Dash Cams: Our Buyers Guide
Dash cams can be extremely useful devices that can help provide indisputable proof of what exactly happened if you are involved in a collision or car accident.
While you may think the main feature to consider is quality of video recording, there are actually a few other important features that you should look for in a dash cam before you buy one.
So if you are interested in getting a dash cam for your car, then have a look through our comprehensive buyer’s guide to find out what key features you need to consider before making your decision.
Video Quality and Resolution
One of the most important features to consider when buying a dash cam is its video quality and resolution. The resolution of a camera is the clarity and detail in which it records video. A higher resolution camera will, therefore, record clearer picture and allow you to see more details. This is very important as grainy, unclear video recordings will not help you with insurance claims.
For a dash cam, we recommend going for one with 720p or 1080p resolution, as well as high-definition (HD) recording. Dash cams with lower resolution which do not shoot in HD will be cheaper but will not be able to provide you with helpful footage.
It may be a good idea to check out the footage taken by other people who have bought the dash cam so that you can see exactly what you will be getting. Reviews with actual video taken by the dash cam can usually be found online.
The lens of the dash cam will also make a difference to the recording quality as it can sometimes distort the image around the edges, like a fish-eye lens. Glass lenses are generally better than plastic so be sure to check what the lens material is before you make your decision.
The field of view of a dash cam is also important to consider as it determines how wide of an angle the camera can see and record. A larger field of view will allow you to see the whole width of the road in front of your car and catch more in the recording.
If the dash cam is constantly recording when you are in the car, you will need one with a lot of storage space. As they capture new footage, dash cams record over the oldest stored recordings so that you do not end up with endless amounts of footage. If a collision or accident does occur you will need to review and save it externally so you do not lose the footage.
Dash cams that do not have a lot of storage space will end up recording over recent footage that you may still need to access. Dash cams that record in HD will require better memory cards with a better class writing speed. Class 6 or higher memory cards with at least 32GB of space are recommended. Higher class memory cards are also more reliable so you do not have to worry about them malfunctioning.
Many dash cams come with their own memory card in which case the standard size is usually 8GB. So it is a good idea to find out if it is removable so that you can get a better, bigger one to use instead.
Different dash cams have different mounting options. Some attach directly behind the rear-view mirror while others have mounts to attach to the windshield.
They usually use suction cups, magnets, or semi-permanent adhesives to attach to the windshield. Suction cups are easy to reposition and take off, while adhesive mounts look better and are less bulky.
It is best to find one that does not disrupt too much of the driver’s view of the road to avoid impacting their driving ability. You should consider which dash cam would be the best fit for your car, where you would mount it, and how you would like to mount it.
Collision detection is an excellent feature to have in a dash cam as it can detect when you are getting too close to the car in front of you and alert you.
Some dash cams can also detect when you start to drift out of your lane and will alert you so that you can straighten your car.
They can also alert you when the car in front of you starts moving again so that you can react efficiently at traffic lights. Collision detection alerts are very useful features and can help keep you focused on the road and avoid getting into an accident.
GPS is another very important feature to look for in a dash cam. With GPS, dash cams can stamp the footage they take with the location and speed details of the recording. This makes the footage very helpful to use as evidence should an incident occur as you will know the exact location, date, time, and speed at which the event occurred.
More advanced dash cams use GPS as a navigational feature as well and can direct you to your destination. With this type of dash cam, you can eliminate the need for a separate GPS device and save your smartphone battery if that is what you generally use.
There are various power options for dash cams and what you use will depend on what your dash cam is compatible with. Many dash cams plug directly into your car’s cigarette socket and, therefore, turn on when your car turns on and remains off when your car is off. This means that there will be a cord running from your dash cam to the cigarette socket.
Some dash cams run off batteries so that they can function during emergencies or when the car is off. This is great for dash cams that have a G-Sensor or Wifi capabilities. Hardwire kits enable you to wire the dash cam directly to your car’s battery so that it always has a constant stream of power. Of course, the camera will not always be recording and will turn off or enter a hibernation mode when you park and turn off your car.
Dash cams with night vision will be able to record better video footage in low-light conditions. You should always consider how well a dash cam performs at night before making your decision as incidents often occur at night.
A dash cam with low light sensors will be able to process and enhance the footage taken at night so that you can see it clearly and in detail. Dash cams with high dynamic range (HDR) are better for recording in low light conditions.
Durability and Heat Tolerance
As the dash cam sits on your dashboard or windshield, it faces the harsh light and glare of the sun and can get extremely hot. Constant exposure to harsh light and extreme temperatures may affect the performance of electronics as well as the structure of the dash cam. You will need a dash cam that is durable and can withstand the heat so that you do not need to worry about it malfunctioning.
Cheaper dash cams can be made from poorer quality materials which are not as durable and resistant to hot temperatures. Make sure you choose a dash cam that is made from heat resistant and heat tolerant materials and electronics so that you can rely on it to function properly.
Temperatures in Australia can be extreme and cars can get so hot that even the best quality dash cams malfunction, melt, or pop open. It should be noted that when left running or in parking mode, dash cams are more likely to overheat and sustain damage when left in a hot car.
