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How to Choose the Best CB Radio

Posted by Pat Haggerty updated

If you're trying to get a handle on the best CB radios available today, you've come to the right place. We specialize in CB radios for trucks, 4x4s, Jeeps and commercial / construction equipment and have listed our all-time favorite radios below.

An Important Note on Range

It's really important to understand that all CB radios transmit with the same 4 watts of power, as required by law. So the primary difference between CBs is their size and feature set, not how much power they put out and how far they can talk.

Make your decision based on what features you want or need and don't worry about radio range.

The only exception is SSB equipped radios, which transmit at 12 watts of power instead of 4 watts, and can legally give you more transmit range. We'll talk a bit more about SSB equipped radios below.

Best All-in-One Unit - Cobra 75 All-Road AM/FM CB Radio

Cobra 75 All-Road AM/FM CB Radio | Right Channel Radios

FM capability newly added! While most CBs take up a good chunk of space, the amazing Cobra 75 packs a huge feature set into an all-in-the-microphone unit. That's right, all radio components are built right into the oversized microphone assembly. So instead of struggling to find a convenient place to mount a massive CB, simply pick a spot to hang your mic and you're done.

The Cobra 75 packs a pretty impressive feature set, too, including weather, channel scanning, a backlit display and more.

Due to it's small size, the Cobra 75 is especially popular with 4x4, Jeep and other off-road vehicle owners that don't have a lot of extra cab space.  

----> See the Cobra 75 Here

Best Full-Sized Radio - Cobra 29 Series

I doubt many people would argue with this claim. If you're looking for the most well-known and reliable full sized CB radio on the market the Cobra 29 series is the undisputed champion. The 29 line of radios is especially popular with pickup truck owners and big rig drivers who have a bit more cab space to mount and install a full-sized radio.

The Cobra 29 has been a staple of the CB world for decades and decades and is, simply put, a reliable workhorse. Its traditional full-size radio chassis has room for all the bells and whistles, and these models are well known for working flawlessly for 10+ years in demanding conditions.

There are a number of 29 series models available, ranging from the classic "LTD" model with your standard features all the way up through models like the modern "LX" with colorful LCD displays. A few of our favorites are listed below:

  • Our Favorite Cobra 29 Models:
    • Cobra 29 LTD Classic AM/FM - All the features you need without any unnecessary bells-and-whistles. New version with AM/FM capability.
    • Cobra 29 WX NW ST - With weather channels & a full backlit display for easy night operations
    • Cobra 29 Chrome - Same features as the LTD classic, but darn, it sure looks pretty
    • Cobra 29 LX - Boasts a modern, high-tech color LED display
    • Cobra 29 LX Max - Sync your Smartphone to the Cobra 29 LX Max for safe hands-free communication

Best Heavy-Duty Radio - Uniden Pro 510 XL

A favorite choice of gravel pits, mines and construction companies, the Uniden 510 won't impress with flashy features, but it's our number one pick if you need a radio that can endure a constant beating and keep coming back for more.

These radios are built like tanks. They're small, rugged and very simple. As you can see below, they offer just a few knobs and dials for basic CB operation. But they outlast just about every other model in demanding, dirty, dusty, wet, rough conditions.

The Uniden 510 is especially popular with commercial and construction equipment as mentioned, and also 4x4 / off-road drivers who want a small and bulletproof radio for demanding trail conditions.

---> See the Uniden 510 Here

Best Portable Radio - Uniden Pro 538

Uniden Pro 538 AM/FM Handheld CB Radio | Right Channel Radios

As we discuss in our CB Radio Learning Center, achieving good CB range is primarily about using a high-quality, long antenna. While portable CBs with small "rubber duckie" antennas (the kind you see on walkie talkies) can conveniently be carried around, the range you'll get with them is usually pretty miserable.

That's why we love the Uniden Pro 538 AM/FM handheld so much. It's a superhero of the CB world, being able to quickly transform from convenient portable to long-range radio.

When you're using it in the car, you can slide the radio into the car docking base, which can be used with a permanent vehicle antenna to achieve maximum range.

Need to take it for a walk? No problem. Simply slide the radio out of the vehicle docking base, put on a battery pack, and connect a small rubber walkie-talkie style antenna. You're now 100% free to roam.

The Pro 538 is especially popular with people who need to occasionally use their CB out of the vehicle for communicating with other vehicles - perhaps for helping equipment backup or spotting large trucks.

---> See the Uniden Pro 538 AM/FM Handheld Here

Best Long Range CB - President McKinley

President McKinley SSB | Right Channel Radios

While most CB radios broadcast at 4 watts of power, SSB equipped radios can legally broadcast at 12 watts - effectively tripling the distance you can broadcast. The person you're trying to talk with will need to have an SSB radio as well to understand you.

