Best Radio Scanners – Top 5 Picks for 2018

This is our official list of the best radio scanners on the market today. Scroll further down for full details on each product as well as a guide on things you need to know when in the market for a radio scanner.

Quick Look:

  1. Uniden BCD436HP Radio Scanner
  2. Whistler WS1040
  3. Uniden (BC75XLT) Scanner
  4. Uniden BC355N Mobile Scanner
  5. Uniden BCD536HP

We know time is of the essence, so the above is a cheat sheet of what’s ahead, just in case your’re in a hurry. Otherwise, keep scrolling down for more detailed and constructive info on each item.

5 Highest Reviewed Radio Scanners to Consider

With the right equipment, radio scanning can be a lot of fun. This guide is designed to help anyone who is interested in the hobby find a radio scanner that fits their listening needs. It will discuss some of the uses for a radio scanner and the features to look for before making a purchase. Let’s take a look at five of the best radio scanners on the market in greater detail below.

1.) Uniden BCD436HP Radio Scanner

best radio scanners

The Uniden BCD436HP is another easy-to-use handheld scanner that comes with a four-gigabyte MicroSD card for storing channels. This storage allows users to hold the entirety of the U.S. and Canadian radio database.

It also has more than enough space to store several hours of audio feeds for later usage. This scanner also features the Close Call functionality of other Uniden scanner, but with this unit, it can automatically tune the scanner to a nearby signal without actually interrupting the scanners current reception.

When storing audio, the scanner also has an instant replay functionality that will play back a full four minutes of recorded audio with the touch of a button.

PROS

  • This scanner is very easy to use.
  • It has an ergonomic shaping and a clear display.
  • There are date and time stamps for every recording.

CONS

  • This handheld doesn’t have trunk channels.

($) Check price on Amazon

2.) Whistler WS1040 Radio Scanner

Whistler-WS1040-Digital-Handheld-Scanner

The Whistler WS1040 is another exceptional handheld police scanner that has some newbie-friendly features that make it somewhat easier to use. One of the best features is its menus; they have built-in lines of informative material so that new users can quickly pick up how to use the police scanner.

While this is a slightly larger handheld, which is about the size of a traditional walkie-talkie, this scanner is still very portable. Another useful feature of the WS1040 is its Skywarn Storm Spotter, which tells users when stronger storms are approaching the area.

PROS

  • This is a very ergonomic scanner, despite its rectangular shaping.
  • It has two battery options; one for rechargeable batteries and the other for traditional alkaline AA batteries.
  • This is very easy to learn for a neophyte police scanner user.

CONS

  • The scanner software for connecting it to a PC could be more intuitive.

($) Check price on Amazon

3.) Uniden (BC75XLT) Handheld Scanner

Uniden-Handheld-Scanner---Black-(BC75XLT)

For users looking for a more portable option, the BC75XLT is a handheld option that brings police and fire frequencies on the road. While it’s not the easiest scanner to program and operate, the guides that come with the product are fairly intensive.

There is also a series of built-in features which provide access to the weather in the device’s area, engages a permanent and temporary lockout, or programs or deletes the channel selected.

One of the best features of this scanner is its 300-channel functionality. This provides a wide degree of operation for a portable scanner. With these 300 programmable channels, users simply store 30 channels per the unit’s ten memory banks.

PROS

  • NiMH batteries are rechargeable directly in the device.
  • The product has a headphone jack for convenience.
  • Users can program channels and scanner performance features on their PCs.

CONS

  • While it has a clear LCD display, it’s not easily viewed from every angle.

($) Check price on Amazon

4.) Uniden BC355N Scanner

Uniden-Handheld-Scanner---Black-(BC75XLT)

This model of police scanner has a frequency of 800 MHz and has a 300-channel operation. One of the best overall features of this unit is its small form factor; it’s compact enough to fit just about anywhere.

Additionally, this scanner has the ability to find the channels that are most suited to the home location so that the feed isn’t bogged down with channels that don’t work well for a user’s home area.

Its turbo search function allows it to search through 180 steps per second so that the most relevant channels are found quickly. Once a setting is saved, the scanner will also remember which settings were established, even when powered off.

PROS

  • Search lockout locks out the frequencies that are unfavorable.
  • The Close Call feature lets users find and instantly tune to nearby signals.
  • The scanner is small enough to be taken anywhere.

CONS

  • It’s not the easiest to understand and learn scanner.

($) Check price on Amazon

5.) Uniden BCD536HP Radio Scanner

Uniden-BCD536HP-Digital-Phase-2-Radio-Scanner

Also known as the Bearcat, the Uniden BCD536HP is a great scanner that has a wide variety of great features for scanning, such as Wi-Fi, a crystal clear LCD display, and even built-in update-ability. There are several ways to power the BCD536HP, the standard hardwired cable for 12-volt power, an AC wall adapter for home use, and a portable DC power cord for usage in a car or truck.

The Wi-Fi feature is very useful; it allows users to pair the scanner with their smartphone so that the scanner’s output can be heard within the Wi-Fi coverage area.

PROS

  • The knob on this is very easy to use.
  • The buttons are rubberized and responsive.
  • Has a serial GPS input for location-based scanning.
  • When this is connected this to a PC, it can receive firmware updates.

