10 Best Fixed/Two-Way/Ship-to-Shore/Portable/Handheld VHF Boat Marine Radios for Center Console Boat, Fishing Boat, Jet Ski, Kayak, Pontoon Boat AWESOME Review and Rating


Posted by
Ryan Peters
Updated by
Bill Miller
Last updated:
June 1, 2020

These VHF boat marine radios allow you to transmit easily from the wheel while keeping your focus on the waters ahead. They are for anglers of all ages and experience and packed with outstanding features and built compact and rugged to take the rigors of being out on the water. Most handheld models fit into your hand, have a large display that is clear and easy to operate. They are submersible for up to 30 minutes at five feet, have the waterproof level, and won't give up no matter how wet it gets — whitecap splash, gusty spray, tidal wave, whatever, this radio can take it. They float to the surface, if you drop it in the water, and glow in the dark seals and power key allows you to find radio easily. Some models are switchable for short- and long-range communication — this is also a convenient way to save a little battery life. In most situations, the 1 Watt transmission power is all you need.

They cover all USA, International, and Canadian marine channels, keeping you up-to-date with all the latest marine activity and brings everything you’ll need on the water into one compact design. For some models, triple watch mode monitor also channels 16 and 9 for a signal while you listen to the currently selected channel (checking channels 16 and 9 for activity every 2 seconds). Some portable VHF radio models have additional accessories included - SMA flexible rubber antenna, rapid clip-on DC charger, lithium-Ion rechargeable battery, sturdy belt clip for maximum mobility.See Also Best VHF Radio Battery Chargers

Most Reliable VHF Marine Radios — Top Rated Test Winner 2020

Editor's pickEditor’s pick

Portable 6W Switchable WaterProof Handheld Submersible VHF Marine Radio [Uniden]

Why it’s better?

  • Excellent quality.
  • Submersible for up to 30 minutes at five feet.
  • Switchable model, a convenient way to save a little battery life.
  • Covers all USA, International, and Canadian marine channels.


TOP VHF Marine Radios Comparison Chart

1. The Best Portable 6W Switchable WaterProof Handheld Submersible VHF Marine Radio [Uniden]

❑

  • Quality
    95%
  • Features
    95%
Last Updated June 05, 2020

2. The Best 25W VHF Marine Boat Ship to Shore Radio with GPS [Standart Horizon]

❑

  • Quality
    95%
  • Features
    90%
Last Updated June 05, 2020

3. The Best 5W Marine Two-Way Portable VHF Handheld Radio with GPS/DSC with Antenna [Icom]

❑

  • Quality
    90%
  • Features
    90%
Last Updated June 05, 2020

4. The Best White VHF Marine Ship to Shore Boat Radio (DSC) [Lowrance]

White VHF Marine Ship to Shore Boat Radio (DSC) [Lowrance] detail review

  • Quality
    90%
  • Features
    95%
Last Updated June 05, 2020

5. The Best 6 Wt Submersible Handheld Floating VHF Radio with Noise Cancelling Mic, LCD Display, Memory Scan [Cobra]

❑

  • Quality
    90%
  • Features
    95%
Last Updated June 05, 2020

6. The Best 6W Floating Handheld Portable VHF with Internal GPS with Antenna [Standart Horizon]

6W Floating Handheld Portable VHF with Internal GPS with Antenna [Standart Horizon] detail review

  • Quality
    90%
  • Features
    90%
Last Updated June 05, 2020

7. The Best 25-Wt Two-Way Waterproof Fixed Mount Marine VHF Radio (DSC) [Uniden]

❑

  • Quality
    80%
  • Features
    80%
Last Updated June 05, 2020

8. The Best Two-Way Waterproof 25-Wt Fixed Mount Marine Vhf Radio (Dsc) [Uniden]

❑

  • Quality
    90%
  • Features
    80%
Last Updated June 05, 2020

9. The Best ICOM VHF Boat Ship to Shore Marine Radio with Hailer [Icom]

  • Quality
    85%
  • Features
    90%
Last Updated June 05, 2020

10. The Best Handheld VHF Marine Radio with Antenna [Standard Horizon]

  • Quality
    90%
  • Features
    80%
Last Updated June 05, 2020

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Overall, there are the most important things to consider when purchasing vhf marine radios. Pay attention to the following unique features:

  • product’s quality;
  • price;
  • dual watch or tri watch;
  • power;
  • type - handheld or fixed mount;
  • GPS and DSC (Digital Selective Calling) availability;
  • etc.

There's three pretty distinct categories of handheld VHFs. Now the first thing I want to point out these days these units are much more advanced than they used to be. 10, 15 years ago there was a much bigger spread in the quality. These days all of these are waterproof. All of these have rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Two big points that are really, really good.

