Dashcam Buyer's Guide

Anyone who has been in a traffic accident knows that infuriating phrase that always manages to escape the other driver’s mouth: “They came out of nowhere!”. Well thanks to advancing technology, the days of he said she said are over. Thousands of people all over the world have started using dash cams to record hard evidence while they drive.

What is Dash Cam?

In the most basic terms, a Dash Cam is a camera that sits on the dashboard or windshield of your car. These all-digital devices are constantly capturing video, recording over the oldest video they contain and allow you to save what’s important.

Why do I need one?

You may not realize you need a Dash Cam until it’s too late. The value of hard evidence from your driving experience can come in very handy is some sticky situations such as accidents and hit and runs. The technology has become particularly popular on Russia’s lawless roads, but here’s when you can benefit from it as well.

  • Accidents

    When the cops finally get to the scene of an accident, the chance of them getting the same story from both drivers is slim-to-none with everyone trying to twist events to their favor. By having some hard video evidence, you can keep other drivers honest and make sure you don’t end up with the short end of the stick - like this poor guy:


    The Hit and Run

    You know that sinking feeling when you get back to your car from a fun day out only to find a fat new scratch and no note in sight. Dash cams can put an end to this problem, with many sporting features that allow them to record while you’re away, or even activate upon shock. Or, you know, you could just record yourself doing it.


  • Insurance Fraud

    Everyone loves free money, but you won’t believe the length to which some people will go to get it.

    Whether it’s a staged collision


     

    Someone jumping in front of your car, having a dash cam on board can save you from a very expensive payout.

     


  • Bad Drivers

    Whether you lend your car to one, or are just unlucky enough to meet one on the road, a bad driver can ruin your day - and your car. But by having a dash cam, you can make sure you catch them in the act, and maybe even make the news.


    This also allows you to see what happens the next time the valet, mechanic, or your kid takes your car for a joy ride. The GPS enabled dash cams can show you what route was taken and monitor things like the speed of the driver.



  • What should my Dash Cam have?

    With Dash Cam’s increasing in popularity there are more and more on the market each day. Finding the one that has the features you need in the right price range can be a little intimidating. Let’s go over the most important features to look for in a Dash Cam.

    Camera Quality

    The quality and type of the camera will probably be the first thing you look for. Almost all dash cams will need to shoot in HD in order for license plates to be legible, meaning resolutions of 720p or 1080p. Look for videos that users took using the camera and make it full screen to see if it’s clear enough. Don’t always trust the videos you see from companies, they might be a little better than average.


    Other things to look for in the camera is the quality at night. Most HD cameras look fine in daytime, but make sure you look for some nighttime videos at well to make sure the camera isn’t useless when the sun goes down.

    Size

    For some of the dash cam’s best uses, discreteness is key - after all, how can it watch your joyriding kid if he sees it and unplugs it right away. In order for the dash cam to be discreet, it needs to be small, black, and fit right behind your rear view mirror.

    Memory

    You’ll want to make sure that the dash cam can accommodate enough memory. Very few dash cams come with built-in memory, instead opting to allow SD cards. The more memory your camera has the longer it can record for, so make sure it can take a decent sized card.

    GPS

    Dash cams that are GPS enabled will track your car’s location, embedding it along with the file of the recording. This feature has been used to do anything from fighting speeding tickets to tracking your kids while they drive.


     See Also

    Quality and Reliability

    With the popularity of dash cams soaring, we’ve seen a number of new manufacturers enter the market and push prices down. However, some of these budget models will sacrifice reliability to bring the price down, resulting in fairly high failure rates.


    Knowing how hot a closed car can get, overheating is the leading cause of failure for dash cams. If you live in an area where it can get pretty hot, you should try to make sure that the dash cam you are purchasing can withstand heat.


    Before buying a dash cam, always check reviews from longtime users and see how many talk about their camera failing. Having a good warranty that lasts as while is also very important to protecting your investment.

    Bells and Whistles

    Dash cams can come with a variety of different features, such as a screen for instantly reviewing your footage, or a power capable that hooks up to the car saving you from using a battery. More expensive models have more high-tech offering things like voice control, Wi-Fi integration, and Driver Assistance Programs. While these bells and whistles are nice, only you can decide if the functionality they offer on top of the basic dash cam features is worth the price.

