What Is Parking Mode?
Parking mode allows you to keep your dash cam running while your car is parked. That way, you’ll have video footage in the case of a hit-and-run or vandalism incident.
UPDATE: This article was written in 2016. While the first part (up to the table of cameras) is still valid and relevant, many of the dash cams listed here are not state-of-the art any more. Read our updated article for a list of the best parking mode dash cams for winter 2017/2018. (We’ll remind you again below, before the out-of-date list starts!)
In order to not fill up its memory card with useless files in which nothing is going on, the dash camera should only save files when it detects an event. An event can either be an impact that is detected by the camera’s G-sensor, or a motion that is detected visually in the camera’s field of view.
Note that while virtually all modern dash cameras have a G-sensor that can detect impacts to your car, only some of them additionally support visual motion detection. Keep in mind that using motion detection makes sense when you’re parking in a quiet spot. On a busy street however where people are walking by all the time, it may lead to your camera recording all of the time, wasting precious battery power as well as storage space.
Different Kinds Of Parking Mode
1. Simple parking mode: If an impact or motion is detected by the camera, it will come alive and start recording, hopefully catching the perpetrator. The problem with this basic parking mode is that it will usually take the camera a couple of seconds to start recording, so whoever damaged your car might be gone in the meantime.
2. Buffered parking mode (recommended): The camera records continuously, and saves the video footage to internal memory. When an impact or motion is detected, a couple of seconds (typically 10 or 20) before and after the event will be saved to the camera’s SD card, in a special write protected folder so it doesn’t get overwritten. An alert will also be shown when you get back to your car, so you will be aware something happened.
3. Time-lapse mode: An alternative to the above modes is time-lapse mode, in which the camera shoots a still picture every second or so (1fps). This allows you to watch a time-lapse version of what was going on around your car while you were gone. Some cameras will additionally switch to normal recording for a certain period of time after they detect an event.
How To Install Dash Cams For Parking Mode
A dashboard camera’s internal battery typically has a very low capacity, mainly intended to allow the device to shut down gracefully and not lose any footage in case of a power cutoff. For the camera to keep recording even when ignition is off, the dash cam needs to be hard wired to your car’s internal electrical circuitry (with a Hard Wiring Kit) instead of simply plugged into the cigarette lighter.
Note that a simple hard wiring kit will NOT prevent you car’s battery from being drained if you keep your dash cam running continuously. To keep your battery healthy, there are a couple of options available:
1. Battery Discharge Prevention (BDP): A device that is installed between your dash cam and the car’s fuse box. It continuously monitors your car battery’s voltage, and when voltage drops below a preset (often configurable) level, power to the dash cam will be cut off in order to prevent further draining of the battery.
Battery discharge prevention devices typically cost between $30-$60 and are available from various manufacturers. You don’t need to worry about getting them from the same manufacturer that made your dash cam, they should be completely interchangeable. Popular devices include BlackVue’s Power Magic Pro and VicoVation’s Vico Power-Plus.
2. External Battery Pack: Alternatively (and more expensively), you can install a battery pack to power your dash cam. The battery pack holds enough charge to keep your dash cam running for anywhere between 12 and 25 hours, depending on which model you have and how much power your camera consumes.
The battery pack serves as an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for your dash cam. It will recharge while your car is running, eliminating the risk of depleting the car’s main battery. Good quality battery packs are available from Cellink (Battery B) and BlackVue (B-112), among others.
What To Look For When Choosing A Dash Cam For Parking Protection
A dash cam that will be used for parking surveillance should fulfill the following criteria:
- Should be dual channel ideally (but see below).
- Discreetness: You probably don’t want your dash cam to be too visible, especially if you will be using it for parking surveillance. In a sketchy neighborhood, a large shiny camera might attract the attention of thieves.
- Video quality: Should obviously be as good as you can get. If going for a dual channel dash cam, it’s recommended to get one that records at 1080p resolution both ways. Some dual cams record only 720p, which causes a notable downgrade in video quality.
- Reliability: This one is huge. You don’t want a dash cam that you can’t rely on, especially if you’re going to have it running for long periods of time.
