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These days, a dashcam is more than just a newfangled luxury purchase for capturing offbeat footage. It can provide evidence for insurance claims, and be used to identify perpetrators who commit crimes against you or others. Don’t have one? You should absolutely get one.
And don’t just use your smartphone as a dashcam. Exposure to sunlight and heat degrades battery life and causes long-term damage. Plus, it’s better to have a dedicated recording device so you don’t have to interrupt to do other things (e.g. make a phone call).
Keep reading to see how you can get the most value for your buck when buying a modern dashcam, no matter what your budget is.
Important Dashcam Specs and Features
All dashcams have pros and cons, and it’s hard to say whether one is better than another because it depends on what you need. Here are the most important considerations to make. If you want recommendations, you’ll find them at the end of this article.
- Video Resolution (Very Important)
At minimum, you’ll want HD 720p recording. This ensures that footage is sharp enough to make out license plates, car makes and models, and faces. HD 1080p and 2K resolution dashcams are available too, but the trade-off is larger video files.
- Storage Capacity (Very Important)
At minimum, aim for 64GB of storage. The higher the dashcam’s resolution, the more storage capacity you’ll need to record the same amount of footage. An hour of 720p footage might be 1 to 2GB whereas an hour of 1080p footage might be upwards of 6GB. Avoid these mistakes when buying microSD cards.
- Night Vision (Very Important)
Night vision is crucial because you never know when an accident might occur. Headlights, city lights, and street lights can sometimes provide enough illumination that night vision isn’t necessary — but those lights won’t always be there. Don’t risk it.
- Automatic On/Off (Important)
Some dashcams have the ability to turn on with the car engine and turn off when the car engine shuts off. It’s a must-have feature because dashcams are only useful when they’re on — and according to Murphy’s Law, the one time you forget to turn it on will be the day you have an accident. Don’t risk it.
- Camera Size (Important)
All view obstructions are dangerous when driving a car, so avoid large dashcams that may block line of sight. This is critical if you have other potential obstructions, like an EZ-Pass transponder or dangling air fresheners. In general, smaller is safer.
- Loop Recording (Important)
When a dashcam’s storage fills up, two things can happen: it stops recording, or it loops back and records over the oldest footage. The former prevents you from overriding crucial footage that you forgot to transfer out, but can leave you vulnerable if it stops recording in the middle of a long drive. Loop recording is less risky.
- Impact Sensor (Useful)
Some dashcams detect accidents, then automatically save footage starting from several minutes before impact. Some can also automatically turn on when an impact is detected, even if the dashcam was off, which comes in handy when parked.
- GPS (Optional)
GPS tracking can “prove” that an accident occurred where you said it occurred, in cases where the footage isn’t clear. GPS tracking can also record your speeds, which comes in handy for wrongful speeding tickets. And as a parent, GPS logging can be used to see where your children really went in the night.
- Front and Back Camera (Optional)
If you want full coverage, a front-facing dashcam won’t be enough. What happens if you get rear-ended? A front-facing dashcam can provide some evidence, but won’t capture the whole incident. Some dashcams come in pairs, the second one mounting to the rear windshield.
- Built-In Mount (Optional)
While most dashcam models come with a mounting mechanism, a few don’t. These are most likely designed to lay on your dashboard, but if the idea of that doesn’t sit well with you, you can always grab a universal dashcam mount separately.
Using the advice above, you should be able to shop for a dashcam on your own and find one that’s more than satisfactory. But if you’re feeling lost, or if you’re short on time and just want one that’s “good enough,” then consider one of the following.
The Best Value:
Every once in a while you get more than what you pay for, and that’s true with the Pruveeo F5. Despite being on the cheaper end of the dashcam spectrum, it’s robust, reliable, and complete with all the basic features you’d want in a dashcam, plus a few extra.
It has a built-in windshield mount, records in either 720p or 1080p at 30 frames per second, clear night vision, starts and stops with your car engine, and has seamless loop recording. While the dashcam supports microSD cards up to 32GB, it does NOT come with one included.
What’s even niftier is that the Pruveeo F5 comes with an Android and iOS app that lets you connect through Wi-Fi to configure the device, preview footage, and download videos on demand — all from the comfort and safety of your home.
The Sporty & Portable:
The Mobius has been a top recommended dashcam for many years, and for many good reasons. We think it’s a great buy as long as you can afford the above-average price tag and absolutely need its advanced features that aren’t available in cheaper models.
Its greatest selling point is portability. Operated by battery alone, the Mobius can record up to 2 hours between charges, and it’s so small and light you can mount it anywhere (hence why it’s called an “action cam”). However, you can swap out the battery for a capacitor if you want always-plugged-in capability.
Other notable features include resolutions of 720p (at 60 frames per second) and 1080p (at 30 frames per second), wide field of view, loop recording, high-quality low-light recording that’s arguably better than night vision, and support for microSD cards up to 64GB (but one isn’t included). Webcam mode when no card is inserted.
The SG9665GCV3 is about as good as it gets; you don’t want to spend more for a personal use dashcam. It has a compact and stealthy design, which helps to not tip off other drivers that you’re recording, and reduces the likelihood of your car getting broken into.
It records in 1080p at 30 frames per second, supports microSD cards up to an impressive 256GB, has automatic loop recording, and records in Wide Dynamic Range for clear and crisp images even at night. It comes with a 32GB microSD card included.
Two notable features are GPS logging (speed and location data tied to each video file) and a G-Sensor that triggers on impact, automatically locking video files so they can’t be overwritten by loops. You can also lock videos manually if you ever need to.
Which Dashcam Are You Going to Pick?
You can’t go wrong with any of the above, and just because the Pruveeo F5 is five times cheaper than the SG9665GCV3 doesn’t mean it’s five times worse. They both get the job done, and at the end of the day, clear footage of an incident is all you really need.