More advanced dash cams also come with a motion sensor which will trigger the camera to start recording when an impact is detected. This is very useful in instances when your car is parked and is hit by someone else. You will then be able to see what happened and hopefully get some of their details to prove it was not your fault.
A dash cam with both Wifi capabilities and a motion detection feature will be able to send you an alert when an impact is detected so that you can live stream the footage and see what is happening to your car in real time.
A gravity sensor, also known as a G-sensor, is quite an advanced dash cam feature. The G-sensor triggers when your car is involved in a collision and will then mark the video recording so that it is protected and not recorded over.
Dash cams with parking mode allow you to leave the camera recording even when your car is parked. This will require you to have a dash cam that runs off batteries so that it does not turn off with your car. Parking mode ensures that you can capture any accidents that happen when you park and leave your car.
Another feature to consider is the size of a dash cam. Most people prefer a smaller dash cam that can sit inconspicuously in the car and not take up too make space or attract attention. If you have a small car, you will need a dash cam that takes up as little space as possible so that it does not obstruct your view.
However, smaller dash cams usually have fewer features and limited storage. Newer models are being designed to be small, yet include all the features that bigger dash cams have so that they can be the best of both.
Some dash cams link to a smartphone app that allows you to enjoy more useful features. Usually, these types of dash cams will have built-in Wifi and G-sensors so that if you leave your car parked somewhere and someone else hits it, your dash cam will sense the impact and alert you immediately.
Smartphone apps allow you to control the settings of your dash cam and enable or disable any features. You can live stream from your dash cam so you can see what is happening in real time if you get an incident alert. Make sure the dash cam you choose has an app that is compatible with your smartphone’s operating system.
Before you make your decision about which dash cam to purchase it is very important to consider all the key features detailed above. While some are more important than others, having a dash cam with all the necessary features will help you to drive safely, as well as provide you with clear evidence of what happens during any collisions or impacts that your car may be involved in.
The Garmin Dash Cam 55, Mio MiVue 766 and the Cobra CDR 900 are all excellent quality dash cams that have been designed not only to record video footage of collisions but also to alert with collision detection so that you can stay focused and drive more cautiously.
If you are on a tighter budget but still want a reliable and functional dash cam, then both the HaloCam C1 and the Auto-Vox D6 are great options for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do dash cams work?
Dash cams work by starting to record automatically as you turn your car on. This is because they plug into your car and turn on when you turn your car on, and vice versa for turning off.
Dash cams store the video footage they capture onto a memory card in a continuous loop that overwrites the oldest recordings.
What is the minimum resolution required?
Dash cams with at least 720p resolution are recommended so that clear footage is recorded and can be used as evidence. With 720p resolution, you will be able to make out street signs, number plates, and other helpful details. There are cheap dash cams on the market with lower resolution but you will end up with unclear, grainy footage that is essentially useless.
Do dash cams lower my insurance premium?
Some insurance companies do offer discounts on car insurance premiums if you have a dash cam so you would need to check with your insurance company and find out whether that is something they offer.
Dash cam footage can be used as evidence in accident claims and can help prove what really happened and show that you were not at fault.
Is parking mode worth it?
While parking mode may use up more battery, it can be very helpful in situations where you have left your car parked and an incident or collision happens. In parking mode, the dash cam will start recording when its motion sensors are triggered or if it detects an impact. This way if someone crashes their car into yours, you will be able to see what happened and hopefully get some of their details if they drive off.
In order to make a dash cam with parking mode really worth it, you will need one that can be hardwired to your car’s battery so that it can have a constant source of power. This way you will not have to worry about the dash cam’s battery running out when you park your car and leave it to record.
How To Install A Dash Cam
After you decide which dash cam you want to purchase, you will need to figure out how to install it. One of the first things you should consider is where you are going to mount it. It is best to place it in the most inconspicuous spot where it will not disrupt the driver’s view in any way. Dash cams are often mounted just behind the rear-view mirror so that they have a clear view of the road ahead but are not in the way of the driver’s line of sight.
Once you have mounted your dash cam, you will need to set up the wiring. You can use adhesive strips to neaten up the wiring so that it is not distracting or in the way. If your dash cam plugs into the cigarette socket then you just need to plug it in and you are done.
If your dash cam attaches to the car’s fuse box then you need to check where the fuse box is located in your vehicle. The fuse box can usually be found underneath the dashboard on either the passenger or driver’s side under a removable panel.
Once you have found where the fuse box is, you and plan the route the wiring will take. You should be able to lay the wiring down under or against the A-pillar of your car. You can then use your hardwire kit to connect your dash cam into a “hot to start” fuse (one that turns on and off with the car) or an “always hot” fuse (one that constantly has power). You can identify the fuses in your vehicle’s manual.
Follow the exact installation instructions you receive with your dash cam and be careful when dealing with your vehicle’s fuse box. This method of installation is quite tricky so if you are not sure on how exactly to do it, rather ask a professional to install your dash cam for you.