Best Police Scanner for Car for 2021 – Buyer’s Guide

While it’s easy to keep yourself updated with national and international news using social media and major news outlets, getting local news isn’t that easy. And that’s where a police scanner comes in handy.

With one of the best police scanner for cars, you can easily listen in to your local radio waves for emergency news, traffic updates, and weather alerts.

Moreover, you can also tune into your local police, listen to fire and emergency services, highway patrol, schools, and the military.

To help you pick the best police scanner for your car, here are the top choices. We picked five models with a broader range and better signal compared to handheld scanners.

The 5 Best Police Scanners For Cars Reviewed

1. Uniden BCD436HP HomePatrol Series Digital Handheld Scanner

Topping our list is the Uniden BCD436HP HomePatrol scanner, a simple-to-operate handheld scanner that comes packed with lots of powerful and advanced features.

Uniden BCD436HP HomePatrol Series Digital Handheld Scanner

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Uniden’s flagship software makes it stand out, which gives it high bandwidth and improved compatibility with a vast range of communication protocols and systems, including EDACS and Motorola.

Moreover, the scanner features Close Call RF Capture Technology, which effectively identifies transmissions in your locality and automatically tunes to them. The scanner is also super-fast as it can quickly scan up to 85 channels every second.

Another highlight feature is the GPS-compatibility, which gives you enhanced range and real-time frequency updating. This also means that it can accurately detect your location and get area-specific weather alerts when you’re on the road.

Besides, the scanner comes pre-programmed, making it incredibly easy to use right out-of-the-box. All you need to do is to simply turn it on and enter your zip code, and then it will do the scanning for you.

Pros

  • Incredibly easy to use
  • Features a handheld design that nicely fit in your hand’s palm
  • Scans 85 channels in a single second
  • Scans and tunes to detected channels automatically
  • Offers a high bandwidth and better compatibility
  • Provides instant replay functionality

Cons

  • Requires an SD card to function properly
  • Some users have reported issues with battery life

2. Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Handheld Scanner

The Bearcat BC125AT is one of Uniden’s latest models, boasting a compact design and many useful features. It also supports up to 500 alpha-tagged channels.

Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Handheld Scanner

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The Uniden BC125AT’s ergonomic handheld design gives you a comfortable and nice grip in the hand. Moreover, the scanner has a large, intuitive LCD display, allowing you to access the menu and make various settings adjustments.

There are also keypad buttons onboard, which are nicely spaced and large enough for an easier operation. Meanwhile, the orange backlight display setting provides better visibility in the dark.

The scanner provides up to 40000 frequencies, so you can easily choose the specific channels you’d like to listen to. Besides, featuring 500 Alpha-Tagged Channels, it allows you to search for more channels efficiently. You can even organize your favorite channels like you prefer.

The Bearcat BC125AT also boasts Close Call RF capture functionality, which lets you instantly tune to any close signals. There is also a Do Not Disturb Mode, which prevents tuning to close signals during transmission.

Besides that, the Weather Alert Standby feature searches available weather frequencies and stop on the one having an active signal. This allows you to receive the best weather frequency.

Pros

  • Works well in detecting nearby signals
  • Features a lightweight and compact design for enhanced portability
  • Offers convenient Pre-sets for popular searches
  • Allows easy organizing of channels
  • Offers up to 40,000 frequencies and 500 channels
  • Priority scan with Do Not Disturb mode
  • Provides weather alerts

Cons

  • Can be challenging to use for the novice users

3. Uniden BearTracker Scanner (BCT15X)

The Uniden BearTracker scanner is one of the most advanced scanners. That’s because it comes with GPS capability and features up to 9,000 Channels. Thus, it’s a great option for both professionals and hobbyists.

Uniden BearTracker Scanner (BCT15X)

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This BearTracker analog scanner is programmed with some of the most popular channels, making it an effective option. Moreover, it is uniquely designed to work across a vast range of radio systems, such as Motorola, EDACS, and many more.

Another great feature of the BearTracker BCT15X is the warning system, which notifies you about emergency situations within your locality. This feature can help you avoid traffic and other issues. Besides, it also makes it easier for you to tune into an active frequency, allowing you to select your preferred transmissions.

Furthermore, the model features S.A.M.E. weather and fire tone out capability, which lets you customize your scanning accordingly and stay updated of crucial weather alerts. For the fire tone out feature, it allows volunteer firefighters to quickly respond to emergencies while they’re performing daily activities.

You may also love that the BCT15X features Uniden’s proprietary Close Call RF Capture Technology, which instantly and automatically tunes to active frequencies in your area. Ultimately, the GPS-compatibility provides you with an updated list of available frequencies, allowing you to easily find your preferred channels.

Pros

  • Boasts individual channel volume offset
  • The scanner offers remarkable reception
  • Offers up to 9,000 channels
  • Allows monitoring of Weather Alerts
  • The speaker audio is incredibly clear
  • Compatible with a GPS receiver

Cons

  • The scanner could be made more user friendly

4. Uniden HomePatrol-2 Color Touchscreen Simple Program Digital Scanner

Uniden’s HomePatrol-2 is arguably one of the most popular digital scanners out there. It detects and tunes all non-proprietary and unencrypted radio systems such as LTR, Motorola, P25, and Motorola. The scanner comes equipped with a USB cable in the package, which allows you to easily charge it, whether you’re at home or on the road.

Uniden HomePatrol-2 Color Touchscreen Simple Program Digital Scanner

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Moreover, it is GPS-compatible, providing you with precise location detection to ensure you receive the best coverage possible. The scanner is also mountable, allowing you to conveniently use it in your car while travelling.

Another cool feature of this scanner is its intuitive touchscreen, providing you with an intuitive screen menu. As a result, entering data and choosing the channels you want to listen to simple and convenient.

Pros

  • Features an intuitive touchscreen
  • Simple and straight forward to operate
  • Scans a vast range of open channels
  • Convenient volume controls
  • The scanner is GPS-compatible
  • Portable design with vehicle mount
  • Offers digital functionality
  • It’s designed with a battery indicator
  • Comes with an antennae for enhanced range and reception

Cons

  • Might take longer for some to learn how to operate

5. Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio

The Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner is another feature-rich option that separates itself from the rest due to its compatibility with a wide-range of systems including Motorola P25 Phase I and II systems and X2-TDMA.

Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio

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This makes it capable of detecting unencrypted radio systems such as, MotoTRBO Capacity Plus, NXDN, Hyerta XPT, and MotoTRBO Connect Plus.

Furthermore, it covers an extensive frequency range that’s from 25MHz up to 1300MHz. With such wide frequency coverage, you get plenty of channels to choose from. It also skips broadcasts radio and television systems and cellular bands to narrow down the list of channels and the right frequencies.

Besides, it comes with other essential features, like an alarm clock function, extensive scan lists, and intuitive controls. These additional features make the TRX-1 more efficient than most of the other models on the market.

Ultimately, the scanner features object-oriented scanning, making the process easier and more efficient. Another stand out feature if this scanner is the transmission-review capability, which allows you to review recorded transmissions and only listen to preferred channels.

Pros

  • A great, high-performance scanner
  • Has a great channel compatibility
  • Works pretty well on P25 phase 1
  • Simple to program using Radio Reference .com
  • Comes with simple to understand instructions
  • Has clear audio quality
  • Allows skipping and receipt of encrypted transmissions
  • Enables review and listening of recorded transmissions

Cons

  • Display size could be made bigger
  • Programming the scanner can be challenging for beginners

Types of Police Scanners

The two common types of police scanners include:

Handheld Scanners

Handheld Scanner

These scanners are designed lightweight and compact enough for easy and convenient carrying while you’re out. Apart from being compact and portable, these can easy to clip to your belt for convenience. However, although portable, these scanners have limited frequency range and coverage.

Mobile Scanners

Mobile Scanner

The other common type is the mobile scanner, which is usually bigger than handheld models. Mobile scanners mount on your vehicle’s dashboard, so you can conveniently use them while on the road. They also come equipped with external antennas for better frequency coverage and range and enhanced reception and power. Moreover, they will charge from your vehicle’s power supply or your home’s electrical outlet. 


What To Look For In A Car Police Scanner

Police Scanner For Cars Buying Guide

With dozens of police scanners available on the market to choose from, finding the right one for your unique needs can be overwhelming. Therefore, to ensure you make an informed buying decision, here are some of the key things you need to consider;

Number of Channels

The first thing to consider is the number of channels. Most basic police scanners provide up to 20 channels. However, you should consider getting one with more if you’re using it for professional purposes, although a basic model can be enough for any hobbyist.

Emergency Systems Connectivity

You might want to purchase a scanner that can tune to emergency systems. Having the ability to connect to Specific Area Message Encoding and local weather systems is great, especially during natural disasters.

Also, be sure to invest in a scanner that automatically scans and tunes to the S.A.M.E system. As a result, you’ll be updated with local weather warnings and alerts.

Range

Another key scanner feature is the range. Because the scanner’s reception can be affected by the terrain and weather conditions, you should consider getting one with a wider range.

GPS Compatibility

GPS compatibility provides enhanced flexibility in range and real-time frequency updating. This is important especially when you’re on the road. Moreover, GPS-compatible scanners can precisely detect your new location and provide an updated list of available frequencies. 


Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio

FAQs

Are police scanners legal?

While police scanners are illegal in most parts of the world, other countries such as the US owning a police scanner is legal. In fact, the Communications Act of 1934 states the US airwaves is a public property, which makes using a scanner perfectly legal.

What are alpha tags?

These are alphanumeric symbols that help in the identification of channels and agencies. They also offer a more convenient way to add frequencies, talk groups and agencies in your database.

Should you use a scanner with high sensitivity in an urban area?

Yes. A scanner’s ability to send and receive signals can be affected by the type of terrain in your area. So, if you live in an urban area with skyscrapers and mountains, you may need a scanner with high sensitivity for the best reception and to better detect weak signals.


Last Words

As you’ve seen from our review, there are great police scanners that guarantee a great experience when it comes to listening to local transmissions.

For the best overall police scanner, you should consider picking the Uniden BCD436HP. This model is incredibly easy to use and comes with lots of useful features such as the RF capture technology and provides better compatibility with a range of communication systems and formats.

However, if you’re for the best value, you may want to check out the Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Handheld Scanner, which is one of the best affordable options out there that’s high performing and easy to operate.

Jean-Claude is an Editor at GarageSpot.com and webmaster of TheMechanicDoctor.com. He has been a certified auto mechanic for the last 15 years, working for various car dealers and specialized repair shops. He turned towards blogging about cars and EVs in the hope of helping and inspiring the next generation of automotive technicians. He also loves cats, Johnny Cash and Subarus.

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