Over the course of thirty plus years in the communications business we have repeated a statement so many times that we feel that it needs to be put into print. Its not that is hasn't blessed the pages of every communications publication that ever existed; it just seems to be something that needs to be readily available at any time. Here it is
When you are putting together a system for your vehicle, whether on a budget or not, plan on buying the best antenna system (coax, mount, antenna stud and antenna) that you can find and go buy a radio.
Aside from a bunch of fancy options that do little to improve the performance of your system, all radios are pretty much the same. The manufacturing of CB radios is a government-regulated process. The final output power, by law, is regulated to a maximum of 4 watts. Some manufactures try to fool you by using words such as "5 Full Watts of Power". That does not refer to transmit power they are talking about audio output power. Granted, 5 watts of audio is better than 4, but that only pertains to what you hear, not to what you send. We're sure you've heard the saying. "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link". Don't ever forget that whether buying chains or assembling a radio system. The truth is, for basic communications, it is our opinion that anything beyond a squelch, RF gain and maybe a mic gain control is an extra feature you can definitely do without.
Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having all of the features, but not if the extra cost means that you are going to skimp on the antenna system. It is a bad trade off and one that is all to often exercised. The best radio with a lousy antenna system will NEVER outperform a cheap radio with a good antenna system. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise run for the door. Cheap antenna systems are cheap for a reason and that almost always means lousy components throughout.
In many cases, it isn't always just the antenna that is bad. In way too many instances you get a piece of coax that would be best utilized if it were used to tie your dog to a tree. There is a lot of junk cable on the market! If you were watering your yard with a hose that was literally full of holes you would better understand the problem of poor coax cable. Unfortunately, you can't see RF energy pouring out, or interference pouring into a piece of bad coax, but that is what you can often end up with.
Another part to watch for is the stud mount. The stud mount needs to be mechanically strong and electrically superior. Those in the know about electronics, RF or otherwise, will tell you that the majority of problems in an electrical or electrical-mechanical device will involve poor connections that cause opens, shorts or high resistance. The stud mount is an electrical-mechanical device that must support the antenna and act as a bridge between the antenna and the coaxial feed to the radio. Again, if you are looking for cheap ones, you can find them. They are made of aluminum, or they use non-stainless steel washers that are sure to corrode, or they have cheap plastic insulators that crack or collapse under normal conditions. And some of them have all of the above!
When you shop shop smart and you will only need to do it once. Give the majority of your time and money to the antenna system and you will be making the right moves.