VHF Marine Radio Buying Guide – What Should You Consider?

One of the essential pieces of gear to have on a boat is a VHF (Very High Frequency) radio. 

However, selecting the best one from this competitive market can be a little hard for you if you don’t have any idea about them. 

Well, assuming you have a slight idea but don’t know what to look for before buying, and this is where our well-researched guide comes in. 

Here, we have decorated a post on the VHF marine radio buying guide, where we have highlighted almost every feature you should notice when selecting them. 

What to Look For Before Purchasing a VHF Radio?

There are a lot of VHF radios on the market. In addition to this, we can notice many variations for VHF radio features. 

They come in different types, body sizes, colours, display types, transmit power, battery volt, body weight, etc.

We will discuss each feature continuously to give you a better idea of each feature. 

Let’s jump into the central part. 

Select the Type First:

From the beginning of producing VHF radios, we can notice two types of VHF radios available in the market. 

Handheld: As the name implies, it’s such a device that fits in your hand. A handheld VHF radio is lightweight and a small solution that you can use anywhere you want. 

With a portable radio, you can only transmit power up to 5-7 miles if the weather in your area is clear. 

A handheld is likely a worthless device without its portability because you can only get a limited transmit power of 5-6 watts maximum. 

Another most significant disadvantage of a handheld type is the battery. A battery of a handheld VHF radio can go for up to 15-20 hours maximum. 

You’ll require charging the battery before heading out. But we’re not saying that a handheld type is a waste of money. They are widely used in Dinghy, Kayak, and also in Jetski. 

These vessels primarily use a handheld type due to their limited space and lack of a suitable power supply.

Fixed Mount: as the name suggests, the purpose of a fixed mount VHF radio is the same as a handheld. The main difference between them is that the static mount is permanently mounted in a vessel. 

This type of VHF radio comes with two dedicated parts, a radio, and an antenna to disseminate the radio signal to others. 

It has more benefits than disadvantages like it offers a maximum transmit power of 25-watt, which is a massive amount for the user’s safety. 

It allows users to transmit signals over long distances due to the high transmit power level. Sounds like you can cover up to 20 kilometres.

However, like other products, it also has some bad aspects. One of the problems is that it is not portable.

Since there are no additional power sources that come with a fixed mount type radio, you’ll be required to install a power source in your vessel. 

But if you would like to use your radio with the same power source for running your vessel, you can do it effortlessly.

You may prefer a fixed-mount model if you’re a boater because you don’t need to install an external power source. Your boat’s power will be enough, and you will enjoy its reliable long-range communication.

Body Sizes: 

As mentioned, most handheld radios are compact; however, you’ll notice some specific models in a larger size too. 

Picking a large-size model is not always bad. However, thinking about your convenience, you should try to select a model that looks compact. In addition, it will give you more control over your device. 

In the case of a fixed mount model, you don’t need to look for its size because you’ll mount the device on your boat, and only the speaker will be in your hand.

Display Type:

Most fixed mount and handheld VHF radios use the dot matrix display, while others use the seven-segment LCD.

People always prefer the dot matrix displays due to their clear view. But, on the other hand, the seven-segment display is very cheap as it only contains LEDs. 

So selecting a radio that uses a dot matrix display would be a better option for you!


Colour may not be a big issue here because you will be in the water with them all the time. However, You have a choice. 

According to the current market, most radio available is only black, but they have some variations. For example, some offer pure black, while others are light black. 

Apart from these, you’ll also notice some models with different colours such as yellow, white. So the choice is yours. Pick one based on your interest.

Transmit Power: 

The most important stuff for a VHF radio. The more transmit power you have in your radio, the farther you can send the signal. 

As mentioned before, all the handheld models come with a maximum transmit power of 6 watts, and the fixed mount models offer 25 watts max. 

But you can also find some handheld models that offer only 5 watts. So it would be better to avoid them and pick a model that provides the maximum. 

On the other hand, for a fixed mount model, make sure you’re going to select a maximum watt power too.


There is nothing to see here because all VHF marine radios offer the same 55 channels, including international, Canadian, and USA radio channels. 

You can only send signals on 12-15 channels, and the remaining channels can be worthless for you to use because most of them are reserved for commercial shipping, coast guard, and government use. 

Battery Volt: 

As you know, if you select a fixed mount radio, you’ll need to use your boat’s power sources to run it. So you don’t need to worry about its backup time. 

The battery backup will depend on your boat’s power. If the power source is better, you can use your radio smoothly in an emergency. 

But in the case of a handheld model, you have to notice the battery volt before making any purchase. 

Most handheld models provide 1500-1800mAh batteries. So what you can do is try to pick one that offers the most. 


Since a fixed mount model comes with a separate antenna that you can mount on your preferred location, it’s recommended to mount an antenna as high as possible to get the best performance. 

On the other hand, A handheld model comes with a built-in antenna and no chance to mount it on any higher location. So what you can do is try to keep the radio as high as possible while transmitting a signal. 

Some advanced models offer an internal port to connect an external antenna to the radio. You can also check them!

Digital Selective Calling Feature: 

The DSC is now a trending feature for every marine VHF radio because it allows users to communicate delicately with another boat or person. 

You must check this feature on both handhelds and fixed mount types to ensure better safety in the open water. 

Easy to Use:

In the event of an emergency, a device that offers excellent control plays a vital role. Most people think that handheld radios are easy to use, while others believe a fixed mount radio provides the features. 

Here you have to Sacrifice one to get another. The decision is yours. Choose whatever goes with you.


It is essential to check if your radio is waterproof or not. Submersible (IPX7) is one of the more appropriate.

Some models also have IP ratings, such as IPX4 and IPX7, but we always suggest picking the IPX7 rating because It can withstand water for 30 minutes below 2.6 meters.


A VHF radio is a digital device that should be on every boat. However, buying the best one is not always an easy task. 

A lot of facts can confuse you. But if you follow today’s guide, you’ll be able to pick the right one for your needs. 

Here we have tried to highlight some of the most noticeable features of a VHF radio. We hope you will check each of the features on the radio that you’re going to buy for your next project.