Best Radar Detectors of 2018

Jeph Preece ·
Senior Domain Editor
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

Since 2010, we have reviewed the best radar detectors on the market. This year, the Escort Max 360 emerged as our pick for the best radar detector overall. It's one of the few radar detectors on the market that tells you where the radar is coming from. It also comes with a defender database that provides alerts to red light and speed cameras, as well as known speed traps. To put it simply, the Escort Max 360 is your best option if you want a device that's designed to make you a better, more aware driver.    

Best Overall

Escort Max 360

Every feature of the Escort Max 360 is designed to make you into a safer, more aware driver. It provides directional awareness, integrates with your smartphone and can even alert you to your speed.
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Best Value

Escort Max2

The Escort Max 2 may not be the most affordable radar detector that we reviewed, but it has almost all the features of the Max 360, but costs hundreds less.
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Best for Novice Users

Whistler CR90

The Whistler CR90 doesn't have the long list of features of other high-end radar detectors, which makes it ideal for novice users. There's no learning curve with this radar detector.
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Our Test Results

Product
Price
$549.99Amazon
$339.00Amazon
$499.00Amazon
$206.90Amazon
$222.56Amazon
$149.00Amazon
$525.00Amazon
Overall Rating
9.9
8.9
7.6
6.6
6.3
6.2
4.9
Detection Performance
10
10
9
9
8.8
9
7.8
Alert Features
10
6.8
4
4
3.8
4
0.3
Control Features
10
10
9.3
5
6.5
5.5
4.8
Help & Support
9
9
9
10
4.5
4.5
9
Laser Detection
Sensitivity Settings
3
3
3
4
4
5
3
K-Band, Ka-Band & X-Band
Performance Score
A
A
A-
B+
B+
B
B
Over-Speed
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Directional
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
False-Alert Filter
N/A
Speed Notification
N/A
Defender Database
N/A
Multiple-Threat
N/A
Power Cord Controls
$
N/A
N/A
$
Auto-Learn
N/A
N/A
Built-In GPS
N/A
N/A
N/A
Mark Location
N/A
Community Sharing App
Escort Live
Escort Live
Escort Live
N/A
Cobra iRadar
Cobra iRadar
Escort Live
Bluetooth
SmartCord Only
N/A
SmartCord Only
Warranty
1 Year
1 Year
1 Year
2 Years
1 Year
1 Year
1 Year
Email Support
N/A
N/A
Live Chat
N/A
N/A
User Forum
N/A
N/A
N/A
Phone Support
Tutorials
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A
Best Overall

Escort Max 360

As part of our review, we looked closely at what users are saying about the best radar detectors, and the Escort Max 360 received the highest grade for performance. In terms of making you a more aware driver, nothing beats this GPS-enabled radar detector.
As with all Escort-brand radar detectors, the Max 360 has three sensitivity settings: Highway, Auto and Auto No X. The Highway setting provides the longest range by removing all false-alert filters. The Auto setting works with the built-in GPS the sensitivity adjusts according to your speed – a feature that's unique to the Escort radar detectors. For example, when you drive slower, the sensitivity is decreased so that you don't get false alerts from things like garage door openers and motion detectors. But when you speed up, the sensitivity increases so that you'll be more likely to detect radars. The Auto No X setting is the same as the Auto, but the detector stops detecting radar within the X-band, which is most commonly used with door openers and motion detectors. The most notable feature of the Escort Max 360 is the directional arrows. When you're hit with an alert, the Max 360 tells you where it's coming from. Other radar detectors simply tell you how strong the radar is, which gives you some idea of how close you are to the police office, but not where it's coming from. The best feature of the Max 360, however, is the over-speed alert, which was made popular by the Passport Max 2. By using the built-in GPS, you can set the speed limit on the detector and it will alert you when you've exceeded it. You can even set it to record speed limits in specific areas, which means it'll adjust as you move from one speed limit to another. This feature makes for a safer, more aware driver and isn't designed simply to get around speed limits.
Pros
  • Directional alerts tell you where the radar is coming from.
  • Over-speed alert warns you of speeding.
  • GPS provides accurate filtering of false alerts.
Cons
  • Very expensive.
  • Big learning curve.
  • Bigger than most radar detectors.
$556.81Amazon
Best Value

