Top 10 Best VHF Marine Radios in 2019 – Ultimate Buying Guide

If you have seen the movie the Shallows, you would agree with me that being out at sea can be really precarious. In the movie, we see Nancy (Blake Lively) a surfer who is attacked by a great white shark. Despite being incapacitated, she vowed never to die at sea and used every trick in the book of survival to keep her life.

It may have been a fictions movie, but one thing is for sure. One out of several surfers or boat owners get stranded at sea. Which is why you might want to get your self a VHF Marine radio.

TOP 10 BEST VHF MARINE RADIOS IN 2019

  1. Standard Horizon GX2200B Standard Matrix AIS/GPS VHF
  2. Standard Horizon HX870 Floating 6W Handheld VHF with Internal GPS
  3. Cobra Electronics MR F45-D Class-D Fixed Mount VHF Radio
  4. Uniden MHS75 Handheld Submersible VHF
  5. Uniden UM380 Fixed Marine VHF Radio
  6. Cobra MRHH350FLT Floating VHF Radio

What is a VHF marine radio?

The term VHF means Very High Frequency. It is a radio or what some people might refer to as walkie talkie which has so many frequencies and channels for different scenarios. These frequency radios operate in the frequency range of 1.56-1,74MHZ. It is termed the VHF maritime mobile band.

Not only is it a tool for safety, it is also a tool for communication, rescue services, ship to shore, contacting the harbor etc..

Related Post: Best Handheld VHF Radio For Kayak

Every year, the VHF marine radio technology is getting better, which means you will get better value for your money as you pick one for your self. Also as a form of research and discovery, we ensured that every VHF radio we covered in this article is approved to have some level of Digital Selective Calling (DSC). This singular feature allows you to send out a distress call with a single button press.

When it comes to the VHF Marine radio, there are specific channels designated for specific types of communications. If you take these bands into consideration, you will have the distress channel free of unnecessary chatter.

With this in mind, we have selected the best 10 VHF marine radios in 2019 to enable you make the right choice when purchasing.

VHF Marine Radio Buying Guide

Before we go on to the list, here are factors to be considered when selecting a VHF marine radio:

Power

This is a very important factor because it decides the distance to which radio can transmit information clearly and without hindrance. If the power rating is high, it means that the distance of coverage for the radio will be high. It is therefore advisable to choose mobile radios over the handheld radio.

Weather Broadcast

One of the predicaments that can hit you while at sea is heavy rainfall accompanied by heavy winds. So, when purchasing a marine radio, choose the ones that have the ability to receive NOAA alerts. This enables you to receive alerts in case of a storm so that you can come ashore in good time.

Budget

In this list, we have taken out time to pick the best VHF marine radios with varying price ranges, sizes and feature sets. Whatever your budget, you will get the best. Stick around.

Type

The two major types of VHF radios are fixed and handheld VHF radios. Fixed radios work with the power supplied by the boat. This enables it to last way longer. You can also connect this type to an external antenna which increases the range covered by the VHF radio. The incidence of falling and breaking easily is greatly reduced because it is fixed.

On the other hand, the handheld marine VHF radio is really portable and compact. You can use it outside your boat. The power output is just 5W. This can be a real hindrance in the long run, which is why in our list we selected mobile radios.

In the case of an emergency out in the open sea, you would require a considerable range to contact other boats or the lighthouse ashore. To be on the safer side, get a handheld VHF radio as a precautionary measure to go along with the mobile radio.

Selectivity

This feature enables a VHF marine radio to concentrate on the most important signals and cut off all the other signals that may be in the area. If the selectivity feature is competent, the reception you would receive will be very clear reception in the midst of other radio signals.

To measure Selectivity, the adjacent channel selectivity, intermodulation ratio, and spurious response are to be considered. If the radio traffic from other boats in the area increases, your signal will be altered and can hinder whatever assistance you require. This is what selectivity as a feature prevents.

Best VHF Marine Radios in 2019

Here is the list of the top 10 best VHF marine radios for the year 2019, their features and pros and cons.

