Buying Used Scanner Radios: Preliminary Checklist


Yep that’s a BC300. A legend…..

This is a quick response to a reader’s question.  I posted on Facebook about used gear. The reader said they were not comfortable with buying used gear (scanner radios in this case) because they didn’t know how to test/evaluate it before purchasing. Great question! This is even more important with summer approaching,  yard sales,  flea markets etc. will be loaded with old scanners!


Some strays that followed me home……

Like I said this is a “quick” response. Here’s a list of what I look for/ do with a radio before purchasing.


I have a problem…..They needed a good home…


  •  If it’s a handheld,  open the battery compartment and check for battery leakage and corrosion. If it has damage it can be cleaned up but this can be a deal breaker.
  • If its a handheld,  take the good batteries you brought with you and see if the unit powers up.
  • If the radio has a battery tray, check for cracks in the plastic. Sometimes it’s hard to find replacements.



Hard to tell but this battery Holder is cracked. I am still on the hunt for a replacement.

  •  Test the buttons and knobs. Turn the volume and squelch knobs to see if they are scratchy.  They can also be cleaned with contact cleaner if they are not to far gone. Next, push every button, see if it works. At this time look at the display to see if all the digits light up. Bad keypads are a no go.
  • Make sure the antenna connector is tight and not wiggling around. This can lead to a bad connection.
  • If it’s a base/ mobile, does it come with a power supply? If so, ask to plug it in. No harm in seeing if it works!
  • Know your NOAA frequencies! Know what ones are receivable in your area. Punch these into the radio and see how they work. Also have a list of very active/busy frequencies to test out. Bring a known working radio with you to compare.
  • Bring a spare BNC antenna. No antenna is not a deal breaker.
  • Some handhelds (some race scanners and uniden BC200xlt to mention a few) only use specific rechargeable battery packs. These units can sometimes be powered by a wall wart. They are hard to test in the field. Maybe a deal breaker.  I have many of these.  Battery pack are available but will cost more then you should pay for the radio.
  • The more you play with old radios the easier it will be to get the hang of  programming these old units. They are all different……but all the same…..👍 Use your cell phone and look up programming instructions for the specific unit. Most manuals can be found online.
  • Try this: push program then type the frequency in and hit enter. It’s not always that easy but some times it is.
  • THE MOST IMPORTANT PART IS: MAKE SURE THE SCANNER IS CHEAP ENOUGH YOU CAN RISK IT.  IF IT  BREAKS YOU HAVE A PROJECT AND OR SPARE PARTS! Set your budget. For me $5-10 on a older analog scanner is fair. Maybe $20 if I really want the radio. I find these deals all the time. Check craigslist, Facebook market place etc.

Some purchased new some purchased used!

Hopefully this is a good start . Remember,  this is a quick start guide. The more you poke around the more deals you will find. Good luck! If I missed something or you have something to add please comment below!

Dialtone OUT.


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