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Best Backup Cameras
How to Choose the Best Backup Camera
After 140 hours of researching and evaluating the best backup cameras, the QuickVu Backup Camera is our pick for the best one overall. With a big 4.3-inch display and a wide 142-degree field of view, it provides an excellent view of the space behind your car. In addition, the wireless transmitter is built into the camera and uses AA batteries, which means the installation is simple enough for anyone – you just screw the camera in above your license plate and plug the monitor into your cigarette lighter.
Our value pick is the Yada Digital Wireless Backup Camera. At about $110, it's not the cheapest backup camera on the market, but it's a lot more comparable to the most expensive backup cameras we reviewed than the cheap ones. It's built like a $250 model with wireless installation and a waterproof and freezeproof design. It has night vision and scaled lines for depth perception as well as a good sized 4.3-inch monitor. While it's not the best backup camera, it's not too far off, and it costs much less.
For extremely cold climates, our pick for most rugged backup camera is the TadiBrothers Wireless License Plate Camera. At around $200, it's about $50 cheaper than the Rear-View Safety model, but it has a narrower field of view at 120-degrees. However, it can operate in temperatures as low as -40 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the lowest operating temperature we saw for a rear-view camera.
Our pick for best display is the Pyle PLCM7500. Its 7-inch display is not only the biggest we reviewed, but the camera also has the widest field of view at 170 degrees. To put this in perspective, the average human only has a field of view of 114 degrees. In other words, this backup camera sees more of the area around your rear wheels than most other models. However, the installation is complicated, as this isn't a wireless backup camera. In addition, it's not designed for temperatures below 15 degrees Fahrenheit.
Backup Cameras: What We Evaluated, What We Found
All backup cameras have the same purpose – to eliminate dangerous blind spots behind your rear wheels. When you put your car in reverse, the camera activates and shows you the space near the ground behind your car so you don't back over children, pets, or objects like skateboards and bikes. The best backup cameras include field depth lines and other helpful markers.
While backup cameras eliminate most of the blind spot, they don’t see everything. Even the widest field of view doesn't show you if something is immediately under the rear wheels. This is because the camera is mounted on the rear bumper, usually above the license plate. With most cars, this means that the camera is many feet in front of the tires. As such, it's still a good idea to check the area behind the tires before reversing, and it's always a good idea to reverse slowly.
When we started this review, we purchased the 10 best backup cameras on the market and brought them into the Top Ten Reviews Lab for testing. We intended to gauge the quality of the daylight image, night vision image, the durability and the ease of use for the interface and the installation. However, we quickly learned that adequate testing would require drilling holes in a car and interfering with the wiring of the reverse lights, as this is what powers most of these products. Since nobody was willing to volunteer their car for this, we decided to focus on evaluating the most important specifications.
Below are some the criteria we looked at to find the best backup cameras:
Field of View: Bigger Is Better
The wider the field of view, the more the blind spot is covered. This is the most important feature of backup cameras. The units we reviewed vary in their horizontal field of view from 90 degrees to 180 degrees. For perspective, the average person has a field of view of between 114 and 130 degrees.
You should look for a camera with a field of view of about 100 degrees or more to ensure you get complete visual coverage of the area behind your rear bumper. If you drive a large truck or SUV, you may want to consider a camera with an even wider angle.
Night Vision: A Must-Have
A backup camera without night vision is pretty useless at night. To ensure you reverse safely in the dark, the best backup cameras have infrared LEDs that illuminate behind your car so you see a black-and-white picture on the monitor. Most of the cameras we reviewed have night vision, even some of the more affordable ones that cost around $70. Night vision is a necessary feature, unless you don't drive at night.
Wireless Signal Strength & Quality
Interference can be an issue for some wireless backup cameras. They broadcast on the 2.4GHz frequency, which is also used by a variety of common electronics such as Bluetooth devices and Wi-Fi networks. When there is interference in your signal, the picture quality degrades, even to the point where it can be unusable at times.
Some of the best backup cameras have a digital signal that is specific to their transmitter and receiver, which combats interference. This ensures you have the best possible picture quality, but it is pricey: The cheapest unit we reviewed with a digital signal is around $120.
Of course, another way camera manufacturers overcome interference issues is with brute strength. A powerful analog signal is more resistant to interference than a weak analog signal. So, if you go with analog, look for a backup camera that has a bigger wireless range than you need. The stronger the signal, the less interference will be an issue. Several of the backup cameras in our top 10 have signals rated for over 50 feet.
The Importance of a Backup Camera?
Automobiles existed for over a century without rear-view cameras, so why is it so important now? Well, according to KidsAndCars.org, thousands of children are killed or seriously injured every year because a driver backed over them. In the U.S., about 50 children are caught in the blind spot of a reversing vehicle every week, and they are typically between 1 and 2 years old – too young to understand the danger of playing in the driveway behind a car. In over 70 percent of these accidents, the driver is a parent or close family member. While installing a backup camera may protect your car from backing over forgotten bicycles and skateboards, its clear purpose is to protect your children.
Many modern cars come pre-stocked with backup cameras, especially SUVs, but you can have one installed on any car. Many automobiles even already have the necessary holes for the camera in the bumper. In addition, these devices aren’t difficult to install nor are they as expensive as you might think. If you own a car, adding a rear-view camera is a no brainer.
Backup Camera: Wired or Wireless
For our review of backup cameras, we compared all-in-one devices that include the camera and the monitor. If your car already has a monitor, you can purchase the camera separately. That said, there are two types of backup cameras: ones that use a wireless transmitter to send the image to the monitor and ones that require a wired connection.
The main differences here are price and ease of installation. Wired options are typically cheaper, but they require more time and effort to install because you have to run wires from the rear bumper to the monitor on the console. Most people need a professional to install this type of camera. Ultimately, the cost of professional installation can easily negate any savings you made choosing a wired model over a wireless one.
Wireless backup cameras, while more expensive upfront, don't require professional installations. Usually, these backup cameras require little more than a drill and a screwdriver. It’s certainly an installation you can do on your own. If you’re looking for the most convenient option, wireless backup cameras are the way to go.