Cobra Electronics MR F45-D Class-D Fixed Mount VHF Radio

This gadget is an entry-level radio for new sailors who are skeptical about being too far away from the shore. It has the DSC and NOAA feature which works well for both preventive and after emergency scenarios.

To get it functional efficiently, you would need to install it on a standard bracket. The audio performance claimed by the spec is exact with selectable transmission powers, plus a decent audio output.

DESIGN AND FEATURES

Cobra Electronics MR F45-D Class-D Fixed Mount VHF Radio

It has a built-in GPS, which would aid you with navigational information and your precise location while in the water. In unit operations, this VHF radio is a designated class D.

To make a quick distress call, select channel 1-6 or 9. On channel 1-6, a dual watch is maintained every few seconds so that you can be aware of situations nearby.

With the quick selection button of channel 1-6 or 9, a red DSC distress button is located in the front panel of the radio. Another nice feature it has is that the DSI log will capture the caller’s MMSI ID number and will relay any message in the DSC message box.

This VHF radio transmits at a maximum of 25w. The exact power is accordant with the ratings. The Cobra MR F45-D marine VHF radio as earlier outlined is installed and it allows it to swivel up and down.

The microphone connection is attached in front and it is 6.2 inches wide and 2.4 inches high. Contained in the package is a GPS interface cable and microphone mount. It has connections from the back which is attached to an external marine speakers or a GPS device.

The 2.3-inch monochrome display has a backlight which is moderated and pleasant to the eyes. You can alter the backlight to high, medium or low. You could also modify the contrast too. It obeys the JIS7 regulation for tolerance against water damage.

With this marine radio, you can get NOAA weather channels, and alerts about any impending weather hazard. You can also receive US, International and Canadian channels.

The Audio output comes up to 80dB at the highest volume with some anticipated distortion. The volume and squelch control can be controlled with knobs on the radio set.

Pros
  • DSC efficient.
  • GPS-enabled
  • You can receive NOAA alerts
  • It is affordable
  • Easy access chanel 1-6/9 buttons on microphone and radio.  
 
Cons
  • No connection for an extra microphone. 
 
 

 

Standard Horizon GX2200B Standard Matrix AIS/GPS VHF

This top unit has a collection of important features for every and any emergency scenario on the sea. It has an in-built GPS system that enables both you and the person offshore to pinpoint your exact location. This would save you the stress of having to work with a compass or map in the middle of a crises situation.

With the IPX7-rated feature, this device can endure prolonged exposure to water without getting faulty. It is a highly recommended unit and has our highest recommendation.

DESIGN AND FEATURES

It has an Auto Identification System display which shows the true and magnetic bearing. The programmable CPA or TCPA collision avoidance alarm present in this device gives an extra notch of security when you are in excess proximity with an incoming ship or boat. Included in its design is a 30W PA/Loud hailer, preprogrammed with fog signals and indicator.

You can use the DSC easily for a request and report functions.

The GPS included in this device displays navigation in terms of Latitude, Longitude, time, SOG and COG. You can also pull up the GPS compass alongside the GPS status pages.

You can also log, save and navigate waypoints with the GPS and menu options. Included in its design is a 4800 or 38,400 NMEA interface for those plotters with NMEA port.

It is an 80dB commercial-grade receiver that comes with a microphone. It can be installed on the fixed station on your ship or boat. The IPX7-rated feature allows the VHF radio to be submerged to a distance of 1meter for 30 minutes.

You have between 1w or 25W channels for transmission selection. It also has an integrated AIS/GPS receiver, an AIS and AIS SART display.

Standard Horizon GX2200B Standard Matrix AIS/GPS VHF

You can also connect it to a plotter software on your laptop. Integrated into this device also is a dual-channel Automatic Identification System which uses a dedicated display. The ease of navigation for this VHF radio on a scale of one to ten is a ten.

With user-customizable keys, you can set defaults and simplify the menu navigation to your preference.  The keys have a backlight, coupled with a display that allows you to use the radio even in the dark. It has a rotary channel knob with a push-to-enter function which you can use for many operations.

