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Best Car Cameras

Updated August 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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How we decided

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

  • 9 Models Considered
  • 8 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 129 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

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

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best car cameras

    Last Updated August 2018

    Whether you want to document your road trips, help a new driver learn to master the road, or have access to instant video recordings in the event of a car accident, a car camera can help you meet your goal.

    A car camera is a low-cost, effective, innovative technology that more and more drivers are enjoying. If you haven’t yet driven a car equipped with a camera, you’re in for a treat. These cameras not only make driving safer, they also make it more fun.

    Read on for our take on car cameras – the features that are essential, the gotchas to avoid, and the budget you’ll need to set aside. Then, when you’re ready to shop, start with our most recommended models in the grid above.

    In the U.S., having a dash cam will not lower your car insurance bill. However, if you submit video to your insurance company or the police after a collision, that video can help verify who was at fault, potentially saving you from the headache of a legal disagreement with another driver.

    Front car cameras vs. rear car cameras

    The car camera that’s best for you largely depends on what type of driving activity you want to record.

    • Front car cameras use lenses that face forward. These cameras record everything that happens in front of the vehicle. Front car cameras are ideal for having video evidence in the event of an accident, for making quick videos of a journey, and for perfecting your parallel parking skills.

    • Rear car cameras are typically attached just above the rear license plate. These cameras record everything that happens behind your car. Rear cameras are idea for parallel parking as well as driving in reverse. Models with wide-angle lenses help drivers see much more than they could with traditional rear-view and side mirrors.

    A superior car camera

    Built with Sony’s legendary camera sensors, Anker’s Roav car camera produces stunning wide-angle video regardless of your driving conditions. The included SD card is a perk that few other models offer, and we love the fact that it’s designed to weather extreme climate changes.

    Car camera placement

    The quality of your car camera recordings will depend on where you put it in your car. Car cameras are typically designed to be installed in one of three locations: the dashboard, over the rear-view mirror, or on the windshield.

    • Dashboard cameras sit on top of the dashboard in the center of the windshield. Dashboard cameras are the most discreet, and they most closely mirror the perspective of the driver. With a dashboard camera, you don’t have to sacrifice any of your visibility, and you can rely on recordings that capture the driver’s perspective.

    • Over-the-rear-view-mirror cameras typically attach to the back of your car’s rear-view mirror and include a snap-on replacement mirror that sits on top of the original. The replacement rear-view mirrors included with these models are wider than normal, resulting in improved visibility and safety. Replacement rear-view mirrors also include built-in screens. You can use the mirror to see what’s behind you and see the camera’s view of what’s happening in front of you – all at the same time.

    • Suction-mount cameras are suspended from the windshield with suction cups. These cameras can be placed just about anywhere on the windshield, making them a bit more flexible than other models. As temperatures change, however, some suction mounts have been known to disconnect. If you live in a relatively stable climate, or if you need a car camera that you can easily move between cars, a suction-mount model might be right for you.

    Most car cameras store videos on microSD cards which must be purchased separately. When you’re looking at compatible microSD cards, buy one with as much capacity as you can so you won’t run out of space for new recordings. We recommend starting with a microSD card with at least 32GB of available storage.

    Key car camera features

    All car cameras come with the same basics: the camera itself and a small screen for viewing the camera’s live feed or recordings. Beyond that, there are a few features that set some models apart from others. As you compare products, keep an eye out for the following features ... we wish they came with every car camera.

    • Night vision: Your car’s headlights aren’t powerful enough to help a car camera see in the dark. For that, you’ll need a car camera with a night vision feature. The images won’t be as clear as they are in daylight, but you can still easily see everything your camera is picking up. If you do a lot of driving at night – or any driving at night, really – consider night vision a must-have feature.

    • HD recording: While the videos you capture don’t need to be in mind-blowing 4K HDR, they do need to be clear enough to help you see exactly what’s in frame. Car camera recording resolutions vary widely. Low-end models will record at a resolution of 1280x720 (720p), which still qualifies as HD but is nowhere near as clear as those that can record at 1920x1080 (1080p) or even 2560x1440 (1440p). If you want to avoid grainy and hard-to-see video, buy a car camera that supports at least 1080p video recording.

