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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

Ham Radio on a Budget

from James Benedict, N8FVJ on February 8, 2009
View comments about this article!

"Editor's Note: Due to the popularity of some of eHam's older articles, many of which you may not have read, the eHam.net team has decided to rerun some of the best articles that we have received since eHam's inception. These articles will be reprinted to add to the quality of eHam's content and in a show of appreciation to the authors of these articles."





Ham Radio on a Budget

I hear a lot of feedback that Ham Radio is too expensive!†

The equipment costs are 'Sky-High' in recent years or Ham Radio is a 'Rich Mans Hobby'.†

I believe the hobby is less expensive now than in many years.†

The only possible exception was inexpensive equipment after WWII.† Keep in mind a Command Set would get you on the air on a single band for cheap, so will a new 2 meter rig for $169 today!† And the 2 meter rig has a better range most of the time with access to many hams. Accounting for inflation, I believe the new 2 meter radio is less expensive than the Command Set in the 1960s!†

Are we comparing apples to oranges?† I do not think so as 2 meters is communications.† If one wants high performance HF communications, SSB is the best bet.†

A new Drake TR-3 in 1964 was $550 plus $80 for the power supply.† A new 1964 Ford Mustang was $2000.† As for used, inexpensive SSB transceivers in the 1960s, forget it.† Not that many radios were built yet!† A new Heathkit HW-12 single bander for 75 meters was about $150 with power supply, but you had to build it.† A new multi-band Heathkit HW-101 was about $350 with a power supply.†

Today, many older multi-band HF radios are for sale.† The TS-520 costs about $275 used.† The TS-520 will 'run circles' around most 1960s radios with the excellent noise blanker alone.† Same goes for frequency stability.† For $50-75 more, many HF radios are available with a digital display.† As for antennas, anyone can built a wire antenna for cheap. Some wire antenna designs work well on many HF bands with a single coax feed.†

Are the new high performance radios expensive?† Well, lets face it, one thousand dollars is a sizable amount.† The fact is the TS-520 will get one on the air and perform well.† Chase DX?† You bet!† Check in to a 75 SSB meter net at night?† Perhaps not without an amplifier under some band conditions.†

Try CW! Same holds true for a IC-746!

The fact is hams have more options today.†

The hobby can be very expensive, but not necessarily so.†

Big bang for the buck?†

It does not get better than this!

Member Comments:
This article has expired. No more comments may be added.
 
Ham Radio on a Budget  
by N2UGB on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Good reprint. Worth reviewing and considering again. However, I'm not going to compare 1960 dollars to 2009 dollars. Broke in 1960 or now in 2009, broke is broke.

Almost all of my very modest QRP station was purchased used. I made the personal choice of ripping out my cable TV to save a few bucks.

Having no wife and kiddies made that decision much easier.

Enjoy the hobby with whatever is on the desk and avoid being an equipment snob. It is such an easy trap to fall into.
 
Ham Radio on a Budget  
by KB2DHG on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Amateur Radio is one of the MOST affordable hobbies in th word.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO OUT AND BUY NEW GEAR.
I recently put a new ham on the air for a total cost of under $500.00 which included an old but mint condition Kenwood TS 530HF rig, Icom 228H 2 meter rig. An astron power supply and coax and Home Brew G5RV antenna and a Home Brew J-pole for 2 meters.
Price of a used TS 530= $175.00
Price of a used IC 228H= $80.00
Price of a P/S= $100.00
Price of material to build an antenna= $120.00
Price of the face of a new ham making his first contact PRICELESS!
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by K4ZN on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
$350.00 in 1960 = over $2400.00 in 2008
$630.00 in 1964 = more than $4500 in 2008
$99.00 in 2008 (Ten Tec QRP kit) = $13.69 in 1960
In 2008 a $1000 dollar budget (IC-718, MFJ Balanced Tuner, Power supply, and wire for an antenna & ladder line) gets you on the air on all HF bands).
In 1958, try setting up a SSB/CW all band station of equal quality for the equivalent $137.00.

Almost any other hobby (hunting, fishing, woodworking, etc.) will consume more dollars than ham radio. If well cared for, the equipment generally lasts a long, long, time. I have 30 year old radios that work great!

A 100w radio, key down, (200w input) costs only pennies per hour to operate.

What I don't have is time to get on the air. sigh.
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by N8EMR on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
A kenwood TS-520 has sold used for around $300 for the last 20 years. Holds value well.
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by WW5AA on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Compared to my other hobby, flying my Piper Tomahawk, This one is "chump change".

73 de Lindy
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by N2EY on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
In general, the article is right. Compare the prices of new gear now to new gear in the past and the cost of amateur radio is much less today.

