CB Radio vs Ham Radio -The Differences Explained

There are two types of radio communication: CB and amateur radio. Although both have the same goal - to allow people to talk from one place to another - they operate on completely different frequencies and have entirely different licensing systems.

CB Radio vs Ham Radio -The Differences Explained

CB Radio vs Ham Radio – Differences Explained: There are two types of radio communication: CB and amateur radio. Although both have the same goal - to allow people to talk from one place to another - they operate on completely different frequencies and have entirely different licensing systems.

What is Ham Radio?

An amateur radio is a small, portable transceiver used by many people around the world to communicate across long distances with other amateur radio operators.

It's widely regarded as one of the most useful emergency services during times of natural disasters and civil emergencies when all other forms of communication are not available.

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What is CB Radio?

Citizens Band radio is short-range radio which uses the same frequencies that family members use on their handheld walkie-talkies.

They usually have 23 channels but technically there are also 40 channels in total if you include the "extra" channels after channel 40. A number of these frequencies were originally allocated for exclusive use by American citizens in 1941 under FCC Part 95 .

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Amateur radio is the more powerful of the two, capable of reaching thousands if not millions of miles. It also offers several advantages over CB radio which are as follows:

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  • A much larger number of frequencies
  • The ability to have a QSO (a conversation) with almost anyone in the world regardless of their location or time zone
  • Greater power for longer range communication and better penetration through obstructions such as mountains and buildings• Higher bandwidth capacity permitting audio fidelity superior even to that from landline telephones
  • Immediate access to emergency response networks during emergencies as well as additional nets dedicated to public service and transportation safety at all other times


In terms of equipment cost, it can be less expensive to buy a CB radio transceiver than an Amateur Radio (Ham radios) rig.

In addition, the technical know-how involved in setting up a Ham Radio station isn't necessary because any 10th grader with enough money could install and operate a CB radio in no time at all; this also makes it easier for younger children and teenagers to access the system in order to chat with their friends over long distances in spite of their lack of knowledge or experience.

On the downside, however, anyone who wants to chat over the airwaves with someone far away would have to be located within the CB radio's limited range, an average of two or three miles.

On top of that, only 40 channels are available making it likely for there to be lots of interference from other truckers.


CB radio was designed for short-distance, line of sight communication between mobile units such as cars and trucks.

It uses 40 channels in the 27 MHz band which may be less than what Amateur Radio allows but is certainly sufficient enough to allow truckers and their buddies to chat while on the go.

Because it requires no technical knowledge or testing process to get a license, CB radio installation isn't expensive either, allowing many people to own and operate a transceiver despite having limited budgets.

The range of a CB radio is affected by several factors: antenna height above ground level, presence of obstructions such as hills and buildings, electrical interference from power lines and other sources, transmitter power output among others.

In addition, the FCC only regulated the maximum power output of a CB radio to be 4 watts so the range is further reduced by the quality of antenna used, electrical interference from other sources and transmitter power input among others.

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What is Radio Theory?

Radio Theory simply dictates how radios work and why they cannot function in certain situations. For example, it's impossible to transmit a signal over long distances without an antenna.

It also sets limitations for how much power you can transmit through a particular device which decides what devices can communicate with each other.

What we commonly call "radio interference" is actually just these theories getting in the way of transmissions.


Ham radio /amateur operators go by a strict code of conduct known as "netiquette".

This is intended to ensure that everyone gets ample opportunity to chat without any unnecessary interruptions caused by one person monopolizing the conversation.

There are several nets (channels dedicated for specific purposes) monitored 24 hours a day seven days a week.

These include emergency service nets which serve as round-the-clock backup for police and rescue teams; transportation nets dedicated to public service and safety information; DX (long distance) chats where people across the globe get together to chat about fun stuff such as sports, music, politics and other social topics; and extended chats which provide a platform for more relaxed and less formal conversations.

CB radio has no such ethos.

Because it allows anyone with the money to buy one to use it, many operators tend to be inconsiderate of others by talking about anything that comes into their heads at any given moment.

It's not unusual for truckers who are completely unrelated to each other except by their shared interest in perhaps traveling on the same highway or using the same facilities like rest stops or refueling stations at gas stations to chat about completely unrelated topics, clogging up the airways with noise.

This makes it difficult for drivers who need more urgent information like police on the lookout for speeders or drunk drivers to receive an accurate report of their position and direction of travel.

Can CB radio Talk to Ham Radio?

There is no reason why it wouldn't be possible for them to communicate with each other. The main obstacle that prevents this from happening is their different frequencies of operation.

An example would be a CB transceiver operating in the frequency range of 26 MHz while an Ham Radio rig operates on frequencies ranging from 3 MHz all the way up to about 1 GHz.

A wireless bridge connecting a local CB channel to a local Amateur net or vice versa would solve the problem but it can be difficult and expensive to build such a system because you'll need dedicated antennas, lots of electrical power, and expertise in mixing two signals without introducing mutual interference.

In addition, you'd require some form of computerized signal processing equipment which will make the project more expensive.

My recommendation is to build a CB radio first and get hooked on it. After some time, you can buy an Amateur Radio rig as well and discover the joy of DXing (talking to people from far away).

The best part about hamfests (other ham radio users) is that you can meet like-minded people who share your interest in radios! You might even want to try getting together with them for a chat over the airwaves!

