Amateur radio isn’t exactly an inexpensive hobby to get into. New base stations generally start in the $1-$2k range and go up from there. Portable/mobile radios a little less, usually in the $700-$1k range. There are a myriad of choices and sources available: new, used, vintage, auction sites, ham radio forums, hamfests, local users. For less $ and some elbow grease, you can still go the DIY route with a kit radio (a very intriguing idea). If you don’t know what you’re looking at or looking for, it can be pretty overwhelming.
Amateur radio equipment tends to be very modular, so it’s not just the radio you need. There’s also the power supply (another couple of hundred dollars), an antenna (or two, or three…how many bands do I want to play on?), and various and sundry accessories like filters, antenna tuners, maybe an amplifier and other things. It’s kind of like buying a car, and having to purchase the engine and tires separately. Most of the accessories can be acquired over time as the need for them arises, but the three basics are the radio, power and antenna.
I’ve been doing a lot of reading and a lot of browsing on ebay and swapmeet sections on various ham radio forums to get an idea of what’s out there and what’s available. I’m slowly starting to put together a list of what kind of gear I want.
I’m pretty sure I’m going to want at least two radios: a portable one for the car and a permanent station for the house. I’ll probably start with a mobile unit first. A third mobile/portable unit that I could take out and about with me without having to connect and disconnect what’s in the car would be nice too. That will probably be further down the road though. Both radios should be able to do HF/VHF/UHF, although I might consider VHF and UHF operation optional for the portable radio since I have my handheld.
As for specifics, I’m not partial to any particular manufacturer or brand. I think something new-ish so I don’t have to worry about it dying on me due to old age. There are some really neat looking old rigs up for auction on ebay that are tempting though. I don’t think I want to buy anything used online though. I’d much rather be able to play with it and see the radio in action beforehand, or know that the radio was actively used by the owner.
I’m not in a huge rush to get a radio just yet. This is the kind of thing I want to take my time researching and figuring out just what I want out of a radio set up. In the meantime, I’ll spend my time learning more about radio and getting more skill levels in electronics.