Do you sail often? If so, VHF marine radios are useful as they allow you the ability to call other fishing fanatics to find out where fish are biting. They also have a wide range of uses. Whether you need to call a port to determine a course through the coastal waters, chat with passing ships nearby, or call in the event of an emergency, a VHF marine radio is designed to do this.
Choosing the right VHF marine radio can be challenging, given the many different models available today. Therefore, these product recommendations cover everything you need to know about VHF marine radios and explain the features to consider when purchasing the best radio for the money.
- Best VHF Marine Radio for the Money
- Buyer’s Guide
Best VHF Marine Radio for the Money
Uniden MHS75 Waterproof Handheld 2-Way VHF Marine radio
For over 50 years, Uniden has developed breakthrough technologies that help you stay connected in safety. With the waterproof 2-way VHF handheld radio MHS75 from the brand, it is easy to stay in touch.
The 2-way VHF handheld radio JIS8IPX8 Uniden MHS75 (1 lb Black Uniden) is water-resistant, fits in your hand, and has a large, orange-lit LCD that is clear and easy to use. 1 AA battery is required, which provides 12 hours of battery life. The dimensions are 6.4 x 6.2 x 3.4 inches.
- Land-based and marine two-way communications
- Lithium-ion batteries included
- Up to 10 hours of battery life
If you put this VHF radio in the water, it will rise to the surface. There are three power levels, 1, 2.5, and 5W. Set it to 1W once to take advantage of battery life. When you need the highest allowable transmit power of a full 5W, just use the Power Boost button and get full performance immediately.
The device has a power boost PTT button as well as land-based (GMRS) and two-way marine communication (VHF). It has a triple watch plus with all NOAA sea channels, a quick plug-in DC charger, and a flexible rubber antenna.
It can be switched between 1, 2.5, 5W for communication over short and long distances, which saves a lot of battery life. 1 watt transmission power is sufficient for most situations. If you are far from land and other stations and there is no response, you can increase the transmit power.
MHS75 covers all of the USA, International, and Canadian marine channels and keeps you updated on the latest marine activities. In triple watch mode, 169 channels are checked for signals every 2 seconds while you are listening to the currently selected channel. It is a radio with a good range coverage for about 8 miles from the coast.
- Underwater radio
- Selectable transmission power
- All USA, International, and Canadian maritime channels
- Durable and well constructed
- No DSC
- No holding mechanism for clip
Cobra MRHH350 FLT Floating VHF Radio
The 9.6-ounce radio is water-resistant and easily floats, so don’t be afraid of losing it overboard! The floating construction makes it easy to haul in. STANDARD JIS7IPX8 means it is submersible in 3 feet and 1-meter deep water for 30 minutes. It measures 2.1 x 2.7 x 4.8 inches and can be operated instinctively with a backlit display that makes communication effortless in any situation.
- Can navigate USA, Canada, and International waters
- 3 channel maps
- Backlit display
- Includes the tri-watch system
- Submersible up to 3 feet
The long-range Cobra MRHH350FLT floating VHF marine radio has a wide range of functions. It is light and compact and perfect for any weekend user. It features a breakthrough BURP design that pulsates water to expel it from the speaker when it gets soaked. One lithium polymer battery is essential.
You can find out about incoming hazards and the changing weather. There is access to 10 NOAA channels and a noticeable alarm sound when threatening weather or an emergency is nearby as it monitors three channels instantly.
Cobra Electronics Corporation warrants this product and its limited warranty components to be free from defects in workmanship and materials from the date of first purchase. This warranty is enforced by the customer’s original purchaser if the product is used within the United States.
- Long-range marine radio
- Instant access to 10 NOAA weather channels
- Burp function
- Can only be charged with the supplied charging station
- No USB B or C port
Standard Horizon HX890 Handheld VHF Marine Radio
The Horizon HX890 is equipped with an easy-to-use Icon/Menu system. The new advanced feature enables you to continuously track and display the position information of around nine preselected vessels. Your work is made easier by a larger display and a super bright backlight. The HX890 measures 9.5 x 3.5 x 7.5 inches, weighs 2lbs, and is available in two color versions: navy blue and black.
- 6 W transmission power
- Long-life 1,800 mAh Li-ion battery
- IPX8 immersion water resistance,
- DSC (Digital Selective Calling) function
- GPS position logger
- USB data connection
- Water-activated SOS flashing light
The radio features an advanced floating portable VHF/GPS with a 66 channel WAAS GPS receiver that allows you to send a DSC distress message. You can also report your location or send calls based on your coordinates. It’s ideal for everyday use or as a complement to your emergency bag.
The device includes 6 W transmission power, a long-life 1,800 mAh Li-ion battery, die-cast housing, IPX8 immersion water resistance, and the DSC function (Digital Selective Calling). There’s the position query, the position report, and together with the entry of waypoints, these give this product a high value for money.
You can save up to 200 waypoints plus 20 routes that may be selected for navigation using the radio’s exclusive compass page. The compass page can show the position of about nine vessels in your area using the new GM (Group Monitoring) aspect.
The extended functions include the easy-to-use symbol and menu system. There’s also the 10-channel preselection key with GPS position logger, USB data connection, and water-activated SOS flashing light. The radio turns on and flashes SOS even when if it falls into the water or when the radio is turned off. Tradio his VHF has an alkaline battery slot with 12V DC, 110V AC, and three-hour quick chargers integrated.
The radio is waterproof to IPX8 to ensure a long service life under harsh conditions and has a three-year guarantee of water resistance.
- Integrated with 66-channel WAAS GPS receiver
- Water-activated emergency strobe light
- Equipped with GM (group monitor) using DSC group position call
- Oversized full dot matrix display
- Battery performance could have been better
Uniden UM385 25 Watt Fixed Mount Marine Vhf Radio
The Uniden marine radio protects you from what lies ahead and gets you out of risky waters by alerting you when a storm is brewing by broadcasting your location in case you need assistance. The UM385 measures 5 x 6.3 x 2.6 inches and weighs 3.55 lbs. It is equipped with triple clock functions, a range of international sea channels, DSC capabilities, and SAME weather warnings.
- Fixed radio
- DSC (Digital Selective Calling)
- Waterproof IPX4
- NOAA weather alert
- Triple watch
The UM385 has everything you need on the water in one solid design. It has a sturdy handheld microphone that allows you to transmit from the steering wheel without any problems, even if you are concentrating on the waters in front of you. It is a waterproof radio that meets IPX4 standards for water resistance, which means the radio is resistant to damage from rain splashes.
The UM385 includes an emergency button, position send, and inquiry. This functionality allows you to press a button during an emergency and with full Class D DSC capability to place an emergency call for relief. A powerful transceiver designed to communicate clearly and even know how to turn back can be as priceless as being able to call for help.
The manufacture of first-class materials ensures longevity, as the Atlantis 275 floats; it is designed to be submersible up to 4.9 feet and for 30 minutes. Additionally, it comes with a sound that prevents the water from the speaker cavity while the radio is submerged, which means it’s ready when you need it.
- Includes weather alert
- Robust microphone
- Comes with a distress button
- Waterproof to IPX4 standards
- Not portable
Retevis RT55 Marine Radio
With the Retevis RT55 VHF handheld radio, you can work precisely and powerfully! Retevis brings you DualTri-Watch, which allows you to freely watch the US, Canadian, and International naval channels at the same time, and not worry about any restrictions at sea. Equipped with the auto backlight function, it will illuminate your travel and work well at night.
- Dual tri-watch integrated
- NOAA Weather Alert can scan 10 weather channels
- 1200 mAh Li-ion battery
The Retevis RT55 is a 100% real floating radio and is resistant to saltwater. It has a large LCD screen and an oversized keyboard for all operations. The large keyboard ensures that you can operate and use it effortlessly, even if you wear gloves when working.
