The 9 Best CB Radios of 2021

The communication tool trusted by first responders and truckers everywhere

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The Rundown
This unit not only lets you communicate via shortwave radio, but you can connect it to your phone via Bluetooth.
The 7-inch LCD display can be set to one of seven colors to show off your personal style.
The Uniden PRO510XL proves that great CB radios don't have to cost a fortune.
If you need a CB radio with more features, but still want to stick to a budget, the Uniden PC78LTX is an excellent option.
This radio not only uses the 40 FCC-approved AM channels for communication, it also has 10 NOAA channels for keeping tabs on weather conditions along your route.
This radio features simplified controls for volume, channel switching, and RF gain and squelching to refine your incoming transmissions.
This handheld model is designed to switch vehicles with you, easily clipping to a sun visor, belt, or pocket for quick and easy access when you need it.
This CB radio is a popular choice with commercial shipping drivers because it features durable, reliable circuitry and plenty of features that have become standard for drivers.
he body of the radio measures just 6 x 10 x 2 inches and weighs around 3 pounds, making it easy to carry from vehicle to vehicle or from a workshop to the car.

The best CB radios not only keep you in touch with your dispatchers and team mates, they also allow you to monitor weather and traffic conditions and instantly call for help in the event of an emergency. Most models use either push-button or switch controls for instant channel 9 access so you can contact rescue workers and authorities if you have problems while off-roading or driving cross-country. Many modern CB radios like the Uniden PRO510XL feature compact and lightweight designs that can easily be mounted in a window or under a dashboard to keep your vehicle's interior clutter-free and keep your field of vision clear so you can safely drive without distractions. Handheld models like the Midland 75-822 often use 12V power or batteries, giving you more freedom of movement while staying connected to dispatchers, family, or rescue workers. 

A lot of models give you unprecedented control over your radio, including RF gain, noise cancellation, and even signal strength. This allows you to fine-tune your radio for crystal clear transmissions. If you want customization options, some CB radios allow you to connect external speakers, wireless microphones, or headsets for hands-free use or better output volume. No matter if you're an off-road enthusiast who wants peace of mind while hitting the trails or a truck driver delivering goods across the country, there is a radio model out there to suit. We've gathered up our top picks to help you decide which CB radio is right for you. 

Best Overall: Cobra 29 LX 40-Channel CB Radio

Cobra 29 LX 40-Channel CB Radio with Instant Access 10 NOAA Weather Stations and Selectable 4 Color Display
What We Like
  • Text to speech

  • Weather and emergency alerts

  • Bluetooth connectivity

What We Don't Like
  • NOAA alarms sound even when radio is off

  • Not compatible with all antennas

Dispatchers, drivers, and hobbyist off-roaders can stay connected with their team with the Cobra 20LXBT CB radio. This unit not only lets you communicate via shortwave radio, but you can connect it to your phone via Bluetooth so you can make hands-free calls or send texts without taking your eyes off the road. It also features caller ID announcements, text-to-speech, and the ability to read emails out loud for you so you can stay up-to-date on routes, timetables, and other travel information. With 10 NOAA emergency weather channels, you'll get alerts and alarms when dangerous storms are in the area to help keep you safe while traveling. 

Both the handset and external microphones feature noise-canceling technology to isolate your voice from engine and background noise so you can be heard crystal clear. The front panel controls allow for one-touch operation to answer radio and phone calls or to change frequencies for easier use. The LCD display can be set to one of four colors to suit your personal style or make information easier to read. The radio automatically runs signal and frequency strength tests as well as antenna connectivity and alerts you to any issues so you'll never be left stranded.

Best Design: Uniden BEARCAT 980SSB CB Radio

What We Like
  • Weather alerts

  • Wireless mic compatible

  • Noise cancelling handset mic

What We Don't Like
  • No Bluetooth connectivity

The Uniden Bearcat 980SSB radio may look like a fancy CD player faceplate, but it packs plenty of features that cross-country truckers, dispatchers, and off-roaders will appreciate. The 7-inch LCD display can be set to one of seven colors to show off your personal style and is controlled with easy to read buttons that are laser-etched to keep them from wearing away over time. The handset features noise-canceling technology and built-in RF gain protection so sent and received messages come through loud and clear. 

The unit can be operated hands-free with a compatible wireless microphone so you can safely respond to radio calls without taking your eyes off the road. With NOAA weather alert channels, you can stay ahead of or avoid dangerous weather along your route. The radio has a spectrum of 40 different channels and automatically switches to channel 9 in case of an emergency so you can call for help when you need it. 

