Finding The Best MURS Radio in 2020 – Top Handheld Two-Way Models!
Multi-use radio service, otherwise known as MURS has become a user-favorite option due to its practicality without the need for a MURS license. The wide range of users that use these types of radios use the 5 special MURS frequencies which are built-in in all modern radios on the market. Preppers, hunters, security personnel, farmers, warehouse workers, and a whole lot of other professions and people use these radios for their day-to-day communications due to the simplicity of it all.
Finding the best MURS radio, however, can be a bit tricky, as these radios overlap in terms of functionality with a few other types of communication devices. That is why it is important to know all the necessary features associated with a good MURS model and most importantly – knowing how to use it without breaking the law and local radio communication regulations. Below are some of the top models for this year compared with their most notable features…
|BTECH MURS-V1||Li-ion |
|Dakota Alert M538-HT||Alkaline AA||Yes||Yes|
|Dakota Alert M538-BS||Alkaline AA||Yes||Yes|
BTECH MURS-V1 Two-Way Radio
When it comes to these types of radios, it is really hard to rank anything higher than the BTECH V1 Two-way radio. Apart from being highly functional and packed full of features, it is also one of the price-to-value deals you can get on the market currently. The company BeoFeng Tech is known for producing other radio famous radio models but this one is specifically focused on being a license-free MURS radio.
Apart from the 5 license-free MURS frequencies, this receiver can also tune into the FM band from 65 MHz to 108 MHz. For the MURS stations, it can switch between 20 kHz and 12.5 kHz bandwidths for some of the 15 channels and has a semi-duplex functionality, meaning it can monitor two channels at the same time. The first channel that receives a signal will take priority over the other one. All that can be seen through the 3-colored LCD screen which is big enough to give you information on two channels, signal strength, battery levels, and volume. The two-way radio can also switch between high and low power modes (2W for the high-power mode and 500mW for the low mode). There are also VOX, CTCSS, TOT, BCL, and DCS features that add to the rich list of options this model packs.
Everything here is powered by the 1800 mAh rechargeable lithium battery. It is good enough to last you a few days on a single charge. With the radio, you get a charging/docking station that charges the radio fully in just a few hours. Another thing that I really like about this model is that it comes with its own ear hook headphone (2-pin Kenwood compatible). It has a nice fit and will stay in place even you move around a lot. There are also volume controls and radio controls on the headphone which allow you to work with the radio without the need to unclip it from your belt. Speaking of that, it does come with a belt clip which is quite sturdy as well as a wrist strap.
- Excellent price for what you get
- VOX, DCS, TOT, BCL, CTCSS
- FM Radio
- License-free MURS frequencies
- Can monitor two channels at the same time
- Long-lasting rechargeable battery
- Questionable build quality
- Belt clip tends to break
Motorola RMM2050 Two-Way Business Radio
Motorola is a well-known brand that has been the pioneer in radio technologies for the last few decades. Their products, despite being very good, are also quite expensive which is one of their biggest downsides.
The Motorola RMM2020 Two-way radio comes with all the basic functionality that you’d expect from a MURS radio station with a few improved aspects. For instance, there are 219 individual PL/DPL codes allowing people to communicate with each other using the public frequencies without being interrupted too much. There are also 6 customizable codes that allow you to have clear communication with your colleagues. Another thing that really improves the effectiveness of this radio is its range. The RMM2050 has an effective range of coverage of up to 220,00 square feet and can also pick up a signal well over 10 building floors. The signal, although very good, gets further amplified by the 1500 mW speaker which works well even in noisy conditions. The 2 Watt MURS radio also comes with a few additional features such as the advanced voice activation (VOX) which is meant to give you a hands-free experience with the radio.
The material and build quality here is also on another level compared to some cheaper brands and models. One thing that sticks out is the antimicrobial coating on the whole radio which prevents the growth of mold. What really stings with this model, despite how good it is, that it simply is far too expensive for most people’s pockets. Still, if you’re looking for something reliable and extremely functional from a brand that you can trust, the RMM2050 is a pretty safe bet.
- Battery life is excellent
- Huge area coverage
- Powerful speaker
- 219 PL/DPL codes
- 5 FCC license-free MURS frequencies
- Advanced Voice Activate
- Very long-lasting
- Extremely Expensive
- No display
Retevis RT27V MURS Walkie Talkie
Retevis is yet another brand that is famous for their radios and other types of communication devices. Their RT27V MURS walkie talkie has a great professional appeal and comes in a pack of two at a bargain price.
The RT27V works in the very high-frequency band covering the 5 license-free MURS radio stations only. The radio supports a number of features such as VOX, CTCSS, DCS, squelch level adjusting, monitoring, time-out timer, battery saving mode, and voice commands. The battery life for each of the walkie-talkies is decent with an 1100 mAh battery that can handle a full day of usage with no issues.
The construction is also surprisingly good for the price bracket these radios fall in. There are enough buttons to make using them easy and the knobs at the top are easy to use one-handed and are quite tactile and clicky. The headsets you get with the radios have slightly above average sound quality which is good enough for most conditions.
In terms of additional accessories, it comes with two belt clips and two hand straps for added convenience. Each of the two radios also comes with its own docking station and USB battery charger. There is also a 12V car adapter that allows you to charge them on the go in your vehicle. While the RT27V isn’t packed of useless features, it really does bring excellent value to the table and is exceedingly good at what it is – a basic MURS radio that allows you to tap into those frequencies without an FCC license.
- Comes in a pack of two radios
- Good value for the money
- VOX, CTCSS, DCS, BCL, TOT
- Battery saving mode
- Comes with two headsets
- Voice commands
- Battery life is average
- No display
- Can only work with MURS frequencies
Dakota Alert M538-HT MURS VHF Transceiver
The Dakota Alert M538-HT MURS transceiver is a feature-rich radio that provides you with license-free two-way communication on the MURS frequencies. It works with other M538-HT models as well as the M538-BS base stations (that I will review in a moment). While it is a little expensive for what you’re getting, it still is one of the better models out there.
The M538 series operates in the VHF frequency band between 151.820 and 154.600 MHz. Thanks to the good antenna this model uses, there is a 2-miles range for all communications (in good conditions and even terrain). Apart from the 5 official channels, this two-way radio also has 38 sub-channels which act as privacy frequencies you can use with your coworkers and friends. That way, using different channels and sub-channels, you can create nearly 200 unique combinations. The radio is also equipped with real-time monitoring, VOX, and other features that make communications easier.
The construction, although a bit bulky, is durable and the button layout is fairly convenient. Apart from the buttons at the front, you also have the LCD display that will give you all the important information including the channel and frequency you’re currently using.
- Good communication range
- 5 MURS channels with 38 privacy sub-channels
- Decent build quality
- Signal quality is good
- Comes with a belt clip and wrist strap
- A bit expensive
- Battery life isn’t good
Tera TR-505 MURS Two-Way Radio
The Tera TR-505 MURS radio is one of the most well-rounded packages you can get right now. Despite it being a little expensive, it brings a professional-grade materials and signal quality in a well-built walkie-talkie that is excellent for various work environments. Outdoor enthusiasts will also be able to enjoy this handheld radio thanks to its NOAA and GMRS frequency compatibility.
Apart from the 5 license-free MURS frequencies, the TR-505 allows you to use 16 pre-programmed GMRS UHF channels. Those can be used freely but will be much more crowded than the MURS channels. Still, this is what makes this radio a good hiking and camping companion. These UHF channels also benefit from a 4 Watt power output which extends their range up to 10 miles depending on the conditions and terrain. There is also a 1 Watt power mode used for communications on shorter distances. It is great to have the low-power mode in order to preserve your battery life which isn’t great here anyway.
There is one thing that you should know about this model if you want to use the MURS channels, though. When you get it, it doesn’t come with the license-free VHD channels. You need to buy the optional USB programming cable and then download the free MURS programming file and install it. Once you’ve done that, then you can use the five channels without worrying about the FCC.
The construction is top-notch here with the body of the radio being quite durable and fairly weather resistant. Although there is no official IP rating here, there is a certain amount of dust and waterproofing.
