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The idea of looking for the best dash cam may sound like you’re contemplating the purchase of a luxury item. However, if you’re in an accident that’s not your fault, your dash cam may be your most reliable witness. And in that case, you want the best reliable witness you can buy.
Once, the best dash cam was merely one that recorded with reasonable resolution. You pointed it out the windshield, started your car, and hoped for the best. Dashboard cameras now have features, options, and resolution never thought of just a few years ago.
The Best Dash Cam Features
If you’ve never owned a dash cam or haven’t purchased one in years, there are many new features available that you should look for. You may not feel you need each of these features, but an informed consumer is a satisfied consumer. Here are some of the best dash cam features available in models now on the market in 2018.
The entire purpose of having a dash camera is to record events outside your vehicle accurately. If you can’t make out exactly what’s happening due to poor resolution, you’re wasting your money. Even something like light rain or snow can make a poor resolution recording all but useless. It’s now quite easy to find 1080i resolution not only in high-end units but also in units that cost considerably less.
Traffic warning features
Several dash cameras offer built-in forward-collision as well as lane-departure warnings. These options are popular with owners of older cars that don’t come standard with these features. Unfortunately, they sometimes don’t activate in time or react to something other than immediate danger. Also, the alarm is usually just another beep and not specific to a specific type of risk. They are, however, something to consider when you make your purchase.
Driving at dusk and dawn are particularly hazardous. These conditions can make your visual assessment of the road conditions particularly difficult. Also, some drivers wait until the last moment to turn on their lights. This can make them nearly invisible if they’re in a dark vehicle. A dash camera with good low-light capability will record incidents much clearer should they occur under these conditions.
LCD monitor screen
Some drivers consider LCD monitor screens on their dash cams distracting. The advantage is that they’ll give an accurate representation of what the camera is recording. The good news is that on most models, you can turn off this display.
For the most part, your dash cam will come equipped with a MicroSD card slot for recording. Most will also adapt to larger amounts of memory on these cards to give you a longer recording time. Some will even allow you to save special “event” files to download to your computer or smartphone later. You may forget to save your files following a serious accident.
Most dash cams record on either files or “loops.” Recording by file means that they record until they run for a pre-determined time and then save the file. With loop recording, the camera records continuously and restarts at the beginning of the file after the memory runs out. The best dash cam is one that accommodates a 32GB or higher MicroSD card, allowing for more saved files or longer loop recordings. Having this longer recording time will ensure that you have important footage you may need to show the events in question accurately.
You can find some of the best dash cam models equipped with motion detectors. These activate the camera if something happens to your vehicle while it’s parked. Someone walking close to the front of the car or any impact that causes it to move or shake can start the recording process. If you park your car in a public area, this can be a welcome feature.
With a GPS receiver built into your dash cam, you’ll have not only a record of the time of an event but also the exact location and vehicle speed. Some will even signal you if you’re going above a preset speed limit.
How We Reviewed
We compiled our list from sales data from retailers such as Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, and individual manufacturer websites. We also checked with various testing and rating publications. Most significantly, we collated reviews and ratings from dash cam customers gleaned from these sources.
Finding the Best Dash Cam for You
Now that you know what to look for in the best dash cam, let’s look at a few models judged to be the best based on price, features, customer reviews, and independent testing.
Garmin Dash Cam 55
The Garmin Dash Cam 55 is both small and powerful. Measuring just 2.2 by 1.4 by 1.6 inches, it weighs just over 2 ounces. It starts recording when you start your car and records in super high resolution 1440P. The Dash Cam 55 also relays alerts for front-end collisions, lane departures, as well as warnings for red light and speed cameras. The Garmin Dash Cam 55 responds to voice commands to stop and start video capture and to take still pictures. The VIRB app allows you to sync footage with your smartphone.
The Dash Cam 55 camera is 3.7 megapixels, capturing at 60 frames per second (FPS). It comes with a G-Force sensor, and for $20 to $30 per year, you can download unlimited map updates from Garmin’s Cyclops service. You can conceivably operate the Garmin Dash Cam 55 from start to finish without ever actually touching it. Prices found online range from $199 to $299.
Papago GoSafe 535
The Papago GoSafe 535 comes with super-high-definition 1296p resolution and a full 160-degree wide angle lens. The video is recorded in excellent quality, day or night. Not only that, but the GoSafe 535 has one of the best cameras of any dash cam for recording in bad weather. Although it comes equipped with an 8GB MicroSD card, it will accept cards as large as 64GB for up to 8 hours of recording at 1080i resolution. You can also attach it directly to your Android phone. The CAM ON app allows you to download directly to your device without having to transfer the video manually.
The GoSafe 535 comes equipped with several recording modes. The automatic recording mode turns on and off whenever your car is turned on or off. Monitor mode takes one picture per second instead of constant video to save SD card storage space. The motion detection mode, as the name indicates, begins recording automatically whenever it detects motion within its zone. The Papago GoSafe 535 is one of the best dash cams available, and you can find it online ranging from $118 to $140.
Best dash cam with radar detector: Cobra Dual View Dash 2316D
The Cobra Dual View dash 2316D not only continuously monitors the roadway ahead of you and behind, but it also attaches to the iRadar app. This will warn you of known speed traps, red light cameras, and police locations. Because it has GPS, it will note the location, time, and date of your recording. This can be very handy when accidents have conflicting stories.
The 2316D records in 1080p with the front camera and at 720p with the rear camera. The iRadar App “Route Tracking” feature notes the speed, location, and G-Force sensor data continuously as you drive. The G-Force sensor can detect impacts, and the parking mode will detect motion around your vehicle. Another special feature of the Cobra 2316D prevents malfunction in extreme cold or heat with built-in supercapacitor technology. The Advanced Driver Alert System detects lane deviation, while the forward collision warning tells you if you’re approaching objects too quickly.
