We were surprised how many emails we received asking if you can buy a police scanner. We’re going to review the legality of police scanners in the United States and which unit we recommend.
So, Can You Legally Buy a Police Scanner?
Yes, you absolutely can.
In most cases, owning a police scanner is not illegal in the United States. Nearly every police department will broadcast on public frequencies, and as long as the frequency is public, you can listen in with the right equipment. We can’t promise that it is always going to be the most interesting thing to do (police work is boring at times), but you can listen in.
The only real restrictions you need to be aware of take place on a state by state basis. Some states will ban you from using a police radio scanner in your vehicle. They do not want you to be able to avoid tickets, after all! Discussing these laws will be out of the scope of this review, so we suggest you do your own research into what the laws are for your particular state.
Police Radio Scanner Options
We have thought about this question a lot. Probably more than is healthy. However, we always want to recommend the best radio gear on this website. In our humble opinion, the only police scanner you should ever consider is the Whistler TRX-2. This is a desktop radio scanner, but it can be used in a vehicle if you had the right power supply. However, for the latter job, there are better scanners on the market.
Since we anticipate that the vast majority of readers on this page are going to be new to radio scanners. This means that they may not have a lot of specialized radio knowledge. So, we are going to try and keep things as simple as possible here.
Digital Radio Scanner
Nowadays, if you want a radio scanner, it needs to be a digital one. Police forces around the country are not really using analog broadcasts anymore, and it won’t be too long before analog broadcasts are completely phased out. This means that you need something digital, and the TRX-2 is just the ticket.
Easy to Set-Up
Everything you need to ‘get started’ with your radio scanner is in the box. It even comes with an antenna. This antenna is going to suit you well for a short while, but when you start to get really interested in the hobby, you can upgrade it. There is no speaker built into the radio scanner, so you will need to use headphones, or plug in your own speaker (buy a proper loudspeaker designed for radios!)
There is a nice and large LCD screen that makes it easy to see what is happening at all times. Not that you really need to use it. The device is intuitive. You will be clicking through the menus like a pro in no time. The only thing that you really need to be doing when you set-up your device for the first time is entering your zip code. This takes seconds. The rest of the work will be done by the radio. Yep. It will even find the right radio channels for your area (this is why you had to enter your zip code!)
Tons of Channels
A lot of the radio scanners we have found on the market tend to be quite limited in terms of the channels they can access. There is no real way you can change this. That isn’t a problem with the TRX-2. This device is pre-loaded with more channels than you ever knew existed. You aren’t just going to be able to listen to police broadcasts with this one!
Can Be Updated
There is software included with the radio scanner that allows you to update the channel lists on the scanner. It is important that you do this regularly. This means that you will always have access to the police frequencies you want to listen to.
Once you start to dive into the included software, you will notice that there is a lot of customization to be had with the TRX-2. While we do not anticipate you will be doing much of it as a beginner, once you become more well-versed in the world of radios, you can create your own scan channel lists. This means that you can pre-plan which channels your radio will scan. Great if you do not want to listen to certain broadcasts, or you want better grouping of your channels.
Where Can You Buy a Police Scanner?
Police scanners in the United States need to conform to FCC rules. This means that they should not be able to access private channels. We aren’t just talking about police private channels here. Technically, this equipment could also listen in on cell phone conversations if it was tuned in the right way. Now, obviously, the chances of this will be highly unlikely, but we certainly wouldn’t recommend buying a discount police scanner from a supplier outside of the US. You have no guarantee it will conform to FCC rules.
In our opinion, the only place you should be picking up your police radio scanners is Amazon. This is the only site that we will use nowadays. We barely ever deal with dedicated radio equipment companies, unless we need the odd bit of equipment and we simply cannot wait for an Amazon delivery.
Pricing is the main reason why we would only buy from Amazon. In the switch to digital radio frequencies, the cost of radio scanners has risen sharply. They are many times more expensive than their virtually useless analog counterparts. This means that you will want to trim as much from the purchase price as possible.
In addition to this, Amazon has better stock and a greater range of products than any radio store we have visited. As we said; we absolutely love the Whistler TRX-2, but if you are not convinced that this is the right radio scanner for you, this is cool. You should still check out Amazon too. They have a whopping number of products, and this means that you will be more than likely to find a radio scanner that suits you.
Why not head to Amazon now and pick up the Whistler TRX-2, or at least browse through the range of gear they have?