Dash Cam Buying Guide

Updated on January 20, 2023

When it comes to choosing the right dash camera for your needs and budget, it can be quite daunting, especially if this is your first device, or if you’re new to the scene altogether. Thankfully, our team of three gurus has happily conducted many reviews to evaluate and offer unbiased advice on features, specs, and quality which can be found throughout this site. Please check the reviews if you know what to look for and understand what you’re after, however, if you need some general tips and advice, the next section is for you. Below you will find a buying guide of specific things to look for and what to avoid.

Intro

A good dash cam recorder, (a.k.a in-car camera) is capable of shooting continuous loop recordings of your travels. Let’s say you are on a once-in-a-lifetime road trip on a scenic drive, and you wish to save the journey on your camcorder or smartphone. Capturing video while driving is somewhat tricky and risky, and so is indeed ill-advised. Plus, you would hardly be able to take a shake-free video. With half-decent dash cam systems in your vehicle, you already have a camera sitting in the best possible position (the windshield). Plus, it is securely mounted which allows it to record shake-free videos. Road trip aside, it’s excellent protection against fraudulent insurance claims and serves as protection in the form of evidence when it comes to the crazy things that happen on the roads in this day and age.

Most of the high-end in-car cameras double up to make capable still shooters as well. There are high definition versions for sale which can shoot at five megapixel, which gives you great quality stills when you don’t have a ‘proper’ camera or smartphone around. Now, less of the tease, let’s take a look at some of the must-have features when it comes to buying a car dash cam:

Ease Of Installation and Discreetness

InstallationEase of installation is essential. The last thing that you would want is a dashboard camera system that refuses to stay put where you had installed it. This can happen due to poor quality suction cups, poor adhesives, or associated clamping mounts. With cheaper quality models the problem areas are in the build, i.e., the suction mounts and the adhesives, as opposed to the features and reliability. Even if the technology of the car DVR is reasonable, the problems are in other areas, which can make installation difficult at times.

The best dashboard camera will have a decent length of power cable provided. The power cable should be long enough to run the distance from the position where the device is installed, all the way along where the windshield touches the vehicle body and onto the power source.

Believe it or not, the ability of your dashboard camera to hide in plain sight is probably the first most important feature that you need. The reason? Legality. Legality comes from the laws of the country you belong to and the prevalent motor vehicle rules. In some countries using accessories that are considered intrusive to the visibility of the driver when driving a vehicle is deemed to be illegal to use. The ideal way to figure out whether the country you will be driving your truck in allows the use of a dashboard camera system it is to check the prevalent rules.

Resolution Of The Video Capture

Full HD is the standard of the day. Sure one wouldn’t mind having the option to record at a reduced resolution of 720p or even WVGA, but higher resolution video recording would make the difference between implicating an erring vehicle in the event of an accident and losing the case. Full high definition videos mean more resolution. More resolution means more details such as number plates and clear images of faces can be better recorded. Almost every one of the dash cameras across the site supports 1080p capability at 30 fps, but if anything less is on offer, you should question the overall quality of the device. In short, even if you opt to record in 720p, make sure it has 1080p for future-proofing.

Switch On / Off  Recording

It is mandatory that your dashboard camera starts recording as soon as you turn on the ignition. Having to turn on recording manually is a counter-intuitive feature considering you may one day forget to hit REC on the way to Walmart, and then you get caught with Murphy’s Law. On the other hand, however, it is not always a requirement to turn off recording immediately after you switch off the ignition. This is called delayed power-off, which is an excellent feature for when you leave your vehicle. When enabled, after you switch off the ignition, recording can continue on the device’s battery power for pre-set amounts of time, perhaps capturing a hit-and-run situation in the parking lot.

Gravity Sensor and Video Lock

Gravity sensor is a must-have technology for those looking for a decent dashboard camera in 2023. These sensors can detect abrupt changes in gravity, which may occur when your vehicle makes a sudden stop due to a collision, or when your vehicle flips when making a turn at high speed, etc. But there are many other reasons why your car or SUV could come to a sudden stop. Regardless of the reason, a good dash cam with a gravity sensor and memory lock will sense that sudden deceleration and lock the video that is being recorded at that moment which will also protect it from being overwritten during cyclic recording so it can be downloaded from the Micro SD Card and saved elsewhere.

GPS Dash Cam

GPS TrackingA dash cam with GPS ensures that you can embed geolocational data into the recorded videos. In the event of an accident, information like the speed of your vehicle, the direction in which it was traveling, and the route are all required to prove your innocence and to implicate a suspect vehicle. If the selected in-car camera does not have built-in GPS, you will need to purchase and install a module and connect the same with your now-enabled GPS dash cam, but this is only possible if the device allows for it and if one is available in the marketplace.

Let’s elaborate; there are three types of dash cameras categorized across this site. In general, it’s usually the higher end models which have built-in GPS, the mid-range ones can add an optional GPS module at an extra cost, and the budget options have neither of the aforementioned making it GPS incompatible.

Night Vision

Night vision or the ability to see and record incidents at night is a critical requirement. This works in tandem with parking monitor feature. A good dash cam with night vision uses light-enhancing technologies that allow the in-car camera to see in the dark. Night vision works as the means to document any acts of tampering with your vehicle or even accidents that may occur involving yourself or as a witness to others. With shorter days during winter periods, it’s almost an essential must-have feature; nearly all have this facility, but some have better quality vision than others, especially the mid and high-priced cameras as opposed to the budget options.

1 thought on “Dash Cam Buying Guide”

  1. I am looking for a compact unit that I can turn off and on when I so desire along with driving. What do you recommend. Primarily during the nighttime hours I would like to have a camera on full-time or have the option to do so.

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