You can carry out a priority scan to quickly set up communicable frequencies or you can run a custom scan. The GX22OOB enables you to keep dual watch and it has a local/distant attenuator.

Pros
  • AIS and GPS enabled
  • ITU-R M493-13 Class D DSC certified
  • Ease of operation.
  • You can hook to a plotter easily.
  • You can save and navigate to GPS waypoints. 
 
Cons
  • None 
 
 

 

Standard Horizon HX870 Floating 6W Handheld VHF with internal GPS

This is a huge improvement on their popular HX851 set. The Standard Horizon HX870 floating marine VHF radio is specially designed for solo Kayakers who are on the move.

It is portable and allows you to move freely in your vessel. It has a convenient USB port for programming, an integrated 70-channel DSC, every important compulsory feature and more. This is the best handheld radio in the best VHF Marine radio list.

DESIGN AND FEATURE

It is a handheld set that is more compact than the HX851 set from the Standard Horizon brand. It, however, does not cut down a significant amount of weight. You can not easily slip it into the radio pocket of the PFD. The front face uses a large dot-matrix LCD that has a white backlight.

However, most users prefer the sombre orange or blue background that is a characteristic of a lot of VHF handheld to have. It is also IPX8-rated and invincible in water. It is able to float in water, which would enable you to fish it out.

It has a USB data port which can be used to gather data. It gives you the ability to load MMSI numbers into memory, program MMSI groups, download DSC call logs, program scan, create, save download waypoints.

All with the aid of the USB port. The preset key enables you to store 10 of your favorite channels. It enables you to get important weather alerts from NOAA by tuning into their frequencies.

The moment the HX870 Marine VHF radio hits the water, a water-activated emergency strobe light is activated. This makes it a lot easier to spot, plus the keypad of the unit is also illuminated by a faint red glow. The battery life per charge is 10 hour. Once you remove the watertight seal, you can insert the AAA battery module.

This marine VHF radio has an in-built 66 channel WAAS GPS. The GPS coordinates appear on the screen during transmission, so that you are able to read them off the screen directly while reporting to another ship or a coast guard. This VHF Marine radio acquires satellites in good time.

You can turn off the GPS function and turn it on when required. The time you would take to turn it on and find coordinates is not significant.

The HX870 has an integrated 70-channel class ‘D’ DSC. This feature prevents you from an untoward incident. It also transmits RF power up to 6W at the power which the user preferred by the user. The transmission power can be altered based on proximity.

It has the MOB (Man Over Board) feature that automatically detects the GPS coordinates of the place where the MOB is triggered. It begins a timer to tell you how much time has elapsed since the MOB signal was released.

It also has the ability to plot a route back to the MOB coordinates with directions and distance to enable you find your way back.

Pros
  • Floating handheld IPX8-rated
  • GPS-enabled and DSC-certified.
  • Saves and navigates to GPS waypoints.
  • MOB emergency actions.
  • Selectablke power level up to 6W 

 

Uniden UM380 Class D Full – Feature Fixed Mount VHF Marine Radio

The Uniden Class D Marine VHF radio is reliable and sturdy and comes at a neat price. It is a little limited in functions, but the available functions are really useful. For sailors who run small scale and does not want to sail far away from the coast or into treacherous areas will find this device very useful and convenient.

With the Uniden UM380, you are suitably equipped. It is DSC-capable which im=ndicates that is the modern equivalent of an immediate distress management system. IT also has the triple-watch feature which ensures smooth all-around communication.

DESIGN AND FEATURE

The Digital Selective Calling (DSC) on the UM380 Marine VHF radio provides you with a distress button which will immediately send your distress call to someone in the vicinity. Just a single button press will kick off emergency rescue process.

Uniden UM380 Class D Full

The position send and Request feature associated with this device will speed up the rescue process. The transmit power and circuitry provides communication that is clean and free of interference.

You also get the external marine speakers option too. Some cables that accompany this device will enable you to connect it to a speaker or PA system. Note that the frequency tuning accuracy may be extremely affected in severe temperatures.

