A lot of people ask us ‘how much is a police scanner?’. In our opinion, this is a pretty difficult question to answer. This is because there is no standard amount for a radio scanner. It all depends on what you want out of it. On this page, we are going to run you through some of the ‘features’ that may influence how much a radio scanner will cost.
What Is the Average Cost of A Police Scanner?
The range is huge, from an analog unit starting from around $50 all the way up to a few thousand dollars for a top of the line digital unit. As we’re about to share, in 2020 and beyond, analog police scanners are on the decline as local emergency agencies are converting to digital. Generally speaking, digital police and fire scanners start around 0. Read on to see why Whistler’s TRX-2 gets our highest recommendation.
Used or New?
This may seem obvious, right? A used radio is bound to be cheaper? Well, not quite. Obviously, you will be paying less in the short term, but bear in mind that if you have picked up something used, it will already be part way through its lifespan. So, if it is half the price of something new, but only gives you a third of the life, surely it would be better to buy new, to begin with?.
Generally speaking, we would only ever recommend that you purchase ‘quality’ radio scanners used. Do not buy the cheaper models without a brand behind them. There are some cheap Chinese police scanners that you can find in corners of the web, but they’re not going to be UL listed, offer any type of warranty and most times the manuals are written in Chinese or incomplete. Lastly, as we are about to cover in detail, you also want to stay away from analog scanners. Analog police scanners makeup the the bulk of what you’ll find on used marketplaces.
Analog vs Digital
Nowadays, if you want to actually listen in to radio broadcasts, the majority require a digital capable police scanner.
Now, we know that analog radio scanners are way cheaper. It’s not very hard to find great deals on them. The problem? Analog radiowaves are not used as much nowadays. If you live in a major town or city, chances are that nobody is broadcasting over analog signals. Even the places ‘out in the sticks’ are starting to upgrade their communications to digital technology. If you buy an analog device, you are buying an eventual paperweight.
Yes. Digital radio scanners cost a little bit more. A lot more, in fact. However, you are going to be buying something that is ‘futureproof’ if you pick one of them up. Basically, you aren’t going to be replacing that radio for a long time to come!
Can the Radio Channel List Be Updated?
This is one of the main features to be on the lookout for in a radio scanner nowadays. It is worth paying extra for a device that can be updated. This is because radio frequencies for emergency services, especially the police, can change frequently. If you can’t update the device, you will be cut off from communications.
The Whistler TRX-2 can be updated using the included software. It is a process that shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes to do. Just follow the user guide every couple of months, and you can be sure that your police scanner at home will be kept ‘up to date’ with the right radio channels for your local area.
The Whistler TRX-2 can do so much more than this, though. As brilliant as automatic updates are, this is one of the only radios on the market where you can create your own ‘scan lists’ i.e. a list of channels that you have put together yourself. This is a superb feature. With most radio scanners, they will be scanning through a dozen or so channels regularly. This can, often, mean that you may miss out on the first few seconds of a conversation. After all, the radio scanner will only pick up on it when it reaches that channel again. The Whistler TRX-2 can be programmed to scan fewer channels at once, meaning less chance of missing something important.
Can the Radio Scanner Determine Your Location?
As you may well know, radio frequencies for local emergency services will change dependent on your location. This means that you need a radio scanner that can determine your location.
The Whistler TRX-2, for instance, allows you to input your zip code and it will find the right stations for you. It a simple version of location based scanning. However, yes. It might have been better if it had a GPS built in like some of the more expensive units. It saves a few seconds. However, in our opinion, a GPS adds way too much to the cost. You will only need something like that if you are changing locations regularly. Most people aren’t.
What Is the Build Quality Like?
Better-built radio scanners cost more. Simple as that.
Better build scanners are easier to use. They last longer. They have better sound quality. They provide an all-round better experience when you are using them.
Behind The Brand
If you buy from a company with a strong brand name in the radio scanner market, then expect to pay a little bit more for your radio. However, you aren’t just paying for the brand name, though. Bigger brands, including Whistler, tend to offer better customer support. This means that on the off-chance that something goes wrong with your scanner, you are more likely to get the help that you need.
Finally; remember that you will need some accessories to go with your radio scanner. At the very minimum, you might need a better antenna. The one that comes with the Whistler TRX-2 is good, but if you’re trying to stretch the limits of range capability, it’s something you might want to upgrade. We recommend setting it up and using it right out of the box with the factory antenna. For most people this is absolutely fine. Only then if you feel like the quality isn’t great or you need a bit more range, then worry about it. Thankfully, antennas are cheap. They really add too much onto the cost of your police radio scanner.