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. Is that really true, though?

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 $400 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 a 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 7-36 in most areas. Some still use channels 2-6, but most people don’t need that coverage (which we call “VHF Low.”)

OTA Broadcasting 60 years from now

Personally I hope OTA broadcasting continues.  I’d like to say that the future of over-the-air antenna television is bright. There’s a draft standard, called ATSC 3.0, which will allow for 4K and on-demand programming. Television is still considered a critical service in this country. That means every broadcaster is required to serve the public good. It’s hard to imagine something like that going away. But if we’re talking sixty years from now, who knows?

In a lot of ways, the future of antenna television is on the line right now. Most folks have had some sort of alternate viewing for forty years. First it was cable, then satellite. Today of course traditional pay-TV is still there but there’s also a whole world of streaming to consider. Over-the-air TV’s fortunes could shift quickly if younger people don’t embrace it. I hope they do, because free live television can be an absolute pleasure.

An antenna that outlasts your home’s next eight owners

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? I mean, chances are you’re not going to climb up on the roof to take that antenna down when you sell. Face it, the owner before you didn’t.

The point I’m trying to make

Yes, I will admit that some of today’s antennas aren’t built to the same quality standards that they used to be.  Surprisingly though, some are. The difference is, today you have a choice. You can buy an antenna that’s “Mr. Right” or one that’s “Mr. Right Now.” It’s up to you.

Whatever your antenna need is, I hope you’ll browse the great selection at Solid Signal. You’ll find antennas for every price range and every need. Whether you’re a city dweller with a small apartment or a rancher with several acres, you’ll be able to get the perfect antenna and enjoy free over-the-air television for decades.

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 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.