Often a source of YouTube entertainment, dash cams continue to gain popularity among drivers for a few key reasons. Opportunities to become an online sensation aside, dash cam footage is frequently being used by insurance companies to determine who's at fault in the case of a collision.
One potential hiccup: Some states have windshield obstacle laws, which prohibit "any object or material placed, displayed, installed, affixed, or applied upon the windshield." This means you may not be allowed to mount a dash cam on your windshield. Be sure to check your local laws before purchasing one.
But having a dash cam can give you the confidence of knowing that the facts will speak for themselves, rather than having your case evaluated based on witness testimony and police reports. We researched dozens of dash cams to find the top picks that offer the best combination of reliability, image quality, and ease of use, so you'll feel safer on the road. We've included picks for every need and budget, from barebones models that just record video, to more feature-filled options that pack features like 4K video, night vision, and voice controls. Learn more about our top picks below.
You may have relied on a Garmin GPS system in the past to help you navigate streets in an unknown city. That device has probably since been replaced with your smartphone, but we think Garmin deserves a spot on your dashboard once again, because the Garmin Dash Cam 56 is simply the best dash cam you can buy. It offers a 1440p HD resolution, and it shoots 30 frames per second, so video quality is crystal-clear during the day, and its HDR feature helps improve night recordings, too.
We like its discreet and compact size, so you don't have to worry about it ever intruding in on your view. Plus, its power cable is 13.5 feet long, so you'll be able to tuck the cord behind your windshield moulding and keep it out of the way. You get a magnetic mount which attaches to your windshield or dashboard with 3M adhesive, so it's a semi-permanent mounting solution, but the device itself can easily be removed from the mount if you're worried about leaving it in the car when you're not driving.
A reviewer at T3 named it the website's runner-up pick for its attractive design, impressive image quality, and number of useful features including GPS, smartphone integration, and Lane Departure warnings.
If you've ever used a Google Home smart speaker, you'll get a kick out of the Garmin's voice control. Just say "OK, Garmin" to wake up its 2-inch display, which lists four options: save video, take a picture, record audio, or start Travelapse (a time-lapse mode).
We think Garmin's dash cam offers one of the easiest and safest-to-use interfaces. It automatically begins recording when it's connected to a power source. You won't be scrolling through complex menus, or have to change a lot of settings, either — and you can stop recording by using voice commands. The device has built-in Wi-Fi, which works in tandem with a free app, that can be used to view stored images and recordings, and transfer them to your smartphone or computer.
Other useful features are built-in GPS, so it captures the location for where the video was recorded, and a Forward Collision Warning System that detects when you're too close to the car in front of you. The dash cam records in a continuous loop, so when your memory card runs out of space, it'll overwrite existing videos. We recommend purchasing a larger MicroSD card, because this one only comes with 8 GB of storage space.
Best Budget Dash Cam
The YI Smart is a budget-friendly dash cam that's equipped with an A12 processor (which allows it to record 1080p Full HD video at 60 frames per second), a bright 2.7-inch screen, and Wi-Fi for pairing it with your smartphone. Named a best buy pick by TechGearLab and Ars Technica, its ultra wide-angle lens gives you 165 degrees of visibility that's plenty wide enough to cover three lanes of traffic.
It's also one of the few dash cams that's available in different colors, with a choice of silver or gold. It comes with a long charging cable, a power adapter, and a mount, but you'll need to purchase a MicroSD card to store videos. The included mount uses a 3M adhesive, so it's a semi-permanent solution. We wish that the camera also came with a suction cup mount, so you can use it in multiple vehicles.
On the plus side, the camera is one of the easiest to use, and it still offers great image quality, especially for its low price. It also uses the ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System), which warns you when cars are leaving their lanes and lets you know when you're following too closely. Make sure to install the free app for transferring videos to your smartphone for easy editing and sharing!
Best Dash Cam for Night Images
The Z-EDGE T3 captures impressive high-definition video in all lighting conditions, thanks to its large CMOS image sensor, six glass lenses that reduce glare, and its powerful chipset. It has a wide-angle lens with a 150-degree viewing angle that's long enough to capture several lanes of traffic. We were impressed by the T3's ability to capture detailed video even at nighttime and during rainy weather. You'll still be able to make out license plate numbers without any issue, too.
