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CB Radios - Your Best Option?

Aug 10, 2008
CB radios emerged in the 70s as a popular method for communicating on America's roadways. While not as mainstream as they once were, CB radios are still widely used by owners of trucks, jeeps, RVs, cars and motorcycles.

There are a number of alternatives to CB radios which include two-way radios, GMRS radios, HAM radios and business band radios. In order to choose a solution that best fits your needs, it's important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each available option. CB radios, like all the previously mentioned radio types, have a number of unique advantages and disadvantages that should be evaluated when considering a purchase:

Advantages

No Licensing Fees: Unlike some types of radios, CB radio operators aren't required to obtain a license from the FCC. This makes CB radios a very convenient choice if you don't want to hassle with licensing exams and requirements.

Widespread Acceptance: CB radios are the most widely used means of radio vehicle-to-vehicle communication on America's highways. On virtually all major roadways, you'll be able to hear activity on Channel 19, the most widely used CB channel. Whether you'd like to obtain traffic information, road condition updates or just strike up a friendly conversation, you'll be able to on a CB due to the radio's widespread use.

Cost Effective: It's possible to purchase a complete CB radio setup (including a radio, antenna and mounting hardware) for well under a $100. On a cost basis, CB radios can match, if not beat, most radio options. Additionally, they are usually permanently installed in a vehicle which provides for additional convenience and professionalism.

Disadvantages

Restricted Range: Due to restrictions by the FCC, all 11 meter CB radios are restricted to 4 watts of transmission power. This usually limits a CB radio's effective range to eight miles or less, dependent upon terrain and weather conditions. While CB radios are effective for short to intermediate transmission distances, they aren't well suited for someone with long range communication needs.

Antenna Requirements: As all CB radios transmit with the same 4 watts of power, the antenna is the primary determinant of system performance. Subsequently, CB radios need to make use of large externally mounted antennas to perform well. As these antennas tend to run anywhere from 12 inches to over 5 feet in length, they can be impractical and inconvenient on many vehicles. While short antennas can and are used, they usually produce inadequate radio performance.

Permanent Installation: CB radios generally require a permanent installation due to antenna and performance concerns, and are not a practical choice when a compact and mobile means of communication is required. Handheld CB radios are available, but tend to provide sub-standard performance unless used with a long telescoping or external antenna.

Summary

CB radios are still a widely used means of communication, especially on America's roadways. While not suited for everyone, they offer an extremely affordable and convenient way to communicate for those who understand the medium's strengths and limitations.
About the Author
Right Channel Radios specializes in CB radios and CB antenna sales. They carry a wide selection of CB products from manufacturers such as Cobra, Galaxy, Wilson, Firestik and K40. Their website hosts a CB Resources Library that contains a number of educational articles covering CB equipment selection, installation and troubleshooting.
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