Police Scanner Buying FAQ


This is confusing – can you just tell me what scanner I need to buy?


Yes.

Chat with a scanner expert now.


Are police scanners legal?


Yes. It is legal in the U.S. to own & operate a police scanner. For a detailed explanation see our article Are Police Scanners Legal?


Can scanners listen to phone calls?


 

No. This is illegal & no scanner available to the public has the radio bands required to pick up these frequencies. The Government is the only one who has scanners that can monitor cell & cordless phone bands, but these devices are tightly regulated.


Why buy a scanner & how are they used?


They’re fun! Also, they’re commonly used by radio hobbyists, railroad enthusiasts, racing fans, off-duty emergency service personnel, reporters & those who like to know what’s going on in their community.


What can I hear on a police scanner?


A lot. The most popular things to listen to are police, fire & other emergency services. However, you can also listen to civilian & military aircraft, Coast Guard & other boating communication, FBI & DEA, ham radio operators, various state, local & federal agencies, news media, helicopters, all kinds of businesses including construction, plumbers, landscapers, electric & water companies, security officers & anyone using two-way radios including sporting officials, race drivers & pit crews, CB channels, FM & AM radio, shortwave and more. These are only a few of things that are available in your area, scanners pick up much, much more than is available via online broadcasts.


How far away will my scanner pick up signal?


 

30 miles. Scanners work on line-of-site, not satellites, so reception varies GREATLY based on factors including weather, buildings, trees, topography – basically anything. Antennas can boost signal from 50% to 300%. Check out our Guide on How to Choose the Right Police Scanner Antenna.

 
 


Is there anything special about NASCAR & race scanners?


 

No. Companies put race stickers & other branding on their scanners & mark them up, but all police scanners we sell work. ‘NASCAR’ scanners are just analog scanners. We offer a few racing packages or checkout our NASCAR & Race Scanner Buyer’s Guide.

 
 


How do police scanners work?


 

Police scanners work like AM/FM radios in that they pick up over the air frequencies, however, AM/FM radios monitor different radio bands than scanners. Digital police scanners are able to follow police communication as they move from frequency to frequency.

 
 


Can’t I just listen online instead of buying a scanner?


 

Yes, but what you can listen to is very limited.  You can listen online to some of the most popular channels like police & fire in large Cities, but there are 1000’s of channels that online streaming systems do not broadcast such as air traffic, business and much more. Also, these streams can & have been shut off during emergencies. Example: During the Boston bombing all police scanner feeds were turned off for several days. If you had a scanner in your home you were still able to monitor activity during this time.

 
 


Can’t I just download a scanner app on my smartphone instead of buying an expensive scanner?


 

Yes, but what you can listen to is very limited. Scanner apps are great, but they are basically just online feeds. Here are scanner apps for Android and Apple.
 

Also, apps are just feeds from line streams that can & have been shut off during emergencies. Example: During the Boston bombing all police scanner feeds were turned off for several days. If you had a scanner in your home you were still able to monitor activity during this time.
 
 


How do I pick the correct antenna for my scanner?


 

Check out our Guide on How to Choose the Right Police Scanner Antenna. This covers everything you need to know.

 
 


What is the difference between police scanners & radio scanners?


 

Nothing. They mean the same thing & can be used interchangeably. Technically they are ‘scanner radios’ but they’re commonly known as ‘police scanners’.

 

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Feel free to click-to-chat, call or email us (contact info on the bottom right).
 
 


 

What do you think?

Have any questions or think we should add something? Disagree with anything we wrote? Let us know in the comments below or ask us.

 

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