This dash cam has a built-in GPS, a rarity for a device priced at less than $100. Unfortunately, it doesn't include a memory card, but on the plus side, it automatically overwrites old videos when the card is full. We appreciate that the camera begins recording as soon as you turn your vehicle on. Recording stops either manually, when no motion is detected, or when you turn the ignition off.
Its 3-inch LCD touchscreen is a great size for playing back video and adjusting settings. Plus, we like that the camera is easy to mount and doesn't take up too much space. The power cable is 13 feet long and connects to your car's 12-volt accessory outlet.
While we wish the Z-EDGE T3 captured video in 4K Ultra-HD, it records in just 1080p, meaning it doesn't offer the highest resolution possible. If you want unbeatable video quality, the Nextbase 522GW is equipped with one of the latest Sony sensors to capture video that offers four times the resolution than what the Z-EDGE can record. This makes it a wonderful option for night drivers looking for the highest detail.
The only reasons we didn't name it a top pick is because it's priced at a whopping $260, and it has limited availability in the United States, since Nextbase is a European-based dash cam company. But if you see it in stock and want the best of the best, it's worth considering if you have the budget for it!
Best Dual Cam
If you're in search of a dash cam with dual lenses for recording both the interior and exterior of your vehicle, we recommend the Vantrue N2 Pro. It's the perfect solution for Uber, Lyft, or cab drivers who want some peace of mind that they'll have evidence in the event that a passenger misbehaves. A camera also has the potential to deter passengers from saying or doing something lewd or offensive, and it has a time stamp for evidence purposes. If you don’t feel comfortable recording audio, you can disable its interior microphone if you want.
We were happy to see that the Vantrue N2 Pro's exterior and interior cameras record in full HD. If you have both cameras rolling, the front camera is capable of recording across a 170-degree field of view, while the rear records across 140 degrees. You should get a nice and wide bright view from both sides. This cam received rave reviews from the Wirecutter and Insider Picks. While we would have liked to see built-in GPS and an included memory card, the N2 Pro is an excellent camera with strong image quality for those looking to record in both directions.
Best for Warmer Climates
If you live in a warmer climate, the F70 is an excellent choice because it uses a capacitor instead of a lithium-ion battery, which handles higher temperatures better. It even has a built-in thermal sensor to automatically power itself down when it gets too hot.
About the size of a tube of lipstick, this sleek camera blends into your car’s cabin. It comes in jet black and rests just below your rearview mirror. It’s about 3 inches long and an inch thick — so small you'll forget it's there.
We spent a couple days testing the camera and found it to have an incredibly easy install. All you need to do is put the included 3M adhesive pad on your windshield and plug it into your car's 12-volt accessory outlet (the cigarette lighter). It has motion detection to automatically begin recording, or you can just press its only button — a tiny record button on its left side.
The camera shoots 30 frames per second in full 1080p HD. It offers a wide 140-degree viewing angle, so you can see adjacent lanes and the road's shoulder. Considering its affordable price, we were impressed with image quality, and were happy to see legible license plates at nighttime. Our test model came with an 8 GB memory card, but we recommend upgrading to a 32 or 64 GB card so you can store more footage. This dash cam supports GPS, but the external GPS antenna is sold separately. Regardless, if you live in a city with record high temperatures, you can't go wrong with the Thinkware F70!
Best Discreet Dash Cam
Most dash cams have boxy designs that can be a bit of an eyesore in your vehicle's interior, but not this Garmin. It's the smallest dash cam we've come across. Since it's about the size of a keychain, it'll practically disappear on your windshield. Don't let its small size fool you, though — the camera still offers a 140-degree wide-angle shot captured in crisp 1080p high definition.
Testers at Wirecutter said the dash cam delivered "surprisingly good video quality with bright colors and a good dynamic range." It should come as no surprise that this dash cam lacks a screen. So in order to analyze footage, you need to pair it with a smartphone app. Regardless, if you're looking for a discreet camera that saves space on your dashboard, this one is the best pick!
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