If you’re ever unfortunate enough to get involved in a car accident, you’ll likely have to deal with insurance claims and potentially get lawyers involved. A dashcam (which mounts directly to your car’s dashboard or rearview mirror or comes preinstalled on some newer cars) can help build your case. “The more information you have when dealing with a motor vehicle accident, it certainly supports a pursuit of the truth, because if a picture’s worth a thousand words, a motion picture is probably worth a million words,” says Jarod Krissman, an attorney at Krissman & Silver LLP in Long Beach, California. If you’re injured in an accident and have footage of the crash, he says, that footage can be evidence to determine who’s at fault. “It’s also there as a way for people who are mistakenly but wrongfully accused of negligence to prove the fact that they weren’t negligent,” he adds.
As long as you’re willing to deal with the installation process (or hire a professional to do it), you can equip your car with a dashcam that’ll give you a good chance at backing your story in the event of the crash. A dashcam can also be useful for documenting other road incidents or conditions or recording the views during a road trip. To help you find the best dashcam, we talked to six experts — including custom car-security installers, personal-injury lawyers, and camera professionals — to find out their favorites.
What we’re looking for
Capturing the footage of an accident isn’t sufficient; you also need the footage to be clear and detailed enough to actually see what happened. The field of view, or FOV, tells you how wide an area your camera can record. The wider the angle, the wider the view. Most dashcams have FOV angles between 130 and 160 degrees with an average of about 140 degrees, which should give you a view of multiple highway lanes or a large intersection in case of an accident.
According to the experts we spoke to, you should look for a minimum resolution of 720p, but if you want the clearest picture possible, some high-end dashcams go all the way up to 4K. That may seem like overkill, and they’ll draw more power as well as take up more storage, but it’s handy if you’re trying to read a license plate (and especially helpful in the case of a hit-and-run) or you witness an accident in the distance.
Another feature to look for is whether the camera has night vision. An accident can happen at any time, and having a camera that can properly record an incident in low light is crucial. Finally, if your dashcam has “parking mode,” that essentially means it has a motion sensor and can record what’s happening around your car even when the ignition is off. This feature allows you to catch anything that might scrape or bump your car on the street or in a parking lot.
Most dashcams record on and come with a microSD card that holds between 16 and 32 GB; if you want more storage, you’d swap in a larger-capacity card (one specifically tailored to video will be helpful, but make sure your camera supports the card’s storage capacity). Dashcams often overwrite old footage to save space on the card, though you can typically save important footage manually. Or you may be able to pull it up and save it if your dashcam has a supported app, which is true of every camera we recommend. Many newer dashcams are capable of sensing when a crash has occurred and will automatically prevent that data from being overwritten. To keep your footage extra secure, several dashcams give you the option to record to the cloud, so recordings are backed up virtually. You could also just get an external hard drive if you want to keep an archive of all your footage and do a routine file transfer before clearing your microSD card.
Single channel or dual channel
A single-channel system has just one camera and solely monitors the front of the car, while a dual-channel system has both front and back cameras. The rear camera is usually smaller than the front camera and mounts to the car’s rear window to record what is happening behind you. A single-channel front camera is the most common dashcam style. If you drive in a lot of traffic, where you may be rear-ended, or you park on the street, having that extra camera in the back would be beneficial.
Best dashcam overall
Camera: 139-degree FOV, 1440p (2K) resolution, night vision, parking mode | Storage: microSD up to 256 GB and optional cloud storage | Channel: Dual
This South Korea–based brand was name-checked by three of our experts. According to Stefano Loria of AutoCraft NYC, BlackVue is “the best dash-cam company on the market” both from a customer perspective and a professional one. The DR750X-2CH has dual 1440p cameras — one for the front of the car and one for the rear — and an automatic parking mode that senses and records approaching objects when the ignition is off. It has both microSD storage and optional cloud storage, so you can access footage from anywhere with an internet connection. “Even when you’re not in your car, you can remote into it to see if something’s wrong,” Loria says. According to Danny Tran of Houston’s HTX Dash Cams, “The sleek look helps the camera hide in plain sight.” It has superior night vision, which allows you to easily capture license plates in low-light areas, as well as advanced driver assistance, which can warn you about potential collisions ahead.