    • Wide-angle lens: Different car cameras have different types of lenses. Some premium models include a wide-angle lens that provides a panorama-like picture. Wide-angle lenses are especially helpful in rear car cameras, as they may show obstacles that are out of the field of view of typical cameras. If you live in a densely populated area or do a lot of parallel parking, make sure the car camera you buy includes a wide-angle lens.
    EXPERT TIP

    Most car cameras are battery operated. As you compare different car camera models, pay attention to what size battery they use, and make sure to always keep a set of spare batteries in the car.


    EXPERT TIP

    Car cameras that aren’t battery operated connect to your car’s power outlet. Check before you buy to make sure your car has a power outlet (it may double as a cigarette lighter) you can easily access.


    Car camera prices

    While all car cameras are affordable, there are some definite perks to spending a little more. Keep these price ranges in mind as you shop.

    Between $30 and $49

    In this price range, you’ll find low-resolution cameras that promise image quality and functionality that seems too good to be true – and in most cases, it is too good to be true. Models in this price range produce grainy images, often include clunky interfaces, and use antiquated video file formats. If you want your car camera to last for more than a year, plan on spending more than $50.

    Between $50 and $74

    Car cameras in this price range include solid recording resolutions and strong safety features. In some cases, however, your satisfaction may be hampered by the camera’s  tiny screen or poor-quality night vision. If you need a basic car camera without bells and whistles and don’t mind a little compromise, you can find a lot of capable contenders for less than $75.

    Between $75 and $150

    Car cameras in this price window offer an outstanding range of features and functionality. You don’t have to make any sacrifices here; you can get a high-quality camera with night vision, app support, and even an expanded rear-view mirror. If you’re serious about upgrading your vehicle’s tech, or if you just want a car camera that will last as long as your car does, you don’t need to spend more than $150.

    Best of the budget models

    If you can get past the Pruveeo MX2’s 1970’s sci-fi looks, you’ll find an affordable dash cam that gets the job done. Recordings from the MX2 won’t win any cinematography awards, but the unit’s reliability, along with its 320° rotating lens, make it a popular choice for drivers who don’t mind a no-frills camera.

    Tips

    If you’re looking at a particular car camera model, search online for sample videos made with it. This will give you an idea of the camera’s quality in real-world conditions. Bear in mind that the video may be taken in a climate other than yours where visibility is different. Still, reviewing demo clips is a good way to gauge what to expect from a given car camera model.

    If you’re using a car camera that includes a suction cup for the windshield, clean the inside of the windshield with newsprint paper before installing it. Suction cups can hold up a car camera extremely well – as long as there’s no dirt between it and your windshield. To get the strongest suction connection possible, begin by wiping down the windshield with an old newspaper or any newsprint; car enthusiasts have been using this lifehack for years. With a clean windshield, your car camera’s suction cup will stay securely attached.

    If you want to view your car camera’s videos on a smartphone, buy a model that is WiFi enabled. WiFi-enabled car cameras are perfect for users who don’t want to bother with switching out microSD cards or using an unfamiliar interface. With a WiFi car camera, you can use the manufacturer’s app to view a live feed from the camera, watch recordings it has made, or even adjust specific recording settings.

    Some car cameras can also function as security cameras. These cameras include motion sensors that prompt recording any time movement is “sensed” around your vehicle. If car burglary is a concern for you, or if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to secure your car for your own peace of mind, we recommend a car camera that includes a motion sensor.

    FAQ

    Q. How does recording work on car cameras? Will I have to manage videos like I do on my TV’s DVR?

    A. Most car cameras allow you to set the length of recording time you want to save. For example, if you set your car camera to record three hours, it will always save the prior three hours of video, and it will continuously delete the oldest part of the recording as it records more. In addition, most car cameras include impact response recordings, meaning that in the event of an accident, they automatically save the video leading up to and including the collision. If you prefer to manually manage your car camera recordings, you can. In most cases, however, this is not necessary.

    Q. Could I use my smartphone as a car camera?

    A. Yes, but it’s far less convenient than installing a dedicated car camera. Car camera apps for iOS and Android devices exist, but they place an excessive burden on the battery – not to mention the fact that they require attaching and detaching your phone from the car’s dashboard any time you get in or out of the car. Traditional car cameras are easily installed and save drivers from having to handle any notifications or distractions.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jaime
      Jaime
      Writer
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor
    • Samantha
      Samantha
      Writer