Best Mobile Ham Radio for the Money: 9 Terrific Amateur Radios for Your Car in 2023

Without any doubt, mobile ham radio is a fruitful investment for your vehicle. They can be your best friend for long journeys during network instability. Yet, the biggest mistake most people commit is by settling with ‘any’ amateur radio for their cars and trucks.

You should get the best mobile ham radio for your vehicle. Yeah, there is a stark difference between buying the best and a low-quality one. The advantages of buying quality vehicle mounted ham radios include:

  • Uninterrupted communication with peers
  • Noise-free communication
  • High durability

Our team has conducted research to bring you some of the top ham radios for the money in 2023. We are confident that these radios offer quality communication and feature some top-notch technological functions.

Here is a quick overview of our top choices:

Best Ham Radio for Car: Our Top Picks

1. Anytone AT-5888UV: Our Top Pick & Best for Car

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  • Exceptional VHF/UHF coverage
  • Easy programming
  • Great receiver sensitivity
  • 4 power ranges

2. BTECH Mobile UV-50X2: Easiest mobile ham radio to Use

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  • Battery saving feature
  • Value for money
  • Easy to operate once programmed
  • 200 programmable memory channels

3. Kenwood TM-281A: Sturdy Construction

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  • Compact construction with a rugged design
  • 200 memory channels
  • Excellent audio clarity
  • Simple to use

4. Yaesu Ft-8900R

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  • Selectable lower output settings
  • Backlit keypad microphone
  • Easy programming with cable
  • Convenient to set up

5. TYT TH-9800: Most Affordable mobile ham radio

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  • 800 channels
  • Loud and clear audio
  • Value for money
  • Long product life

6. Icom IC-2730A

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  • 1052 memory channels
  • Easy to install
  • Large display
  • 50-watt output

7. AnyTone AT-778UV: Top Choice For Portable Versatility

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  • 1-year warranty
  • Phenomenal color screen
  • Excellent performance
  • 180 degree rotatable TFT LCD display

8. Yaesu FTM-3200DR

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  • Rugged yet compact
  • Noise-free, crystal clear audio
  • Quick scanning
  • Severe weather alert feature

9. BTECH Mini UV-25X4

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  • 200 programmable memory channels
  • Dual simultaneous display
  • Top-notch size and performance
  • Auto power-off function to save battery

Why Get a Mobile Ham Radio for Your Vehicle?

Yeah, these radios allow you to communicate with your co-workers, family members, and friends. We know that. But, isn’t that the functions of other ham radios too?

Mobile ham radios are different in the following ways:

  • Unlike ‘fixed’ mobile ham radio is portable. It does not limit you to stay in one location. You can install it in your car to communicate while driving and carry it to the next place.
  • Unlike the handheld ham radios, mobile ham radios can be fixed at a particular location(like vehicles) and can be operated using one hand.
  • It features a broad spectrum of channels for you to choose from.
  • Depending on the band, you can communicate with people locally or globally! Mobile ham radios offer lot of bands including shortwave bands.
  • You can install it as a backup for when all else communication tools fail. Mainly when natural calamities like floods and storms occur.
  • They are an essential communication tool in most professions. It works well in defense forces as well.
  • Not only does it offer social benefits, but it also serves as an educational tool.

Best Mobile Ham Radio Reviews

1. Anytone AT-5888UV –Best Ham Radio for Car

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This AnyTone model is a full dual-band VHF/UHF mobile radio and is the best you can get for your car. It has a twin display and receiver, along with a cross band repeater. AT-5888UV features a continuous tone coded squelch system. It helps in reducing the unwanted noise that you usually get during two-way communication.

You may ask what makes it better than the other options. Its unique 758 channels, alphanumeric display, remote mountable faceplate, among many other features, make it worthy of appreciation.

AnyTone AT-5888UV has a DTMF feature, allowing users remote access and operation. Its built-in speaker in the microphone and radio is a great feature to look for outdoor operations.

The AnyTone AT-5888UV transmits VHF (136-174MHz) and UHF (400-490MHz). Its design enables the reception of 200-260MHz, 350-490 MHz, and 108-180 MHz frequencies. We have to tell you that the radio has exceptional frequency coverage along with four power ranges! Having scanned the market for other options, we can guarantee that you won’t find a better deal for a 50-watt transceiver that is VHF/UHF capable.

