How to Choose the Right CB Radio Antenna
When researching and buying an antenna for your CB radio, there are many things to consider. How will I mount it on my car? Will my car fit in my garage while it’s on the roof? Will a 5-foot antenna on my car just be ridiculous? How tall does the antenna have to be? And what brand antenna should I buy? All of these are questions you should ask yourself. These questions change slightly depending on how and when you use your CB and if you are new to CB or have been doing it for years.
Length – Tall antennas generally work better and get a longer range than short antennas. The higher the antenna goes, the farther your message will go, and you can receive messages from farther away. The ideal length antenna for CB radios is 102 inches (about 8 and ½ feet!) because it is equal to ¼ of a wavelength. Obviously, this isn’t even an option for most people. If you just can’t have a 102, or 36+ inch antenna stuck to the roof of your car because it won’t fit in the garage or you just don’t want it because you think it’s annoying, they do make shorter antennas. The only drawback with these is that your reception isn’t as good. Walcott CB sells an 8-inch magnetic CB antenna, the MS512M, that sits on the roof of your car. With this, you don’t get the same reception that a 3-foot antenna has, but you can park in a garage or go through the drive thru without a problem.
Antenna Brand – Experts say that you can get away with a cheaper CB radio as long as you have a really good antenna. Since antennas are relatively cheap anyway, don’t buy the cheapest one you can find thinking it's only wire. Some highly respected brands are Cobra, Wilson, K-40, and Firestik.
Base-Loaded – Base-loaded antennas house the coil at the bottom of the antenna, which are usually in a plastic covering. Most base-loaded antennas have a magnet on the bottom to mount it on a cars roof. These can have a thicker coil too, because most of the antennas weight is at the bottom. Base-loaded antennas usually have high wattage outputs. These are most commonly mounted on car or truck roofs and trunks.
Center-Loaded – The name is misleading because the coil is not right in the middle of the antenna. It is usually near the bottom, but not at the base. Under the coil is a thick, stainless steel shaft. The coil is sometimes in a plastic case. Above the antenna is normal. The most common uses for center-loaded antennas is on large trucks and semis.
Top-Loaded – The most common and cheapest type of CB radio antenna. These are also the most effective, even though they usually have low wattages (this is really only a drawback to people trying to use these with a ham radio or modified CB). Top-loaded antennas are mostly made out of fiberglass, and they use a thin wire wrapped on the outside of the shaft and is covered with a protective layer. Since the coil is at the top of these antennas, you can mount them lower on the car because it is more likely the antenna will be taller than the roof of the car. Top-loaded antennas are use on cars, trucks, semis, and RV’s, making them the most versatile antenna type.
Mounting – Antennas can be mounted by a magnet that you can take off and put back on whenever you like, or they can be screwed onto the car. I suggest the magnetic ones, because you can move them around to find better reception, take it of to get through a car wash, park in a parking garage, etc.
Handheld CB Antennas – Handheld CB radios come with a rubber antenna, usually about 8 inches long. You can buy upgrades and choose between another 8 inch rubber antenna, and a telescoping antenna that starts at 8 inches, but expands all the way out to 27 inches. There is also the option of buying an adapter for around $6, that allows you to connect your handheld CB to any of the antennas mentioned above and more. Put a 37” Cobra antenna on top of your car and use the handheld inside easily with an adapter.
Try searching on the internet at websites like www.rightchannelradios.com.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Spike aka desert Fox on June 27, 2019:
I have a president Texas antenna with a president Lincoln radio in my jeep its a tall antenna great range my base antenna is a star duster and it's 50 ft. In the air with a cobra 2000 radio I can talk to just about everyone in my area
Patrick on September 05, 2013:
When I looking for CB radio for myself I could not find any good tutorial but now when I am writing my own and I am searching for some good picture I found it.
Thanks a lot and really good job
If someone want read more, this is my article how to chose CB radio..
jason lewis on July 31, 2013:
nice site we have lots to offer cb radio car amp come and see
spiceman on January 23, 2013:
new to cb ing need all advice
Nick on March 20, 2012:
I have a Realistic TRC-55 with a mag base and an am/fm radio antennea screwed into it. does it work? yes! $10 for the whole thing!
Thomas on May 20, 2011:
One of the best investments before buying your mobile CB antenna is a good quality SWR/WATT meter, this will tell you if that new antenna is properly matched to your radio ! And as I said in my earlier comment avoid those cheap mag-mount antennas that are sold at K-Mart, Walmart and the auto supply stores that are made in China and go for $15-$19 they are generally poor quality and SWR matches can be terrible maybe with the best match of 2.5 to 1 if you are lucky usually closer to 4 to 1! Stick with Wilson, K-40, Firestik or other name brands, the better American made CB mobile antennas have greater coverage meaning below channel 1 or above channel 40 and many can handle far more than the 5 watts so it does pay in the long run to buy a quality antenna for your radio . Years ago(1980's) with my palomar CB and a Firestik mag mount antenna I regularly worked DX, midwest and east coast from the parking lot where I worked during my lunch hour when I lived in Los Angeles !I only ran alittle more than the legal power limit !
Goran on December 29, 2010:
Radio antennas are really important for me. I hate when the reception is bad, so I always try to buy one that is good, and this here really helps to get some idea about antennas. Thank you for the article!
Robert on September 18, 2010:
I've got a cobra 129 ltd and a firestick antenna but have a lot of problem getting out on it.
Thomas on August 22, 2010:
Very interesting article on CB antennas , from my own personal experience be very careful when buying used CB mobile antennas especially at garage sales , some times they are no good and all the tuning in the world will not give you a decent match ! Also avoid the CB mobile antennas that are sold at K-Mart or Wal-Mart ,they are cheap junk !Buy a quality antenna such as a K-40 or a Wilson , these are good quality build antennas that with stand wind as well as the elements , I like mag mount antennas as when I park to shop and I can put the antenna in the car , which does not attract attention so my car will not be broken into !And another thing before buying a mobile CB antenna find out what type of match the antenna will give you if you do plan to go above channel 40 or below channel 1 !
ShortMaxwell on August 09, 2010:
Yea i just bought a 102 inch antenna today and mounted it on my truck, its looking good
parkerk393 (author) from Arlington, Texas on August 08, 2009:
Yeah CB radios are the best. Me and my friends use them a lot. Haha! All the time!
A Texan on August 07, 2009:
I didn't even know they still sold CB's it takes me back about 35 years! You got your ears on Rubber Duckie?
parkerk393 (author) from Arlington, Texas on May 27, 2009:
Yep that's pretty much it, in perfect weather conditions however.
CB Radios For Sale on May 27, 2009:
Good advice. Seems the most important attribute is "bigger is better" in regards to CB Antennas and CB RAdios. Generally the taller antenna will have further range than the shorter version.
parkerk393 (author) from Arlington, Texas on March 24, 2009:
Great thanks! I sure will!
johnb0127 from TX on March 22, 2009:
Another great hub! Keep those hubs about cb radios coming!