Best TV antennas for rural areas of 2022

Best TV antennas for rural areas of 2022


Published Aug 31, 2022 4: 00 PM

Cable TV may be flailing in the age of streaming, but classic over-the-air broadcasts are thriving—and to get the most out of those you need a classic TV antenna on your roof. As more and more people are “cord-cutting” by replacing their expensive cable packages with a selection of streaming services, many are finding this classic technology is perfect for filling the gap in locally specific content that you won’t get through Netflix or Apple TV , such as news and sports. Much of this has been driven by the convenience of new, compact, apartment-friendly antennas like the Mohu Leaf, but for folks out further from cities that need some extra juice, TV antennas are still the same dependable workhorses as ever. Aerial antennas are actually better than ever, with some of the same basic hardware designs in use for over a century doing even more work as the broadcasts themselves have gone digital and become much more efficient. They may look intimidating, but we promise you won’t need an engineering degree to set up these, and we’re here to help you find the best TV antennas for rural areas to suit your particular needs and budget.

How we selected the best TV antennas for rural areas

The “best” TV antenna for you will be the one that captures all of the broadcasts you want, with minimal distortion and at a reasonable price. That means simpler and cheaper will be plenty good enough for many people. However, this list is focused on antennas for rural areas so, presumably, you’ll need a little more power. We pored over professional and customer reviews and best-sellers to provide a selection of long-range TV antennas for rural areas at various price points, and with different features to meet your particular needs, wherever you may be.

What to consider before buying one of the best TV antennas for rural areas

At a basic level, you’ll need an antenna with enough range and power to pick up all the channels you want (see below). While city dwellers can now usually get by with those discreet flat sheet antennas that you can stick to a wall or window, rural customers will likely need something more serious, which entails mounting it on your roof or in your attic. 

The further out you are from the broadcast source, or the more physical interference you have to deal with (such as hills or trees), you’re going to want to mount the antenna higher up to compensate. Most of our suggestions include at least some amount of mounting hardware but, depending on your needs, you may need to purchase things like additional brackets, a mast, or a longer cable to get the antenna secure and where you need it to be. Make sure you’ve planned accordingly to do this safely, with help if necessary. You may need to experiment a bit with the location and orientation to ensure the best possible signal, particularly with more directional antennas.

What do you want to watch?

TV antennas pick up local broadcasts, which is perfect for regionally-specific news, sports, and public access to supplement the big, generic streaming platforms. For over 95% of homes in the United States, an antenna should at minimum catch local affiliates of FOX, CBS, ABC, NBC, The CW, and PBS. Beyond those standards what you can get will vary widely by where you are, with proximity to major cities usually meaning more options.

To find out what’s available near you, you can input your address in a free online tool like AntennaWeb and DTV Reception Maps from the Federal Trade Commission. The sites will generate a list of all the stations you could pick up, along with information about the strength, type, and direction of the signal, which will inform how strong of an antenna you need, as well as in which direction you may need to orient it.

Won’t the image quality be bad, though?

The older you are, the more likely it is that you have memories of manipulating the “rabbit ear” antennas directly on top of the television set to try and coax a still-fuzzy, but at least legible image out of the static. Since a 2009 U.S. government mandate, however, all U.S. TV stations broadcast by digital signals, rather than the older analog format. Analog broadcasts transmitted the complete image for every frame (30 times per second), versus digital signals much more efficiently, only including changes from frame to frame. This means that major networks now broadcast in crisp, colorful, Full HD (1920 x 1080p). In fact, because cable providers are bundling so many different channels together over the same landline, the same network’s broadcast over the air is often actually less compressed (meaning clearer) than its cable equivalent. You don’t need to know how it works, however, to enjoy the fact that over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts are better than ever in terms of visual quality.

Range and gain

The two primary stats you need to worry about when picking a TV antenna, particularly for rural areas, are range and gain. Range is self-evident: it indicates roughly how far away a broadcast source can be and still be picked up by the antenna. Make sure that you choose an antenna with enough stated range to comfortably encompass any and all stations you want to pick up, as determined above by looking at broadcast maps.

Gain (measured in decibels/dB) indicates how good the antenna is at picking up distant signals in a particular direction. While too-high gain can actually be counterproductive when you want to pick up signals omnidirectionally, for this rural-focused list we are expecting more distant signals in particular directions, which means higher gain will generally mean a clearer, more consistent signal.

UHF and VHF

All broadcasts are regulated by the government to transmit over the air in particular bands of frequency. The vast majority of stations now are UHF (ultra-high frequency), with fewer and fewer using the older VHF (very-high frequency) legacy band (often subdivided into “Hi-V” and “Lo-V”). UHF antennas can typically pick up VHF stations regardless, particularly at the higher end of the spectrum, but if enough of the stations you want to cover are listed as Lo-V, you may want to make sure you choose an antenna that officially picks up both, to make sure you properly cover all your bases.

The best TV antennas for rural areas: Reviews & Recommendations

Despite what you may have thought, over-the-air television is actually alive and well here in the 21st century. If you’re looking to supplement your streaming services with some local flavor, look no further: no matter your budget or needs, the best long-distance TV antenna to complete your setup is here among the options we’ve assembled.

Best overall: Antennas Direct 8-Element Bowtie

Why it made the cut: The Antennas Direct 8-Element Bowtie is big, powerful, and flexible enough to suit almost anyone’s rural TV needs.