Escort Max2

The Escort Passport Max2 is our pick for the best value radar detector because it has almost all the features as the Max 360 (our pick for best overall), but it costs hundreds less. It's still not the most affordable radar detector around, but you get a lot for the price – built-in GPS, the defender database, smartphone integration and overspeed notifications.
For our review, we looked over as many user reviews as we could find to evaluate the Passport Max2's performance. We found that most users praise the detection accuracy and the range while also appreciating the over-speed alert that shows your speed next to the posted speed limit. To weed out false alerts, the Max2 combines digital signal processing with intelligent GPS features. As a result, many users reported receiving a lot of false alerts during the first few weeks, but as it gets to know your area, it learns how to distinguish between a garage door and a radar gun. As such, the false alerts eventually diminish. Introduced with the Passport Max2, the over-speed alert is one of my favorite features because it makes you into a safer, more aware driver, rather than circumventing the law. It works by posting the speed limit on the display and uses GPS to post your actual speed next to it. When you exceed the speed limit, you hear an alert. Since most speeding tickets are the result of simply being unaware of your driving habits, this feature ensures that you're driving safely within the law.
Pros
  • Over-speed alert warns you of speeding.
  • GPS provides accurate filtering of false alerts.
  • High value for the price.
Cons
  • Bigger than most radar detectors.
  • Learning curve.
  • Defender database requires a subscription.
$349.06Amazon
Best for Novice Users

Whistler CR90

One of the problems with the high-end radar detectors, like the Escort Max 360, is the learning curve. These devices have a lot of features and it can take a while to learn how to distinguish a false alert from a real alert.
With the Whistler CR90, you simply plug it in and turn it on. It's not full of fancy features, but it does the job simply and effectively. If you've never owned a radar detector before, this is a good option. In our performance evaluation, which looked at user reviews, the Whistler CR90 received a B+, which is excellent considering it's one of the most affordable radar detectors. Most notably, however, people talked about how easy it is to use. The CR90 uses voice alert for potential threats so you can identify whether it's a real threat or a false alert without looking at the device. While it doesn’t have the over-speed alert that the Escort detectors have, it does tell you how fast you were going when you receive an alert. This detector comes with an internal GPS system, which works in conjunction with digital signal processor to better recognize false alerts. Unfortunately, the CR90 lacks a community sharing app and Bluetooth. Community sharing apps have become a great way for users to share threats in real time, allowing you to receive alerts well in advance of your radar's range.
Pros
  • Affordable.
  • Easy to use.
  • Long range.
Cons
  • Not compatible with community threat-sharing apps.
  • No Bluetooth.
  • No over-speed alert.
$229.95Amazon

Why Trust Us?

Top Ten Reviews has covered radar detectors since 2010. Personally, I've been reviewing radar detectors and other car-related technology since 2013. I'm always looking for the best products that are designed to both improve the time spent in your car, but also products that make you a safer driver.

Unfortunately, radar detectors have long been used by people to circumvent traffic laws. At Top Ten Reviews, we don't condone reckless, distracted driving. As such, our comparative reviews focus on how radar detectors raise your driving awareness rather than allowing you to get away with speeding. The act of operating a car is a big responsibility that requires your full attention. Radar detectors are best used as tools that heighten your awareness, devices that ensure you don't become too complacent on the road. 

What We Tested

Accurate radar detection is relatively difficult to test in a short period. Radar detectors are prone to false alerts when you first get them. As you drive around, the digital signal processor eventually distinguishes frequencies from a garage door opener and a police radar.

As such, you may not know how effective your radar detector is until you've used it for several months, which means hands-on testing has been beyond our ability. To account for this, we collated thousands of user reviews and expert advice to evaluate each detector.
 
Detection Performance 

We looked at every available user review we could find for the radar detectors on our lineup. This included Amazon, Crutchfield and other consumer websites. We recorded the total number of reviews, including the scale at which the user rated the product. Then we analyzed the ratio of good-to-bad reviews with consideration as to the total number of reviews. A product with more reviews is generally considered more popular. We also talked to expert hobbyists to get their opinions on performance. Once compiled, we scored and graded each radar detector’s performance.

