Best Police Scanner for Car: Reviews, Buying Guide and FAQs 2022

by Chris Lewis.

Looking to have some fun or keep informed by keeping tabs on the activities of your cities' police or fire department? Or do you want a way to perform your duties more efficiently as a public safety agency in your community? Police scanners for cars can let you do this and more without breaking the bank.

Most of these scanners are essentially advanced radios and would allow you to tune in to local police frequencies among other frequencies.

Selecting the best police scanner for you depends on the type of features you want to have in it. The type of features you want depends on what you intend to use them for. That said, there are tons of premium, highly effective scanners on the market right now.

In this post, we will review the best police scanners for cars so you can make an informed buying decision. To help you identify which features you need, we have also prepared a guide that contains important information about a police scanner.

Top 7 Best Police Scanner Reviews

Top 7 Best Police Scanner Reviews
Top 7 Best Police Scanner Reviews

1. Uniden BC355N 800 MHz 300 - Link

Uniden BC355N 800 MHz 300-Channel Base/Mobile Scanner, Close Call RF Capture, Pre-programmed Search “Action” Bands to Hear Police, Ambulance, Fire, Amateur Radio, Public Utilities, Weather, and More, Black
Uniden BC355N 800 MHz 300-Channel Base/Mobile Scanner, Close Call RF Capture, Pre-programmed Search “Action” Bands to Hear Police, Ambulance, Fire, Amateur Radio, Public Utilities, Weather, and More, Black

For its price, the Uniden BC355N 800 MHz is a mobile/base police scanner that offers amazing value for money. It is essentially an amateur radio designed for hobbyists.

It only supports saving up to 300 channels but it is extremely easy to use. It is capable of picking up analog frequencies used by service banks for monitoring Police, Fire, Marine, Weather, and Marine communications.

Thanks to its Close Call RF Capture Technology, the Uniden BC355N automatically tunes to signals from any transmitter in your area. This feature makes searching for active frequencies faster and easier.

The scanner comes with a small blacklight display so you can read information off the screen even in low light conditions. It comes with a DC power cable as well as a Vehicle power outlet plug. An AC adapter is also included in the box giving you a wide array of options to charge your scanner at home or in your car.

If there is ever a perfect police scanner to start with, this one checks all the important boxes.

Why you should buy:

  • Perfect for amateurs
  • Picks up analog frequencies used by your local police department, fire department among other related agencies
  • Automatically tunes to nearby frequency signals
  • Easy to use
  • Features a well-light display screen so you can see important information in poor lighting conditions.

Drawbacks:

  • To gain access to all the features on this scanner, such as listening to the trunk and digital frequencies, you simply need to buy a new scanner.

2. Uniden BCD436HP HomePatrol Series Digital Handheld Scanner - Link

Uniden BCD436HP HomePatrol Series Digital Handheld Scanner. TrunkTracker V, Simple Programming, S.A.M.E. Emergency/Weather Alert, Covers USA and Canada
Uniden BCD436HP HomePatrol Series Digital Handheld Scanner. TrunkTracker V, Simple Programming, S.A.M.E. Emergency/Weather Alert, Covers USA and Canada

The Uniden BCD436HP digital handheld scanner offers you some impressive features to make up for its huge price tag.

It is a quality police scanner with an incredible long-term value. When fully charged, the batteries can last about eight hours. The scanner comes equipped with a location-based scanning feature which significantly reduces setup time since you don't have to manually search channels every time you leave your home.

The scanner also features a zip-code-enabled system. What this does is that you can input the zip code of any city you are currently in and the radio will expand its reception range to connect to local frequencies in the area.

Another feature we love about this scanner is the option to temporarily lock some channels that you don't want to listen to. This can be quite useful if there are lots of channels in your area since it enables fast tuning.

Other features worth mentioning on the Uniden BCD436HP handheld scanner include a weather alerts system, fire tone-out, etc.

