My family is taking a road trip this summer to the east coast. Part of out trip will be in the Adirondacks, most on main highways though. Our caravan of three cars has decided we’d like some two-ways. This has sent me down a rabbit hole of research that has taught me things I never knew before, like FRS, GMRS, licensing, etc. And I feel like that adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing is more and more true.
So I need some help.
I need a recommendation for a good two-way I can use for our trip.
Some problems I’m having are that most of the radios I’m seeing are FRS/GMRS and operate over 2W. I’m trying to avoid a license if possible.
If I get a combo FRS/GMRS will it work better on channels 8-14 even if those channels run at 0.5w?
Technically, there are no combo FRS/GMRS radios as of September 2017. According to the current FCC rules, radios previously considered FRS/GMRS and are under 2 watts are now FRS radios, and can be used license-free. Radios over 2 watts are now considered GMRS radios and require a license to operate.
I am curious what models you found that are over 2W, as the majority of the models on the market that were previously branded as FRS/GMRS radios are under 2 watts. The only GMRS handheld radios I am aware of that are currently in production by major manufacturers are The Midland GXT1000/GXT1050, the new Midland T290/T295, and the XT511. The rest are mobile radios, and those are all considered GMRS only.
There are some Chinese made radios on the market that claim to be FRS, but most of the models I am aware of are not approved by the FCC for legal use on the FRS. Personally, I would stay away from those.
This episode of The Two Way Radio Show podcast includes an in-depth discussion on FRS and GMRS radios under the new rules and will likely clear up a lot of confusion.
TWRS-112 - The FCC Proposal To Reform Part 95 Rules in 2017
Download and listen now!
Sorry for the slow response. I’m talking about radios such as the Midland GXT1000VP4 which come up on Amazon as “FRS radios” and run channels 8-14 at 0.5w but are also capable of higher power on different channels.
Do I still need a license for this type of radio if I’m only going to use it on channels 8-14?
Will I get better signal on channels 8-14 on these channels on a radio like this than I will on a radio such as the Cobra PX880-BC which has a Max output of 1.8w?
Sorry if these are kind of dumb questions, I’m still new to this.
And thank you in advance for any help you can give.
If Amazon lists the GXT1000VP4 as an FRS radio, it is mislabeled. As mentioned previously, as of the Part 95 reform in 2017, the GXT1000 is now a GMRS radio.
Legacy GMRS radios can still operate on channels 8-14, but at a maximum of half a watt. The Cobra PX880-BC is and FRS radio designed for business use, and also limited to half a watt or less on channels 8-14.
In other words, it doesn’t matter if the radio is a high wattage GMRS or lower wattage FRS radio, on channels 8-14 they are all limited to a maximum of one-half watt or less, so as far as the power is concerned, the performance will be the same on those channels no matter which radio you use.
Now, having said that, performance or range is also affected by a number of other factors listed here, and for low power handhelds at 5 watts or less, those other factors have considerably more impact on performance than the wattage.
So if we’re caravanning in basically flat terrain will a FRS be good enough or should we go with the GMRS and license and all that jazz?
It depends. If you are going to be using them outdoors in the open, with few obstructions, you may be fine. If you will mostly be communicating between vehicles on the road, you may want to consider GMRS mobile radios.
Using handheld radios from inside a vehicle changes the game somewhat, because the antenna is directly attached to the radio and is inside the vehicle. The vehicle itself is an obstruction. A mobile radio uses an external antenna that mounts outside the vehicle, eliminating the vehicle as an obstruction, and can actually use the vehicle as a ground plane to improve the performance of the antenna.