Best Budget: Uniden PRO510XL CB Radio

What We Like
  • Under $50

  • Simple controls

  • Compact design

What We Don't Like
  • No Bluetooth

  • No NOAA channels

The Uniden PRO510XL proves that great CB radios don't have to cost a fortune. This radio retails for under $50, so whether you're looking for a budget-friendly option or a radio to tide you over until you can get a model with more features, you won't have to empty your wallet. The body of the radio features a sleek, compact design that can be mounted up out of the way to keep your field of vision clear while driving. The handset microphone has an extra-long, coiled cable to prevent tangling and make it easier to use comfortably. 

If you prefer hands-free operation, you can connect the radio to a wireless microphone or headset to keep you driving distraction-free. The front panel of the radio features a backlit LCD display to clearly show your in-use frequencies as well as LED indicators for incoming transmissions, mic use, and signal strength. There is a switch for automatic noise limiting that works with the radio's fine-tuned electronics to isolate your voice and eliminate background noise to prevent miscommunications and garbled transmissions. The simple dial controls make it easy to switch frequencies or adjust output volume on-the-fly.

Best Value: Uniden PC78LTX 40 Channel CB Radio

What We Like
  • Under $75

  • Instant channel 9

  • Plenty of controls

What We Don't Like
  • No Bluetooth

  • No NOAA channels

If you need a CB radio with more features, but still want to stick to a budget, the Uniden PC78LTX is an excellent option. This radio features multiple controls for microphone gain, RF gain, volume, noise-canceling, and Hi Cut to keep your transmissions crystal clear. The faceplate and control knobs of the radio have a stylish chrome finish for a clean, modern-looking CB radio. This model also has an SWR meter on the front panel to let you know your signal and antenna connectivity strength at-a-glance so you can quickly assess and fix problems. 

If you ever have an emergency on the road, this radio has an instant channel 9 function so you can call for help when you need roadside assistance or are having a medical emergency. The radio also has a PA function for talking to anyone outside of your truck or making announcements without having to get out of the cab.

Best Features: Cobra 18WXSTII Mobile CB Radio

Cobra 18WXSTII Compact CB Radio with Weather & Soundtracker
What We Like
  • Dual channel monitoring

  • Instant channel 9

  •  NOAA channels

What We Don't Like
  • No Bluetooth

If you're looking for a CB radio that has all the bells and whistles, the Cobra 18WXSTII is a great choice. This radio not only uses the 40 FCC-approved AM channels for communication, it also has 10 NOAA channels for keeping tabs on weather conditions along your route so you can avoid storms and dangerous situations like flooding or mudslides.

If you do find yourself in an emergency situation, you can instantly switch to channel 9 to call for help with the push of a button. Dispatchers and team members alike can take advantage of this radio's ability to monitor two communications channels at once, allowing you to speak to multiple drivers at a time, or keep in touch with team members while staying up-to-date with weather conditions. 

The radio features Cobra's proprietary Soundtracker system, which gives you tons of control over your mic and RF gain, squelch, and ANL levels for crystal clear communication. The front-facing speaker ensures that every incoming message can be heard clearly, and the 9-foot handset mic cord makes it easy to answer dispatch calls or check-ins without having to take your eyes off the road. 

Best For Beginners: Midland 1001LWX CB Radio

What We Like
  • Auto weather scan

  • ANL

  • Easy install

What We Don't Like
  • No NOAA alarms

  • No Bluetooth 

CB radio novices and newcomers can kickstart their hobby with the Midland 1001LWX radio. This radio features simplified controls for volume, channel switching, and RF gain and squelching to refine your incoming transmissions. With the push of a button, operators can turn the ANL function on or off to isolate your voice for clear, understandable outgoing transmissions so you can accurately give your location to dispatchers or communicate with other radio operators. The LCD display is backlit so it's easy to read both day and night so you can monitor your signal strength and channel selection at-a-glance. 

The compact, lightweight design makes it easy to place in a dashboard cubby, in a center console, mount under the dashboard, or window mount to keep your vehicle clutter-free and your view unobstructed; the radio comes with everything you need to install the unit including a bracket and all the wiring. When you need to keep an eye on the weather while you're driving cross-country or doing some off-roading, the radio automatically scans for and locks onto the strongest NOAA weather channel so you can stay ahead of dangerous storms and flooding. 

Best Handheld: Midland 75-822 CB Radio

What We Like
  • Dual channel monitoring

  • Battery or DC power

  • No hardwiring needed

What We Don't Like
  • No rechargeable batteries included

  • Shorter range than other models 

If you can't permanently install a CB radio in your vehicle or use multiple vehicles for your job, the Midland 75-822 is the perfect option. This handheld model is designed to switch vehicles with you, easily clipping to a sun visor, belt, or pocket for quick and easy access when you need it. With the 12V adapter, you can plug this CB radio into any cigarette lighter-style outlet in your truck, car, or SUV for power without needing to hardwire into your vehicle's fuse box or electrical system. It also runs on either 6 AA batteries or a rechargeable battery pack available from Midland. This is a great power option for if you have a roadside emergency and need to communicate issues to dispatchers or rescue workers; you can switch the unit to battery power and take it with you outside of the vehicle so you can relay information in real-time. 