Why you should buy:

  • Ready to use out of the box.
  • Supports instant playbacks of up to 4 minutes
  • Long battery life - up to 8 hours once fully charged.
  • Supports location-based scanning
  • Handheld scanner with a large display screen
  • GPS connectivity
  • Comes equipped with emergency system features such as weather alerts.
  • Highly customizable notification and alerts system
  • Fast scanning speed - about 85 channels per second.

Drawbacks:

  • You cannot use this radio scanner while charging.
  • It does not come with an instructions manual.

3. Uniden BearTracker Scanner (BCT15X) - Link

Uniden BearTracker Scanner (BCT15X) with 9,000 Channels, TrunkTracker III Technology, Base/Mobile Design, Close Call RF Capture Technology with Location-Based Scanning, - Black Color
Uniden BearTracker Scanner (BCT15X) with 9,000 Channels, TrunkTracker III Technology, Base/Mobile Design, Close Call RF Capture Technology with Location-Based Scanning, - Black Color

With support for over 9,000 channels, the Uniden BearTracker Scanner (BCT15X) gets the job done.

Available only in black color, the Uniden BearTracker Scanner (BCT15X) comes equipped with GPS capability making it a perfect choice for both professional and casual use.

It is one of the most advanced police scanners on the market even though it is not a digital police scanner. it is designed to pick up analog frequencies from a wide range of radio systems so you don't miss out on any information. It comes with an emergency warning system that notifies you of emergencies in your area. This can be quite useful since you can get traffic updates to help you avoid certain areas just from emergency notification.

The Uniden BCT15X also features Uniden's exclusive Close Call RD capture technology that automatically picks up active frequencies in your current area. This makes it easy to keep tabs even if you are not necessarily in your usual location. To cap it all, it comes with a very impressive range reception so you don't miss out on important emergency frequencies.

Why you should buy:

  • Supports about 9,000 channels
  • Comes with S.A.M.E features so you get crucial weather updates and prompt fire alerts
  • Features pre-programmed channels for several cities and states. It automatically activates when connected to a compatible GPS device which allows it to carry out a location-based search.
  • Supports a wide array of radio systems including LTR, Motorola, etc.
  • A versatile scanner that is great for both professional and casual use.

Drawbacks:

  • It is an analog police scanner hence it does not tune to digital frequencies
  • The scanner is not user-friendly
  • The speaker can be better

4. Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio - Link

Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio
Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio

The Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner is available to buy alone or with a battery charger pack. It offers incredible value for money and supports both analog and digital frequencies. it operates on a trunked system while being a digital phase I and II scanner.

It is preloaded with database frequencies for the USA and Canada. It also supports the use of Zip codes for tuning the channels automatically in other regions. It comes with user-upgradable CPU firmware as well as a clock and calendar feature.

NOTE: Since the Whistler TRX-1 uses a trunked operating system, it means channels are grouped and are not tuned as not individual frequencies. It is portable and easy to use.

The scanner comes with a dedicated weather button for instant weather updates. The Whistler TRX-1 has one of the best record/playback capabilities of all the police scanners for a car that we reviewed. It supports recording up to 50 hours of audio which is made possible thanks to the included 2GB micro SD card. The recorded audio files even come with a timestamp and dates for reference purposes.

It supports the use of batteries for handheld experience although you can also charge it using a USB Power Plug. It supports 2-Way radio reception although the manufacturer recommends using an outdoor antenna with the scanner.

Why you should buy:

  • Dual-power handheld police scanner.
  • Dedicated weather alerts button
  • Supports zip-code searching for automatic tuning and programming.
  • Supports the use of PC applications to modify the signal and channels.
  • Operates on a trunked system but can scan both AM and FM frequencies

Drawbacks:

  • Has lots of software requirements that you have to meet. The software is not free and is sold separately.
  • The batteries take a lot of time to charge.
  • The UI is not user-friendly since the software takes a lot of getting used to.
  • The signal reception setting is difficult to adjust

