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6 Jan 2019

Should you pay more for a premium dash cam?

We've tested some affordable and high-end dash cams to find out whether it's really worth paying for premium models

Dash cams vary widely in price, even from the same manufacturer. So with the option of paying a reasonable £40 or an eye-watering £133, what do you actually get if you chose to spend more on the pricier option?

We've analysed more than 70 models from 21 different brands and found there are four things that typically differentiate premium dash cams from standard models:

Although the pricier dash cams may have better features at first glance, we know from our testing that extra bells and whistles don't always guarantee better quality footage, or a dash cam that's easy to use.

In particular, high recording resolution and maximum video quality doesn't guarantee better footage. We've tested Full HD dash cams that performed better than 4K models with double the maximum video quality.

Our latest test results feature models ranging in price from cheap all the way up to pricey.You can use our results to find out if it's worth paying extra for an expensive dash cam.

Best Buy dash cams - whether you're looking for a budget or high-end dash cam, we've got a list of the best models you can spend your money on.

Why pay more for a premium dash cam?

We've tested more than 70 models and found that price is not always the best indicator of a good quality dash cam.

Dash cams go head-to-head: Motorola, Thinkware and Transcend

You can use our table, below, to compare the specs of three dash cams from our latest tests - a cheap, mid-range and a pricey model.

Motorola MDC150Thinkware F70Transcend DrivePro 550
Recording resolutionFull HDFull HDFull HD
Max video quality (pixels)1,920 x 1,0801,920 x 1,0801,920 x 1,080
Display screenu2714Xu2714
Rear-facing cameraXXu2714
Audio recordingu2714u2714u2714

Features explained:

  • Audio recording - captures sound, such as your commentary
  • Auto-on function - automatically turns the dash cam on when you start the engine
  • G-force recording protection- protects the footage in the event of a crash

Motorola MDC150 (£40)

The Motorola MDC150 is part of Motorola's affordable MDC dash cam range. This compact device packs reasonable specs into a small package. It records in Full HD at a maximum of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, similar to most budget and mid-range models we've tested.

It's equipped with the standard features we would expect for a model of this price, including a useful two-inch display screen to review footage directly on the dash cam.

It comes with a G-force sensor for automatic activation of the camera and saving footage in moments of high impact, plus an auto-on function - to automatically turn on the dash cam when the ignition starts.

You also get audio recording to capture sound, such as your own commentary following an incident.

There are a few features you won't get with this dash cam. It only has a front-facing camera, doesn't enable you to take still photos and can't track your location using GPS tracking.

But for this price, is it possible the Motorola MDC150 will actually produce good video footage? Find out - see our full lab-tested Motorola MDC150 review.

Thinkware F70 (£79)

Hailing itself as the world's leading dash cam brand, Thinkware presents the F70 - a compact mid-range dash cam with a camera resolution of 2.1Mp.

it captures footage in Full HD with a maximum video quality of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, which is identical to the cheaper Motorola MDC150. But, unlike the Motorola dash cam, it doesn't have a display screen. This isn't essential but certainly makes it easier to review footage.

The F70 is a single lens camera that doesn't enable you to take still photos, but it does have features that a dash cam user would certainly want. For example, you can record audio and will have the reassurance of a G-force sensor and auto-on function.

With so many similarities to the cheaper Motorola dash cam, is the footage quality worth paying twice as much for? Read ourThinkware F70 review to find out.

Transcend DrivePro 550 (from £133)

The priciest dash cam in this batch and Transcend's most expensive model to date, the DrivePro 550 has a lot to prove.

Matching its cheaper peers, this Transcend dash cam records in Full HD resolution at a maximum of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels.

As well asthe typical features of a display screen, GPS location tracking, a still-photo function for capturing images of a road incident, and a front camera, you also get a rear camera to record crashes into the back of your car.

Transcend's fancy add-ons include headlight reminders to remind you to switch on your lights when it gets dark and fatigue alerts to encourage breaks during long drives.

Is this Transcend dash cam worth the extra money and what was its video quality like in our tough lab tests? Our fullTranscend DrivePro 550 review reveals all.

Latest dash cams on test

As well as the Motorola MDC150, Thinkware F70 and Transcend DrivePro 550, the latest batch of dash cams we've tested in our lab also includes:

We have full lab test results for 73 dash cams in total. To find the right model for you and your budget, go to our dash cam reviews.