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Thanks to the engineers responsible for improving the way we capture and record the world around us, dash-cam technology has never been better. No longer the clunky windshield-blocking devices of yore, today's dash cams are smaller and better than ever and have proven to be helpful devices for new and experienced drivers alike.
With a modern dash cam, you can capture crashes, interactions with law enforcement, and passenger behavior, providing video documentation for proving fault—or just for sharing on social media. Dash cams can record front, rear, and even cabin views, functioning as backup cameras, driver aids, surveillance cameras, and more. Some models monitor speed and GPS coordinates and come equipped with G-sensors, enhancing overall safety and accountability. Even if you already own and use an older dash cam, it might be time for an upgrade.
Dash cams are available in various setups and can be expensive at the top end. To help you choose, we've compiled a list of top-performing cameras, outlining their features and limitations.
Things To Consider
Given the extensive variety of dashboard cameras on the market and the price points involved, there are a few factors to ponder before making your purchase.
Video Quality: Consider what sort of information you plan to gather with your camera, as this will have an influence on what sort of resolution you need. Common resolutions include 1080p (full HD), 1440p (2K), and 2160p (4K). Higher resolution provides clearer and more detailed footage but will typically take up more storage. Plus, high-res dash cams cost more.
Memory Card: Check the maximum supported memory-card size and the specific type you need. Consider high-capacity cards (64GB or more) to store more footage before it loops over. Some devices offer internal memory or cloud storage, typically at an additional cost.
Most importantly, most dash cams will power on and operate without a memory card but require one (usually an SD or micro SD card) to store footage. However, in our experience, most do not include one in their packaging. Some even require a specific brand or size. That means that on top of spending a bundle on a dash cam, you may also have to buy a memory card separately or as part of a more expensive bundle if you want to record anything. When shopping for a dash camera, confirm whether or not a memory card is included with the package.
Driver Aids: Some dash cams can alert you when you cross lane boundaries or if a vehicle ahead stops in traffic. They are capable of sensing collisions and can automatically alert emergency services if you're in an accident, which is particularly useful if you're unable to seek help. Moreover, if equipped with GPS, they can provide precise location details to emergency responders.
That said, many modern vehicles, map apps, GPSs, and other devices already offer this type of technology. How many lane-change warnings does a driver need? Don't spend more than you need to on features you may already have at your disposal.
Additional Cameras: While not a priority for every driver, a cabin camera can be invaluable, especially for taxi or limousine drivers transporting passengers professionally. Ride-share drivers, in particular, might find this sort of "video insurance" crucial, if not already mandated by laws or regulations.
Several dash cams offer internal or rearview cameras, beneficial for recording rear-end accidents and aiding in safe reverse driving. While some cameras include some or all of these cameras, some may require an additional purchase to add a more comprehensive view in and around your vehicle.
Ready to shop for a new dash cam? Here are some of the finest on the market.
The iQ is the latest camera to hit the market from the folks at Nextbase. While it's one of the priciest dash cams we've seen, it offers some serious tech that blurs the line between a dash cam and a complete-suite safety system for your car or truck.
The 4K version of the camera offers crisp coverage up to 360 degrees thanks to a 2160p front cam, a 1440p interior cam, and a 1440p rear camera. (Lower-resolution versions are also available and are a bit more affordable.)
Where the iQ stands out is the array of safety features including lane-departure, collision-imminent, and anti-sleep alerts, a guardian mode for monitoring younger drivers, a parking mode that monitors an adjustable perimeter around your vehicle, and Roadwatch, which uses AI to track the speeds and locations of vehicles around you.
The iQ can be operated with voice controls and the app allows you to set and adjust features from your phone. LTE features will require a subscription that you can pay monthly or annually. The iQ can be powered by either an OBD-II port connector or wired directly through your vehicle's fuse box.
Amazon's Ring Car Cam, highly anticipated for almost two years before its release, might still come with a bit of a waitlist. If you're familiar with the Ring doorbell and smart-home services, you'll be right at home using the Car Cam.
This camera offers dual wide-angle HD cameras with night vision and real-time motion alerts. Its standout feature enables remote viewing inside the vehicle and two-way talk via the Ring app. Subscribers can access live-view features without Wi-Fi.