5. Uniden HomePatrol-2 Color Touchscreen Simple Program Digital Scanner - Link

Uniden HomePatrol-2 Color Touchscreen Simple Program Digital Scanner, TrunkTracker V and S,A,M,E, Emergency/Weather Alert, APCO P25 Phase 1 and 2! Covers USA and Canada, Quick Record and Playback
Uniden HomePatrol-2 Color Touchscreen Simple Program Digital Scanner, TrunkTracker V and S,A,M,E, Emergency/Weather Alert, APCO P25 Phase 1 and 2! Covers USA and Canada, Quick Record and Playback

If portability is not an important requirement for you when buying a police scanner for your car, you can't go wrong with the Uniden HomePatrol-2 Touchscreen Digital scanner. Although it is not a mobile or handheld scanner, it is light enough to mount it on a portable base in your vehicle.

As a digital scanner, it supports scanning of analog, digital phase I, and II frequencies from your local police station, fire department, and any other welfare or emergency agencies in your community. It is also compatible with certain radio systems especially Motorola frequencies.

The touchscreen display is a nice addition and it makes switching channels fast and easy.

Out of the box, you receive an instruction guide to quickly teach you how to use the police scanner. It works using a rechargeable battery and features a USB port for charging.

NOTE: A USB Power adapter is not included in the box. However, a USB cable is included in the box alongside a Desk Stand.

Why you should buy:

  • Comes equipped with instant playback features
  • Touchscreen display for faster and easier navigating
  • Scans analog, trunked, digital phase I and II frequencies
  • Compatible with GPS receiver
  • Flex antenna that you can replace for a more powerful one if necessary.

Drawbacks:

  • The antenna is short which significantly affects its reception range. It is recommended to upgrade the antenna so you can pick up more frequencies thus improving the overall experience.
  • The UI takes some getting used to.

6. Uniden BCD996P2 Digital Mobile TrunkTracker V Scanner - Link

Uniden BCD996P2 Digital Mobile TrunkTracker V Scanner, 25,000 Dynamically Allocated Channels, Close Call RF Capture Technology, 4-Line Alpha display, Base/Mobile Design, Phase 2, Location-Based Scanning
Uniden BCD996P2 Digital Mobile TrunkTracker V Scanner, 25,000 Dynamically Allocated Channels, Close Call RF Capture Technology, 4-Line Alpha display, Base/Mobile Design, Phase 2, Location-Based Scanning

The Uniden BCD996P2 Digital Mobile TrunkTracker V Scanner comes with a bunch of features that help it make up for its expensive price tag.

It is available in 4 different style models including a handheld radio that seamlessly connects with it. Being a mobile scanner, you can install it in your car in place of the standard radio.

NOTE: This scanner is specifically designed for casual use.

That said, it comes equipped with an amazing digital decoding system that is quite advanced and powerful. It features two of Uniden's proprietary and exclusive features: Close Call RF Capture Technology and an Advanced Dynamic Memory System. It is also compatible with a GPS receiver and supports most of the digital systems available right now.

Out of the box, you get the mobile BCD996P2 Scanner, a vehicle power cord, AC power adapter, car mounting bracket, Antenna, and other important hardware. You also get a USB cable as well as an Owner's manual.

Why you should buy:

  • A powerful mobile scanner that supports most of the digital systems available
  • Comes with a handheld radio that comes with the same specs
  • Provides important NOAA Weather alerts and other emergency alerts using Specific area message encoding
  • Rapidly detects sub-audible tones
  • Features GPS compatibility

Drawbacks:

  • It does not play audio on fully encrypted digital systems or channels
  • It does not descramble or decode signals
  • Requires paid upgrade to access all the available features
  • Programming is very difficult; can take a few days!

7. Whistler WS1040 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio - Link

Whistler WS1040 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio
Whistler WS1040 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio

The Whistler WS1040 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio is a twin of the TRX-1 radio from the same brand. Hence, they both share some similar features.

