After comparing dozens of mobile ham radios on the market, we found BTech UV-50X2 to be the best mobile ham radio overall due to its price, versatility, value, and power.
To help you make the right purchase decision, we have spent more than 30 hours on research, testing, and collecting reviews from actual buyers to compile a list of the top 10 mobile ham radios.
In this review, we took into account factors that may influence your purchase decision, such as ease of use, portability, experience level, durability, and display functionality, as well as its quality.
Although all mobile ham radios can be used for communication while driving, different makes and models are tailored to fit slightly different purposes. To avoid suboptimal purchases, keep reading to find the mobile ham radio for you.
Best Mobile Ham Radios – Top 10 Comparison
Power / Bands / Channels / Chirp
Best Overall – BTech UV-50X2
Modern mobile ham radio that is packed with new features such as customizable multi-color LCD display and channel representation. Addition of dual sync mode, on the fly channel editing and easy programming make it a very versatile and scalable radio.
Made by top dog radio manufacturer BaoFeng, BTech Mobile UV-50X2 is a highly-rated mobile ham radio that strikes the right balance between versatility, reliability, and affordability.
As a dual-band radio, it can transmit and receive both VHF and UHF with an expanded frequency range of 400-520MHz on VHF.
Its 50 watts of transmission power is among the highest offered by mobile ham radios.
Audio reports are excellent with BTech UV-50X2 with no muddy or distorted sound typical for many other devices.
The control head is fairly small and features a customizable LCD display. Besides choosing from nine available colors, you can also choose the type of information you want on your screen to de-clutter your display. It also offers dual-synchronizing that displays both channel name and frequency.
The highlight of this product is the laundry list of useful features, like DTMF gain and mic control gain. It allows you to watch up to four channels on a single line display or two channels with both channel names and frequency displayed. Besides that, the scanning system has been streamlined with a dedicated menu and saved scanning preference.
The UV-50X2 is surprisingly easy to set up and use, especially with the Chirp software. You can also edit your channels by using front panel programming which comes with standard 200-channel memory storage.
On the flip side, because of the small screen, you can only enter 7 characters for memory presets, which might make channel organization difficult.
Powerful and highly-customizable, BTech Mobile UV-50X2 delivers a ton of versatility and scalability. With easy programming and on-the-fly channel editing, it caters to novice and expert radio operators. Combined with its long list of features, it is one of the best mobile ham radios on the market today.
|Can monitor four channels at once|
|Customizable display screen|
|Streamlined scanning feature|
|Well-written English manual|
|7 character limit for memory presets|
If you need a big display, Anytone AT-778UV is the mobile ham radio to beat.
Featuring a bright LCD screen, this dual-band radio is readable under any light conditions.
Using large numbers and icons, the menu layout is intuitively designed to give you all relevant information at a single glance.
The front panel only features six programmable buttons for quick access to your most-used functions. The hand mic is a bit bulky, but it is easy to use and comfortable to hold. It houses the backlit keypad, A/B frequency toggle, and second speaker.
Unlike many other manufacturers, Anytone pays closer attention to the user experience. It has a smooth, streamlined user interface that is very easy to understand and work with. Thanks to the Anytone programming software, it is also very beginner-friendly in terms of setup.
The AT-778UV delivers a maximum power output of 25 watts in three power modes and excellent audio with its internal speaker. It is a bit lower compared to other radios, but you can boost its coverage with a mounted antenna. It doesn’t have dual-receive, but you can monitor two VHF and UHF bands simultaneously on the screen.
Strangely, this amateur radio doesn’t come with a dedicated volume knob. Instead, you need to press the soft keys for volume control and squelch, which can be dangerous when driving.
Anytone AT-778UV boasts a huge color LCD screen that makes it easy for beginners to learn and seasoned ham radio operators to use. It doesn’t offer a lot of advanced features, but it performs exceptionally well for a radio of its size.
|Highly visible LCD screen|
|Speaker on mic and radio|
|Easy setup and usage|
|Programmable function keys|
|Smooth user interface|
|No dedicated volume knob|
President Lincoln II+ bring more to the table by adding an additional 12-meter band. Not only can it handle an expanded frequency range, but it also received an upgraded output power of 35W PEP for SSB.
