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Best dash cams 2021: On-board video recording

Best dash cams 2021: On-board video recording
(Image credit: ShutterStock)

Get one of the best dash cams, and you're adding an excellent piece of security tech to your car. The primary function of a dash cam is to record footage of what you see through your windscreen when you travel, and this video can be used to prove who is at fault if you ever have an accident. What's more, it can be used to combat any false claims made about you or your driving, and some insurers will actually lower your premiums if they know you have a dash cam fitted to your car.

In 2021, though, the best dash cams will perform even more functions. Many have built-in GPS, to show your position, and some will record both front and rear views, so you have evidence of collisions where someone runs into the back of your car or truck. Many now have some kind of Alexa or voice command features, to allow you to operate them via voice, and they will even warn you about your proximity to other cars (collision alerts) and tell you when you're drifting out of position on a highway.

You need a dash cam that records at a good resolution, otherwise you may find footage is too grainy to be useful, so aim for any of the cams with 2.5K or above resolution. On top of that, you should look for a camera unit that is well built, as poorly made dash cams can be damaged in the event of a collision. If your insurer does offer discounts for fitted dash cams, it's worth checking whether they have an approved list of models, or you may miss out on potential savings. We have a guide to the best auto insurance out there, if you need it.

And if you're looking for more useful car tech, try our list of the best car navigation systems, to help you find your way.

1. Nextbase 422GW

Nextbase 422GW Review

(Image credit: Nextbase )

Nextbase 422GW

Combines great 2.5K video with a robust build and clever magnetic mount system

Resolution: 2.5K 2,560 x 1,440 maximum resolution | Screen: 2.5in LCD display | GPS: Yes | Additional Safety Features: G-sensor for detecting incidents | Wireless: WiFi

Great 2.5K video quality
Built-in GPS
Extremely convenient magnetic mount system
Few advanced dash cam features 

The Nextbase 422GW combines great 2.5K video with a robust build and clever magnetic mount system, then throws in Amazon Alexa control ability as a bonus extra. This is a very solid dash cam. The Alexa functionality, whilst clever, may not be something you use regularly, although it could be useful to be able to control music streaming from your phone to your car without having to pull your phone out of your pocket. 

What really makes this dash cam a recommended choice is its excellent physical design and superb video quality. A dash cam has to get the main function right first before adding extra features, and the Nextbase 422GW does just this.

2. Vantrue N2 Pro

Vantrue N2 Pro Dual Dash Cam Review

(Image credit: Vantrue)

Vantrue N2 Pro

Integrates front and rear-facing cameras into one unit, so you can capture the road ahead and what’s going on inside the car simultaneously

Resolution: 2.5K 2,560 x 1,440 maximum resolution | Screen: 1.5in LCD display | GPS: optional extra | Additional Safety Features: G-sensor for detecting incidents, rear-facing infrared camera | Wireless: No

Reasonable 2.5K video quality
Built-in infrared internal rear-facing camera
Easy to remove from car when not in use 
Full HD only when operating front and rear cameras

The Vantrue N2 Pro integrates front and rear-facing cameras into one unit, so you can capture the road ahead and what’s going on inside the car simultaneously. It may be a little pricey, but the rear-facing camera is a valuable bonus if you want to capture the interior of your car alongside the road ahead. 

However, you do have to drop the resolution of the main camera to Full HD from 2.5K to enable this, which results in a notable reduction in image quality. So whilst this is a neat dual-camera solution, if you merely want the best dash cam video quality there are better-value options without the extra camera.

3. Apeman C860

Apeman C860 Dash Cam Review

(Image credit: APEMAN)

Apeman C860

Bundles a rear dash camera along with excellent front camera, though not the most feature-packed

Screen: 2.7n touch LCD display | GPS: No | Additional Safety Features: G-sensor for detecting incidents | Wireless: No

Excellent 2.6K video quality
Very good value 
No GPS
No advanced dash cam features 

The Apeman C860 bundles a rear dash camera along with excellent front camera. It may not be packed with features, but with its $100 price, the Apeman C860 is a bargain. The absence of GPS will be a particular disappointment for some. But the main camera image quality is excellent for the money, which is the primary reason you buy a dash cam in the first place. 

