If you’re shopping for a TV antenna, you’re in luck, because there’s no better option for getting live TV for the lowest price possible: Free! But before you pick up the first TV antenna you see at the store, you want to make sure that you’re getting one that will work for you.
We recommend researching beforehand to determine what range of antenna you need, and whether you want an indoor model or an antenna made for outdoor installation. The best place to start is AntennaWeb.org, which lets you enter your address or ZIP code and see what stations are broadcasting in your area, as well as how far away the broadcast towers are.
If you’re in or near a city, there’s a good chance you can make do with a small indoor antenna, since you’ll have several stations within a 10 or 20 mile radius that can be pulled in with a basic indoor antenna. If you’re more than 30 miles from your local broadcast tower, you’ll want to step up to an amplified model.
Any antenna that’s rated for 50 miles or more will either be a large outdoor unit, or come with an amplifier to boost the signal it gets. Whether or not to get an outdoor antenna will largely depend upon the building you’re in and the surrounding environment, since obstacles like house walls and even trees can prevent signal from getting through to an indoor antenna.
Non-amplified indoor antennas generally sell for between $20 to $40, but there are plenty of cheap TV antennas that sell for less than $20 that offer acceptable performance. An amplified antenna offers better performance, and will cost between $30 and $100. For the best performance, consider an outdoor antenna, which costs $100 or more.
Worried about future proofing for ATSC 3.0 as it rolls out this year? The good news is that your existing antenna will work, and may even pull in more channels under the new standard. The bad news is that you’ll need to buy a new tuner or an ATSC 3.0-equipped TV, and these are only now coming to market.