The transceiver delivers a pleasant ham radio experience to newbies and experts alike with its easy programming! And we wouldn’t like to have it any other way.

2. BTECH Mobile UV-50X2 – Fast Setup With Ease-of-use

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One notable feature of the BTECH mobile ham radio is the ability to edit the channel preferences. It allows you to perform the task without needing to program a new channel. You can select other features like tone, squelch information, or add/remove it from the scanning list.

The dual-band, 50-watt radio is a VHF and UHF transceiver. It has a storage capacity of 200 programmable channels. The incredible feature of this car ham radio is that you ca do manual programming. You can set it up with a PC for accessible programming!

Other remarkable features of the BTECH UV-50X2 include:

  • High/low power setting features
  • Dual synchronize display mode
  • Mic audio gain settings
  • Auto-scan
  • Quad watch delay time
  • A fully customizable multi-color LCD screen
  • Expanded frequency range

What most users love about this ham radio for car is that the frequency range is less than 1GHz. This feature allows it to navigate through walls and buildings, without any trouble!

With so many features, most modern devices have poor battery life. That can cause an interruption in communication and may be troublesome in emergencies. However, the unique auto power-off feature on this rig enables you to save the battery from draining.

3. Kenwood TM-281A – Sturdy and Reliable Truck Ham Radio

[amazon box=”B007470C0A” title=” Kenwood TM-281A” description=”A well built ham radio that is the first choice of many truck drivers”]

Like BTECH UV-50X2, Kenwood TM-281A offers 200 memory channels. This model has a matchless audio quality owing to its large speaker. If you’re someone who has trouble listening to audio due to background noise, this can be a feature worth looking at.

The compact and rugged radio produces a maximum power output of 65 watts. Like many other car ham radios, the radio too gives weather alerts to notify you of harsh conditions.

Due to its backlit LCD, users can operate it both day and night without any hassles. In addition to that, it features an illuminated keypad. Last but not least, its amber display adjusts up to 32 brightness levels.

Ham radios can be costly considering all the accessories you may want to add to it. In this case, it becomes crucial to purchase a product that shall last long. For this matter, always buy a mobile ham radio that has sturdy construction to withstand force. What better than Kenwood TM-281A in this regard?

4. Yaesu FT-8900R – Easy Programming

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Yaesu FT-8900R is among the top-rated receivers among the high power radios. It transmits 50 watts on 10, 6, and 2M, and 35 watts on 440MHz. It offers selectable lower output settings for you to adjust according to your needs.

Most users prefer this model over others for its vast memory storage of 800 channels. The ham features cross-band repeater mode, an alphanumeric display, and a backlit keypad microphone.

Some other notable functions of the Yaesu FT-8900R are:

  • Ten meters, six meters, two meters, and 70 cm transmit
  • Removable faceplate
  • Full duplex operation
  • Live dual displays

The best feature of this Yaesu ham radio for the car is its easy programming. With the help of a programming cable and your PC, you can program it without much hassle. You may need to purchase this cable separately.

Other than that, the device is pretty much easy to set up and operate.

5. TYT TH-9800 – Remarkable, Low-cost Car Ham Radio

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The maximum power output on this TYT ham radio for a car of the VHF 2M band is 50-watts. On the other hand, the maximum output of the UHF 10M band is 40 watts. The quad-band transmitter has a capacity of more than 800 memory channels that are in alphanumeric mode.

In addition to that, the radio comes with a fan to retain temperature. It helps in avoiding overheating that can damage the radio body.

One of the most appealing features of this device is the handheld microphone and microphone hanger. It becomes troublesome to try and reach for the receiver, primarily if it’s located away from the driver. However, with the help of the microphone hanger, you can hang it at any convenient place.

The TYT TH-9800 mobile ham radio uses dual-tone multi-frequency signaling. It features a handy backlit display to allow easy reading in broad daylight and nighttime.

