An Introduction To Dashboard Cameras

Last updated: Jan 2, 2023

Welcome To Dashboard Camera Reviews!

Dashboard cameras (also known as dash cams, dashcams, car cameras, or even accident recorders) are becoming ever more popular. Choosing the one you want can be tricky: There is a large variety of devices on the market, and most of them are from small or little-known manufacturers.

This web site, Dashboard Camera Reviews, started out in 2013. Since then, we’ve been building a huge 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.

Which Dash Cam Is The Best?

If you’re looking for an overview of the best dash cams available today, head right over to our selection of the Best Dash Cams 2023.

Here’s a little excerpt from that article to get you started:

Viofo A129 Plus Duo Dash CamGarmin Dash Cam Mini 2
ModelBlackVue DR900X PlusThinkware U1000Vantrue N4A129 Plus DuoGarmin Mini 2Viofo A119v370mai A500SRexing V1
DescriptionBest CloudRadar-Assisted Parking ModeBest Taxi CamGood Mid-Price DualSmall & DiscreetBest ValueGood Low-Cost DualCheap But Reliable
Resolution4K front
1080p rear
4K front
1440p rear
1440p front
1080p rear
1080p interior
1440p front
1080p rear
1080p1440p1440p front
1080p rear
Parking ModeBufferedRadar-Assisted BufferedTime-lapseTime-lapseImpactBuffered--

Scroll to the right to see all models. Links to vendors are affiliate links, and help to support this site.

However, if you are new to the dash cam world and would like to learn a bit about the technology and terminology first, then just read on. Our Dashboard Camera FAQ will teach you all you need to know before you decide which dash cam is best for you and your car.

Dash Cam FAQ

What Is A Dashboard Camera?

Contrary to its name, a dash cam is not mounted on a car’s dashboard. Instead, you stick it high on the wind shield, behind or close to the rear-view mirror.

The camera records the view out of the wind shield while you drive, and if it supports parking mode, also when the car is parked.

Multi-channel dash cams can additionally record through the rear window, or the interior of the car (see below).

Why Get A Dash Cam?

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
  • Live-stream video from your car over the cloud
  • 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

How Much Does A Dash Cam Cost?

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 a really good single channel device. Acceptable dual (front and rear) dash cams also start at $100.

The high-end cameras with lots of bells and whistles can cost upward of $300, 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.

We have divided the cameras on this site into three categories for your convenience: affordable (up to $100), mid-price (between $100 and $200) and high-end ($200 and up).

Are Dashboard Cameras Legal?

This depends on the country and community where you live, so we cannot give any binding legal advice here. 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.

Which Dash Cam Brands Are The Most Reliable?

  • BlackVue – Elegant (but pricy) Korean dash cam manufacturer that has 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 make quite reliable dash cams, but they often struggle with video quality.
  • Thinkware – Another high-end Korean brand. They don’t have quite as many cameras on offer as BlackVue, but the Thinkware U1000 is an excellent one-size-fits-all solution in the upper price segment (above $400).
  • Viofo – Reliable Chinese brand that has good value dashboard cameras, starting below $100.

What Are Single-, Dual-, And Triple-Channel Dash Cams?

One of the first decision you need to make is whether you want a single channel (1CH), dual channel (2CH), or triple channel (3CH) dash cam.

Single channel dash cams record the view through your windshield only (forward facing). Dual channel cams record front and rear, and triple channel dash cams additionally record the car’s interior.

Viofo A129 Plus Duo front and rear dash cam

Viofo A129 Plus Duo: Best Value Dual Cam (full review)

Due to the complexity of processing two video streams simultaneously, 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 below $100, but the video quality probably won’t be great. Also, you want your dash cam to be reliable, more than anything else: Imagine being in a situation that you need the video footage from, only to find out that your camera decided to take that day off!

For a reliable entry-level front and rear dash cam, get the Viofo A129 Plus Duo, which records good quality video both ways. The cheapest available dual channel dash cam is the 70mai A500S Pro Plus.

For a complete overview of the best and most popular dual dash cams available, 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 Dash Cams

The latest dash cameras can now record three channels: They have one lens each covering the road ahead, the road behind, and the interior of the car. This setup gives you maximum coverage, leaving almost no blind spots. If you’re interested, check out the best-performing 3 channel dash cams here.

Which Dash Cams Are The Most Discreet?

You probably don’t want your camera to stick out like a sore thumb on your car’s windshield. Dashboard cameras come in various sizes, and smaller (and therefore more discreet) is almost always better. Of course, cramming lots of features into a small device normally comes with a higher price tag.

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, thus reducing the camera’s bulkiness and visibility.

Also, the color black is usually preferred for a dashboard camera, as any other color would draw too much attention to it. If you want your camera to be low profile, it doesn’t make sense to get it in any color other than black.

How Does Parking Mode Work?

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, it might already be too late to see what happened by the time your camera comes to life.

Thinkware U1000: Best parking mode dash cam

Thinkware U1000: Radar assisted buffered parking mode (full review)

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, footage from 4-10 seconds before until 10-20 seconds after the event will be saved.

Other parking modes include simple and time-lapse modes. In simple (non-buffered) mode, the camera starts recording just after the event. Another name for this is energy-saving parking mode, because the camera doesn’t need to process video data all the time.

In time-lapse parking mode, the camera records continuously, but at a low frame rate. This saves memory on the SD card.

As most dashboard cameras’ internal batteries only last for a couple of seconds or minutes, you may need to get a battery discharge prevention device or a (more expensive) external battery pack to protect your car’s battery. Some dash cams, like the Thinkware U1000 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.

For an overview of the best parking mode dash cams, check out this article.

