MURS vs GMRS: Which Type of Two-Way Radio Is Better?

MURS vs GMRS
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Two-way communication has many applications including business, hunting, camping, disaster planning, and other outdoor activities. Today, a wide range of outdoor enthusiasts use GMRS and MURS radios. With all the information available about two-way radios, how do you choose the best one for your needs?

Choosing the best radio between MURS and GMRS depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. MURS uses lower frequencies that are more effective at penetrating hills, trees, and foliage. The higher frequencies of GMRS make it more suitable for indoor and urban settings since they bounce off obstructions rather than being absorbed.

In this article, you’ll learn the differences between MURS and GMRS radios. We’ll examine the pros and cons of each, and look at the top-selling radios for each service. Read on to determine which type of radio is best suited to your circumstances.

What are MURS and GMRS?

There are several types of personal radio services. This article will focus on comparing features of MURS and GMRS radios.

MURS (or Multi-Use Radio Service) and GMRS (or General Mobile Radio Service) are two types of personal, private, short-distance, two-way radio services governed by the FCC (Federal Communication Commission). These radio services use very high frequency (VHF) and ultra-high frequency (UHF) so they perform better than standard walkie-talkies. 

MURS and GMRS do not use transmission towers to operate. And they experience far less static and interference than other types of radios. Two-way radios are good options in areas where cell phone coverage is spotty or unavailable.

MURS features

MURS was created by the FCC in 2002. There is no requirement for an individual license to operate MURS devices. There is also no age restriction for operators. MURS devices can be used for personal or business operations, but the operator must be a United States citizen that is not a representative of a foreign government.

MURS has 5 VHF channels for hand-held radios with a range of 1 to 2 miles when using the built-in antenna on a handheld unit. Connection to an external antenna can extend the range to 10+ miles depending on the conditions. External antennas are limited to 20 feet above the highest point of a structure or 60 feet above the ground.

ChannelFrequencyPower
MURS 1CALL151.82 MHz2 Watts
MURS 2SAFETY151.88 MHz2 Watts
MURS 3EM151.94 MHz2 Watts
MURS 4BLUE DOT154.57 MHz2 Watts
MURS 5GREEN DOT154.6 MHz2 Watts
*Blue DOT and Green DOT are grandfathered channels from the old “Business Band”.EM = Emergency/Prepper frequency

Radio power for MURS is limited to 2 watts, and radio repeaters are not permitted. The best thing about using a MURS radio is that VHF waves are longer and closer to the ground. This is ideal in a rural setting. The signals transmit better in open areas and will bend around objects like mountains and hills.

As a result, many outdoor enthusiasts use MURS. Boaters, campers, car clubs, offroad clubs, hunters, and traveling communities, and more use them because of their range outside or on the open road. You just can’t use it onboard an aircraft (it’s illegal). None of the MURS channels are restricted for exclusive use.

Radios that use VHF frequencies are also more affordable. MURS frequencies are used by a broad range of radio devices besides two-way radios like wireless remote switches, wireless callboxes, and dog training collars to name a few.

Some advantages of MURS:

  • Travels better through hills, trees, and foliage.
  • Allows for an external antenna to increase range.
  • Sound is clear without static or interference if you’re within range.
  • No license is needed to operate, and no age restrictions.
  • No need to identify your MURS station by a call sign or designation.

Some disadvantages of MURS:

  • Only 5 channels so it may be difficult to find a clear channel.
  • MURS can’t work with a repeater which limits range.
  • It’s limited to 2 watts of power.
  • Others you communicate with must also have a MURS radio.
  • Not available as fixed-mount mobile radios.

Best MURS radios

  1. B TECH MURS-V1
B TECH MURS-V1
  • 3 – 5 mile range over flat terrain.
  • Channel skip.
  • Two-channel monitoring.
  • FM Radio.
  • 2W high/low power switchable.
  • LED flashlight.
  • Full set of privacy tones.
  • 10-hour battery life.
  1. Tera TR-505
Tera TR-505
  • Certified for both MURS and GMRS use.
  • 5 MURS channels and 16 GMRS channels.
  • Great for emergency situations since it can receive both frequencies.
  • 7 – 10 hour battery life.
  1. Retevis RT27V
Retevis RT27V
  • Budget-friendly.
  • Encryption codes for all channels to block interference.
  • Conveniently charges with USB cable and jack.

GMRS features

GMRS is the most popular radio option and is slowly replacing CB radios. Unlike MURS, operating a GMRS radio requires a “no-test” license provided by the FCC. The fee is about $70 and is active for 10 years and covers your immediate family.

GMRS radios are available in handheld models up to 5 Watts and mobile/base stations up to 50 Watts of power. GMRS has 30 UHF channels between 462 MHz and 467 MHz for handheld and mobile radios. It has 22 channels it shares with FRS (Family Radio Service) and 8 repeater channels (23-30) that are designated specifically for GMRS users. 

GMRS range is realistically 1-2 miles with a handheld device and up to 5 miles with a whip antenna. Transmitter output of mobile, repeater and base stations can’t exceed 50 Watts

ChannelFrequencyPower
01 CALL462.565 Watts
2462.595 Watts
03 EM462.615 Watts
4462.645 Watts
5462.665 Watts
6462.695 Watts
7462.715 Watts
8467.565 Watts
9467.595 Watts
10467.615 Watts
11467.645 Watts
12467.665 Watts
13467.695 Watts
14467.715 Watts
15462.5550 Watts
16462.5850 Watts
17 EM462.6050 Watts
18462.6350 Watts
19462.6550 Watts
20 EM/TR462.6850 Watts
21462.7050 Watts
22462.7350 Watts

GMRS uses the higher frequency UHF band. These frequencies don’t travel as far as VHF but can pass through obstacles more easily except earth (like mountains and hills) and metal. 

