The best dash cam 2023: finest car cameras for every budget

A Nextbase best dash cam on an orange background
(Image credit: Future)

The best dash cams give you that peace of mind knowing that you're protected when you're on the road. These car cameras are design to record your vehicular activities, whether you're driving or parked, and those recordings prove invaluable during incidents.

Mounted to your windshield or dashboard (or both), dash cameras record everything that happens not just when you're behind the wheel. A handful also have the capability to detect accidents and start recording even when your car is parked, ensuring that you're covered even when you're not driving. And, their footage can serve as valuable video evidence, helping you contest speeding tickets, reduce your insurance premiums, and even save your life if, god forbid, someone with malicious intent does something.

Some dash cams are better than others, however, with the best ones offering clean and sharp footage and reliable features that work when they're supposed to. Plus, there are also different types. And, with so many options being touted at online retailers, you'll need help choosing the best one.

We've spent countless hours on the road to test all of the latest models by installing these cameras in our cars, before driving in various weather and lighting conditions to assess their usability, features, and video quality in the real world. We’ve then picked out the best dash cams for every budget, and explained the individual benefits and drawbacks of each one.

Whether you want an affordable car camera or a top-end solution that covers every angle, you’ll find the right option in our guide. Once you’ve made your pick, you’ll find links to the best dash cam deals right below each product so you’ll see the cheapest price available today. 

If you’re not sure which kind of in-car camera to buy, check out our useful buying tips at the bottom of this page. And, if you need some help with installation, you’ll find a useful guide on how to fit a dash cam here.

The best dash cams 2023

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Nextbase 622GW

(Image credit: Nextbase)
The best dash cam overall

Specifications

Video quality: 4K
Viewing angle: 140 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: MicroSD card (not included)

Reasons to buy

+
Alexa and what3words built-in
+
Superb video quality

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires large capacity SD card
-
Poor smartphone app

The Nextbase 622GW is a new flagship dash cam, and it's proven itself as the best dash cam you can buy right now. In our tests, it delivered much-improved video quality and better stabilization, along with the inclusion of what3words geolocation services for pinpointing stricken vehicles within a three-meter radius. 

When we chose to shoot in 4K/30p, the resulting footage looked almost cinematic in its presentation, with extremely crisp definition and great detail, even in poor lighting. This makes it much easier to pinpoint registration numbers or pick out hard-to-see elements of an accident.

A built-in polarizing filter on the front of the camera can be rotated to reduce glare from windscreens, while digital image stabilization is another first for the dash cam market and helps smooth out those bumps and shakes caused by potholes and poor road surfaces.

Like its 522GW sibling, this model can be controlled via your voice with Alexa Skills, but it requires the accompanying smartphone app to work, which we didn't rate as the best we've tried. Despite new dual 2.4GHz + 5GHz Wi-Fi, we found that it still had trouble connecting with phones to transfer images and video clips.

Thankfully, the 3-inch rear touchscreen is crisp, clear and very easy to use, while the inclusion of what3words combines well with Nextbase's EmergencySOS feature, which you get a year's free subscription for with this dash cam.


The Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2 mounted inside a windscreen

(Image credit: Future)
The best budget dash cam

Specifications

Video quality: 1080p
Viewing angle: 140 degrees
GPS tracker: No
Memory: MicroSD card (not included)

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to set up and use
+
Full HD video with HDR

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks a display
-
No battery
-
No GPS

The Garmin Mini 2 is a tiny dash cam that all but disappears behind your car’s rear view mirror, yet boasts Full HD video with HDR, voice control that actually works reliably, a decent smartphone app and a dead-simple magnetic mounting system. 

Installing the Mini 2 is the same as other members of the Garmin Dash Cam family. We found the setup process took just a few minutes with the use of Garmin’s Drive smartphone app (iOS and Android). The simple but effective mounting system comprises a ball-and-socket joint for positioning the camera at the perfect angle, while a coin-sized magnet that sticks to your windscreen and holds the dash cam securely in place.

We found video quality to be good for the size of the camera. It records in Full HD, 30fps with HDR and produces footage that is sharp enough to pick out key details like registration plates, whatever the ambient light and weather conditions. At 140 degrees, the lens' field-of-view isn’t the widest on the market, but still provides a good view of the road ahead.

There’s a button for quickly saving a portion of video (or you can rely on the g-sensor to automatically detect a collision) and voice controls for functions like taking a photo or turning audio recording on and off work surprisingly well.

