Maybe you’re a bank robber looking to keep an eye out. Only joking, we would never condone such activity. But maybe you want to keep an ear open to make sure little Jimmy isn’t in trouble with the authorities again. Or, maybe, and much more likely, you’re just a concerned citizen who likes to know what’s happening in the neighborhood.
Either way, police scanners will help keep you informed…
These devices are designed to pick up a wide range of radio bands at the same time. They can range from being quite expensive to rather reasonably priced. And can be compact enough to fit in your pocket, or built very much like a car’s radio.
Therefore, we decided to review the very best police scanners currently on the market. And we will break down our top 8 options with their Pros and Cons. Following that, we have created a buyers guide to help you ensure you choose the right option for your needs.
But, before we begin, it’s important to mention that some of these products may be illegal in your area or state. We, therefore, highly advise that you check local regulations before proceeding with a purchase. It wouldn’t be a wise idea to get in trouble with the police you’re monitoring, would it?
- 1 Top 8 Best Police Scanners On The Market Reviews
- 1.1 1 BaoFeng BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen) 8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio – Best Beginners Police Scanner
- 1.2 2 Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio – Best Premium Police Scanner
- 1.3 3 Uniden BCD536HP HomePatrol Series Digital Phase 2 Base/Mobile Scanner – Best Car Police Scanner
- 1.4 4 BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio – Best Budget Police Scanner
- 1.5 5 Uniden BC75XLT 300-Channel Handheld Scanner – Best Value for the Money Police Scanner
- 1.6 6 BTECH UV-5X3 5 Watt Tri-Band Radio – Best Police Scanner for HAM Radio Operators
- 1.7 7 Uniden BearTracker Scanner (BCT15X) – Easiest to Use Car Police Scanner
- 1.8 8 Whistler WS1065 Desktop Digital Scanner – Best Premium Car Police Scanner
- 2 Best Police Scanners Buying Guide
- 3 Looking for more superb motoring accessories?
- 4 So, what are the Best Police Scanners?
Top 8 Best Police Scanners On The Market Reviews
1 BaoFeng BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen) 8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio – Best Beginners Police Scanner
If you’ve had a past version of the UV-5R from BaoFeng, then you’ll love the new version. This is a compact two-way radio that is filled with customizable options. It’s great for anyone who is looking to keep things analog.
What makes this better than previous models?
If you have an older version of the UV-5R, you’ll be happy to hear things have received a significant upgrade. The output power has been doubled, with 8 watts now provided. Not only that, but you have the choice of 1, 4, or 8 watts power settings.
If that’s not enough, there is also a new 2000mAh battery that is larger than previous versions by 30%. BaoFeng has also increased the antenna performance with a V-85 High Gain Antenna. We also appreciate the additional battery, as it allows you to actually use the built-in FM radio and flashlight.
What frequencies does it monitor?
This option is capable of listening in on a frequency range of 136-174MHz VHF and 400-520MHz UHF. This makes it one of the best police scanners for beginners. Well, that and the ‘Concierge Support’ provided by the manufacturer.
By this, we are, of course, referring to their exclusive customer support and warranty services. You also get an expansive user manual, which will help you sort through all the customizable features.
- V-85 High Gain Antenna.
- Up to 8 watts of power.
- Large battery.
- Belt clip, earpiece, and hand strap included.
- Not the easiest to program.
- Takes some time to set up customization.
2 Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio – Best Premium Police Scanner
Before you check the price point of our next police scanner, you’d better take a seat. This unit from Whistler is easily the most expensive option on our list and by a long way. Still, if you have specific needs in mind, this might be the right option for you.
Are you looking for the best professional police scanner?
First off, yes, this unit is expensive. Like, OMG expensive. At least when compared to the unit we just reviewed. However, this police scanner is certainly a step above most other options. It includes a preloaded UA/Canada MicroSD card, and a simple zip code programming system. This is not only easy to operate; it is also easy to update.
Unfortunately, you will need to update it for the current database. But, this is easily done with the CPU firmware.
So, what sets this device apart from others?
We like the spectrum sweeper built-into this unit. We also like the CRCSS and DCS subaudible decoder, and the dedicated SKYWARN/Weather button. Between the lot, you’ll easily be able to find what emergencies are currently affecting your area.
The 50 hours of audio recordings can be stored on the 2 GB MicroSD card makes for another great feature. We also like the lightweight and durable housing, which suggests that this unit will last.
Not the quickest to charge…
Our only real complaint with this option (besides the price) is the slow charge on the internal battery. For the price, this seems like it should be upgraded.
- Dedicated SKYWARN/Weather button.
- Preloaded UA/Canada MicroSD card.
- Lightweight and easy to carry.
- Simple Zipcode programming system.
- 50 hours of audio recording.
- Considerably more expensive than any other option in our review.
- Slow to recharge, so you’ll want some normal alkaline batteries.
