Why did we write a Dash Camera Buyers Guide?
Dashboard Cameras have become an essential accessory to have in your automobile. Whether you call it a dash cam, car camera, or vehicle video recorder, they have become popular for many reasons. You might want to prevent insurance fraud or have an accurate record of events in case of an accident. You might want to use it to prevent theft and vandalism of your vehicle. Alternatively, you might need to keep a record of how employees are driving while using company vehicles.
Regardless of the reason, you need a dash cam, wading through all the features and types of dashboard cameras can be a daunting task. That is why we at Taber’s Best Reviews has gone ahead and done the hard work for you. We have spent hours researching vehicle video recorders and have come up with this informative and no-nonsense dash camera buyers guide for you.
Choosing The Right Dash Cam For You
Buying a dash camera can seem like a daunting task, but if you keep this simple rule in mind, it isn’t. Just figure out what it is you want to do and find the dash cam that has the features that will accomplish your task. Below we have listed the most common questions you need to ask yourself to know what features you need to have.
Where Do You Want To Record?
The most basic dash cams come with a single lens and will record what is happening in front of your vehicle. However, there are dash cams that have dual lenses and will record towards the back of your car as well. Dual lenses will record what is happening inside your vehicle and if there is a clear view, outside your rear window.
Other dashboard cameras are equipped with multiple cameras that can be mounted on the rear of your vehicle or a side mirror mount if you are driving a truck.
How Many Angles Do You Want To Record?
The recording angle relates to the first question. You need to ask yourself how many angles do you want to record. Is the front good enough for you or do you want to see what is behind you as well? In the case of a professional truck driver, the right side view mirror is an excellent location because it eliminates the blind spot drivers have on their right side.
For an average motorist, having a camera mounted on the rear can prevent backing up into hidden objects or even people or children.
How Visible Do You Want Your Dashboard Camera To Be?
Many people want a small or low profile dashboard camera. That way they can keep the camera mounted on their windshield all the time. This might be good for some people but we would recommend that you consider the neighborhoods that you frequently park your car in. You don’t want to give an incentive to someone for breaking into your vehicle. We recommend that you treat your dash cam like you would your cell phone, wallet, or purse. Keep it out of sight when the car is parked.
If you want a discrete dash camera, then you might want one that doesn’t have a screen. Those are the smallest units available.
How Important Is Video Quality To You?
The most basic vehicle video recorders come with 480p video resolution. This resolution is suitable for determining what happened but it is not suitable for reading license plates or for night recording. However as you go up in video quality, so does the price. Some of today’s dash cams come with 720p or even 1080p. And the most sophisticated dashboard cameras will record in HD.
You need to determine what is important to you. Do you want a clear night vision? Do you want the ability to read license plates? Understanding this will affect what type of dash cam you will buy.
Do You Want GPS Records Of Where You Are?
Basic dashboard cameras only record video. That might be fine in some situations, but the more advanced dash cams will provide a GPS stamp of the exact location where you are in the video. Having a GPS is important for reenacting what has happened in an accident.
We recommend at the least you get a dash camera that comes with this feature unless your only concern is to record the incident and have other means to mark the exact location of your vehicle.
Do You Want GPS Directions For Navigation?
Along with a GPS location stamp, some dash cams come with a fully fledged GPS navigation system. If you do not already have a GPS navigation system in your car or truck, then this can come in quite handy.
Our Dash Camera Buyers Guide
OK, now that you have gone through and asked yourself some questions now it is time to walk you through the dash camera buyers guide and help you determine which features and benefits will fill the need you have in a dashboard camera.
Common Features In Dashboard Cameras
Modern dashboard cameras come with a slew of features and options. We will explain each of these features and how they might benefit you.
Video Recording Quality
As we mentioned earlier, the most basic vehicle video recorders will record video at a resolution of 480p. 480p is clear enough to see what is happening but not clear enough to read license plates. It is also hard to see what is happening when the lighting is low or non-existent. Today you can get dash cams for a reasonable price that will record in 1080p, and there are some that are now capable of recording in UHD.
Screen Size And Resolution
The smallest discrete dashboard cameras do not come with a screen. However, most people want to have a screen with their dash cam. So then you will need to decide which screen size and resolution you desire. You don’t want a screen size that is so small or so blurry that you can’t tell what is going on. On the other hand, you don’t want one that is so large that it blocks your view or distracts you from driving.
As we mentioned earlier, you have two different options with GPS. You can have a dash cam that delivers a location stamp, or you can have a full blown GPS navigation system. If your vehicle is not equipped with GPS navigation, then this can be a beneficial option. However, it can be redundant if you already have a GPS navigation system or use your cell phone for navigation. Why pay for it if you already have it?
Wi-fi connectivity is an advantageous feature as well. Instead of having to download your video onto an SD card or to a computer through a USB connection, you can download your video via Wi-fi. Many dash cams have smartphone apps that will connect you to all the controls and settings of your dashboard camera and allow you to watch the video right away if you are in an accident.
Auto Start Feature
Auto Start is a great feature to have. It means that your camera will start recording as soon as you start your engine. You don’t have to remember to turn your camera on and off. It will also save the battery of your car.
