Whether you're an amateur radio enthusiast or just someone looking to replace their car's antenna in a pinch, having the right antenna can make a big difference. Finding the best vehicle antenna can be quite the challenge, especially if you don't know what you're looking for or the exact antenna you need. There are a few things you should consider before buying an antenna. I'll help you sort through the options and show some recommendations for who are the leading manufacturers of multi-band vehicle antennas.

In this article, you’ll find information on,

  • Who manufactures multiband vehicle antennas?
  • Where to buy
  • What to Look for in a vehicle antenna
  • The types of vehicle antennas including internal and external
  • MIMO antennas
  • Definition of a multiband antenna
  • And lastly, VSWR.

Who Manufacturers Multiband Vehicle Antennas

  • Pulse Larsen
  • Panorama
  • PCTEL
  • STI-CO
  • Laird Connectivity

Pulse Larsen

Pulse Larsen Electronics has over 60 years of experience in manufacturing electrical components including antennas and connectors. Their antenna collection includes MIMO, LTE, GPS, VHF, UHF, multiband, and more.

Shop Pulse Larsen Antennas

PCTEL

PCTEL's mission is to enable wireless connectivity through its innovative antenna systems, devices, and solutions. Their antennas include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 5G, LTE, mounts, cables, and more.

STI-CO

STI-CO was founded in 1967 and based out of New York. The company works with government agencies, transit, and the military to deliver antenna solutions for various applications. The product line consists of cellular, compact, multiband, GPS, LTE, roof mounts, and more. This company is known for the small cover antennas used by the FBI.

Panorama Antennas

Panorama is a family business and is the leading design and manufacturer of radio communications antennas. Their solutions include cellular LTE, In-building, GPS, P25, IoT, and more.

Where to Buy

You can buy vehicle antennas directly from the manufacturer or through certified dealers. First Source Wireless is a dealer for Pulse Larsen and PCTEL antennas with over 20 years of experience in critical communications. For questions on antenna solutions for you, reach out to us today.

What to Look for

When searching for multiband antennas for your vehicle, here are a few things you should look for.

  • Need to have a strong signal reception that isn’t easily disrupted.
  • Durable enough to withstand harsh external weather or damage
  • Easy Installation and removal
  • Made of durable materials like stainless steel.

Types of Vehicle Antennas

Internal

Internal antennas can be found inside the trunk, dashboard, or windshield of the car. Internal antennas are better protected from damage or weather but don’t have as good reception as an external antenna.

 

External

External antennas are those found on the exterior of a vehicle. These can be found near the hood, trunk, or top of the car. External antennas typically have better reception but are more inclined to break or damaged by weather, like heavy rains. They also have better signal coverage for GPS.

Types of external antennas include

  • Shark Fin
  • Glass Mounted Antenna
  • Magnetic Mount
  • NMO Antenna

Shark Fin

The shark fin is an external antenna mounted on the top of most cars. A shark fin antenna is used for a car's radio (AM/FM), radio communication, GPS navigation, and TV receiving systems. This type of antenna is extremely rugged compared to a pole-like antenna and is better protected against weather conditions, environments, car washes, and more.

Shark Fin Antenna on top of a car

Glass Mounted Antenna

A glass-mounted antenna is used on a single pain glass on a car. A glass antenna has 2 pieces; the antenna base and whip that are mounted outside the car and the cable and base mounted to the glass inside the car. On a glass-mounted antenna, the signal is passed through the glass for transmissions and reception.

Glass-mounted antennas have their advantages because they’re easy to install without the need to drill into your vehicle. They also work well for proximity communication.

Aside from their advantages, glass mount antennas do have their disadvantages. Because of their good insulating properties, glass mount antennas have a poor performance by lowing incoming and outgoing radio signals. Window tint can greatly affect this type of antenna. Lastly, glass mount antennas aren’t great for long distance communication.

 Glass mount antenna on vehicle glass

Magnetic Mount

A magnetic mount antenna sticks directly to the metal of a car. The metal acts as a ground plane for the signal. This type of antenna is easy to install and reposition and doesn’t require drilling. These are great for temporary installation because they are quick to remove and reinstall.

Magnetic mounts do not work on fiberglass, aluminum, or soft top roofs. These should be placed in the center of the roof avoiding curves or edges that may disrupt the signal. Magnetic mount antennas are rugged and typically have a strong metal to secure them safely to the roof. Many emergency vehicles use magnetic mounts for communication.

 Magnetic Antenna on Roof of Car

 

NMO Antenna

NMO stands for New Motorola Mount and it’s a nonmagnetic option where the antenna is installed by drilling a hole into the vehicle. This style of an antenna is more permanent than other types since you are making a hole on the roof of your car. Since this is more permanent, if you want to move antennas between cars, this may not be the right choice for you.

You’re probably wondering why someone would want to drill a hole into their vehicle. An advantage of NMO antennas is they’re more secure compared to a magnetic option. Second, even though it’s drilled into your vehicle, you can easily disconnect the antenna and add a new one. Say you need to change frequencies, or it got damaged during an accident, with NMO you can change it easily. And finally, most NMO-style antennas come with two waterproof seals making them good against rust and leaks, but if not installed properly rust and leaks can still occur.

NMO antenna sitting on top of car

What is a MIMO Antenna?

MIMO stands for multiple input, multiple outputs. Just like its name says its antenna technology that uses multiple antennas at both the transmitting and receiving ends. Using multiple antennas allows more data to reach the receiving end. The advantages of a MIMO antenna are stronger signals without the need for a clear line of sight, data can reach the receiving end without affecting its signal, and improved visual and audio quality.

What is a Multiband Antenna?

Multiband Antennas are designed to operate in multiple bands of frequencies. One part of the antenna will be used for one band while another part is for a different band.

VSWR

The VSWR in an antenna stands for Voltage Standing Wave Radio. VSWR is a measure of how efficient radio frequency power is transmitted from a power source through a transmission line. A value of VSWR of under 2 is suitable for most antennas. The smaller the VSWR the better the antenna is matched to its transmission line and more power is being delivered to the antenna.

 

Looking for an antenna for your vehicle but don’t know where to start? First Source Wireless is here to help you find the right solution for your needs. We are an authorized dealer of Pulse Larsen and PCTEL antennas and other telecommunication products for over 20 years.

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