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Best dash cams for your car

Give your car eyes and get notifications to know its okay at any moment with one of the latest dash cams

by Irene Park

Unbelievable footage from dash cams has been shared online and in the news for years. Moments that no one would believe unless they were captured by a dash cam.

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What are Dash Cams?

Dash cam, which is short for dashboard camera, originated as a digital video recorder (DVR) or event data recorder (EVR) for cars. Often mounted on the dashboard or the front windshield of the car, it can record usually from the driver’s perspective of what is happening in or around the car.

While dash cam used to be a simple camera device recording front-facing collisions, the technology, and features of contemporary dash cams have advanced to include even more value.

Some dash cams can film a vast amount of a car’s interior, film from the rear window to capture collision or accidents from behind, or even turn on when the car is parked if there is theft or impact from an outside source.

Usually powered by a cigarette lighter cable or hardwired into the fuse box, it usually turns on as soon as the ignition is started making it a constant companion for your drives.

 

The Pros and Cons of Dash Cams

car accident dash cam footage

Pros of a dash cam

1. Can prove which vehicle is at fault in an accident

Minor fender benders can turn into a nightmare and potentially increase your auto insurance premium.   Video is often the best witness to any accident.   A dash cam might prove fault when otherwise some instances the position of the car in the accident is assumed to take on the burden of responsibility unless there is evidence showing the contrary.

One such instance of this would be backing up. If you were to stop behind a car at a stop sign or light and the car in front of you backs up into your vehicle, it is usually the driver who causes the rear collision to be found at fault even though the driver in front of you clearly backed into you.

Unless you have a witness or footage, your word is as good as theirs.  Sometimes at-fault drivers take responsibility at the scene of the accident but later report something else to their insurance company. Instead of going through the claims process to dispute this, which can be very long and arduous, if you had a dash cam, you simply would be able to provide video evidence clearly showing what happened at the time of the accident.  A dash cam can prove to be invaluable when filing a claim with your insurance company and filing a police report.

2. Helps keep car insurance premiums low

While most auto insurance carriers don’t offer a dash cam discount, dash cams do provide indirect benefits that can keep your insurance premium from rising:

  1. Accidents do happen and instead of leaving the accident open to interpretation, a video of the accident assists in avoiding disputes more easily. It is hard to argue against video footage of the accident.
  2. Similar to the first scenario, insurance fraud, where people try to stage an accident to receive fraudulent claims payout, has become quite common. Instead of getting embroiled in a long process, having to pay out large sums of money for legal help, or having your insurance premium increase, a dash cam can help provide the necessary footage to clear your ‘name’ in the process.
  3. With most comprehensive insurance coverage, you’re covered if your car is damaged by any incident not caused by a collision such as theft, vandalism, and damage from falling objects.
  4. Shopping cart hits your car.  A window is broken.  Even when a car is parked, many dash cams now have a function that ‘jolt’ them ‘awake’ to record footage if there is some disturbance to your vehicle. This footage can provide ample evidence to your insurance carrier as to exactly what happened to payout a reasonable claim and help police lock up a car criminal 

3. Theft Deterrent

Hard-wired dash cams come with a parking mode feature that allows the dash cam to automatically turn on & record a video when motion or impact is detected to the car.

More elaborate dash cams also feature vehicle tracking and alarm systems. Sometimes seeing a flashing light of a dash cam recording or a warning sticker that notifies others of dash cam surveillance is enough to ward off theft or vandals.

4.  Keeps an eye on your car when parked

Notifications to your phone can keep you informed when the parking mode is activated. Recordings of thefts can help authorities in filing police reports and may help in apprehending the culprit.

 

Cons of a dash cam

Cost

A dash cam does not come cheap, especially if you want all the ‘bells and whistles.’ Usually starting from $100, more advanced, feature-rich dash cams can cost upwards of $500.

This doesn’t include the installation fee if you need to get the device hardwired into your vehicle. Most dash cams do not include the microSD card, which is the memory card used to store the video recordings, which varies in price by brand and storage capacity.

For connected dash cams, there is usually a monthly or annual recurring mobile connection cost.

Maintenance

Depending on what you’re using the dash cam for, you might need to download and review footage of whatever has been recorded.  Most dash cams work with microSD cards but will record over the previous recording if it gets full.

If you don’t download the footage prior to maxing out, prior footage will get deleted. If you don’t have the dash cam setup to auto-record over older footage, you’ll have to check the memory card and decide what to delete or keep regularly. If your dash cam is hardwired to the car’s battery, the car battery issues can reset the dash cam settings so you might have to make sure those settings are still up to your specifications on occasions.

Blindspot/distracted driving

Much like anything else in life, dash cams aren’t a one ‘size’ fits all device.  Rather than depending on the size and preference of the driver, where it is mounted can impact one’s ability to focus on driving safely.

If it is in the line of sight, it can create blind spots that can be hazardous to you and those around you.   Be thoughtful about mounting it in a way as not to distract or impair your sight on the road.

 

Top 5 Best Dash Cams

With so many dash cams on the market, we’re making it easy to see the top-rated choices and understand the differences. Below are top-rated dash cams that have a good mix of core features and vary in price to fit most needs and budgets.

 

VIOFO A119 V3 Dash Cam

VIOFO A119 V3 Dash Cam GPS

Pros

  • Great video quality
  • Lower cost
  • Built-in Capacitor
  • Integrated GPS
  • G-sensor activation with auto-recording and locking video file

Cons

  • Memory card comes separately and only supports up to 256 GB
  • Only a front-facing camera
  • No built-in wifi
  • No accompanying app
  • Parking mode requires hardwiring, sold separately

If you’re looking for a quality dash cam with core basic features, the VIOFO A119 V3 might be the right choice for you. While some of the fancier, newer dash cams offer 4K video quality, customer reviews state that the true HDR, 2880x2160P Quad HD quality is more than sufficient at capturing finer, crucial details such as license plates in video recordings.

While it is only a front-facing camera, it includes a 140-degree range of view so you can capture the peripheral around your vehicle such as the adjacent lanes. It also utilizes Sony STARVIS IMX335 5MP Sensor, which gives you greater visibility at night and allows details such as license plates to be captured despite being too bright from headlights. It also supports a sizable storage capacity of up to 256 GB, which means when you purchase the microSD memory card separately, you can buy a larger size to record more footage. Some dash cams max out at 128 GB, which means that you’d have older footage overwritten more frequently or you’d have to delete video footage more frequently.

One of the key selling points of this particular dash cam is that not only can it be powered by the cigarette lighter, but it also has a capacitor that stores electrical energy in an electric field inside instead of a built-in battery. This feature makes it more resilient to extreme temperatures.

So if you park your car outside regularly or live in an area where you experience extreme heat or cold, this might withstand those environments better. It also has an integrated GPS so that your video footage includes coordinates and speed along with the date and time.

Like most dash cams, it also has a gravity sensor called the ‘g-sensor’ that auto records in the event of a collision and locks the footage so it doesn’t get erased by the loop feature.

 

 

Rove R2-4K Dash Cam Built-in WiFi

Rove R2-4K Dash Cam Built in WiFi GPS Car Dashboard Camera Recorder

Pros

  • Great video quality
  • Lower cost
  • Internal battery allows parking mode without hardwiring
  • Supports memory card up to 512 GB (high capacity)
  • Built-in wifi to work with app
  • Integrated GPS
  • G-sensor activation with auto-recording and locking video file
  • Built to withstand extreme temperatures

Cons

  • Only a front-facing camera
  • 24-hour Parking mode requires hardwiring, sold separately

As its name suggests, the Rove R2-4K boasts a recording capability of 4K video and 150-degree camera lens. It also features a robust night mode with Novatek NT96660 Fast Processor and Sony STARVIS IMX 335 Ultra-Low Light 5MP CMOS Sensor to capture crisp footage in low light situations.

Like most dash cams, you do have to buy a memory card separately. It claims to support the highest storage capacity in the industry, with a storage capacity of up to 512 GB. This means with the right microSD memory card, you will have the ability to go longer without having to record over footage and delete files to free space.

The built-in wifi works seamlessly with the dash cam’s app, ROVE app, which is available for both iOS and Android users. You can monitor and download footage from your dash cam on your app, which means it is both easier to share with friends and family or on social media. The built-in GPS accurately records speed and location. When used with the ROVE app, you can view your route on google maps with the footage of the drive.

Like most dash cams, it comes with g-sensor so the dash cam automatically records collisions for up to 1 minute then locks the video so it cannot be recorded over if it is set to a loop function. It, however, unlike most dash cams uses the dash cam’s internal battery, which requires no additional accessories, to record any impact that triggers the set g-sensor level when the car is parked. Most other dash cams must be hardwired into the car’s battery to utilize parking mode features when the car is not on.

Having the ability to capture 5-7 minutes of footage due to the camera’s internal battery is a great bonus feature. It does offer a separately sold accessories package if you want to utilize its 24-hour parking mode feature too. Despite having an internal battery, this dash cam is built for extreme temperatures as well (below 22°F and up to 176°F).

 

Nexar Pro Dual Dash Cam

Nexar Pro GPS

Pros

  • Good video quality
  • Front and interior cameras with audio recording
  • Unlimited uploads of accidents to their cloud for the life of the product
  • Includes a memory card so no separate purchase is necessary and it can be used straight out of the box
  • Built-in wifi to work with app
  • Emergency Alerts feature
  • Parking mode without hardwiring necessary
  • Incident report easy to generate

Cons

  • Most competitors offer higher video quality at this price point
  • Accidents caught on Parking mode can only be viewed when the phone with the app is connected to the dash cam or is viewed off of the memory card footage
  • A large dependency on having the dash cam connected to the app to utilize many of its features

Unlike other dash cams on the market, the Nexar Pro Dual dash cam is built with professional drivers in mind. It not only comes with a front-facing camera but also an interior camera to capture the environment inside the cabin of the vehicle.

The front-facing camera boasts a full 1080P HD quality with a 135° road view while the interior-facing camera records in 720P HD quality with 10 infrared light bulbs for clear footage even in low light. Nexar is the only company that offers unlimited uploads of g-sensor activated incidents to their cloud for the lifetime use of the product. Yes, you read that correctly there is no monthly fee or additional cost to utilize this feature.

When its g-sensor is activated, such as a collision or sudden braking, the dash cam starts to automatically record then uploads the clip of the incident to the cloud via the Nexar app. Unlike other dash cams, this model of Nexar dash cams includes internal memory (microSD card) so you don’t have to buy one separately or worry about the compatibility of the memory card you purchased.

You can start at 32 GB of memory up to 256 GB. The company’s website suggests that the 32 GB provides approximately 3 hours of recording whereas the 256 GB is supposed to provide up to 24 hours of recording. The dash cam records on a loop using the internal memory then records over older footage as the storage capacity is reached.

You can also use the accompanying app, available for both Android and iOS, to automatically stream footage to your phone’s memory using its built-in wifi feature. Once it maxes out the designated amount of memory you’ve allotted via the app, it will automatically record over older footage to continue recording on your phone.

Once you pair the dash cam to the app, it automatically detects the phone when you enter your vehicle until you unpair it. Another fantastic and unique feature of this Nexar dash cam is the Emergency alerts that can be set up in the app to send a text to your designated emergency contacts, which includes location, footage from dash cam, and a one-tap link to dispatch 911. While many other dash cam footage can be submitted to aid your case for legal or insurance claims, Nexar Pro actually complies a full accident report in less than a minute for you including speed, location, impact force, and video.

The parking mode for this dash cam is only activated when the car is fully powered off. The dash cam will ‘wake up’ when an incident is detected and record up to 30 seconds long to its SD memory card.  If you use the Nexar App, you’ll be notified if a parking incident occurred. You can only see the footage when your phone is connected back to the dash cam. The parking mode won’t work on some of the new or electric car models because the charging continues even when the ignition is turned off on.

 

Vantrue N4 3

Vantrue N4 3 Channel 4K Dash Cam

 

Pros

  • Great video quality (4K)
  • Front, interior, and rear cameras with audio recording
  • Built-in Capacitor
  • G-sensor activation with auto-recording and locking video file
  • Built to withstand extreme temperatures

Cons

  • GPS function is sold separately
  • No built-in wifi
  • Parking mode requires hardwiring, sold separately

One of the most comprehensive dash cams on the market, the Vantrue captures 4K video with a front-facing camera that captures 155° wide, an interior camera that captures 165° wide, and a rear camera that captures 160° wide.

