entered the mobile ham radio market with a bang. The QB25 Pro is their first mobile ham radio, but it’s like they’ve been making these things for years.
This gives you 4 bands (2 VHF and 2 UHF bands) to play with. To be more specific, you’re able to operate within these frequency ranges: 136-174MHz, 220-260MHz, 400-480MHz, and 350-390MHz. The 4-color display shows all 4 frequencies you’re using very clearly, and there’s no need to squint to read the screen.
The power options go up to 50W, and it is rather compact. All you need to do first is to learn the programming software, and once you do you can program this ham radio easily enough. It helps that your purchase already comes with a programming cable and it works with CHIRP as well.
This also comes with a very long list of features and functions that should please every user. You get multiple scan options, including auto scan, scan resume, and variable frequency scan. But what really sets this apart is that the sound from the speaker is much louder and clearer. You won’t have problems understanding what’s said.
This is a durable ham radio too, and even the built-in cooling fan is smart. It only works when the temperature reaches 113 degrees F so that it prevents overheating while conserving energy otherwise.
- Small enough at 3.8 by 1.7 by 5 inches that you can actually carry this
- The powerful antenna prevents excessive distortion and signal dropping
- 4 frequencies on the display
- Auto power off
- Easy to program, with the downloadable software or with CHIRP
- Smart cooling fan
9. TYT TH-9800 Quad Band 50W Cross-Band Mobile Car Ham Radio
This quad band ham radio operates on the 10 Meter, 6 Meter, VHF 2 meter & UHF 70cm bands, and you get 50W power output as well. There are actually too many tech features to mention here, though we do need to point out that this has 800 channels.
In fact, it may take a while for you to get really familiar with this model, since the unit has lots of buttons for you to figure out. But when you transmit, the audio you send out goes very loud and clear. Programming is also easy enough, especially with CHIRP. Once you’re done with the programming, you’ll find it easy to use. It’s very intuitive.
The build quality is excellent, and even on rough roads it shouldn’t give you problems. You can rely on this to work as expected for years. This even comes with a backup fuse, just in case.
- 50W power (can go as low as 5W)
- Full twin display and receive
- Signaling methods include DCS, CTCSS, DTMF, and 2tone/5tone
- Comes with power cable and mounting bracket
- Equipped with built-in cooling fan
10. SOCOTRAN Mobile Ham Radio Vehicle Transceiver Quad-Standby
This is a tiny ham radio (5 by 3.9 by 1.7 inches) and limited to 25W power output. But it offers several terrific features. It shows 4 channels on the main display, and this display is customable when it comes to the color scheme. You really won’t have trouble reading the data.
Programming is easy especially with CHIRP, and once that’s done it’s easy to use. Transmission quality is great, while the speaker is loud and clear enough. You get 200 channels as well. This supports DTMF, ANT, 2tone, and 5tone signaling. If the unit gets a bit hot, its built-in cooling fan turns on to prevent overheating.
- Supports DTMF
- 200 channels
- Very compact
- Can monitor 4 channels
- Easy CHIRP programming
- Good audio and reports on the other end
Mobile Ham radio Buying Guide
When you read mobile ham radio reviews, make sure you pay attention to reports regarding the following factors:
The Range of the Frequency
Exactly which frequencies can your ham radio receive signals and transmit in? This is crucial, since a wider frequency range offers more options for you. In general, the dual band ham radios let you operate on the VHF and UHF bands. You’re able to get FM voice and data transmission on the 144-148 MHz (2 meters) and 420-450 MHz bands.
If you’re mainly concerned about emergency transmissions, you can monitor for these if your radio can operate on the 50 and 222 MHz frequencies. You may also want to monitor the 1.2GHz band if you drive around in densely populated locations.
This is about how much power you can use as you transmit your signals. A higher output level lets you transmit stronger signals that reach farther. In handheld radios, the power output is limited to about 8 watts at the most. In some cases, you can only choose between 1 and 5 watts.
But for mobile, you have the opportunity to get higher power output. Aim for at least 10 watts (25 watts is much better), and try to get as high as 50 watts if you can.
When you’re driving around, you can’t spend too much time staring at your LCD display trying to decipher the information it’s showing. That’s an easy way to get into an accident. Even if you’re able to drive unscathed, you can get eyestrain with substandard displays.
Instead, you have to insist on a display that’s easy enough to read even at a glance. It should be clear enough for day and for night time use, and it’s best if you have a backlit display.
The number of memory channels you have will be important too, since this tells you how many frequencies, channels, and repeaters you can save in memory. This makes it easier for you to again access a favorite channel.
Get more memory channels and you can arrange and group them in ways that are convenient for you. The groups can be for particular topics (for weather alerts or for sports) or for the location of the station.
This is mainly about getting the NOAA alerts through your ham radio. This gives you important weather news that may concern you when you’re driving. You may get news about deep snow in one area, or flooded streets in another. If the weather predicts deep snow, you can also change your vehicles features (like your tires) to suit the new weather.
With too many frequencies for you to use, you need multiple scan functions to find he frequency you want quickly and easily. Scan functions can include a full scan, a priority scan, and a memory scan.
A mobile ham radio must be able to endure road conditions while you’re using it. Even if you’re driving on bumpy roads, you should be able to expect it to keep on working. It’s a waste of your money if you buy a ham radio that stops working just because you dropped it.
This is the feature that reduces channel noise so that you can communicate clearly over the radio. A ham radio is basically worthless if you can’t understand what you’re listening to over the radio.
Most ham radios can be programmed to suit your needs and preferences. Each ham radio has its own way of being programmed. Some can be programmed manually. This means you use the radio keypad to do your programming.
Other ham radios offer the option of letting you use a computer to help with the programming. Often the manufacturer lets you download free software for this purpose, and they can generally be used on Windows machines. Others allow for the use of OSX and Linux computers. Just be sure you get the right programming cable for this to work right.
Do some investigative work regarding the reputation of the brand of ham radio you’re thinking about buying. Some brands are known for its affordable models, other brands may be famous for the quality of their units or even the helpfulness of their customer support.
This needs to be mentioned, as it’s a crucial factor for every responsible consumer. Beginner ham radio user may want to stick to more affordable models, since they’re typically simpler and easier to use. More experienced can go with more expensive models that feature more sophisticated functions.
In general, it’s true that you get what you pay for. Buying a cheap model doesn’t make sense when your ham radio doesn’t last all that long and you can’ rely on it to work properly each time. However, some affordable models can be terrific, while some expensive ham radios may not be worth the money you’re paying.
Dual Band vs Tri Band Ham Radio
The names of these types of ham radio already tells you the main difference between the two. A dual band ham radio lets you operate on both VHF and UHF frequencies.
The tri band ham radio has a 3rd band, which is often the 220 band. This is the special part of the VHF fulcrum that’s reserved for ham radio use. More specifically, these are the frequencies from 220 MHz to 225 MHz.
What is a transceiver?
A regular ham radio has both a receiver and a transmitter. The receiver is the component that lets you receive signals. This means you can listen to various bands and frequencies and get the information you want. It’s pretty much like having an AM/FM radio. The transmitter is the part that lets you send out signals, which other people then listen to.
The transceiver is a more modern device that combines both the transmitter and the receiver into a single box. The most basic models are single band ham radios, but others are dual or tri band transceivers.
Do you really need a special mobile antenna?
This type of antenna is your best bet. A mobile antenna is designed to boost your signal while you’re driving around.
Why do I suffer from lots of noise when the engine is running, but the mobile ham radio is okay when the car engine is turned off?
There are plenty of possible reasons for this. These reasons can include ignition noise, when you get a tick-tick sound at low engine speeds and a low-pitched whine at higher engine speeds. The noise can be caused by the car computer, as most of today’s cars have computers controlling the vehicle and engine functions. It can even be a problem with the electric motor, or the source of the noise can be the fuel pump.
The best way to deal with this is to consult your dealer or your reliable car service expert. They can check if the car manufacturer RFI (radio frequency interference) service bulletins for problems like these. What you don’t want to do is to try to fix it yourself. This is especially true when you’re dealing with fuel-pump noise.
Can you use your mobile ham radio to replace your home base ham radio station?
This may be an option when you have problems sending out transmissions from your home due to antenna issues. Your mobile ham radio can be a great alternative of home ham base station. You can drive up a hill where you can then send your transmissions.
Mobile Ham Radio Installation
Installing a mobile ham radio in your car shouldn’t take a lot of time. It should only take 20 minutes at the most, with some even able to do it in 10 minutes. You need to check out the manual carefully, and it will help if you can watch a video on YouTube demonstrating the procedure.
But it really shouldn’t be that difficult. Here are the basic steps:
1. The Right Location
The first step is determining where in the car you want to put your mobile ham radio. You want this out of the rain and direct sunlight, so you can’t put it right on your pickup truck bed.
It should be inside the cabin, but not in any place that can disrupt your driving. Yet it should be near enough to you so you can easily reach out to answer a call. Obviously, you need enough space for the unit. You also need to make sure that there’s enough space around the heat sink. You need good air circulation in this area to make sure your ham radio doesn’t overheat.
2. Mounting the Ham Radio
Just follow the instructions on the manual. In general, your purchase should include the bracket and mounting hardware. If it doesn’t have these accessories, you may want to buy another model. Just mount and then make sure it’s secure. Check that it doesn’t wobble.
3. Testing the Ham Radio
Just turn the ham radio on and contact your buddies in your local ham community. Make sure you hear them clearly, and that your own transmissions are easily understood.
4. Driving Around
Now drive around with the ham radio on, and see if you can use it well enough that you don’t hamper your driving. Check for noise issues as well.
A mobile ham radio is generally a much more powerful transmitter than a handheld unit, and you can use this for many reasons as you drive around. But to get the best enjoyment out of ham radio hobby, you need to make sure that you get the best mobile ham radio you can afford. Just be safe—you don’t need to be distracted while driving either!
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