However, I take issue with this:

N8FVJ writes: "The only possible exception was inexpensive equipment after WWII. Keep in mind a Command Set would get you on the air on a single band for cheap, so will a new 2 meter rig for $169 today! And the 2 meter rig has a better range most of the time with access to many hams. Accounting for inflation, I believe the new 2 meter radio is less expensive than the Command Set in the 1960s!"

Sorry, wrong on many counts.

1) WW2 surplus was available at very low prices well into the 1970s. What made it so inexpensive was that the supply seemed inexhaustible.

2) An 80 meter Command set rig had far greater range than a 2 meter rig today.

3) The overall cost of the Command set setup was less, as were many other options such as parts from discarded TV sets and AM BC receivers.

4) There was lots of good inexpensive used equipment around back then too.

But if you're talking new-to-new comaprisons, today is less expensive.

---

What has changed for the worse in the cost of amateur radio is the cost of a shack and antenna supports. By that, I mean a place where you can put up a decent simple antenna.

In the bad old days, most hams lived in places where you could string up an effective HF dipole or long wire for a few dollars' worth of rope, hardware, wire and insulators, and nobody would say a word. With such an antenna, you could work several HF bands effectively with even a simple, low-powered rig like the aforementioned Command set.


Today, for many hams, the situation is very different.

73 de Jim, N2EY




 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by K0BG on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
The monies spent, now or then, is based on many more factors than mentioned in the article. And trust me, it isn't the affordability, or equivalent pricing!

For example, some people will purchase the best money can buy, even though they really can't afford to do so. You don't need examples, as they're all around us.

On the other side... I have a friend in the Phoenix, area, who carries around more cash than most people earn in a month. He's able to do this, because he's so tight, he squeaks while walking in bare feet! His mobile rig (that's what we used to call a radio or transceiver) is an old FT-101 he bought for $125. The antenna is an old Hustler fished from a dumpster at a hamfest.

Indeed, it is a frame of mind, and we're all matted a little different (pun intended).

Alan, KōBG
www.k0bg.com
 
Ham Radio on a Budget  
by N0AH on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Thank God you didn't mention any el cheapo Alinco or MFJ junk as being part of the budget. Nice choice on the Kenwood as a good buy.
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by N2UGB on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Good comment by N2EY regarding wire antennas.

Back in the 1920's, it was crystal radio time. New fangled radio was the cat's pajamas. Great grand-dad could string up a wire, just like his neighbors, and listen to the Kansas City Night Hawks or Happiness Boys all night.

The neighborhood didn't go to hades in a hand-basket because of a wire from the house to an Elm tree.
 
Ham Radio on a Budget  
by WA1K on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I don't think ham radio has to be that expensive. You can get away with setting up a decent HF station without spending too much money. I recently got back on the air after being out of the hobby for 15 years. I didn't have any equipment anymore. I was able to put together a HF station for SSB and CW for about $825 (if I was more patient, I could have gotten away spending less). This is with a solid state HF tranciever. This isn't a small amount of money, but compare it to what you spend on other items during the year (cable TV, cell phone, house phone, etc.) and it's not that bad, and it's a one time payment. Unless you have a really high electricity rate, you won't need to invest much more if you maintain what you have.

If you have the money to spend and want to upgrade your antenna system, have a transciever with all the bells and whistles, etc., that's totally up to you. I can still have fun with my modest station.

73,
Jack - WA1K
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by AD5X on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Let's see - I bought a Knightkit T-60 transmitter ($49.95) and a Knightkit R-100A receiver ($99.95) when I was working part-time in junior high school at $0.75/hour. By the time I was a junior in high shcool, I bought a Heathkit SB-300 receiver when I was making #1.25/hour part-time. Senior year I bought a Heathkit SB-401 transmitter when I was making $1.40/hour. Of course, I lived at home and had no living expenses. But ham radio is still very cheap considering today's radios and salaries.

Phil - AD5X
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by N2EY on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
AD5X writes: "Knightkit T-60 transmitter ($49.95) and a Knightkit R-100A receiver ($99.95) when I was working part-time in junior high school at $0.75/hour."

That's $150 at 75 cents an hour...200 hours' work!

And it doesn't include taxes, antenna, control system, key, crystals, etc.

AD5X: "But ham radio is still very cheap considering today's radios and salaries."

And there are still kits! (see www.elecraft.com)

73 de Jim, N2EY
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by AC7CW on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
It would be a lot cheaper for me if I could not blow up radios. I was rewiring a mike for my IC-730 [there is the bang for the buck radio of the last century!!] and I shorted out the low voltage power supply, it's on the bench awaiting some tld. I was in a big hurry to get my FT-8500 in a car before taking off on a trip and I hooked the power up backwards... the radio protected the fuse nicely... oh well, I like fixing up things but that one is a job for a Yaesu pro at some point in time...

