I've always been fascinated by radios.
I was a CB radio geek back in the day. I've read about and tested most radios out there.
There is something immensely satisfying in the ability to communicate without having to rely on the mobile grid. Even in this digital age.
So today, I want to tell you a bit about MURS radios. More specifically - how to choose one and which ones you should avoid.
Because there is a lot of misinformation being spread online about MURS radios.
In fact -
You can get a $10,000 FCC fine for using the wrong type of radio without a license on a MURS frequency
Crazy, right? I'm here to help you avoid that.
Let's get right to it.
What's good about MURS Radios
MURS stands for Multi-Use Radio Service.
MURS radios are good for short-range communications. Unlike ham (amateur) and GMRS radios, you don't need a licence to transmit with a MURS radio.
Among others, MURS Radios are used by:
- Small businesses
- Security companies
- Fishers, hunters, campers etc.
Of course, having a guaranteed way of communicating with others in the worst of times is also an essential prepper responsibility.
MURS radios are a great way to keep up short-range communications when the cell-phone network goes down. With MURS you can call your neighbors for help, or keep up the communications while patrolling your area.
MURS radios are simple to use. Just pick a channel and you're set. Don't need to program it or anything. A child could do it.
Now, here's where many people stumble with MURS radios...
4 Things you MUST know before buying a MURS Radio: How to Avoid a $10,000 FCC Fine
There is a lot of misinformation being spread about MURS radios on the internet. Especially when it comes to buying advice.
The cause of it all? Lazy research.
So here's a quick summary of the things you MUST know before buying a MURS radio:
1 - It's Illegal to use HAM (UHF/VHF/Amateur) Radios on MURS Frequencies Without Licence
Here's the thing.
Just because a certain radio can transmit on MURS frequencies... doesn't mean that you're allowed to do so without a license.
Any radio transmitter that offers ham (amateur) radio frequencies needs an FCC license to operate. What this means is that you can't use UHF/VHF radios on MURS frequencies without having a license.
Side note: With a ham radio you can monitor MURS frequencies, but you cannot transmit.
UHF/VHF radios are not a legal substitution for MURS Radios.
Transmitting on MURS frequencies with UHF/VHF (ham, amateur) radio without a license is illegal.
You can get fined for that.
It's confusing, because many of the ham radios on Amazon claim to be MURS compatible. While in fact, they can't be operated without a license.
There are groups monitoring this and the FCC can fine you $10,000 if you use a UHF/VHF radio
without a proper license.
Emergencies and SHTF situations are an obvious exception to this rule. When the grid collapses, ain't nobody gonna chase you for not following the rules.
In a SHTF situation, ham radio will be your best bet - whether you have a license or not.
Side note: Only Part95J certificated radios may be used to transmit on MURS frequencies. If your MURS radio is part 95J certified, it's safe to use without holding a license. For example, the popular BaoFeng UV-5R is not type accepted for Part 95J and is illegal to use for transmitting on MURS frequencies.
2 - MURS Radio Frequencies
There are five MURS channels and the channels are either 11.25 kHz or 20.00 kHz each. The MURS channel frequencies and their respective bandwidths are:
- 151.820 MHz (11.25 kHz)
- 151.880 MHz (11.25 kHz)
- 151.940 MHz (11.25 kHz)
- 154.570 MHz (20.00 kHz)
- 154.600 MHz (20.00 kHz)
Source: FCC MURS Regulations
Within the U.S. you can only use these 5 frequencies that are allowed by the FCC. Using frequencies outside of what's allowed can result in a heavy fine. There are groups monitoring this, and it's possible to triangulate your location based on your signal.
A proper MURS radio without modifications will not be able to broadcast on any other channels anyway.
3 - MURS Radio Range
The third thing you need to know is the range of MURS radios.
2-3 miles of range is the maximum that you should expect under ideal conditions. Ideal means having a clear line of sight.
That's because of the limitations that the FCC has set on these radios. More specifically:
- MURS radios can have max. 2 watts of power
- Maximum height of MURS antenna is 60 feet above ground, or 20 feet above the roof where the antenna is stationed
That doesn't give us too much to play around with.
Remember that factory listed distances require ideal laboratory conditions and a clear line of sight.
Buildings, walls, trees, floors, and hills will reduce the distance that the radios can cover.
Here's a list of approximate ranges for your reference:
- Clear line of sight: 2-3 miles
- Normal conditions: 1 - 1.5 miles
- Heavy forest/hills: 0.25 - 0.5 miles
4 - The Safety of MURS Radios
The last thing you need to know is that MURS is an open frequency.
This means that anyone with a radio can listen to anything you say. In other words, MURS frequencies are not safe for transmitting sensitive information.
They're public frequencies.
A simple way to solve this problem is to come up with a code system of your own.
Give a code name to every person and place that you mention on the radio. That'll make it harder for others to understand what you're talking about (and to track your movements).
On to the buying guide.
Best MURS Radios for sale in 2018
As I explained above, using a normal ham radio without a license (even on MURS frequencies) can get you fined by the FCC.
Believe me, you don't want that to happen.
So, here is a list of the best Part 95 certified MURS radios on the market today.
I've personally verified that all of the radios included in this list are legal to use without a license U.S.A.
Let's get to it.
1. Best Overall - BTECH MURS-V1
BTECH MURS-V1 is the best MURS radio for sale today.
It has more features than any other MURS radio on the market.
Want to know the best part?
(In fact, this thing retails at a whopping 1/4 the price of Motorola below).
First off - here's what makes this radio special:
- Inbuilt flashlight
- FM radio 65.0MHz - 108.0MHz
- Large, 3-color LCD
None of the other MURS radios on the market have these three. BTECH-V1 blows the competition out of the water.
You can use this radio on your normal 5 MURS channel frequencies. It's Part-95 certified and legal to use without a license.
The radio comes with a full set of privacy tones: 50 CTCSS and 346 DCS. These codes are used to filter out other people on MURS channels. They won't prevent others from listening to you.
There are three modes: On, Off, and Standby. Standby mode is a must for extending battery life. There are also two power modes - 500mW and 2W. Put the radio on 500mW when you don't need the range to save battery.
You can even lock the keyboard by holding the # key. So that you don't change the selected channel accidentally.
Included in the kit are: MURS-V1 Radio, 1800mAh Battery, MURS VHF Single Band Antenna, CH-8 Charger, CH-8 110V Adapter, Earpiece Kit, Wrist Strap, Belt Clip, User Manual
There are indicators for battery level and signal strength on the LCD screen.
According to my estimations, the 1800ma battery lasts for about 10 hours (90% standby, 10% usage). It takes about 3.5 hours to charge the battery from zero to full.
You should know that BTECH-V1 is made in China by Baofeng. That's how they keep the costs low.
The good news is that Baofeng has an excellent reputation. They're well known in the radio community and make quality products.
That's also true for this radio. The build quality is good. Strong plastic - feels like a workhorse radio.
One neat thing that I liked is that you can listen to 2 channels simultaneously. And then choose based on where the signal is coming from.
BTECH-V1 has everything you need from a MURS radio and more.
This is hands-down the best MURS radio on the market.
- Packed with features
- Got a tough built quality
- Priced reasonably
What more could you ask for? I mean, the only reason why you wouldn't want to buy this radio is because... it's made in China.
If that's the case, be my guest and check out the U.S. models that I've included below. I promise that you'll come back to the trusty BTECH in no time.
Tera TR-505 is the only radio that I know of that is certified for both MURS and GMRS. This radio has both 95E and 95J certifications.
It's only legal when programmed to transmit one band at any given time. You can easily reprogram it for MURS or GMRS use via software
You're getting 5 MURS channels, 16 GMRS Channels.
It's great for SHTF/emergency use, as it can receive both GMRS/MURS frequencies. But as I've said before, you need a license for transmitting on GMRS frequencies – transmitting without a license can result in a fine.
Personal experience – locally, there is quite a bit of activity on the GMRS channels, so the likelyhood of hearing information on GMRS is higher in during a SHTF/TOTWAWKI.
Now, when it comes to features there's not much to talk about. Especially when comparing this radio to the BTECH-V1 above.
First off - It's expensive. You can get a little less than 3 BTECH radios for the price.
The battery will last about 10 hours with normal daily usage. Charging takes around 3 hours from zero to full.
