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We purchase every product we review with our own funds—we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

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Best CB Radios

In spite of the huge growth in mobile phones, CB radio remains a popular and effective means of communication among travelers who want to keep abreast of road and traffic conditions. The best CB radio for a professional trucker may not be the best choice for a weekend user, however. Because of this, manufacturers offer a variety of features aimed at specific populations. The CB radios on our elite list suit a wide range of individuals. They are:

Note: The above product recommendations were updated July 2017. The products below were our original choices and have yet to be updated.

Products we Considered

  • Cobra
    29 LX 40-Channel w/NOAA Weather Stations
  • Uniden
    40-Channel CB
  • Midland
    40-Channel Mobile CB with Switchable Noise Filter
  • Uniden
    BEARCAT With Sideband And WeatherBand
  • Galaxy
    AM/SSB Mobile, Frequency Counter

Dale brings over 40 years of automotive industry experience to the BestReviews table. An avid DIY guy, he has worked with, rebuilt, and led maintenance on a variety of vehicles. He’s also well-versed in fleet management and vehicle operations. Dale’s past experiences include distinguished service as an officer in the US Army.

Dale  |  Automotive Super-User


Size, Weight & Appearance

In large trucks, the size of a CB radio may not have much impact. In SUVs and family vehicles, however, size can be a very important consideration. It's necessary to scrutinize weight, too, because this could impact where you mount it. Then there's a question of what the radio actually looks like – a vital factor for some buyers.

Controls & Options

While certain controls are found in most CB radios, some options and extras are designed to tempt you. In this part of our ratings, we look at what each manufacturer offers to make their CB radio stand out.

Clarity & Ease of Use

Although most CB radios have the same power output, variation exists between each model's signal clarity and operating range. In this section of our review, we also look at how each of our finalists performs in day-to-day use.

Clarity & Ease of Use

There are some relatively cheap CB radios on the market, and many provide all the functions that are required. Why spend more? In this section, we look at what you should expect to pay for a top model and assess exactly what you get for your money.

In some situations, your signal can bounce off clouds, which can noticeably increase its range. Keep this in mind on cloudy days.

Automotive Super-User

Size, Weight & Appearance

Uniden PRO520XL 40-Channel CB Radio

With external dimensions of only 4.5 x 6.8 x 1.4 inches and a weight of under two pounds, the Uniden PRO520XL CB radio is one of the lightest and smallest models designed for permanent mounting. It may not have all the features of some models, but that also means you're not overwhelmed by knobs, buttons, and glaring LEDs. Apart from the bright chrome connector for the microphone cable (which is nice and long), it's mostly black with white characters – clear and uncluttered.

Midland 75-822 40 Channel CB-Way Radio

If you're looking for a CB radio that can easily be moved from one vehicle to another, the Midland 75-822 could well be the choice for you. It weighs about half of a pound, and even with the full antenna attached, its dimensions are a mere 12.75 x 3 x 1.5 inches. You can run it off batteries and use it as a handset, or you can plug it into a cigarette lighter and connect to a body-mounted CB antenna for in-car use. The down side when driving is that the display is quite small and not easy for everyone to read.

Cobra 29 LX 40-Channel CB Radio with Instant Access 10 NOAA Weather Station

In terms of size and weight, the Cobra 29 CB radio is fairly average. It weighs a little under six pounds, and its dimensions are 7.2 x 9.2 x 2.2 inches. The cable is a very useful nine feet in length. It's not small, but it's not overly large, either. Visually speaking, it has a lot going on, but as we'll see later in these ratings, the Cobra offers many useful features. One feature that will appeal to a lot owners is the choice of display color (green, blue, red, or amber).

Uniden BEARCAT CB Radio With Sideband And WeatherBand

The Uniden BEARCAT CB radio gives owners a choice of seven display colors. At close to eight pounds and 3.5 x 15 x 8.5 inches, it's a fairly substantial radio that isn't suited for compact cars. Having said that, we really like the BEARCAT's design. Yes, there are quite a lot of buttons and switches, but it has a very modern (and subtle) look. The cord isn't quite as long as that of the Cobra, but it's long enough for most consumers' needs.

Galaxy DX-959 40 Channel AM/SSB Mobile CB Radio with Frequency Counter

With external dimensions of 9.2 x 7.9 x 2.4 inches, the Galaxy DX-959 has similar space requirements to that of the Cobra 29. However, it's slightly lighter at just 4.5 pounds. The cable length is adequate, but it's not generous. As far as appearance is concerned, it's an absolute riot of bright chrome dials and switches that are accompanied by two separate LEDs and an analogue meter. If you like to spend time tuning things for peak performance, you would probably love it. If you're looking for something discreet, this isn't for you.