While the more affordable detectors are the most popular, many of the reviews mentioned issues with false alerts. Not surprisingly, more expensive radar detectors had a higher rate of positive reviews. 

Choosing a Radar Detector 

False Alerts & Radar Detection Range
Radar detectors are passive. This means that they don't emit a signal that looks for radar as you're driving around town. It only recognizes radar when the frequencies hit the detector's sensors, so you have to be within the radar gun's range to recognize the signal. As such, it's difficult to adequately evaluate range and distance of a radar detector because it depends on the gun being used. Also, a cop could be right next to you and pointing the gun away from you and you'd never know it until he turned in your direction.

A sensitive detector can recognize the faintest radar echoes from a mile away or more, but this sensitivity comes at a cost. Garage door openers, motion detectors and other civilian devices use the same radar frequencies, which means that if the detector is overly sensitive, you wouldn't be able to drive around your city without suffering through a torrent of false alerts from your radar detector.

To remedy this, every radar detector has various sensitivity settings. The setting that gives you the most range is generally the highway setting. Obviously, you'd only use this setting on the highway where you're less likely to encounter false alerts. City settings are less sensitive and some settings eliminate the X-radar band from detection altogether. Most radar detectors are also equipped with digital signal processing that can learn, over time as you use it in your area, which alerts are real and which alerts are innocuous.  

Laser Lidar Detector
A laser gun, sometimes called Lidar, is another method that law enforcement uses to determine speed. Laser guns are highly accurate and very precise. While a radar gun emits radar waves that bounce all over the landscape, including other cars, a laser gun uses an invisible beam of light. A police officer can aim a laser gun at your vehicle from over a mile away and receive an accurate and immediate reading.

Every radar gun in our review detects lasers. However, since the laser doesn't bounce off the surrounding landscape like radar waves, if you receive a laser gun alert, then the police officer already knows your speed. Laser detectors don't provide any foreknowledge. The best you can hope for is to sufficiently adjust your speed prior to the officer deciding whether to pull you over or not. That said, with community-sharing apps like Escort Live, if someone who also uses the app receives a laser alert down the road from you, then you'll receive an alert too.

Radar Jammers & Other Legal Concerns
According to the Communications Act of 1934, laser radar detectors are legal to use in private vehicles, which means you can legally use a radar detector so long as you're not a commercial truck driver. That said, radar detectors are illegal in Virginia, the District of Columbia and on every U.S. military base.

On the other hand, radar jammers are illegal everywhere under federal law because this interferes with law enforcement's ability to do their job. A radar jammer is a device that sends out a radar pulse that interferes with the radar gun's ability to accurately read your speed. None of the radar detectors in our review have this capability.

Alert Features
Maintaining a keen awareness of your surroundings is critical to safe driving, which is why alert features are so important. The best radar detectors don't just alert you to lasers and radar bands, they also apprise you of other traffic threats like speed cameras, red-light cameras and speed traps. The top radar detectors can also alert you when you've exceeded a set speed. Some radar detectors with GPS capabilities are able to tell you if you're exceeding the speed limit, which can be very handy in areas where you haven't seen a speed limit sign.

You should expect to receive alerts for safety warnings that involve accidents, road hazards and severe weather. Your radar detector should also alert you to multiple threats at a time. For example, if you approach a speed camera and an active police radar gun, you should receive an alert for both threats at the same time.

Control Features
The best radar detectors have built-in GPS and Bluetooth capabilities. These features extend detection and alert capabilities far beyond radar detection. With GPS, you can receive information about speed limits and marked threat locations. With Bluetooth, the device can integrate with an app that allows you to share traffic details with other users. Radar detector mobile apps also integrate spatial awareness to your alerts by placing the alert within a GPS map on your phone's screen.

Another important control feature is the auto-learn processor, which relies on GPS, either through a built-in GPS or connection with your phone through the app. With the mark-location feature, you can record specific coordinates you've encountered that might be a speed trap or a dangerous intersection. Mobile apps provide a community threat-sharing feature that allows you to receive active reports from other users in real time.

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