CONS

  • The white screen of the display can be hard to decipher from a distance.

($) Check price on Amazon

Beginners Guide to Buying Radio Scanners


Radio scanning is a hobby that has been around since the 1970s. The first radio scanners were not as nice as the ones found on the market today, but they did allow citizens to find out what was going on in the community.

During this time, CB radios were a popular way to communicate, so anyone who owned a radio scanner could tune the radio channel to the same frequency to hear the conversations that the truckers were having. Listening in could be a great way to get information about accidents and road conditions ahead on the highway.

These devices used to only have a few channels to tune into. The reception was bad and the audio was sluggish, but it was a way to be informed. Today, radio scanners are designed with much more advanced technology, so the device is much higher quality overall.

What Are They?

A radio scanner is a device that is designed to surf the radio frequencies in the air to find ones that have activity on them. Once the activity is located, it is easy to listen in on the conversations being held by others. It is a way of eavesdropping that does not have the consequences, as long as it is used according to the rules and regulations of the state that it is being used in.

There are two different types of radio scanners popular on the market today. The first is the handheld variation that is designed for portable use. Typically, this type of scanner is designed to be on the person of the individual using the device, which means that they run on battery power.

There are also scanners that are designed with a base that secures the device in a specific location. In most situations, these types of radio scanners are placed in a vehicle, but some individuals prefer to keep them inside their home.

Scanner models will also have a method that they use to transmit the signal. Almost all of the older models transmit the traditional AM and FM radio signal, but some of the newer radio scanners no longer have this function. The most common method used today is still analog, but digital transmitting is making a footprint in the sand as well, but that technology is not advanced enough yet.

Who Are They For?

There are many uses for a radio scanner. They can be used for professional means or they can simply be a hobby that an individual takes an interest in. Radio scanners are used by those who are interested in law enforcement. Some people enjoy listening to conversations that the investigators are having about an ongoing investigation. Emergency warnings will also often be broadcasted over radio scanners.

Anyone who is interested in the military activity occurring in a specific area of the world will be able to hear the communication between the commanding officers and their company. It can actually be a pretty exciting experience to hear some of the Intel of a military operation.

Any writer who likes to keep up with all of the current events will also find that having a radio scanner can be useful for getting the story first. It will help a reporter know when and where news is occurring, which will help them get the scoop and the headlines.

Weather watchers will also want to have this device. It will help them know exactly where bad weather is going to hit so that they can get a great image of the perfect storm. Most weather watchers like to capture tornadoes, hurricanes, flash floods, or blizzards. If it is a dangerous situation to be in, then they will want to know about it before it occurs, and the best way to locate these storms is to hear the details straight from the meteorologist.

What to Look for in a Good Radio Scanner?

As with any new purchase, there are a few features to consider when purchasing a radio scanner. Each one is important to get the best performance out of the device, but they may not all be needed, depending what the device will be used for. Here are some of the considerations that are the most important for a purchase:

  • Frequency – This is the most important feature of a radio scanner. The frequency will be the key factor in determining the radio signals that the device will pick up. Having a large range frequency is always best so that more signals can be heard. Typically, a range from 25 MHZ, which will broadcast CB radio signals, to a frequency of 800 MHz, which is used for aircraft transmissions.
  • Memory – As with anything, the more memory a radio scanner has, the more useful it can be. Memory allows the frequencies to be stored for quick access; meaning that all of the most listened to frequencies can be accessed without much effort.
  • Power Requirements – All portable scanners require batteries to run, but the question is which type of battery power does each one use? Some of the older models utilize a large battery pack that can be costly to replace, while others simply use AA or AAA batteries to function. These batteries can often be recharged, so it will cost less money in the long run.
  • Functionality – How easy is the device to control? Are there a lot of buttons that can be confusing to navigate or is it a simple interface that is easy to use? Make sure that the display is easy to read in any lighting as well. The antenna is also an important aspect of any scanner because the better the antenna, the better the reception of the frequencies will be.

Are They Worth the Money?

A radio scanner has a lot of uses, but purchasing one can also be a costly experience. The radio scanners featured on this list range in price from around $100 to nearly $500, and some of the scanners on the market can even be more expensive than that.

So, is it worth the money? Well, most hobbyists would say that it is a valuable investment to make. Most scanners have a durable construction that will ensure that they can be used for years.

If a portable radio scanner is purchased, it can be a companion while driving down the road. Even scanners that have a designated base can be installed in a vehicle to be listened to on long road trips. Knowing that there is an accident ahead that will cost hours of valuable time is well worth the cost. With that information alone, the accident can be avoided, and the travel destination can still be reached in time.

Wrapping Up

Having a police scanner can provide you with a sense of safety that many other pieces of technology cannot. These products pick up the occurrences of fire and police emergencies in the immediate area and can even provide information like the weather and the racecar driver chatter.

The best radio scanners for each user will vary by preference, but the products that have been covered in this guide can all provide excellent functionality for any degree of police scanner enthusiast.

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Written by Rhoda Jane Pickens

Rhoda has been fascinated with product development for the majority of her life. Her expertise is in home and garden products, but her curiosity and vast experience allow her to cross category lines. Maintaining a detective like critical eye, she cares about the end user of gadgets.