3 Uniden BCD536HP HomePatrol Series Digital Phase 2 Base/Mobile Scanner – Best Car Police Scanner
One of the best police scanners for your car is made by Uniden. Their HomePatrol Series model #BCD563HP makes a great addition to any automobile. We like it for its easy-to-use setup and clear display.
Is this the best easy-to-use police scanner?
We think it is, and that’s only in part due to the programming. We really like the built-in WiFi feature. This allows you to access your scanner no matter where you are through the Uniden Siren App on your smartphone.
This unit covers the USA and Canada, so you’re good for a bit of cross border batman action. It also is equipped with emergency and weather alerts. We like the safety this provides.
What about programming?
No, you won’t need to worry about that with the HomePatrol Series. This is the first unit that we know of that doesn’t need it. Just flip it on, enter your zip code, and the system does the rest.
It will begin immediately to receive communications from systems in public safety, police, fire, EMS, ambulance, aircraft, weather, just to name a few. This is all accomplished with a combination of the radio system database from Radio Reference, and Uniden’s panned radio system selection.
- S.A.M.E. weather alert.
- Built-in WiFi.
- Close Call RF Capture Technology.
- Easy to read digital display.
- On the expensive side.
4 BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio – Best Budget Police Scanner
Now, you don’t need to spend everything in your wallet in order to get your hands on a police scanner. You could just go with the good old BaoFeng UV-5R. This is the original, not the 3rd generation version that we looked at above.
Do you need the best cheap police scanner?
We aren’t entirely sold on the label ‘best’ being given to this unit, but it certainly is cheap. In fact, we aren’t sure how the manufacturers could possibly be making a profit. And yet, it works very well.
This unit provides you with 128 channels, 50 CTCSS, and 104 CDCSS. It also has a dual-band display and a dual-frequency operation. There is even a busy channel lock-out.
Does it still have a built-in FM radio?
It does, though, the minimal battery life may keep you from using it much. There is also a built-in LED flashlight. This should also be used only when it is completely necessary to save valuable battery life.
We think this is a great option if you’re on a tight budget. It’s the older model, but it still does the job just fine.
- 128 channels.
- 50 CTCSS/104D CS coder and tone searching.
- Built-in FM radio and flashlight.
- Super low price.
- Not the easiest to program.
5 Uniden BC75XLT 300-Channel Handheld Scanner – Best Value for the Money Police Scanner
This is another quality affordable police scanner from Uniden is the BC75XLT. This is a compact, handheld option that you can easily take with you anywhere. It’s also the new replacement model for the ST30C Bearcat, which many users loved.
How many channels does your police scanner have?
This one comes with 300, and 10 programmable search ranges. That alone makes this one of the best police scanners for the price. It’s capable of monitoring frequencies used for Auto racing, CB radio, NOAA weather, emergencies, and more.
It also sports both Vhf low/high, and Uhf frequencies. It even is compliant with narrowband modulation that is required for business and public safety operation.
What else sets this unit apart from the competition?
We really like the Close Call RF Capture Technology. This automatically detects nearby transmissions and tunes them in accordingly. Even if the frequency isn’t already one, you’ve programmed into a channel.
It runs on two AA alkaline batteries, though it can be charged with a USB as well. Overall, this is one of the most affordable police scanners on the market, especially with the 10 preprogrammed service search bands.
- 300 channels.
- Close Call RF Capture Technology.
- 10 Preprogrammed service search bands.
- Vhf low/high, and Uhf frequencies.
- Can be frustrating to program.
6 BTECH UV-5X3 5 Watt Tri-Band Radio – Best Police Scanner for HAM Radio Operators
BTECH is a distributor for BaoFeng, and the UV-5×3 looks shockingly similar to the UV-5R we have already reviewed. This option, however, is designed for amateur HAM radio operators.
Is your police scanner loaded with features?
This one is. This has a tri-band frequency range and can cover all the basics. This includes 136-179.99mhz (VHF), 220-225.99mhz (1.25M), and 400-520.99mhz (UHF). This gives it a rather wide range, but it’s the below feature you’ll love.
It also features a two-way radio, 220 dual-band antenna, and an earpiece. It also allows for the ability to add/remove channels from scanning. We think this feature will save a number of users some serious time.
What other features are built-in?
This unit also has STE (Squelch Tail Elimination), and VOX talk around mode. The built-in Busy Channel Lock-Out is also a great feature for saving time. There is even a Transmission Time Out.
But the best part is the price. As with other options from this Chinese manufacturer, this unit is extremely cheap. Despite that, it does a great job as long as you’re good programming the features.
- Squelch Tail Elimination.
- Busy Channel Lock-Out.
- 220 dual-band antenna.
- Tri-band frequency.
- Takes some time to program.
7 Uniden BearTracker Scanner (BCT15X) – Easiest to Use Car Police Scanner
The BearTracker Scanner from Uniden is another great option for the vehicle. This model #BCT15X is designed to fit in your car/truck dash. It’s easy to use, easy to read, and easier on the wallet than other top-end units.
How many channels does it support?
This police scanner is capable of monitoring 9,000 channels. Yes, that’s a lot of channels. It does this with the TrunkTracker III Technology.
