Today I’ll be showcasing the best 5 jet ski radios for safety on the waterways in 2020. The best part – all of these cost less than $200!
I’m a big proponent for safety when riding. When you’re buying a jet ski, you often forget about the additional outlay that you’ll need to factor in.
Things like life jackets, a wetsuit, insurance, registration, the actual trailer (if you need one) and even a marine GPS soon will add up several thousand dollars to your already large investment. Then we have the VHF radio which is a real after-thought.
In my opinion, it’s one of the most important things you’ll ever buy. Sure, you won’t need to use it much at all, but knowing it’s there will help you enjoy a great day out there on the water.
Jet ski radios guide
Many people in the boating market already know just how important having access to a VHF radio is. It gives the user the ability to send and receive verbal or even text-based messages across the waterways from many miles away.
Let’s look at some more of those advantages:
- Allows you to quickly contact 911 and rescue teams
- Easy contact with lock/weir operators and harbormasters
- Users can listen in on emergency situations and respond
- You can easily receive weather forecasts in real-time
- When without a cell signal, you can call your friends at the boat ramp
- Most importantly, you can get a great jet ski VHF radio for under $100!
But it’s not so easy to simply pick up a radio at the store and run with it. There are numerous models on the market, but not all are created equal.
Some are best suited towards hikers and 4×4 enthusiasts, instead of jet ski owners. Others are just too big and bulky so commonly they are just left at home or in the tow vehicle.
Routinely I see these challenges:
- Some radios that cost well over $1,000 but provide little added advantages
- Others aren’t so waterproof as they claim during beta-testing stages
- The battery life of the cheaper models is insufficient for an entire day
- Easier to damage VHF radios on a jet ski due to harsh riding conditions
- Warranty information is often quite vague with some hoops to jump through
So it’s quite clear that jet ski enthusiasts do need to shop around for a reliable marine radio. One that is backed by a strong warranty and reputable brand which has consistently delivered for years.
Best Jet Ski VHF radios
I’m going to detail exactly the radios that I have come across in my searches. Two of these models I have owned and the other three I have used after borrowing to create this list. All are listed in merely my own opinion.
|1||Retevis RT55 Marine Radio||Under $150|
|2||Standard Horizon HX210||Under $100|
|3||Uniden Atlantis 155 Handheld||Under $70|
|4||Standard Horizon GX1600B||Under $160|
|5||Uniden UM385 Fixed Mount Marine VHF||Under $100|
That’s just 5 of the 30 or so great models available for jet skis. One thing that I would recommend is a protective and cushioned sleeve. You are bouncing around at 70 miles per hour and these radios are more-so designed to be stored in bags.
Now let’s have a look at these models in greater detail:
Retevis RT55 Marine Radio
This is an excellent VHF radio that represents great value for money. I would recommend keeping the Retevis in a waterproof pouch and avoid using it with wet hands.
That said, it is waterproof and it’s floating too. You can even get weather alerts and this comes with a cool vibration water draining function. The online reviews show great feedback from users.
Pros: All the functions you would expect, really good visual design, has a locking button so it won’t switch channels.
Cons: Isn’t the cheap model out there.
Standard Horizon HX210
For the price you pay, you get a fantastic compact jet ski VHF radio known as the Standard Horizon HX210. This 6 watt radio is very easy to operate.
It comes with a 3-year warranty with IPX7 waterproof rating which essentially means you can submerge it for 30 minutes in 1 metre of water. You can even broadcast FM frequencies so you can listen to your favorite radio station too.
Pros: Well reputed as one of the best overall marine radios you could buy. Has several advanced features. Excellent waterproof capabilities.
Cons: Small screen and buttons.
Uniden Atlantis 155 Handheld
If you’re looking for the cheapest jet ski VHF radio on the market, then the Uniden Atlantis 155 is exactly what you want. Often it’s found for around the $65 mark and has the basics you would expect.
