Short Car Antenna Vs Long Car Antenna | Which One To Get?

If you want to purchase an antenna to improve your reception, which one to opt for? We generally side with short car antennas as they’re better overall. 

However, the short car antenna vs long one has been debated for quite a while and that’s because there’s no clear winner that fits all cars. Both antennas have their good sides.

It’s true that longer antennas offer better reception quality and can receive signals of higher wavelengths. This means that they get reception over longer distances. 

However, short antennas aren’t that far behind in reception quality, especially if they have help from other electronic devices. They’re also more durable and easier on the eyes.

So, how do you know which one’s best for you? Keep on reading, and you’ll find out.


Overview of Short And Long Car Antenna

Let’s dive into what we mean by a short car antenna and what’s a long car antenna.

Short Car Antenna

Short Car AntennaShort Car Antenna

Shorter antennas are those only 2-18 inches in length. They usually have a copper coil inside them and a stainless steel, rubber, or aluminum construction to protect them from external factors.

Long Car Antenna

Long Car AntennaLong Car Antenna

Long car antennas are usually 32 inches in length. They’re constructed completely straight. Naturally, the best spot to mount them is the roof of your vehicle.

Their design helps them receive signals over longer ranges and offers improved signal strength.

Short Car Antenna Vs Long Car Antenna: Comparison Table

Look at the following table to get a quick idea of how well short antennas and long antennas hold out against each other on some of the most important criteria. 

CriteriaShort Car AntennaLong Car Antenna
Construction, Material, & ShapeShort, 2-18 inches long, copper coil, aluminum, stainless steel, or rubber exterior. Sometimes, coated with anodized aluminum. Long metallic rod, usually about 32 inches long. Stainless steel exteriors are the most common. 
Reception & PerformanceShort range, lower signal strength across longer distancesWider range, can maintain a strong signal strength in comparison
DurabilityLonger lifespan, better at withstanding tough weather conditionsEndures less in comparison, vulnerable to windy weather
Convenience & InstallationMore convenient to use and maintain, easy installation within minutesHarder to maintain, the installation process is more complex
Style & DesignLooks better in comparison. Usually coated in black shape like a wand. A long shape is less flattering. With silver metallic color, that stands out. 
Comparison Table

Is A Long Antenna Better Than A Short Antenna: Let’s Consider Some Important Factors

Is A Long Antenna Better Than A Short Antenna
car with antenna

Before choosing the right antenna for you, the following factors must be taken into account. Let’s take a look at how long and short antennas are fair in these criteria. 

  • Construction, Material, & Shape
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Short antennas usually have a copper coil inside with a protective layer of rubber or high-quality aluminum. Some have stainless steel exteriors. So, they are made to be strong. 

Some are shaped more like a wand, while a 50-caliber bullet design is getting more popular these days. 

Most long antennas are made of copper. These are high-quality antennas made of stainless steel exterior to protect against wear. Some are extendable, so you can keep it shorter when unnecessary. 

Some of them look like a wire spiraled around an insulated rod designed for maximum reception. Although available as both stiff or flexible, they’re considerably more vulnerable than short antennas.

  • Reception & Performance

A short flexible rubber antenna that’s common these days can only receive short wavelength signals. With a narrow bandwidth and high frequency, these antennas have lesser reception strength than longer ones. However, modern technology has enabled them to give much better performance.

On the other hand, longer antennas don’t need electric amplification. These antennas are naturally better at receiving signals at a longer distance. They operate on lower frequencies and higher wavelengths, which is why such performance is possible. 

  • Durability & Ability To Withstand Bad Weather

Hands down, short antennas are more durable and can stand up to bad weather. The obvious reason for this is their size. Because they are small, they don’t have to face much wind resistance. 

Manufacturers can clad them in protective rubber or anodized aluminum or stainless steel coats that protect them without it costing much. 

The sheer size of long antennas makes them vulnerable to heavy wind, making them bendable and fragile.

  • Convenience & Installation
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Short car antennas are remarkable when it comes to convenience. You can install one as your car’s external antenna without special tools.

The same can’t be said for longer antennas, as they can be quite a hassle to install. Because it’s long, the best place to place a long antenna is on the roof of a car, where it won’t block the driver’s vision. 

  • Style & Design

Their minimal look also blends in well with cars. Smaller ones are hardly noticeable. There are ones that are only 2 inches long. Usually, a short antenna is coated with black paint sometimes even with a matte, powdery finish. 

In comparison, most longer antennas are made of stainless steel, look awkward because of their long metallic rod, and often ruin your car’s aesthetic.

As you can see, shorter antennas are the clear winner in the majority of the categories. However, there are times when a longer antenna is more appropriate. 

When Should You Go For A Longer Antenna Over A Short One?

The only reason we would recommend a longer antenna is its reception strength. You should only get one if the situation absolutely demands signal strength and a wider range of reception. 

For example – if you plan on traveling a long distance through remote areas in your vehicle, getting a long antenna is more sensible. Otherwise, you may not receive radio signals.

Another scenario can be that you live in a remote place where the radio broadcast station is located at a great distance. In that case, you’ll likely need a long antenna just to have decent radio reception.

However, we don’t recommend longer antennas for urban dwellers who don’t travel to the rural side at all. You’ll most likely get high-quality reception anywhere in a city, even with a short antenna. 

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As there are significant downsides to getting a long antenna, it’s best to avoid one when possible. 

Why Does A Longer Antenna Get Better Radio Reception?

You may be wondering why longer antennas are needed for better radio reception, but cell phones get signals just fine without even having a visible antenna.

Well, that’s because radio stations operate at lower frequencies that can travel a greater distance. The radio masts at a broadcasting station will be much higher than any cellular network tower. These high towers broadcast signals of higher wavelength and lower frequency.

A wave can travel farther when its wavelength is high. So, there are fewer radio towers than there are cellular network towers, as those produce waves of smaller wavelengths and higher frequencies.

The longer an antenna is, the better it’ll be at receiving waves of longer wavelength and lower frequency. For good radio reception, we need longer antennas.

In contrast, a microstrip mobile antenna is enough to capture cellular signals as they operate at higher frequencies along shorter distances.

Why Do Some Cars Have Long Antennas Even in Cities?

You’re likely to see older car models with long antennas. That’s because antenna technology back then wasn’t as good as it’s today.

Earlier, longer antennas were needed to get reception from a long distance. Now, a much smaller antenna can get a reception that’s just as good in quality from the same distance.

Manufacturers have consciously tried to amplify the power of antennas. Smaller antennas can do the job efficiently. This is basically why we can now get so much data on a phone that’s the size of our palm.

However, there’ll be times you spot longer antennas on newer models. They’re most likely aftermarket purchases to upgrade the car’s radio system. 

Radio is still quite popular, and some people are willing to take the hassle of personalizing their car’s radio system for a more enriched experience. 

Final Words

In the comparison between short car antenna vs long, we generally side with short. 

That’s because they’re more convenient for everyday use and are efficient enough. Plus, they offer higher durability. As a result, you can use them for a long time till you get your money’s worth.

However, if you live somewhere with bad radio reception, getting a small antenna may be useless. In that case, we definitely recommend a longer one to listen to your favorite stations.

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