VHF radio is an essential thing on a boat for communication. But you should consider some things before buying them. Let us find what are the things we check before buying a VHF radio.
- Good battery life
- Enough power and range
- Built-in GPS
- Type of VHF radio
- Floatable on water
- Float and flash function
- Daylight Visibility
- Loud voice
These are the essential things you should consider while buying a VHF radio. After buying a VHF radio, make sure to make it DSC active. DSC active is essential if you are using a VHF radio.
What it does is it will directly give location and all the information to the coast guards, if you long-press the emergency switch on the back of the VHF radio.
In the below table I mentioned what all the things you need consider while buying a VHF radio (for both fixed mount VHF radio and handheld VHF radio).
|Battery life||should be more||should be more|
|Power & range||should be more||should be more|
|Noise-cancelling||You need it|
(nice to have)
|You need it|
(nice to have)
|Built-in GPS||You need it||You need it|
|Waterproof||You need it||You need it|
|Floatable||No need||You need it|
(nice to have)
|Float and flash||No need||You need it|
(nice to have)
|Daylight visibility||should be more||should be more|
|Portable||No need||should be portable|
|Warranty||You need it|
(nice to have)
|You need it|
(nice to have)
|Design||No need much||No need much|
|Price||Up to you||Up to you|
First, we will find why do we need to have a VHF radio in a boat.
Vhf radio is essential for a boat, with the help of this device you can communicate with others (other boaters or coats guards). If you are in an emergency, then by pressing the emergency switch on the back of the radio, it will send the location to the coast guards or other boaters near you.
Image is linked to Amazon or click here (don’t worry, it will open in new tab). This is the best VHF radio you can buy. It is a bit expensive and worth buying it.
1. Good battery life
Battery life for any electronic device is essential. All the communications depend on battery life. Generally, all the VHF radio comes with 7 to 20 hrs of battery life. While buying a VHF radio, make sure that it has a longer battery life on it.
And while you preparing for boating, don’t forget to take a VHF radio charger with you on the boat. If you are using a fixed mount VHF radio than no need to worry about battery life.
Buy a VHF radio which has a battery life of 8 hrs to 10 hrs as a minimum. So, you can spend the weekend peacefully in a boat.
2. Enough power and range
The range of VHF radio is essential, whenever you are in an emergency, you will send an emergency signal to others (coats guards or other boaters). If your VHF radio has a less range, then it can’t even reach to the other boaters near you. So, make sure that it has a long-range.
And another way to increase your range is by using a high power (in watts) VHF radio. The low power VHF radio will make a weak signal, which can’t be detected by others properly. The high power VHF radio will make a strong signal, which can be detected by everyone properly.
Power can be used to improve the quality of the signal and to overcome some obstacles. Remember, more power out means more power in, giving shorter battery life for handhelds or non-recharging batteries. So, if you are buying a high power device (in watts), then you will get less battery life.
Always start with the lowest power setting and work up. On a fixed mount VHF radio, you should expect at least 25W transmit power and on a handheld VHF radio, you should expect no lower than 5W.
3. Noise cancellation
While boating, due to the sound (air or motor or waves), you can’t hear properly and another side as well. By having VHF radio equipped with noise-canceling function in it, it will save a lot of time. If your VHF radio has a noise-canceling function, people on the other side will hear properly.
Nowadays, some of the latest VHF radios feature this noise-canceling technology that digitally removes background noise and transmits your voice. Active Noise Cancelling also improves an incoming signal, therefore, increasing voice quality.
For both fixed mount VHF radio and handheld VHF radio, noise-canceling is essential. So, while buying any type of VHF radio, make sure that it has a noise-canceling function in it.
4. Built-in GPS
Built-in GPS is essential for a VHF radio, don’t buy any VHF radio without GPS in it. If you have GPS, you can use enable DSC (Digital selective calling), which plays a crucial role while boating. With the help of GPS, you can tell your exact location to others during an emergency.
Every VHF radio will have an emergency switch on the back of the device. If you press that switch, it will send your location (with the help of GPS) to the coast guards or other boaters within the range. You can use that switch if you enable DSC active in it. Otherwise, you can’t.
The fixed mount VHF radios will have built-in GPS in it, for a handheld VHF radio, you need to choose which one you need. If you are buying a VHF radio, then regardless of the type (handheld or a fixed mount) make sure that it has GPS in it.
Check this Boatus website on more about DSV active and how to activate that click here (don’t worry, it will open in new tab).
5. Type of VHF radio
There are two types of VHF radio
- Fixed-mount VHF radio
- Handheld VHF radio
You can choose whatever you want. If you are using a dinghy or any small boat, then go for a handheld VHF radio because you can’t mount a fixed mount VHF radio anywhere in the dinghy. If you are using a big boat or sailboat, then buy a fixed mount VHF radio.
For most people, handheld VHF radio will be a good choice. You can carry it in your hand or a pocket like a mobile phone.
This one applies for a handheld VHF radio because you won’t be carrying a fixed mount VHF radio along with you. If you are buying a fixed mount VHF radio, then no need to worry whether it is portable or not.
The handheld VHF radio should be portable, easy to carry, weightless, and it should fit in the pocket. If it fits in the pocket, then it is a good and portable one.
A VHF radio should be easy to carry, and it shouldn’t be a burden to you. So, buy a portable handheld VHF radio.