- 16 pre-programmed GMRS UHF channels
- Up to 10 miles of range on the 4 Watt power mode
- Can work on the 5 MURS channels
- Durable construction
- Low-power mode for short distance communications
- You have to buy the USB prograaming cable to install the MURS programming files
- Average battery life
Dakota Alert M538-BS MURS Base Station
The Dakota Alert M538-BS MURS Radio (Base Station) is almost identical in terms of internal components and functionality to the M538-HT radio from the same company. All of the Dakota Alert radios from the M-series are comaptible with each other and can serve as means of two-way communications over the five licnese-free MURS channels.
Of course, the appeal of the BS model is that it can act as a transceiver and be the link between multiple people that operate on a single worksite. While workstations have their own benefits, they are clearly much less portable than the hand held walkie-talkie styled MURS radios. Still, this one here has an enhanced speaker volume and a better antenna for improved range and signal quality. While the speaker is much louder than the one of the handheld models, it isn’t quite crisp and tends to distort the sound a lot in the higher volume settings.
The build quality of this base station isn’t stellar as well mainly because it isn’t meant to be moved much. All of those things are, to an extent, considered in the price tag making this one of the cheapest, yet most functional MURS base stations out there.
- MURS base station
- Good signal range
- Doesn’t require FCC licenses
- Excellent battery life
- Compatible with other Dakota Alert accessories
- Real-time monitoring
- Not very portable
- Speaker quality isn’t great even though the speaker is loud
MURS Radios Buyer’s Guide
To take the confusion out of this buying process, I’ve separated this guide into a few different sections, each one covering important aspects of buying and using these types of radios. First, let’s start with explaning what MURS radios are, how they work, and which people might benefit the most from them…
What is MURS Radio and how does it work?
Simply put, MURS or Multi-use Radio Service radios are low-power, license-free personal radios with a short-range which are using 5 specifically defined channels in the MURS band. Those channels are in the very high frequency (VHF) band and are between 151 and 154.6 MHz. They are intended for short-range calls and local data communications.
The main difference between a ham and a MURS radio is that while both of these can tune in and transmit in the MURS frequencies, only one of them is licensed to do so. Amateur radios can monitor those frequencies but never use them, as that requires a special FCC license.
The five frequencies that MURS radios communicate at are:
- 151.820 MHz (11.25 kHz bandwidth)
- 151.880 MHz (11.25 kHz bandwidth)
- 151.940 MHz (11.25 kHz bandwidth)
- 154.570 MHz (20.00 kHz bandwidth)
- 154.600 MHz (20.00 kHz bandwidth)
The bandwidth in the brackets next to each of the channels primarily determines the frequency range occupied by the radio signal and acts as channel spacing. These MURS channels are well-known for working at these two specific bandwidths for which you have a control switch/knob on every MURS two-way radio.
The Different Types of MURS Radios
There are quite a few radio stations that can tune in and transmit in the MURS frequencies. What is important here, however, is knowing which of those are license-free and can legally tune in into the MURS band.
In general, there are two main types of MURS radios:
- Handheld radios – These are essentially walkie-talkies that work with the MURS frequencies. Since those were introduced after the early 2000s, there aren’t that many old models that support that type of communication. There are plenty of new handheld models that cover the MURS range, though.
- Base stations – These are MURS radios which have a desktop orientation and design that allows them to be put down on a flat surface. They are especially good if you want to use an external antenna for them and let them act as stations that catch and put various communications through. While the MURS radio signal won’t reach huge distances, the quality can be greatly improved with a good antenna. These stations consist of two parts – a base that houses all the radio components and a handset that houses the mic and sometimes a speaker.
Why Would You Need One?
MURS radios operate in the very high-frequency range/band (VHF). This makes them ideal for short-distance ground communications. Those are ideal for a variety of people, primarily working in warehouses, security, festivals, and others. Festivals are an especially good example of MURS radio benefits since you won’t have to tune in to the busy FRS or GMRS frequency bands. It will allow you and your friends or co-workers to communicate distraction and noise-free in the 5 different channels which are license-free.
The line-of-sight limitations of MURS radios are, to an extent, rendered useless once you get a bigger antenna or a stronger transmitter. For that reason, these radios often outperform normal FRS radios in terms of range. Most good models easily cover 200,000+ square feet warehouses or 10+ floor buildings. Some survivalists, hunters, and campers also use these types of communications in order to remain away from the other overcrowded frequencies.
Now, let’s take a look at the features that will define whether the model you’ve chosen is good or not…
- Battery Life
- Weather Alerts
- Durability and resistance
- Size and Weight
- Screen properties
- Additional features
Even though we already went through most of this topic, let’s recap some of the MURS radio types and see which one will work the best for you…
When choosing the type of your MURS radio you will be primarily faced with the choice of desktop vs. portable. Considering these radios are mainly used in large warehouses for two-way communications, mobile versions are much more preferred. Still, some security companies with ground personnel that works from fixed positions also opt for desktop models that act as a base station for coordination operations. The Dakota Alert M538-BS is the perfect example of a desktop model that has all the functionality of a portable one. If it is really necessary it can also be taken somewhere with you since it also allows for two-way communications.
While all MURS radios can tune in to the 5 MURS frequencies, there are some models that have a few more tricks up their sleeves. For example, the Btech V1 also has FM radio compatibility being able to work in the FM band from 65.0 MHz to 108 MHz. Some other models also have weather alerts.
Some users that want to communicate with each other would have to share the same PL/DPL codes, meaning the more code options your radio has, the more accessible it will be to other radios your friends or co-workers use. Some radios have up to 200 built-in DPL codes and 5-10 customizable code options to help you get a clearer signal.
Lastly, one really neat feature when it comes to frequency monitoring is duplex modes which allow you to view and monitor two MURS frequencies at once. The first frequency that receives a call will get a priority over the other.
The battery life of most MURS radios is fairly decent with most models easily lasting a few days on a single charge. The models which last the longest are the ones powered with AA batteries since those have a slightly larger capacity than the normal rechargeable lithium batteries. NiMH (Nickel-metal hydride) AA batteries are your best bet at getting more than 10 days on a single recharge and keeping your running costs low. If that is what you’re after, look for models that are powered with 2 or 4 AA batteries. If you’re set on a model with a rechargeable lithium battery, look for ones that have more than 1000 mAh.
If you want to use your MURS radio outdoors, it isn’t a bad idea to look for a model that comes with weather alerts from NOAA. Those typically require a specific frequency which is license-free.
Those weather radio stations are typically located in the VHF public service frequency band. The most common ones are 162.400 MHz, 162.425 MHz, and 162.450 MHz.
Durability and resistance
The durability and weather resistance of the radio will primarily be determined by its materials. While most models are made out of composite plastic, some take things a step further with additional water and dust proofing improvements.
If you’re going to use the radio in all types of weather conditions, look for models that have official IP rating. IP68 is the most common rating which means dustproof (6) against small particles and waterproof (8) for up to 30 minutes in 6ft deep waters.
Size and Weight
The dimensions of your radio will determine its overall usability. For more portability, look for models that are lightweight and not too big. Those will also be able to fit in your pocket if you’re patrolling or have your hands busy and you have to clip it on your shirt or clothes. On average, most two-way radios will weight around 8 and 10 oz which is just around the weight of a normal walkie-talkie.
With each year, more and more MURS radio models get their own screen. Having a display is always a welcomed feature since it greatly improves the functionality and usability of the radio. Most displays are dot-matrix LCDs which are good even under direct sunlight and are economical enough to not drain your battery any quicker. They also have good contrast and some more expensive models have backlit displays that are clearly visible even in pitch darkness. Look for models which have bigger displays as they will have more screen real estate to serve you more information about the frequency you’re using, bandwidth, battery status, and other features of the model.
The range of your MURS radio will heavily depend on the type of terrain you’re in. When there is a clear line of sight between you and the person that is receiving your signal, the maximum distance is around 3 miles. While an antenna won’t greatly improve that distance, it will really improve the quality of the sound.
Within normal conditions and mixed terrain, MURS radios cannot transmit further than 1.5 miles. If you’re in a dense forest or a complex terrain, these radios won’t be able to work at distances bigger than 0.5 miles.
These numbers are mainly due to the limitations set by the FCC on MURS radios. Some of the most limiting ones are the fact that your radio can have a maximum of 2W power. On top of that (literally), your antenna shouldn’t be more than 60ft above the ground or 20 feet above the roof you’ve put it on.