Like any other dash cam, one camera is always facing traffic in front. The 2316D comes with a 20-foot extender cable. This gives you the option of having the second camera facing either out the back window or inside the vehicle. The split-screen view allows you to monitor both cameras at once. The package also includes a 16GB MicroSD card, power adaptor, and a low-profile suction cup mount. Online prices range from $220 to $240 per unit.
Best dash cam for recording vehicle interior: VanTrue OnDash N2 Pro
The VanTrue N2 Pro is one of the best models on the market for recording both inside and outside of your vehicle. This has become more of a necessity with the rise of Uber, Lyft, taxi cabs, shuttle buses, or in any other situation where you might need to monitor passengers just in case. The forward camera has excellent detail and a 170-degree view. The rear camera is a 1080i high-resolution camera that has a 140-degree view. It can record everything that happens in the car. If not, you can rotate it 80-degrees for more precise aim.
The N2 Pro features four infrared lights that illuminate the car interior nicely for night-time recording. If you’re only using the forward-facing camera, the N2 Pro can record at 1440p resolution. Online prices range from $100 and $200, depending on the outlet.
Best dash cam for wide-angle recording: Rexing V1 Car Dash Cam
With a full 170-degree ultra-wide-angle lens, the Rexing V1 will take in and record more of the road ahead than an average dash cam. Not only is the field of view wide, but it’s also clear, as the V1 1080i high-resolution system automatically adjusts the fine-tuning to keep the picture sharp and clean.
The loop recording automatically overwrites the oldest records once you’ve exhausted the memory card. The Rexing V1 has a G-Force Sensor that will lock down the current footage when activated. It accommodates MicroSD memory cards from 16GB to 128GB, comes with a 12-foot 12-volt power cable, and a 3-M adhesive mount. Prices online were between $100 and $130.
Best dash cam overall: Thinkware F800 PRO
In our estimation, the Thinkware F800 Pro is the best of the best. This updated model of the popular F800 platform is available with an optional rear-facing camera attachment. Because it incorporates the patented Sony STARVIS sensor technology and the Ambarella A12 chipset, the nighttime video quality is excellent. The F800 Pro uses less energy than any other high definition parking unit. It has dedicated nearly half of its partition to the parking security mode so that you can park anywhere overnight with confidence.
The F800 Pro also comes with an all-black body, a full 128GB MicroSD card and online storage capability with the Thinkware Cloud. Other features include 1080i recording front and rear, built-in Wi-Fi and GPS, speed trap and red-light camera monitoring. The system will also automatically shut down if the heat exceeds maximum capacity. The price range online falls between $279 and $400.
Best budget dash cam: Yi Dash Cam
Basically a discount version of the Garmin Dash Cam 55, the Yi Dash Cam has many of the same features but is a bit larger with a 2.7 inch led screen and navigational buttons along the bottom. It also uses a MicroSD card to save footage. Another similarity is the Wi-Fi network feature as well as an app to monitor and watch clips on your smartphone.
The Yi has no voice commands, so you must do everything manually. You’ll have to download your video clips or remove the SD card to transfer them to your computer. However, the app does an excellent job of at transferring video files by date and downloading them to your smartphone. It even lets you adjust the settings of the camera from your phone. The Wi-Fi is always active unless you turn it off for quick smartphone access.
The maximum 1296p, 30FPS is a little better than standard, and so is the 165-degree field of view. It has a G-sensor to notify it to save accident footage immediately. The Yi is not missing anything vital and covers all the standard dash cam bases. Just don’t expect to be wowed by lots of snappy extras. The Yi does give you everything you will need in a dash cam for a reasonable price. Online prices range from $30 to $50.
Best dash cam budget runner-up: Mobius Action Camera
The Mobius ActionCam is one of the best mini cameras available in its price range. It measures 2 by 1 by 1 inch and weighs just 1.37 ounces. You’ll find it small enough to use in many situations, but it records in amazing 1080P high definition at 30FPS. You can set it to record at 720P at 30FPS for high-speed events, and it features a wide dynamic range for recording in low-light. There is also a time-lapse mode that records still images to save memory. The Mobius Action Cam can record for up to 80 minutes with the battery pack if no power source is available. The audio records at 512 KBPS, which is CD quality.
While the car mount and car adaptor are not included, the Mobeus serves as an excellent dash cam. It starts instantly when the power adapter is plugged in and stops when the power ceases. This makes it ideal for use as a dash cam. That, coupled with the excellent video quality and wide-angle lens, make it a clear choice for on-road use at a reasonable price. Although primarily more of a GoPro-type device, the Mobeus offers mounts for cars, bicycles, helmets, and a mini-tripod. Online prices range from $60 to $85, which is a bargain, even at the high-end price.
When All Is Said and Done
A dash cam’s primary purpose is to record what is going on in front of your vehicle. That said, any one of the best dash cams on this list can get the job done. Beyond that, the features and extras are not just for convenience. They can also help if you need to immediately show the police what you’ve recorded.
If all you want is a standard dash cam with minimal features, the Yi Dash Cam or the Mobius Action Cam will do the job nicely. If you need something a bit more dynamic with a few more features, the Garmin 55 and the Papago GoSafe 535 have a bit more to offer. Under certain circumstances, you may need something a bit more specific. If you need something with a wider angle, you may choose to opt for the Rexing V1. If you chauffeur passengers and want to record for safety or legal reasons, the VanTrue OnDash N2 Pro may be the one for you.
Finally, if you want the best dash cam with the most features and the highest recommendations, it’s the Thinkware F800 Pro, hands down. However, always gather as much information and make an informed choice that suits your needs. We hope this list is helpful in making that decision.