It should be noted that radios with advertised ranges over 20 miles are usually line of sight (operators can clearly see each other) on flat terrain only. In rural areas with a lot of obstructions like mountains, hills, or dense forests, you’re more likely to get just ¼ – 1 mile without using repeater channels. The same goes for in densely populated urban areas.

GMRS has an additional way to extend range. It uses a national network of repeater towers that can greatly increase the range of your GMRS radio. The 8 repeater channels use these repeater towers that receive low-powered signals and push them out at a much higher power to cover longer distances without any degradation of the original signal.

By using repeater channels with GMRS, maximum range is possible so long as both the radio and user are within range of a repeater tower. Other ways to boost the signal are to move to higher ground or in the case of a base unit, raise your exterior antenna. 

For handheld models, using a whip antenna over a stubby antenna can increase your range by up to 30%. Lastly, make sure your handheld radios have fresh batteries.

Advantages of GMRS:

  • Can use repeaters to boost signals as far as 20 additional miles.
  • Easy to use and doesn’t require programming.
  • Allows for an external antenna to increase range for mobile units.
  • Allows placement of an external antenna up to 20 ft above the ground or mounting structure.
  • 50 Watt output provides better clarity at further distances with impediments.

Disadvantages of GMRS

  • Can only communicate with other licensed GMRS users.
  • Requires a paid license to operate.
  • You must announce using a call sign when transmitting.

Which are the best GMRS radios?

When shopping for GMRS radios, there are many choices. You have to determine which type of radio best suits your needs. Then, compare the features for each type. Below are some of the best-rated GMRS radios for 2021.

Handheld units are similar to walkie-talkies and are designed for on-the-go communications. They can be used with earpieces when communications need to be quiet (e.g. hunting). The most important features for these units are power, antenna, and battery life to get maximum usage and range.

Best Handheld GMRS Units: 

  1. Midland GxT1000VP4
Midland GxT1000VP4
  • JIS4 waterproof.
  • 142 privacy codes.
  • 22 two-way channels.
  • 8 repeater channels.
  • NOAA weather scan + alerts.
  • Extreme range – 36 miles without obstructions.
  1. BTECH GMRS-V1
BTECH GMRS-V1
  • Communicates with FRS and GMRS.
  • 22 two-way channels.
  • 8 repeater channels.
  • Dual-band antenna.
  • Works well with repeaters.
  • Can switch between 500mW and 2W.
  • FM radio that will play while monitoring up to 2 channels.
  • 50 privacy codes.
  1. BaoFeng BF-F8HP
BaoFeng BF-F8HP
  • Communicates with FRS and GMRS.
  • 3 power levels (1,4,8 Watts) – 8W maximum.
  • 30% larger battery.
  • High-gain V-85 antenna.

GMRS radios are the best choice for fixed-mount overland vehicle communication. Using an external antenna can provide more range. Fixed-mount radios with their higher output offer longer-range communications. They also have the ability to use an external antenna to increase range.

Best Mobile GMRS Units:

  1. Midland MXT275 MicroMobile
Midland MXT275 MicroMobile
  • 15W power output.
  • 50-mile range in optimal conditions.
  • 15 GMRS channels.
  • 8 repeater channels.
  • Ideal for a car, even with a smaller dash.
  • NOAA weather feature.
  • Microphone control.
  • Con: Small screen may be hard to read at times.
  1. Midland MXT400
Midland MXT400
  • 65-mile range in optimal conditions.
  • 142 privacy codes.
  • NOAA weather scan + alerts.
  • 8 repeater channels.
  • 15W power output.
  1. BTECH GMRS 50X1
BTECH GMRS 50X1
  • 15W power output.
  • VHF & UHF scanning receiver.
  • 8 repeater channels.
  • 142 privacy codes.
  • NOAA weather scan + alerts.
  • FM radio.
  • Large LCD display.

Comparison and other considerations

The table below provides a quick summary of the basic differences between MURS and GMRS handheld radios.

GMRS RadioMURS Radio
Range2-20 miles (UHF)2-8 miles (VHF)
Cost$70-$140$45-$90
UsesHunting and hiking trips, camping and travelingFarms, commercial business uses, campus uses, security
License requirementsFCC license requiredNot required
QualityComparatively more durable than FRS. GMRS radios are built to withstand the rugged terrain and frequent useIt depends on the price. MURS radios are generally used to communicate on private properties
AdvantagesGMRS is more durable, has a greater range, and has better audio qualityMURS has a good middle-range and filters unwanted chatter

Other things you’ll want to consider when shopping for either MURS or GMRS handheld radios are:

  • Battery life – batteries are important for handheld units. Be sure to purchase good quality rechargeables and understand whether your unit also operates on regular AA or other batteries. Or ensure you have some way to recharge them if they die in the field.
  • Accessories included – at a minimum, you’ll likely want the radio unit, battery, battery charger and cable, antenna, and headset for each unit. Make sure what you need is included, or research better options if you’re looking to upgrade.
  • Warranty – make sure you understand the warranty that comes with your unit(s).

Conclusion

GMRS and MURS radios are both great options for two-way communication between individuals and groups for recreation, travel, and emergencies. The type of radio you choose is really dependent upon what you plan to do with it.

MURS radios are great for direct line-of-sight communications over short distances with few obstructions and don’t require a license. For longer-distance communications, GMRS radios are ideal. They require a quick licensing process that’s valid for 10 years and can be used by the entire family. With a little research, it’s easy to make the best choice for your individual needs.

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