Best (less expensive) dashcam
Camera: 140-degree FOV, 1440p (2K) resolution, night vision, parking mode| Storage: microSD up to 256 GB and optional cloud storage | Channel: Dual
This dashcam was suggested by Tran as well as Ronen Yossef, the owner of Toronto’s Car Systems Installation. VIOFO is “a really nice, budget-friendly brand,” Yossef says. Although it’s not as sleek as our top pick, the A129 Plus Duo is a two-camera system with 1440p resolution, Wi-Fi connectivity for downloading video, night vision, and parking mode. “It’s suited for anyone who wants a reliable camera with the top perks without breaking the bank,” Tran says. The dashcam has a 140-degree field of view and optional cloud storage.
Best dashcam with built-in GPS
Camera: 140-degree FOV, 1440p (2K) resolution, night vision, parking mode| Storage: microSD up to 128 GB and optional cloud storage | Channel: Dual
Both the administrator of the dashcam-review site DashCamTalk (who asked to remain unnamed because the site contains videos of potentially litigious situations) and Mark Steinberg, a senior technologist at B&H Photo Video, recommend the Thinkware brand. Steinberg highlights how “responsive” the company is to customer needs and says the top-of-the-line Q800PRO model has the “full load of features people with expensive cars really want.” Those features include night vision, cloud storage, dual-channel recording, parking mode, and 1440p resolution. Also notable: The built-in GPS tracker “shows you exactly where you were” when specific footage was recorded, which can be useful for insurance claims or police reports, and internal thermal detection protects the device in extreme temperatures.
Best 4K dashcam
Camera: 162-degree FOV, 4K resolution, night vision, parking mode| Storage: microSD up to 256 GB and optional cloud storage | Channel: Dual
This camera is an upgraded version of our best overall pick. It’s another dual-channel system with a similar form factor and features — plus high-definition 4K resolution and a wider field of view. According to Tran, the DR900X’s clarity of video is unsurpassed among dashcams and very helpful for reading license plates or picking up other details on the road. The front camera’s 162-degree field of view provides a significantly wider perspective than other dashcams. It has optional cloud storage, parking mode, and night vision.
Best dashcam for motorcycles
Camera: 140-degree FOV, 1080p resolution, night vision, no parking mode | Storage: microSD up to 64 GB and optional cloud storage | Channel: Dual
The Thinkware M1 is a specialty device for motorcycles, Steinberg says. It’s a dual-channel system with HD front- and rear-facing cameras — each with a 140-degree field of view and night vision as well as optional cloud storage. The M1 is weather resistant and has image stabilization, an important feature for a motorcycle dashcam since it’s closer to the vibration of the engine than a car dashcam.
Best extra-small dashcam
Camera: 140-degree FOV, 1080p resolution, no night vision, parking mode | Storage: microSD up to 512 GB and optional cloud storage | Channel: Dual
Garmin is a trusted brand for GPS products and other navigation-related gear, and Steinberg likes the brand’s user-friendliness, though he admits the products are “not really sexy or flashy.” If you’re looking for a dashcam that is especially discreet, he recommends the single-camera Mini 2. It’s a single-channel system, so it only records in front of your car, but it’s so small that it’s barely noticeable, he says. It records in 1080p HD, stores up to 24 hours of video for free in the cloud, and has a 140-degree field of view. Steinberg 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.”
• Administrator of the site DashCamTalk
• Jarod Krissman, attorney at Krissman & Silver LLP in Long Beach, California
• Stefano Loria, owner of AutoCraft NYC
• Mark Steinberg, senior technologist at B&H Photo Video
• Danny Tran, owner of HTX Dash Cams
• Ronen Yossef, owner of Car Systems Installation
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