Due to the Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2’s compact size, it does not have a display. Instead, you need to use the smartphone app to check the camera’s view and access recordings. It also misses out on GPS, which is a shame, but this is arguably the only major feature missing here. Unless you need the best dash cam with driver assistance functions like speed camera alerts, the Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2 will leave you wanting for very little. Simple, subtle and reliable, it’s the definition of set-and-forget- technology.


A dash cam mounted inside a car windscreen

(Image credit: Nexar)
A sharp, dual-camera option for high-mileage drivers

Specifications

Video quality: 1080p (front) / 720p (rear)
Viewing angle: 135 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: 32GB (upgradeable)

Reasons to buy

+
Neat design for both cams
+
Easy to install and wire in

Reasons to avoid

-
Interior camera sticks to screen
-
Cloud backup requires phone

Aimed at those who spend extended periods behind the wheel, the Nexar Pro is a dual-cam solution that can record video both inside and outside a vehicle. Comprised of two separate camera units connected by a cable, we found the setup to be pretty neat, even if it took up a fair bit of screen real estate.

The Nexar app is central to the twin camera experience: it’s where you can fine-tune settings, generate incident reports and back recorded clips up to the cloud (Nexar bundles cloud storage in for free). Other useful tools include break-in alerts if someone tries to tamper with your car, as well as GPS data logging.

This dash cam doesn’t record in 4K, but we found its 1080p video to be perfectly serviceable. The external camera fares well even in tricky shooting situations, from heavy rain to bright sunshine. There are cheaper dash cams out there with fewer features to play with, but if the security of your car is crucial to your daily life, the Pro is hard to beat in terms of protection and overall value.


Vantrue E1

(Image credit: TechRadar)
A neatly packaged dash cam with GPS and Wi-Fi

Specifications

Video quality: 2.5K
Viewing angle: 160 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: microSD (not included)

Reasons to buy

+
Good video quality
+
Neat, compact design

Reasons to avoid

-
2K only captured at 30fps
-
No left/right adjustment

Neatly designed and relatively compact, the Vantrue E1 is an attractive dash cam that’s capable of recording 2.5K video at 30fps. It can also capture Full HD footage at a smoother 60fps, for additional detail while you drive. Results are sharp night and day, with accurate colors and acceptable noise in low light. Our testing revealed that the optional polarising filter reduces dashboard reflections.

The E1’s magnetic mount works well, but the lack of sideways adjustments limits its use if you can’t fit it centrally. If you can, you’ll find its 160-degree angle captures a wide view of what’s ahead. A tiny 1.54-inch screen offers a handy preview when installing, but the smartphone app is more useful to tweak settings.

Driver assistance is left to your vehicle, but the E1 still has a solid set of features. That includes GPS tracking, Wi-Fi connectivity, and a remote for wirelessly saving footage.


The Thinkware X1000 dash cam mounted inside a car windshield

(Image credit: Future)
A simple, intuitive dash cam for front and rear recording

Specifications

Video quality: 1440p
Viewing angle: 156 degrees
GPS tracker: requires an optional accessory
Memory: MicroSD card, 32GB card included

Reasons to buy

+
Great touch screen
+
Two cameras in the box

Reasons to avoid

-
Hard-wiring requires care
-
Records as soon as connected

Capable yet accessible, Thinkware’s X1000 comes bundled with everything you need to record front and rear. Our tests found a lot to like about the X1000. Its best attribute is its ease of use: with a large 3.5-inch touchscreen and icon-based interface, it’s simple to configure. It can also work standalone, without a partner app.

Both cameras offer a 2560x1440 resolution and a wide 156-degree field of view. We found that footage was dependably impressive, with plenty of detail and decent dynamic range, even in dim and dark conditions.

You will need to hard-wire it for the full set of features, including parking surveillance. In testing, fitting the cabling required care, but wasn’t too difficult for a novice. There’s no Wi-Fi for cloud backups, while GPS requires an optional accessory, as does radar detection. But if you’re looking for a stress-free and reliable dash cam, the X1000 does much to impress.


Nextbase 522GW Dashcam

(Image credit: Future )
An excellent all-rounder dash cam that's affordable, too

Specifications

Video quality: 1440p
Viewing angle: 140 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: MicroSD card (not included)

Reasons to buy

+
Amazon Alexa built-in
+
Much cheaper than 622GW

Reasons to avoid

-
Footage isn't class-leading
-
No SD card included

The Nextbase 622GW flagship (see no.1) might be one of the most advanced dash cams you can buy, but the 522GW remains the best dash cam all-rounder. Thanks to a crisp 1440p resolution and wide-angle lens, it does the basics very well, but also throws in plenty of additional features.

We found the three-inch touchscreen on the back to be responsive, and there's also the option of using the built-in Alexa functionality. Currently, you can ask Alexa to play music, place calls and listen to audiobooks through connected devices, though the Dash Cam Skill (which lets you command it to ‘start recording’, ‘stop recording’, ‘protect a recording’ and ‘send to my phone’) needs a bit more polish.

This is all a bit of a gimmick and, to be honest, we didn't use it all that much, so it is lucky that the remainder of the UX is extremely simple. Videos can be quickly and easily shared to a smart device via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, while a clever Emergency SOS system will alert the emergency services of your location and other details if you prove unresponsive following an accident. 


The Garmin Dash Cam 67W on a wooden table

(Image credit: Garmin)
Great quality footage from a tiny body

Specifications

Video quality: 1440p
Viewing angle: 180 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: MicroSD card (16GB card included)

Reasons to buy

+
Impressively small package
+
Great quality video
+
Doddle to install

Reasons to avoid

-
Some features need extra kit
-
Wide-angle warps edge of frame

The 67W supersedes Garmin’s already very good 66W with a few additional connected features that only add to a very enticing package. At about the size of a matchbox, the 67W is one of the smallest dash cams we’ve had the honor of testing – in fact, it's only usurped by Garmin’s own Mini, which is so small it looks like it came out of a Christmas Cracker.

Crammed inside this tiny package is a top-quality sensor that's capable of capturing crisp 1440p footage and enhancing it in those tricky weather conditions thanks to a HDR (High Dynamic Range) function. In our tests, it looked great and the additional pixels made it possible to punch into footage on the computer to read number plates or spot minor things that could act as important evidence.

Easy to set up, simple to use and accompanied by a very clean smartphone app, the 67W goes one better than its predecessor by adding connected features, such as the ability to automatically upload any saved clips to Garmin’s cloud when the camera detects a trusted Wi-Fi network. 

Bear in mind that Garmin will charge you for a storage plan – and if you want to make the most of its connected features, such as the ability to remotely check in on a parked car from anywhere in the world, you’ll have to hardwire the camera into your vehicle’s main power source. 

You’ll also need to make sure the camera is connected to a Wi-Fi network, so this means parking next to a friendly router or investing in a mobile hotspot, which will also require constant power. You can see how it rapidly becomes a deep and expensive rabbit hole.

Regardless, if you just want great quality footage that’s automatically recorded by something that will fit into a shirt pocket, look no further.


A hand holding the Mio Mivue 818 dash cam on a windshield

(Image credit: Future)
A great-value dash cam which ticks all the core boxes

Specifications

Video quality: 2K
Viewing angle: 140 degree
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: microSD (not included)

Reasons to buy

+
Comprehensive features
+
Night-vision functionality

Reasons to avoid

-
MicroSD card not included
-
Slightly unusual shape

With a bulbous design that packs in plenty of tech, the Mio MiVue 818 offers a comprehensive feature set at a competitive price. We found its form factor quite agreeable in situ, and its plug-and-go setup was simple enough, with the 2.7-inch display offering a solid preview.

The Mio’s footage is generally excellent. It captures 2K video across a 140-degree angle, delivering plenty of detail. Drop to Full HD and frame rates leap to a crisper 60fps. The bracket’s sticky pad is hard to shift once installed, but the benefit is rock-steady video. Night vision enhancement means the MiVue 818 also deals well with challenging conditions.

Additional functions are unlocked through the app. Connect via Wi-Fi and you can tap into useful GPS features such as ‘Find My Parked Car’, as well as driver assistance systems, headlight reminders and a parking mode. Many rivals charge a premium for these modes, which makes the MiVue 818 a great value dash cam.


Thinkware X800

(Image credit: TechRadar)
An attractive all-rounder with a big screen and simple interface

Specifications

Video quality: 2K
Viewing angle: 150 degree
GPS tracker: Optional
Memory: microSD (not included)

Reasons to buy

+
Large display
+
Simple to use

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks GPS and phone connectivity
-
Frame rate could be higher

The Thinkware X800 is a simple dash cam which gets the basics right. It has a nicer build than many rivals, while its 2.7-inch touchscreen display makes it easy control. That’s handy, because the X800 is a standalone unit, with no Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or smartphone app. We found this simplicity was welcome on test, with no clunky connectivity to worry about.

Its Sony sensor captures 1440p footage that’s perfectly acceptable in daylight. Details are sharp, and exposure is handled well in changing conditions. We would have liked smoother 60fps frame rates, but the X800 does well enough with 30fps. Finer details tend to be lost after dark, but night-time results are still pretty good. Its 150-degree field of view is also among the more generous out there.

Extras such as parking surveillance and GPS can be added with optional hardware kits, but we think this dash cam is most appealing if you’re not interested in distracting additional features – even if its price is fairly high.


Viofo A129 Pro Duo

(Image credit: TechRadar)

10. Viofo A129 Pro Duo

A great value 4K front and rear dash cam

Specifications

Video quality: 4K
Viewing angle: 140 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: MicroSD card (not included)

Reasons to buy

+
Great value for a front/rear cam
+
Crisp footage

Reasons to avoid

-
Lots of trailing wires
-
Relatively bulky front camera unit

We won’t hold it against you if you’ve never heard of Viofo, because it certainly isn't the biggest name in the dash cam business, but its 4K resolution Pro Duo model represents great value for money. 

The front camera is quite a bit bulkier than many rivals on this list, but it features a built-in GPS module, something that many other brands offer as an optional extra. Its plastic casing looks and feels basic, but it houses some rather impressive tech that belies its overall build quality.

Rather than a traditional rechargeable battery set up, it runs super capacitors, meaning its power source is built to last and can withstand an extreme temperature range without blunting performance. On top of this, you get the option of what we found to be impressive 4K (3840 x 2160p) video recording, with the resulting footage offering a great amount of detail. There's also a Wide Dynamic Range mode for rich colors in all weather conditions.

Unfortunately, 4K recording is only possible at 30fps, which isn’t the greatest if you want to slow footage down. However, dual recording (front and rear cameras) is only available at full HD (1080p) anyway and this is pumped out at 60fps for much smoother results.

In our tests, the setup was very easy and Viofo offers a smartphone app for quickly reviewing and saving clips. Unfortunately, installation of dual cameras requires the removal of interior trim and the clever stashing of long wires. It can be a messy and infuriating process to get it right, but worth it to avoid a dangling tangle of power cables.

The fact that you get night vision, a parking mode, motion detection, automatic emergency recording, GPS tracking and dual-channel 1080p at this price makes this a package well worth considering if you cover a lot of miles and want total camera coverage that doesn’t cost a small fortune.  


The Garmin Dash Cam Tandem mounted in a windshield

(Image credit: Future)
For viewing inside as well as outside your car

Specifications

Video quality: 1440p front-facing lens, 720p night vision interior lens
Viewing angle: Dual 180 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: MicroSD card provided

Reasons to buy

+
Compact unit
+
Versatile dual lens design

Reasons to avoid

-
Low-quality night vision
-
Garmin app isn't the best

Garmin’s first dual-lens dash cam lets you view what’s going on both inside and outside the car while you are driving, which is handy for taxi drivers and others wanting to keep an eye on their passengers. Extremely compact in design, the Dash Cam Tandem features a clip-in magnetic mount and can be easily installed below the rear-view mirror and removed when not in use. 

Two lengths of USB cable are provided (the longer one enables you to run the cable around the car cabin neatly), as is a cigarette lighter USB socket with two ports for charging your phone at the same time. However, if you want to use the dash cam for incident recording – such as if your car gets bumped in the car park while you are shopping – you will need to get it professionally installed so it’s constantly recording.

Key for control of the camera is the Garmin Drive app (Android and iOS) where you can review video and audio footage from your drives without having to take the microSD card out of the camera. We found picture quality to be generally excellent, especially from the front camera. And while the rear camera struggled a bit in very low light, you can still make out passengers reasonably clearly in black and white. There’s also a picture-in-picture option so you can view both rear- and front-facing camera footage simultaneously. 

Rather usefully, footage is displayed with a time stamp, the speed of the vehicle and its location. Voice control is also provided, which enables hands-free control with instructions such as ‘OK Garmin, take a picture’ or ‘OK Garmin, save video’. Safety cam alert updates will also be added to the app soon. 

The only slight problem we experienced was that the app wasn’t as intuitive as we would’ve liked and didn’t automatically connect to the Wi-Fi connection when reviewing footage from our drives. Aside from that, this is a pricey but excellent option for those who want to keep an eye on their car, inside and out. 


The Vantrue N2 Pro dash cam mounted inside a car windshield

(Image credit: Future)
The best dual-lens dash cam for ride-share drivers

Specifications

Video quality: 2K (front), 1080p (dual)
Viewing angle: 170 degrees (road), 140 degrees (cabin)
GPS tracker: Optional
Memory: microSD (not included)

Reasons to buy

+
Interior view for ride-share drivers
+
Good video quality from both lenses

Reasons to avoid

-
Lacks GPS tracking
-
Unattractive design

Relatively compact for a dual-lens dash cam, the Vantrue N2 Pro records a detailed view of the road ahead and your vehicle’s interior. Designed with taxi drivers in mind, it forgoes many of the extras which your car is already likely to have, including speed camera alerts and collision warnings. 

That simplicity extends to its connectivity, a factor we liked in testing. With no Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or smartphone app, it’s a self-contained dash cam that gets on with the job of capturing events. The only feature we did miss was GPS tracking, although Vantrue sells an optional GPS windscreen mount.

We were happily surprised by the video quality. The cameras can record Full HD footage in both directions, capturing video that’s smooth, sharp and clear, matched by decent audio. The interior camera occasionally struggles in bright sunlight, but that’s a small criticism of otherwise impressive performance. The front camera can also go solo to shoot in even more detailed 1440p.


The Viofo A139, one of the best dash cam, on an orange background

(Image credit: Viofo / Future)
A decent three-camera option for pro drivers

Specifications

Video quality: 2560 x 1440p & 1920 x 1080p
Viewing angle: 140 & 170 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: MicroSD (not included)

Reasons to buy

+
Three-camera package
+
Easy to use

Reasons to avoid

-
Footage isn’t the best
-
Time-consuming to set up

There aren’t many folk outside of the professional driving world that legitimately need a three-camera setup such as this, where individual units capture footage out of the windscreen, out of the rear and inside the cabin. But if you’re one of those people, Viofo’s package is enticing, since it offers a lot of technology for the money. 

The entire setup is compact and simple enough to install without impeding too much on windscreen real estate. Just be prepared to deal with lots of trailing wires and get used to hiding them in the car’s headliner or under the carpet. 

In our tests, footage captured out of the front camera was perfectly good enough in most scenarios. That said, it falls some way behind some of the market leaders, which now offer impressive 4K capabilities, excellent low-light capture and Wide Dynamic Range technology for all driving conditions.

Viofo does use Sony Starvis image sensors, which work well when capturing footage in low light, although the drop in resolution means that some of the quality is lost in sub-par driving conditions. You’ll be able to punch in to the footage using some video software, but distant details become fuzzy.

The interior and rear cameras capture 170-degrees of action, thanks to a wide field of view, while that interior camera also uses six LEDs to assist with its infrared capabilities. Even in the darkest driving conditions, we found it easy to make out what was going on inside the car.  

At this price, the A139 competes with a lot of fantastic cameras on this list, with many offering lots of additional technology, a more user-friendly app and touchscreens for easier interaction. Plus, Viofo’s own A129 4K dual dash cam setup (see no.6) is a very similar price. Unless you absolutely need the interior footage, the higher-resolution A129 (with rear screen) is the better buy.


Garmin DriveCam 76

(Image credit: Alistair Charlton)
A feature-packed dash cam and sat-nav combo

Specifications

Video quality: 1080p
Viewing angle: 140 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: 16GB microSD (dash cam, included), microSD (not included)

Reasons to buy

+
Intuitive user interface
+
Clear navigation and mapping

Reasons to avoid

-
Poor video stability
-
Expensive for what you get

Combining a dash cam and a sat nav, the Garmin DriveCam 76 is a feature-packed tool for cars without an infotainment system. Its 7-inch display is intuitive to use and makes Garmin’s rich mapping visuals easy to follow. Navigation is clear and well-timed, complemented by live traffic updates when paired with your smartphone’s data connection.

Both the display angle and camera lens are adjustable, so you can find the right position between road and driver. Full HD footage is shot in HDR at 30fps, delivering balanced exposure and enough detail to make number plates legible. The huge screen is useful for reviewing footage, but video itself suffers from noticeable stabilization wobble.

Smartphone notifications, speed camera alerts and forward collision warnings enhance the offering, but if you won’t use all of its skills, there are better value dash cams. The unit itself is also much larger than many rivals, which can make it tricky to place without obstructing the driver’s view.

How to choose the best dash cam for you

The best dash cams broadly have similar technology to one another, and, for the most part, mount somewhere along a car's front windscreen or windshield. Of course, wherever you place your dash cam must not block your view of the road.

The advent of rear-facing cameras (or complete kits that contain both front and rear) require a little extra instillation, as these often involve cables that run from front to back. Expect some fiddly work involving the car's headliner to get these fitted correctly. 

Dash cams record smaller snippets of footage, usually in increments of one to two minutes at a time. The cameras continually record over the oldest clip in order to keep the memory card from filling up as well.

While older models typically required the user to manually save or tag the appropriate clip in the event of an accident, new G-Sensor-based incident detection technology has taken over, and now takes care of this automatically.

There are also dash cams that boast additional features that, just like any other technology, translate to a higher asking price.

These extra features can include multiple lenses for front- and rear-facing coverage, together with a more refined sensor for better video quality. Some cameras only record 720p HD footage, for example, while many others now offer Full HD (1080p) and 4K capture. Night vision and built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth for easy file transfer may also be included.

A rise in popularity of voice control has also made its way over to the humble dash cam, so expect Alexa integration and other such voice-activated technology at the very pinnacle of the range.

Numerous parking modes are also possibilities. These use a time-lapse feature as a surveillance function to capture details of those irksome car park prangs when you're off running errands.

Nextbase 622GW

(Image credit: Nextbase)

Is it worth having a dash cam?

Yes, absolutely. Some drivers might not like the idea of a camera constantly monitoring their vehicle, but some models of dash cam (like the Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2) are compact and subtle enough to almost disappear behind the central rear view mirror. In other words, once they are up and running you soon forget about them; they just sit there, quietly keeping an eye out, ready to save footage if you’re caught in an accident.

If the worst were to happen, and you need to prove your innocence, the dash cam’s footage could do exactly that. This footage can also be set to include your speed, along with the time and date to help reinforce the validity of your evidence if blame is disputed by the other party. As well as monitoring the road ahead, dash cams can be used to record out of the rear windscreen too, recording footage if you are unfortunate enough to be rear-ended by another motorist.

Even if you're not directly involved in a collision, dash cams can still be useful. Many have a button for quickly saving the last few seconds of video. That way, if you need something ahead that you think needs recording, like an accident between two other vehicles, an example of bad driving, or something else noteworthy, you can provide that evidence to whoever might need it. Another useful feature of some dash cams is how they will call the emergency services if a crash is detected and you don’t respond; they can then share your location and ensure help is on its way.

Furthermore, many dash cams come with additional driver assistance features. These include alerts to let you know about nearby speed cameras and red light cameras, plus a prompt to tell you the vehicle in front has set off – just in case you weren’t paying attention while sat in traffic.

Lastly, some dash cams can be permanently installed in your vehicle and hard-wired, giving them a constant power supply. When paired with a special parking mode, this enables the camera to sense impacts and record footage while the car is parked, potentially gathering useful evidence of your neighbor’s poor parking.

A man adjusting a Nextbase dash cam in a car

(Image credit: Nextbase)

How we test dash cams

Almost all dash cams can be fitted to a car without making any permanent modification. They can be attached to a windscreen using a suction cup or removable adhesive pad, and powered from either a USB port or the 12V socket found in almost all cars. To test dash cams, we install them in our car, attach them to the windscreen and pair them to our smartphone as if we had bought them ourselves.

We then drive, at day and night, to test how the camera handles different lighting conditions, and ideally in varied weather too. The footage is then transferred to a smartphone or computer and viewed to check out the quality, and whether key details like vehicle registration plates are legible. This also gives us an opportunity to see how easy (or difficult) it is to view, transfer and save recorded footage.

Some hands installing a dash cam into a car's wiring

(Image credit: Let Geo Create / Shutterstock)

Additional features like voice assistants and drive assistance systems get a thorough workout, and we also test how easy it is to turn these off, or adjust them to our personal preferences. Being able to quickly and easily turn audio recording off is key, especially when carrying passengers who don’t want their conversations recorded.

Naturally, we cannot crash a vehicle to see how well the dash cam detects collisions. Instead, firmly tapping the dash cam can simulate a collision, allowing us to see what happens when footage is saved. It is also possible to trigger a recording by powering the camera with a portable battery and tapping it against our desk. It may seem rudimentary, but it works and keeps our insurance company happy.

Sometimes, driving over a particularly aggressive speed bump can trigger a dash cam recording. In these cases we learn that the camera’s g-sensor is too sensitive, and needs to be adjusted, providing the menu system includes such an option. 

Mark Wilson
Senior news editor

Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile. 

With contributions from