Amateur radio is a fantastic pastime for anyone who enjoys connecting with individuals around them. With amateur radio, you can link up with other ham radio users across the world.
It can also be extremely beneficial during an emergency. One important thing you require to operate an amateur radio is an antenna.
There are various types of antennas on the market and selecting one for your transceiver can greatly impact its performance. We have researched quite a few and want to highlight 5 of the best ham radio antennas for cars on the market now.
In the buyer’s guide section, we have discussed the vital features that a reliable ham radio antenna for a car should possess.
Top 5 Ham Radio Antennas
|#||Ham Radio Antenna||Specialty|
|1||Browning BR-180||Best Overall|
|2||Nagoya UT-72||Very Sturdy|
|3||VFAN Dualband Antenna||Best Output Power|
|4||Bingfu Dualband Antenna||Best Price|
|5||Tram 1185 Magnet Antenna||Best Range|
The Best Ham Radio Antenna for Car: Browning BR-180
This super cute antenna from Browning comes highly recommended for both transmission and reception. At 37 inches of height, the Browning BR-180 is classed as a 5/8 wave for UHF and half-wave for VHF.
The BR-180 requires an NMO antenna mount, which you will have to purchase separately. Several previous buyers report that the antenna pairs well with the BR316 NMO 3.5-inch chrome magnet mount by Browning.
The BR-180 is a pretty tall antenna. For this reason, you may hit structures with low ceilings or even your garage opening. This however depends on where you install the antenna and your car’s height.
Nevertheless, most users say they have not experienced any impairment to the antenna when they go through such structures at a rational speed. This is mostly because the antenna is sufficiently flexible to revert to its straight shape after buffeting.
Being a dual-band antenna, the Browning BR-180 is designed to work with 2-meter and 70-centimeter transceivers. This translates to 440-450 megahertz on the UHF frequency band and 144-148 megahertz on the VHF frequency band.
The antenna is factory-tuned to work with these amateur frequency bands. This spares you the hassle of having to make adjustments. On the downside, you are restricted to using a comparatively limited range of frequencies.
The antenna’s max power rating is 100 watts. This means this antenna can pair well with many hi-power mobile two-way radios. Many users report that they have been able to hit repeaters several miles away even when using only 5 watts.
The Browning BR-180 also has some impressive gain. On UHF, the gain is 6 dBd, while on VHF it is 3 dBd. Considering the price, this antenna delivers the best value for money.
- Weight: 0.54 pounds
- Dimensions: 37.3″ x 3.5″ x 1.7″
- Center load
- NMO mounting
- Max power: 100 watts
- Dual-band – 2-meter and 70-centimeter bands
- Gain: 6dBd on UHF and 3 dBd on VHF
- Color: Chrome
- Easy to mount
- Fantastic dual-band antenna
- Impressive gain
- Highly durable
- Arrives factory tuned for ease of use
- No user manual is included in the package
- Some users report that excessive flexing/bending of the whip causes the metal to get weak and snap off
As mentioned earlier, Browning BR-180 requires an NMO antenna mount. To ensure a solid hold on your car, sand off some paint and position the mount on the mounting area. You want the mount to make contact with as much metal as possible.
Also, ensure that the ground side of the antenna (coaxial shield) is firmly electrically connected to your car’s metal mass. This metal mass can be the vehicle’s body or frame. The grounding helps ensure return currents have a pathway to finish their loop.
The antenna’s underside screws onto the NMO mount. The connector and cable that attaches to your transceiver come with the mount. When choosing mounts, ensure the cable is RG8X or RG58.
This is important because the connector is fitted with various heads, for example, SO139, SMA, BNC, and so forth. If you select the wrong connector/cable, you may encounter serious reception issues with your antenna.
Be sure to tighten all of the set screws using the Allen wrench included in the package. There are two such screws at the underside of the whip.
You will also find two more screws on the center load coil. If this is not done, your antenna will almost certainly fall apart due to vibrations when driving.
If you have a low-height garage, the BR-180 may be a little too tall to sit on your vehicle’s roof. Therefore, it may be better to mount the antenna on the trunk.
And, since the antenna is extremely simple to mount/remove, you may want to remove it when not in use. This way, you can prevent theft from happening.
User Review and Feedback on Browning BR-180
Overall, this dual-band antenna from Tram Browning has received many positive reviews from users. Most users report that the antenna holds strong on the vehicle.
These users also report that the product nicely holds up against highway speeds. And that it is sufficiently flexible to recover from minor smacks.
Several users like that the antenna is distinct from the mount. With this separation, users do not have to purchase a separate system when they need to change to a different frequency or band.
Most users also like that the antenna uses a magnetic NMO mount. These users note that the magnetic mount allows them to remove and install the antenna with ease.
Most previous buyers are happy with the build quality of this Browning antenna. These customers report that the antenna has held up nicely against inclement weather including strong winds, pouring rains, and hail.
Many users also reported that the antenna takes constant hits from their garage doors without getting damaged.
Many users describe the Browning BR-180 as a fantastic antenna for the buck. These users report that the antenna pairs well with their dual-band HTs within the car. And that they get fantastic signal reports.
Several users have also praised the chrome appearance of this antenna, describing it as super appealing.
The main complaint that users have about this product is that it comes with zero instructions on how to use the antenna.
These customers note that the lack of a user manual makes mounting the device a difficult process. Some users report that vibrations on the road caused the antenna to break off.
What Makes Browning BR-180 The Best Ham Radio Antenna for Car?
The Browning BR-180 has a max power rating of 100 watts, which makes it sufficiently powerful for most users. It requires an NMO antenna mount.
NMO mounts offer a highly secure way to attach the antenna to your car. Also, the design of NMO mounts makes changing or removing the antenna comparatively simple without disassembly.
The BR-180 arrives factory-tuned for the 2-meter and 70-centimeter bands. This makes the product extremely simple to use.
Furthermore, it delivers a remarkable 6dBd of gain on the UHF band and 3 dBd on the VHF band. All of these features make the Browning BR-180 a fantastic ham radio antenna for cars.
4 More Top Rated Ham Radio Antennas for Car
1. Nagoya UT-72
The UT-72 is a high-performing antenna from BTECH. The 19-inch antenna features a robust rare earth magnetic base. With this base, you can easily mount the antenna on the trunk or roof of your car.
A rubber pad covers the base so you will never have to worry about paint damage. The UT-72 is omnidirectional. Thus, if you mount it anywhere on your car, it will receive strong signals from all directions.
Several users report that the magnetic mount is sufficiently powerful to not get blown off of a car at any speed. Most users also agree that UT-72’s build quality is fantastic.
A spring is fitted close to the base, which allows the antenna to bend freely when pressurized. This means your antenna will not snap off even when you speed through low-hanging obstacles.
Included in the package is an RG58 cable with a PL259 connector. This heavy-duty cable is 48 inches long so you can easily route it via practically any vehicle.
Also included in the package is a super elastic SMA adapter cable. The adapter cable makes connecting the antenna to your handheld compact transceiver very simple.
The Nagoya UT-72 is a dual-band antenna. It can receive UHF signals from 400-520 megahertz. It can also receive 137-174 megahertz VHF signals.
This means it offers you a broad range of signals. BTECH says this antenna has a gain of 3.5 dBi on the 70cm band and 1.7dBi on the 2m bands. With this gain and considering its size, most users agree that the UT-72 is a fantastic little antenna.
- Easy to install
- Excellent gain
- Great build quality
- Impressive performance
- Fantastic for the price
- A few users report that the antenna is not as robust as advertised
- There have been complaints that the antenna base is vulnerable to rusting
2. VFAN Dualband Antenna
Best Output Power
If you are seeking a high-performing ham radio antenna for your car, the VFAN Dualband Antenna can be a superb option. The 18-inch antenna works on the UHF as well as VHF bands. It functions in the UHF band, at 437-480 MHz.
In the VHF frequency, it operates at 137-149 MHz. Several previous buyers report that they have been able to hit repeaters 28 miles away on mid-power.
On UHF, the VFAN dual-band antenna delivers a gain of 3 dBI, while on VHF, it is 2 dBI. Many previous purchasers report that this quarter-wave antenna delivers an excellent signal considering its price.
The antenna operates at a max power of 100 watts. This power rating is more than sufficient for most car-mounted amateur radio systems.
However, this power level is considered rather low if you will be using the product as a home antenna. The antenna’s base is 3 inches in diameter and it employs a rare-earth magnet for mounting.
Rare-earth magnets are considered the strongest enduring magnets available. Also, they have considerably higher performance compared to ferrite/ceramic magnets.
This means that this antenna’s magnetic mount will stick solidly to your steel car trunk or roof. So, even when you are driving at high speeds, you will never have to bother about the base slipping off your car.
Some users say they are disappointed with how the antenna connects with the base. These users note that the connection system does not allow the antenna to flex properly when struck.
The antenna’s coaxial cable measures about 120 inches. This should be long enough to connect the antenna to your radio in any type of car.
If the antenna strikes your garage door each time you drive out and in, it may ultimately disconnect. Then again, if the antenna will not take any hits, it will serve you just fine.
- Remarkable maximum output power
- Reasonably priced
- Solid magnetic attachment to the car
- Excellent reception and transmission features
- Easy to mount
- The mounting system could be better
- Some users have complained that the coax cable is too short
3. Bingfu Dualband Antenna
Bingfu is a dual-band antenna that communicates in the UHF (400-520 megahertz) and VHF (136-174 megahertz) bands. Users who have tested the product with UHF/VHF transceivers report that it receives signals well and that SWR is fantastic.
Some customers reported that they have been able to hit repeaters more than 20 miles away with this antenna connected to an HT.
The antenna will attach securely to your car thanks to its magnetic base mount. Most previous purchasers agree that this magnetic base sticks great.
Thus, you will never have to worry about the antenna coming off your car even when traveling at maximum legal highway speeds.
The 18.5-inch antenna links to your transceiver via a 3-meter RG58 coax cable along with a PL259 male connector.
With this connector, you can connect the antenna to nearly all models of ham transceivers. If you are not certain, check your user manual before you make the purchase.
Many users are disappointed that the coax cable is excessively short. These users report that the 3-meter coax cable severely limits the connection of the cable to the antenna in their cars.
The Bingfu Dualband Antenna can safely handle 50 watts of output power from your radio. It is simple to install and has a superb build quality.
- Offers fantastic value for the dollar
- Simple to install
- Great transmission/reception reports
- Well built
- Compatible with most amateur mobile radios
- Extremely short coax cable
- A few users report that the bottom of the antenna is susceptible to rusting
4. Tram 1185 Magnet Antenna
The Tram 1185 is a highly portable and durable antenna that you can mount on your car. It is optimized for UHF (430-450 MHz) and VHF (144-148 MHz) radios.
SWR falls between 1.1 and 1.25 in nearly all the VHF and UHF operating bands. Most customers report that the Tram 1185 picks up repeaters extremely well even over mountainous/hilly landscapes.
The antenna provides unity gain on VHF. The advantage of unity gain antennas is that they are less likely to be hampered by bushland, hilly terrain, and buildings. The Tram 1185 has a gain of 2.5 dBd on UHF.
The base of the antenna is fitted with a 3-inch wide magnet. This magnet base makes it extremely simple to establish a solid mount on your car. It also features a regular 3/8 mount (not NMO) that is screwed atop the magnet base.
The Tram 1185 Magnet Antenna has a power rating of 75 watts maximum. The antenna is designed to connect to your transceiver via a 12-feet RG58 coax cable plus a PL-259 connector. The cable, magnet, and antenna are all included in the package.
- Simple to install
- Great quality
- Compact and easy to move around
- Sufficiently flexible for overhead hits
- Some users note that the magnetic base is somewhat weak
- The coax cable could be longer
How To Select the Best Ham Radio Antenna for Car?
When shopping for a ham radio antenna for a car, you need to consider the following critical factors:
1. Ham Radio Antenna Type
Ham radio antennas for cars can be grouped into three major types – the quarter-wave vertical, 5/8-wave vertical, and half-wave vertical. Generally, taller antennas offer more gain.
Therefore, if you typically operate far away from repeaters, a 5/8-wave vertical may be your best option. A quarter-wave vertical is probably better suited if you typically operate in town, near to the repeaters.
A half-wave antenna provides more gain compared to a quarter-wave antenna, but less compared to a 5/8-wave vertical antenna.
The major benefit offered by half-wave antennas is that they perform well when there is no ground plane. Therefore, you should opt for a half-wave antenna if your car’s body is made of composite material or fiberglass.
The Browning BR-180 is 5/8-wave for UHF and half-wave for VHF, which is one of the reasons we selected it as the best ham radio antenna for cars. The Tram 1185 Magnet Antenna, VFAN Dualband Antenna, and Nagoya UT-72 are all quarter-wave vertical antennas.
2. Single Vs Dual-Band Antennas
Ham radio users communicate on various frequencies ranging from 200 kilohertz to over 1 gigahertz.
You most likely have a multi-band transceiver – probably with two major UHF/VHF bands that you intend to communicate on.
The two most popular bands are 70cm and 2m bands. When choosing an antenna for your car, you can buy a separate antenna for each band.
However, the most convenient thing to do is to select a single antenna that’s optimized to work on 2m and 70cm bands.
All of the products recommended here are dual-band antennas. You should select one that is optimized for your particular radio requirements.
3. Mounting Options
Ham radio antennas typically come with a range of SMA, BNC, PL259, NMO, Studs, or SO-239.
NMO mounts like the one required for the Browning BR-180 are highly recommended.
These tend to be more durable and can endure abuse from striking objects. Another important benefit of NMO mounts is that they are highly weather resistant. This means they require little or no maintenance even after it rains.
Comparison of Top 5 Ham Radio Antennas for Car
|Ham Radio Antenna||Height||Maximum Power Rating||Frequency Network Band||Gain||Mount|
|Browning BR-180||37.3 inches||100 watts||20m/70cm bands||3 dBd/6dBd (VHF/UHF||Magnetic/NMO mounting|
|Nagoya UT-72||19 inches||80 watts||VHF (137-174 megahertz), UHF (400-520 megahertz)||3.5 dBi /1.7 dBi, (UHF/VHF)||Magnetic/NMO mount|
|VFAN Dualband Antenna||18 inches||100 watts||20m/70cm bands||2Dbi/3dBi (VHF/UHF)||Magnetic Mount|
|Bingfu Dualband Antenna||18.5 inches||50 watts||UHF 400-520 megahertz, VHF 136-174 megahertz||Not indicated||Magnetic Mount|
|Tram 1185 Magnet Antenna||19 inches||75 watts||UHF 430-450 megahertz, VHF 144-148 megahertz||2.5 dBd UHF/ Unity gain VHF||Magnetic mount|
By now, you must have noticed that each antenna recommended here has its distinct benefits and disadvantages.
However, we selected the Browning BR-180 as the best ham radio for the car because it is a dependable 100-watt, 5/8-wave for UHF, and half-wave for VHF antenna. This means it is well equipped to meet the needs of most users.