Best weather radios currently available
Including a weather radio in your severe weather preparation kit is an essential and potentially life-saving addition. Though all weather radios relay severe weather warnings, some radios offer more and different alerts and can have varied power sources. Our guide will help ensure you have the right features and considerations to alert your family to severe weather. Plus, it includes some of our favorite options.
What to know before you buy a weather radio
A weather radio alerts you to severe weather warnings from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards, a continuously broadcasting network of weather alert radio stations.
Weather alert radios vs. weather band radios
The primary function of a weather alert radio is to warn the user of incoming severe weather emergencies by automatically playing NOAA alerts in their region. Certain weather alert radios can be programmed to alert users to only predetermined types of alerts.
Not as popular as its weather alert radio counterpart, a weather band radio does not automatically alert a user of severe weather. Instead, a weather band radio is tuned to a weather alert station and provides regular weather updates.
Where and when to use your weather radio
Not all weather radios are suitable for every situation. Some radios are lightweight, highly portable and intended for users to take with them during an emergency. Other weather radios for indoor use, sometimes referred to as desktop weather radios, provide updates and alerts from the NOAA. These models tend to be heavier and require a permanent power source such as a wall outlet.
What to look for in a quality weather radio
Alarms and alerts
Public alert certification: To ensure your weather radio will reliably warn of severe weather in your region, make sure it has a public alert certification from the National Weather Service.
Audible alarms: If you plan to use your weather radio as an early-warning system, find a model that has an alarm notification that will loudly notify you of severe weather even if the volume is low.
Alert blocking: A weather radio with an alert blocking feature allows you to determine what alerts you want to receive. If a specific weather situation isn’t relevant to you, such as a flood warning in an area not susceptible to flooding, the radio will not broadcast the alert.
Specific Alert Message Encoding
NOAA alerts usually cover broad regions. SAME technology allows you to program the weather radio to notify you of severe weather alerts specific to your location.
Multiple power sources
Severe weather conditions can knock out the power to your home or office. A weather radio that has multiple power source options is ideal, especially if those options allow you to recharge the device through the use of hand cranks or solar panels. Many models also offer battery backup.
If severe weather conditions take out the power, a weather radio with a built-in flashlight is great for illuminating your surroundings and signaling emergency service workers. Flashlights can quickly diminish battery life and should be used sparingly if possible.
Different regions may use AM or FM frequency bands for severe weather alerts. A weather radio that can tune to both ensures you’re able to get critical information regardless of which frequency band is used and ideal for those traveling in unfamiliar areas.
Analog tuning dials can be difficult to see and operate in areas with poor lighting. A weather radio with digital tuning capabilities helps you find the correct frequency quickly and accurately in dim or dark environments.
Digital or LCD display screen
A digital or LCD display screen can show important information about your radio, such as tuning and battery life. Some radios also use the screens to provide scrolling text updates about conditions in the area.
Weather radios that can connect smartphones and computers via Bluetooth can be helpful in group settings where multiple people may need to hear updates or media playing from the connected device. However, this can significantly diminish the battery life of the radio.
Some weather radios allow you to charge your mobile phone or other small electronic devices via built-in USB ports. This is especially helpful if you need to contact emergency services. Much like with built-in flashlights and Bluetooth, using your radio to charge another device can quickly drain the battery.
How much you can expect to spend on a weather radio
Depending on the number of features included in the model, the cost of a weather radio can vary greatly. Small radios with few features cost $20-$35, whereas versatile models with more features can run you up to $160.
Weather radio FAQ
Q: Are weather radios more reliable than cell phones in regards to weather alerts?
A: Yes. NOAA transmitters are less likely to be compromised in severe weather situations than cell towers.
Q: Can weather radios display languages other than English?
A: Certain models can display multiple languages, and in some regions, the NWR conducts Spanish broadcasts.
Q: How do I program my SAFE technology radio to broadcast alerts for my region?
A: The NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards website has a list of codes for US counties. Search the website and use the code listed for your county. Also, some radio models have the memory capability to store multiple codes, which is helpful for users living near county lines.
What’s the best weather radio to buy?
Best of the best
Our Thoughts: This is a multifunctional weather radio from a trusted brand that alerts you to multiple severe weather threats, civil warnings and more.
What we like: SAME technology ensures you hear warnings specific to your region while it scans through seven weather band channels.
What we dislike: The telescoping antenna can be a pain to correctly position and AM reception is poor.
Best bang for your buck
Our Thoughts: Compact and portable, this option includes the special tornado-only alert button, an excellent feature for users in tornado-prone regions.
We like LCD screen shows scrolling text alerts with a color-coding system to quickly differentiate between an advisory, watch or warning and includes a built-in flashlight.
What we dislike: There is no squelch volume control feature, meaning it can be noisy even when not providing alerts.
Our Thoughts: A popular model and customer favorite with multiple power sources.
What we like: The three power sources, including hand crank and solar panels, ensures users will never need to worry about losing functionality. It also includes a power bank to charge small electronic devices like a phone.
What we dislike: Some users noted weak signal strength and low radio volume.
Where to buy: Amazon
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Gerrad Frei writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.