We want to ensure our potential customers are as educated and informed as possible! So we’ve compiled a list of the five most common mistakes people make when purchasing CB equipment. We’ve outlined each mistake and how you can avoid making them. If you can steer clear of these common mistakes, you should be well on your way to assembling the ideal CB setup for your needs.
Mistake #1 - Spending Too Much on the Radio
The Mistake: People often think that the more you spend you on a radio, the farther you’ll be able to transmit a signal. Nothing could be further from the truth! While you may get additional radio features, you won’t see any improvement in range from a larger radio investment. All CB radios are limited by FCC regulation to 4 watts of transmission power, so one radio model doesn’t have more range potential than another. The biggest differentiator between models is a radio’s features: weather, PA functionality, backlit displays, etc.
How to Avoid It: Identify which bells and whistles you really need in a radio, and don’t spend more than is necessary to purchase a model with those features. We carry more than 30 different radios with models in every price range, so you should be able to find a model that contains the exact features you need. You can learn more in our guide to CB radio selection.
Mistake #2 - Spending Too Little on the Antenna
The Mistake: People often spend the majority of their money on a radio and subsequently spend much less on the antenna. This is a recipe for a poorly performing CB installation. Due to the FCC's 4-watt restriction for all radios, the CB antenna is the single largest determinant of transmission and reception performance! A quality antenna will provide years of superior performance, but a budget antenna will often cause frustration and unmet expectations for the owner.
How to Avoid It: Spend as much as you can afford on the antenna. If you can avoid mistake #1, you should have some extra money to put toward a quality antenna. As a general rule of thumb, spend more than you’d initially think on the antenna and less on the radio. When you’re able to talk twice as far as your friends with high-tech radios and budget antennas, you’ll be glad you did! You can learn more about picking a great antenna in our comprehensive Guide to CB Antenna Selection.
Mistake #3 - Not Having Access to a SWR Meter
The Mistake: Contrary to what you may have heard, CB antennas are not ready to use right out of the box. To work properly, your antenna needs to be adjusted to your specific vehicle via a process called “antenna tuning." Although antenna tuning is fairly straightforward and doesn’t require any special technical skills, it does require an inexpensive device (approximately $25) called an SWR meter. Failure to properly tune a CB antenna is the #1 cause of CB performance problems. Not tuning an antenna will result in poor transmission and reception range (often less than a mile) and user frustration, and it has the potential to permanently damage the CB radio.
How to Avoid It: Whether you borrow one from a friend or buy one with your other CB equipment, make sure you have access to a basic SWR meter for installation. It is impossible to understate the importance of tuning your antenna. It makes no sense to spend hundreds of dollars on CB equipment and not tune your antenna. It’s like buying a beautiful $5,000 Gibson guitar but not bothering to buy a $10 guitar tuner. While you’ll be able to play the guitar, it will be performing at a fraction of its potential. All Right Channel Radios customers receive access to exclusive installation and troubleshooting materials after placing their order. These materials provide detailed, step-by-step instructions on antenna tuning and other issues.
Mistake #4 - Choosing Convenience Over Function
The Mistake: Antenna convenience and performance are often in conflict, as longer antennas tend to perform better than shorter antennas. People frequently purchase an antenna based on how simple it will be to install or pick one that won’t extend very high above the vehicle. Though this may initially be convenient, performance can be disappointing. For example, window through-the-glass CB antennas are extremely popular -- they're incredibly easy to install, often less than a foot tall and stick to the window -- but their performance almost always leaves the owner disappointed.
How to Avoid It: When picking an antenna, be realistic about the range you need or want. If you simply need recreational performance for occasional road trips, a 2’ or 3’ antenna providing a 2- to 3-mile range should suffice. However, if you want maximum range for business or critical operations, don’t buy a budget 2’ antenna and expect it to perform well. For situations where a maximum range of close to 10 miles is necessary, you’ll need a 5’, higher-end antenna from a quality manufacturer. Additionally, when choosing a mount location, realize that the most convenient location (lower down on the vehicle) will not perform as well. Try to make use of quick disconnects and other accessories so you're comfortable placing the antenna as high on the vehicle as possible. You can use Right Channel Radios's guide to Choosing the Right CB Equipment to better understand what antenna and mounting location is right for you.
Mistake #5 - Buying on Price Alone
The Mistake: Like most things in life, you usually get what you pay for, and this is definitely true for CB radio equipment! People often buy the cheapest components they can find and then wonder why their CB installation doesn't perform well and wears out quickly. As CB equipment is typically exposed to the rigors of mobile use and the elements outside the vehicle, cheap equipment will often disappoint both in terms of durability and transmission performance.
How to Avoid It: Especially with antennas and mounting hardware, we strongly recommend purchasing high-quality components. They may cost a bit more, but are usually built from superior materials and will hold up much longer than budget purchases, saving you hassle and money in the long run. Also, performance is almost always superior to the budget products due to finer engineering, design and construction. The same principle applies to pricing across different retailers. When evaluating different retailers, please keep in mind that your CB purchasing experience doesn't end once you've placed the order. While getting the lowest price available is great up front, the appeal quickly evaporates if shipping is delayed, the business is uncommunicative, or trying to return something becomes a nightmare. Make sure you're dealing with a trusted retailer and, if in doubt, do a little research on the reputation of the company. For details on what sets Right Channel Radios apart from other CB shops, please see our About Us page.