What’s The Best Video Resolution For A Dash Cam?

An important question you face when shopping for a dashboard camera is whether to go for a cutting-edge 4K camera like the Thinkware U1000, or go with a lower video resolution such as 1080p or 1440p. Keep reading for our answer to this question, it might surprise you.

4K Dash Cams

In recent years, more and more dash cams capable of recording at 4K resolution hit the market. 4K resolution, also known as Ultra High Density or UHD, means 3840×2160 pixels. That’s four times as many pixels as 1080p (which is 1920×1080 pixels).

BlackVue DR900X, a high-end 4K dash cam

BlackVue DR900X-2CH Plus: High-end 4K dash cam (full review)

These cameras can record impressive video footage, but 4K is a relatively new technology and as such, there are still some unresolved issues. For example, 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, resulting in lower light sensitivity.

Also, 4K cameras use more power 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: Apparently, many less-than-trustworthy manufacturers have seen fit to label their cameras 4K, even though they record at lower resolutions. These cameras 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, so always 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 has become a de-facto standard for dashboard cameras. The technology is tried and tested, and strikes an ideal 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 (which is something that many dash cams still struggle with).

All modern dash cams support at least 1080p, so you shouldn’t settle for lower resolutions like 720p.

Night Video Quality

While true night vision isn’t necessary for a dashboard camera as you will normally have your headlights on when you drive in the dark, make sure that your camera is able to capture quality footage independent of sunlight if you drive a lot at night.

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 time. Be sure to get a large memory card though.

if you’ll need high quality footage at night as well, for the time being we recommend you stick with a 1080p camera. These are not only cheaper, they also use up less storage on the memory card.

We’re sure that, in a couple of years, there will be 4K dash cams that record excellent video during the night as well. As of today though, technology just isn’t there yet.

Alternative Video Formats

2560×1080 is an interesting video format for dash cams because it is wider and flatter than other resolutions. Instead of 16:9, it has an aspect ratio of 64:27 (so it’s more than twice as wide as it is high). This ratio is great for dashboard cameras because it puts more focus on your surroundings to the left and right, while showing less of the sky above. It also makes for a more “cinematic” feel.

There are also some cameras out there that record at 1440p. At 2560×1440 pixels, this resolution captures more detail than 1080p, but doesn’t need as much processing power as 4K.

Do Dash Cams Need LEDs For Night Vision?

Only in some special cases, such as for taxi cams and truck cameras.

Some older dash cameras used to come with LEDs on the front camera that were supposed to improve night performance.

However, on a dashboard camera that records through the wind shield, LEDs are absolutely useless for night vision. They tend to cause reflections on the glass and can’t hope to illuminate the road in front of you (that’s what you have your headlights for anyways, which are far more powerful).

So avoid dash cams with LEDs, or if your cam does have LEDs, turn them off.

The two cases where LEDs are actually useful: One is for taxi/uber cams which, in addition to the road ahead, also record the interior of your car (see below). The other exception is for rear cameras that are mounted on the outside of the vehicle, such as the BlackVue Truck cameras (e.g. BlackVue DR750X-2CH Truck Plus).

I Am A Taxi/Uber Driver. Can I Use A Dash Cam To Record My Passengers?

Viofo A129 Duo IR: The best Uber dash cam

Viofo A129 Duo IR: A typical taxi cam (full review)

Sure! Get a taxi cam.

Taxi (or Uber) dash cams are essentially dual channel cams, with the rear camera filming the car’s interior. This is especially useful for professionals in the people transporting business, such as taxi or Uber drivers.

At night, the interior camera needs infrared LEDs to be able to “see in the dark”.

A great taxi cam is the Viofo A129 Duo IR. It records high quality video, and also supports both buffered and time-lapse parking modes.

Another interesting taxi cam is the Blueskysea B2W, which has lenses that can be swiveled sideways. You can turn the cameras so that they record the driver’s or passenger’s window, and record interactions with law enforcement or with clients.

Where Does A Dash Cam Get Its Power?

Dashboard cameras are usually mounted high on the wind-shield (behind or near the rear-view mirror), but they get their power from the cigarette lighter or a USB socket on the car’s center console. So you want a power cable that you can neatly tuck away around the windshield rather than having it dangling down the middle.

Diagram showing how to connect a dashboard camera's power adapter

The dash cam’s power cable is installed around the windshield and plugged into the cigarette lighter

Therefore, dash cams 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.

What Does “Hard-Wiring A Dash Cam” Mean?

If you want to run your dash cam also when the car is off (parking mode), you will need to connect it directly to your car’s fuse box or internal wiring. This is called hard-wiring. Hard-wiring kits are available separately, or sometimes even included with dash cams that support parking mode.

What Are The Basic Features A Dash Cam Should Have?

Loop Recording

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, thus enabling it to 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 reviewed on this site 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 your camera.

Auto On/Off

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.


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.

Motion Detection

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.


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 like the Street Guardian SG9663DC 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.

CPL Filter

When driving in bright sunlight, you will sometimes see reflections of your 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.

Do All Dash Cams Have A Screen?

No, actually many of them don’t. While a screen is great to see what your camera recorded right away, it also makes the camera bigger, and thus less discreet.

Of course, a screen makes it easier to set up and configure your camera. But if your camera supports Wi-Fi, you can also configure it using your smart phone. So a physical screen on the camera would be optional in that case.

What Does “Cloud Connectivity” Mean?

Dash cam connected to the BlackVue cloud, streaming video to a smart phoneA 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, and which dash cams support it, check out our article Best Dash Cams With Cloud For Remote Viewing.

About This Site 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.

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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 update on January 2, 2023.