The vast world of ham radio confuses many beginners with too many equipment options, setup formulas, slangs, and price ranges. It leaves many struggling with where to start their ham radio leisure pursuit.
Regardless, rest assured that you can kickstart your hobby with as low as $100. If you intend to build a complete station, expect to spend from $400 to $2000.
This article will break down the details of the expenses and recommend the best ham radio setup for beginners. Keep reading for answers to “How much does a ham radio cost?”
How Much Does a Ham (Amateur) Radio Cost?
In the US, all operators must obtain a ham radio license issued by the Federal Communications Commission. The costs of study materials and exam fees are from $45 to $70.
Then, you will need to worry about the equipment. Since the choices are numerous, the final cost is totally up to you.
- If you are on a budget, consider buying cheap ham radios. Some lower-end handheld models, such as the BaoFeng UV-S9 Plus, start at only $27.99.
- If you are into professional equipment, you can build a complete radio station with a transceiver, power supply, antenna, and tuner. The total cost will range from $400 to $2000 and even more.
Let’s break down all these costs so you can decide for yourself.
1. Cost of ham radio
Baofeng, a Chinese brand, offers many affordable handheld options for new hams, with prices starting at only $27.99. An 8W Baofeng ham radio range is up to 10 miles, but you can extend it further by upgrading the antenna.
For preppers, we recommend BaoFeng’s BF-F8HP – a reliable survival ham radio sold for $69.89. It includes a long-lasting 2000mAh Battery that will keep you connected should a disaster strike and the power go out.
A handheld radio package will come with one portable radio, battery, charger, user manual, and earpiece. This is enough to communicate with your team and become a ham radio enthusiast.
However, most amateurs set up a home-based radio station with an outdoor antenna. The equipment will help extend the radio range and improve the transmission quality. If a complete setup is in your mind, expect the following costs:
Ham radio price stays in the range of one to a few hundred dollars. One of the cheapest HF radio models, the mini 25W AnyTone AT-778UV II, costs only $129.
Meanwhile, one of the most expensive HF ham radio models, the 50W Kenwood Original TM-V71A, costs $530. In general, transceivers with higher wattage are more expensive.
- Power supply
Transceivers usually don’t come with a power supply; you must purchase one separately. Most transceivers operate with a 13.8-volt power, but remember to check yours before buying. A power supply for your transceiver should cost less than $100.
An antenna receives and amplifies radio wave signals. With the right antenna setup, you will experience much clearer transmission and a further range. A $50 to $100 antenna is sufficient to transmit overseas.
A tuner is not a crucial element in a ham radio setup, but it is rather a nice-to-have piece. You will connect a tuner with the transceiver and antenna to improve the overall efficiency of your system. The price of antenna tuners starts at around $100.
- Cables and connectors
The final costs are for cables and connectors. Before establishing the station, you need to prepare coaxial cables, grounding wires, fuses, and other electrical components. This should take at least $70.
2. Cost of your first ham radio license
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires every ham radio operator to obtain a license before transmitting on the network. Violating this law can result in hefty fines unless you are using a ham radio for emergency.
The study materials for the test will provide you with the necessary knowledge about electronic safety, effective radio operation, equipment selection, and station setup.
The popular study book for the entry-level test (Technician) is the ARRL Ham Radio License Manual, sold for $32.95.
On test day, you will answer 35 questions drawn from the 400-question test bank in this book. You must have at least 26 correct answers to pass the exam.
The Technician level only allows you to transmit on a limited number of frequencies. To extend your range, you might take the General or Extra (advanced) test, which requires more costs for study materials.
In addition, you will pay a fee of $15 for the exam and $35 for the FCC.
Tips to Save Money When Buying Ham Radio
1. Buy second-hand equipment
When you are unsure whether ham radio is a hobby you want to keep in the long term, start with second-hand equipment, which might save you half of the total cost. But remember to buy from authorized dealers and check the device carefully before paying.
2. Join a local club
Ham radio is a worldwide hobby. No matter where you come from, you will always find a local ham club to join.
At these clubs, beginners can learn from experienced amateurs. You might seek advice, use other members’ setups as references for yours, and borrow equipment to try it out before purchasing.
Other than that, club members might sell or exchange second-hand appliances. Buying a ham radio from local members is more beneficial as you can ask them for help whenever you need to. Plus, the price might be lower than that of commercial sellers.
3. Start small
Don’t jump right into advanced equipment! Some hardware requires a high level of knowledge and experience to install and operate. So, begin with a simple transceiver and slowly work your way up to more professional appliances.
Is ham radio an expensive hobby?
No, it’s not. $100 will buy you a short-distance handheld ham radio and cover the license fee. This is enough to get you started.
As you proceed with the hobby, you can slowly upgrade your system and add more equipment of your liking.
Can an unlicensed person use a ham radio?
Anyone can purchase and listen to ham radios, but only licensed hams can operate one.
Unlicensed users don’t know how to operate a ham station correctly. They might interfere and interrupt important networks, such as ones of the military and air force. In addition, criminals might sneak in and tamper with the radio networks.
After you pass the ham radio license test, you will be assigned a call sign. This call sign is unique to you and can be deemed as identification. As you transmit, you must say your call sign periodically. When you fail to provide an authentic call sign, other amateurs might report you to the authority.
Can civilians use ham radio?
Civilians can listen to content on ham radio but are not allowed to transmit on it. Before operating a ham radio, you must obtain a license.
The study books and materials will walk you through the steps to selecting high-quality appliances, setting up your equipment, and operating your station.
What things can I do with ham radio?
A ham radio gives you a solid means of communication without relying on the Internet or telecommunication networks. It is critical for off-roaders, pilots, and outdoor enthusiasts.
With a ham station, you can assist your neighbors during an emergency or natural disaster, even when the power is out for days.
Most importantly, you will connect to thousands of like-minded enthusiasts coming from all over the world. Hams keep each other informed, share their backgrounds and cultures, and make new friends every day.
However, you can’t commercialize your radio station. You are not allowed to sell products, advertise for brands, or charge listeners on ham radio frequencies. Think about it like a radiosport club where everyone comes simply to share their interests.
How much does a ham radio tower cost?
Many amateurs choose to build a tower to support their antennas. The height privilege will help enhance the radio’s performance.
Before constructing something like this, you need to obtain a permit, which costs $500 to $1000. The tower itself will cost about $5000 to 10,000 for building materials and labor.
Despite the widespread use of wireless cell phones, ham radio remains a fundamental means of communication for many communities, such as hikers and boaters.
If you intend to join one of these groups, knowing “how much does a ham radio cost” can help you anticipate the budget and decide whether you want to take up this new hobby.
Don’t hesitate to leave us a message should you have any further questions. New hams are always welcomed. Enjoy your new leisure pursuit, and we shall see you next time!