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How far can Ham Radio Reach?

Long-range Amateur Radio transceivers have ranged from 100 to 1,500 miles [161 to 2,414 kilometers].

A ham radio license is not required for anyone to use the frequency ranges allocated to Amateur Radio operators.

A CB radio, on the other hand, only allows a maximum power of 4 watts while a ham radio can transmit up to 1500 watts! This doesn't make it more powerful but simply gives you a wider range of operations.

For example, if Ham radio operator A and Ham radio operator B are located near each other and both have handheld transceivers that operate at 5 watts then they will be able to communicate with each other no matter what because they're in close proximity.

In this case, the effective range of the Ham radio operators will be about two miles [3 kilometers].

Handheld units can serve as poor man's base stations by allowing them to talk from one unit to another in a larger building like a house.

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Range - How far can CB radio reach?

CB radio users can receive a message up to about 4 miles [6 kilometers] in flat terrain.

But conditions like mountains and buildings will affect how well reception is depending on where the other person is located.

In a worst-case scenario, you could be out of range – usually, if you have a high-powered station and your vehicle isn't very high off the ground or it's being blocked by something solid like a hillside.

The term for this interference is called 'skip'.

What kind of radio do police use?

Do police use CB radio?

Police operate on analog radios and do not use CB radios. However, the 700/800 MHz UHF band is used by police radios allowing them to hear some CB radio channels. Many Police forces have switched to digital radio. This gives them a long range, which provides a clearer message in dense metropolitan areas.

What CB channel do police monitor?

The Police monitor Channel 9, the emergency channel located 27.065 MHz. 

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What is the most popular ham radio band?

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20 meters – 14.0–14.35 MHz – The most popular DX band, which is often most popular during the day. In that band, QRP operators use 14.060 MHz as their primary calling frequency. Users of the PSK31 data mode prefer to congregate around 14.070MHz.

The best answer is that it depends on which country you're in. In Canada, the most popular band would be the freeband because there are a lot of 10 meter AM operators who enjoy frequent chats with other Canadian visitors.

All US Operators use frequencies between 26.965 MHz and 27.405 MHz from their CB radios but there are restrictions for using these channels north of the border so they have to buy special equipment to get around this problem.

In Europe, shortwave enthusiasts play quite a big role especially in countries like Germany where every summer you can hear their presence up to about 13 MHz during local contests.

Do you need a Ham Radio License?

Yes, obtaining a US amateur radio license is required to use Amateur Radio for any purpose.

The license also entitles the user to an FCC call sign and all radio equipment used must be certificated for use by the FCC.

To operate an amateur radio, you will need to get a Technician Class or higher Amateur Radio License from your country's Communications Authority. Licenses usually expire every five years so most ham radios recommend holding on to them as long as possible because it's very hard and expensive to do so later on.

If you plan on sticking around your town for some time, this is probably not going to be a problem but people who travel or live abroad might run into trouble if they miss the window of opportunity.

Getting permission from both the host country and the home country can also be cumbersome.

What is the Standard Band for CB radio?

Cb Radios are authorized for 40 channels between 26.965 MHz and 27.405 MHz.

The most common frequencies are 26.500 MHz to 27.405 MHz in four bands. When referring to CBs, ham radios like to use HHz (Hertz) rather than KHz (kilohertz) because of its accuracy.

For example, 26.965 MHz is not actually 965 kHz but 960 kHz + 5 kHz due to 608 channels per 10 kHz that spans from 26.515MHz to 27.855MHz .

This can be confusing at first but everyone gets used to using it after a while.

What's more frustrating now that the band plan has been updated to allow for 10 kHz bandwidth, there are now two numbers that have to be memorized – 27.235 and 27.245 MHz which is a real pain to do if you're not used to it .

You may like: Full List with PDF of the CB Radio Frequencies

What are the Amateur Radio Frequencies?

The National Association of Amateur Radio (ARRL) has an entire list that starts with 2200 meters, 630 meters, 160 meters 80 meters, 60 meters, 30 meters and it goes all the way down to 1.25 meters. You can read their full list here

In the US, amateur radio frequencies start at 28 MHz and go up to 29.7 MHz (the 11-meter band).

More common (and less crowded) are the 10-meter ham radio bands between 28.000 MHz and 29.700 MHz which can still be used outside of contests but with more serious limitations.

Conclusion: CB Radio vs Ham Radio

Both Amateur Radio and CB radio systems each have their own sets of pros and cons. In the end, it really boils down to what you need at any given time; if you're looking for a way to chat with your buddies while cruising down the road, go for CB radio.

If you want to converse with like-minded individuals in faraway places or be able to contact emergency services when in dire straits (or even just say G'day to a mate who's halfway around the world) then get yourself an Amateur Radio license.

Jurisdiction over Low Power Personal Communication Services is being transferred from the FCC to newly created Wireless Telecommunications Bureaus in each state.

Hi & Welcome!

My name is Jeremy and I have been an avid car nut for many year. My first car was an 1987 Honda CRX. I put in my first Kenwood stereo, amp, 2 10" JLs and a CB Radio in it and have been an avid user of CBs and car radios for years. I'll do my best to share my tips, information and thoughts to help you with whatever question you might have, ABOUT ME 

After I graduated from High School, I worked 5 years are Radio Shack and 3 years at Circuit City answering questions and helping customers with various electronics questions.