This lets you stay in the loop on Motorola, EDACS, and LTR systems. There is also a built-in advanced dynamic memory system and Close Call RF Capture Technology.
But that’s not all…
This unit also is equipped with location-based scanning. This automatically selects programmed systems determined by your location. Of course, you’ll need a compatible GPS receiver for this function to work.
It also features pre-programmed channels in a state-by-state setup for local police, DOT, and Highway Patrol. This is great for when you’re traveling, or if your work takes you all over the country.
Quick as a flash…
There are 100 system Quick Keys as well. Because you need to keep your eyes on the road, not on your dash. We like this option for amateur use, and think it would be a lot of fun to have one in the car.
- 9,000 channels.
- Location-based scanning.
- TrunkTracker III Technology.
- 100 system Quick Keys.
- Not the easiest to program.
8 Whistler WS1065 Desktop Digital Scanner – Best Premium Car Police Scanner
The final option on our list of the best quality police scanners is another for the dashboard. The WS1065 from Whistler, however, is designed to mount on top of the dash, rather than in it. And we think this is one of the best digital police scanners available.
Do you really want to spend forever programming your device?
This option from Whistler provides you with Menu Driven Programming. This is fancy talk for help text displayed on the device to assist you with programming. There are also help suggestions when using the scanner.
We like these features, but it’s not the best part. The Scan List makes it so you can arrange, group, and scan by your preference. If you have a normal search area, this will likely save you some time in the long run.
There is also a Memory Backup feature that keeps frequencies stored, even if the batteries die.
But wait, there’s more…
This unit is also equipped with a Skywarn Storm Spotter Function. This provides instant access to the frequencies often used by storm spotter networks.
It also features digital AGC, which helps it compensate for low user audio levels. We like that it scans most of the common trunked radio system signaling formats. Even better, it supports both individual and talk group monitoring.
- Skywarn Storm Spotter Function.
- Menu Driven Programming.
- Memory Backup feature.
- Digital AGC.
- Not the easiest police scanner to operate.
Best Police Scanners Buying Guide
There are a number of reasons to purchase a police scanner. In fact, listening to the cops is only one of the advantages that these provide. You can also listen in on the media, EMTs, Highway Patrol, Firefighters, and numerous other county, state, and federal agencies.
Police scanners are a great way to keep you and your family safe…
In addition to keeping you in the know for criminal activity in the area, you can also get a clear idea of any traffic build-up caused by a wide range of emergencies. They can also help keep you aware of any dangerous weather conditions.
The options we’ve reviewed have a wide range of intended uses. They also have a wide range of pricing. So, let us now help you determine which features to prioritize…
Do you want a handheld or base unit?
This one is an easy decision. Handheld units are small. They can often fit in your pocket, though they are more commonly worn clipped to the belt.
Base units, on the other hand, are designed to be mounted on a surface, such as a desk, or in your vehicle. However, it is illegal in some states to listen to a scanner while driving. So, check your local regulations before making a purchase.
It’s all about the frequency…
Not all police scanners offer a full range of frequencies. Therefore, we advise that you check what is used by your local emergency agencies. There’s no need to spend more on an option that covers all frequencies unless you travel frequently.
What about Trunking?
A Trunking System will allow you to listen in on most agencies. Conventional systems operate with a single frequency per channel. This will not allow you to listen in.
Using just two or three radio frequencies, on the other hand, gives you the ability to hear everything that’s going on. These systems were designed to deal with the band congestion common to urban areas.
Analog vs. Digital?
Yes, even police scanners have started the inevitable slide towards the digital realm. These tend to be easier to use in larger cities for the ease they offer when scanning channels. However, they also tend to be considerably more expensive.
Analog scanners tend to cost considerably less money. However, they cannot pick up signals transmitted on a digital system. It’s also worth remembering that most digital scanners also have analog scanning capabilities.
How many channels do you really need?
Now remember, this is not your cable TV subscription. Most users will really only need about 10 channels. If you live in a larger city and want to listen to multiple agencies, you might want something that has around 20. However, there are options that provide many many more than this.
Controls and programming are the final things to consider…
When it comes right down to it, most police scanners will need some programming. Channels change, so you’ll likely need to do so regularly to keep an ear out for anything alarming in your neighborhood.
Some options reviewed are considerably easier to program than others. At the same time, some are considerably easier to operate once programmed. We highly advise that you choose something easy to operate, especially for your first police scanner.
Once you know what you’re doing, then it’s worth spending a bit more for additional features. But, as frustrating as these devices can sometimes be, more is not always better.
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So, what are the Best Police Scanners?
That completes our list of the best scanners for police frequencies on the market. And hopefully, one of these options has jumped out as the best police scanner for your needs. The options are certainly varied enough, so there should be something for everyone.
But, if you can’t pick between them, we would like to recommend the…
Uniden BC75XLT 300-Channel Handheld Scanner
…for those looking for a compact option. It’s small, but built well and packed full of features.