Cobra's SC400D is one of the most complete dash-cam packages on the market. Its front camera boats an impressive 4k resolution and the rear-facing camera gets the high-res job done at 1080p. There are several ways to interface with the camera, including a touchscreen display, the Drive Smarter app, and vocal commands through Alexa.
It gets power through a micro-USB port and affixes to your windshield using a sturdy adhesive pad. There is an array of driver warnings and mapping tools you can access, including police alerts—a feature we haven't seen in other cameras.
Our Gear Team has tested the Wolfbox 840s and it was given the Best Overall honors thanks mostly to its outstanding image quality.
The G890 is the most advanced camera offered by Wolfbox and comes with an impressive list of features. It records the front, rear, and inside of your vehicle, with the front camera capturing crisp 4K images. It also features enhanced night-vision capabilities, three-mode parking surveillance, GPS tracking, and more.
As with other Wolfbox cameras, the unit fits seamlessly onto your existing mirror, saving valuable windshield real estate.
The Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2, incredibly discreet, hides behind your rearview mirror due to its key fob–like size. Although it lacks a touchscreen, it records in full HD at 30 frames per second with a 140-degree lens, slightly lower than larger Garmin models. However, its compact size and competitive price make the 1080p resolution more than sufficient for a dash cam.
From our colleagues at Car and Driver comes the Road Patrol dash cam. It features front, back, and interior cameras with 110-degree vision. The rear camera can be mounted in several locations throughout the vehicle, making it a solid choice for ride-share drivers. Equipped with a 1080p Sony sensor, OLED touchscreen, and Drivesmart driver-assistance system, it sounds alerts for lane departure and proximity to vehicles, and offers parking mode, accident detection, and integrated GPS.
A more affordable 1080p version is also available if you don't need the crisper 4K resolution.
One 4K Connected
The Nexar One offers 4K video and remote streaming, thanks to a Sony Starvis sensor and advanced Ambarella AI chipset, making it Nexar's top-of-the-line camera. The device comes with hardwiring or OBD kits, ensuring continuous power for features like remote streaming and live alerts.
There are a range of options for purchasing the One. You can opt for the road cam only with 64 GB of memory or go all out for the road and cabin cameras with as much as an incredible 512GB of memory.
The Nextbase 622GW boasts a spacious touchscreen, a user-friendly interface, and features like Alexa support and parking mode. Its excellent reliability and optional rear-facing camera expand the field of view. If budget isn't a concern and you prefer a larger, easy-to-use dash cam, the 622GW is an ideal choice.
The Q3 is a budget dash cam that we admittedly haven't used ourselves. Still, it's a top seller on Amazon with a 4.5-star rating on nearly 2500 reviews at press time, so it must be doing something right (besides being extremely affordable). Super small and G sensor–enabled, it's got all the right features for a dash cam at this price point.
Why should I use a dash cam?
Dash cams provide evidence in case of accidents, help prevent insurance fraud, monitor driving behavior, and capture memorable road trips. They can also act as a deterrent against theft and vandalism when the vehicle is parked.
Are dash cams legal?
Although they are legal in the U.S., you should examine the regulations and limitations on their use and mounting requirements in your state and locality. Because it can impair your view, mounting a dash cam directly to the windshield is prohibited in several states. Ride-share drivers could be compelled by law to alert passengers if they're being recorded.
How do I install a dash cam in my vehicle?
Installation methods vary, but most dash cams attach to the windshield or dashboard using mounts with adhesive or suction cups. The power cable is typically connected to the vehicle's power outlet (cigarette lighter) or hardwired to the fuse box.
Can dash cam footage be used as evidence in accidents?
Yes, dash cam footage can serve as critical evidence in determining the cause of accidents, resolving insurance claims, and supporting legal cases. It provides an unbiased account of events leading up to and during an accident.
Why Trust Us?
The Gear Team has tested a wide variety of automotive products, parts, accessories, and gear, such as OBD-II Scanners and Portable Power Stations. We get our hands on each and every product we test. Most products are purchased; some are supplied by manufacturers for testing purposes. Our opinions and recommendations are based on testing and hands-on experience, not hype.
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