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The Best Scanners Police And Air Traffic: 2023 List

Brandon Forder
  Feb 1, 2023 3:17 PM

Do you have an interest in monitoring the actions of local law enforcement, fire departments, and emergency medical services? Despite the widespread availability of smartphones, these types of services continue to rely on two-way radio transmission, and anyone with access to a police scanner can tune in to receive updates on local crises, weather warnings, traffic accidents, and other happenings.

A police scanner, also known as a radio scanner, is able to pick up radio transmissions from a wide variety of sources, including but not limited to law enforcement agencies, fire departments, ambulances, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), aircraft, and watercraft (civilian and military).

A police scanner allows the user to listen in on all neighboring frequencies, allowing them to overhear any radio communication with the exception of private conversations and encrypted data.

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Last update on 2023-02-01 / Affiliate links / Images, Product Titles, and Product Highlights from Amazon Product Advertising API

Buying Guide

If you're in the market for a police scanner but are on a tight budget, do your research first. Scanners come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and may offer unique capabilities depending on the model. You should also check to see if the use of police scanners is permitted in your area.

Model type

Both stationary and portable police scanners exist.

Most entry-level devices cost $300 or more and are designed for personal usage at home. It is possible to install some in motor vehicles.

Mobile, lightweight, and powered by batteries, handheld scanners are a convenient alternative to bulkier, stationary models. Historically, they have been less expensive (about $200), but a weaker antenna and less frequency storage have come at the expense of durability. Many modern handheld devices now have the same power and frequency range as their stationary equivalents. But this also means their prices will go up.

Analog or digital format

Perhaps the most crucial consideration when selecting a police scanner is determining whether a digital or analog model is required. An analog-only scanner is useless if digital signals are used by local authorities; such a device would be useless. has a city/county lookup feature that will tell you whether the signals in your area are analog or digital. This page lists every local frequency, the organization or service it belongs to, and whether or not it is digital or analog. It's common practice to designate analog broadcasts as AM or FM and digital signals as P25 or DMR.

Consider getting a digital model from the get-go because the vast majority of frequencies are either already digital or will be soon. However, not all digital scanners are capable of picking up all conceivable digital signals. Make sure the scanner's label specifies that it can pick up your desired signals before making a purchase.

Location-based search

The only way a police scanner would pick up a signal years ago was if the user actively entered the frequency they were interested in listening to. Some newer models have built-in connectivity to a national database of frequencies.

Most of these pre-programmed scanners can scan based on where they are placed. To tune in to local channels, just type in your zip code. A few versions additionally have global positioning system (GPS) functionality, which allows the scanner to track your movement and automatically update its frequency database.


Handheld scanners, mobile scanners that may be installed in a vehicle, and stationary desktop scanners are all options for law enforcement agencies looking to purchase a scanner. A police scanner designed for use in a single place, like a desktop or portable model, is unnecessary. A portable police scanner is the way to go if you desire flexibility.

Additional Features

Is a simple scanner all you need, or do you need one with all the features of a police scanner? Some models of scanners also operate as alarm clocks, and may be equipped with GPS receivers, Wi-Fi networks, and even CB radios.


You may find police scanners for under $50 if you're on a tight budget. But they're rare, and their feature sets are skimpy at best. High-quality scanners typically cost between $100 and $200, and they provide a wide range of useful features and intuitive band navigation in addition to a clear signal. Depending on features and quality, the price of a high-end full-size police scanner can range from $250 to $450.


Is there an app for police scanners?

Police departments can now upgrade from traditional handheld or desktop scanners to more advanced models. With the use of a police scanner app, you may listen in on digital frequencies from the convenience of your mobile device. Some of them are free, while others require a paid subscription to access.

What is the range of a police scanner?

As with every other feature, range can change depending on the gadget in question. Determine how far away conversations, radio stations, and emergency warnings or signals will be by looking up the frequencies that your scanner can pick up.

Can you use a CB radio as a police scanner?

How this works with a particular CB radio varies. Some CB radios may also receive emergency service frequencies, such as those used by police and fire departments. To make sure you can scan for the correct channels, however, you need review the frequency range and product description specifications.

What is the best handheld police scanner?

The Uniden Bearcat BC75XLT is our go-to handheld scanner. It's a portable device that can tune into channels used by emergency services, the military, and auto racing teams. It's an analog scanner that can pick up emergency services like the police, fire department, navy, air force, and even the weather. The scanner has a memory capacity of 300 channels, or 30 channels distributed over 10 independent banks. It can run on just two AA batteries, so it's easy to bring along wherever you go.

What is the best digital police scanner?

The Uniden BCD996P2 is the best digital police scanner available in our opinion. It's made by a trusted manufacturer and can handle both analog and digital signals. Additionally, it has the ability to scan based on its current location and pick up transmissions in the immediate area. The scanner has a continuous 25 MHz to 1.3 GHz frequency range and can scan over 25,000 dynamically assigned channels. Covering all your bases with this strategy is highly recommended.


You can listen in on what's going on in your neighborhood via the radio by using a scanner. If you happen to be near a port, you can catch a glimpse of the local harbour master at work. It is possible to overhear pilots' conversations with ground control if you happen to be near an airport or flight path. Or perhaps you're curious about the store security team's patrol routes. You won't believe the amount of radio traffic you can pick up on the airwaves.

There have never been more scanner alternatives available, making it simpler than ever to keep tabs on the rest of the globe at a time when that's more important than ever. Inexpensive radio scanners make it possible to begin exploring the vast realm of wireless networking immediately.

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