I hate cheapskates, I grew up with one for a dad, it just never works out very well. Getting bang for the buck is another story however. If a ham can figure out what he /she wants to do in the hobby then researches reviews on eham and ARRL test results they can make their money work very well for them.

I just had a lot of fun this weekend playing with the SDR radio at http://websdr.ewi.utwente.nl:8901/ with it piped into Digipan... it was only capable of swling but you could not beat the cost!!
 
Ham Radio on a Budget  
by K6CRC on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I find the hobby to be relatively cheap if you buy used and look for deals. In my youth, I listened to SW and BCB, and practiced code on a modified command sets, at $10 each. Only in my dreams could I buy a real radio.

Now, I can buy anything I want, but it still is not as much fun as trying to dig up parts from old TVs and radios to get the command sets running. As with my first car, everything was scrounging and being creative. I fear we have lost that art in the western world.

randy
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by KC8VWM on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I think you have an excellent solar set up except that I would be very conerned about chemical fumes discharged from the batteries being closed in like that, a room full of fumes and one little spark from the relays in a rig or from a amp and you and your QTH will be on the moon......Thanks for the article

---------


I have never had any problem like that and I have been using battery banks of one type or another for over 20 years.

I don't know about "chemical fumes" in terms of actual release measured in ppm, but I suspect it is going to be very low or almost non existant.

I suspect if battery fumes were "explosive" then someone better tell the automakers about it because I suspect firing up a spark plug in such close proximity to these "battery fumes" will cause the hood to blow off your car. :)

73 de Charles - KC8VWM
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by K9MHZ on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
>>N0AH on February 8, 2009 Thank God you didn't mention any el cheapo Alinco....<<

Yeah, but you've got to give Alinco credit for one thing....just try and get a 220 MHz rig from some other source. They have dedicated 6 and 10 meter mobiles as well. I bought the 220 rig, and it's really not that bad.

Brad
K9MHZ

 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by KC8VWM on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
How the heck did that post end up in this forum? lol :)


 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by WR8Y on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Ham radio CAN be a "poor man's" hobby. My station consists of a TS830, old Heath Tuner, Old Johnson Tuner, MFJ dummy load and keyer. Total cash outlay including $200 or so for wire, rope insulators and ladder line: $1200.

The guy down the street bought his new Bass Boat and Trailer last year: $21,000.

And he spends less than 1/10th the time in that boat that I do with my radios.

Ham radio is the poor man's hobby!
 
Ham Radio on a Budget  
by KD6HUC on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I had a mishap with my Icom 756PRO not too long ago and was lucky enough to have a Yaesu FT-101E in mothballs, but it still works quite well. Working split for DX on 40 is a bit rough,but with a borrowed VFO I am back in business. As far as antennas go: Homebrew whenever you possibly can. Any ham who is not disabled should have no problem putting together a dipole and erecting it properly. If you can't solder a PL-259 then you may want to re-think if you are really a "ham" or just another "amateur"...
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by W7COM on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
My first HF rig was a FT-857 and an ATAS-120 now priced at $1028USD (Texas Towers) and has served me well. I talk into Alaska all the time, mobile-to-mobile up and down the coast often and even Japan a few times. I started with drilling a hole in my pickup workbox and following some of k0bg's lessons and made a good mobile station (in spite of the noise an old Ford Ranger spits out.) It's not the best rig but it's a good rig and it got me playing with HF after over a decade of playing with FM. I've now brought the rig inside and am starting to play with hanging wire around the lot.

The FT-857 and ATAS-120 isn't a great system but it is a good system. It works well if you give it a good mobile counterpose and you'll make contacts. Driving down the road and talking to a fellow in NY or MI is a blast. Talking with a lady that is also mobile in AZ just makes your day. Cheap as it is, it got me on HF at a price I could afford, which is really what we're talking about here.

(Special thanks to Alen k0bg for all the mentoring he gave me by writing up the most complete mobile HF site there could be. Go read http://k0bg.com and learn. He's in the class of Very Special People that share their knowledge for free, like Mike at http://www.onfreq.com/syntorx/ for old Motorola gear. May the gods of radio bless them with good propogation and antennas that are cut right the first time.)

I'm not a rich guy by any means (I'm on unemployment right now.) But about a year ago I had some extra cash and decided that if I didn't take the HF plunge then, I wouldn't have a chance for a good long time. Damn glad I did. Now that I'm over the hump of having a HF rig I can nickel and dime my way to a decent antenna system and a good shack at home.