6. ICOM IC-2730A – All-rounded Radio

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If budget is your top consideration, one economical option on the block is ICOM 2730A. This all-rounder features 1052 memory channels. It provides VHF/VHF, UHF/UHF simultaneous receive capability in addition to VHF/UHF.

The display size of the IC-2730A is quite large, making it easily readable. It displays the frequency and channel names against the white backlight to provide better contrast. Customers who have bought this Icom car amateur radio appreciate the ease of setup, all thanks to the plenty of instructions and video tutorials available.

Some other incredible features of the ICOM IC-2730A include:

  • Remote display
  • Optional Bluetooth headset
  • Remote control mic
  • Auto dial
  • Weather channel
  • 50-watt output

The audio on this rig sounds fantastic, both receiving and transmitting. The screen is quite appealing and allows for easy reading, especially when on busy roads. It offers an auto-dim feature and a cross-band repeat.

You might be aware that many brands pay attention to the memory channels but tend to forget about the memory management banks. Fortunately, ICOM 2730 A has over 1000 memory channels and ten banks.

Overall, we find the radio an excellent steal for its price. It has a pretty clean and sturdy feel and is exceptional sounding.

7. AnyTone AT-778UV – Top Car Ham Radio For Portable Versatility

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This mobile ham radio is another great choice for cars given the fact that it’s easy to disconnect and take away to any new location. One intriguing feature of this model is its 180-degree, rotatable LCD. It’s a cool feature not found in other competitor models.

The vehicle ham radio offers 200 channels, a lighted keypad mic, built-in speakers. To prevent overheating, it also includes a cooling fan. If it hasn’t convinced you yet, wait for more!

AnyTone AT-778UV features a single call, group call, selective call, and emergency call.

It is among the very few car ham radios that offer a product warranty. This model has a 1-warranty, along with a money-back guarantee! You can feel free to try out the product for a month and return if you’re not satisfied with it.

If programming the ham radio is your biggest fear, worry not! You can download the free software from the AnyTone website. It simplifies the process for you making it a complete breeze!

8. Yaesu FTM-3200DR – Exceptional Assistance In A Compact Package

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The list keeps getting longer and better with the addition of Yaesu FTM-3200DR. This car ham radio has a maximum power output of 65-watts! If you ask us, we find it a substantial investment, given its robust construction. That particular feature offers value for money, making it durable.

In terms of the technological aspect, the mod modes of it are C4FM with DFR or VFR. It features a loud and audible front panel speaker with audio output of 3-watts. The amateur radio includes a bright, multi-colored screen that vibrantly displays the transceiver’s status.

If all of the above characteristics don’t satisfy you enough, there’s more-

  • Severe weather alert
  • Illuminated microphone
  • 220 memory channels
  • Digital squelch code
  • Automatic mode select
  • Digital group monitor

FTM-3200DR is packed with a powerhouse of features. It delivers what it promises! We believe it to be a hit among most mobile ham radio operators and rightly so!

9. BTECH Mini UV-25X4 – Ultra Versatile Model

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This BTECH mini is a tri-band ham radio that allows you to watch up to three channels or frequencies. It provides for a simultaneous VHF/UHF, UHF/UHF, and VHF/VHF operation. Another interesting feature is the auto-scan mode. The feature helps to resume scanning after interruption or reboot.

Best of all, it offers two power settings. The auto-off mode on the BTECH mini helps to save battery and prevents unnecessary draining. There is a dual synchronization display mode which displays the channel name along with frequencies.

It is essential to note that this unique BTECH model has a frequency range of 65-108MHz. This type of frequency is used for commercial FM radio reception. The radio lets you choose between broadband and narrow band.

What sets this ham radio apart from the others is that it works as multiple radios functioning as one mobile ham radio.

How to Buy a Vehicle Ham Radio

best ham radio for car

The radio market seems to be overflowing with choices for transceivers. In a complicated situation like this, it becomes challenging to narrow down the choices to those that fit your needs best.

Although there are a quite lot of best quality ham radios out there, you have to find the one that works best for your car in this particular scenario.

Here’s a list of the critical features to you can consider to get a top ham radio for your vehicle:

1. Purpose

Before purchasing any product, you need to have a definite purpose for buying it. It plays a significant role in helping you simplify your options. For example, the purpose can help you identify your desired power range and budget constraints.

