Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Santa Monica Bay
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I have the same situation as you. I rent boats too, and I got my own handheld VHF because I didn't always trust the condition of the on-board radios of the different vessels I rent. It's a security factor for me.
You should know that the GPS in these radios is not that useful for navigation, though. They are very accurate, to be sure, but the radio's GPS is really for use with the distress alert feature of the DSC. That's the Digital Selective Calling system that is now included on all hard mount radios and some handhelds. If you get in trouble, you can hit the distress alert button on the radio and a digital emergency message will be sent out, including your GPS position, to all other DSC radios in range.
That's a pretty good feature. HOWEVER, in order to use this feature, you MUST have an MMSI number issued to your vessel. The number is issued to the vessel, not to you or the radio. None of the DSC features on the radio work without the MMSI number entered. So you pretty much have to own a boat in order to use DSC. As for the GPS on the radio, it will display your latitude and longitude, but that's it.
I know all this because I have a Standard Horizon HX850S, which is a great radio and I would recommend it, but I can't use any DSC features until I buy a boat.
You might consider using the same $200 to buy a non-GPS handheld VHF (about $100) and a small hiking GPS unit (also about $100-150). With the dedicated GPS you have much more flexibility. You can use your home computer to download navigational waypoints (I take mine straight off the USCG Light List) and it makes a great complement to a chart and a compass and your own eyeballs.
That's my take. Feel free to ask more if you'd like .