These DC-daylight rigs that are available today offer so much to the new HF ham. This is a great time to be a ham.

And like the old war radios that were available decades ago, we're soon going to see a bunch of V/UHF gear for really cheap as the deadline for commercial/PS narrow banding comes due. We're going to have a load of solid Motorola HTs and mobiles going cheap because we'll be one of the few services that can still use them. I've got the RIB and software and am ready to grab them up!

Again, it's a great time to be a ham.
 
Ham Radio on a Budget  
by AD7WN on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Good article and generally good comments with one caveat: In comparing 1960 prices to 2009 prices, one cannot simply compare the wholesale price index for each year (or whatever index one is using). Goods in electronics have generally defied the general inflation trends. Moreover, the typical transceiver (or whatever)of the 1960s does not measure up to the performance of the typical transceiver of 2009. Because of these two factors, inflationary comparisons are not awfully meaningful.

Thanks for the good article and 73 de John
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by WA8FOZ on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
All good stuff. The thing to remember, though, is that for a newbie to prosper and not lose enthusiasm using used gear, he/she MUST have an Elmer. After 46 years of doing this stuff, I am happy fussing with old stuff - heck, I can even remember what grid leaks are! OTOH, old gear can be VERY daunting to a newcomer, and many of them only have no on-site support. We advise them to join clubs - I agree - but this is not an option for a lot of folks. They need IC-718s or similar options, lightly used if not new, to get started on HF.

Often, the loan of a TS 50 or similar back-up rig can be a blessing; but this as well means having an Elmer.

We all must do what we can.
 
Ham Radio on a Budget  
by N7KFD on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
My first rig was a Kenwood TS-120 for $400. I built my Elecraft K1 with almost every option (I didn't get the battery pack) for a little over $500. I had to build it but that was half the fun, it's a great feeling to use a rig you built yourself! I recently purchased a Kenwood TS-440S with matching power supply for a little over $500, so now I have a home rig and a camping rig for less than the cost of rebuilding my motorcycle engine!
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by NA0AA on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I'll probably be crucified for saying so, but Amateur Radio is a pretty inexpensive hobby compared to some out there. Heck, a decent radio does not cost more than a decent small bass boat and motor with trailer - in fact even a very small aluminum skiff with a 15 HP probably costs more than an FT-2000 or IC-756ProIII....

Someone mentioned airplanes - a Cherokee 140 rents for $150/hour wet at my local airport. Don't even get me started - My house cost less than some single engine airplanes cost new.

Skiing? Priced boots, boards and accessories? For about $2000 you can get a basic outfit, then $80 - $95 a day for a ticket, plus meals, lodging if needed.

Golf: $100 a round? I don't know, I don't play but I know Pebble a while back was offering a weekday special of $250 plus cart per person...a real bargain eh?

Sailing?

Shooting?

Motorcycles?

Horses?

Every hobby has entry costs, IMHO, Amateur radio has a pretty low entry price if you are willing to learn before you buy.

I mean, sure you can spend big $$ on radio, just like you can drive a Toyota Corolla or a Bentley. Nice thing about radio is that likely no one will know what the radio is on your end unless you tell them!
 
Ham Radio on a Budget  
by KE5VUI on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I have less money invested in my HF station than it cost me to make 3 fishing trips. The cost of the fishing trips consist of gas, bait, drinks, ice and lunch. This dosent even include the cost of the boat or upkeep so it is a cheap hobby. Oh by the way I also have more invested in a gas r/c boat than my Hf station.

KE5VUI Mike
Metairie LA

P.S Ive heard it said he who dies with the most toys wins.
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by KC8VWM on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
KE5VUI:

How's the Tuna Tin transciever working out for you these days?

:)

Nothing in life that's worth achieving is free.

Charles - KC8VWM
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by KC8VWM on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
My first rig was a Kenwood TS-120 for $400.

---

My first rig was an FT-847 that cost me $1200 at Dayton, because I wanted to buy "now" what I didn't wan't to pay for "later"

However I find you always end up wanting to pay for something extra later.

Nature of the hobby I suppose...

Pretty much like any other hobby. You start out simple and you start learning there is always something else better out there.

Hope the Icom 7800 gets here soon. :)

73 de Charles - KC8VWM
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by W7COM on February 8, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
KC8VWM:You start out simple and you start learning there is always something else better out there.

So right Charles, my first 'rig' was an IC-u2AT, a whopping 1W HT. Years later I learned how to hack old Motorola gear to play in the ham band. Lots of eBay and lots of playing on the bench. But boy did I learn a lot!

Now I'm tasked with sighting and installing a D-Star system for my club.

