GMRS vs HAM Radio – Which Will Be Best For You?

Rick Brandt Written By:
Rick Brandt
Andy Klugman Fact Checked By:
Andy Klugman
GMRS vs HAM Radio

At least you know that the internet and smartphones can be a letdown any time disasters come knocking, but not the Ham, right? But Ham is not the only communication radio people advocate for; GMRS is also on the list. This leaves most confused: GMRS vs HAM radio – which will be best for you

If you’re looking for a simpler, cheaper, and easy-to-use device, a GMRS would be your best match since there’s no programming; pre-programmed frequencies are stored. Sadly, GMRS only allows short-distance communication. So, though you need to program a ham radio and do some tests, you have access to a long-range connection.

The major benefit of GMRS radio is that once you pay FCC for the license, you don’t need to do tests to start communicating. So, it’s ‘pay and play.’ Ham radio is better than GMRS because you can communicate even worldwide, unlike GMRS, which is short-distance (two-way communication). However, GMRS is worth it for local outdoor contacts.

There’s more to know about the GMRS and ham radio; what I have just shared is just the bone. So, can we get the meet, too?

GMRS vs HAM Radio – What is the Difference?

To help you decide which is the best for you, I’ll talk about the licenses, usage, cost, ease of use, application, frequencies, and user of GMRS vs ham radio. But first, GMRS stands for General Mobile Radio Service, while ham means amateur radio operator.

License: If you hardly have time to do ham radio tests, you’re better off buying a GMRS because you only need to pay for the FCC license and start communication. In contrast, you must do the required tests and pass before getting the ham radio license.

Unlike the ham radio, where immediate family members are restricted from contacting you unless they also have a ham radio license, the GMRS license covers every family member.

Getting the ham communication radio license can be challenging, especially due to the cost and tests, but getting the GMRS license is pretty easy.

If you hardly have enough time to do the necessary ham tests or are limited on the budget, but need a communication radio, consider the GMRS.

Frequencies: Ham communication radios aren’t limited; they operate on various frequencies (VHF, UHF, and HF). With a Ham radio and depending upon your license, you can choose the frequency from the many available. In contrast, GMRS is limited because it only communicates on 22 UHF fixed channels. The GMRS channels operate at a frequency of 462 to 467 MHz.

However, GMRS would be the best if you dislike programming because it features pre-programmed channels. On the contrary, you have to program your ham radio to communicate. Also, you need to program to access the ham radio emergency frequency.

Usage: If you’re a techy guy debating over GMRS vs HAM radio, I will encourage you to get the latter. Since channels are stored for use in the GMRS communication radio, I would call it a ‘pay and play,’ meaning you start using it once you have paid for the FCC license. This explains why GMRS is easier and simpler in terms of usage than its brother ham.

However, as I have said previously, you need to program the Ham radio, which makes it challenging for most non-tech guys to use.

Users: Since GMRS needs no programming, they’re a perfect match for people who need an easy-to-use communication radio. This communication radio is used by family members and people who know each other, especially if communication through smartphones and the internet is not dependable.

In contrast, ham users can be strangers but still converse over the radio. What’s more? Amateurs may try to help each other in the face of a disaster. When ham radio communication is down, ham users try to keep the communication going. This makes it easy to offer help and access it when there’s a calamity.

Application: Since GMRS is limited, it’s best used for local communication. Users can communicate in the face of an emergency or when talking about business. On the other hand,  ham communication can be local or worldwide.

Also, ham tends to have better signals.

Besides, it operates on lower frequencies. Though most amateurs (ham radio operators) use it as a hobby, this is the most common communication radio when disaster strikes. So, when you need emergency help outside your county or country, with the right license, you can use a ham to contact the respective authorities.


Can Ham Radio Talk to GMRS?

Sadly, no! You cannot use ham radio to talk to GMRS, and here’s why: While ham frequency ranges between 420 to 450 MHz, GMRS ranges between 462 and 467 MHz. So, your GMRS cannot operate at the 70 cm band, which ham radios use.

In addition, you cannot operate your GMRS radio using the ham license. You need a different GMRS and ham radio license, as both have unique call signs.


Should I get GMRS or Ham?

You decide if to get a GMRS or ham radio based on usability, ease of use, cost, and application. If, for example, you’re only interested in local communication, your budget is small, and you don’t want to do the tests, consider buying the GMRS radio.

However, if you’re looking for a highly dependable communication radio that you can use when faced with a disaster, think of a ham radio instead of a GMRS.

That’s not to say you cannot use ham as a hobby device, many have been using it as so for centuries, and it is fun!

Nevertheless, you must have a higher budget as hams are more pricey than GMRS. Besides, hams aren’t limited, so you have a wide range of options to pick from when it comes to available frequencies, and your communication could also be global, not just local.

What is the Benefit of a GMRS Radio?

The key benefit of GMRS radio is that you don’t do any tests to acquire the FCC license. Other benefits include:

  • The license covers your family members, so they don’t need an individual license to contact you.
  • You don’t have to be familiar with programming since the communication channels are pre-programmed for you.
  • Learning to use the GMRS radio is much easier; hence, ideal for beginners.
  • It’s not overpriced, so even an average person or anyone on a budget can afford it.
  • It’s more reliable in terms of connection than the internet and smartphones.

Are GMRS Radios Worth It?

GMRS is worth it because it offers stable communication, beginners find it easy to use since it already has pre-stored channels ready for communication, and it’s cheaper than ham radios. In addition, every family member is covered by your license.

So, why wouldn’t you want to own a GMRS  even if you already have or plan to own a ham radio?

My Verdict

GMRS vs ham radio debate has been going on for a long time. I have settled it here once and for all!

If you only have a budget for one radio type, you can buy a ham radio to connect with family members, friends, and strangers, even from other countries.

A ham radio is also better than a GMRS if you want to access more frequencies, especially when faced with disasters. Thankfully, the ham radio has better and more reliable communication if you have done the installation correctly.

On the other hand, GMRS is great if you’re only interested in local communication and need a cheap communication radio. Nevertheless, you must be willing to pay more for the ham radio and work hard to pass all the necessary tests to use a ham radio. Buying both radios is no harm, though. So, consider owning both.

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