  • Popular Models

    Here are some of the more popular models of dash cams available, ranging from the budget oriented models, to high-end professional products. Listed are their statistics and overall usage.

  • Model: DVR 207 - $69.95 by GND

    Camera: 720p

    Processor: Zoran Coach 12MDV Processor, no gaps between files

    Memory: Up to 32GB SD Card (not included)

    GPS: No

    Warranty: 90-days

    Notes: Has a slim profile and small screen

    Verdict: A very stripped-down, budget model, nothing beyond the basic functionality. The camera quality is serviceable during the day and borderline poor at night. A good value.

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  • Model: F500LHD - $99.95 by Transfluent

    Camera: 1080p with lights for nighttime

    Processor: Ambarella A2 Processor

    Memory: Up to 32GB SD Card (not included)

    GPS: No

    Warranty: 90-days

    Notes: Large screen but a little bulky

    Verdict: A very reliable device with high quality video and audio. It’s main drawback is it’s size, it’s not very discreet. May be your best bet if you don’t need GPS.

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  • Model: GS100 - $119.95 by Samoon

    Camera: 1080p, less sharp but still good at night

    Processor: Ambarella A2 Processor

    Memory: Up to 32GB SD Card (not included)

    GPS: Yes

    Warranty: 90-days

    Notes: Compact size with small menu screen

    Verdict: High quality and reliability make it the best buy in it’s price range. So successful it has been the victim of forgeries and copycats, watch out for fakes.

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  • Model: LK-7500 - $199.95 by Lukas

    Camera: 1080p, good at night

    Processor: Sony Exmor-R

    Memory: Up to 128GB SD and SDXC Cards (8GB card included)

    GPS: Yes

    Warranty: 1-year Warranty

    Notes: Very small and stealthy, excellent heat resistance, shock sensors

    Verdict: Getting into the higher-quality price range, this model offers excellent video while coming with more bells and whistles including higher memory capacity, faster startup, shock sensors, and a slick discreet design. High heat resistance paired with local distribution means your model be with you for a while.

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  • Model: BlackVue DR500GW-HD - $299.95 by Pittasoft

    Camera: 1080p, excellent at night

    Processor: Poor firmware and compression leads to choppy video

    Memory: Up to 32GB SD Cards (16GB card included)

    GPS: Yes

    Warranty: 1-year Warranty

    Notes: Very small, moderate heat resistance, shock sensors and motion detectors, Wi-Fi enabled for viewing on phones or tablets.

    Verdict: For a more expensive product there are some issues. Some of the best bells and whistles, with excellent camera quality - however it has some overheating issues and the video is a little choppy. This will likely be fixed in upcoming firmware updates that improve on the compression software.

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  • Model: DR32 - $134.95 by Hetai

    Camera: 1080p, great at night

    Processor: Not listed

    Memory: Up to 32GB micro SD Cards (no card included)

    GPS: No

    Warranty: 90-Day Warranty

    Notes: A 2.4” screen, shock sensors, even with a screen it is very discreet, auto-start feature

    Verdict: Great new low-priced model, video quality really excels for the price range. Easy to use and starts automatically with power. Great option for the price, but comes without too many extra features.

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  • Model: Z12 - $79.95 by Zetta

    Camera: Excellent at night

    Processor: Not listed

    Memory: Up to 32GB micro SD Cards (no card included)

    GPS: No

    Warranty: None

    Notes: Motion and vibration activated, shock sensors, a little large, doesn’t mount easily

    Verdict: The various sensors and activation methods make this well-suited for other types of surveillance, but acting as a dash cam seems like a secondary function.

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  • Model: Mobius Action Camera - $99.95 by C&D Tech

    Camera: Excellent at night

    Processor: Not listed

    Memory: Up to 32GB micro SD Cards (no card included)

    GPS: No

    Warranty: 90 Days

    Notes: Very discreet, requires accessories to function as dash cam.

    Verdict: While not strictly built as a dash camera, this camera can function quite well as one with the car adaptor and car mount (not included). The Mobius has outstanding video quality for the price and can double as an action camera while not in the car making this an excellent option if one doesn’t require GPS.