The best feature of this mobile ham radio, however, is its attention to distracting-free driving.
Using voice-operated exchange (VOX), you can concentrate on driving and communicate hands-free.
Besides that, it also has a very quiet receiver and low floor noise that emit virtually no sound when your radio is idle.
The sound quality is close to impeccable – audible and loud with no distortion or static. It is also very sensitive, which virtually guarantees crystal-clear transmissions. You can also set tone squelch automatically or manually.
The Lincoln II+ sports a three-color multifunction LCD screen that provides good color variety and readability. Set against the backlit display, the buttons are highly visible at night.
Besides that, certain placement choices like Emergency 1/2 buttons and a dedicated menu button also make it very easy to use.
This mobile ham radio can be converted into a public address system with the help of VOX and a separate clarified knob for optimized voice amplification.
As a veteran of radio communication, President opted to display channel name instead of the frequency. It is a small issue, but most amateur radio operators would prefer either both or the other way around.
With its sensitive receiver and a great stock mic, President Lincoln II+ delivers loud audio and clear sound transmission. In addition, thanks to intuitive button placement and the option to use it as a public address system, it is one of the best 10-12 meter mobile ham radios for its price point.
|Compact with intuitive design|
|Emergency 1/2 buttons|
|Public address system|
|CB radio-like display|
BaoFeng Tech (or BTech for short) is famous for manufacturing affordable radios crammed with features, and BTech Mini UV-25X4 is no exception.
Measuring at 3.85″ x 1.38″ x 4.65″, this compact mobile ham radio is designed to fit in any vehicle.
It features an adjustable LCD screen with dual-synchronization on the control head that displays frequency and channel simultaneously.
Although its 25W power output is on the lower end of the spectrum, it can transmit and receive over a considerable distance.
Plus, it is compatible with a wide range of accessories, like antenna and mounts, so that you can fully customize your rig.
As a tri-band ham radio, UV-25X4 supports the usual 144MHz, 220MHz, and 420MHz. It also offers an expanded frequency range of up to 520MHz on UHF, but it can be a bit risky to use this depending on your ham license and local jurisdiction. Alongside great sensitivity and selectivity, its 2W speaker emits loud and crystal-clear audio.
Besides that, this ham radio offers automatic power-off and Chirp programming. It also allows you to monitor up to two channels with name and frequency displayed or up to four channels with a single line display. With quad watch delay time, you can avoid manual channel switching when you are engaged on two channels by staying on the secondary channel longer.
The improved scanning feature automatically saves your scanning preference so that you don’t have to restart the process when your radio is rebooted. Besides that, you can also edit channels, tones, and squelch on the fly without using a programming cable.
You can save up to 200 programmable memory channels and organize them with alphanumeric tags for easy retrieval.
BTech Mini UV-25X4 excels in providing great value for its price tag, especially when you consider the robust scanning system, expanded frequency range, and handy features. On the flip side, power isn’t its strong suit, so we would recommend using this model for road travel as opposed to long-range communication.
|Automatic power off|
|Adjustable LCD display with dual-synchronization|
|Sophisticated scanning features|
Measuring at 4.7″ x 3.9″ x 1.4″, this mobile ham radio fits nicely in any vehicle.
Similar to the Mini UV-25X4, the QYT KT-8900D has 25W of RF power output.
Despite its somewhat low transmission power, it utilizes great sensitivity and selectivity to deliver clean dual-band communication.
It covers a frequency range of 134-174MHz on the VHF band and 400-480MHz on UHF. You can also use a mounted antenna to get more coverage.
It produces crisp sound quality even at its highest sound setting. However, it can also be used with an external speaker via the 3.5mm jack if you need it to get louder.
The front panel is customizable with three colors, which is not only aesthetically pleasing but can also promote visibility. Besides that, it features a bright LCD screen that is readable under any light conditions. You can also put custom info on the start-up screen and re-arrange your layout to one that feels the best to you.
