Getting a GMRS License

Why Get a License?

The General Mobile Radio Service (“GMRS”) is a radio service provided by the FCC. It permits individuals and their families the use of higher power radios, approved radios include both consumer-end radios as well as professional grade commercial radios, and resultant can provide excellent point-to-point two way radio communications over long range.

Sharing the same frequencies as the Family Radio Service (FRS), a GMRS license is required when operating a radio above 2 watts of power, and permits up to 50 watts of power. GMRS licenses are also able to utilize repeater stations, which can dramatically expand the coverage area and range of a radio, reliably into the tens and occasionally hundreds of miles depending on the repeater – this is in contrast of usually a few miles between direct radio contact. Repeaters can also be linked together, permitting communication between regional and nationwide areas.

A GMRS license costs $70, and requires only submitting a relatively simple application to the FCC – there is no exam of any sort. The license is valid for 10 years, and covers you and your entire family; it includes your spouse, kids, grand-kids, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews… and then duplicate that on your in-law’s side (if you’re married, that is). That’s a lot of users for a relatively small fee. A GMRS license will let you legally utilize GMRS radios. You must be 18 or older to apply for a license, but once obtained, the license extends to any family under the age of 18; yes, minors are legally allowed to use the service.

Radio Equipment

Many are familiar with the consumer end GMRS ‘blister-pack’ radios that you can get at your major retailers. These include brands such as the Motorola Talkabout, Midland MXT & GXT, and BTech GMRS-V1 radios which can be found at Costco, Walmart, Cabela’s, Amazon, or a plethora of other places. These work well, and many are repeater capable, however having a GMRS license will also let you use Commercial radio equipment if it is Part 95 certified. Some great radios in this market include the Kenwood TK-880H, TK-890, and TK-8180H radios – these all carry Part 95 certification making them legal for GMRS use. Commercial radios are also generally military spec certified for shock, dust and vibration, have great receivers, and will put out up to 50 watts of power depending on the model; a lot of plenty of oomph to reach places! They’re perfect for commuters, off-roaders, and for those that just happen to think radios are fun and enjoy tinkering with them.

Surplus radios can be had for dirt cheap off eBay; the Kenwood TK-880H is rock solid, and can be had for about $40 on a regular basis. If you’re in the market for a new radio, the next cheapest high power option is probably a Midland MXT400, a consumer grade 40 watt radio which goes for about $250.

The downside of commercial units is that they must be programmed before they can be used, since they are made to be used in a variety of radio services and applications. We are working on setting up a programming… program. In the meantime, if you need help with any radio or its programming please post on the forum and we’ll be glad help you out.

How to Get a GMRS License

There are a number of great guides available online to walk you through the process, please check out the following Reddit post which will walk you through the steps in detail: