Best Dash Cams
The Best Dash Cams of 2017
We’ve been reviewing the most popular dash cams on the market since 2015. These devices cost between $50 and $500, and knowing what to look for can help you decide whether you need a high-end cam or a more affordable model.
Best Dash Cam for Professional Drivers
For professional drivers, our pick for the best dash cam is the BlackVue DR650S-02Ch. This HD dash cam records with two wide-angle cameras that see in front and behind your vehicle, and it even records break-ins when your car is parked. In other words, this dash cam sees more than others, which means it better protects against insurance fraud and at-fault claims that could cripple your career. And if you manage a fleet of vehicles, it allows you to track and evaluate your drivers.
The BlackVue DR650S-02Ch comes with Wi-Fi, so you can track videos and GPS information on your smartphone. The GPS feature records the time, data and exact location of an accident. Since the cam connects to your phone over Wi-Fi, it doesn't have a display, which means it doesn’t take up much space on your windshield. That said, it’s difficult to install the rear camera, and this is one of the most expensive dash cams on the market. But when you consider that it's protecting your bottom line, it may be worth the investment.
Best Dash Cam for Driver Awareness
While dash cams were originally used as objective witnesses to accidents or traffic stops, they've evolved into tools for improving driver awareness. While many dash cams alert you to things like lane drifting and driver fatigue, we believe the Garmin Dash Cam 35 is the best pick for driver awareness because its GPS feature can alert you to known red light and speed cameras by accessing a database.
The downside is you have to pay a monthly subscription fee to access the database, which means this dash cam costs more than other models in the long run. However, if you're looking for a device to help you become a safer, more aware driver, this is the best option.
Best Value Dash Cam
Our value pick is the Falcon Zero F360. It isn’t the cheapest dash cam we reviewed, but its dual-camera rear-mirror design is packed with features that make it more comparable to high-end dash cams than to models that cost half as much. In other words, this dash cam can do more for less.
With two cameras recording in HD, it sees more than most other dash cams. In fact, you can adjust the cameras to give you a 240-degree view of the front of your vehicle, which is a wider field of view than any dash cam we’ve seen. You can also adjust the second camera to record the interior of your vehicle or the rear.
Its 5-inch display is one of the biggest available – almost twice as big as those on most dash cams. This model also comes with night vision and loop recording, which saves storage space by recording over unneeded footage. You can adjust it to record in three, five and 10 minute loops. However, if you're in a collision, the dash cam automatically saves the footage.
Dash Cams: What to Look For
Some dash cams cost upwards of $500, while others cost little more than $50. How much you should spend on a dash cam depends on how much you need one. For example, if you're a professional driver, you should spend more for a camera with good image quality and lots of features. However, if you just want to record a scenic drive through the mountains, almost any model will work. Below are some of the features you should consider:
Every dash cam we reviewed records in at least 720p HD, though most record in 1080p HD. The higher the resolution, the more detail you can see in the image the camera captures – this could mean the difference between being able to read another car’s license plate and someone getting away with a hit and run.
Field of View
The field of view is the horizonal scope of the camera, and the bigger the field of view, the more the camera records. Likewise, the more the camera records, the more you are protected from false claims.
Most cameras we reviewed have a field of view of 120 degrees, but some reach as wide as 140 degrees. The Falcon Zero F360, which features two 120 degree cameras, can cover 240 degrees.
Dash cams need to see well at night. Some have a night vision feature, but most have a dynamic aperture that increase visibility in low-light conditions by maximizing the exposure.
Video files take up a lot storage space. Even a dash cam with 128GB of storage will fill up with HD video files in just a few days if it records continuously while you're driving. With loop recording, the camera records for a set amount of time, typically three, five or 10 minutes, and then records over itself if you haven't saved the video or it doesn't detect an accident. That way, you don’t fill up storage space with meaningless footage of your commute, and you only have to save a recording when an accident occurs.
Automatic & Manual Recording
If you want to record scenic drives, then you don't want to loop record or set the dash cam for impact detection. As such, it's important to make sure the dash cam as an automatic or manual recording mode that sets it to record and save everything.
Many dash cams are built with accelerometers that can detect when the vehicle is in an accident. Typically, impact detection records on a buffered loop of 10 to 30 seconds and starts a permanent recording when the camera senses a collision. It also records pertinent information, such as time and place (if it has GPS) the accident occurred.
Driver Awareness Warnings
Some dash cams come with features designed to raise your awareness, making you a safer driver. The features vary from cam to cam, but they can include warnings for speed, driver fatigue, lane drifting, and driving too close to another vehicle or object. If the cam has GPS, it can also alert you to red light cameras and speed cameras.
With this feature, the dash cam turns on and records footage when it detects motion. Usually, this just means it picks up what's in front of your car, but if you get a dual-camera device, you can protect your vehicle’s perimeter. This is a great feature if you’re a truck or delivery driver because the camera can gather evidence if someone breaks into your vehicle. However, cameras with motion detection can sometimes take more time to install because you may need to add an external power source or wire the camera into the battery system.
Typically only found in dash cams over $150, GPS provides a lot more than an eye witness. Cameras with this feature record the time, date, location, speed and direction of a collision, all of which is valuable information to have when determining fault in an accident. Without GPS, a dash cam might record the time and date, but don't count on it.
You only find Wi-Fi in high-end dash cams. Models with this feature integrate with your smartphone to transfer video in real time. This makes it easier to access recorded video and also means the cam likely doesn't have a display, so it takes up less space on your windshield or dash.
Contributing Reviewer: Jeph Preece