If you keep playing with the stuff one day you'll find out that you really know a lot about it and others are looking at you to solve the tough problems. It's a good feeling.
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by VA7AA on February 9, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
For a comparison on hobby costs... just compare one weekend, yes just one weekend of skiing for 2 at Whistler British Columbia... cost of lift tickets, rented ski gear, digs for the weekend, apre-ski activities, meals for 2 and booze in the local bar, transportation to the slopes.

Now compare those prices and then tell me if Amateur radio is expensive? After just one weekend and you would have blown most if not all the cost of a nice HF/2M transceiver..

Oh and don't even talk about 2010 and the Olympics...better be prepared to re-mortgage your house if you wanna attend that gig.

See you on 20 if the band ever opens up...
 
Ham Radio on a Budget  
by KB2DHG on February 9, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
YOU people that sy Amateur Radio is expensive are missing a big point!
Even if you go out and spend TOP DOLLAR on all the equipment needed to get you on the air THAT IS IT DONE!. My other hobby is vintage auto racing... This hobby is a constant cost...
If I am not spending money on repairing or maintaining the car, I am spending tons of money on traveling, entry fees and fuel.
Another hobby of mine is R/C model building. Again it cost money every time I take out my R/C model.
When ever I want to get on the air it cost me NOTHING but the electricty the radio uses.
AMATEUR RADIO IS A VERY AFORDABLE HOBBY.
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by NI0C on February 9, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
"The fact is the TS-520 will get one on the air and perform well. Chase DX? You bet!"

Yes, the TS-520S is a classic. My son purchased one used 25 years ago, and it is still working. Here's one bit of advice, though. If you are serious sbout chasing DX, you will soon want the external VFO in order to work split pileups. You might be better off with a TS-440S or another inexpensive rig that has dual VFO's.

73,
Chuck NI0C
 
Ham Radio on a Budget  
by W1KI on February 9, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Gee, just looking at all the replies here and I decided to post my 2 cents worth. I have had a lot of equipment over the years - nothing very expensive in the scheme of things, but probably typical of the average middle of the road station. I recently found myself in need to set up my old Kenwood TS-520S as my home station. It occurs to me that my '520 was/is probably one of the best investments I ever made in my hobby. I bought it new in 1977 for about $675.00 including the CW filter. Now 31 years later, it still works just fine. I've used it mobile, and in the field as well as at home. I can't begin to compute how many hours I have on it, but I am sure it is measured in the thousands. For many years it was my only rig, and now it is again my primary rig. Still has the original finals in it, and all I have had to do for maintenance was replace the driver tube a couple times. No, it doesnít have as many bells and whistles as the newer radios, but it sure does what a radio is supposed to do, and it still does it pretty well. It works out to something like maybe $25.00 a year plus the electricity to run it. It that isnít ham radio on the cheap, I donít know what is. Now almost $700.00 in 1977 was a fair amount of money, but when you amortize it over 30 plus years it is a real bargain.
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by N2EY on February 9, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
W1KI writes: "Now almost $700.00 in 1977 was a fair amount of money, but when you amortize it over 30 plus years it is a real bargain."

According to the westegg inflation calculator, $700 in 1977 equates to $2369.48 in 2007 dollars. Think about how much rig you can buy today for $2369.48!

One of the big differences in various pursuits isn't just how much money you have to spend but how it is spent. As others have pointed out, in amateur radio there may be a big outlay at first, but unless you are unlucky the maintenance outlays are relatively small to nonexistent.

OTOH, that big initial outlay gives some folks pause. Perhaps that's the real problem.

Before about 1975 or so, it was common for a hamshack to be developed in small steps. A would-be ham would start with a simple receiver (often used, surplus or homebrew) to get a feel for ham radio and learn the code. To hear better, an outdoor antenna would be added as conditions permitted.

Once the Novice license was earned, a simple CW transmitter and control system (often just a knife switch!) would be added to the station.

As the ham got more resources, elements of the station would be replaced with better ones, and the old stuff sold to other hams, put to other uses or dismantled for its parts. When the General license was earned, a VFO would be added, then maybe a modulator for 'phone. Etc.

Usually, an elaborate station was the result of a long period of evolution and "trading up". The total investment could be considerable, but it was done in small steps rather than one big lump.

73 de Jim, N2EY
 
Ham Radio on a Budget  
by VE6TL on February 9, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Another factor to keep in mind is that rigs are going to continue to get cheaper. I see five factors that back this up: i) increasing rate of turnover due to silent keys and aging ham population, ii) more and more communities implementing restrictions against external antennas resulting in more hams leaving the hobby and selling their gear, iii) more intense competition among manufacturers (more new models available now than in many years), iv) the present economic recession, and v) more efficient manufacturing practices.