To make it compact and small, most of the controls are accessible via the microphone. It comes in handy when driving, as you can control almost everything using the hand mic.
With the quad watch, you can monitor four frequencies at once when your radio is idle.
On the minor downside, some mobile ham radio operators find the setup to be somewhat difficult with both the factory program and Chirp.
In addition to being affordable and compact, the QYT KT-8900D is best for road trips with its dual-band coverage and 25W transmission power. However, despite the buttons and knobs being quite functional, they have not been designed for tough conditions and excessive use.
|Highly visible, reversible LCD screen|
|Small and compact|
|Straightforward and easy-to-learn interface|
|All function keys are programmable|
|No dedicated volume knob|
If you are looking for a smart compromise between price tag and functionality, Kenwood TM-281A is a must to consider.
It is built to military standards despite its modest price tag – it can withstand most abuse you hurl at it.
Combined with a timeless design, it was clearly designed to last you a very long time.
Performance-wise, the TM-281A has a maximum power output of 65 watts in two power modes, giving you the option to choose the right power setting for your environment. However, it is a single band radio, which limits your access to other bands.
The large and bright LCD display takes up a majority of the front panel. Using a simplified menu system, it is very easy to navigate and use. The front panel also features a front-facing speaker that delivers great tonality and rich sound that amateur radio operators have grown to expect from Kenwood models. It doesn’t have a squelch knob, so you would have to adjust for background noise before you start driving.
Additionally, the TM-281A provides many convenient features, such as reverse mode, multiple scanning modes, and an automatic simplex checker. It allows you to store up to 200 memory channels for easy access.
Using rechargeable batteries as a power supply, you can convert this mobile radio into a handheld transceiver.
Kenwood TM-281 offers many simple but essential functions in an affordable little package. Built to military standards, it is sturdy and has a maximum 65” power output. It doesn’t have a dedicated squelch knob and only has the single-band capability, but its tank-like built definitely makes it one of the most durable mobile ham radios on the market.
|Easy to program|
|High power output|
|Sturdy – built to military standards|
|No dedicated squelch knob|
If you don’t want to settle for simple and basic, Kenwood TM-V71A comes with bells and whistles that could wow anyone.
This mobile ham radio offers full dual-receive features that allow you to monitor and receive across VHF and UHF bands.
With the latest firmware update, you can select whichever frequency you want using the variable frequency oscillator (VFO).
It has high transmission power – offering 50 watts RF power output in three power settings, which gives you the flexibility to adjust your power setting according to your environment and needs. Not only that, but it comes with robust squelch knobs for full control over your sound quality. With its powerful speaker, it delivers a loud and clear sound that can be heard in noisy environments.
The highlight of this dual-band mobile radio is undoubtedly its advanced functionalities. You get EchoLink with 10 dedicated memories, an innovative feature that connects you to users worldwide using streaming-audio technology.
Besides that, it also has a five-in-one programmable memory that allows you to save anything related to a certain repeater or station. You can connect this ham radio to a computer to discover more features, including APRS capability and DMR features. Because of this, the TM-V71A can also be used for base stations.
Thanks to a simple user interface and responsive menu options, you can find anything you need without breaking a sweat. The buttons are also clearly labeled and placed, making it a great dual-band mobile radio for beginners.
Kenwood TM-V71A is equipped with many advanced features not found in similarly-priced ham radios, like true dual receive, EchoLink, and 5-in-1 programming. It opens up many customization possibilities with its versatile design, from control head placement to full audio customization. With consistent and outstanding performance, it is one of the most powerful dual-band mobile ham radios around.
|Simple user interface and easy setup|
|Five-in-one programmable memory|
|Great sound quality|
|Customer service lacking in product knowledge|
In addition to its small and compact size, Xiegu G90 HF is a quality piece of equipment that is likely to become a regular in your kit.
With a sturdy chassis and built-in protective panels, this radio is built to last.
