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How to buy the best dash cam

By Louise Muyanja

Not all dash cams can capture decent footage. Our expert guide will help you buy the best dash cam for your budget.

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A decent dash cam or dashboard camera is capable of producing high-quality video footage to help prove what happened in the case of a crash, or protect you from false claims. 

But not all dash cams on the market are worth your money. 

Our in-depth tests of dash cams reveal that there are big differences in quality between different models. Below, we explain what you need to know to choose the best dash cam for you and your budget.

See our best dash cams to discover which models passed our rigorous tests.

In this article:

Video: how to buy the best dash cam 

Our video, below, will tell you what you need to know to choose the best dash cam for your needs and budget.

Which type of dash cam should you choose? 

Use our interactive tool to help you decide.

How much does a good dash cam cost? 

Dash cams range in price from basic £20 models to feature-laden dash cam systems for anything up to £400. 

Price doesn't predict quality, however. We've found models from both ends of the spectrum have failed to impress in our thorough lab and road tests. 

The most important aspect of a dash cam is the quality of its footage. If the image quality isn't good enough, you might not be able to use your footage after an accident to prove you're not to blame.

All dash cams support at least HD resolution (1,280 x 720 pixels) but it's most common for dash cams to record in Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels). Some can record up to 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels).

A higher resolution doesn't guarantee better quality - we've uncovered higher resolution dash cams that produce dire footage. We've also found dash cams at 1080p that are clear and detailed.

Use our dash cam reviews to make sure you don't buy a dud.

What features do more expensive dash cams have?

A cheaper model may lack any of the following features, while a premium model should have any and all of them:

  • GPS
  • Wi-fi
  • Long power cable
  • Loop recording
  • Well-designed playback
  • Easy-to-adjust mount
  • Clear audio recording

£85The most expensive Don't Buy dash cam we've tested

What makes a good dash cam?

The most important aspect of a dash cam is the quality of the footage it records. If image quality isn’t high enough, you might not be able to use your footage in the case of an accident to prove you’re not to blame. 

A higher resolution will generally mean a better quality of footage, but it doesn't guarantee it - we've uncovered higher resolution dash cams that produce dire footage. 

By contrast, we've also found dash cams at 1080p that are still clear and detailed.

How easy a dash cam is to use is also very important. That includes how easy they are to fit, set up using the provided instructions and remove from the mount. 

The best dash cams we've tested are easy to install into the car and just as easy to remove when you leave your car.

Although you shouldn't be swayed by the bells and whistles, it's also important to consider what features you're getting for your money.

Features like GPS tracking (to show your exact location in footage) and wi-fi (to wirelessly transfer footage to your phone or tablet) aren't essential, but would be very useful.

That said, no features should be the deciding factor. We've tested Don't Buy dash cams with GPS and wi-fi.

Front and rear dash cams vs forward facing dash cam 

A single forward facing dashboard camera records the road ahead. A front and rear dash cam is a multiple-lens system that offers both forward facing and rear windscreen cameras.

Here are the pros and cons of both types:

Forward facing dash cam

Forward facing dash cams are the most basic and common type of dash cam. These record from a single camera lens and are mounted onto the windscreen to record the road ahead.

  • Pros: They're the most common type of dash cam, so it’s easy to find one to match your budget.
  • Cons: May miss events behind the car.

Front and rear dash cams

These dash cams can record from more than one camera at the same time. Typically, the forward facing lens is mounted to the windscreen and a secondary lens is mounted to the rear windscreen, to record the road behind. With some dash cams, the rear lens is attached to the forward facing one, meaning it records the rear of your car through the cabin and out of the rear windscreen.

  • Pros: You have the peace of mind of footage being recorded on both sides of your car.
  • Cons: More fiddly to set up – you may need to hardwire the devices in, which could require professional installation. It's also likely to be more expensive than a single-lens dash cam.

If you want to know which dual-facing models scored highly in our tests, go to should you buy a front and rear dash cam.

Best dash cam features to look for 

  • GPS - allows you to pinpoint your exact location at the time of the crash. It will also show the route you travelled, and your speed. This could be useful for building up a picture of exactly what happened in a crash.
  • G-force sensors - automatically saves moments of high G-force, generally during a collision. This means footage - which is recorded on a loop - will be protected from being overwritten.
  • Parking mode - your dashboard camera will automatically start recording if it detects a collision of impact while you're parked. Useful for finding out who bumped your car in a busy car park.

Questions about how you fit a dash cam? Check out how to install a dash cam.

Other dash cam features to consider

SD memory card 

All dash cams use a memory card to store recorded images and video footage. All the dash cams that we have tested use ‘loop recording’, meaning that when they run out of space on the memory card they rewrite over the oldest footage. 

Some models come equipped with an SD card, but this is worth checking. If you need to purchase an SD card separately, we recommended you use class 6 or above. This ensures that it performs at a high enough standard to be reliable for use in your dash cam.

Dash cams that come with an app

Dash cams that come with accompanying apps for your smartphone or tablet will enable you to save your footage onto your phone.

If a dash cam doesn't come with an app, you can still save your footage by transferring it to your computer.

Transferring the footage means you can protect your valuable recordings from being overwritten. So even if you don't do this regularly, make sure you do it after an incident.

Installation

All dash cams come with a power cord that plugs in to the cigarette lighter. These range from around 1.4m up to 4.9m. 

Choose a model with a longer cable if you want to route the cable around the windscreen and down the car’s front pillars. This means you can plug it into the power socket without having cables dangling down from the windscreen. 

You may prefer to have your dash cam hardwired in, so will need to consider whether you want it installed professionally. 

Wi-fi 

Wi-fi dash cams let you transmit footage wirelessly from the camera to your device - so no need to remove it and take it indoors. 

You'll also be able to view footage from the dash cam in real time via the wireless connection.

Some insurers will offer you a discount if you have a dash cam. To find out more, see our guide to dash cam insurance savings.

Dash cams compared 

We've tested all the top dash cams, including Garmin, Nextbase and RAC. Plus cheaper dashboard cameras from brands such as Motorola.

Below, we've listed the key specs and features for some of the more popular dash cams.

Nextbase iN-Car CAM 312GW Deluxe dash cam, £99

  • Screen size: 2.7-inch
  • Resolution: Full HD

Small and compact, this affordable Nextbase dash cam comes with lots of  features.

These include parking mode, which triggers record if your parked car is bumped. Plus a G-force sensor to protect your footage after an impact, and GPS to track your location and speed.

Our expert Nextbase iN-Car 312GW Deluxe review reveals how it performed in our tough tests.

Garmin Dash Cam 55 Plus, £109

  • Screen size: 2-inch
  • Resolution: Quad HD

One of the more advanced dash cams Garmin offers, you get a polarising filter to reduce glare and extra features and alerts to help you - such as lane departure.

This dinky dash cam also includes wi-fi, so you can easily view footage on your phone.

But are these features worth paying for? See our Garmin Dash Cam 55 Plus review to find out.

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