The new ham just starting up still has to remember that there is a trade-off between buying more expensive new gear and cheaper used gear. Old gear comes with its own set of problems, and sometimes parts are no longer available or very expensive if they are. Knowing how to fix a broken rig is also important. OTOH, I've heard many stories of new gear breaking just out of warranty. With more features, there's more that can go wrong. The good thing about used rigs is that there's lots of information and many experts around that can provide good advice. Reviews on eHam.net can be very helpful in deciding what to stay away from and what is tried and true. For those considering the purchase of older, more reliable gear - it may be worthwhile comparing the cost of two of them (buying a second one for spare parts) to some newer gear that would serve a similar function.

Jerry
VE6CNU
 
Ham Radio on a Budget  
by KE7WNB on February 9, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Good article. I agree that Ham Radio is an affordable hobby.

I started out with a Yaesu VX-6R bought new for ~$250. It lets me make all the local contacts I need to, allows me to participate in an ARES group, and even gives me worldwide contacts through echolinked and IRLP linked repeaters. To this I added a 33cm Kenwood TK-981 for only $135 and can spend time on the 902hub. As for getting a beginners 100W HF setup I'm figuring a cost of at least $1100 (radio, antenna and P/S). I'm in an apartment so a vertical antenna of some sort is my only option.
I think the reply comparing radio prices with car prices was good.

To compare this to my other hobby, Bicycling. Good hardtail mountain bike for commuting and errands $500-800. Dual-suspension mountain bike for some real off-road single-track riding $2800. Good enthusiast level road bike for riding centuries (100 miles) $2000. Not to mention upgrades and maintainance. In each purchase (it's taken me years to afford this stuff, and now I'm repeating the process with radios) I never bought what I really wanted, but bought what would do the job. And in each case I bought more bike than I had skill to ride so I had room in which to learn and grow.

What I like the most about the radio hobby, is that there are others out there that are truly there to help you. Talk to your radio friends are there always seems to be someone with some older, retired equipment that they are willing to lend out, give away, or sell for a reasonable amount in order to get a new ham on the air. That is the one thing that I think really makes radio doable on a budget.
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by N2EY on February 9, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
AD7WN writes: "In comparing 1960 prices to 2009 prices, one cannot simply compare the wholesale price index for each year (or whatever index one is using). Goods in electronics have generally defied the general inflation trends."

I have to disagree with that, somewhat. Yes, many electronics devices are less expensive now than they used to be (computers are probably the best example even if you disregard the leaps in their capabilities.) But what matters to most buyers is how much cash they have to shell out.

30 years ago, for example, $25,000 a year gross income
was a good middle-class income. $10,000 bought a very nice new car, $50,000 bought a nice house in a good neighborhood in most of the USA, etc. Spending $1000 on a ham rig was a lot of money!

AD7WN: "Moreover, the typical transceiver (or whatever)of the 1960s does not measure up to the performance of the typical transceiver of 2009."

That depends on how you define "performance" as opposed to "features", and how much things like repairability matter. While the newer rigs have all sorts of things that were impractical or even impossible 30-odd years ago, the basic "ability to make QSOs" is not that much different in many cases.

AD7WN: "Because of these two factors, inflationary comparisons are not awfully meaningful."

Consider looking at it this way: How many hours' work does it take to assemble a basic/intermediate/advanced amateur station of today, compared to some time in the past?

73 de Jim, N2EY
 
My easy way to afford ham radio  
by KASSY on February 9, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Instead of buying cars new, I buy used, at least ten years old. I save about $15k on the purchase, then another $1200 a year for insurance, registration, and manufacturer-required "maintenance". I get about ten more years out of them. Older cars also weigh less and get better fuel economy than today's overloaded vehicles. I estimate I save $3,000 a year buying my vehicles ten years old.

That pays for a lot of ham radio.

- k
 
RE: My easy way to afford ham radio  
by N7DCR on February 9, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I would have to agree with the original post on this subject.In the past year I have upgraded my station.Now using Icom 746 PRO and 703+ rigs.My original rig was a Kenwood TS-520,with a cost of around $600.00-650.00.Ran this into a Hy-Gain TH6DXX @ about 60 ft. and worked the world.The cost of the 520 was about 1/3 the cost of the Icom 746 PRO alone!..Even though the new Icom rigs have technically advanced features surpassing the old hybrid Kenwood rigs,the receive audio on my Kenwood rig is far superior!..There are signals I can hear on it that are not even audible on the Icoms!..Having inherited a second TS-520,I will be sending them both out to be refurbished soon.They just don't make them like they used to.And the cost nowadays is quite high for a lot of operators. The post was about the cost to afford this hobby.Mine is about the cost and the quality in the products purchased nowadays.Now,back to listening to my boat anchor!..73 from N7DCR/ex WB6TPF.
 
