A constant record of any incidents you may experience on the road can be very helpful for insurance claims (and entertaining TikTok videos). The best way to get it is a dash cam. Dash cams are usually mounted to your windshield or dashboard with strong adhesive or suction cups (they can also go over your rearview). They allow you to record video of what’s happening in front of your car — and, with another camera affixed to your back glass, the rear as well. Many record only when the car is on, but some have sensors that are activated by impact or nearby movement, which is particularly useful if your car is bumped in a parking lot and you’re not around. Unless you’re quite handy or buy a very basic setup, you’ll want a pro for installation, since the cams require power, and that power requires wiring. Fortunately, when discreetly installed, they don’t have to be hideous obstructions.
Picking the right one for you requires a few decisions. Do you want a single-channel system (monitoring the front of the car only) or a dual-channel one (also monitoring the rear)? Do you want motion-sensing capability? How much footage do you want to be able to store? Most kits include a digital memory card, but you might want to upgrade to one that holds more. Some cams also let you record to the cloud. Then there’s the cam’s frame rate and resolution, both of which contribute to clarity and field of view, or how wide of an angle the camera sees. The higher the specs on any of those, the better the experience — and the more you’re going to pay.
The good news is there is a dash cam for every budget and person. To help you find yours, we talked to five experts, including custom car-security installers and camera professionals. Here are their favorites.
Best Overall Dash Cam (for most people)
This South Korea-based brand was name-checked by three of our experts. According to Stefano Loria of AutoCraft NYC in Manhattan, BlackVue is “the best dash cam company on the market,” both from a customer perspective and from a professional one. The DR750X-2CH has dual HD cameras — one for the front and one for the rear — and an automatic parking mode that senses and records approaching objects when the ignition is off. Danny Tran of Houston’s HTX Dash Cams says, “One thing that sets this camera apart from other brands is the cloud capability.” With the optional LTE module, all of your dash-cam video is stored in the cloud — and can be accessed from anywhere you have an internet connection. “Even when you’re not in your car, you can remote into it to see if something’s wrong,” Loria says. And according to Tran, “The sleek look helps the camera hide in plain sight.”
Best HD Dash Cams
Both the administrator of the site DashCamTalk (who preferred to remain unnamed) and Mark Steinberg, senior technologist at B&H Photo Video, like Thinkware. Steinberg highlights how “responsive” the company is to customer needs and says the top-of-the-line Q800PRO has the “full load of features people with expensive cars really want” but at a (slightly) cheaper price point than the BlackVue DR750X-2CH. You get 1080p HD resolution, a wide 140-degree field of view on both the front and rear cameras, a 30 fps frame rate for smooth footage, and “amazing” images, even in very low light. Also notable: The built-in GPS tracker “shows you exactly where you were,” which can be useful for insurance claims or police reports, and internal thermal detection protects the device by automatically shutting itself off in very hot or very cold temperatures.
Brian Tabackman of G.L.M. Security & Sound in Lynbrook, New York, prefers the less expensive Unavi UGD621. “It’s the best blend of features and affordable price at the high end of the market,” he says. You get front and rear HD coverage and a parking mode that detects any motion or impact when the car is off. “It intelligently monitors the vehicle battery level and will shut down the parking mode once the battery level falls below a preset threshold. This way, we don’t have to worry about the user ending up with a dead battery.” It comes with a 32GB microSD card, which you can access wirelessly through an app, and an optional GPS module allows for more detailed tracking.
Best 4k Dash Cam
According to Tran, this is essentially the same dash cam as the DR750X-2CH but with 4k resolution. The clarity of video is unsurpassed among dash cams (it’s very helpful for reading license plates), and the front camera’s 162-degree field of view provides a significantly wider perspective than other options.
Best Budget Dash Cams
This Chinese brand was suggested by two experts, Tran and Ronen Yossef, owner of Toronto’s Car Systems Installation. “It’s a really nice budget-friendly brand. You get a good system,” Yossef says, although he acknowledges that it may not be as user friendly as other options. He and Tran both like the two-camera A129 Plus Duo, with its 2k resolution, Wi-Fi connectivity for downloading video, and parking mode, which records any incidents when the car is parked. It’s “suited for anyone who wants a reliable camera with the top perks without breaking the bank,” Tran says. Viofo also offers a 4k option for only $249.
Steinberg likes Papago and notes that it’s popular and, at the price, decent value. He says this two-camera S780 has “unusual quality.” You get a “pretty wide field of view” (150 degrees on the front and 180 at the rear), plus HD resolution and an included 16GB microSD card (though the cam supports cards up to 128GB).
Best Budget Single-Channel Dash Cam
If you can deal without a rear camera, Steinberg recommends this option, which has full HD resolution and a 30 fps frame rate. What lowers the cost, he says, is the narrower 120-degree field of view. He recommends it for smaller-car owners and says users will appreciate the big three-inch LCD screen. If you don’t mind spending another $20, he suggests getting the higher resolution and 160-degree field of view that comes with the GoSafe 535.
Best Discreet Dash Cam
Garmin has always provided reliable navigation-related gear. Steinberg is a fan of the brand for ITS “good customer service” and “exceptional” user-friendliness, although he admits the products are “not real sexy or flashy.” If you’re going for the opposite of flashy, he recommends the single-camera Mini 2 (there’s no rear camera), which is so small it’s barely noticeable. It records in 1080p HD video, storing up to 24 hours’ worth for free in the cloud, and has a 140-degree field of view. He says the Mini 2 is ideal “for folks who have a smaller car and don’t want to take up a lot of windshield real estate.”
Best Dash Cam for Motorcycles
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