The rear camera footage is quite a bit behind, however. It’s still good for Full HD, but not in the same league as the video from the main dash cam. If you just want a great-quality dash cam with a rear camera thrown in, the Apeman C860 is well worth considering.

4. AUKEY DRS2

AUKEY DRS2 Review

(Image credit: AUKEY)

AUKEY DRS2

It may only offer Full HD, but there’s a second Full HD rear-facing camera built-in

Resolution: Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 maximum resolution front and rear | GPS: optional extra | Additional Safety Features: G-sensor for detecting incidents | Wireless: No

Detachable rear-facing camera for a rear external view
Decent Full HD video quality
Few advanced dash cam features
No built-in GPS

The AUKEY DRS2 only offers Full HD resolution, but there’s a second Full HD rear-facing camera, which can be removed. This can be mounted facing out of your car’s rear window and all the fixings you need for this are included. The AUKEY DRS2 isn’t quite the bargain that Apeman’s C860 is, but you can at least add a GPS if you want to. The double function of the rear-facing camera also means you have flexibility about how you use it – either for inside your car or behind. 

The image quality merely “does the job” rather than being a revelation. But if you’re after a bargain dash cam with an internal camera that can also be used as a rear camera, the AUKEY DRS2 is definitely worth a look. 

5. Boscam R1

Boscam R1 Review

(Image credit: Boscam)

Boscam R1

Hooks over your existing mirror for easy fitting, while you also get a rear-view camera that is actually a reversing camera

Resolution: Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 maximum resolution front and rear | Screen: 2in LCD display | GPS: optional extra | Additional Safety Features: G-sensor for detecting incidents | Wireless: No

Great value
Rear-view and reversing camera included
Mediocre image quality 
No built-in GP

The Boscam R1 hooks over your existing mirror to provide a much wider view, with the dash cam built in. You also get a separate rear-view camera that is actually a reversing camera. The Boscam R1 is an interesting proposition if you want to add a reversing camera alongside a dash cam to help you with parking. Considering the $110 price, you get a lot for your money. 

The reversing camera does take some rather involved installation but works reasonably well. The huge integrated mirror will be an improvement for most cars, too. The one downside is that the video image quality from the front camera is merely mediocre.

6. Garmin Dash Cam 66W

Garmin Dash Cam 66W Review

(Image credit: Garmin)

Garmin Dash Cam 66W

Incorporates a comprehensive range of useful safety features, and has reliable voice control as well

Resolution: 2.5K 2,560 x 1,440 maximum resolution | Screen: 2in touch LCD display | GPS: built-in | Additional Safety Features: G-sensor for detecting incidents; forward collision and lane departure warnings; safety camera locations | Wireless: Yes

Comprehensive safety features
Built-in GPS
Mediocre 2.5K image quality
No quick release

The Garmin Dash Cam 66W incorporates a comprehensive range of useful safety features for drivers, and has voice control as well, alongside 2.5K video recording. The comprehensive safety features include built-in GPS provides location tracking and safety camera notifications, plus you get collision detection and lane departure. The Travelapse feature provides recreational value along with the surveillance function, and the voice control is very functional too. 

All of this is rolled into a tiny, discrete form that will sit unobtrusively behind your rear-view mirror. But, unfortunately, the image quality is below what we would expect for a premium dash cam from a premium brand.

7. Thinkware Q800 Pro

Thinkware Q800 Pro Review

(Image credit: Thinkware)

Thinkware Q800 Pro

It may not have a LCD screen, but it still includes every dash cam safety feature you could consider

Resolution: 2.5K 2,560 x 1,440 maximum resolution | GPS: built in | Additional Safety Features: G-sensor for detecting incidents | Wireless: WiFi

Packed with advanced safety features
Unique capabilities via smartphone
No LCD screen 
Average video quality

The Thinkware Q800 Pro may not have a LCD screen, but it still includes every dash cam safety feature you could consider, plus a few you might not even have thought about before. It’s packed with features. There isn’t a safety function missing, and the bundle is generous too. 

Although the advanced “cloud-based” features such as GEO-Fencing are very clever, having them tied to your phone makes them less useful than they could be, because you’re unlikely to leave your phone in your car. Add in mobile data, as some satnavs have, and this would have been a real bonus. But the main downside is that image quality isn’t as good as we would expect in a dash cam this expensive. The lack of detail lets the Thinkware Q800 Pro down.