The display unit is crisp and clear, showing you everything you need to know about your transmission – from the spectrum to the waterfall display.
Despite the size, it delivers loud and punchy audio, thanks to the speaker mounted on the top of the unit. Performance-wise, you will be hard-pressed to find another portable ham unit in this price range that works as well as the G90 HF. With 20 watts of output, you can hit stations miles away even with the most basic antenna. It also has a built-in high-performance antenna tuner that is fast, wide range, and quiet.
Although it has a slight learning curve, it is surprisingly easy to use for such an advanced radio. On the downside, it can be too sensitive sometimes, distorting its sound and reception. It also doesn’t come with feet or a bail.
Xiegu G90 HF delivers a performance that surpasses all expectations with its high power output and useful features. Despite being small, its detachable display unit shows all relevant information without having you strain your eyes. It can be a bit too sensitive sometimes, but it is a minor inconvenience when you consider all the other great things this ham radio can do.
|Detachable display unit|
|Great sensitivity and reception|
|Intuitive and easy to use|
|Can be too sensitive|
|Doesn’t come with a bail|
With the ability to store up to 100,000 DMR contacts, TYT MD-9600 is especially great for people who live in areas with many UHF and VHF DMR repeaters.
Being a dual-mode radio, you can operate UHF and UVF bands simultaneously.
Its performance is further enhanced by the accessibilities of code plugs and 3,000 channels at your disposal. Since this radio comes with an external connection, you can also opt to use external speakers.
The radio has many essential features for DMR ham radios, such as encryption, remote stun, and activated functions. It also has programmable function buttons that are easy to use.
You will find a large LCD display snugly fitted in its steel casing. The amount of information it displays is just right for driving and everything is arranged neatly on the screen. Although it is visible day or night, you can’t adjust the brightness, which might not be conducive in night time driving.
The steep learning curve we experienced with this ham radio largely boils down to its complicated programming process and unclear user manual. Luckily, there are many tutorials online that can guide you through the process.
TYT MD-9600 delivers stellar ham performance, thanks to its UHF and VHF transmitting capabilities. Its steep learning curve is worth bearing since it packs many essential features for a DMR ham radio. Pair these features with huge memory storage for DMR contacts and channels, it is the best dual-band mobile ham radio on the market.
|Huge storage for channels and contacts|
|Great audio volume and quality|
|Complicated programming software1|
|Poorly-written user manual|
If you are looking for a reliable and durable mobile ham radio, Icom 2300H is your top bet.
For one, it is super compact, so it is perfect for vehicles with limited spaces. It is also very easy to re-mount if you decide to move it to a different vehicle.
This model is built to MIL-STD-810G standards. Not only can it take most abuse you throw at it, but it is also weatherproof and waterproof.
The display is bright and especially useful when driving since you can easily see the crisp and clear writing on the screen. Customizable between amber and green, you can choose the most comfortable display color for your eyes. Additionally, it also has a power supply voltage display to warn you of any anomalies.
One of the star features of this ham radio is multiple scan functions. Depending on your needs, you can use a full scan, bank scan, memory scan, and more. It is also pretty loud, so you don’t have to worry about missing any transmissions.
Although this is a great piece of equipment, it can be very difficult to learn the features because of the poorly-written user manual.
Built to military standards, Icom 2300H is the ideal radio for you if you want a radio that won’t die. Besides durability, this ham radio also features many useful functions like multiple scans and voltage display. Although it can be difficult to learn due to its poorly-written user manual, it is the best mobile ham radio for the money.
|Easy to operate|
|Multiple scan function|
|Power supply voltage display|
|Poorly-written user manual|
Our Top Choice And Other Recommendations
We would recommend BTech Mobile UV-50X2 if you need something that does a little bit of everything. With great VHF/UHF support, this nifty little radio can handle whatever you throw at it and offers extra features that scale very well with experience.
However, we have always maintained that the best product for you is one that fits your needs.
For a small model that fits in any vehicle nicely without compromising your communication needs, it is hard to go wrong with BTech Mini UV-25X4 or Xiegu G90 HF. If you are in the market for a more advanced radio, Kenwood TM-V71A is still the one to beat.