This device is a mobile station that can be fixed on a radio mount on the vessel. Its backlit display is large and comes with an orange light. This makes it either too bright for your eyes or too dim for reading in dim light. The original position for the microphone connection is down.

When you pull the microphone up, it will put a strain to the connection and could make it faulty in the longer run. The keypad is also backlit with large buttons built to tactile advantage. It is built as waterproof, which means that it can withstand waves splashing on it. It is quite easy to install and it is user-friendly.

This device enables you to run a memory scan. As a user, you can assign names to each marine channel mentioned on it. The Uniden UM380 marine VHF radio can transmit at 25W. It comes with a high and low power switch. It has a triple watch unit, so it will check channel 16 and 9 every two seconds.

In dual watch Marine radios, they only check channel 16. You do not only receive broad NOAA weather alerts, you get SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) alerts. A code for your specific area which will be issued and informs you of the severe condition in that area.

Pros
  • DSC enabled with position send and request.
  • Triple watch
  • Affordable
  • Area-specific NOAA alerts.
  • SAME alerts 
 

 

Cons
  • Frequency tuning can be inaccurate in severe temperatures. 
 
 

 

Uniden Atlantis 150 Submersible Handheld Two-Way VHF Marine Radio

The Atlantis 150 qualifies to be on this list because of its impressive performance in basically all circumstances, it is lightweight, portable, durable, waterproof and it floats on water as well for way recovery, fitting easily into your hands as well as your pockets when not in use, the marine radio is very affordable and is a very quality product.

 

Design and features

The marine radio is like a slim walkie-talkie with 9 buttons at the front with a Dot matrix LCD screen above it, the speaker is below the buttons on its face, it’s side consist of other buttons including the push to talk, it’s body is made up of polycarbonate.

uniden handheld VHF

It’s submersible lightweight floating design gives it the ability to be submerged at 5′ depth for up to thirty minutes. Another feature that makes the product so good is it’s built-in antenna which is precisely matched with the design for optimum performance.

The minimum and maximum transmission power for the handheld are 1W and 2.5W.

The radio can Communicate on preprogrammed marine VHF channels in the US, Canada and other international marine channels giving information about weather patterns, it has a three-level digit squelch and quick access to emergency channels 16 and 9, it scans programmed channels into memory and conserves battery when not in use.

The battery is made up of Nickel metal hydride and can last up to twelve hours, it also lock keypad to prevent accidental presses.

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Lightweight, durable, waterproof and floatation
  • Receives weather alerts
  • it has two RF settings 
 
Cons
  • Battery reduces fast 
 
 

 

 Cobra MR HH350W FLT MR HH350 6 Watt Handheld VHF

The Cobra Marine MR-HH350-FLT is a high powered, submersible handheld VHF marine radio that floats! An orange core and floating design make this radio easy to spot and retrieve if it’s dropped overboard.

Design and features

The radio offers 1, 3 or 6W of transmission power to all US, Canadian and international channels. It has unlimited memory channels and instant Channel 16 access. Tri-Watch monitors three channels at once, Channel 16 and two other channels of your choice.

handheld VHF

The device also has some awesome features.such as a noise-canceling microphone, signal strength meter, a large, backlit LCD display, a fully lighted keypad, and BURP, to get the water out of your speaker grill in case it does get wet.

The Cobra MR-HH350-FLT marine two-way radio is available in your choice of gray or white. It comes with a detachable antenna, spring-loaded belt clip, wrist strap, locking desktop charger, AC power adapter, DC power adapter, rechargeable Lithium-Ion Polymer battery pack, owners manual, and a three-year manufacturer warranty from Cobra.

The battery last 8 hours with 6W and 16 hours with 1W.

Pros
  • NOAA weather channels and alerts
  • 1W, 3W,6W and 7W.
  • noise-canceling mic.
  • Orange colour that is easy to spot in water. 
 
Cons
  • Limited transmission distance. 
 