Along with the standard 40 CB channels, it also can scan for any of the 10 NOAA weather channels to let you keep up-to-date with weather conditions along your travel route. With the push of a button, you can instantly access emergency channel 9 or information channel 19 if you need to call for help or monitor traffic situations. The dual-monitor function allows you to listen to your communication channel and either an emergency, weather, or information channel simultaneously so you'll never miss important incoming transmissions from dispatchers or anyone calling for help. The handset is compatible with headsets so you can use the radio hands-free, keeping you driving safely and legally.

Best for Truckers: Uniden PRO520XL Pro Series

What We Like
  • Compact and lightweight

  • Simple controls

  • Instant channel 9

What We Don't Like
  • No NOAA channels

  • Weak stock antenna

Cross-country and in-state truckers will love the Uniden PRO520XL CB radio. This CB radio is a popular choice with commercial shipping drivers because it features durable, reliable circuitry and plenty of features that have become standard for drivers. A simple switch allows you to instantly connect to emergency channel 9 to call for help during a roadside emergency. Another switch lets you turn the radio into a PA system so you can call out to anyone outside of the truck; useful for maneuvering at distribution centers, allowing you to warn anyone who may be in your blind spots that you're going to move into or out of a loading bay. 

Simple dial controls let you adjust volume, select channels, and fine-tune your squelch and ANF for clearer transmissions. The compact and lightweight design makes it perfect for mounting out of the way to keep your truck cab from feeling cluttered and keeping your field of view clear. If you want better sound output, you can connect an external speaker to the radio for louder incoming messages.

Best Compact: Midland 5001Z 40 Channel Mobile CB

What We Like
  • Ergonomic handset mic

  • Dimmer switch

  • Instant channel 9

What We Don't Like
  • No NOAA channels

  • No Bluetooth

Gone are the days where CB radios were built like tanks and massive in size. The Midland 5001Z is the perfect CB radio for anyone who wants to tuck it away on a shelf or mount it in a smaller vehicle like an SUV or typical passenger car. The body of the radio measures just 6 x 10 x 2 inches and weighs around 3 pounds, making it easy to carry from vehicle to vehicle or from a workshop to the car. The front panel not only features simple dial controls for selecting channels and adjusting volume and RF gain, but it also has a meter for monitoring analog power output so you can quickly assess any issues preventing you from clearly sending or receiving transmissions. There is also a dimmer switch to reduce the brightness of the LCD channel display; this is great for cross-country truck drivers who need to sleep in their cab bunk. 

The handset microphone has an ergonomic design, making it comfortable to use for long, over-radio conversations with dispatchers, team members, or fellow off-roaders. It also has a clip on the back that lets you secure it to your sun visor or seatbelt for easier access. If you encounter a roadside emergency, a simple flip of a switch lets you instantly access channel 9 to call for help. The body of the radio also has external speaker jacks so you can customize your radio setup for better sound and volume output. 

Final Verdict

The Cobra 20LXBT (view at Amazon) is the best CB radio available for commercial shipping professionals and hobbyists. Not only can it use the 40 standard CB channels, it connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth, allowing you to make and receive calls, send texts, and even read emails without taking your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel. It also has text-to-speech capabilities for caller ID so you always know who is trying to contact you.

A close runner-up is the Uniden Bearcat 980SSB (view at Amazon). This radio features a stylish, chrome design that allows it to blend into almost any car interior. The buttons feature laser-etched lettering for long-lasting readability. The handset microphone features built-in noise-canceling technology to isolate your voice from background noise for clearer outgoing messages.

About Our Trusted Experts

Taylor Clemons has over three years of experience writing about games and consumer technology. She has written for Lifewire, Digital Trends, TechRadar, and her own publication, Steam Shovelers.

FAQs

What is the average range of a CB radio?
This answer can depend on your particular setup or even environmental factors. But stationary CB radio can typically reach 10 to 15 miles, a mobile unit 5 to 7, and a handheld unit can reach up to 2 miles. These estimates are based on the assumption that your radio is using the maximum wattage allowed by the FCC.

Do I need a license to operate a CB radio?
The FCC used to require a license to operate CB radios but has since discontinued that requirement.

What exactly is a CB Radio?
CB stands for Citizens Band, and is a 2-way voice communications system for the general public, as opposed to police or military bands. Having a CB radio simply allows you to communicate with other CB radios that are in range and are on the same channel.

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