New and old ham radio operators both have many of the same questions when it comes to buying ham radio equipmen, manuals, software, etc.. To me, there are two questions to answer and the answers must be reconciled because they will return very different results.
- The first question is “What Ham Radio Equipment Works Best”? That is a logical question. And it is a good place to start. Why buy something that isn’t going to do the job you have in mind for it to do. Everyone wants the best. So why not start there?
- The second question usually is “What Can I Afford” or “How Much Does It Cost”? That is a very practical question that nearly all of us have to deal with. Everyone would want to buy the very best ham radio equipment or software if they could. But most of us realize that the best is not always an option.
A few more questions can be answered that can help. For example – new or used equipment? While there are a lot of scams out there today some very nice equipment can be obtained on the used market and that can really keep the price down. As long as you know what you are buying and either you or someone qualified can inspect the equipment and determine that it is in good shape. Here are a few ideas on where to buy used ham radio equipment:
- Retail stores that offer used equipment as a service from trade-ins and such
- Estate sales
- Ham radio clubs
- Ham radio swap meets
- Talking to people on local or distant nets when either they offer their equipment for sale or you advise others on the net that you are in the market for ham radio equipment
- Newspaper classified ads
- Commercial radio trading shows like WIKB’s “Telephone Time” (from Iron River, Michigan)
- Websites like www.QRZ.com which has a section dedicated to equipment for sale
- Do a Google search for terms like “buy ham radios” or “buy ham radio equipment” or “ham radio equipment for sale”
To answer the question of what equipment is best I am a firm believer in research. And I am also a firm believer in getting quite a few different opinions. Yes – I know – having an “Elmer” to just TELL YOU what to buy is one way that probably isn’t TOO bad. But you and your Elmer and others may have different experiences with the same equipment. One great resource is www.eHam.com – go to the Reviews section. Read through many reviews on the specific ham radio equipment you want and you will get a good overview of what you can probably expect in real-life use.
Reading ads and doing a chart of spreadsheet on specifications vs requirements is a good idea as well. I like to compare quality, price and functionality when I buy most things. I find that there is somewhat of a sweet spot of quality, functionality and price that gets me pretty good equipment that does what I need for a pretty good price. In some instances I require only the best. For example I am an ex ski racer. In that instance price of skis meant performance. And if you really wanted to win – you went out and just bought the best skis. In the ham radio world that can get VERY expensive if you do that all the time. For example, the best HF radio is over $10,000. Most people spend $1 – $2,000 for a HF radio and have everything they probably really need in a practical sense. The choice, and the budget, is yours.
I also like to listen to what others say about their equipment. And I like to ask “WHY”. For example I have found that some people love the G5RV antenna and some people think it just stinks. After asking “WHY” I found out quite a bit more about it. Turns out it is height sensitive and has a sweet spot around 20 meters, etc.. Knowing that could change my opinion from positive to negative or negative to positive depending on what I wanted to use it for.
I hope this has helped you to some extent. I also hope that you have an unlimited budget and can afford all of those 100 foot HF beam antenna towers you can put up! One last tip before I go. COMPARE! I like to go to sites like www.QRZ.com or ARRL.net and check multiple retail ham radio stores and catalogs for prices. Not every place will advertise their price but they usually have a toll-free number or a web form where you can get prices. Make SURE to include costs for shipping and insurance! Then figure out how long you want to wait, how much bouncing around in a truck you want your equipment subjected to and how much you are willing to pay. Also check to see if they do their own diagnosis and repairs or if they are factory authorized to do the work!
Stay Radio Active!
Jon Kreski, AB9NN – Appleton / Green Bay Wisconsin area