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Best Backup Cameras

Updated April 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. Read more
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 16 Models Considered
  • 68 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 103 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Shopping Guide for Best Backup Cameras

    Last Updated April 2018

    A backup camera for your vehicle gives you a look at the area behind your car – an area you can’t usually see when you’re driving.

    Obviously, you hope a small child or animal is never behind the car when you’re backing up. But if that happens, your backup camera can help you spot the problem in the car’s blind spot and avoid a disastrous injury.

    At BestReviews, we take pride in our ability to give you shopping advice based on our thorough research. Our goal is to provide readers with the trustworthy information they need to buy quality products. Because we do not accept free samples from manufacturers, you can feel comfortable that our product selections and reviews are objective.

    Please continue reading our shopping guide if you’d like to understand more about the strengths and weaknesses of backup cameras and find the one that will fit your needs. You can check out our top picks above when you’re ready to buy.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that backup cameras are about 30% more effective at helping drivers avoid back-over accidents than a sensor-and-alarm system alone.

    How do backup cameras work?

    A backup camera is a tiny camera mounted on the rear of a vehicle, usually near the license plate or on the bumper. It’s purpose is to allow you to see objects or people behind the vehicle that you can’t normally see from the driver’s seat because they’re in the blind spot or too short. The camera sends a video signal to a screen inside the vehicle, usually on or near the dashboard. The screen shows you what is directly behind the vehicle.

    Some vehicles come with a backup camera already installed. If not, you could add one to your vehicle. If you add a backup camera, it will need a power source. Most run by plugging the screen into a 12-volt accessory socket. Some backup cameras can be wired into your car’s electrical system, too.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Federal standards require that factory-installed backup cameras display at least a 10 x 20-foot area behind the vehicle.

    Backup camera screens

    Before purchasing a backup camera kit, think about where you want to put the display screen. Some vehicles have a screen built into the dashboard. Even if you already have a screen installed, you don’t have to use it for your backup camera.

    Factory-installed screen

    The easiest option is to make use of the factory-installed display screen. Often, this screen works as part of a car’s infotainment system.

    Some backup camera kits are compatible with some factory-installed display screens. This means that the camera can connect to the existing system to give you a seamless performance.

    The license plate, roof, and back bumper are typical locations for a backup camera.

    Replacement screen

    If you have an older screen with poor resolution, you might want to replace it. You can purchase a screen and backup camera separately, but this can be a tricky installation, especially when trying to find a display screen that fits perfectly into the dashboard. Look for screens that are compatible with your vehicle’s make and model.

    If your vehicle already has an in-dashboard display screen, you can save some money by purchasing only a camera.

    Standalone screen

    If you don’t want to pull out your vehicle’s radio to add a display screen, or if your car can’t accommodate a screen, consider a standalone display screen. The screen is wirelessly connected to the backup camera. There are three types of standalone screens.

    • Rear-View Mirror Display: You can purchase and install a new rear-view mirror that has a screen built into it. Because you naturally look in the mirror when backing up, this hardware works well for many people.

    • Mounted Display: You can mount a large display screen on the dashboard with suction cups or adhesive tape. This option allows you to position the screen in the most convenient spot for you.

    • Sun Visor Display: You can clip a smaller standalone display to the sun visor and flip it down to view just like you would flip down the visor to block the sun.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Some backup cameras only engage when the driver puts the vehicle in reverse.

    Wired vs. wireless

    There are wired and wireless backup cameras to choose from. Here’s a look at each.

    • Wired Backup Cameras: Factory-installed backup camera systems connect the camera to the display screen directly with a wire. You can install a third-party backup camera with a wired connection, but this process is tricky.
    • Wireless Backup Cameras: Most third-party backup camera kits are wireless, meaning they send the video signal over a radio connection to the display screen. But you will still have to do some wiring even with a “wireless” system. The backup camera needs electrical power, which you can obtain by connecting it to the same wire that powers the car’s tail lights. And the display screen needs power, which can come from a wire connected to a USB port or the car’s 12-volt accessory socket.
    EXPERT TIP

    Periodically check the status of your backup camera. Dirt, rain, and snow can obstruct the camera’s lens.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Backup camera prices

    Backup camera hardware varies in price depending on your needs and your vehicle. If you think you may need help installing the system, it could run a few hundred dollars.

    • Inexpensive: In this price range, you can purchase a camera to connect to an existing screen. but you first have to make sure the two are compatible. This system is usually wireless. Expect to spend $50 or less for this type of backup camera.

    • Mid-Range: This price range includes third-party backup camera kits that you can install yourself. These kits typically operate via a wireless signal between the backup camera and the display screen. You can expect to pay between $100 and $500 for a kit.

    • Expensive: This price range includes backup camera systems that are specifically made for your make of car. These systems have screens that fit perfectly in your car’s dashboard, making them look professional and enhancing your car’s resale value. Professional installation will likely be required for a hard-wired system. You can spend up to $1,000 (or even more) for one of these systems.
    A factory-installed display screen for a backup camera is built into the dashboard. For an add-on backup camera, the display screen may be placed anywhere that’s convenient.

    Faq

    Q. How do I decide which camera viewing angle is best for my needs?
    A.
    The camera viewing angle refers the width of the field of view your backup camera sees. A wider view (measured in degrees) gives you a better look at the area behind your vehicle. A common angle for a backup camera is 120°, but some cameras offer viewing angles up to 170°. Beware of cheap cameras that claim a very wide viewing angle because the image clarity at the edge of the screen may be poor.

    Q. What are some problems with backup cameras?
    A.
    Keeping them clean is one primary issue with backup cameras. If the lens is dirty, the camera can’t deliver the clear video signal that you need. Some cheap cameras have poor resolution, meaning the view behind you will be blurry. Establishing a good wireless connection between the camera and the display screen can be tricky as well.

    Q. What are some cool features of newer backup cameras?
    A.
    Some backup camera screens superimpose lines on the screen image of the vehicle’s path. This feature simplifies backing into a parking space with other cars around because you can see how your car will fit. Some cameras include a radar system that warns you with an audible signal if there are objects behind you in case you don’t see them on the screen. And manufacturers are constantly improving the resolution of newer cameras and screens to produce sharper images.

    Q. How does my backup camera work at night?
    A.
    Most backup cameras use LED lights to provide night vision. Standard white LEDs can illuminate the area behind the car almost as well as headlights. Other backup camera models use an infrared LED light. Although you can’t see infrared light with the naked eye, the backup camera lens can detect it and send an image to the display screen. Infrared LED images are black and white rather than full color.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alice
      Alice
      Web Producer
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Kyle
      Kyle
      Writer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor