Dash cams continue to rise in popularity. This is due in part to better technology and cheaper, higher-performance, higher-capacity microSD cards. Gone are the days of blurry dash cam video footage.
There are many reasons to purchase a dash cam. Some include GPS technology or can function as backup cameras. They’re useful in traffic accidents or for capturing driving footage. With a dash cam, there’s less threat of “crash for cash” fraud.
So what are the best dash cams to purchase? Here are the top options to keep you and the footage rolling.
What Are the Features of the Best Dash Cams?
When comparing dash cams, there are loads of features. Notably, you’ll see:
- G-sensor — This locks video recordings when a crash has been detected, making sure you never overwrite important video footage.
- Wi-Fi — With wireless connectivity, you won’t need to physically connect your cam to transfer video.
- GPS — A Global Positioning System (GPS) allows the user to demonstrate where a crash or event occurs.
- Resolution — 720p, 1080p, 1440p, etc.
- microSD expansion.
- Battery-powered vs. no battery.
There are a lot of dash cams out there. Picking the right one may be tough especially for newcomers. We wrote a great guide for choosing the right dash cam which can be loads of help if this is your first one ever.
Budget Dash Cams
For budget dash cams, you likely won’t find many rocking Wi-Fi, GPS, or resolutions higher than 1080p. Moreover, some 1080p budget dash cams might not offer the best image quality even at 1080p. For the DIYers, you can put together your own with a Raspberry Pi. And if you’re really thrifty, you can use an old smartphone.
The Polaroid PD-E53H dash cam is one of the most affordable dash cams available. It records at 1080p, which is reasonably good video quality. Its G-sensor records, and locks in, collision footage. The loop recording features time stamping. On top of that, the Polaroid PD-E53H includes a still photo feature.
However, The Wirecutter found PD-E53h images a bit grainy. Additionally, the PD-E53H lacks many features found on higher-tier dash cams. Notably, there’s no GPS or Wi-Fi. While it does include 1080p support, those video recordings are limited to 25 FPS whereas 720p recordings go up to 30 FPS. But for a mere $60, the Polaroid PD-E53H is tough to beat.
- Incredibly cheap.
- 1080p support.
- microSD expansion.
- Fuzzy images.
- 1080p videos locked at 25 FPS.
While the Spy Tec might not be the most feature-laden dash cam, it’s tough to beat its incredibly competitive $70 price tag. With microSD support and full 1080p video, the G1W-C sports a surprising array of top-tier specs. The 2.7″ screen is full HD as well, and the G-sensor prevents important recordings from being recorded over.
It’s by no means a perfect device: Amazon reviews bash its mounting accessory. Also, there’s no GPS and coupled with only 1080p video quality, the Spy Tec G1W-C is a decidedly budget dash cam. Nevertheless, for the price, it’s tough to beat. Plus, being capacitor-powered increases durability in extreme climates.
- Excellent budget device.
- Full HD 1080p recordings and 2.7″ screen.
- microSD expansion.
- Low quality mounting bracket.
Mid-Range Dash Cams
The Zedge Z3 is a reasonably priced, high-quality dash cam. With night vision, G-sensor, and a parking monitor, the Z3 is packed with features. There’s also microSD expansion, as well as 2K image support. Bundled with a 32 GB microSD card standard, the Z3 is a phenomenal value. While the ignition is on, the Z3 automatically records.
Its G-sensor automatically detects crashes with in-collision video file locking. Loop recording benefits storage efficiency, and while parking the Z3 automatically turns on and records when there’s a detected collision.
However, reviews did note that recordings with HDR enabled are limited to 1080p whereas 2196p videos are available sans-HDR. Battery life is limited, but the included short and long micro-USB cables should offset this gripe. Although its small footprint does aid in improved forward visibility. Overall, at just around $100, the Zedge Z3 is a phenomenal value.
- High-quality G-sensor.
- Night vision.
- Up to 2K (without HDR).
- 1080p HDR recording.
- Included 32 GB microSD card.
- No GPS.
- Short battery life.
Cobra Electronics makes an excellent mid-range dash cam in the CDR855BT. Boasting full 1080p HD, Bluetooth, GPS, and iRadar community connectivity, it’s a feature-rich camera at a decent price. The 160-degree viewing angle is ultra-wide, a really nice touch. Digital Trends noted in their review the 160-degre angle and intuitive controls.
But while the iRadar support is a nice touch, it requires the app. In fact, even GPS isn’t available without the iRadar app. However the inclusion of Bluetooth makes phone syncing simple. At an affordable price and with an impressive roster of added features, the Cora 855BT is a worthy dash cam contender.
- Bluetooth standard.
- iRadar support.
- 160-degree ultra-wide viewing angle.
- iRadar required for both GPS and iRadar features.
High-end Dash Cams
The Garmin name connotes quality. Although Garmin might be best known for its superb fitness watches, the Garmin Dash Cam 35 is one of the top dash cams available. Sporting 1080p video, GPS, and microSD expansion, the Dash Cam 35 is loaded with features. The G-sensor automatically moves associated files to a folder where they won’t be deleted.
While the Dash Cam 35 tops out at 1080p, it compensates with premium features like GPS. Garmin also includes speed camera warnings and collision detection. However, updates require a paid subscription. Garmin does offer the Garmin 30, but the 30 lacks GPS and driver alerts. A Gizmodo review praised the collision prevention components. Dash cams are fantastic in the event of an accident, but it’s even better to avoid one altogether.
- Red light and speed camera warnings.
- G-sensor collision detection.
- Forward collision warning.
- Updates require paid subscription.
Nextbase 412GW (Amazon UK)
With 1440p video, Wi-Fi, and GPS, the Nextbase 412GW is a phenomenal device. The Nextbase is outfitted with a quick-release mount that’s regarded as one of the best. PC Advisor praised the 412GW in a November 2016 review, dubbing it “Nextbase’s best all-around dash cam yet.”
Despite a smattering of premium features, the Nextbase 412GW lacks some high-end components. For instance, there’s no speed camera warning. Additionally, while Wi-Fi is standard, transfers are admittedly slow. But overall, the Nextbase 412GW offers a bevy of top-notch features.
- 1440p video quality.
- High-quality quick-release mount.
- Slow transfer over Wi-Fi.
Ultimately, which dash cam you pick depends on what you’re willing to pay and what features you value. While Wi-Fi is a great inclusion, slow transfer speeds mean you shouldn’t base your purchasing decision off this alone. It’s best concentrating on video resolution, GPS, and if needed, features like collision detection. At the upper end, the Garmin 35 is a top pick while the Zedge Z3 is a worthy middle of the road dash cam.
Which dash cams you do you recommend? Leave a comment below with your top picks!
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