by Craig Lloyd on
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A dashboard camera is a great way to add a little security to your car. Whether you want footage to show your insurance or to send off to viral fame on YouTube, we’ve rounded up the best dash cams for every budget.
We’ve selected an excellent standard model that combines ease of use with a great collection of features. If you’re looking to save as much as possible we also have a budget option, in addition to choices specifically selected for those who need to record the interior of their cars (very good for anyone working for a ridesharing service) or both the front and rear simultaneously. Check ’em out below.
Note that, for all of these models, you’ll need to add a MicroSD card for video and photo storage. Check out our roundup of the best MicroSD cards for specialized applications for our top dash cam pick.
For most users, Vantrue’s OnDash X3 model will represent the best combination of price, features, and reliability. This little camera packs in quite a lot of technology, starting with its 1440p sensor—a cut above most of the field. With a wide-angle F/1.8 lens, it’s ideal for capturing huge, multi-lane highways even in low light. Smart extras like a G-force sensor and a standby “parking mode” allow you to catch potential break-ins even when you’re not around. The camera knows when to loop its digital recordings on the MicroSD card in order to prioritize the latest footage, but if the force sensor detects a crash, it will lock the footage before and after that point so that it isn’t automatically deleted.
Best of all, Vantrue has equipped the X3 with built-in Wi-Fi, making managing and retrieving recordings a snap via the accompanying Android or iOS app. That’s a perk that isn’t available on less expensive models (and even quite a few more expensive ones!), but can save a lot of frustration during the stressful time when you’ll actually need that video.
There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of low-price dash cams available from a handful of different whitebox suppliers. Budget electronics maker Aukey offers one that’s extremely competitive on price, but also includes great hardware and features. The camera sensor and lens are supplied by Sony, offering 1080p resolution and wide-angle recording. Though it doesn’t use a touchscreen, the two-inch screen for managing the settings and recordings is easier to view than some smaller models.
You’ll need to manually retrieve the recordings from the MicroSD card, but if you don’t have a reader on your computer, just pop the dash cam off of the suction cup or adhesive mount—it doubles as a reader via its MiniUSB port. The design also includes a microphone for the car interior, which is handy if you’d like to add a little notation to the situation, but can be turned off in the settings menu. This model often goes on sale, so add it to your wish list if you’re patient and you want to save a few bucks off the already low price.
For drivers with more demanding recording needs, like those who occasionally drive for Uber or other ridesharing services, the Vantrue N2 Pro is an ideal documenting tool. This model includes all of the features of the X3 above, minus the Wi-Fi connection, with a second camera that records the interior of the car at the same time. The interior camera uses an F/2.0 lens and infrared LEDs to record 1080p video even in low light situations with a “night vision” mode.
The system can be augmented with a GPS radio (a $22 add-on) to bring time-synced location tracking to video and still images. An interior microphone can capture conversations in the car and be disabled with a single button press, and a time-lapse function can save days or weeks of records on the card using lower frames per second. A firmware upgrade makes this camera compatible with the biggest, fastest 256GB cards, which are getting much more affordable. This model is an excellent choice for anyone who needs reliable recordings of both traffic and passengers.
For a modest $30 upgrade over our standard pick, the Rexing V1LG includes 1080p recording through the front and 720p through the rear windshields, thanks to a secondary camera connection. Both cameras include wide-angle lenses, for recording almost every possible angle outside of the car. This model includes loop recording and a G-sensor for locking recordings during a crash or bump. The design also includes a GPS radio integrated into the main unit, no add-on required, for peace of mind via location tags.
With the included hardwire power option you can connect the dash cam directly to the car’s battery power for continuous recording even while parked. There’s no Wi-Fi option for this model, but it can double as a reader for the MicroSD card slot, up to 128GB.
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