NOAA Weather Alert automatically scans 10 weather channels to provide you with the latest weather information. It will also warn you of harsh weather conditions at sea. The device has a 1 x 1200 mAh Li-ion battery of 288g, and a belt clip, an antenna that is easy to carry thanks to its ultra-lightweight. If it falls into the water, it can just as easily float on the water immediately.
The RT55 IS a 100% floating marine radio. It will automatically float immediately after you drop it into the water. The self-sustaining drain function can reduce all water entering the radio microphone, and you will not have a distorted or muffled sound.
The broad frequency range covers the entire US and Canadian naval channels as well as International naval channels. In addition, high performance can give you incredible range, and there is no need to worry about losing the signal.
The NOAA Weather Alert offers automatic scans to alert you of critical weather updates, along with an alert that communicates the threat of severe weather. The LCD screen is naturally backlit, and the screen resolution can be adjusted from low to high to adapt to inclement weather.
The robust and durable two-way radios meet military standards. You don’t have to worry that they will hold up even in harsh conditions. The excellent corrosion resistance ensures it can be used in saltwater and perform well. It’s a 100% IP67 waterproof radio.
- 10 Pre-programming NOAA weather sensing and warning
- Ultra-lightweight for a wide range of marine activities
- Ergonomic design for side anti-slip thread
- Large LCD screen and oversized keyboard
- A little harder to use at first
A marine radio can make the difference between life and death on the high seas, and you have the choice between handheld and fixed marine radios. Both can send and receive signals via GPS, AIS, DSC, or VHF.
Marine radio in different variations should be an integral part of the boat accessories on every ship. In this buyer’s guide, you’ll find out what to consider before buying a good VHF marine radio with good value for money.
Types of Marine Radios
There are special radios on the market for every purpose. When choosing the right radio, you need to decide what you want to use the device for. There are fixed and portable VHF radios.
Portable VHF radio: The portable VHF marine radio has a so-called “optical” range, which varies depending on the height and length of the antenna as well as the power of the transmitter. The portable VHF, whose power ranges from 1 to 6 watts, has a compact antenna. Its range will not exceed 5 miles.
Fixed VHF radio: For its part, the fixed VHF multiplies the advantages. First, its 25-watt transmission power maximum allows 30-40 mile ship-to-ship communication to a shore station. Second is the fixed antenna positioned most of the time at the highest point of the ship. Its battery can last 5 to 8 hours in normal use. In addition, it has DSC (Digital Selective Call) technology, a security system initially implemented on commercial and fishing vessels, but which has become widespread for recreational boating.
Related: How Marine VHF Radios Work?
Long battery life is particularly needed if you are using a handheld radio for a long period. However, you need to keep in mind that long-range radios also have a shorter battery life. It is very important to know that the battery lasts as long as possible if you choose a radio with lower transmission power.
Some radios only run on rechargeable batteries, which you cannot replace with batteries. In this case, you should order a replacement battery.
Some of the various features needed for sending and receiving signals in a marine radio are:
AIS, which means Automatic Identification System increases the safety of the ship. The data exchange via AIS is an internationally standardized procedure. It works on all oceans and ensures that you can see each other on the open sea at all times, even between ships of different origins – even in fog or at night.
Marine radio with AIS is a device that, due to its technology, performs several tasks at the same time. In marine radios with AIS, the system ensures automatic identification. A marine radio with Automatic Transmitter Identification System (ATIS) provides other ships, shore stations, or authorities in the port with information on static and travel-related data.
The static information of a marine radio with ATIS includes:
- Name of the ship
- International radio call signs
- Type of ship and dimensions of the ship
The travel-related data includes the following information:
- Port of destination
- Current draft
- Estimated time of arrival
In addition, such marine radio devices can also transmit dynamic data that contain precise information about the position of the ship, speed, and rotational speed. When the view is clear, you will wonder why this is necessary – but what happens in fog or the dark?