If you are buying a fixed mount VHF radio, then you need not worry much about whether it is waterproof or not. If you are buying a handheld VHF radio, then make sure you are buying a waterproof VHF radio only.
No matter what type of VHF radio you buy, make sure that the VHF radio you are buying is waterproof one, not a water-resistant one. You might think what is the difference between water-resistant and waterproof, anyway, both are the same right? No, it is not the same.
Water-resistant can resist the penetration of water to some degree but not completely. Whereas waterproof makes it impervious (not allowing fluid to pass through) to water. Make sure that you are buying a waterproof VHF radio, no matter what radio you are buying.
And make sure that the VHF radio has IPX8 or IPX7 on it. IPX8 device can be submerged deeper than 1 meter. The exact depth is specified by the manufacturer.
8. Floatable on water
If you are buying a fixed mount VHF radio, then you need not worry about whether it is floatable in water or not. If you are buying a handheld VHF radio, then make sure you are buying a VHF radio that floats in the water as well.
If you buy a waterproof VHF radio that is not sufficient, the VHF radio should float in the water as well. Whenever you are buying a handheld radio, make sure that it is a floatable device. If it is not floatable and falls in the water, it will go deep into the water, and you can’t find it.
If it is a floatable device, you can directly take it from the water (because it will float in the water), just in case if it fell in the water. That is a big problem while buying a VHF radio, many people will buy a waterproof handheld radio, and they forget to ensure whether it is floatable or not.
9. Float and flash function
If you are buying a fixed mount VHF radio, then you need not worry about whether it has float and flash function in it or not. If you are buying a handheld VHF radio, then make sure you are buying a VHF radio that has float and flash function in it.
Okay, let us assume that you bought a waterproof floatable handheld VHF radio. During at night, if it fells in the water, you might not see it properly. So, what float and flash function do is if a VHF radio fell in the water, it will blink the screen constantly for some time.
With the help of that option, you can see where it there in the water. Float and flash is an essential feature for a VHF radio if you are boating at night.
10. Daylight Visibility
No matter what type of VHF radio you buy, make sure that the VHF radio you are buying has a screen that has good daylight visibility. You will be boating on a sunny day, what is the use if you can’t see the screen properly in sunlight.
Wherever you are buying the VHF radio (online or offline). Go out of the building into the sunlight and ensure whether you can see the screen properly or not. Then decide whether you should buy that or not.
So, make sure that the VHF radio you are buying has high brightness. It should be visible during daylight.
11. Loud voice
No matter what type of VHF radio you are buying, make sure that it has a louder voice. So, you can hear what others are speaking if there are any disturbances outside.
Generally, the sound is measured in milliwatts (mW). If the mW is more than it is a louder VHF radio, which is important if there is any wind, water, and engine noise. You need to have a louder voice and active noise-canceling function in it too.
You can check that yourself by switching on the VHF radio and tune in to the weather band. Then adjust the volume from silent to full and listen for yourself. So, buy a VHF radio with a louder sound.
For both, the types of VHF radios warranty is good to have. For some products, there is a waterproof warranty too. Generally, for many VHF radios, there is around 3 years warranty period.
If you are buying a bit costly VHF radio, try to pay an extra 20 dollars or 25 dollars on warranty, if there is no warranty for that particular product. It will help you a lot.
Buy a VHF radio based on how you are going to use it? for what type of boat you will use it? If you have a sailboat or any other big boats, then buying a fixed mount one would be a perfect one because you can fix it anywhere in the boat, and you can use it. Other than carrying a handheld in a big boat.
If you have a small boat (towable boats) like a fishing boat or a dinghy or a Jon boat, then handheld radio is a perfect choice for you because you won’t keep the boat in the water, if you are not using. You can carry it yourself whenever you are going boating.
After boating, you will bring back the boat to the home, so no need for a fixed mount VHF radio for these king of boats. You can buy a fixed mount VHF radio, if you keep the boat most of the time in the water, regardless of the use.
Check the built quality of the VHF radio, and see whether it is looking cheap or looking good. Many brands sell the VHF radios, which looks good, but, built with cheap materials. So, be cautious, don’t buy the VHF radios, just by looking at the design.
You don’t need a big brick kind of VHF radio for holding it in the hand. The VHF radio should be simple, and it should not slide from the hand. Use a small case for the VHF radio if you are buying a handheld radio.
There are so many brands out there, which vary from 20 dollars to 200 dollars or 300 dollars or even more. But, you can get a good VHF radio for around 100 dollars. With 100 dollars, you can get a good VHF radio, which is more than sufficient for regular uses.
If you are a bit advanced and you are sailing in the international waters, then buy a device that is around 200 dollars for better uses. It all depends on the price, if you keep more money, then you will get a good device.
People who use their boats for fishing or just for fun. They can buy a 100 dollar VHF radio. But, don’t but the cheap VHF radios, these VHF radios are essential for a boat. While buying a VHF radio, buy a good one. These might save your life one day.
Check my recommended VHF radio page click here (don’t worry, it will open in new tab)
Whatever VHF radio you are buying, make sure that it has the following functions.
- It is waterproof, not water-resistant.
- It is a floatable device.
- It has an inbuilt GPS in it.
- It has a noise-canceling function.
These things are very very essential while buying a VHF radio.