Cobra 29 owners choose between four different display colors: green, blue, red, and amber.

Controls & Options

Uniden PRO520XL 40-Channel CB Radio

All radios suffer from interference to some extent, so each manufacturer does their best to clean up reception. Although the Uniden PRO520XL is quite a cheap CB radio, it still has Automatic Noise Limiter (ANL) and squelch control that will help reduce a lot of background noise. You can adjust RF gain to get better performance, the result of which is shown on the LED. There's a simple switch for instant access to channel 9, and you also have the option to switch from CB to PA – provided you fit a compatible external speaker.

The Midland 75-822 CB radio offers both ANL and squelch/RF gain control, but it automatically scan all channels, pausing when it detects activity. Up to five channels can be stored in the radio's memory and accessed with a simple touch. Owners get channel 19 for information, NOAA Weather Radio, and instant access to channel 9. ("Dual Watch" allows you to monitor several channels simultaneously.) There's a jack for a cigarette lighter if you're using the radio in the car; otherwise, you'll need six AA batteries for the slot-on power pack. For an extra cost, a headset is also available.

Many of the controls and options offered by the Cobra 29 CB radio might sound fairly common at first, but this radio actually boasts a number of improvements over basic models. You get the expected selection of noise-reducing and signal-improving controls, but you also get Radio Check Diagnostics to monitor important elements like antenna condition and SWR. There's automatic activity scanning and 10 pre-set memories for favorites, plus instant access to channels 9 and 19. The Cobra 29 auto-scans 10 NOAA weather channels and provides alerts in severe conditions. Another useful addition is the ability to modulate talk-back to your own preference. There's a clock/timer/alarm so you can keep an eye on how long you've been driving, as well as a PA facility. (Note: owners must supply their own external speaker.)

Uniden BEARCAT CB Radio With Sideband And WeatherBand

Like the Cobra 29, the Uniden BEARCAT CB radio is packed with useful features. In fact, the specification roster reads like a wish-list of the things you'd want in a top model. There are extensive functions for noise reduction and signal monitoring/improvement. There is instant access to channel 9, channel 19, and NOAA weather. There's also a PA function. As good as all of these features are, however, the thing that really stands out is the fact that the BEARCAT offers SSB (Single Side Band) in addition to standard AM. In SSB mode, you have up to 12 watts of transmitting power. (Standard AM has a maximum of four watts.) This means that the BEARCAT has a great range, but owners are restricted to communicating only with other SSB users when it's switched on.

Galaxy DX-959 40 Channel AM/SSB Mobile CB Radio with Frequency Counter

If you're a CB user who thinks SSB is important, the Galaxy DX-959 CB radio will be a prime contender. Not only does it have the facility, it has its own "Galaxy Noise Filter" to improve incoming SSB signal performance. As for the rest of the controls and options, one look at the buttons and dials will give you a good idea of how comprehensive they are. This is a top-of-the-line CB radio with all the reception enhancements and channel features you could want, including RF and microphone gain, ANL, and high-end options like talk-back control and automatic SWR. Given all of this, it's slightly surprising that there's no instant access to channel 9, 19, or the weather. There are also no pre-sets for favorite channels.

The inexpensive Uniden PRO520XL offers Automatic Noise Limiter (ANL) and squelch control to help reduce background noise.

Clarity & Ease of Use

Uniden PRO520XL 40-Channel CB Radio

Before we look at individual models in this part our ratings, it's important to make a proviso that applies to all CB radios: a suitable antenna is vital to good performance, and getting your installation "peaked and tuned" can make a considerable difference. A SWR meter is invaluable for this, and some of the better CB radios have these built in, so it's a feature well worth considering.

According to owner feedback, a lot of people are very happy with their Uniden PRO520XL. Given that this is a very cheap CB radio, most are surprised by how well it cuts out interference. Many owners compliment the Uniden PRO's range, too. It's compact and easy to set up, but not everyone likes the mic – it is so lightweight that it could easily slide off a seat. A number of owners say this Uniden model is a bit too quiet, too – especially in noisier locations.

