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Can I Use a Ham Radio on GMRS Frequencies? (Answered)

Writen by Edwin Jones

Fact checked by Andrew Wright

can i use a ham radio on gmrs frequencies

When it comes to radio operations, ham and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) are two of the most popular options. They both help you stay connected, although there are differences that might be worth noting.

Some ham radios can transmit on GMRS radio frequencies. However, should you do that? In most cases, the answer is no because it’s illegal. However, as you will know later, there are some exceptions to the rule which will allow using ham radio on GMRS.

Can I use a ham radio on GMRS frequencies? If this is the question you have at this moment, we got the answer. Keep on reading!

Understanding Ham and Its Radio Frequencies


Also called amateur radio, ham radio operates on a wide array of frequencies, including VHF, UHF, and HF bands. These bands have their distinctive characteristics, so operators can choose one that is most suitable to a specific situation.

Operating a ham radio that covers all frequencies or just hams in general, will require a license. In the United States, the licensing requirements are handled by the Federal Communications Commission.

If you’re applying for a license, take note of the three options available:

  • Technician Class: Beginners who are using ham radio for the first time should apply for this license. Once granted, you can use VHF and UHF bands.
  • General Class: If you want more benefits, including the use of HF bands, you should step up your basic license and apply for a general class license.
  • Amateur Extra Class: Unlock the most benefits with this license category. You must have a general class license and pass an exam that consists of 50 questions.

Meanwhile, the frequency range depends on the specific band where you operate. For instance, the range is 144 to 148 MHz for VHF, 420 to 450 MHz for UHF, and 14 to 14.35 MHz for HF.

Understanding GMRS and Its Radio Frequencies

Meanwhile, GMRS is a radio service that provides access to 30 channels. These channels have different ranges, which are indicative of their wattage. With GMRS, you can access 462 to 467 MHz.

Like in the case of hams, the FCC warrants a GMRS license for using GMRS radios. There are some important requirements. For instance, the minimum age is 18 and applicants must not represent foreign governments.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest differences between GMRS and ham licenses is that in the case of GMRS, you do not need to take and pass an exam. You can just visit a website, settle the payment, and get your license online.

Know the Rules and Regulations


Let’s get one thing clear: you can use a ham radio on GMRS frequencies.

However, like many things in life, if you can, it does not mean that you should. So, you should not use ham on GMRS.

From a technical perspective, both types of radio communications operate on different bands. The ham’s spectrum is often outside of GMRS, so it’s not possible for the two to be on the same frequencies.

Moreover, you need different types of licenses when operating the two radios. Some people might assume that a ham license is superior to a GMRS license, but it isn’t. You should apply for both if you intend to use both devices.

​​Using GMRS without a license will have repercussions. It may initially be a cease and desist order. But if you continue operating without a license, you might end up paying thousands of dollars.

Nonetheless, there are also instances when you can use ham radio on GMRS frequencies. Such is when a life-and-death situation confronts you. In the case of a life-threatening emergency, the rules above can be broken.

Pros and Cons of Using Ham Radio on GMRS Frequencies


  • Among others, one of the benefits of using ham radio on GMRS is the expanded communication range, especially during emergencies. For instance, if you are confronted with a natural disaster and you need rescue, you can use GMRS even if you’re technically on ham.
  • It’s also worth pointing out that ham radios will allow access to both VHF and UHF bands. This is unlike in the case of GMRS, which will only let you use UHF bands.


  • Meanwhile, the biggest con is perhaps that it’s against the law, as previously mentioned. Using ham and GMRS radios requires different licenses.
  • Another disadvantage is that ham radios are more complex. Hence, they can be difficult to operate, especially if you’re a newbie.

How to Use Ham Radio on GMRS

If you want to use mobile ham radio with GMRS frequencies, then you must spend time having it programmed.

Before doing so, however, take note that it’s against the FCC regulations. Nonetheless, as mentioned earlier, there’s an instance when it’s acceptable – in a life-or-death situation.

Potential Issues with Using a Ham Radio on GMRS Frequencies


Perhaps, the biggest issue is breaking the law.

Since these two radio services are not on the same frequencies and require different licenses, you will end up doing something against the law. Hence, there’s a potential for legal ramifications.

There can be monetary penalties, which can reach thousands of dollars for every infringement. Worse, you might end up in jail, especially if the use of ham radio frequencies on GMRS interfered with essential services.

Nonetheless, the things mentioned above are only for cases when you have no valid reasons to break the rules. Otherwise, there might be an investigation, and you’ll most likely walk free if you can justify your action beyond accessing frequencies you’re not supposed to use.

Alternative to Using Ham Radio on GMRS Frequencies

1. Apply for a GMRS License

If you don’t want to risk breaking the law, then the best thing to do is to apply for a GMRS license instead. This way, you can access GMRS frequencies using handheld radios.

To start, you need to obtain an FCC registration number, settle the payment (which is 35 dollars), and complete a questionnaire. You will log in to an online account and complete the registration. No need to take an exam.

One of the best things about getting a GMRS license is the ability to access repeater frequencies. It will repeat audio upon transmission, which can improve overall quality.


  • Does not require passing an exam
  • Easy online application
  • Operate GMRS radios legally
  • Ability to use a repeater


  • Limited access to frequencies

2. Use Family Radio Service

Instead of trying to access GMRS, consider using Family Radio Service or FRS instead. It has the advantage of requiring no licensing and having many channels that GMRS also uses.

The only disadvantage is that you cannot amplify your radio signals with GMRS walkie talkies and will be limited to two miles of range only.

Frequently Asked Questions


How far can a ham radio transmit on GMRS frequencies?

Since GMRS frequencies operate on UHF, they have limited power and range. Meaning, GMRS has a shorter distance coverage than ham. On average, you can transmit only within 3 to 30 miles.

What is the difference between ham radio and GMRS frequencies?

Let’s compare ham frequencies vs GMRS frequencies. In ham radio frequencies, you’ll access UHF (420 – 450 MHz), VHF (144 – 148 MHz), and HF. On the other hand, GMRS accesses only UHF, which ranges from 462 to 467 MHz.

What is the difference between GMRS and FRS?

FRS or Family Radio Service shares 22 channels with GMRS. The table below sums up their differences.

Licensing No. Users must not represent foreign governments. Yes. Users must not represent foreign governments.
Channel 1 – 7 2 watts; 12.5 KHz bandwidth 5 watts; 20 KHz bandwidth
Channel 8 – 14 0.5 watts; 12.5 KHz bandwidth


0.5 watt; 12.5 KHz
Channel 15 – 22 2 watts; 12.5 KHz bandwidth


50 watts; 20 KHz
Channel 22 – 30 N/A 50 watts; 20 KHz


In this guide, we answered one question – can I use a ham radio on GMRS frequencies? It isn’t a simple yes or no. In most cases, you cannot. It’s against the law, since they are on different frequencies and require different licenses.

However, when you’re in an emergency, especially when confronted with life and death, then you can use ham on GMRS.

This article also briefly delved into the ham vs GMRS radio comparison, talking about how they have different frequencies. So, it’s important to consider your needs and preferences as you decide which one to choose.

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