RE: My easy way to afford ham radio  
by KC8VWM on February 9, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Kenwood rigs,the receive audio on my Kenwood rig is far superior!..There are signals I can hear on it that are not even audible on the Icoms!.

-------

Gee have you ever tried a Yaesu FT 1000 MP MK V with inrad filters installed?

No comparison.
 
RE: My easy way to afford ham radio  
by KB0TXC on February 10, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
This old article was very well written, and it caused me to look at my QTH. Yes, the amateur radio hobby can be an inexpensive hobby if one is willing to be happy with gear that is not up to the second state of the art, and shop very carefully. My QTH consists of the following:

Right now, my QTH consists of "modern" (actually around twenty years old) radios consisting of an Icom R-70, IC-735, AT-150, Bencher low pass filter and a Hustler BTC-4 antenna. Of all of this, the Hustler was the only new thing that I bought, and was the most expensive single thing in my QTH. (DX-Engineering, I bought the ground plate, Choke, fold over mount, and the little things such as radial hardware kit, wire staples for ground plane etc.)I spent about a total of eight hundred US dollars over the course of two years on this set up. It will allow a general to talk (or use code...ick...with a key...)on the HF bands. I still need to get some little convienances, such as a decent RF switch, new Coax, and the like.(I also collect old Heath hollow state gear, but that is another story.)

I also have a few things that I do not count as an expense, as they were added as time went on that were gifts, discarded scraps or things found in the dust bin somewhere...things like a long wire for reception, a 9:1 transformer to allow coax to feed the above longwire that was just handed to me at a hamfest, a beautiful speaker cabinent that my son built for me in his wood shop class (really the only thing that would really p**s me off it it was lost or stolen as he made it for me), etc.

Then there are the things that not necessary such as the neon call letter sign that my brother gave me as a birthday present, an antique Western Union clock, vintage broadcast microphone (that really should not be used with Icom rigs anyway), etc.

In order to find the best deals, it is very important to network with other amateur radio operators. They can usually find <very> good deals on all sorts of gear. A truly helpful and generous amateur has greatly helped me on my quest to get on the air with electromechanical RTTY... He GAVE me an ASR-28, (I offered to pay him repeatedly, he refused), found me a TT/L-2 converter that looks as if it were built in a Western Electric prototype shop that cost $50.00, loop current supply etc.

With a little willingness to scout around for deals, make friends, research (I avoided a lot of problems by doing extensive reading of the reviews right here at e-ham), and do some of the work themselves, amateur radio can be a rewarding and fun hobby. I will be able to enjoy my hobby for many years without a lot more necessary expenses (I did say 'necessary'...)Now I am looking for a seperate tape perforator, a "real" 19 inch radio cabinent (no computer switch cab...rather a heavy, substantial rack that one could set the front end of their truck on without it collapsing) to put my converter and some homemade patch panels in, and a solar power system. But again, these are not necessary, just options.

Best and 73!

Joe KBoTXC
 
RE: My easy way to afford ham radio  
by EX_AA5JG on February 10, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
"Good enthusiast level road bike for riding centuries (100 miles) $2000."

But of course cycling can also be like ham radio. I did 3 centuries on a Schwinn Varsity which I bought used for $75.

73s JOhn AA5JG
 
Ham Radio on a Budget  
by KG4CLD on February 10, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I've always look at amateur radio as a fun hobby where you can put life back into a relic from the past. I enjoy searching yard sales, flea markets, surplus piles looking for replacement parts for transceivers and receivers that haven't been in production in more than 50 years. To me, there's no better feeling than working DX on an vintage set and hearing good reports. And you don't have to be an electronics expert to do it. Just be patient, be willing to learn, and ask a lot of questions. Trust me, there's ALWAYS a person willing to help. You just have to be willing to try...

 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by KD3JF on February 11, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
I think one thing that should be considered is for some of us our income has not increased with the cost of new equipment.

I remember talking to Scott W4PA when the first Omni came out costing around $2500.00. I remarked to Scott that $2500.00 was a lot for a radio and his reply was this radio is not for everybody!!

I have never in 48 years paid more than $500-$600 for a radio and some were brand new and some used.
 
MAKE CHEAP FUNNY SIGNS AND SAVE  
by PLANKEYE on February 11, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
RE: What Would You Do?
by WB2WIK on July 9, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Too bad about what happened, but as others have pointed out, when you're not part of the planning, it's easy to be left out of the plan.

