Handheld Ham Radio Buyers Guide

Looking to buy a handheld amateur radio? There are dozens of options from many manufacturers with a broad range of available features and capabilities. This guide gives simplified advice to help you choose your first radio so you can get on the air without having to learn about all of the VHF/UHF operating modes, features, and capabiltiies.

This guide also is useful for more experienced amateur radio operators who want detailed comparisons of features so you can make an informed purchasing decision balancing the tradeoffs between budget, features, durability, and ease of use.

Handheld radios have limited power; none transmit with more than 10W and most top out at 5W. With this power profile, the antenna you use makes a tremendous difference in how effective your transmissions are. Most handhelds come with a fairly low performance antenna. Buying a new antenna is an inexpensive way to meaningfully increase the effectiveness and range of your transmissions. This guide includes a section on portable antennas to help you get the most out of your radio.

Buying Advice For Your First Radio

Any of these radios will allow you to send and receive on the two most common handheld radio bands. You will be able to use ham radio repeaters. None of these radios have any digital modes, nor do they have Bluetooth or GPS radios. They are listed in increasing order of price, but also increasing order of quality and features.

Select by Budget

You can select a radio based on the amount of money you want to spend. Prices are dynamic and often fluctuate. This guide groups the radios into four budget categories. All prices here are listed in United States Dollars. The categories are:

Select by Intended Use

Select by Features

There are

Browse by Brand

Where To Buy

I don't participate in any affiliate programs, nor do I accept or receive money from any manufacturers, distributors, sellers, or any other companies or entities. Because it would be lots of work to maintain links to all the online sellers for each handheld radio included in this guide, I don't do that. Rather, I have a list of online retailers who carry handheld amateur radios.

Radios to Add to This Guide

We all have a todo list. Here's the list of radios that I'd like to add to this guide: