Dash cams have become commonplace in cars and vehicles in recent times. Most drivers are advised to install one in their vehicles because it promotes safer driving. At the same time, it can also save you from a lot of headaches. That’s why we were focusing now on explaining how you can find the best dash cam for automobiles.
If you have ever nursed any doubts about purchasing a dash cam for your car, this post should help eradicate it.
Table of Contents
- What are Dash Cams?
- Great Reasons to Buy a Dash Cam For Your Car
- What to Look Out for When Buying a Dash Cam
- Loop Recording
- Audio Recording
- Video Quality
- Video Bitrate
- Night Vision/Infra-red Lighting
- G Sensor
- Parking mode
- Storage and Memory Partitioning
- Date/Time Stamp
- Form Factor and Discreetness
- Camera Mounts
- Wi-Fi and GPS
- Firmware, Visuals & Manuals
- Now you know which Dash Cam to buy
What are Dash Cams?
Dash cams (short for dashboard cameras) are small devices that are attached to the dashboard or windshield of a car. They are specifically designed to record and transmit the views of the front of the car. Some of this equipment also records the interior or rear of the car.
The recorded footage is either saved to the internal memory or to an external memory card fitted in its slot. In most of these products, you’ll be able to use an SD card. Few have internal memory and most of them have limited space. It is highly recommended to use an SD card.
The dash cam will automatically overwrite the oldest media file that has been saved when the storage is filled up. That’s the loop recording function working. Don’t worry, only the unimportant data will be deleted.
Dash cams are powered through the cigarette lighter and can be activated manually. Albeit, there are more advanced devices that can be automatically activated as soon as a driver turns the ignition.
If the dash cam is intended to record visuals when the car is not in operation, it is recommended to hard-wire it to the car’s electrical system.
Three types of dash cams
According to its usage, dash cams fit into three categories:
Front view cams: These dash cams are attached to the dashboard of the vehicle or on the front windshield. Its purpose is to capture and record everything happening in front of your car. They are also called single-lens or single-channel dash cameras.
Cabin view cams: These dash cams are mounted in such a way that it captures everything inside the car. Transportation and logistics companies equip their taxis with ‘cabin cams’ to monitor the activities of their drivers.
If you’re going camping with your friends or family, you’d really love to record the fun, the singalong as you cruise on the highway. A cabin cam would help you achieve that.
Front and rearview cams: These dash cams give you the opportunity of recording both the front and rear views of your car simultaneously.
If a dash cam can record simultaneously the front view and also the interior or rear of your car, it’s called a dual channel dash cam.
Great Reasons to Buy a Dash Cam For Your Car
There are so many perks to purchasing and installing a dash cam in your car. Whether you’re a commercial, professional, instructor, or a regular driver, here are some of the reasons why you need to get a dash cam.
The most highlighted advantage of dash cams is that they display just how another driver practiced reckless driving or caused an accident. In some cases, you may encounter a drunk and reckless driver as you ply the highway.
In the event that one of such drivers bumps into your car, it might be your words against that driver when the police eventually show up. Without video evidence and a witness to testify in your defense, the guilty driver could gain the upper hand.
But when you have a dash cam sitting pretty inside your car, it can be tendered as evidence and you’d be off the hook. Footages from dash cams are substantial proofs, as it provides real timestamped images of what really went down.
Your video footage alone might be a reason for the other party to be more willing to reach an agreement instead of taking the case to court.
Report Reckless Drivers
Drunk, undisciplined, and reckless drivers can be a nuisance on the highway. Their actions not only bring harm to you but risk the lives of other drivers and pedestrians using the highway.
You may have encountered these badly-behaved drivers a few times on the highway; yelling expletives, driving beyond the speed limit, or throwing bad signs in the air. How do you ensure such behaviors do not persist? By reporting their actions.
A properly-placed dash cam can record footages that you can use as concrete proof to report a poorly-behaved driver. You can also use the dash cam camera to tender as an eyewitness’s report on an accident that occurred right in front of you or behind your vehicle.
Record Road Trips
If you’re a nature seeker or you’re fond of road trips, a dash cam can come in handy when cruising through the highway. You may want to record and save that trip of a lifetime, so you can watch it later with your friends or family and be filled with nostalgia.
If you’re a sucker for adventure, then you should see why this is an awesome investment for your car. It would help create an all-round experience from the point you veer into the highway, capturing nature’s finest till you get to your destination.
Exciting, surprising, and unscripted events can happen on the road trip, whether you’re driving alone or in the company of friends. With a dash cam perched inside your car, you can settle down later to watch them.
For a learner, dash cams can go a long way in improving your driving. With a properly mounted dash cam on the rear of your car, you can record the ride from one destination to another.
Later in the day, you can sit back in the comfort of your home or office to review the clips and note your weakness. That way, the next time you get back into your vehicle you’ll become a better driver.
Monitor People Borrowing Your Car
If you have a dash cam installed in your car, and you borrow your vehicle, you’d know precisely where it was driven to. You also know how long it was driven before it made a stop.
More importantly, you’d know if the car was driven responsibly. Some dash cams are equipped with a GPS feature that informs you of routes taken to the destination.
The existence of a dash cam makes drivers keen on practicing safe and smarter driving. With the media garnered from a dash cam, you can decide if you’d want to borrow your car from a particular person next time he/she comes asking.
Transportation companies use the visuals transmitted from a dash cam to track the whereabouts of their drivers.
This will also inform them if the drivers are using the cars to pursue personal gains and whatnot.
As stated earlier, dash cams can still record and transmit images even when the car is static. As a driver, you can rest assured that your dash cam will record any vandalism, attempted break-ins, or hit-and-runs.
The footage from the dash cams can be used in assisting the police in arresting such criminals.
On the other hand, the simple fact of having a dash cam on your car might be enough for criminals to stay away from your vehicle.
Record Police Harassment
It is not out of place to assume that police are just and fair in their dealings with civilians, especially drivers.
However, in a few situations, some of them may be unfair in their judgment (or even worse) and may result in another case of your words against the cops.
When you have a dash cam installed in your car, you are free from unjust police harassment. If a police officer treats you unjustly, you can render the footage from your dash cam as evidence.
For police officers, dash cams installed in their car improves transparency and trust in the community.
Prevent Insurance Fraud and Save Money on your Car Insurance
Insurance fraud is still very much a problem in our world today. If you’re driving a high-end vehicle, you stand the risk of being bashed by a driver who would try to provoke circumstances that lead to you being considered at fault and guilty of an accident.
In cases where video evidence to put you in the clear is not available, cash will be wrongly extorted from you. But with the dash cam installed in your car, scammers will not be able to illegally extort money from you. You’ll have evidence of what really happened.
Also, some insurance companies provide better prices for drivers with dash cams as they can also review the dash cam’s footage in the event of an accident.
Worry less about your kids
If you’ve got a teenager driving your car out, you can monitor its whereabouts. A dash cam will inform you if your kids are sneaking out of the house with your car at night when you review the footage in the morning.
It is also a good medium for proving your child’s innocence if he or she is involved in a car accident and is not at fault.
What to Look Out for When Buying a Dash Cam
Dash cams come with a host of features. These features give each product its distinctive qualities. These features will help you in deciding which dash cam to purchase for your car.
A purpose-built dash cam is not equipped with the ON/OFF switch, hence cannot be powered on or off manually. It is hot-wired to the car’s cigarette lighter. This allows it to turn on and start capturing immediately after the car’s ignition is on
However, some dash cams can be powered by an in-built battery that can allow it to function for some hours even when the car is not in operation.
This is one of the most important features you should be interested in. This feature allows the dash cam to continuously record and capture images even when its storage capacity is filled up.
When the storage is full, the older files in the storage drive will be overwritten and replaced with the latest media files. This will ensure that unimportant media files do not take up memory space.
However, you can manually ‘lock’ files of importance like accident-recorded files, so they will not be overwritten by the latest media file. This will also help you to transfer important clips to your laptop and free up the cam’s storage for more clips to be recorded.
However, it should be noted that in some models, loop recording can be turned off, which means it will stop recording as soon as the storage capacity is filled up.
dash cams equipped with audio recording are a profitable investment for your car. Every basic dash cam comes with this feature; audio is saved alongside the visuals being captured.
A dash cam recording complete with audio capabilities will save you a lot of stress when you want to report police harassment, badly-behaved drivers, or tender insurance claims.
It is also useful for listening to the fun conversation made inside the car as you travel with your family or friends.
This is perhaps the most important feature you should consider. While all dash cams capture images and unfolding events, it is pertinent in opting for a dash cam that has superior visual quality.
In choosing a dash cam with excellent video quality and resolution, you can tender such footage as evidence in the case of an accident, hit-and-run, insurance claims, or vandalization.
A dash cam with high camera quality will pick up plate numbers of vehicles in front and behind your car, people’s faces, and any detail that will be useful in the long run.
Low-Quality video footage might leave doubts in terms of people involved and unclear license plates, making your evidence inconclusive.
When it comes to video pixel resolution, it is also important in choosing a dash cam with a wide range. Pixel resolution refers to the number of pixels in an image, identified as the height and weight of the camera.
HD Resolution refers to dash cams having 1280p (width) by 720p (height) resolution (1280×720). With this resolution, only a small fraction of the detail of the road or interior of the car can be captured.
Full HD Resolution typically has a width of 1920p with a height of 1080p (1920×1080). More resolution means more detail is captured with this dash cam.
4K Resolution is equipped with 3840p width coupled with a height of 2160p (3840×2160). This resolution offers an entire view of the road.
Make sure you avoid a 720p, 1080p should be the absolute minimum nowadays. But to make sure you get better image quality and with dash cams being so affordable today, you should go for a 4K device.
Most drivers opt for dash cams with this resolution as it captures a full view from either the front or back of the car. This is what most drivers opt for.
There are also dash cams equipped with wide dynamic range (WDR) capabilities; this means an extended view of the visuals is captured.
This feature denotes the number of data that can be captured per second. This is displayed in Mbps (Megabytes per second). A dash cam with a higher video bitrate (say 14 Mbps, for instance) provides better video quality than a dash cam with 8 Mbps.
Night Vision/Infra-red Lighting
This is a feature that allows a dash cam to capture events in poorly-lit conditions. It is important that the dash cam you’re opting for has this feature. A dash cam with this capability can capture accidents, hit-and-runs, or suspicious activity inside and around your car that usually occur at night.
This is also a prominent feature to have in a dash cam. G sensors allow the dash cam to detect movements within the car and/or impacts to the car and save the recording in ‘protected mode’.
The saved footage will not be overwritten or deleted when it begins recording again. This feature is efficient in ensuring that you have tangible proof is your car is bashed or vandalized.
This feature can work in two different forms.
Impact Detection works when the car is in motion or static and the dash cam is active, and an impact is detected. It will not only store the file but protect it from being deleted. The protected file is saved under ‘Event’ in the storage device and stored differently.
When the car is in parking mode Motion Detection comes into play. If the G-sensors detect movement on your car, it will begin recording and store the video under ‘Motion’ which is saved separately.
In some situations, potholes and speedbumps can also trigger the G-sensor to start recording. Albeit, there are models in which G-sensors can be tweaked so it won’t have to record unnecessary events.
It’s a good practice to check the content of the SD card from time to time and clear any unnecessary footage.
The moment a car is set to parking and the ignition is turned off, this feature allows the dash cam to begin operating. This feature is important in protecting your car against hoodlums seeking to vandalize your car.
In order to save power and battery consumption, parking mode switches to motion detection as explained above. In so doing, only when movement is detected near your car will your dash cam begin capturing and recording.
The media files recorded are only protected when motion or impact is detected.
Storage and Memory Partitioning
Dash cams record footage and store them in portable memory (SD or Micro SD) cards. The greater the storage capacity of the memory card used, the longer time it would take to capture and record footage.
Dash cams, according to their specification, can accept a varying limit of memory card sizes. Hence, it is important to purchase a dash cam that accepts higher storage capacities. If an SD card of less memory is used for a dash cam, it would continually overwrite and delete current files in a bid to save new ones.
