4 Best Cheap Walkie Talkies That Are Still Useful

Best cheap walkie talkies lined up on a log

We tested four budget-friendly two-way radios and rated them by range, clarity, ease of use, and durability. In this review, we’ll share our research to help you find the best cheap walkie talkies that are actually useful and not total junk.

Sometimes, you just don’t want to splurge, or maybe you’re looking for some inexpensive walkie-talkies for the kids to play with. These sub-$40 radios also speak to my ultralight soul. Why carry something big and bulky when you can get most of the same features in a smaller, lighter, and cheaper package?

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Best Overall
For Kids & Groups
Most User-Friendly
Best Deal
3.4
3.0
2.9
2.9
$29.99
$39.99
$39.99
$23.85
Why We Like It:
Exceptional clarity, range, and features outdo its price point and make it functional as a real tool or a toy.
Why We Like It:
Rechargeable batteries, a simple interface, and quantity discounts make it accessible for kids and large groups.
Why We Like It:
Classic controls and no frills to distract make it extremely easy to use with respectable clarity to boot.
Why We Like It:
A hard-to-beat price and frequent sales make the bells and whistles of this Amazon special hard to resist.
Best Overall
3.4
$29.99
Why We Like It:
Exceptional clarity, range, and features outdo its price point and make it functional as a real tool or a toy.
For Kids & Groups
3.0
$39.99
Why We Like It:
Rechargeable batteries, a simple interface, and quantity discounts make it accessible for kids and large groups.
Most User-Friendly
2.9
$39.99
Why We Like It:
Classic controls and no frills to distract make it extremely easy to use with respectable clarity to boot.
Best Deal
2.9
$23.85
Why We Like It:
A hard-to-beat price and frequent sales make the bells and whistles of this Amazon special hard to resist.
02/29/2024 12:56 am GMT

How We Chose the Best Budget Walkie-Talkies

There are a ton of inexpensive walkie-talkies and we couldn’t test them all. In the end we chose four current models that represent the breadth of available brands and options well. These are the specifications we used to pick them.

  1. Under $40
  2. License-free Family Radio Service (FRS) radios
  3. Two radios from well-known brands and two from unfamiliar brands

Besides using two-way radios professionally in my day job, I’ve tested more than a dozen of the best-selling walkie talkies available that range in price from fairly expensive to downright affordable. I’ve used them for everything from keeping track of my kids at the local ski hill to camping trips, and even during a trip to the San Diego Zoo. They’re light, convenient, and work in places where cell phones don’t. Plus, they’re much cheaper than buying phones for the whole family.

Best Cheap Walkie Talkies of 2024: Tested and Reviewed

Each budget walkie-talkie in this guide has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. They also come with different features, and you will need to decide which ones are important to you. That being said, here are my recommendations:

  1. Best Overall Budget Radio: Midland X-Talker T10
  2. Best for Kids and Groups: Retevis RT22
  3. Easiest-to-Use: Motorola Talkabout T110
  4. Best Value if On Sale for Under $20: Moico

If you’re more interested in performance than price, check out our hands-on review of the best walkie-talkies overall.

1. Best Budget Walkie-Talkie

Best Overall
Midland X-Talker T10
$29.99
  • 22 FRS channels
  • 38 privacy codes
  • 3 AAA batteries
  • 3.8 ounces per radio
Outdoor Empire Score:
3.4
02/29/2024 12:56 am GMT

Pros

  • Longest range of the test
  • Useful set of extra features
  • NOAA weather channels and alerts
  • Small and lightweight
  • Respectable battery life

Cons

  • A little more complex to operate compared to alternatives

The Midland X-Talker T10 is the smallest and lightest walkie-talkie in this test. Despite its small size, it is still able to pack in a ton of useful features. These features include VOX hands-free talking, NOAA weather reports, and weather alerts. Not bad for 3.8 ounces!

For me, range and clarity are the most important features in a two-way radio, and the Midland X-Talker tied for the best range among the radios we tested. It maintained a clear signal up to 1.6 miles with a clear line of sight, and the audio quality was also quite impressive.

Midland x-talker t10 clipped on chest strap of man's running vest
The Midland X-Talker is small, lightweight and easy to carry.