The Whistler WS 1040 Hand

held Digital Scanners features menu-driven programming that provides you assistance while programming the scanner. it features a customizable scan list so you can arrange and group channels based on how often you listen to them. Like the Whistler TRX-1 scanner, the Whistler 1040 Handheld Digital Scanner also comes with a lock-out function to block specific channels you do not want to hear.

Another feature that stands out due to its incredible execution is the Skywarn storm spotter feature. This provides you instant access to frequencies and channels sued by weather agencies to broadcast emergency updates.

It also comes with a dedicated button with a "FIRE icon" that automatically tunes to pre-programmed fire department channels.

NOTE: The pre-programmed fire department frequencies are general frequencies and might not be specific to your area.

Why you should buy:

  • Customizable scan list for fast tuning
  • Dedicated menu-driven programming makes it easy to switch between channels
  • Provides instant weather updates
  • Supports digital AGC for low user audio levels
  • Dedicated fire button that automatically connects to preprogrammed general fire department frequencies.

Drawbacks:

  • Does not support location-based scanning
  • No GPS capabilities

Best Police Scanners Buying Guide

Having a shortlist of the best police scanners is great but it does not make the decision-making any easier. This is because different factors influence the effectiveness of any scanner you intend to buy. Most police scanners on the market simply let you pick up channel activities from the nearest police station to you. However, many also provide additional functionality. In this buying guide, we will discuss everything you need to know before buying a police scanner.

Type/Model

There are different types of police scanners. Each offers different functionality and ease of use. This means it is essentially the first factor you need to consider. The model of police scanner you buy depends on how you expect to use the scanner. Will you be using it at home as a means of entertainment to listen to what information is being passed on police frequencies? Do you need it to keep track of happenings in your community while driving?

Below are the three models of police scanner you can choose depending on the answers you came up with for the questions above:

  • Base: Base police scanners are designed for use in your home because you can only set them in a stable location. That said, some are small enough to mount in your vehicle. They tend to be more expensive
  • Handheld: Handheld scanners are compact and designed to run on batteries. They are cheap but at the expense of having a weaker antenna and limited frequency channels to connect to. Most of them come with clips so you can attach them to your belt.
  • Mobile: They are car police scanners that are installed the same way standard car radios are installed.

Supported Radio Signal Format

There are different types of frequencies a scanner can pick. Most of the time, the type of signal is unique to a scanner. The signal format your scanner supports also often determines the number of channels you can program your scanner to intercept.

  • That said, here are the common signal formats picked up by police scanners:
  • Analog police scanners: Picks up only analog frequencies
  • Trunked police scanners: picks up trunked and analog frequencies
  • Phase I Digital Police scanners: Picks up analog, trunked, and phase I frequencies.
  • Phase II Digital Police scanners pick up all available frequencies.

NOTE: Digital police scanners are the most expensive, with analog ones being the cheapest.

When it comes to signal formats you can connect to, you only need to figure out the type of signals frequently being used in your area or city. Most police frequencies are now digital which in turn means you can't go wrong buying a digital model.

NOTE: Not all digital police scanners can pick up all digital signals. Hence, you need to check the label on the scanner to be sure it supports the specific signals you are interested in.

Add-on Features

· GPS

This is a pretty useful feature to have on your radio. Police scanners with built-in GPS systems let you receive location information and even send them.

· Location-Based Scanning

One of the differences between modern police scanners and older models is the feature to carry out a location-based search. Old police scanners require you to manually input the frequency you want to listen to.

With modern scanners, you don't have to do that. They come pre-programmed with software that allows them to automatically search a database of frequencies and tune to any nearby frequency.

Scanners with come with a location-based search feature also automatically come with GPS capabilities. With this, they can update the frequencies you listen to based on your location.

· Record/Playback option

Some police scanners come with features that let you record live conversations. You can then play them later when you need to.

This is not a necessary feature, but it can be quite handy to have.

· Battery life

The battery life of your police scanner determines how long the scanner stays on before it dies out. To avoid unnecessary maintenance costs, you should get a scanner that does not use too much power.

· Emergency Systems Connectivity

It is recommended to buy a scanner that can connect to specific emergency systems. This helps keep you informed when specific area message such as fire emergency, natural disaster is being broadcast.

For instance, Fire tone-out is an emergency system feature that gives you prompt notifications to incoming emergency calls sent to the fire departments.

· Range

The range of a scanner is very important. All scanners have varying reception strength depending on the terrain you are in as well as the current weather condition. We recommend getting a scanner with a wide range to the best experience.

The above are just some add-on features you might want to look for in a police scanner before buying one.

Police Scanner FAQs

Is there a police scanner that works?

Of course, we have reviewed 7 of the best police scanners on the market. They offer you access to public-safe frequencies being used by the police, fire, and other public safety agencies (Mostly U.S. based channels )

Are police scanners obsolete?

In a way, yes. Most public safety agencies are already towards digital radio systems. The implication is that in a few years, there will be newer gadgets available to the public to keep up to date with information via secure public police frequencies.

Can you listen to encrypted police channels?

No, this is not possible using a police scanner you bought over the internet. However, you can get access to safe, yet encrypted channels that provide updates on what is being said on certain police frequencies.


Buy on Walmart

Uniden HomePatrol-2 Color Touchscreen Simple Program Digital Scanner, TrunkTracker V and - Walmart Link

Uniden BCD436HP HomePatrol Series Digital Handheld Scanner. TrunkTracker V, Simple - Walmart Link

Uniden BearTracker Scanner (BCT15X) with 9,000 Channels, TrunkTracker III Technology, - Walmart Link

Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Handheld Scanner, 500-Alpha-Tagged Channels, Close Call - Walmart Link

Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio - Walmart Link

Uniden BC365CRS 500 Channel Scanner and Alarm Clock with Snooze, Sleep, and FM Radio with - Walmart Link

Uniden BEARTRACKER 885 Hybrid Full-Featured CB Radio + Digital TrunkTracking - Walmart Link

Uniden BCD996P2 Digital Mobile TrunkTracker V Scanner, 25,000 Dynamically Allocated - Walmart Link

Uniden BC75XLT, 300-Channel Handheld Scanner, Emergency, Marine, Auto Racing, CB Radio, - Walmart Link

Uniden BCD536HP HomePatrol Series Digital Phase 2 Base/Mobile Scanner with HPDB and - Walmart Link

Buy on eBay

Uniden HomePatrol-2 Color Touchscreen Simple Program Digital Scanner, TrunkTracker V and - eBay Link

Uniden BCD436HP HomePatrol Series Digital Handheld Scanner. TrunkTracker V, Simple - eBay Link

Uniden BearTracker Scanner (BCT15X) with 9,000 Channels, TrunkTracker III Technology, - eBay Link

Uniden Bearcat BC125AT Handheld Scanner, 500-Alpha-Tagged Channels, Close Call - eBay Link

Whistler TRX-1 Handheld Digital Scanner Radio - eBay Link

Uniden BC365CRS 500 Channel Scanner and Alarm Clock with Snooze, Sleep, and FM Radio with - eBay Link

Uniden BEARTRACKER 885 Hybrid Full-Featured CB Radio + Digital TrunkTracking - eBay Link

Uniden BCD996P2 Digital Mobile TrunkTracker V Scanner, 25,000 Dynamically Allocated - eBay Link

Uniden BC75XLT, 300-Channel Handheld Scanner, Emergency, Marine, Auto Racing, CB Radio, - eBay Link

Uniden BCD536HP HomePatrol Series Digital Phase 2 Base/Mobile Scanner with HPDB and - eBay Link

Conclusion for Police Scanner Buyers

The most important thing to note is that there is no overall best police scanner. Each scanner comes with features that make it better for certain reasons. Even with that, there are several fantastic police scanners on the market and they offer a great experience while being cost-effective.

To help you select the right police scanner, you can follow the information compiled in our buying guide section. Furthermore, it is safe to say that you can't go wrong selecting any of the police scanners on our review list.

About Chris Lewis.

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