The rear camera records from behind the car as well as the interior front. The high-performance Sony STARVIS CMOS sensor is especially great at increasing exposure of video footage in low light situations such as driving at night.

The 4 IR LED lights facing the car cabin accurately capture the driver & interior. A built-in capacitor, which means no internal battery, enables it to withstand extreme temperatures from 14°F to 158°F. It also increases the lifespan of this dash cam over those operating with lithium-ion battery.

Like many dash cams, it has a variable sensitivity g-sensor that detects sudden impact to the vehicle, records video automatically, and locks the video so that it cannot be deleted if set to automatically loop. The built-in microphone on the front-facing camera captures sound with clarity. Each camera’s footage is captured & labeled separately so you can view it with ease.

While some users will miss the built-in wifi and GPS, those who crave privacy will enjoy the control of not having to fiddle with another app or the constant output of one’s whereabouts. The GPS function can be purchased separately. The accessories necessary to hardwire this dashcam is sold separately as is the MicroSD card (supported up to 256 GB).

 

Garmin Dash Cam Tandem

Garmin Dash Cam Tandem

Pros

  • Good video quality
  • Front & interior cameras with audio recording in one device
  • Built-in GPS and Galileo
  • Built-in Wifi
  • Includes a memory card so no separate purchase is necessary and it can be used straight out of the box
  • Built to withstand extreme temperatures

Cons

  • No built-in display
  • Parking mode requires hardwiring, sold separately

While Garmin is best known as the company that has cornered the GPS market, they’ve managed to top many best ‘dash cams’ list with their small, sleek, and subtle dash cams. The Tandem stands out for its mix of core features and enticing extras.

Like most dash cams, this one is also powered through a cigarette lighter outlet and automatically records footage when an accident is detected. The Tandem manages to house both a front-facing and interior camera both with 180-degree field of view in one pocket-sized device. The front-facing camera boasts a crisp video with 1440p Garmin Clarity HDR and the interior camera captures 720 p with NightGlo technology. NightGlo, exclusive to Garmin dash cams, provides clarity in low-light situation such as the car’s interior at night.

Though the Tandem only comes with the front and interior facing cameras, you can purchase separate Garmin cameras and connect them with the Dash Cam Auto Sync feature on the Garmin Drive App, which is available for Android and iOs. This feature allows you to control and playback synchronized video of up to 4 connected dash cams.

It connects with the app through built-in wifi. This built-in wifi feature also lets you view and share your videos through the app. And of course, it wouldn’t make sense to have a Garmin device without the integration of its GPS technology. The Tandem comes outfitted with built-in GPS and Galileo, a satellite network, which captures where and when accidents occur.

While it does have a parking mode feature, which automatically records motion in front of and inside the vehicle when the car is parked or turned off, like many dash cams it requires hardwiring which is sold separately. The voice control option is where the Tandem steps up with additional features.

Part of being a good driver and being focused on the road involves not fiddling with other devices while driving. With the voice control option, which is available in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Swedish, you can tell the camera to save video, start and stop the audio recording, and more.

Unlike most dash cams where the user must purchase a memory card separately, the Tandem automatically comes with a 16 GB microSD card but can support a maximum storage capacity of 512 GB. The biggest catch with the Tandem is that, unlike most dash cams, it does not have a built-in display on the camera. This means the only way to see what you’re recording is to use the app or later off the memory card.

If price was not a barrier, the Vantrue N4 3 with the purchase of GPS and additional hardwiring accessories would be the top pick of dash cam from this list. While having a feature-rich app to accompany the dash cam might add some convenient features, it also complicates the process.

If the app fails, you lose half the features you are paying for. If your priority is the safety of yourself, your passengers and your vehicle, the ability to view in front, inside, and behind gives you the greatest coverage. Being able to manage the footage manually also gives you greater privacy, control, and impetus to manage the footage being captured.

Have you used a dash cam before? How has it been helpful? Share your story in the comments below.

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