You have landed on our web site because you’re looking for a dashboard camera but you may not be sure what is the right one for you. We will help you make the correct decision whether you have a small or big budget. Our reviews cover dash cams in a wide price range so we’ve got you covered. So where should you start? Check out our list of frequently updated Best Dash Cams for 2018.
Dashboard cameras are known by many different names. Dash cams, dashcams, accident recorders, car cameras and probably some more names that will become popular.
Dashcamreviews.org was launched late in 2017. Our web site features reviews, technical information and also sample video footage of as many dash cams as we can. Our reviews are constantly being updated so the information stays fresh. As you know this industry is very competitive so when things change we want to be the first to let you know.
What Features Should You Look For in a Dashboard Camera?
If you are new to the world of dash cams, the technical terms may seem a bit confusing. We will make it very easy for you to understand so that you will be well informed when you need to make your decision.
Single Channel or Dual Channel?
Your very first decision should be to decide if you only want a forward facing camera through your windshield or if you would like to also have a rear facing camera as well. A single channel refers to the one camera facing forward from your windshield and a dual channel is simply both.
For the rear camera, it can face back into the interior of the car (commonly referred to as taxi cams) or face out the rear window to record rear footage. There’s also an option to mount an external camera on the back of the vehicle above the bumper.
Dual channel dash cams are a bit more expensive than the single channel version because the technology behind simultaneously recording two video streams is rather complex. Some dual channel cams can fetch up to $500 a pop but these are ones that are equipped with pretty much every option available for a dashboard camera.
Let’s Talk Video Resolution
Just like any other camera, video resolution of dash cams are always increasing. The first dash cam that came on the market recorded at 720P (1280×720 pixels, also known as HD). Today the standard is 1080p which is 1920×1080 pixels. This is also known as FULL HD.
For 2018 most new cams will record in 1080p resolution so you really shouldn’t have any problems finding one even for a decent price. For the two channel cams, typically the rear facing camera will record at a lower resolution due to the strain it puts on the processor having two simultaneous video streams. Often you’ll find the rear facing camera is in 720p resolution.
For single channel dash cams, latest units can support video resolutions as indicated below:
- 1440p 2560×1440 pixels
- 1296p (2304×1296 pixels)
- 2560×1080 wide screen
1440p and 1296p are both in standard 16:9 format but with more detail than the 1080 and 720p respectively.
If you’re looking for a very wide format then 2560×1080 will definitely work for you. This type of resolution will capture greater surroundings from the left and right but will also limit the view of the sky above. The aspect ratio for these cams is 64:27 – which is more than double the width as the height.
The trend is now going towards 1440p cameras. At a resolution of 2560×1440, you’re going to capture much more detail compared to 1080p.
In 2018 so far, the highest resolution dashboard camera that you can get is 4K. 4K resolution is rated at an amazing 3840×2160 pixels. To get an idea of how detailed this is, it’s four times more pixels than 1080p. This allows for an incredible amount of detail so would be great for capturing live cam footage while driving through a scenic area.
Night video quality is one way to determine a good dashcam from one of lesser quality. Most 1080p cameras do a decent job of capturing night footage but not all of them do justice. If you do a lot of night driving you should definitely select a camera that allows for decent night recording. Even though your headlights will help you should look for a cam that works well in low light.
Night Vision LED Options
Some of the cheaper manufacturers will put an LED on the dash cam which does a horrible job of capturing night footage. This is because the LED reflects off the windscreen making the footage absolutely useless. Your headlights will do a good enough job so if you can turn this option off you’ll get a much better image.
Motion detection triggers the camera to start recording whenever a motion is triggered. This is mainly used in parking mode when the car is not in use. This is especially handy for capturing vandalism or a parking lot incident.
A G sensor does exactly as it says. Whenever a G force is detected such as heavy braking or some kind of an impact or a sudden maneuver, the camera records the event and keeps it stored without erasing the footage.
Some dash cams will have a feature called parking mode which will capture footage when either motion detection is triggered or the G sensor is triggered by some type of impact. However, it may not capture all the footage because it may be too late due to the fact that the camera is triggered to record after the event occurs. You may get enough footage to determine how the damage was done but it is much better to obviously have the events recorded before it happened. This is where Buffered Parking Mode comes into play.
If your camera comes with Buffered Parking Mode, the cam will continuously record while parked. The footage will not be saved unless an event had occurred. If the motion detector or the G Sensor makes a detection, it will keep the recording usually between 5 to 10 seconds or so before the event and up to a minute after the event. This footage will be stored permanently in memory until you erase it.
Since a dash cam’s internal battery only last for a few minutes, you’ll need to have a battery discharge prevention device or better yet an additional battery pack to ensure your car battery will not get depleted. Some dashboard cameras will monitor voltage (from the car battery) and shut down before the car battery depletes. This function is referred to as “low voltage cutoff.”
You definitely do not want some clunky object attached to the inside of your windshield. So it’s important to choose a cam that will not only be functional but also discreet. Since dash cams come in various shapes and sizes it is best to opt for a small one. Usually ones that are smaller and with a lot of options tend to be pricier but if discretion in performance is something you need then you will need to invest a little more. Most dash cams are black in color and there’s a good reason for it. Anything other than this color would stick out too much.
