The 5 Best Police Scanners of 2020

Stay informed with what's going on around you

The best police scanners provide clear audio, are a breeze to set up and use, and pick up a broad range of frequencies. They let you stay on top of events and ahead of the curve of a number of potentially dangerous situations, or stay abreast of local news even before it's reported on television.

Our top pick, Whistler's TRX-1 at Amazon, exceeds all those standards, and includes additional features like adverse weather warnings and a handy backlit keyboard. It's easy the best police scanner on the market (and the most complete), and a great complement to one of the best home weather stations from our list.

Best Home: Uniden HomePatrol-2

With an easy to rest stand, the Uniden HomePatrol-2 digital scanner with a pre-programmed database is a highly functional scanner that’s perfect for any room in the house. Introducing specialized features such as quick record, playback and instant replay, the Uniden is a highly recommended digital scanner that can be up and running in three minutes or less. There’s no programming needed here, just enter your zip code and HomePatrol-2 will load all the recognized police, fire and EMS channels in the surrounding area.

Weighing just 1.1 pounds, the HomePatrol-2 can be easily moved from room to room in the house and, with the included tilt stand, there’s room to both watch and see the scanner in action. Additionally, the inclusion of a touch screen was an industry first introduction with the HomePatrol-2. Uniden also includes rechargeable batteries that last between five to six hours before needed to recharge, but there's also an AC adapter cable for recharging directly from a wall outlet. 

Best Digital: Uniden BCD996P2

There aren’t that many brands in the police scanner game (as you can probably tell with a quick skim of this very list). Obviously, Uniden is one of them. Meant as a one-stop-shop for analog scanning and digital listening, the BCD99P2 has you covered, even if it does so in a fairly large package. First, it covers all the communications modes including APCO 25 Phase I & II, X2-TDMA, Motorola, EDACS, and LTR trunked. It’ll also offer continuous band coverage spanning 25 MHz to 1.3 GHz, though that excludes cellular and UHF TV for the cleanest scanning signal. Factor in 25,000 different dynamically allocated channels and you’ll have enough options to cover all your local systems, recalled via the pretty-intuitive internal memory of the unit. In short, it’ll offer you similar features to Uniden’s BCT15X, but with the addition of digital scanning options. It all comes in an 11 x 3.75 x 8.5-inch unit with a bright display and easy-to-navigate buttons.

Best Analog: Uniden BC75XLT

Featuring the ability to connect to public safety, military aircraft and racing scanner channels, Uniden’s BC75XLT is a terrific choice for analog scanner fans. The built-in search functionality is second-to-none and quickly identifies channels for police, fire, marine, air, weather and more, which makes the BC125AT a very much pickup-and-go analog scanner. The ability to save 300 channels into the scanner’s memory or 30 channels total in 10 separate banks allows easy scanning for current transmissions on each stored channel. Additionally, the inclusion of Close Call RF capture technology assists the BC75XLT in identifying and detecting nearby transmissions even if they aren’t pre-programmed into a channel. Powered by two AA batteries, the 14.4-ounce scanner is both lightweight and designed to fit in the hand with superb reception as long as you’re in a strong-signal area.

Best Vehicle: Uniden BCD536HP

Uniden’s BCD536HP scanner offers some of the easiest-to-program features available on a vehicle-based scanner. There’s even a Wi-Fi option that allows you to use the exclusive Uniden siren app on your smartphone or tablet to access the scanner from anywhere in the home or vehicle. The LCD backlit keypad helps to illuminate the keypad and display, so you can quickly program your favorite frequencies. Included within the packaging are home and auto power cords, as well as a mounting bracket for inside the vehicle (plus instructions for appropriate wiring and installation). There’s no battery power to worry since this Uniden scanner runs entirely off the car battery. Additionally, the BCD536HP was one of the first Uniden scanners to incorporate the HomePatrol data, which allows the easy entering of a zip code and you're ready to listen in.

Best Smartphone App: Smartest Apps 5-0 Radio Police Scanner

While the focus of scanners is almost always concentrated on the utilitarian design of the handheld and car-ready hardware, there’s a new and most formidable entry in the market. The 5-0 Radio Police Scanner app available for the iPhone and Google’s Android software has had more than 25 million downloads. Users can listen to feeds in the background, including police/EMS/fire and military codes, as well as both aircraft and train feeds.

There’s even international coverage where available, so the scanner app can detect your location and determine relevant feeds you’ll want to follow. Currently free on both the App Store and Google Play, there’s also a pro option that offers 50,000 more feeds.

Final Verdict

The Whistler TRX-1 is an awesome scanner with a huge range of features; it goes above and beyond with extras like weather warnings and a fully backlit keyboard. For a great, portable, handheld option, the Uniden BCD436P HomePatrol is an awesome option, with 4GB of onboard storage and a big, bright display.

What to Look for in a Police Scanner

Portability - Police scanners are available as handheld units, mobile scanners that you can install in a vehicle, and desktop scanners that aren’t portable at all. If you only want to use your police scanner in one location, like your home, work, or car, then a desktop scanner or mobile scanner will suit you fine. If you want to have more options, go for a handheld police scanner. 

Analog vs. digital - Your ability to listen in on transmissions from your local police and other agencies hinges on compatibility between their transmitters and your scanner. Phase II digital scanners have the widest compatibility, but you’ll get by fine with a less expensive analog police scanner if your local agencies haven’t made the jump to digital yet.

Trunking - The other feature that can impact your ability to receive transmissions on a police scanner is trunking. Scanners that don’t support trunking cannot tune in to trunked systems, so this feature is an absolute must-have if your local agencies use trunk lines.