Midland 75-822 40 Channel CB-Way Radio

If you're looking for a portable CB radio for short-range communication, the Midland 75-822 would be a great choice. A lot of owners use this model on trails or for off-road competition, and many are delighted with its transmission and reception. When used in-vehicle, the weakness of the supplied rubber antenna shows up, and an alternative – possibly one with a magnet base – is a necessity. Kitted out like this, some owners claim a range of 15 miles or more, so there's plenty of capability within the radio itself. A few people are critical of the fact that the controls are quite small and close together. The manufacturer includes a keypad lock so the settings won't be inadvertently altered.

Cobra 29 LX 40-Channel CB Radio with Instant Access 10 NOAA Weather Station

Given the Cobra 29's tremendous range of features, it's not difficult to see why it's such a strong contender. The question is whether that popularity remains after it's been in use for a while. Judging by owner responses, it would seem so! Just about every area of transmitting and receiving receives praise. Given the Cobra's comprehensive set of functions, there is something of a learning curve. The radio's built-in diagnostics provide invaluable help, but if you're inexperienced, it could still take a while to become accustomed to this radio. (This is underlined by one expert who points out that a number of complaints would be resolved if the Cobra 29 were set up properly the first time.) It's not a flawless CB radio, but it is very good, and a lot of criticisms can be put down to insufficient knowledge (or perhaps lack of patience).

Uniden BEARCAT CB Radio With Sideband And WeatherBand

The Uniden BEARCAT CB radio is the bigger sibling of the PRO520XL. Does its increased feature set make a difference in the real world? The simple answer is yes. There's nothing wrong with the other Uniden model on our shortlist, but the BEARCAT gives owners even more control. (Consider the built-in SWR.) Most owners are very complimentary of the BEARCAT's easy set-up and straightforward operation. However, a few say the display is difficult to read and that AM reception isn't as good as it could be. One of the major reasons people buy the BEARCAT is the increased range afforded by its SSB; this feature appears to work as well as expected.

Galaxy DX-959 40 Channel AM/SSB Mobile CB Radio with Frequency Counter

A large number of Galaxy DX-959 CB radio owners are professional drivers and/or long-term CB radio users. For these folks, the level of tuning and control offered by the Galaxy (and the addition of SSB) are major selling points. Many also like the physical switches and clear displays. The majority of Galaxy owners consider the radio's reception and transmission performance to be among the best available. However, a notable minority report faults on both the transmit and receive side. This doesn't appear to be a common problem, but it's frustrating for those affected.

The compact Uniden PRO250XL is easy to set up and boasts an impressive range.


Uniden PRO520XL 40-Channel CB Radio

At just $43, we think it's unlikely you'll find a better cheap CB radio than the entry-level Uniden PRO520XL. Made by a well-known manufacturer, this CB radio has all the features/functions you need if you're new to CB radio. (It would also serve as a great back-up for pros.) It's small and light, and while it does not have all the bells and whistles of its more expensive counterparts, owners agree that it does an excellent job for the money. Some say build quality could be improved, and a few have criticized Uniden's customer service. No one can really argue about the value this product gives for the money, though.

Midland 75-822 40 Channel CB-Way Radio

If you want a cheap portable CB radio that can also be used in your car, they don't come much better than the $77 Midland 75-822. On foot, you can run it off the battery pack. Inside your vehicle, you just need to add an antenna and power it from your cigarette lighter. It's light and convenient, and many owners say they enjoy a surprisingly good range. The down side of its small size is that the screen can be hard to read and controls difficult to manage – especially with gloved hands. Owner satisfaction depends to an extent on understanding the capabilities of a model like this. It can't compete with powerful, permanently mounted CB radios, but it's portable and inexpensive.

Cobra 29 LX 40-Channel CB Radio with Instant Access 10 NOAA Weather Station

Much about the Cobra 29 CB radio says "mid-range," and with a cost of just $97, it's easy to slot it into that category. Many owners agree, however, that the term "mid-range" undervalues the Cobra 29's true performance. It's not exactly compact, but it would still suit all kinds of vehicles. The Cobra's controls and features are on a par with many models that cost twice as much. Cobra has an excellent reputation among CB radio experts, but that doesn't mean this radio is overly complex. However, it does reward those who are prepared to learn how to get the best out of it.

Uniden BEARCAT CB Radio With Sideband And WeatherBand

Uniden's reputation for top CB radios is underlined by the fact that two of them made our final selection. The Uniden BEARCAT offers a great deal more in terms of user controls and tuning options than the Uniden PRO520XL (also on our list), but it comes at a cost of $121. That's a lot more than the price of the PRO520XL, but this model is aimed at owners who are ready to invest the time to operate it properly. Many users rate it as an excellent all-rounder; its modern design receives particular praise. Unfortunately, reliability has been an issue for a handful of owners, with problems on both the transmit and receive side.

Galaxy DX-959 40 Channel AM/SSB Mobile CB Radio with Frequency Counter

The Galaxy DX-959 CB radio costs a pretty penny at $158, but a lot of owners think that's a great value for they money. After all, it costs considerably less than much of the Galaxy's SSB-enabled competition. It's packed with high-end features and diagnostics to help get the very best performance. The style may not be to everyone's taste, but it receives lots of compliments for its ease of operation. A few have suggested that build quality is suspect, with loose connections having been found and units failing after short periods of time. This is a shame given its otherwise high ratings, but detractors are in the minority. Most users are truckers, RV owners, and other drivers who frequently take long road trips.

The Cobra 29's controls and features are on par with many models that cost twice as much.

Best of the Best

All of the CB radios on our shortlist our excellent models, and the contest was a close one. In the end, however, our Best of the Best award goes to the Cobra 29 LX. It's a great performer, and it holds the most appeal for the most people.

With dimensions of 7.2 x 9.2 x 2.2 inches and a weight of slightly under six pounds, it's not what you'd call a "compact" radio, but it fits all kinds of vehicles just fine. Its looks are enhanced by a choice of screen colors, and while some have said that the blue is a little difficult to see, we suspect that's due to individual color sensitivities rather than the CB radio itself. Anyway, if you don't like the blue hue, you've still got three others to choose from!

One of the Cobra 29's most outstanding features is the fact that it provides many high-end features for mid-level money. On top of the usual controls for reducing interference and boosting signal clarity, owners enjoy multi-function diagnostics, SWR calibration, and talk-back modulation. There's the expected instant access to channels 9 and 19, but there are also 10 NOAA weather channels with auto-scanning and alerts in the case of severe weather warnings. The Cobra also boasts a 10-channel memory, a PA function, and a clock and alarm so you can monitor your driving time.

Could the Cobra 29's real-world performance really be as good as it sounds on paper? According to owners, it is. Owners love this CB's looks, ease of set-up, and general functionality. They especially appreciate its ability to be customized to personal preferences. Once properly tuned and calibrated, the Cobra's signal strength is superb. A few owners have said that they received units that didn't work properly, but incorrect installation could very well play a part in this problem. In any case, most product flaws should be covered under the two-year warranty.

The vast majority of owners are absolutely delighted with the Cobra 29. At a cost of $97, it's a top-rated CB radio at a middle-of-the-road price, and it's the clear winner in our "Best of the Best" competition.
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On top of the usual controls for reducing interference and boosting signal clarity, Cobra 29 owners enjoy multi-function diagnostics, SWR calibration, and talk-back modulation.

Best Bang for your Buck

Quite often, a cheap CB radio is a also poor CB radio. Fortunately, the Uniden PRO520XL is an inexpensive CB radio you can really count on.

While it's not "portable" like some other contenders, the Uniden PRO250XL is quite small at just 4.5 x 6.8 x 1.4 inches. It weighs less than two pounds – even the smallest of cars can find room for that! Owners say its subtle appearance allows it to blend in with most interiors. There aren't a lot of controls, but you do get invaluable Automatic Noise Limiter (ANL) and squelch control to clean up the signal. There's a dial for RF gain, a switch for optional PA, and another for instant access to channel 9. It may not be overloaded with gadgets, but it's got everything most people really need.

As with all CB radios, performance depends not just on the unit itself but also on the antenna and tuning. A built-in SWR meter is great, but models like that tend to cost a lot more than the Uniden PRO520XL's low price of $43. When properly set up, owners report excellent transmission and reception, though quite a few would have liked a bit more volume in noisy situations. A few owners have reported reliability issues, which is obviously disappointing, but this is fortunately an uncommon occurrence.

One user remarked that the Uniden PRO520XL is very much a beginner's CB radio. That's perfectly true, but it's not a criticism. This contender is a low-cost introduction to CB and a low-cost "spare" or "back-up" radio for owners with more than one vehicle. In any case, there's no denying that this CB radio is the Best Bang for Your Buck. It does a great job and offers an outstanding value!
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Made by a well-known manufacturer, the Uniden PRO250XL has all the features you need if you're new to CB radio.
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