You missed a couple of great Field Days in the 1980's when even the WARC bands were eligible for FD use...you could have been the 30m station! Alas, that changed.

I "guest operated" at a major FD here in southern CA when I first moved here and didn't know anyone at all locally. I attended exactly one club meeting (the first one I knew about!) and FD was the next month. I hadn't been invited, but decided to drop in, as it sounded like a huge event. Before dropping in, I thought, "What can I contribute? These guys already have everything!" So, I brought my little QRP rig, a gel cell to power it, a keyer paddle, some premade dipoles and coax, a cooler full of food and drinks, and a couple of hand-made funny signs to hang up, hoping they'd never seen these before. My signs screamed, "DANGER! 50,000,000 OHMS!" and stuff like that. The club members almost fell over laughing. Luckily, they hadn't seen this stuff before.

I was not only invited to operate, but ended up pretty much running the 40m CW station and making 386 QSOs with 5W and a dipole, being the second-highest "scoring" station at their very well-established Field Day.

I was invited to return the next year, and the year after that I became Field Day Operations Manager for this large and well-established club.

I think it was the funny signs.

WB2WIK/6

______________________

PLANKEYE:

Alot of folks can learn from this post.

If you have you ask, you don't understand!!

I gotta go, I'm making a new Foam Helmet for my friend!!

PLANKEYE

 
Ham Radio on a Budget  
by K7GFL on February 15, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
You forgot to mention a brand new ICOM IC718, probably one of the best radio's I have ever owned in my 40+ years as a ham, not a lot of unnecessary buttons, knobs, and whistles, but it has all the necessary stuff to get the job done, digital readout, digital signal processor, Noise reduction,selectable pre-amp, 100 Watts output, and lots more, all for $550.00. very lightweight, small footprint. use a car battery as a power supply if you need to. K7GFL
 
Ham Radio on a Budget  
by K7GFL on February 15, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
You forgot to mention a brand new ICOM IC718, probably one of the best radio's I have ever owned in my 40+ years as a ham, not a lot of unnecessary buttons, knobs, and whistles, but it has all the necessary stuff to get the job done, digital readout, digital signal processor, Noise reduction,selectable pre-amp, 100 Watts output, and lots more, all for $550.00. very lightweight, small footprint. use a car battery as a power supply if you need to. K7GFL
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by KB0TXC on February 15, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
K7GFL wrote:

You forgot to mention a brand new ICOM IC718, probably one of the best radio's I have ever owned in my 40+ years as a ham, not a lot of unnecessary buttons, knobs, and whistles, but it has all the necessary stuff to get the job done, digital readout, digital signal processor, Noise reduction,selectable pre-amp, 100 Watts output, and lots more, all for $550.00. very lightweight, small footprint. use a car battery as a power supply if you need to. K7GFL

KB0TXC responded:

I really think that the IC-718 is a lot of radio for the money. Listened to one in a shop here locally, and it sounded good.

That said, I am somewhat old school about some rather silly things, and one thing that I like is an honest to Bastet analog S-meter. The LCD display on the IC-718 is second to none for a monochrome display, but I have never really been able to connect with a bar display on a LCD compared to a meter needle.

This was the only reason that I bought a used IC-735 rather than a new IC-718. This is no criticism of the '718, just a personal thing.

Best and 73

Joe KB0TXC
 
Ham Radio on a Budget  
by WA0TDA on February 17, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Great article - well worth republishing! Some comments have referred to antennas being costly and hard to erect because of housing restrictions. I work in the Handiham program, and we have brought a remote base station online to act as a shared resource. While you do need high speed Internet to operate it, for the people with disabilities whom we serve the remote base is a cost effective way to get on the air without antenna issues. If I remember right, the W7DXX remote is only $30 per year to join, another inexpensive way to get on HF for non-Handihams. I remember starting out with a Knight T-60 as a teenager - Them wuz the days!
 
Ham Radio on a Budget  
by N5PJY on February 20, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
Used Kenwood TS830-S $450.00
Used MFJ 941-D $35.00
MFJ G5RV 80-6 meters $29.95

Contact with KC4AAA on first call first day owning the station, now that is priceless.
 
RE: Ham Radio on a Budget  
by KA9HJZ on February 25, 2009 Mail this to a friend!
it can be expensive if you want to have all the bells and whistles. Fortunately i don't use all that stuff. i had one new rig in my 30 years, and am getting ready to sell it, because i bought a tt paragon and power supply for 550.00. i also own a used TT Jupiter. i make my own antennas and do have a new antenna tuner. this is expensive to anyone, especially a young newcomer but i found a way to buy all this stuff. I quit smoking and boy did that pay off
 
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