Dashboard-mounted dash cams are becoming increasingly popular among professional drivers, as well as private motorists, for added protection and security. This trend is expected to continue as more individuals recognize the benefits of onboard cameras.
The Best Dash Cams to buy in 2023
Before selecting a dash cam, it’s important to consider a few factors. Not all onboard cameras are reliable, and some may have issues shortly after purchase. Additionally, certain cameras may not capture accident footage effectively, rendering them less useful in critical situations. To make an informed decision, refer to my comprehensive comparison of the best dash cams currently available on the market.
How to choose the best dash cam
Dash cams have gained popularity due to their technical specifications, aiming to enhance road safety and prevent accidents. However, privacy concerns and legal considerations surround the use of dash cams. In this guide, we will explore these aspects and provide tips for purchasing a dash cam.
When selecting a dash cam, consider its size and design. Ideally, the camera should be compact and unobtrusive to ensure it doesn’t obstruct your view while driving. Most dash cams today can be easily mounted on the windshield or rear window. Cameras with displays offer the advantage of independent use, while those without displays require a smartphone app but are more discreet.
The most crucial criterion when buying a dash cam is the image quality. Many factors play a role here, beyond the Full HD resolution. Questions about the photosensitivity of the lens and the sensor as well as the opening angle play an equally important role. In addition, you should clarify before buying, if the camera supports Wide Dynamic Range.
The models that we have presented to you, all with 1080 pixels in Full HD on. There are also dash cams that record with 4K. These models are however higher priced. The cheap dash cams record with 720 pixels. The disadvantage of these models: The images are mostly washed out and out of focus. In addition, the image stability in the cheap models is not always given. Shaky pictures are the result.
Angle of view
The angle of view decides what you see in the picture. If the angle is low, you only see what is happening right in front of the car. At a higher angle, you also have insight into what’s going on left and right. Most models are equipped with a 17-degree wide-angle. With these Dash cams, you have a broad overview of the street happenings. Other cams, on the other hand, are only equipped with a 120-degree wide-angle, which limits the field of view. When buying, make sure that the angle of view is at least 120 degrees. Cameras with a lower angle of view are usually not useful.
Night vision function
If you also want to record at night, the dash cam should have a night vision feature. Most cameras support WDR and HDR. Both technologies promise an improvement of the pictures in darkness or in backlight.
The operation of both technologies is quite different: While WDR records the video signal based on the tone curves, the HDR captures multiple exposure times and combines them with the appropriate software. Experts advise buying a dash cam with HDR function because the quality is better than WDR.
Ensure Loop recording is available when purchasing a dash cam to comply with data laws. Loop recording overwrites old recordings when the memory card is full. You can choose the length of each video clip on most models, while some have fixed clip lengths. Videos and images are stored on a micro SD card, usually not included with the camera.
G-sensor and Motion Detector
Look for a dash cam with a G-sensor and motion detector. The G-sensor detects vibrations and triggers emergency recordings in the event of a collision or full braking. These recordings are saved separately to prevent overwriting. The motion detector detects movement within the camera’s field of view, enabling recording of parking incidents and automatic recording at the start of a journey. However, in busy areas, the motion detector may be overly sensitive.
Dash Cams with GPS Receiver
Some dash cams have a built-in GPS receiver that records position and speed. Others have Wi-Fi connectivity and use a smartphone app for data. In case of an accident, the memory card can be examined by the police, and the GPS data can show compliance with speed limits and traffic signs. There are also high-priced models with distance and radar detectors.
A higher frame rate results in smoother images. Lower frame rate dash cams produce shaky recordings, reducing the viewing experience. Look for a camera with a minimum frame rate of 25 fps. Most models we have presented have a frame rate of 30 fps, which is sufficient for shake-free Full HD recordings. It’s important to find the right balance between resolution and frame rate, as a too high frame rate may decrease image resolution. Opt for a model with a suitable frame rate.
Consider image stabilization when purchasing a dash cam to ensure smooth recordings. High-priced dash cams often have good image stabilizers for optimal video quality. The ability to readjust the stabilizer is beneficial when transitioning from smooth highways to bumpy country roads.
When buying a dash cam, pay attention to both picture and sound quality. Most models have a built-in microphone, which is useful for capturing audio. If you value good sound in your recordings, choose a dash cam with an integrated microphone to add atmospheric sounds and enhance the overall experience.
The battery life of dash cams is crucial, especially considering continuous loop recording. Longer battery life allows for extended recording time. Be cautious of models with short battery life, as they may automatically shut off, potentially missing important footage during an accident. Check if additional charging stations are needed or if the manufacturer provides a charger. Also, consider whether the camera allows for the use of different batteries or if it comes with a replacement battery. Most dash cams are powered via the car’s cigarette lighter, ensuring continuous power supply.
The price of a dash cam is not always indicative of its quality. While high-priced models may offer advanced features like collision warnings and lane departure alerts, they may not be necessary for everyone. Newer cars often have built-in assistance systems that cover such functions. Consider your own driving experience and needs before deciding on specific technical features. It’s also recommended to seek advice from online retailers that provide excellent customer service and guidance. Determine the essential features you require and ensure they align with your budget.
Using GoPro as an Alternative
If you have reasons to dislike dash cams, you can consider using a GoPro as an alternative. GoPros are commonly used for documenting exciting activities like biking or extreme sports. They are versatile and can be attached to the car windshield using a suction cup mount or mounted on the exterior with a special bracket. GoPros generally offer excellent image quality, comparable to traditional dash cams. However, ensure proper attachment to avoid blurry footage.
Where to Buy a Dash cam – Online Purchase vs. Shops
When purchasing a dash cam, you may wonder whether to buy from a specialized shop like Halfords or an online store. Specialized shops offer extensive and knowledgeable advice, allowing you to try the cameras in person. However, retail prices are often higher compared to online options. It may be more practical to gather information from a local dealer and make the purchase online.
Consider checking customer reviews and contacting the support team of each store for additional guidance. Online purchases offer the advantage of easy price comparisons across different providers, allowing you to find the best deal from the comfort of your home. Online platforms also provide convenient comparison of features and specifications.
Note: GoPro is a specific brand name, although there are other companies producing similar helmet cameras. GoPro has become a prominent name in recent years.