 

 

Cobra MRHH125 3 Watt Waterproof VHF Radio

This is a very portable and compact radio. It’s perfect for recreational boaters or as a portable backup on larger vessels. It comes standard with a removable spring loaded belt clip, lanyard and DC cigarette lighter charger.

Anyone who lives, works or plays on the water needs one of these VHF radios.

It is packaged with long-lasting rechargeable NiMH batteries that won’t develop a memory when charging. It can also be used with five standard AAA alkaline batteries in emergencies.

The backlit LCD and keypad allows it to be used in low light conditions and will turn off automatically to conserve battery power.

VHF Marine Radios in 2019

The built-in NOAA Channels and NOAA weather alert give you 24-hour access to local weather information. It also acts as an All-Hazards Emergency receiver and will alert you to weather, natural disasters and other emergencies provided to the National Weather Service by local and state government officials.

It transmits 1 and 3W for long and short range communication, it transmit to US, Canada and other international VHF channels, it has instant access to all hazards and weather patterns in the water, it alert with a loud tone and a visual display if there is dangerous weather nearby.

The radio actively scans for conversations in progress and shows the strength of an outgoing or incoming signal. It has a lock function that eliminates accidental change of settings.

The battery is made from Nickel metal hydride and can last for up to 9 hours, it comes with a speaker jack that allows connection of hands-free accessories. (Single pin connection)

It comes with a wrist strap, a spring-loaded belt clip, a 12-volt accessory charger and 5 850 mAh AAA NiMH batteries.

Pros
  • Triple and dual watch.
  • loud alerts for incoming danger.
  • Low chassis to fit all mounts. 
 
Cons
  • Limited communication.
  • The mic clip is a tight fit. 
 
 

 

Uniden MHS75 Handheld Submersible 2-Way 5W VHF Marine Radio

This compact, well built, rugged handheld Marine radio is rated JIS8/IPX8 submersible and is packed with outstanding features. Included accessories are a rapid clip-on DC charger and LiON rechargeable battery.

The LCD screen displays large figures for easy viewing and all this contribute to a very quality handheld.

Design and features

The Uniden MHS75 is a compact handheld VHF marine radio complete with adjustable power wattage, submersible tech, and waterproof features. The MHS75 is equipped with a lithium-ion rechargeable battery which can last up to 12 hours. It has an adjustable transmitter power available in 1, 2.5, and 5 watts.

VHF Marine Radios in 2019

The Uniden MHS75 is one of the most efficient and consistent handheld marine radio in terms of receiving and transmitting signals. It has a large and bright easy-to-read display screen that shows channels and information in large segment block-style numbers.

Using the Uniden MS75, you can add up to more than 100 saved locations. And with its NOAA weather alerts, you can better prepare for any impending dangerous weather conditions. MHS75 is backed with a 3-year waterproof protection warranty, making it one of the best low-cost VHF handheld marine radios available on the market today.

This one of the best low-cost radios and it has The Uniden MHS75 is a compact handheld VHF marine radio complete with adjustable power wattage, submersible tech, and waterproof features.

The MHS75 is equipped with a lithium-ion rechargeable battery which can last up to 12 hours. It has an adjustable transmitter power available in 1, 2.5, and 5 watts. The Uniden MHS75 is one of the most efficient and consistent handheld marine radio in terms of receiving and transmitting signals.

It has a large and bright easy-to-read display screen that shows channels and information in large segment block-style numbers. Using the Uniden MS75, you can add up to more than 100 saved locations. And with its NOAA weather alerts, you can better prepare for any impending dangerous weather conditions.

MHS75 is backed with a 3-year waterproof protection warranty, making it one of the best low-cost VHF handheld marine radios available on the market today.

It has a dual watch which Checks channel 16 every 2 seconds, a triple watch which checks channels 16 and 9 every two seconds and a Quad watch that checks channels 16 and 9 every second while monitoring the weather alert channels every 7 seconds. It is one of the few marine radios that allow you to adjust output power.

Quick 4-hour charger with 12-hour battery life that can be connected to a cigar lighter or power port, it displays battery level indicators on your device so you can measure remaining power and take the device off the charger once it’s fully-charged (to prevent overcharging). It programs channels you frequently visit or those you’ve saved in memory.