2. Output Power

How far your signals travel depends on the power capabilities of your car ham radio. If you are looking for a device that enables long-distance communication, you need one with higher power output. The best part about it is that the audio quality is better, allowing you to communicate with complete ease and comfort.

3. Budget

As a shopper, the critical step is to decide on a spending limit. Exceeding it can be financially-straining. Many top-notch features are available in smaller sizes and within reach mobile ham radios. It is best to scan through a variety to find one that best suits your budget needs.

4. Weather Alert

Mobile ham radio is a fantastic communication tool. Most importantly, it comes in handy when traveling in severe weather conditions. For this reason, one crucial feature to look for in your rig is the weather alert feature.

It notifies you regarding harsh weather conditions timely. It saves you from getting stuck in an unsafe place without any help.

5. Frequency

Your location serves as a determinant of quality communication. The frequency allocation depends on whether you are cruising on free land or a densely populated area.

According to experts, mobile ham radios use less than 1GHz. The short wavelength can pass through walls and buildings.

6. Display

A car ham radio should have an easily readable display. As a driver on a busy road, you cannot afford to look away from the road to perform essential functions. Most brands understand this common problem and now offer radios with backlit display. This allows you to take readings day and night, without any trouble!

7. Programmable

There’s no use in buying a car ham radio if you cannot program it. It becomes important when you’re a newbie or beginner. You can choose a radio based on how it’s being programmed.

Programming can be challenging, depending on the brand and model. For this reason, many beginners prefer spending money going to experts. Thanks to improving technology, you can use a cable to connect your radio to a PC. And Voila! It’s that simple.

8. Features

Before investing in a gadget, it is essential to note whether or not it has all the necessary features. Some of these include a touch screen, auto-power off function, quick scanning, plenty of memory channels, etc.

If you are all set, you can check out this video:


How do I know which mobile ham radio I need to buy for my car?

You can select the ham radio based on band communication. It depends on the kind of interaction you require. It helps you decide whether you need a UHF, VHF, or HF.

That depends on whether you are looking to communicate locally, nationwide, or globally.

Where to ground a mobile amateur radio?

You need to ground the mobile radio to the nearest metal part of the car. For this, you may use a braided strap or any other suitable material. Be aware that a thin wire will not do the job.

If you mount the radio antenna on the luggage rack or mirror mount, you will need to run a similar ground strap.

What are the watts of mobile ham radio?

Mobile ham radios broadcast between 25 to 100 watts.

Why not use a cigarette lighter adapter for mobile radio ham?

Most mobile ham radio experts advise against connecting the rig to the cigarette lighter plug. Using it can blow a fuse in the car, putting you and others around you in danger.

How to install a mobile ham radio in the car?

If you have found the right car ham radio, it’s time to set it up. Contrary to popular beliefs, the installation process is quite simple and should take you less than half-hour.

You can check out our mobile ham radio installation tips for more info.

  • The first step entails finding the mounting location. Protect the rig against direct sunlight, as well as rain.
  • Moreover, it should not distract the driver or come in the way while driving.
  • Next, you need to scan the vehicle for space available and mount it accordingly. Use installation brackets or ham radio hooks to secure it firmly. Any loose equipment can be hazardous for the driver and passengers.
  • Lastly, the mount should provide adequate air circulation to prevent the radio from heating up.
  • Finally, when the installation is complete, test the mobile ham radio by calling any other driver or friend. This step allows you to see if it is functioning right.

Concluding Remarks

Based on your requirement you can buy a single band, multiple bands, or a dual band mobile ham radio. We have listed some of our favorite and best mobile ham radios, irrespective of the bands. We are sure that you have not only found some efficient devices but also pocket-friendly ones.

Purchasing a ham radio for a car can be quite a challenge. Especially since the online and offline market is flooded with weak quality radios. Knowing this, we suggest you do your research before settling on any one product.

Moreover, our straightforward installation guide will help you ace the process without having to spend money on hiring someone. Make sure to invest in a car ham radio with an adequate product life and durable construction. There are many options on this list that fit the choice well!