In an age of smartphones and tablet computers, CB radios might seem as quaint as the bell-bottom jeans and polyester disco suits that shared their 1970s heyday. In truth, they remain a useful automotive accessory. Handheld walkie-talkie-style CBs are convenient and easy to use, while conventional car-mounted units offer superior range and typically offer more features at any given price point. A CB of either type provides a combination of entertainment, security and inexpensive communications.
There are number of communications options you can use in your car, ranging from the indispensable cellular phone to high-end amateur or commercial VHF and UHF radios. Most two-way radios other than CBs require a license, and they're almost invariably higher in cost. Cellular phones are inexpensive to buy but require you to pay for your service. You can opt for a monthly plan that gives you lots of talk time, or go with prepaid phones and pay more for every minute. With CB radios, on the other hand, once you've bought and installed your radio and antenna it won't cost you another cent.
Another problem with cellular phones is that coverage can be spotty. Carrying a phone for emergencies does you no good if you're off the road in a place without service. With a CB, you can communicate anywhere. CB channel nine is the designated emergency channel, and it's monitored by volunteers and emergency services across much of the country. Help is almost always available. Many CB radios also receive the National Weather Radio's frequencies, which broadcast continuous weather forecasts and emergency alerts across the country. With the weather channels, you'll be up to date on storms, natural disasters and other risks as you go.
If you're an avid off-roader, CB radios provide an inexpensive and practical way to keep in touch with your friends and fellow enthusiasts. Before you take your motorcycles or SUVs onto the trails, agree on a set of frequencies to use for the day. You'll be able to share advice and warnings about trail hazards, heckle your friends and find anyone who's lost. If you're taking a road trip with family or friends in other vehicles, CBs let you keep in constant touch without running up airtime charges. You'll be able to navigate as a group, get help when you're lost and coordinate meal or restroom breaks.
When you think of social media, you probably picture your smartphone or computer screen. Installing a CB in your car will broaden that picture. If you accumulate Facebook friends and Twitter followers like flies to honey, you'll also enjoy chatting on the CB. Housebound enthusiasts, fellow motorists and bored truckers are usually willing to exchange greetings, small talk and road warnings with anyone passing through the range of their radio. Scan through the radio's frequencies to find conversations, but avoid channels nine and 19. Nine is the official emergency channel, and 19 is customarily used by truckers for communicating with their colleagues.
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