The cool thing I like about this radio apart from the price is the antenna. It’s strong enough to store in the front storage compartment of your jet ski, plus it’s much smaller than just about any other handheld model.
Pros: Basic design but does the job. Currently the cheapest VHF marine radio available in the market with a 1-year warranty.
Cons: Looks like it has been delivered from 1993.
Standard Horizon GX1600B
Now if you’re looking for something built into your jet ski so it doesn’t get lost, the GX1600B is a great model. The issue of course is where to mount the microphone.
Generally not as popular on jet skis, this VHF radio has a bigger range than most other handheld devices. Given that jet skis generally don’t go offshore, this isn’t as important, but at least it’s harder for it to get stolen unlike jet skis.
Pros: You’ll find this model inside thousands of boats worldwide. Big screen and easy to use buttons.
Cons: Requires a large mounting spot.
Uniden UM385 Fixed Mount Marine VHF
This is one of the most well known marine radios around. If you’re looking for immense value and reliability, then Uniden has it made.
Just like the Standard Horizon mentioned above, it’s going to be harder to mount this on a jet ski. I’ve seen a few jet ski enthusiasts mount one of these in their tow vehicles. This way they can call their pals who might already be out adventuring so you know their location.
Pros: Very straight forward design. Clear to see all menus.
Cons: The white design could get dirty.
Other marine radios worth mentioning
As I mentioned at the beginning, this is just 5 of the dozens of VHF radios that are suitable for jet ski use. You might not like the look or pricing of these, so I’ve highlighted some more.
As a quick summary, you might also wish to consider the:
- Cobra Floating VHF long-range radio
- Uniden MHX75 Waterproof Handheld 2-Way
- Standard Horizon Handheld with GPS (expensive)
- Cobra MRHH125 Handheld (Really cheap but OK)
Cobra is really coming out of the far left field with these two radios heavily promoted on Amazon.
If you wanted an alternative to any of the 5 I’ve mentioned, then the Cobras would be an ideal pick. Among Facebook groups it seems to be a great choice.
Tips for success with VHF radios
Now once you’ve bought your new marine radio, you’ll want to consider some things. After all, many people simply don’t read the user manuals anymore.
I didn’t want to just create this list of the best jet ski radios without sharing some tips and advice for you. When I was starting out I wish there was someone to show me how to navigate the world of marine communication.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the years:
- Buy yourself a spare battery when you order your radio initially, which is especially helpful if you go jet ski camping. You can charge this spare battery with the same charging dock.
- Don’t worry about a clip on the back of the radio, since it will live in your storage locker anyway.
- Wrap it up with a towel to protect it against knocks when riding but don’t forget that it’s there. Nothing is worse than getting out your towel on the beach and dropping your radio on the sand or rocks.
- Don’t leave your VHF radio in a hot car, as the batteries will corrode or could explode. Even the front storage locker on your jet ski can get too hot for some models on the marketplace.
- Learn the rules and regulations of VHF radio use. Depending on your county, state or country, you might actually require a licence to either own or use a marine radio.
- Don’t leave the radio with little children as they often love to play games with it. This is a serious adults communication device that isn’t designed for horse-play.
- Always remember that your VHF radio should have a spot in your jet ski, so you know where it is at all times. Also remember to pack it before leaving home.
And despite all of that, you won’t use the radio all that much. It’s just a great device for peace of mind, so you can reach areas without the fear of getting stuck and without assistance.
Remember that many areas that you’ll ride have patchy cell phone coverage, hence the market for marine radios is very big even today. You can expect an audible range of 10 nautical miles generally at the minimum with most marine radios available today. They sure have improved over their performance over the last 2 decades.
I would for sure recommend my fellow riders to purchase a VHF radio for their jet ski or personal watercraft. This is especially important if you’re riding solo because help and assistance might be miles or hours away.
Choose a radio that is waterproof of course, but protect it with a soft bag or even your towel. Keep it charged and don’t forget to pack it in the longer before you hook up the trailer.
See you out there on the water!