On The Cloud
Dash cams nowadays are getting very smart and for the higher end models comes cloud connectivity technology. Basically your camera can connect to your smart phone via the internet and will send notifications to it whenever an event occurs. You can also view the live footage from your smart phone as well.
This feature is absolutely essential with dash cams. Once disc space has completely filled, the camera will automatically start recording again deleting all previous footage. If your camera is equipped with a G sensor then those files are kept in storage and not deleted. This feature is what keeps your dash cam recording indefinitely.
You can also mark certain points on the recording that you would like to keep. Not having loop recording basically means that the camera is not a true dash cam.
On the more expensive cams, you’ll find that a lot of these come with a GPS feature. This allows you to record in the video your GPS position and speed. Also included is a time stamp with the date. A downside with cameras enabled with this feature is that they tend to be larger in size.
However, some dash cams have the ability to connect an external GPS module. This will allow the Dashcam to be discreet by being smaller in size.
If going this route you should understand that you will need to install the module somewhere, so it does require a bit more work and creativity to decide where it will live. On a positive note, these external GPS modules seem to be more responsive than the ones built into the dashboard cameras that are equipped with it.
Time and Date Stamp
This is the most basic feature of all dash cams. Make sure that when you install your cam that you set the proper date and time. This is especially important if you’re going to submit the footage as evidence.
Screen or Not?
Some people like to have a visual screen while they are driving. The drawback here is that the camera ends up being a lot bigger and less discreet. An exception is with the rear view mirror mounted dash cams but these models will make your rear-view mirror bulkier and possibly darker. Some prefer these and we recently did an unboxing of the Oumax RV55HD M Rear View Mirror dash cam so you can see what these models look like.
Automatic On & Off
Let’s face it, it takes a while to build up a habit so turning your dash cam on every time you start your car which presents some challenges. This is why your cam should automatically start recording once you start your car. This is an absolute must feature to have.
Lock File/Emergency Button
This button does one simple thing – it preserves current video footage by the press of a button. Instead of going through the menu this option is very convenient and can be set while driving. As most modern dash cams are equipped with a G sensor, the footage will be stored anyway but this is a good option if you want to keep the recording of something else such as a scenic drive or something.
Since dash cams get their power from the cigarette lighter and are mounted usually up high behind the rear-view mirror, you definitely do not want a cable dangling in front of you. For this reason these cables are usually quite long, around 11 feet, so that you can install it along the side of the car hidden underneath panels. Installation is easy and all you really need is a couple of flat head screwdrivers or a trim removal tool.
As an option if you want to keep your cigarette lighter free, you could hard wire into your fuse box but this is a more complex installation and may require extra adapters. You may also need to get a device that brings down the volts to the proper specifications of the Dashcam.
The diagram below shows a possible route to wire your power adapter as to ensure it is hidden from view.
Commonly used in taxis is the taxi cam. This is really just another name for a dual channel Dashcam. It allows you to film not only the road but the interior of the vehicle. This is why it is great to use for taxi and UBER drivers because when transporting people there always can be an incident on the inside of the vehicle that you may need to record.
Dash Cam Pricing
Dash cams have become incredibly cheap for the low end models and you could literally pick one up for under 20 bucks. Getting one of these cheap cameras will end up frustrating you because of the bad quality footage and longevity – they tend to stop working after a while.
For around $30.00 more you could get a cam like the YI. So far in 2018 this dash cam has gotten very good reviews. For something even better you’re looking to spend around $100 but this will ensure that you will have not only good recorded footage but you’ll have a dash cam that will last for many years.
On the other end of the spectrum are the high priced dashboard cameras. These will fetch anywhere from $200 and up. Of course these dash cams are loaded with features some of which you may not even need. These are for the elitist of dash cam owners that command the very best.
The Legality of Dash Cams
Unfortunately there has been a recent crackdown on the legality of dash cam use. Since we cannot give any binding legal advice here, it is advisable that you consult with your local authorities to see if you can legally use one or not.
Reasons and Advantages of Having a Dash Cam in Your Vehicle
When asking people what is the main reason for either wanting a dash cam or owning one, the same answer comes up most of the time – for security purposes. If you ever need to prove yourself in court, having dash cam footage will be the best defense you could ever ask for.
Besides security a lot of people will say that the second best reason for having a dash cam is because of the amazing footage they capture either by accident or on purpose. Some people have caught some amazing things with their dash cam including deer running across the road and also unfortunate scenes like the plane that was caught on camera crashing over the side of our road into water. Scenery is also another advantage for having a dash cam and it only supports the reasons for having a decent one as you will not enjoy the footage with a cheap $20.00 dash cam.
Think of your next family vacation where you can capture all the glorious moments of your road trip. You can combine this with other footage to make a fantastic holiday video which you can share with your friends and family and keep those magical moments forever.
Let’s summarize all the points as to why you should have a dash cam installed in your car:
- Have video evidence in the event of an accident
- Report Road Rage/aggressive driving
- Protection while your vehicle is parked
- Record driving speed and route
- Protect yourself from fraudulent insurance claims
- Monitor employees in commercial applications
- Capture scenic drives
- Record trips
- Share the footage online
We hope you enjoyed this overview of dash cams and if you’re a newbie you learned a thing or two. We want you to be educated about the features so you can make the right purchase with no regrets. We’ll do everything we can to help you decide which model is best for you. You can always contact us if you need any advice with your selection.