Continuous Loop Recording
This feature means that as you are recording video when the camera fills up the storage space on your SD card, it will start once again at the beginning of the SD card and continue recording. That way you never miss a moment when you are driving. The last thing you want is to have an accident only to find out that your camera stopped saving video because it ran out of storage memory.
One of the most significant differences you will notice in dashboard cameras is the quality of the video that they record at night. Night vision is where buying a quality dash cam comes in.
When a camera shoots video at night, it needs to keep its shutter open longer to allow more light to come in to make the video. This increased shutter time causes images to blur if it is too slow. It also gives less definition to things are in the shadows.
You need a camera with what is called Improved Dynamic Range and one that uses high-quality ISO’s and other optimization techniques to overcome the slower shutter speed.
High shutter speed is especially important if you are using your dash cam as a surveillance camera for when the car is parked.
Power Supply Options
You have two different power supply options. Both will use a car adapter for power, but the actual power supply is in the camera. They are capacitors and lithium-ion batteries. There are pros and cons to both types. Just be aware that dashboard cameras that use capacitors can lose their charge after a couple of days of inactivity and all the settings will be erased. You will have to set your date and time stamp, along with your other settings.
Lithium-ion batteries keep their charge much longer, but they do not have the same life cycle. You will have to replace your lithium ion battery eventually. They also tend to swell and even leak when they go bad. So you need to be aware of those drawbacks.
Field Of Vision
The area of vision or field of view is the width and height that the lens of the camera will capture. This area is usually measured in degrees. You want a camera that has a right amount of field of vision but remembers that when you get something that is too wide or too high, it might hinder the detail of the video. It will be too broad or too high and not focused closer to what is essential.
G-sensors are gravity sensors. They measure the amount of G’s the vehicle experiences. When you brake hard or come to a sudden stop, there is a sharp increase in G-force. When the trigger happens in G-force, the camera automatically saves the footage that occurred previously. G-Sensors can be a great feature as long as you have the sensor set to the right G-force. If it is set too lightly, then every bump or hard brake you have to do will be recorded.
Motion detectors are only valuable if you plan to use your dash cam as a surveillance camera while your car is parked. They cause the camera to start recording when they sense motion in or around your vehicle.
Parking mode goes along with motion detectors. If your dashboard camera has a parking mode, then it means that it continues to record passively while you are away from your car. Parking mode could be a great benefit for those pesky parking lot accidents or those that scrape your vehicle and don’t bother to leave a note.
Date And Time Stamp
The date and time stamp is what it sounds like it is. It leaves a date and time on your video to confirm at what time the video was recorded.
Notifications are a significant feature. Camera notifications tell you when the camera is operating correctly or if there is a problem. They can be as simple as a green LED light, or a text notification on a screen, to as fancy as voice notifications while you are driving.
There are typically two different types of mounts. They are suction mounts and sticky or tape mounts. Both of these mounting systems help you attach your dash cam to your windshield. There are also a few models that feature a rear view mirror mount.
At Taber’s Best Reviews we have found that if you buy cheap, then your customer service and support is handled in China or Taiwan. Shipping overseas can cost as much as half of what you paid for your dash cam.
Most manufacturers offer a 12-month limited warranty. There are a few that offer a 24-month warranty.
If you live in the United States, then you can always buy an extended service contract if you feel the need.
Dashboard Camera Brands
At Taber’s Best Reviews we only recommend the best brands with the best reputation. Here are the brands that we feel will give you excellent customer service and support.
- LG Innotek
Benefits Of Owning A Dash Cam
Dash Cams Provide Undeniable Evidence
- Provides video evidence and is like a silent witness if there is an accident.
- Provides protection and identification in the event of a hit-and-run or theft.
- Logs GPS tracking with your speed (if equipped).
Dash Cams Reward Good Drivers
Many drivers get blamed for accidents that are not their fault. That blame hurts their driving record and insurance rates. Dashboard cameras reward good drivers by giving them the ability to prove that they were not at fault or that the responsibility was not 50/50 but was the fault of the other driver entirely.
Dashboard Cameras Give You Evidence Of Hit And Runs And Vandalism.
Once again, dashboard cameras will help you show that damage to your car was not your fault. This time if somebody backs into you in a parking lot or some idiot decides to vandalize your car, you have a record of the event and possibly a license plate number and a facial shot.
Dash Cameras Can Reduce Your Automobile Insurance.
Some insurance companies offer discounts to people who have dash cams in their vehicles. Other people have saved money on their insurance rates by keeping their liability for accidents low. Everyone knows that insurance companies love to raise insurance rates on you after you have had an accident. Now you can prevent them from doing so.
Dash Cameras Can Prove You Didn’t Deserve A Ticket
Have you ever been given a ticket you believed you didn’t deserve? Your new dash cam can prove you didn’t earn that ticket with irrefutable proof.
Buying A Dashboard Camera
OK, now that you have everything you need to know about buying a dash cam after reading our dash camera buyers guide, you are ready to get your new dash cam. We suggest you read our list of the best dash cams for automobiles or our list of the best dash cams for truckers.