24th Oct 2019
Released On 4th Jun 2020
RadioTrader's Guide to the Best VHF Marine Radios
Our range of VHF marine radio equipment is suitable for use on most seagoing craft, from small pleasure craft to super-yachts and ferries. In this guide, we've carefully selected radios that include useful features for maritime communication between vessels and ship-to-shore, as well as private internal communication between teams of staff on board.
We supply VHF marine radio equipment to yacht fitters, ferries and boatyards, as well as owners of private and commercial vessels. If this is your first purchase of a marine radio, take advantage of our free expert advice - our friendly team can talk you through the various features and help you make the right choice.
Our recommendations for the best VHF marine radios
Motorola DP3661e Handheld radio
The DP3661e radio checks pretty much all the boxes for marine use. As with many others on this list, it's IP68 rated, with integrated Bluetooth, integrated GNSS and a range of user safety functions, plus a large, 5-line full colour display in a small, lightweight and compact body. We would recommend this radio for the captain / command team because of its ability to individually call radios and easily identify who is transmitting. View this product.
We recommend the Motorola SL4010e VHF radio for the interior team / steward staff. It's not submersible, but the radio is discreet, lightweight, supplied with a swivel clip or lanyard and not as bulky as other radios. View this product.
The Motorola DP2400e is a compact and lightweight digital two way radio that provides fantastic performance at competitive pricing. It's a feature-rich, next generation E model that provides 8% better coverage over standard digital technology. The DP2400e features best-in-class audio quality, an impressive IP67 rating for water proofing and dust resistance, plus very robust casing, making it extremely well suited to life on board. View this product.
The Motorola DP4400e digital hand portable two way radio is part of the new Mototrbo E hand portable range and replaces the older generation Motorola DP4400 digital hand portable. Packed with clever features and built in bluetooth (DP4401e) which allows you to communicate without wires. The DP4400e is IP68 rated, meaning it is dust tight and protected against continuous immersion. View this product.
Connect Plus platform
Connect Plus is a Push-to-Talk Over Cellular network that offers a total solution for communication at sea through Wi-Fi, and onshore via the existing LTE cellular network. This means that staff and crew can be in constant contact with the vessel at all times. Connect Plus packages include a compatible device, the app platform and multi-roaming SIM, in fact, everything you need in one place, at very competitive prices. Learn more about Connect Plus.
Useful features for VHF marine radios
A VHF marine radio is an essential and potentially life-saving item of equipment at sea and on inland waterways such as rivers and lakes, both on safety grounds and for general communication. Some features you'll find particularly useful when choosing a VHF two-way radio are:
Unsurprisingly, maritime radios get wet! Ensure yours isn’t just splash-proof, but meets or exceeds the basic IPX7 rating, which offers complete protection for submersion up to 1 metre deep for at least 30 minutes.
Take a look at the compact and lightweight Motorola DP3441e hand portable, with an impressive IP68 rating, integrated Bluetooth and integrated GNSS for accurate satellite positioning. The VHF model of the DP3441e is ideal for pocket-sized, basic radio communication on board. We recommend this unit to users in the engine room / wheelhouse.
Various scenarios could lead to a radio being dropped into the sea, lake or river. Some marine radios are now designed to float in the water – simply pick it up and carry on using the radio as normal.
The Icom IC-M25 is a great example. The unique feature of this handheld VHF marine radio is its clever Float ‘n’ Flash feature – if dropped in water the Icom IC-M25 will become buoyant and emit a flashing red LED to help you find it again. Aside from this feature, the IC-M25 is IPX7 submersible, just like the Motorola DP3441e above, typically has an 11-hour battery life and it's priced at a very affordable entry-level price-point.
Marine radios with a built-in GPS receiver show your current position and can be used for distress calls. Take a look at Motorola’s DP4401 Ex Atex radio from their Mototrbo range. As well as integrated GPS, this top-of-the-range VHF radio is built to IP67 and ATEX specifications for use in the harshest of conditions, with many built-in safety features.
The DP4401 Ex ATEX also gives you excellent battery life - expect up to 19 hours in digital mode or up to 16 hours in analogue mode.
For added peace of mind, some radios incorporate a distress alert. Known as DSC radios, they function just like other VHF marine radios with a couple of other features, enabling you to send an emergency distress signal to the coastguard, as well as other vessels equipped with DSC radios.
Look at the handheld Icom IC-M93D DSC, one of the slimmest VHF DSC radios on the market, with a body depth of just 38.5mm achieved with a flat sheet keypad design. The IC-M93D DSC also has the Float 'n' Flash feature mentioned earlier and integrated GPS.
If you're looking for a mounted radio with similar safety features, try the Icom IC-M330GE VHF/DCS Marine Radio with built-in GPS receiver and external GPS antenna. The IC-330GE is one of the smallest DSC mounted marine radios available, with a front display so small it matches the size of modern smart-phones. Ideal small vessels with minimal space.
Do you need a licence for a VHF marine radio?
Not just anyone can use a VHF marine radio. To operate this equipment - both fixed and handheld radios - on a UK-flagged vessel, you must have, at the minimum, the Marine Radio Short Range Certificate (SRC). This is a legal requirement. The SRC, which must be successfully completed at a recognised training centre, instructs users in radio etiquette and procedures, digital selected calling (DSC) and emergency procedures.
In addition, all marine radios require both the user and the vessel to hold a relevant licence. The vessel's licence is the key to obtaining a Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number, a series of nine digits which uniquely identifies your vessel.
Other uses for marine radios
Although safety is foremost in everyone’s mind, marine radios aren’t just for emergency situations.
- Let larger vessels know where you are
- Listen to routine weather forecasts
- Check navigational warnings broadcast on VHF and MF at 4-hourly intervals around the UK coastline
- Communicate with harbours, locks, bridges and marinas
- Talk to other people at sea on one of your radio’s many channels
If you’re serious about investing in your safety at sea, browse our full range of VHF marine radio equipment and take advantage of our other services to purchase compatible radio accessories, help with programming and licencing your two way radios.
You can also read an interesting marine radio case study from a longstanding RadioTrader customer, which outlines the usefulness of two way radios on their luxury yacht.
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