There are 3 modes: on, off, and standby. There are two modes for high-low battery usage.
You get a battery level indicator - even though the radio doesn't have an LCD.
The radio comes with a 1-year warranty and is factory supported and serviced in the USA.
But... here's what I don't like:
- It's got no flashlight
- It's got no LED screen
- It's got no FM radio
- The price is high for what it offers
Tera TR-505 is for you if you want a radio that is programmable for both MURS and GMRS channels.
If that's not the case - you're better off going for the BTECH-V1 that I reviewed above. TR-505 doesn't have enough features to justify its high price.
3. Best Premium - Motorola RMM2050
Motorola RMM2050 used to be "the" MURS radio for a long time.
It's a good basic radio with a proven track record, but... it's expensive as hell.
You can get 4 BTECH-V1's for the price of ONE Motorola.
I mean, you can see from the price alone that this radio was made for companies with huge expense accounts.
Motorola is charging in the ballpark of $200 for a simple MURS radio... and they're getting away with it!
And what does all that money get you?
- 5 channels
- Standard 10-hour battery
- Voice channel announcement
- 16 channel memory slots
- Mil-Spec design and ruggedness
- Belt holster
- Standard distance (~3 miles with clear terrain)
- 219 DPL codes
In other words - nothing much. Just your basic MURS functionality with some additional features packed in.
Of course it's nice that the radio is Mil-Spec. Means that it's rugged - you can throw it around a bit. But for that price, they could have made it waterproof at least.
Voice channel callout is an interesting feature. You can leave the radio on the belt and check what channel you're on... without using your hands. Nice to have? Yes. Need to have? No.
This radio is overpriced.
It doesn't offer anything special except for the Motorola brand name.
If you're fine throwing more than $300 on a pair of MURS radios and you need that Motorola name on your radio - go for it.
Otherwise, this radio is just a waste of money and I recommend you go for the BTECH V1.
4. The Cheap Choice - Retevis RT27V MURS
Retevis RT27 is a Chinese-made set of MURS radios.
The best thing you can say about these is:
They're cheap. As. Hell.
You're getting 5 radios for less the price of one Motorola. At this price point, of course they're mass-produced in China.
You get your basic MURS functionality - 5 channels and license-free use.
But you can see that they cut costs on quality.
Battery life is reduced - only 1100mAh. I wouldn't count on getting more than 5 hours out of these walkies under normal use. The battery is rechargeable via USB.
I couldn't find any reports about the reliability of these radios. My educated guess is that you get what you pay for.
**Expect subpar quality. **
Reduced battery life and unknown quality...
I wouldn't rely on the Retevis radios for anything serious.
They're cheap, but you get what you pay for. I'd recommend you to get yourself 2 BTECH-V1's for what these ones cost.
At least you'd have something you can rely on.
Dakota Alert used to be the cheaper MURS alternative to Motorola before BTECH-V1 came along.
Now it's just an overpriced radio that doesn't offer much for the money.
- 5 channels, 38 sub-channels
- Standard range of 3 miles depending on terrain
- Part 95J certified
- Runs on 6 rechargeable AA Batteries (included)
- Up to 40 hours battery life
- Standby mode included
It seems that the battery life is higher than with other radios. I haven't been able to confirm this, though.
Dakota alert is a small family-run business near Sioux City. Made in the USA is always good to have.
But think about it...
Expecting competitive quality from this radio would be too much.
This radio was developed as a part of a Dakota's driveway alarm kit. While they sell it as a stand-alone MURS radio, it doesn't really compare to the cheaper BTECH-V1.
In other words:
- No LCD
- No FM Radio
- No Flashlight
Unless you want the driveway alarm that comes with this, you're better off looking elsewhere.
The Final Word
This is the only definitive guide on MURS radios on the internet that I know of.
Those 5 MURS radios are the only ones that I could find that were:
- Freely available for purchase
- And had the proper certification for license-free use
Don't believe other sites that list ham radios as part of their "best MURS radios" guides. You don't want to risk that fine.
The other articles are either:
- Spreading misinformation (claiming you can use ham radios as MURS)
- Not up to date
I gave my best here and included everything that you should know before buying a MURS radio.
Please let me know in the comments if you think that anything should be added to this guide.
I'll be keeping this one up to date.