- SD card: Last not but least, make sure to get a memory card that’s made for heavy use. For further details, refer to our article about Which SD Cards Last Longest In Dash Cams.
Single Channel Or Dual Channel?
For maximum protection when parked, a dual channel (front and rear) dash cam is very much preferable as it doubles your field of view and therefore increases your chances of seeing who damaged your car.
That being said, single channel dash cams cost less, often record at higher resolutions, and have better video quality than dual channel devices. Also, if you usually park backed up against a wall, a single channel dash cam would be enough.
If you’re really going for optimum protection, you could even get two single channel cameras to have the best of both worlds. However, this also doubles the installation and maintenance work that will have to be done.
November 2017 Update: Many of the cameras below are out of date or not available any more. For this winter’s list of the best parking mode dash cams, continue reading here.
Quick Comparison Table
Here’s a quick overview of the best dash cameras that support buffered or time-lapse parking modes. For the sake of readability, the only the best-performing cameras are included.
We’ll go into the pros and cons for each individual camera below.
|Camera||Buff. mode||Time lapse||Dual||Dis-|
|Front vid. res.||Rear vid. res.||Front video quality||Rear video quality||Reliability||Appr. price|
|Marcus 4||Yes||-||-||-||1296p||-||Very Good||-||Very Good||$200|
Front And Rear Dash Cams With Buffered Parking Mode
BlackVue DR650S-2CH — MOST STEALTHY: The most popular among dual channel dash cams. Discreet, reliable, and supports buffered parking mode. Has a remote viewing option (“BlackVue Over The Cloud”), so you can view video footage live from anywhere over the internet. Downside: Rear video is only 720p resolution.
BlackVue DR750LW: Records 1080p resolution both ways, so better rear video than the DR650. Doesn’t have cloud connectivity like the DR650 models. Comes with have a 4″ touch screen, making it more bulky than the DR650 and therefore not as discreet. On the plus side, having a screen makes this camera easier to operate than the DR650 series.
Thinkware X500D — BEST VALUE: This camera has good video and is the most reliable of all the dual channel dash cams out there. It’s not very discreet, but it is the only dual parking mode dash cam that’s available for just around $250 (all the others cost over $300).
Single Channel Cams With Buffered Parking ModeBlackVue DR650S-1CH: The single channel version of the DR650S-2CH. Stealthy, very good video quality, and great reliability. Supports cloud connectivity (provided you have internet in your car). If you’re happy with a single channel dash cam, the DR650S-1CH is an excellent choice.
Vicovation Marcus 4: An excellent dash cam that has unfortunately gone out of production. Records better video at night than the BlackVue cameras. It’s not as stealthy, but quite reliable as well. Get it while supplies last.
Single Channel Cams With Time-Lapse Parking ModeVicovation Opia2: This one has the best video quality of all dash cams we’ve tested so far. At 2560x1440p, it also records at a higher resolution than all the other cams on our list. It’s not the stealthiest, but it isn’t huge either, and you can partly hide it behind your rear view mirror. The Opia2 was only released a short while ago, so it’s hard to judge its reliability yet. Initial feedback looks very promising though.
Mini 0903: The budget choice. Highly stealthy, even though it has a screen. Supports both time-lapse and standard parking modes, meaning it will automatically switch to normal recording for 15 seconds after an event is detected, and record time-lapse video otherwise. This camera is the cheapest of the lot, but it is also the least reliable.
As usual, there’s no one-size fits all solution, and the one dash cam that gets it all right for everyone probably doesn’t exist. Depending on your wants and needs, let’s conclude with a summary of the very best parking mode dash cams that are currently on the market:
- If you value video quality above all, go for the Vico-Opia2 if you’re happy with a single channel camera that records in time-lapse mode.
- For best reliability, consider the X500D, which is also our best value parking mode dash cam.
- If stealth is important for you, we recommend the BlackVue DR650S, which has great forward video quality, but only records 720p to the rear.
- Last but not least, if you’d like a camera with parking mode but just can’t afford to spend several hundreds of dollars on it, do consider the Mini 0903. While it’s a popular dash cam in its price segment, be aware that this is one of the cheaper Chinese dash cams, and you get what you pay for ultimately.
Now go ahead and buy your favorite parking mode dash cam!