Last updated: February 22, 2024
So you are looking for a dashboard camera, but aren’t quite sure yet which model is best for you? We will help you make your decision, no matter whether your budget is big or small.
Technology has progressed a lot since we started this site in 2013. Over the years, we’ve built a comprehensive archive of in-depth reviews for all major dash cams. Our reviews include video samples and links to vendors around the world, so you can compare prices easily.
Dashboard cameras are also known as dash cams, dashcams, car cameras, car DVRs, or even accident recorders. But they don’t just record accidents! They record all of your driving. And if you have a dash cam with parking mode, they can also protect your parked car.
What To Look For When Selecting A Dash Cam
If you’re not yet familiar with all of the technical terms, picking the right dash cam can seem daunting. It’s not as difficult as it seems though.
The following sections explain what features a dash cam needs to have, so you can make an informed choice.
One Channel, Two Channels, Or More?
The first decision you need to make is whether you want a single channel dash cam, or a multi-channel system. Modern dash cams support up to 4 channels.
2-channel dash (2CH) cams are also known as dual channel dash cams, or front and rear cameras.
Single channel (1CH) cameras are the easiest to set up and use, and of course cheaper. But they only record in one direction: Forward.
An excellent 1CH dash cam that isn’t too expensive is the Viofo A119v3. This camera records good video quality and is extremely reliable.
With a dual channel dash cam, you can record the road in front of and behind your vehicle, essentially doubling your video coverage.
However, the best dual dash cams often cost more than twice as much as comparable single channel cams. High-end devices with all the latest bells and whistles are currently valued up to $500.
Yes, you can get a cheap dual channel cam, but its video quality probably won’t be great. Also, above all, you want your dash cam to be reliable: Imagine being in an accident, only to find out that your camera decided to take that day off!
At the time of this writing, the cheapest reliable front and rear dash cam that records good video both ways is the Viofo A129 Plus Duo (see picture). It’s available for less than $200 in its most basic configuration.
If that sounds like a bit too much for your budget, don’t worry: The 70mai A500S is a decent entry-level dual dash cam. It may not be quite as good video as the Viofo A129, but it is fairly reliable and costs less than $100.
For a complete overview of the best and most popular dual dash cams available in 2023, check out our article about the best front and rear dash cams, and have a look at the dual dash cam comparison table.
Three-Channel (3CH) Dash Cams
The latest dash cameras are capable of recording three channels: They have one lens each filming the road ahead, one for the road behind, and one that records the interior of the car. This setup gives you maximum coverage, leaving almost no blind spots.
This is especially great for taxi and ride-share drivers to record passengers and stay safe on the road. Be aware though that 3-channel dash cams have worse video quality than 2-channel cameras.
If you’re interested, check out the best 3 channel dash cams of 2023 here.
Four-Channel (4CH) Dash Cams
In 2023, the first four-channel dash cam appeared on the market. It has interior lenses both on the front and rear unit, essentially resulting in 360 degree video coverage inside and around your car.
Here’s our full review: Vantrue Nexus 5 – The First 4-Channel Dash Cam
Dashboard cameras come in various sizes. Smaller (and therefore more discreet) is almost always better. You probably don’t want your camera to stick out like a sore thumb on your car’s windshield!
Wedge-shaped cameras (like the Viofo model pictured above) are becoming more and more popular. They stick directly to the windshield with one of their sides. This reduces the camera’s bulkiness and visibility.
Also, the color black is usually preferred for a dashboard camera. Any other color would draw too much attention.
If you want your camera to be low profile, it doesn’t make sense to get it in any color other than black.
The smallest dash cam currently available is the Garmin Mini 2.
Protecting Your Car While Parked
If your dashboard camera has parking mode and someone damages your car in your absence, the camera will wake up and start recording. Note that dash cams do take some time to wake up. So unless your device has buffered parking mode, the perpetrator might already be gone when the recording starts.
In buffered parking mode, the dash cam records continuously while you are parked. Footage will not be saved to the memory card unless an event is detected (either by the G-sensor or by visual motion detection). Typically, the camera will save footage from 10 seconds before until 10-20 seconds after the event.
Other parking modes include simple and time-lapse modes. In simple mode, the camera starts recording just after an event.
In time-lapse parking mode, the camera records continuously at a low frame rate. This saves memory on the SD card.
For parking mode to work, you either need a hard-wiring kit, or a (more expensive) external battery pack to protect your car’s battery.
Some dash cams, like the Thinkware U3000 shown in the image, monitor the battery’s voltage while in parking mode and will shut down before the battery is depleted. This function is called low voltage cutoff.
The U3000 is also the only dash cam so far with a built-in radar. This allows for a parking mode that consumes very little energy, so you can run the dash cam for up to 40 days with a corresponding battery pack. Be warned though: This setup is quite expensive.
For an overview of the best parking mode dash cams, check out this article.
Another decision when shopping for a dashboard camera is whether to get a 4K camera like the Thinkware U3000, or settle for a lower video resolution like 1080p or 1440p which is of course cheaper.