Alternatively, if money is tight, you can opt for Kenwood TM-281A. It has high power, ample memory channels, good band coverage, and affordable to boot.
If you are new to the ham radio community, the best mobile ham radio for you is one that makes it easy to learn the basics and introduces you gently to the world of mobile ham. If that is you – we would recommend ICOM 2300H-05 or Anytone AT-778UV.
How To Choose The Right Mobile Ham Radio?
Durability And Build Quality
You don’t want your ham radio to die on you when you rely on it the most, which is why durability is one of the most important things to consider when you are picking out a radio.
Some mobile ham radios, similar to handheld ham radios are built and tested according to strict military standards for shock proofing, waterproofing, and even mold. These are the best ham radios for you if you like to drive your Jeep through rocky and muddy roads.
Even if you are buying a radio for your base station or home set up, you should still opt for something that is built well. These units might not be waterproofed or encased in steel, but the quality of the buttons and knobs should be good enough to withstand frequent use.
Transmission Power Output
Many amateur radio users make the mistake of prioritizing high-power mobile ham radios. After all, the higher the transmission power, the further it transmits, right?
While this is technically true, it shouldn’t be the only thing you look for when you are in the market for mobile radio. The transmission power you need depends on the type of communication you want to engage in.
There is no sense in choosing a powerful 50 watts ham radio if you want to use your radio as an emergency unit – a normal two-way radio or VHF/UHF radio of up to 5W would suffice. But if you want to connect with other amateur radio operators all over the world, you would want a mobile radio that offers at least 25-50 watts of power.
At any rate, you should buy a radio that is compatible with an external antenna. This gives you the option to expand your coverage when you need it the most.
User-friendly And Intuitive Menu Setup
Ease of use is a must when choosing the best mobile ham radio. You don’t want to be distracted by scrolling through menu options when you are driving.
Well-designed mobile ham radios utilize the hand mic for better one-handed control. These designs often include programmable buttons, frequency toggles, and a keypad. Moreover, some radios have a 180 degrees rotatable screen for easy monitoring.
When it comes to menu design, we would recommend choosing a radio that uses a streamlined menu system. Besides being more convenient, a bloated menu can also be frustrating and overwhelming.
Weight And Size
You can mount most mobile ham radios in your dash with a mounting bracket. However, as mobile ham radios tend to get very hot, you might have to consider an alternate spot for your radio if you drive all day. Besides that, getting a bulky and heavy radio can also hamper your efforts of moving it.
Scan Function And Memory Storage
Scan function and memory storage allow you to scan available frequencies and save any channels that you like.
It is much easier to have a one-click scanning feature since you would most likely be driving when you use a mobile ham radio. Typically, you get about 200 slots in your channel storage, which is more than enough for most people.
Newer models offer more robust and convenient saving features. For example, some save your scanning preference so that you don’t have to set it up again if your radio reboots. Some save your settings, like volume control and squelch, along with the frequency and channel names.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the advantages of using mobile ham radio?
Mobile ham radios are often smaller than base stations but more powerful than handheld two-way radios – the perfect compromise between power and portability.
These radios can often handle Very High Frequency (VHF) and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) transmission. They often cap out at 50 watts of transmission power but come with a wide array of useful features like APRS and cross-band repeat. You can also set them up with a good antenna to boost their transmission and receiving range. Mobile ham radios are often designed to be highly customizable so that you can program them for your needs.
Is digital ham radios better?
Thanks to improved ham radio technology, digital mobile radios (DMR) have clearer audio and increased coverage. They are also often outfitted with more advanced features, such as GPS with APRS, cross-band repeat, and encrypted transmissions.
However, that doesn’t mean that DMR is superior.
Unlike analog radios, digital ham radios don’t slowly fade out when you are going out of range from the repeater. Transmission is like an on/off switch – once you get out of range, the transmission simply stops. They also use up more power, which might put you in a bad spot if you are out in the backcountry with no reliable mode of communication.