It comes with an owners manual, flexible rubber antenna, wrist strap, belt clip, rapid clip on DC charger and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

Pros
  • Triple and dual watch
  • Submersible in 1.5′ depth for up to thirty minutes
  • Selectable power levels  
 
Cons
  • Can easily be destroyed  
 
 

 

Icom M36 01 Floating Handheld 6W Marine Radio with Clear Voice Audio

The Icom M36 marine VHF radio is a  handheld unit with 6W RF power, it exceeds the 5W capacity of most handhelds. Convenience features like audio increases and the charging cradle make it a user-friendly gadget. Triple scanning and NOAA alerts keep you updated on the weather situation as well as any emergencies in that area. The useful features in a handy pack is what ultimately lands it in the best marine VHF radios list.

Design and features

The radio is a floating device that will come back up if it falls into water, it can stay at 1′ depth for up to thirty minutes. It is  5.8 inches tall and is 2.5 inches wide. It’s quite lightweight at 9.7 ounces.

The large screen has a light orange glow, It has an AquaQuake feature which uses a burst of low-frequency sound to send water out of the speaker once it has been retrieved from the water. It is a very good trick, but we would still dry it out.

Best VHF Marine Radio

The radio has 10 push buttons and also a push to talk by the side, it has levels of RF that span up to 6W,  it has a priority scans and a normal scan and also access to channel and 9 for emergency purposes.

The M36 marine VHF radio has a Loud button which instantly increases the volume to full with a single tap. It has the Clear Voice and Voice Boost features that cancel out noise from the mic.

It can keep dual or triple watch. It supports all the US, International, and Canadian channels. NOAA weather channels bring you news of the weather hazards in your area. The battery lasts through 8 hours on a single charge. The display has a battery meter to keep you informed about the battery life.

 

Uniden UM415 Fixed Mount Class D VHF Marine Radio

Uniden is a trusted brand for durability in  VHF radios. This is an affordable unit which has all the important utilities required out in the water. The aesthetic quality is impressive with its amber display and the large buttons.

The area-specific weather alerts make sure that your time is not wasted on monitoring alerts that don’t affect you. The installation and use are very simple. The lack of complication is why this is on the best VHF marine radios list.

Design and Features

The Uniden UM415 marine VHF radio is a fixed station unit. We were especially attracted to the amber glow on the face of the radio. Right underneath it is a formidable-looking distress call button. The mic connects to the side of the radio. The speaker mic has four buttons.

Marine Radios in 2019

The mic has a rubber grip on both sides to prevent slipping out of hands. The compact construction is easy to mount and takes up less space. It is JIS8-certified to be waterproof. So it can take the underwater abuse. It has been designed with a shorter chassis so as to make it sit flush with various kinds of mounts.

This marine VHF radio uses the same weather alerts to inform you of weather hazards or situations closest to your area allowing for personalized services. The targeted weather news saves time and effort.

It can transmit at two selectable power levels: 1W and 25W. At 1W you can communicate with closer ships and save power. It receives all USA, international and Canadian marine channels.  It is also Class D DSC certified. The DSC allows you to make distress calls on the specified channels in case of an emergency.

You can program scans on the UM415 marine VHF radio to save yourself time on finding the right one. A single-tap button on the mic can switch between the triple watch and dual watch.

The set has lead wires out the back for power and GPS. Other than that the only port is for connecting the antenna. The audio performance is commendable.

For a budget marine radio, it gets very loud. The construction is sturdy except for the mic clip which creates a tight fit and may cause the clip to break.

Uniden has a reputation for durability and the UM415 does not spoil it.

Pros
  • Low chassis to fit all mounts
  • SAME weather alerts
  • Selectable high/low power levels
  • DSC-certified
  • Triple and dual watch 
 
Cons
  • Mic clip has a tight fit 
 
 

 

There you have it, all 10 best VHF Marine radios for 2019. Until next time when we would bring you another list on gadgets to help you make your purchase.

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