Specs

  • Range: 70 miles
  • UHF/VHF: Both
  • Installation: Attic/Outdoor
  • Gain: 17.4 dB

Pros

  • Great performance
  • Flexibility from multiple aimable panels
  • Lifetime warranty on parts

Cons

  • Large
  • Includes mounting hardware, but requires mount and coaxial cable

The Antennas Direct 8-Element Bowtie antenna is hard to ignore, with four separate reflecting panels that you can independently orient along two rotating shafts. This lets you either spread them out to cover a wider angle or focus them to better pick up on distant signals in a particular direction, according to your needs. A generous 70-mile range and 17.4 dB make it more than powerful enough for most people’s needs. Although it may require some extra hardware to mount in place, customers have noted that the Antennas Direct customer service is very responsive and helpful for making sure everything is properly configured and optimized.

Best for long range: Five Star Outdoor Digital Amplified HDTV Antenna

Why it made the cut: Five Star’s outdoor antenna offers 360-degree coverage at a whopping 200 miles for a very reasonable price.

Specs

  • Range: 200 miles
  • UHF/VHF: Both
  • Installation: Outdoor
  • Gain: 15 – 35 dB (boosted)

Pros

  • Fantastic long-range performance
  • 360-degree motorized coverage
  • Mounting pole and hardware included

Cons

  • Somewhat complex assembly

The Five Star Outdoor Digital Antenna reaches a distance of 200 miles. All six of its reflector elements are aligned to focus in a single direction, but the whole assembly is motorized, allowing for complete, 360-degree coverage. The motorized shaft makes assembly a little more complicated than other antennas, but with all mounting hardware included the extra effort is worth it for the flexibility and relatively low price overall.

Most durable: Channel Master CM-5020 Masterpiece Series

Why it made the cut: Five Star’s outdoor antenna offers 360-degree coverage at a whopping 200 miles for a very reasonable price.

Specs

  • Range: 100 miles
  • UHF/VHF: Both
  • Installation: Outdoor
  • Gain: 16 dB (boosted)

Pros

  • Long range
  • Weather-resistant
  • Boom included

Cons

  • Tricky installation
  • Unidirectional
  • Expensive

Channel Master’s Masterpiece Series lives up to what you’d expect from that name: classic design, quality construction, and great performance, at a premium price. It’s a classic “Yagi-Uda” (or simply “Yagi”) antenna, which refers to this particular fixed and unidirectional style of design (so named after the Japanese researchers who designed them in the 1920s). This makes it very effective in a single direction, which is often the most useful for rural situations where you’re pointing towards the nearest major metropolitan area for most of your signals. With a 100-mile range and solid performance from a dependable brand, we chose this Channel Master model in particular because it’s solidly weather-resistant and rated for 30 pounds of wind force. Installation may be a bit more technical than other antennas, but once it’s set up you will likely never need another.

Best value for long range: RCA Compact Yagi

Why it made the cut: Solid performance and straightforward assembly at a great price from a known brand.

Specs

  • Range: 70 miles
  • UHF/VHF: Both
  • Installation: Outdoor/Attic
  • Gain: 15 dB

Pros

  • Great value
  • Compact
  • Easy assembly

Cons

  • Unidirectional
  • Coaxial cable not included

RCA is basically American royalty as far as electronics brands go, dating back to the early 20th century. Their basic, compact Yagi is one of the best-selling TV antennas on Amazon for a good reason, offering great performance and straightforward assembly at a very reasonable price. Although you’ll need your own coaxial cable—and, like any Yagi, it will require a little finesse to get placed most effectively—this compact, preassembled mount is otherwise about as straightforward as it gets for plug-and-play assembly.

Best budget: Five Star Indoor/Outdoor Yagi Antenna

Why it made the cut: Five Star delivers a solid, classic Yagi for an accessible and low price.

Specs

  • Range: 200 miles*
  • UHF/VHF: Both
  • Installation: Attic/Outdoor
  • Gain: 12 dB 

Pros

  • Solid performance
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Sub-par included coaxial cable
  • Unidirectional

For just about $50, the Five Star Indoor/Outdoor Yagi antenna is about as cheap as you can expect to go on long-range TV antenna for rural areas that still gets the job done. The stated 200-mile range is likely a bit ambitious, according to customer reviews, but it’s reportedly solid up to at least 100 miles, which should be sufficient for most use cases. As a Yagi antenna, you will need to orient it properly to get the most out of it, and multiple reviews cited the included coaxial cable as needing replacement to get better performance, but if you’re not looking to spend a lot on your antenna but need to cover a long range, this is about as good as you can do.

FAQs

Q: Do HDTV antennas work in rural areas?

Yes! All of our listed antennas (and pretty much all contemporary antennas in general) are rated to pick up HD signals since that’s increasingly the standard for OTA broadcasts. Some stations are even starting to broadcast in 4K, and like HDMI cables, some antennas are already listing their compatibility with 8K, even if that’s still more theoretical than practical.

Q: Do 100-mile antennas work for rural areas?

Yes, 100 miles is a standard effective range for many long-range antennas and should be sufficient for many rural areas, but be sure to check the FTC map or other tools to verify that all your required stations are covered.

Q: How do I know which antenna for rural areas to buy?

As described above, various free tools will help you map out all of your closest stations, which is the best way to determine the range, strength, and directionality of the antenna that will suit your needs.

Final thoughts on the best TV antennas for rural areas

OTA broadcasting isn’t going anywhere, and a roof-mounted TV antenna remains the best way to tap into all that free, local content to supplement your favorite streaming services. For rural areas, you will likely need something more than the new, flat, window-mounted antennas that are all the rage in urban apartments, but with a little extra effort getting it mounted on your roof or attic, you can enjoy all the local sports and news you want in crisp HD.

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