Which Marine VHF Radio Is Best – Top 8 of 2023

It took me days to decide which radio I needed when I first bought my sailboat. There are a ton of options out there when it comes to handheld radios. This list will help you decide which one is best for you.

1. HX300 Compact Floating Handheld VHF Radio

This radio is a great option for first-time boat owners. It is simple to use and has a lot of great features. It has an E2O(easy to operate) menu making it very easy to operate. Click Here To Purchase!

2. HX210 Floating Handheld VHF Radio

If you are looking for the best, then this radio is it. It has a built-in FM broadcast band receiver and a great price tag. Click Here To Purchase!

3. HX890NB Class H DSC Handheld VHF/GPS Radio

GPS tracking in this handheld radio is a great feature. Allowing waypoints on the radio itself could be helpful in certain situations. Click Here To Purchase!

4. HX380 Commercial Grade Handheld VHF Radio

This commercial-grade radio is an interesting choice. One of its more impressive features is the programmable channel names. Click Here To Purchase!

5. M73 Submersible Handheld VHF Radio

The water draining function called AquaQuake is a neat feature. Creating vibrations in the radio helps drain the device. Click Here To Purchase!

6. M25 Handheld VHF Radio

This is a basic radio with a slightly high price tag. The look is sleeker than most handheld radios. Click Here To Purchase!

7. M49D Handheld VHF DSC AIS Transceiver

If you are looking for safety assurance this transceiver may be the best option for you. The built-in distress signal is located on the back of it.

8. MR HH350 FLT Handheld VHF Radio

Cobras are a lesser-known brand compared to ICOM and Standard Horizon. They still have good features and price tags. Click Here To Purchase!

VHF Handheld Radio Comparison

HX300 Compact VHF Standard Horizon1/5YesYes13 Weather alert, USB charger,
belt clip
HX210 VHF Standard Horizon1/2/6YesYes15 FM Broadcast band receiver, Water-activated strobe light99$
HX890NB Class H DSC VHF/GPSStandard Horizon1/2/6YesYes11 GPS, waypoint, and route navigation199$
HX380 Commercial Grade VHFStandard Horizon1/5Not Specified Yes13Programmable channel names, 700mW speaker audio149$
M73 Submersible VHFICOM1/3/6Not SpecifiedYes18Auto power save, Water draining function,
rapid charger
M25 VHFICOM1/5YesYes11Flashes when floating,
Water draining function
M94D VHF DSC AIS TransceiverICOM6YesYes101500mW Audio, GPS,
Distress signal
MR HH350 FLT VHFCobra1/3/6YesYesNot SpecifiedNoise-Cancelling Microphone109$

Which VHF Handheld Radio Is Best? (Personal Experience)

HX210 Floating Handheld VHF Radio by Standard Horizon is the best option for a VHF handheld radio. It includes a built-in FM Broadcast band receiver, water-activated strobe light, and a large full dot matrix display.

I have personally used this radio for years. It has never caused me any issues and the battery life is exceptional.

As you can see there are a ton of options when it comes to selecting a handheld radio. If you want to see more information about radios and how they work to make a better decision, keep reading.

Do I Need A VHF Radio On My Boat?

You should always have a radio on your boat for emergency situations. VHF radios will also have the weather channel available so you can monitor the weather while out at sea. Radios are also the best way to keep in contact with other boats.

If you have a paddle boat and will be on a lake, you probably do not need a radio. If you are sailing out at sea and might run into trouble, always have a radio on board. Even if you only use it once, you will be glad you had it.

How Do VHF Radios Work? (The Channels and the Antenna)

VHF radios work by sending and receiving line of sight signals. Any type of landmass can interfere with the signal, but it can bounce off these masses and work its way around them before dying out.

VHF radios will listen to the strongest signal if multiple transmissions are coming in on the same channel. If you were trying to reach someone and they are not responding, it could be that your signal is too weak.

If your radio has the capabilities, you could turn up your transmit power to reach the person you are trying to contact. If your radio doesn’t have this capability, you would need to get closer to them.

All VHF radios operate with 55 channels. You will never need all of these channels, but they are there. A lot of these channels are reserved for the government, cargo shipping, and the Coast Guard.

One more key feature of a VHF radio is the antenna! The antenna is one of the most important parts of your radio. Without the antenna, you probably wouldn’t get any transmissions.

Remember when mounting an antenna, get it as high as you can on your boat. If it’s a sailboat, try to run the cable up the mast and mount it on top.

How Far Will A VHF Radio Transmit

As a general rule, a VHF(Very High Frequency) radio with 5 watts of power and an antenna 10 feet above the sea-level, will travel 4.49 nautical miles. This is calculated using the formula: square root of (measurement from the water line to the antenna tip) multiplied by 1.42.

Imagine you are on your sailboat just a few miles offshore. You have a handheld radio in your hand and you’re standing on the bow. Well say the distance from the water line to the radio’s antenna tip is 10 ft.

Now, take the square root of the 10 feet, which is 3.16, and times that by 1.42. This will get you 4.49 miles of range. This can vary with certain factors, but it does give you a good idea of the distance your radio can reach.

Is VHF or UHF Better?

There are multiple factors to consider when comparing VHF(Very High Frequency) and UHF(Ultra High Frequency). VHF will always have a greater distance in an open area. UHF will work better when you are in buildings or a densely populated forest.

There are multiple differences when it comes to VHF and UHF. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

VHF radios operate on radio waves from 30 to 300 megahertz. They are ideal for large open areas like sailing out on the ocean. They have great distances as long as nothing too large is blocking them. Radio waves will bounce off buildings and mountains allowing them to get around them sometimes.

UHF radios operate on radio waves from 300 megahertz to 3 gigahertz. They have much smaller waves than VHF radios. This allows them to fit through smaller openings such as a doorway.

In my personal opinion, when it comes to sailing or being out on any kind of boat you will definitely want to have a good VHF radio available. Take a look at the table below to compare which radio may be best for you.


Boatlifehq owner and author/editor of this article.

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