In terms of convenience, look for models that come with belt clips or hand straps. Those will ensure that your two-way radio stays put and is hard to drop even when you’re moving around a lot. Other additional accessories that are helpful are USB cables that support fast-charging for your rechargeable battery. More batteries (1 spare one or two additional AA batteries) is also a good thing to look for.
When it comes to functionality, there are a few radio features that are a must-have for anyone who is looking to get the model with the most bells and whistles. Those are:
- Voice-operated switch (VOX)
- Continuous tone-coded squelch system (CTCSS)
- Squelch Levels Adjusting
- Busy-channel lookout (BCL)
- Time-out Timer (TOT)
- Battery saving mode
- Voice commands
The voice-operated switch (VOX) is a form of a switch that initiates the communication once a certain level threshold is reached. This allows your two-way radio to work without a button as soon as you start to talk into it. Other noises might trigger it, but you can easily set it up to activate only when you speak directly onto it (which is typically higher than most ambient noises). Once you stop speaking into the radio, it will automatically cut off the signal and the other side will know for sure that you’ve stopped.
CTCSS and squelch-levels adjusting are two features that allow you to control squelching. CTCSS eliminates the need of listening to other people who share the same MURS communication channel with you and your friends or co-workers.
The other features like BCL and TOT aren’t mandatory but are quite handy to have in certain situations. Battery-saving modes are good to have on models with power-hungry displays or speakers in order to prolonge the single-charge performance of the battery. Voice commands are also optional but can let you work with the radio in a hands-free way.
A Word Of Caution
There is one huge misunderstanding when it comes to MURS radios on the internet. Normal VHR or UHF HAM radios can generally tap into the MURS frequencies. However, the fact that they can doesn’t mean that you should and it is, in fact, illegal to do so without a special MURS radio. Some radios require you to have a license to tune into those frequencies but most modern MURS radios are license-free. All of the models I’ve included in this guide are also license-free. The same thing goes for transmitting at these frequencies (for two-way communications). To use amateur HAM radios on the MURS frequencies you will need an FCC license.
If you don’t want to use those frequencies, but simply monitor them, you don’t need a license.
The reason I am saying all that is because there are some HAM radio models out there which claim to be able to tune in and transmit in the MURS frequencies. While that isn’t wrong, you can get fined up to ten thousand dollars if you don’t have the appropriate license. And before you think that there is no chance of them randomly catching you, know that there are special teams of people that monitor the lines and can potentially triangulate your position if you’re breaking the rules.
Also, always remember that despite not heavily used, MURS is still an open frequency and anyone can pick up on your communications. If you’re passing on locations or sensitive information, stick to a pre-determined code system.
How to use a MURS Radio
Using MURS radios isn’t that much different than using amateur radios. Most license-free MURS models have a display that lets you see on which frequency you are (one of the 5). Some models even take things a step further by adding GMRS frequencies and even FM tuning.
In fact, MURS radios are not that much different than your typical walkie-talkie in terms of button layouts and overall design. It is just that it has two knobs which are most frequently used for toggling between the frequencies and different bandwidths.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need a license for a MURS radio?
There are no licenses that are required for any US citizen to own or use a MURS radio. Foreign governments or their representatives are forbidden to use those, however. If you use this radio in accordance with the 47 CR, everything should be alright.
What are the MURS frequencies?
MURS radios have 5 defined frequencies which are
- 151.820 MHz
- 151.880 MHz
- 151.940 MHz
- 154.570 MHz
- 154.600 MHz
All of these have a bandwidth of 11.25 kHz band except the 154.570 and .600 frequencies which are at 20.00kHz.
Who uses MURS radios?
MURS radios are primarily used by watch groups, preppers, different businesses, families, and some organizations like CERT.
Finding the best MURS radio is a matter of choosing the right model for the money. Almost all of the radios that can tune in and transmit MURS frequencies are very similar in terms of features and quality. The main things that the higher price tag will bring you are improved build quality, slightly larger range, and superior battery life on a single charge. For basic two-way communications, go for the models in the golden middle which are a good compromise between quality and affordability.