My recommendation is that you avoid SD cards below 32GB. The best option for most people will be a 64GB card and for professional use, I would opt for 128GB. SD cards are very affordable in this day and age, in some situations the price difference between them is short.
Because of the specific conditions of dash cam operations I’ve prepared an article on the Best SD Card for your Dash Cam.
Also, memory partitioning is also a vital feature a dash cam should have. This is the ability of the dash cam to separate files according to their importance.
Important footage like accidents, hit-and-runs,s or vandalization is stored separately and protected from being overwritten.
In high-end dash cams, the moment an incident occurs, the file is automatically changed from continuous recording ‘motion’ or ‘event’ and is saved differently. Hence, only the files in continuous recording (without event) can be overwritten if the memory card is filled.
It is also vital in transferring the footage on the SD card to a laptop or hard drive regularly, opening up more space for footage to be stored.
Some dash cams have the option of displaying time and date at the top or bottom corner of each clip. This vital feature makes all the difference if you want to submit the video as evidence.
Dash cams, depending on their lens, can display singular or multiple views. Displaying the front or rear views of the car alone is called single-lens cams.
Dash cams capturing front and cabin views simultaneously are multi-lens cams. Many drivers usually opt for this type of dash cam.
In addition to recording footage of an accident, dash cams can also take pictures. Its usefulness can be employed in taking pictures of accidents and whatnot. From the specs provided, you can find out if you can snap pictures with it.
Form Factor and Discreetness
Dash cams come in different sizes and shapes. Small dash cams are equipped with limited features which may not be ideal for you.
Bigger dash cams invariably mean more features. But they may obstruct your view. The key is in choosing a dash cam that you have all the features you require and are still discreet.
Some models are designed in such a way that it is not easily recognizable to the outsider looking peering into your vehicle.
Such models are highly recommended for purchase.
Dash cams are mounted on the front or rear windshield of the car. There are two types of mounts.
Adhesive pads are glued to the windshield. They aren’t easily removable. Hence, dash cams are less subject to vibrations or projecting blurred images.
With the mount fixed into position, you can only adjust or remove the camera. Most high-end dash cams are designed with an adhesive pad mount.
The alternative is a suction cup mount. They are user-friendly and make it easy to be taken out and adjusted. But they are more prone to fall off, cause vibration or distort cam visuals.
One aspect you should consider is if you’re using the dash cam in multiple cars. If so, suction cups allow to easily place a dash cam from one vehicle to another. The same can’t be said of adhesive pads.
The cigarette lighter of the car is the typical power supply for dash cams. The camera will start recording as soon as the ignition is turned on.
However, some dash cams are equipped with sufficient internal battery to power it when the car is in parking mode, recording for several hours.
You can also hire the services of a car electrician to hardwire the dash cam to the car’s electrical system. That way, the dash cam will be on continuously whether the ignition is on or not, which is a requirement when using parking mode.
There’s an alternative way to do it although less practical, it’s having a power bank feeding your dash cam.
Wi-Fi and GPS
Wi-Fi connectivity is usual in high-end dash cams. This feature is quite useful. It allows uploading recorded videos to cloud storage or watching footage in real-time on your smartphone. Remotely control via Wi-Fi on a smartphone is possible on some dash cams.
Additionally, there’s the Global Positioning System (GPS). GPS enables the device to ascertain your precise location and speed of travel when on the road. Having this feature in your dash cam is vital in proving your innocence in the case of an accident.
Firmware, Visuals & Manuals
In their bid to be more user-friendly and to improve their operation, some dash cam’s software can be updated. That might mean extra features in the feature. Hence, it might be important to opt for a dash cam whose firmware can be upgraded and enjoy a better user experience.
You should also choose a dash cam that you can easily download its manual. It will be an advantage when the physical copy is not available.
Dash cams are a must-have accessory for your car and will put always put in the clear if an accident occurs that isn’t your doing. With the aforementioned benefits and features you should look out for, installing a dash cam in your car is a profitable venture.
Now you know which Dash Cam to buy
After going through this article you’re more than capable of choosing the dash cam that best suits you.
Check out some of our other awesome articles: