Which handheld CB radio is best?

Access to a Citizens Band radio, or a CB radio, can be helpful while traveling, trucking or for emergencies, but you don’t need a bulky, stationary radio unit. There are CB radios available that don’t take up a ton of space and you can easily carry them with you. 

If you want the best handheld CB with plenty of features, the Uniden PRO501HH Pro-Series is a top choice. It has plenty of quality-of-life features all packed into a compact, portable unit. This unit comes with a clip for attaching it conveniently to your belt.

What to know before you buy a handheld CB radio

Do you need a CB radio?

CB radios are helpful, but for convenient handheld comms, you may not need one. If you already know the people you’re trying to contact, you might be able to use other devices to stay in touch while traveling. If you’re looking for a short-distance, two-way communication device other than a handheld CB radio, you could consider walkie-talkies.

Do you want a handheld device?

It’s important to consider if you want a handheld device or a regular CB radio. The portability of a handheld device is beneficial, but it may not have the same range. One benefit of using a larger CB radio unit is that you can attach larger antennas and improve the range of the radio. A handheld unit wouldn’t be so portable if it had a big antenna attached.

How much should it weigh?

The size and weight of a CB unit are crucial. If you’re looking at handhelds, it’s likely you plan to carry the device with other gear. If you plan to carry a CB radio on foot with heavy equipment or you’ll include it in the overall weight of a load that you’re carrying in a truck, the weight can be an important factor for your safety. Check that a CB radio’s weight is acceptable before you buy.

What to look for in a quality handheld CB radio


The buttons and switches should be easy to use and allow for accessing all the necessary channels and features, but handhelds have to make do with less. On a handheld device, the controls should not take up too much of the unit. There should still be plenty of space for a readable display, a microphone and an antenna that provides a strong signal.

Channel scanning

If you’re on the go with your handheld, you probably don’t have time to sit and search for broadcasts. Good handheld CB radios have some quality-of-life features like dual-watch, which allows you to automatically listen for emergency broadcasts on channel 9, in addition to hearing transmissions on another channel. Being able to scan all CB channels for activity is also a very useful feature.

Additional features

A handheld usually has to be simplified and streamlined to be light and portable. If some additional features like a PA function or Bluetooth capabilities are important to you, it may be necessary to look at larger CB devices. Noise filtering functions are usually an extra feature for most CBs, but for handhelds, they’re almost essential. The antenna on a handheld will probably not be able to have as clear a signal.

How much you can expect to spend on a handheld CB radio

High-quality CB radios usually cost more, but smaller handheld devices are available for $80- $100.

Handheld CB radio FAQ

What channels should you listen to?

A. The main CB channels to keep an eye on are channel 9 for emergency broadcasts and channel 19, which is generally the most active channel for truckers. If you want to hear weather information, NOAA Weather Radio is a useful nationwide network that broadcasts 24/7. Note that not every CB radio can access these channels, so if you want to tune in, check that your handheld CB will be able to receive those signals before you purchase.

What is the range of a handheld CB radio?

A. It depends on the terrain and surrounding area when you use the radio, in addition to the antenna. Handhelds generally have a smaller antenna than a stationary CB, because it’s necessary for the device to be portable. You can expect to get several miles range with a handheld CB, but keep in mind that the signal quality could be lower and noise-filtering functions can help.

What’s the best handheld CB radio to buy?

Top handheld CB radio

Uniden PRO501HH Pro-Series

Uniden PRO501HH Pro-Series

What you need to know: This portable, handheld, 40-channel CB radio has multiple features that make it useful for travel and emergency purposes.

What you’ll love: It has a power-saving feature, an automatic noise limiter, access to the NOAA weather broadcast, an audio jack for earphones and instant channel 9 and 19 access. The device can scan channels for activity and allows you to dual-watch and more easily find transmissions. 

What you should consider: It doesn’t come with the nine AA batteries needed to function, but it does come with an external power supply cable for use in a vehicle.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top handheld CB radio for the money

Cobra HH50WXST Handheld CB Radio

Cobra HH50WXST Handheld CB Radio

What you need to know: This affordable handheld device is a solid emergency radio and an essential tool for travel if you want to access 40 CB channels.

What you’ll love: The automatic soundtrack system cuts down on 90% of unnecessary noise, creating clear communication transmissions. It can access NOAA weather channels, scan 40 channels for activity and monitor two channels simultaneously. 

What you should consider: It may have trouble with range, but there is a version available that comes with an additional antenna.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Midland 75-822 40 Channel CB

Midland 75-822 40 Channel CB 

What you need to know: You can carry this portable CB radio as a handheld or use it in a vehicle as a stand-alone device.

What you’ll love: It can access 40 CB channels and NOAA weather channels and it offers a dual-watch feature. The battery-powered device is completely portable, but you can also plug it into a vehicle to use in a truck or car without running on batteries. It has instant access controls for tuning to channels 9 and 19.

What you should consider: It requires six AA batteries to function, but this unit comes with a rechargeable battery compartment and an AC wall adapter.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Elliott Rivette writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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