How long should an outdoor antenna last?

They don’t make them like they used to. That’s what you hear a lot when you’re talking about antennas. Antennas today, they’ll tell you, are just not made right, they’re just not solid like they used to be.

And folks, I understand. I went back and looked at antennas from online catalogs sold in the 1950s and it looks like you can get an antenna similar to our HD8200XL for about $40 if you’re able to get into your Delorean and travel back there. There’s only one problem… $40 back then is about $350 in today’s dollars. And our HD8200XL is about 1/3 the price. So yeah, it’s possible it’s not built quite as well as that old-school antenna. It’s possible it’s made of a little lighter-weight aluminum.

So that brings up the question… how long should an outdoor antenna last?

If you live in a house built in the 1950s you could have a perfectly good antenna on the roof that’s been sitting there braving the elements for 60 years. Oh, maybe it’s getting a little bent, but it’s still up there. And it could be up there for another 60 years. Those things back then were real tanks. Absolutely. I totally agree.

But is it really reasonably to think that anything you buy today would be useful in 60 years? We complain about our “disposable” culture but the truth is that’s just how things are. Something is likely to be obsolete before it breaks.. long before it breaks actually. And for what it’s worth, if you did put an antenna up in the 1950s it may have been VHF-only, which means it’s all but useless, or UHF/VHF designed for channels 2-83 when all you really need is 7-51.

Personally I hope OTA broadcasting continues. I also hope there isn’t a major shift like there was in the 2000s where you pretty much have to replace everything. But the future is still unknown. There’s every reason to believe that broadcast TV has peaked and won’t grow any further. The FCC is actually asking broadcasters to sell back their licenses to make room for more cellular internet, so things probably aren’t going to get much bigger for traditional broadcasting.

Consider too that your average person stays in one place only 5-8 years now. An antenna on the roof isn’t going to raise the asset value of your home, sorry to say. So are you going to pay $350 for an antenna that lasts 60 years when you’re not going to be there 60 years and the only thing that happens is maybe 8 or 9 other families have to decide if they want it?

The point I’m trying to make is that yes, I will admit that today’s antennas aren’t built to the same quality standards that they used to be. They’re also a lot more affordable and maybe they don’t need to be built to that high standard any more.

What do you folks think? I’d love to get the opinion of some of our Solid Signal Blog faithful… when you buy an outdoor antenna how long do you expect it to last?

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 7,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.