The Differences Between Handheld VHFs

Now let's look at some of the differences. Here is your bottom line lowest cost units. It's still IPX rated 7, which is pretty darn good. It has 5 watts of power, which all do with a few exceptions. Some go to 6, but the truth of the matter is the power coming out of a handheld isn't such a huge deal. You're more going to be limited by antenna height than anything else. So most you can get is a couple, few miles of range with these units, so it's not a massive factor. Now what happens if you step up a level? Let's take a look. Here we have a model that's kind of a step up. What does that get you? Well for starters, this one's IPX rating is 8 as opposed to 7. 7 is submersible down to a meter for up to 30 minutes, whereas an IPX 8 unit can actually be submerged deeper than a meter and still keep its seal. This one also has a 12 hour battery life as opposed to a 10 hour battery life in the less expensive model. And although these two units weigh about the same, you will find some of the higher priced handheld VHFs that are significantly lighter. That's often a sign of quality as they take some of the weight out, and it can be a little more comfortable in hand. Now here we have one of the most expensive units in this entire display. This one goes for about 230 dollars, but it has a big advantage over these other units. This one has an integrated GPS. It has an LCD screen. Some of these even allow for some navigation, but more importantly it has DSC. You've got the panic button right there. Which one of these handheld VHFs belongs in your ditch bag? Well that's a call that only you can make, but now you know the major differences between these different categories of units. And of course there are other features that different units have that may be more attractive to you or less attractive to others. Some have built-in strobes, some have noise-canceling features that make it easier to hear or to be heard more clearly.

VHF marine radio with bluetooth

You can use the smartphone app to set up the marine radio and text message other VHF text message capable radios.

VHF marine radio with built in gps receiver and hailer

Some models of marine radio have built in gps system and hailer.

VHF marine radio with remote mic

The remote mics allow complete radio control from the cockpit.

VHF marine radio with ais transceiver

Some models of marine vhf radio have AIS transceiver (Automatic Identification Systems) to display on the chartplotter to enhance communication, situational awareness and collision avoidance.

VHF marine radio with DSC

VHF-DSC radio enables vessels to quickly transmit a DISTRESS alert and message, digitally alerting other vessels that an URGENCY or SAFETY message is about to be sent, and establish contact with other vessels and coast stations discretely without having to use Channel 16.

How to Use a VHF: It Might Save Your Life

Your VHF radio is your lifeline to the outside world in case of emergency, so you've got to make sure you're using it right. The first thing you'll need to do is adjust the squelch - this is pretty simple just turn it until earth this is and then back it off until the hissing stops, that will eliminate all the unnecessary static. Tuned to the channel you want and then take the microphone, hold it at a 90 degree angle to your face and speak slowly and clearly as you key the mic. Make sure the radio is working properly by doing a radio check. First, tune to a station that's an open frequency like 68, then repeat 3 times – “Radio check”, “radio check”, "radio check” in the name of your vessel. In many areas of the nation you can now do an automated radio check as well C2 provides a service and I looked on the internet earlier to find out the channel 28 is the right channel for that.

Now you would never do a radio check on channel 16, 16 is reserved for emergencies and emergencies only. In case of emergency go directly to channel 16 and if you have a DSC equipped radio, hit your distress button now remember your radio has to be linked in with your GPS or have an internal GPS in order for DSC to function. In case of a life threatening emergency use the callsign Mayday and repeat it three times to call the Coast Guard.

VHF Radio vs Cell Phone for Boating

I've got the latest smartphone, do I really need a VHF radio on my boat? Short answer – yes. Here's a quick look at our top-rated VHF floating handheld radios and an explanation of why having a VHF radio onboard could actually save your life. In an emergency all you have to do is press the red button to switch to channel 16, push the talk button and give your name, state your emergency, stay you'll be listening to channel 16 and your name again. Then release the talk button. Now unlike a cell phone where you have to dial a number and are only heard by one person your distress call will be heard by the coastguard which monitors channel 16 24/7 and every boat for miles around. One of which might be able to assist you before the coastguard can. The VHF radio has a power boost key that provides an instant six watts of transmitting power while cell coverage offshore can be limited or non-existent. Safety features include NOAA emergency weather alerts, a high intensity SOS LED strobe light and scanning of emergency channel 16. Cell phones offer none of those. Marine VHF radio can be submerged to around 5 feet for an hour without damage. Plus it floats if dropped overboard. Does your cell phone flow? Probably not. Does your cell phone battery last 12 hours? VHF radio does, even longer using the battery safe feature. Power is supplied through a rechargeable lithium-ion polymer battery, a charging cradle with AC and DC cables or regular alkaline batteries with the included battery tray. All this and a glow-in-the-dark power key in seals, so you can easily find your radio in low-light situations. Having your cell phone onboard is great for listening to the West marine water life Pandora station and checking in with your significant other, but nothing can take the place of a ruggedly built marine radio like good VHF radio.

Best VHF Marine Radios Brands and Manufacturers

The market is dominated by some manufacturers such as: Uniden, Standart Horizon, Icom, Lowrance, Cobra, Standard Horizon. All of them offer a variety models of fixed and handheld vhf marine radios and batteries for Center Console Boat, Fishing Boat, Jet Ski, Kayak, Pontoon Boat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Where to buy cheap vhf marine radios for sale?

A: Take a look at this TOP 10 Best Fixed/Two-Way/Ship-to-Shore/Portable/Handheld VHF Boat Marine Radios reviewed of 2020 and then press the «Check Price» button to check their price and availability.

Q: What are the best vhf marine radios for Center Console Boat, Fishing Boat, Jet Ski, Kayak, Pontoon Boat to buy?

A: The Portable 6W Switchable WaterProof Handheld Submersible VHF Marine Radio [Uniden] is our Editor’s Choice as the best model of vhf marine radios with its combination of performance, features and quality.

Q: Can a marine VHF radio be used on land?

A: Marine VHF radios, whether fixed or handheld, may not be used on land for marine band transmission.

Q: How does VHF marine radio work?

A: Marine VHF radio is a worldwide system of two-way radio transceivers on ships and watercraft used for bidirectional voice communication from ship-to-ship or ship-to-shore.


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