What to Look For in a Dash Cam

Dash Cams – What You Should Look For in Regards to Features

If you’re a newbie and haven’t looked into dash cams yet, to start, the price range in dash cams is quite great. They start from around $50 all the way up to $500.00. How much you spend depends on how much you need one and what features you need to consider. If you just want something for security and peace of mind while driving, then almost any model will work. If you want something that will capture beautiful scenery almost like a go-pro, you’re going to have to shell out a few more bucks. Below are some features of dash cams that you should consider. You can also just skip to our list recommendations to our top dash cams of the year

1. Image Quality

The early image quality of dash cams was pretty low, nowadays they are mostly 1080p HD and some with 720p HD. The higher the resolution, the greater detail you will capture. For example if you are in a scenic area, having a higher quality resolution cam will reward you with better quality. Also to consider, in the event of an accident or for example a hit and run, you’d want to have good resolution to capture a license plate.

2. Night Vision

It’s critical for dash cams to perform at night. Some will come equipped with a night vision feature while others have a dynamic aperture which increases visibility in low-light conditions by means of maximizing the exposure.

3. Field of View

The horizontal scope of the camera is what is considered the field of view. So in other words, a larger field of view will equal a greater area that the camera will record. This is especially important as with a greater field of view the less chances that you are protected from a false claim.

On average, most cameras will have a 120 degree field of view. Some will reach as wide as 140 degrees.

4. Automatic and Manual Recording

You will want a dash cam that has either automatic recording or manual recording. This will ensure that everything gets saved to the camera. If you don’t need to save everything say after a week or so, then loop recording will erase everything and start over. The newest video will replace the oldest one so if this is not a problem for you then loop recording is fine. It will start when the ignition is turned on and stop when turned off. Most will have either option so it’s good to check which is best for your purpose.

5. Loop Recording

Loop recording is basically a great “set it and forget it” feature. If you are really just using your dash cam for the purposes of recording an accident, then this feature is great. The way how it works is that it will record continuously for around 3 to 10 minutes or so, then erase the footage if you don’t save it or if it does not detect an accident. It will then start recording the footage again, and repeat. Thus, the term loop recording. This way, you don’t waste any space on your storage with meaningless footage which is typically footage on your commute to work.  If an accident should occur, loop recording will stop and retain the footage.

6. Motion Detection

Similar to a security cam at home, the device will turn on when it detects motion. So if your car is parked in the garage for example, unless you have a cat that likes to jump on the hood of your car, the cam will not record. If you get a dual camera with motion detection then you can protect the perimeter of your car. Remember the video a few years ago of the guy that keyed that Austin Martin? Yes, that was a dual camera motion detection dash cam. Below I will post the video. These are a bit more complicated however and do rely on your battery when the car is off but an external power source can be added for this so you don’t drain your battery. It would take a long time to do this though as it doesn’t use much power.

7. Driver Awareness Warnings

Dash cams have become so intelligent that now the provide warnings to the driver. Features will vary from cam to cam, but the most common ones are warnings for speed, driving too close to another vehicle or object, driver fatigue, lane drifting, etc.  If it is equipped with a GPS system, it can also make you aware of speed traps and red light cameras. Amazing stuff!

8. Impact Detection

A lot of dash cams have built in accelerometers which will detect if the car is in an accident. On a typical basis, impact detection will record on a buffered loop from ten to thirty seconds and will permanently start recording when a collision is sensed by the camera. If GPS is enabled, it can also record the time and place that the accident occured.


The higher-end dash cams will have wifi while low-priced ones will not. These units can integrate with your smart phone on either android or apple and can transfer the video image in real time. This means that the camera may not have a display so it takes up less real estate on your windscreen. Some prefer to have the display on the cam but others may not as a phone display can be used. This is a personal preference.

10. GPS

You won’t find GPS in all dash cams and you’ll have to spend at least over $150 for it. However, this could change dramatically as competition increases. This data is most valuable in the event of a collision, where it will record the date, time, speed, location and also the direction of the collision. This is important data to have in order to determine fault. Most models that don’t have GPS may record the date and time of the accident, but this is not always the case.

If you are looking to purchase a dash cam anytime soon, you can check out my dash cam reviews on my main page.