Dash cams have become ubiquitous among daily driver tools. Increasing distractions and decreasing attention spans have made for a dangerous traffic commute. Using a dash cam means irrefutable proof of fault in the event of an accident, and, while we don’t have quite as much auto insurance fraud cases here in the U.S. as abroad, video can shut those cons down too.
Then there’s the ancillary benefit of potentially recording the next most outrageous, viral vehicular drama. Car drives into nearby pond? You’ll want that on camera. Speed racer drifts his Mustang into a row of Christmas trees for sale? Video gold.
At this stage, there are numerous options (and price points) for those who are ready to rig up a dash cam. It’s not easy to pick a clear winner, but our tests have elevated a few cams above the rest.
Why should you buy this: It’s the perfect generalist dash cam.
Who’s it for: The set it and forget it buyer
How much will it cost: $150
Why we picked the Vantrue OnDash R2:
The Vantrue OnDash R2 is an excellent all-rounder dash cam. Features you’d expect on high end products like a 170-degree field of view, 1080p video at 30 frames per second, and a widescreen HDR are baked in, plus excellent night vision and a top-notch F2.0 Six Layer Optical Glass Lens that’s resistant to heat and dust.
Some worthy mentions for this camera: the R2 has a Parking Mode that pauses recording until an object comes within 10 meters of your vehicle, just in case it comes a bit too close. Like most leading dashboard cameras, the R2 also powers on and off as your car does, conserving power and storage. A G-sensor is built into the device to automatically record and lock footage in the instance of a damaging accident.
Included with every Vantrue OnDash R2 is a 32GB SD card, enough to store a few hours work of video before overwriting with new footage.
The best dual-lens dash cam
Why should you buy this: You want front and rear video surveillance
Who’s it for: Extra cautious drivers
How much will it cost: $240
Why we picked the THINKWARE X500D Dashcam:
The latest innovation among dash cams is the addition of a second, rear-facing camera lens to monitor activity in and around the cabin of your vehicle. While there are plenty of choices within this new segment of cams, the Thinkware X500D stands out for its safety add-ons.
In addition to its stellar hardware, including a Sony Exmore SMOS sensor with 1080p HD front and rear video recording, built-in GPS for speed and location data, and a 32GB Micro SD card, the X500 features a speed camera alert, forward collision warning system, and lane departure notification to mimic built-in systems on today’s most advanced vehicles. Like the Vantrue cam, the X500 has a parking mode to initiate recording based on motion near your vehicle.
The X500’s trend-setting safety tech may be a little on the sensitive side, but for those who want to freshen their older cars with new features, while benefitting from a dual-camera setup, the X500 is a great pick.
The best budget dash cam
Why should you buy this: Protect yourself for cheap
Who’s it for: Cost-conscious consumers
How much will it cost: $75
Why we picked the Mobius ActionCam:
If you’ve done your research, it’s probably clear that adding a dash cam to your car is a smart move, but that doesn’t mean it’s an affordable one. Fortunately, options like the Mobius Actioncam allow drivers to protect themselves without breaking the bank.
The Actioncam benefits from more than just a low price tag. Its compact size fits perfectly just in front of your car’s rearview mirror. This option doesn’t sacrifice any windshield visibility and maintains the clean look of your interior. This little guy also packs 1080p video recording at 30fps and can overwrite previous footage when the memory card reaches capacity. Rounding out the cam’s highlights is downloadable software for camera settings tweaks and a painless setup process.
Our gripes with the Actioncam are few, but it’s worth mentioning that you’ll have to do without a built-in display to monitor your recordings – for that you’ll need a computer or TV. Finally, the lack of accelerometer and G-sensor means accident footage may appear chaotic compared to other, stabilized cameras.
The best feature-rich dash cam
Why should you buy this: If you live in extreme temperature climates or drive a lot at night, this is your best bet.
Who’s it for: The bells-and-whistles guy or gal
How much will it cost: $259
Why we picked the Lukas LK-7950 WD:
If you want the most advanced dash cam on the market, look no further than the Luka LK-7950 WD. Sure, it’s a mouthful, but it’s also full of some innovative features to record video in high-resolution day or night.
With two cameras (front and rear) recording video at 1080p, Sony Exmor IMX322 sensors in each lens, and support for two SD cards with up to 256GB capacity apiece, the LK-7950 churns out crystal clear footage for hours on end without needing to overlap old video. This cam is also well regarded for its resistance to high heat or extreme cold, so you won’t have to worry about frying your expensive new device on the windshield.
Durability and great quality video is important, but the LK-7950 goes beyond the competition with W-Fi for viewing on a smartphone, GPS, OBD-II, parking mode, High Dynamic Range (HDR) for optimal night vision recording, UV and CPL filters, a G-sensor, and built-in battery discharge prevention. There really isn’t a dash cam feature on the market that the LK-7950 doesn’t include. Our only complaints come down to its high price point and bulky size.
How we test
Our dash cams log many hours recording real-world tests, both on and off-road. We judge them by their ease of installation, storage capacity, video quality, and stability. We also note any additional features as well as how well the dash cam controls, either by attachments or through an app.
First time dash cam buyer
Dash Cam technology has advanced pretty quickly, so if this is your first device purchase, it’s best to choose one that has features you’ll use consistently rather than one with new tech that you might use down the road. New cameras with improved usability and more robust functionality will continue to lower prices and will force manufacturers to load products with cutting-edge features. That means when you’re ready to upgrade, chances are you’ll find a great option, with more goodies, for less than today’s leading models.