Our favorite SSB equipped radio is the President McKinley. If you read the description of the Cobra 29 series above, much of why we like the McKinley will sound familiar. It's been around forever, is super reliable, and gets the job done without complaint. If you want a SSB radio that you can install and not have to worry about or fuss with, this is the unit for you.

If you're looking for something a bit flashier, we'd recommend the Galaxy 959. It has a cool retro look and a snazzy 5-digit frequency counter for tuning in those SSB signals. However, in our experience, it's not quite as beefy as the McKinley. If you'll be using your radio primarily in rough conditions, we'd recommend sticking with the President McKinley SSB.

---> See the President McKinley Here

Best Value Radio - President Adams

President Adams | Right Channel Radios

The President Adams isn't the absolute cheapest radio you can find, but in terms of value for the dollar, you'll be hard pressed to beat it.

For less than $75, you get a well-built radio with a 7-color display, manual squelch and more. In addition, It all comes in a small, compact package for easy installation. Usually a feature set like this would easily cost you $100+.

A close runner-up is the Uniden 510, which we've already talked about above. If you want an affordable, no-frills radio that will last forever, the 510 is a great choice. But, if you'd like to get the most features possible for your dollar, you can't go wrong with the President Adams.

--> See the President Adams Here

Radio Recommendations by Vehicle

While we've made a few references above to what radios work best for different vehicles types, we've broken it out below as well.

Own a Pickup Truck or Jeep? See our detailed Pickup CB Guide and Jeep CB Guide.

  • Our Favorite Radios For:


Overview of CB Radio Features

PA? SSB? RF Gain? Sorry, what? If you haven't been around CBs before, some of the features and lingo may be confusing. We'll explain what the different radio features and buzz-words mean below:

Squelch Control - Sets the break-point at which a CB radio outputs a signal. In effect, it keeps the operator from constantly having to listen to static and only activates the speaker when a transmission is received. This is a standard feature and is included with nearly every CB radio sold.

RF Gain - Allows the operator to filter the type of transmission a CB radio receives based on signal strength. It’s useful to block out faint transmissions to eliminate background noise when talking with someone with a strong signal. This feature can also be used to pull-in and better hear weak signals.

PA Capability - Allows use of the CB radio and microphone as a transmitter for a public address system. This requires a PA horn (usually not included) that can be mounted under the hood or on top of the vehicle.

Automatic Noise Limited (ANL) - Filters out static, engine noise and other interference from the reception signal to improve reception sound quality.

Weather Capabilities - CB radios with this feature have the ability to access local NOAA radio stations for real-time weather reports and updates.

Instant Channel 9 & 19 - The ability to quickly jump to two of the most popular channels: Channel 9 (emergency) and Channel 19 (highway/truckers).

Nightwatch and/or Backlit Displays - Several higher-priced models include a backlit radio display for convenient operation at night. This is an invaluable feature if a radio will be used extensively at night or in dark conditions.

Channel Scanning - A CB channel scanner works just like a radio scanner. It scans all of the available channels looking for activity. When it finds people talking on a channel, it stops scanning and lets you listen in. This makes it much easier to fine and tune into discussions without always having to manually be flipping through the channels.

Single Side Band (SSB) - SSB equipped radios let you transmit at 12 watts instead of 4 watts of power, effectively giving you 3x the transmission range. For others to be able to hear your transmissions - and reply - they'll also need an SSB-equipped radio, so you may not be able to communicate with everyone at 3x the range. However, all SSB radios can operate on standard CB channels (at the regular 4 watts) if you can't find any SSB buddies, and it's a great choice if you're outfitting a fleet of vehicles and maximum range is important.

Who Are We?

We specialize in rugged CB installs for trucks, Jeeps, 4x4s, construction equipment and other beefy vehicles. We're the nation's #1 source for heavy-duty CB needs, a reputation we earned the hard way: by giving more than 100,000 past customers the outstanding service they deserved.

Getting a Radio and Learning More

Hopefully this has helped you better understand what CB radio is best for your needs! At this point, we'd recommend checking out our entire selecting of CB radios or letting us recommend one based on your vehicle's make and model.  

---> Shop Our Entire Selection of CB Radios

---> See What We Recommend For Your Vehicle






Pat Haggerty

About the Author

As the owner and operator of Right Channel Radios, Pat Haggerty has been helping customers find the best radio solutions since 2008. He is highly knowledgeable in all mobile radio options and setups, including CB radios, GMRS radios, and HAM radios. His wide library of how-to and help articles is frequently referred to as one of the best resources for CB radio installations and technical support online. When he's not assisting radio enthusiasts online or on the phone, you can find Pat enjoying all that Montana's trails have to offer on his skis, mountain bike or Land Cruiser.

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