How we test dash cams
By Louise Muyanja
Find out more about our expert, independent dash cam tests
We test dash cams from leading brands, such as Garmin, Nextbase and RAC, plus cheaper dash cams from the likes of Amazon to help you find the right model for your budget.
We only recommend dash cams that are simple to install, provide clear and detailed footage, and are easy to use on a day-to-day basis. Find out more about how we test dash cams and the lengths we go to to create a Which? test score that allows you to easily compare different models.
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Most free-to-access websites use individual testers to review dash cams. They will then recommend their favourites, based on their preferences and their own experience using the products. The dash cams are typically gifted by PR representatives or manufacturers.
What sets our tests apart is that we use independent labs to test every dash cam. Every dash cam is put through its paces under laboratory test conditions and out on the road. For each dash cam, we drive a set route that includes minor and major roads, as well as a variety of junctions and roundabouts, to test various features, including the clarity of footage and audio quality.
Our Which? overall percentage test score is generated solely from the ratings and results we receive from our labs. We don't accept any free samples, either - we purchase all of the dash cams we put through our lab tests.
Best Buys are awarded to dash cams that impress us the most in our tests. Dash cams that score more than 70% are Best Buys and come with our firm recommendation.
That said, which Best Buy dash cam is right for you will depend on your needs and budget. So it's still important to read our reviews to check for anything that might impact your buying decision. Dash cams that score 45% or less are Don't Buys.
- Best Buy dash cams excel in the most important areas such as recording clear, detailed footage during the day and at night, being easy to use and having helpful features such as G-force recording and parking mode.
- Don't Buy dash cams struggle to deliver clear footage, even during the day, and are difficult to use and set up. They may also lack key features or have features that don't work well.
The Which? overall score is a percentage - you can use this score to easily compare models and see which excel in our tests, and which don't.
This score only takes into account the results of our tests and ignores price completely. This makes it easy to see if a cheaper dash cam is better than a more expensive rival.
We carry out various assessments that all contribute to the total test score, which is the percentage you see on each review. Certain assessments are more important than others so carry different weights (keep reading to find out what makes up each assessment):
- 65% performance
- 30% ease of use
- 5% features
When you're buying a dash cam, it's hard to tell whether it's good at actually recording footage, which is where our expert tests come in. We do various performance tests to simulate everyday usage to test whether a dash cam is good at doing its most important job: recording clear footage that you can rely on in the event that you need it as evidence.
How well does the dash cam record footage?
To test the quality of the footage, we take all dash cams out on the road during the day and at night. We drive a set route that incorporates minor and major roads, junctions, roundabouts and traffic hazards – everything to mirror everyday driving.
Our experts then review and assess the recordings for image quality, the sharpness of the picture, the level of detail that can be seen and how well the dash cam records movement.
These tests are particularly important at night because a lot of dash cams struggle to record footage in low light. But our tests will tell you which ones can.
Nobody wants to waste money on a dash cam that produces unclear footage that won't wash with your insurer. See our round-up of the best dash cams.
Is the dash cam able to capture clear images?
A popular dash cam feature is still image capture - this enables you to use your dash cam as a camera to take photos. This is helpful if you don't have a phone with you and are involved in or witness an accident.
We take a number of shots on each dash cam, and assess the clarity and detail of the images.
Does the dash cam have a wide angle of view?
If a dash cam has a narrow angle of view, it might only capture a small area of the road ahead while you're driving, so it could miss out on important extra details such as road signs or pedestrians. We comparatively test every dash cam's horizontal and vertical angle of view, so you'll know which models have a good enough viewing angle to capture the full area ahead.
How good is the audio on the dash cam?
Most dash cams allow you to record audio, as well as video, so you can capture everything that you see and hear. If you're involved in or witness an accident, a very useful piece of evidence may be an exchange you have with another driver.
We factor audio quality into our tests so you can find the models that record sound clearly.
While quality footage is the most important feature of a dash cam, how you use it on a daily basis, from when you take it out of the box to retrieving your recordings, should be easy and straightforward. No one wants to spend time messing around with a device that's unintuitive and tricky to use.
How easy is it to install the dash cam?
If you don't install a dash cam correctly you could get in trouble with the police, so this is important.
Our experts look at the setup process - from how easy it is to fit the dash cam into your car and route any necessary cables, to the clarity of the instructions. We also check how easy the mount is to attach or remove and how easy it is to remove the camera from the mount.
Our Best Buy dash cams are simple to mount on your windscreen or rearview mirror. While we've found Don't Buy dash cams that are not only unwieldy and fiddly to install, but also don't stay in place once fitted.
See our guide on how to install a dash cam.
How easy is it to view the footage you capture?
We know that if you have a crash you don't want the added stress of struggling to locate and use the footage you've captured. A good dash cam should provide an easy-to-follow manual and simple software for playing back footage.
Our experts check how easy the dash cam's software playback features and functions are to use – this includes how easy it is to download and replay recorded footage, as well as how the footage is displayed (for example, whether it displays time, location and G-force).
We look for extra features that could prove useful in a dash cam. For example, the parking mode feature automatically starts the dash cam recording if your car's bumped while it's parked. This will help you capture important footage even when you're away from your car.
Some of the features we look out for are:
- G-force recording
- Parking mode
- Still image capture
- GPS tracking.
We test each of the features to ensure they work. The G-force sensor and parking mode features are put through their paces by replicating moments of heavy braking, high G-force and impact to assess how much force is needed to activate it, and what sensitivity options it has.
We've tested some dash cams with G-force recording that didn't activate at all during our tests. So if your car is hit, your dash cam may not protect the footage from being overwritten, meaning you won't have video footage to prove your innocence in a claim.
We also test the accuracy of the GPS function. We take the dash cams out on the road and drive a set route, and check the GPS matches the route driven.
Head to our dash cam reviews to find out which models have successfully topped our tests.