It even transmits at a higher power on select channels and has decent water resistance (even if water damage is not covered by warranty), which you won’t find on most cheap walkie talkies.

I was able to get a weather report from the bottom of a canyon with the Midland X-Talker, the only radio in this review that has NOAA weather stations.

Except for the Retevis RT22 which has a plastic holster-like clip, all of the walkie talkie belt clips in this review were the same as the Midland X-Talker. Nothing special, but serviceable.

Considering it’s a radio that fits in your pocket and costs less than $40, it packs quite a punch. These factors contributed to it winning the ‘Best Budget Walkie-Talkie’ category. 

2. Best Cheap Walkie-Talkie for Kids and Groups

Best for Kids
Retevis RT22
$39.99
  • 16 pre-programmed FRS channels 
  • Rechargeable Li-ion battery
  • 4.3 ounces per radio
Outdoor Empire Score:
3.0
02/28/2024 12:39 pm GMT

Pros

  • Easy for anyone to use
  • Voice announcements for settings
  • Ability to program channels
  • Nice, slim form factor
  • Rechargeable Li-ion batteries
  • Can be purchased in large quantity multi-packs (cheaper per radio)

Cons

  • No display
  • Doesn’t work well with other two-way radios
  • Small antenna and mediocre range

There are several reasons why the Retevis RT22 two-way radio won the ‘Best Budget Walkie-Talkie for Kids’ category. 

First, it’s incredibly easy to use. There’s no display or menu button, just a knob for power and volume control, a push-to-talk button, and up and down buttons for changing channels. It’s so straightforward that anyone can pick it up, select a channel, and start talking.

Second, if your kids are anything like mine, they’re horrible at turning things off. I’ve spent a fortune on AAA batteries in the past, so the rechargeable batteries in this radio are a real money-saver.

While the Retevis might be easy to use, it’s also complex in a way. You can connect the radio to a computer and program the channels to your liking. Just don’t expect the lackluster owner’s manual to help you much. I found YouTube videos are a better resource for this.

Retevis rt22 walkie talkie side view
I enjoyed the slim profile of the Retevis RT22. It felt more like a cell phone in the hand and fit easily in my pocket.

But wait, there’s more. The Retevis RT22 has hidden features. Like discovering old Nintendo cheat codes, you can unlock additional functions like scanning and VOX. None of these ‘secret’ features are groundbreaking, but there’s definitely more to it than meets the eye.

However, it’s not all sunshine and butterflies. The Retevis had mediocre sound quality and range, in our experience. It could only reach up to 1 mile with no obstructions and a straight line of sight. And when our editor, Chase Fly, used them at Yellowstone National Park to communicate among different vehicles at a family reunion, it didn’t take much in terms of distance or obstructions to lose contact.

Also, due to the lack of a display menu, it’s almost impossible to know what channel or privacy code you’re on. Just because the radio says you’re on channel 8 doesn’t mean it corresponds to the same frequency other FRS walkie talkies use for channel 8. This can make it difficult to use with a mixed fleet of walkie talkies from different brands.

The fact that they’re sold at a discount when you buy multipacks of four or more units does make them an affordable option for large groups or folks looking for a fleet of cheap, simple two-way radios.

3. Easiest-to-Use Walkie Talkie

Most User-Friendly
Motorola Talkabout T110
$39.99
  • 22 FRS channels
  • 3 AAA batteries
  • 5 ounces per radio
Outdoor Empire Score:
2.9
02/28/2024 12:15 pm GMT

Compare prices: Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse

Pros

  • Super simple setup and operation
  • Decent range
  • Good audio quality
  • A place to attach a leash
  • Multiple color options kids will appreciate

Cons

  • No privacy codes
  • No extra features

While I might have said that these compact walkie-talkies are simple, I didn’t mean it in a bad way. I really like the simplicity of the Motorola Talkabout T110. It’s easy to set up and use, and it feels solid and sturdy in hand. It doesn’t have any extraneous features to complicate things. If you’re looking for VOX hands-free talk or weather reports, though, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Young blonde girl child wearing backpack with motorola t110 walkie talkie strapped to it
I appreciate the fact that the Motorola T110 has a place to attach a leash, especially since my kids end up using it quite often.

Another aspect I liked about the Motorola T110 is its range, which tied for the best in our tested group. I could connect and maintain good audio quality up to 1.6 miles in a straight line of sight without any obstacles.

However, there is one downside to this radio that holds me back from recommending it: the lack of privacy codes. At this price point, it should include privacy codes to be on par with the alternatives like the Midland T10 X-Talker. This might not be an issue in less crowded environments, but in busier areas, it could become a nuisance.

4. Best Value When on Sale

Best Deal
MOICO Walkie Talkies
$23.85
  • 22 FRS channels
  • 99 privacy codes per channel
  • 4 AAA batteries
  • 4.5 ounces per radio
Outdoor Empire Score:
2.9
02/28/2024 01:05 pm GMT

Pros

  • Cheap 
  • Flashlight on top
  • Good feature set for price
  • Good audio quality

Cons

  • Poor range

The Moico, a Chinese-made, cheap walkie-talkie available on Amazon, is small and lightweight like all the other radios in this review. It boasts an impressive set of extras for its size and price. Features include VOX hands-free communication, scanning, monitoring, and, my personal favorite, a small, semi-useful flashlight on the top.

Alex marshall with moico walkie talkie clipped on chest strap while mountain biking
Using the Moico on a mountain bike ride in the Owyhee Mountains of Southern Idaho.

The primary drawback I encountered was its range, which topped out at 1 mile in a straight line of sight. This limitation was a bit disappointing, though the sound quality within this range is quite good.

While it’s not my top pick due to the limited range, it’s hard to deny that it’s a good deal, especially when you can find a pair for less than $20 on sale. List price is around $30 for a two-pack, but I have seen them for as low as $18.99.

What to Look for in a Cheap Walkie Talkie

The first thing to understand when looking for a budget walkie talkie is that there will be compromises when compared to more expensive radios. The key to picking the best cheap walkie talkie for you is to first decide what you need to use the radio for. Then you’ll be able to determine if the radio you’re considering will do the job.

It’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of thinking, ‘for $10 more I’ll get this feature,’ and before you know it, you’re $75 over budget.

Here are some questions that you should ask yourself before putting down your hard-earned cash.

Does it Have the Range You Need?

By federal law, FRS radios can use up to 2 watts of power to push out transmissions. One of the first concessions that cheap walkie-talkies make is to reduce the power used from 2 watts down to 0.5 watt. This conserves battery life and allows for smaller batteries to be used, but it also decreases range.

That isn’t a problem if you are going to use the radios to putter around a campsite. But it could be a problem if you need to communicate over longer distances

Does it Have the Extra Features You Need?

Modern FRS radios offer more than just basic communication. Some support hands-free operation with VOX, others provide NOAA weather reports and alerts, and some even include animal calls. The list goes on.

Determine which features are crucial for you and ensure your chosen walkie-talkie includes them.

Flashlight on moico walkie talkie review
My favorite feature of the Moico was the small flashlight on the top, though it’s not entirely necessary.

Does it Have the Channels You Need?

All FRS and GMRS radios use the same 22 radio channels. They can also have up to 121 ‘privacy’ codes per channel. Some budget radios may reduce the number of channels or privacy codes.

This isn’t a big deal if everyone in your group is using the same model walkie talkie. However, if you’re trying to integrate different two-way radios, you better make sure your budget walkie talkies don’t cut out the channels or privacy codes the rest of the group is using.

Is a Cheap Walkie Talkie Durable Enough?

Even the best cheap walkie-talkies tend to not be as rugged as more expensive two-way radios. They’re generally made of cheaper ABS plastic instead of a rugged nylon or high-end material. You can get a sense for how tough and waterproof a walkie-talkie is by checking for an IP rating. 

Most budget walkie-talkies have not been tested to any sort of standard, so assume they won’t take a beating and don’t shower with them. On the other hand, if they do break you’re not out as much money.

Is the Walkie-Talkie Rechargeable?

More often than not, budget walkie-talkies skip the more expensive rechargeable batteries found in higher-end models in favor of user-replaceable AAAs. This can be convenient on longer trips since you can simply replace batteries as needed, but it also adds considerably to the overall cost of your walkie-talkie over time. 