4K Dash Cams
In recent years, more and more dash cams capable of recording at 4K resolution hit the market. 4K resolution means 3840×2160 pixels. It is also known as Ultra High Density or UHD.
These cameras can record impressive video footage during the day, but there are also drawbacks. For one, higher resolution dash cams often record worse video at night than dash cams with lower resolution. This is because the individual pixels on the sensor are physically smaller, and less light sensitive.
Also, 4K cameras use more power, generate more heat, and need larger memory cards than lower resolution cams. For an overview of the pros and cons of 4K dash cams, read our article about 4K Dash Cams. That article will also point out which 4K cams are worth getting, and which ones you want to stay away from.
Some 4K dash cams are actually fakes: Some manufacturers label their cameras 4K even though they record at lower resolutions. These cameras then use interpolation or other tricks to artificially inflate the video footage to 4K.
Beware of such fakes! Just because a camera is advertised as 4K doesn’t mean that’s actually the case. Do some research on web sites like this one before buying.
1080p Dash Cams
1080p cameras record 1920×1080 pixels, a resolution also known as Full HD that used to be standard for dashboard cameras before 4K emerged. The technology is tried and tested, and strikes a good balance between day and night video quality. 1080p allows you to record high quality video at day, while also giving you the best chance to catch license plates at night. Many dash cams still struggle with this.
All modern dash cams support at least 1080p, so you should never settle for lower resolutions like 720p.
So Which Is Better, 4K or 1080p?
4K is a great resolution if you really want the best quality footage of your driving, and you’re going to do most of your driving during the day. Be sure to get a large memory card though.
if you need high quality footage at night as well, you may want to stick with a lower resolution camera. These are not only cheaper, they also use up less storage on the memory card.
That being said, 4K cameras are getting better and better at recording great video during the night as well.
Is There Anything In Between?
Actually, there is! Enter the 2K format. This resolution is right between 1080p (which has 1K pixels) and 4K.
2K means 2560×1440 pixels, also known as 1440p.
A 1440p dash camera strikes a good balance between capturing more detail than a 1080p cam, and has better light sensitivity at night than a 4K device. Also, it doesn’t need as much processing power.
Some older dash cams supported exotic formats like 2560×1080 or 2304×1296, but these formats don’t have much significance any more.
When driving in bright sunlight, you will sometimes see reflections of the dashboard in your windshield. To avoid recording those, use a CPL filter. Not all cameras have a mount for one. Some come with a filter out of the box, others give you the option to buy one separately.
Here’s a short guide on how to install a CPL filter.
Dash Cams For Taxi And Ride-Share Drivers
Taxi cams are essentially dual channel cams, with the rear camera filming the car’s interior. This is especially useful for taxi and Uber drivers, and other professionals in the people transporting business.
At night, the interior camera needs infrared LEDs to be able to “see in the dark”.
As of 2024, taxi cams have been mostly replaced by 3-channel dash cams (see above).
A very useful feature. A G-sensor is triggered by a g-force event like an impact or a sudden braking maneuver. Whenever an event is detected, the camera will automatically mark the current footage for safekeeping (so it doesn’t accidentally get deleted by the loop recording). All modern dash cams have this feature.
G-sensors are not to be confused with a feature called motion detection, which is mainly used in parking mode. This method detects events visually, by analyzing the camera’s video.
A cutting-edge feature: Some of the more expensive dashboard cameras will let you watch video footage from your car live over the internet, from anywhere on the planet!
They can also send emergency alerts to your smart phone when a security event (such as an impact to your car) is detected.
To connect to the cloud, you will need some sort of internet access point in your car. Only the most modern cameras like the BlackVue DR750X-2CH LTE come with an access point included.
To find out more about cloud connectivity, check out our article Best Dash Cams With Cloud For Remote Viewing.
An absolute must in a dashboard camera, to make sure your camera doesn’t just stop recording when it runs out of disc space. Loop recording means that once your storage is full, the camera automatically overwrites the oldest files on the memory card. This enables a dash cam to potentially record indefinitely.
Of course you have the option to mark those parts of the footage that you would like to keep (see lock file button below). Also, most cameras will detect impacts with their G-sensor, and automatically mark the relevant files for safekeeping.
All cameras featured here have loop recording. In fact, it’s fair to say that if a camera doesn’t have loop recording, it isn’t a dashboard camera.
Date and Time Stamp
All dash cams have this feature. It comes in handy if you ever need to use your video footage as evidence. Make sure you set the date and time correctly when you install the camera.
Another must have. This means that your camera automatically starts recording when you turn the ignition key. You don’t want to get into a situation where something happens that you would like to keep the video of, just to find out that you forgot to turn your dash cam on that day.
All dash cams reviewed on this site have this feature.
Optional. While a screen is great to see what your camera recorded right away, it also makes the camera bigger and thus less discreet. Rear-view mirror cameras are an exception, but they haven’t been a huge commercial success as they also make your rear-view mirror bulkier and darker.
A screen makes it easier to set up and configure your camera, but it can also be a distraction while driving. You can configure a modern dash cam to automatically turn the screen off after a minute or so of driving.
Optional, but can be very useful. Allows you to record your exact position and speed, and to blend it into the video feed along with the date and time stamp. The obvious drawback is that the device will be bigger and more expensive.
Some dash cams give you the option to connect an external GPS module, keeping the camera small and discreet. Others like the Viofo A119 v3 integrate their GPS module into the camera’s mount.
External modules tend to pick up the GPS signal faster and more reliably, but the drawback is that you have to install the GPS module somewhere separately. It’s a trade-off, so you should consider how important a good GPS signal is to you as opposed to ease of installation.
Lock File Button
A lock file button, or “emergency” button, is a dedicated button on the camera allowing you to mark the current video footage for safekeeping. Meaning you can save your video file with a single touch of a button instead of potentially having to go through a menu.
Most modern dash cams have a G-sensor, so when an impact is detected the footage will be saved anyways, but a lock file button is convenient in case anything else happens that you would like to keep the video of.
A lock file button is a must-have in our opinion, however some cheap or older cameras may not have this feature.
Dashboard cameras are usually mounted high on the wind-shield (behind the rear-view mirror), but get their power from the cigarette lighter. So you want a cable that you can neatly tuck away around the windshield rather than having it dangling down the middle.
Therefore, dash cams usually come with a power adapter cable at least 11ft (3.5m) long, in order to allow you to install it in the most discreet way possible.
Of course you can also connect the cable directly to your car’s fuse box or internal wiring if you prefer not to use your cigarette lighter. Check your car’s user manual to find the correct setup.
Top Dash Cam Brands
Most dash cams are made by little known or almost unknown brands. Here’s a quick overview of the ones we found to be most reliable over the years.
- 70mai – A reliable Chinese brand of low-cost dash cams
- BlackVue – Elegant, but pricey, Korean dash cam manufacturer. BlackVue have been around since the beginning. They’re extremely innovative and have created a multitude of different, highly configurable camera models.
- Garmin – Well-known for their sat-nav devices. Garmin also make reliable dash cams, and have great customer support. But they often struggle with video quality.
- Thinkware – Another high-end Korean brand. They don’t have quite as many cameras as BlackVue, but their Thinkware U3000 is the most technologically advanced dash cam on the market (in 2024).
- Viofo – Reliable Chinese brand. Viofo make excellent mid-price dash cams, with top-notch video quality.
Advantages of Having a Dash Cam in Your Car
Most people buy a dashboard camera for security reasons. Rightly so, because having a dash cam running when you get involved in an accident or suffer a hit-and-run will give you an invaluable advantage in case you ever need to prove your case in court.
But dashboard cameras also have another quality that is often overlooked: They’re fun!
Think of your next weekend or holiday trip, that scenic route along the island shore or over the mountain pass, rare wildlife along the road, that celebrity crossing the street right in front of you… with a dash cam, you’ll have video proof that it happened.
You’ll be able to keep reminders of those magical moments, edit them to make a holiday video, and share them with friends and family.
So the main reasons why you want to have a dashboard camera in your car are:
- Prove your case in the unfortunate event of an accident
- Report aggressive drivers / road rage
- Protection for your parked vehicle
- Protection from insurance fraud
- Record your route and driving speed
- Monitor your employees and vehicle fleet
- Record holiday and weekend trips
- Capture scenic routes
- Share fun or unlikely events with your family, friends, or the world — who knows, maybe you are going to be the next YouTube superstar?
How Much Is A Dash Cam?
While you can get dash cams for below $20 already, we don’t recommend that you buy a device that cheap as it would likely neither have very good video quality, nor would it last very long.
Prices for decent quality dash cams start around $50. For around $100, you can already get really good single channel devices. Acceptable dual (front and rear) dash cams start at $150.
The high-end cameras with lots of bells and whistles can cost upward of $200, all the way up to $500 or even more than that. The final price depends on the size of SD card you choose, and whether you want extras like cloud connectivity, GPS; CPL filter, parking mode, and so on.
Are Dashboard Cameras Legal?
This depends on the country and community where you live. If in doubt, consult with your local authorities.
That said, if it’s legal where you live to take photos and record videos in the street, then dash cams are probably okay too as that’s exactly what they do.
About This Site
DashboardCameraReviews.com was launched in June 2013. We have over one hundred reviews of dash cams, with technical details, sample videos, and links to vendors that make it easy for you to compare prices online.
We’re adding new reviews all the time. Over time, we’ve built a huge collection of reviews that allows you to compare all major dash cam brands and models, present and past.
If you buy through one of our links, we may earn a commission, at no extra cost to you. These earnings are what’s keeping this site alive and kicking, and they enable us to stay on top of the technology year after year.
If you really like this site, and would like to support us even further — just spread the word, and tell everyone about us! 😉
Where to Go From Here
We hope we can help you find the perfect dash cam for your car. If you have any questions, suggestions, or feedback, you can reach us through our contact form.
If you’re wondering where to go from here, check out our complete dash cam favorites list, which is updated continually. If you’d like to see the technical details of all the latest dash cams side by side, you can also have a look at our huge dash cam comparison tables.
This page was first published on June 5, 2013 and received its last major update on February 22, 2024.