A VHF marine radio with DSC uses what is known as Digital Selective Calling, in which an alternative to voice radio was created using a calling process. Instead of controlling all receivers, as is the case with radios and conventional radios, a specific subscriber is controlled in a targeted manner – as with the telephone.
Some users see the advantages in the fact that the radio traffic with a VHF marine radio with DSC is no longer as public as with the normal (VHF) radio in the boat. Digital marine radios use special, reserved channels and frequencies to be able to make an emergency call on the high seas if reception is poor.
Marine radios with AIS are usually already equipped with GPS by the manufacturer. Transmission of the data already listed would not be possible to the same extent without GPS. The GPS transmitter ensures that the ship’s position can be located at any time because this variant uses satellites in space to enable precise global positioning.
When purchasing a device, the range, properties, and areas of application of the devices should always be more important than the brand name. Nonetheless, some brands are known for their reliability and quality. You can find very powerful models from brands such as Uniden, Retevis Icom, Simrad, Garmin, and Standard Horizon, for example.
There are big price differences between individual devices. It also depends entirely on the type of radio. Amateur radios or station radios cost between $500 and $12,500. The prices of handheld phones range from $250 to $1,200, with hobby devices starting at $40and the maximum prices being around $300. Handheld radios cost between $35 and $700.
Related: How to Test a VHF Marine Radio
What is a marine radio?
A VHF radio marine is a worldwide system of radio transceiver on boats, used for voice communication at a distance from one vessel to another vessel.
A fixed or portable marine VHF radio remains the essential means to ensure safety on a boat. With a range greater than GSM in coastal areas, a VHF radio allows:
- In the event of distress at sea, to disseminate information to all vessels in the area, pleasure boaters or professionals, to converse with the CROSS and with water or air rescue resources on final approach.
- To take note of a request for assistance from another navigator, who may be very close, and to communicate with the other boats. It is the first support for the solidarity of seafarers!
- To receive weather reports at regular intervals and in particular. They are broadcast by CROSS all over the coast by VHF radio.
What is a good VHF marine radio?
The best marine radio for you depends, of course, first and foremost on your conditions of use. Quality doesn’t have to be expensive. Even inexpensive marine radios such as the Retevis RT55 have a lot of positive reviews on the internet. The clear customer favorite, however, is the MHS75 Handheld 2-Way VHF radio from Uniden. The radio has a power boost PTT button as well as land-based (GMRS) and two-way marine communication (VHF).
What is the range of a VHF marine radio?
The range of a radio depends, among other things, very much on the place where you are. The range is less in the city than in the open. Good and bad weather also play a role. In general, the range also depends on additional factors such as carrier frequency (the smaller the carrier frequency, the greater the range); transmission power (the greater the transmission power, the greater the range); antenna (the longer the antenna, the greater the range); and the height of where you are (the higher you are, the greater the range).
Are marine radios waterproof?
As a rule, handheld radios are protected from splash water and light rain. You shouldn’t submerge any of the models. Make sure that the radio of your choice has been tested according to International Protection Standards (IP standards).
How to use VHF marine radio?
When communicating by radio, compliance with procedures is essential for the safety of navigation. “PANPAN PANPAN PANPAN” is the emergency message used on the radio concerning the safety of the ship or persons on board. “MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY” is a distress message of serious and imminent danger indicating a danger to the ship and all its occupants. It’s a request for immediate assistance.
These messages must also specify the name of the vessel, which is repeated three times, the position of the ship, the cause of the appeal, the assistance requested, and the intentions of the passengers. The message must be repeated until acknowledgment of receipt.
In our review of the best VHF marine radios for the money, we looked at the functions of five different radios that are important in a good device. If you compare our descriptions, you will surely find a suitable radio device. Our guide gives you a detailed overview of the subject of two-way radios so that you can make the right purchase decision.