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Buying guide for Best radar detectors under $100

If you seem to struggle with following local speed limits when driving, you almost certainly know the disappointing feeling in the pit of your stomach when you see the red and blue flashing lights of a police car behind you.

You may not even mean to speed, but nearly all drivers slip up from time to time. In a case like this, you may want to consider purchasing and using a radar detector. This device scans the area around your vehicle, looking for a signal that indicates police officers using a radar gun to measure speed are nearby.

The idea of the radar detector is that it alerts the driver to the radar gun, reminding you to check your speed and slow down if necessary before the radar gun records your speed.

Radar detectors are available in a huge range of prices. If you are looking at purchasing this type of device on a budget, there are several models that fit in the sub-$100 price range. We’ll help you determine whether these radar detectors for less than $100 have the features and performance levels that you need.

Most sub-$100 radar detectors are portable models that you can easily move from car to car.

Key considerations

Here are some key items to consider when shopping for a sub-$100 radar detector.

Range: If the radar detector has a short working range, it may not pick up a radar gun signal until it’s too late. Manufacturers give an estimated working range, usually several hundred yards to a mile, but real-world accuracy may be quite a bit less for budget-priced radar detectors.

Sensitivity: A radar detector with a high level of sensitivity will pick up weaker radar gun signals than one with a low level of sensitivity. Manufacturers list sensitivity in decibels (dB). A reading of more than 10 decibels should provide a strong performance, but this level of sensitivity may be hard to find in a sub-$100 unit.

Mounting area: The majority of low-priced radar detectors mount to the windshield with suction cups. A few models may connect to the rearview mirror or sit on the dashboard.

Indication method: Low-priced radar detectors often use beeps and a basic display screen to alert you that a radar gun is nearby. Pricier models may add a greater level of detail on the screen as well as voice warnings. Pick an indicator that won’t distract you while driving so you can keep your eyes on the road.

Volume: Some sub-$100 detectors may not have adjustable volume levels, which can be a hassle. Some units are too quiet to hear when you have the radio on. Other models are so loud that they startle you, which may affect your driving performance. Adjustable volume levels are helpful in a radar detector, but they’re not always available in the lower price range.

Did You Know?
For commercial drivers, carrying a radar detector in the vehicle is not legal in quite a few states.


Radar guns measured

Even the lowest-priced radar detectors should have success in measuring the primary radar bands police use, which include:

  • K-band
  • Ka-band
  • X-band

Quite a few of the false alerts created by a sub-$100 radar detector will occur in the X-band. So if your detector is giving you multiple X-band alerts, these are likely not signs of actual police radar gun activity. Things like automatic entry door openers on businesses and cellular towers with microwave dishes can set off the X-band.

Laser speed guns measured

Laser speed guns are a newer type of speed detection technology used by police. These generate a very narrow beam of light. Some sub-$100 detectors struggle to measure these laser beams while others can handle them.

If your detector misses laser speed guns, it’s not going to give you a reliable level of detection. (Another name for a laser speed gun is a LIDAR gun.)

You must follow any local state laws regarding radar detectors when you visit that state. If traveling, you will want to study the laws in the other states regarding radar detector use.


What you can get for your $100 budget

Understanding that you’re interested in an inexpensive radar detector, we will now examine the pros and cons of products in this price range.

Pros of sub-$100 radar detectors

  • 360-degree coverage: Most radar detection units in this price range can measure signals coming from any direction around your car, which is helpful.
  • Ease of use: With fewer features than pricier models, the sub-$100 radar detector will be easier for many people to begin using immediately and without having to study a user guide for hours.
  • Ready to use: The majority of inexpensive radar detectors ship with all the hardware you need to start using them immediately. Most of these units run from a cord plugged into a 12V socket, so you don’t have to charge a battery or hardwire them into your vehicle’s dashboard.
  • Option for trying the technology: If you are unsure whether you want or need a radar detector, you probably don’t want to drop $500 or more on a unit. With a sub-$100 radar detector, you can try out the device for a reasonable price before determining whether you want an upgrade down the road or whether detectors aren’t useful for your driving habits.

Cons of sub-$100 radar detectors

  • Windshield mounting: Nearly all detectors in this price range require a windshield mount with a suction cup, which makes them easily visible for thieves and police officers. (And a few states do not allow windshield mount units.)
  • Monochrome displays: Some models in this price range have color displays; others only use black, gray, and white. When radar detector manufacturers use different colors to signify different types of signals, it’s easier for drivers to see the information at a glance.
  • Memory storage: Very few inexpensive detectors are able to maintain a list of known areas on your commute that generate false alerts and “learn” to ignore those alerts. This is a feature only found on the most expensive units, as they need to have GPS chips built into them.
  • Radar trap alerts: Pricier units can receive information over cellular or WiFi that alerts them to locations with speed traps or red-light cameras, warning you of these hazards as you approach. Again, the unit needs a GPS chip to provide this information, which inexpensive units rarely have.
  • Multiple false alerts: Inexpensive units generate a far larger number of false alerts than pricier units, which can be frustrating.
With a portable radar detector, you may want to hide it in the car when parked or carry it with you, as it could be an inviting target for thieves if they can see it.


Note that the following features may be hard to find in this price range.

  • Long-range detection: Low-priced detectors tend to have inconsistent results over a long distance, meaning police may clock you before you receive a notification. Pricier units have more success in this area.
  • Voice commands: Inexpensive radar detectors are more likely to beep when detecting the presence of a radar gun rather than giving you a voice explanation. However, if the type of beep is distinctive for each type of signal, this may fit your needs well.
  • Detailed display screens: Expensive radar detectors may have a display screen that provides significant details about the type of signal detected. Lower-priced models may only light up a letter on the screen to show the type of signal.
  • Complete accuracy: The biggest complaint owners of sub-$100 radar detectors have is a lack of accuracy, especially when it comes to reporting too many false alerts. Lower-priced models simply don’t match pricier models in terms of overall accuracy.

Radar detectors under $100: prices

Low-end: The least-expensive radar detectors cost $25 to $50. These simple devices often don’t have easy-to-read display screens, and they may be missing adapters or mounting hardware.

Mid-range: In the $50 to $75 price range, you should receive a unit with a simple display screen that’s easy to read. You also should receive everything you need to begin operating the device immediately.

Upper-end: For those looking for units in the $75 to $100 price range, some units offer modes that use specific features for city driving that are unnecessary in rural driving.

Of course, you can purchase a radar detector that costs a lot more than $100. In fact, the prices for these tools stretch up to $500 in some cases. High-end units detect a wider range of radar signals than low-end units. Further, high-end units are better able to detect signals originating from a greater distance than cheaper units. These pricier models should deliver fewer false alerts.

The majority of low-priced radar detector units are roughly the shape of a deck of playing cards, albeit a little larger than a deck of cards.


Q. Is a low-priced radar detector worth the money?

A. A radar detector is only worth the money when it prevents you from receiving an expensive speeding ticket. If the unit doesn’t protect you every time, it’s not worth the money, no matter its cost. Because low-priced units lack high-end features, they may miss some signals your local police use, leaving you without protection. Always test a sub-$100 detector in a local area where you know radar checks are occurring before deciding to fully trust it.

Q. What if a police officer sees my radar detector inside the car?

A. It is legal to carry a radar detector in the majority of states. However, if a police officer is trying to decide whether you give you a ticket for speeding or another violation and sees the detector unit, they may be less willing to cut you some slack.

Q. How does a radar detector compare to a radar or laser jammer?

A. A laser or radar jammer will attempt to distort the signal from the speed gun, reflecting a false reading that fools the speed detection hardware. The radar detector simply alerts the driver that police radar is operational near the vehicle. Using a jammer is illegal in some states that allow radar detectors.

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