If you use your radio a lot, it might end up being cheaper in the long run to buy a more expensive model with rechargeable batteries, or the option to switch between rechargeables and disposables.

How We Tested

Below are the five criteria that we used to score each radio and a quick summary of how it was done. Each criterion is worth 5 points and the cumulative average becomes the Outdoor Empire Score for each product.

Range

While I personally used each radio in the field on different adventures in recent months, I also did a standard test on each. It was far from scientific, but I did the same test on each radio and the table below shows how each radio performed. 

Radio0.35 miles
Line of sight
0.56 miles
Behind a hill
1 mile
Line of sight
1.6 miles
Line of sight
2 miles
Behind a hill
Midland T104443.250
Motorola T1104.5344.50
Moico50300
Retevis RT22431.500

This is what the numbers mean:

  1. Mostly static 
  2. Lots of static, barely able to understand
  3. Lots of static, easy to understand
  4. Minimal static, easy to understand
  5. Clear, easy to understand

Clarity

Clarity was based on a mix between the above table and real-life experience. It should also be noted that clarity and range were scored separately. So, a radio with good clarity but poor range would still score high in the clarity category.

Ease of Use

This category was based on my subjective experience with each radio and to what extent I had to read the owner’s manual or dive into YouTube videos to set the radios up.

Motorola talkabout t110 walkie talkie review
The Motorola T110 is a simple radio with a simple display.

Durability

I didn’t take a chance and do any durability or waterproof tests on any of these cheap walkie-talkies. All of these radios lacked an IP rating and none were designed to be rugged or waterproof. That’s just goes with the territory at this price point. For that reason, I gave each a 2/5. To be fair, none of them showed any significant wear and tear after taking them out into the world.

Extra Features

I personally don’t care much about extra features in my walkie talkies. I want a radio with good range and clarity. It’s also important to me that it’s relatively easy to use. That being said, I know each person has their own list of important ‘must have’ features.

FeatureVOXWeatherFlashlightScanLeash attachment
Midland T10YesYesNoYesNo
Motorola T110NoNoNoYesYes
MoicoYesNoYesYesNo
Retevis RT22*YesNo NoYes Kind of
*While the Retevis has these features, you must know the special code to activate them and that requires a trip to YouTube.

Our Pick for the Best Cheap Walkie Talkie

This table below shows the final matrix that was used to score each radio.

RadioRangeClarityEase of UseDurabilityExtra FeaturesOE Score
Midland T103.54423.53.4
Motorola T1103.345212.9
Moico1.53.5423.52.9
Retevis RT222.52.54243

For its compact form factor, having the most useful features, and providing the best range and clarity, we recommend the Midland X-Talker T10 as the best cheap walkie talkie overall. It offers the best value compared to the competition and while great for kids too, it’s not just a toy. The Midland X-Talker T10 is great for outdoor enthusiasts, hunters, skiers, campers, beach-goers, families, and emergency preparedness.

Midland x-talker t10 walkie talkie review
We recommend the Midland X-Talker T10 as the best cheap walkie talkie you can buy.

Why You Can Trust Our Reviews

We know it’s hard to find gear advice you can trust. At Outdoor Empire we aim to provide honest, objective, hands-on reviews rather than just regurgitating information found somewhere else on the internet. Our process is continuously evolving and improving.

Here are some of the reasons that you can trust our advice in this article.

  • We actually purchased every product in this article.
  • Besides “testing,” we used this gear in real life situations.
  • The opinions, experiences, and results expressed in this article are our own. They are authentic, and unbiased. Nobody paid us for our favorable opinion.
  • We recommend the same products to you that we do to our friends and family.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Budget Walkie-Talkie

As a bonus, here’s a quick list of things you can do to get the most out of your inexpensive walkie-talkie.

  1. Make sure the batteries are fresh before using.
  2. Keep the radio antenna pointed up and orient yourself so that you are not an obstacle.
  3. If you can’t get ahold of anyone, seek higher ground.
  4. Hold the mic 3 to 4 inches from your mouth.
  5. Speak slowly and make sure to annunciate each word.
  6. After keying the mic wait a couple seconds before talking.
  7. Continue holding the PTT button for a second after you’re done talking.

Photo credit: Alex Marshall, Author