While you drive, there’s a lot happening and a dash cam works as a second pair of eyes, giving you peace of mind while out on the road. The best dash cams are alert to what’s happening while you’re behind the wheel, recording high-resolution footage with timestamps and GPS coordinates. Many can even record while your car is parked should anything happen while you’re away.

Before you decide on the best dash camera for you, you need to consider whether you want a rear, front/interior or front model. Additionally, you’ll want to decide on how wide a viewing angle you’ll need. There are also special features such as voice control and parking assist that you should consider. Since there are a number of reasons to use a dash cam, we understand that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all model. With that in mind, we’ve curated a list of our recommendations for dash cams of all types including various features and prices below.

For even more information on what to look for when buying a dash cam, scroll to our buyer’s guide under our best picks. And after you’ve bought a dash cam, save yourself some time and frustration by reading our guide on how to install a dash cam.

1. Cobra SC 400D – Best premium front/rear dash cam

Pros

Excellent video captures, both front and back, day or night

3-inch touchscreen display

Voice control

Alexa support (if you care)

2160p (4K UHD), if you need it

Cons

Very expensive

Rear camera isn’t removable

We were smitten by the Cobra SC 400D in our review. It’s pricey, yes, but it delivers the goods with stunning images—4K for the front, 1080p in the rear—day or night. It comes with a sturdy magnetic mount, integrated GPS, and a 3-inch touchscreen screen. Alexa support is available to help you find businesses. The interior can be extended with an optional 120-degree FOV Cam.

2. Nextbase 622GW – Best premium front/rear runner-up

Pros

Stellar night and day captures

Modular add-on 1080p camera provides interior and rear coverage

Alexa voice control and emergency notifications

Prior to our review above of the Cobra SC 400D front/rear system, the 622GW was our top choice. And, really, it shares virtually all the same attributes as its rival—nice design and build quality, excellent day and night captures, drive mapping, a wonderful 3-inch display, emergency response to accidents, Alexa support, and the ability to add a third camera for interior views. It is more expensive than the 400D. But in the end, you can’t go wrong with either model.

Please read our full article
Nextbase 622GW Dash Cam review

3. Viofo A129 Pro Duo – Best midrange front/rear dash cam

Pros

Amazing 4K UHD front captures.

Rear captures at 1080p are amazing

Simple to use

Cons

Cameras don’t detach from mounts

The Viofo A129 Pro Duo is another 4K-front/1080p camera setup. It was the first to convert us to 4K. It’s been matched in those abilities by newer models, but the A129 comes at a competitive price that can’t be ignored. The A129 also has integrated GPS and offers a pleasant user experience.

Please read our full article
Viofo A129 Pro Duo review

4. Nextbase 222X – Best budget front/rear dash cam

Pros

Video with good front/rear view

Decent rear-view and front night shots

48-hour battery-supported, parking mode and after-incident captured

Cons

Video quality is not as good as Nextbase models, which are more expensive.

Modular port, but no add-on modules

No GPS

This Walmart-exclusive Nextbase 22X front-and back camera duo can help you save money. It is only 1080p/720p, but the video quality is still great. It has a magnetic mount and a clear 2.5-inch display. There is also a battery-supported parking mode.

Please read our full article
Nextbase 222X Dash Cam review

5. Miofive 4K – Best front-only dash cam

Pros

Compact, fully integrated design

Very affordable 4K GPS with GPS

Friendly voice notifications

64GB internal storage

Good day and night shots

Cons

Internal storage cannot be replaced

macOS won’t allow you to access the internal storage

Before we reviewed the Miofive 4K in detail, we would have chosen the Car and Driver Eye2 Pro to be our top front-only dashcam with 4K. It is a fine product. The Miofive 4K is $100 less and has integrated GPS. There are also great video captures and 64GB of internal storage. It also features friendly voice notifications, a compact design and an easy setup. So not only is this our favorite front dash cam with 4K, it’s our favorite front cam overall.

Please read our full article
Miofive 4K dash cam review

6. Garmin Dash Cam 57 – Best front-only runner-up

Pros

Day and night photos that are vivid and detailed

You can hide behind your mirror with a small enough size

Magnetic mounting is super-convenient

Phone and cloud connectivity

This small but mighty front dash cam has it all: great 1440p video with a 140-degree field of view, integrated GPS and driving assistance, good phone connectivity, an easy and convenient magnetic mounting system, and the backing of Garmin’s good name.

Check out our complete article
Garmin Dash Cam 57 review

7. iOttie Aivo View – Most stealth front-only cam

Pros

It is easy to set up and use

Excellent day and night shots

Magnetic mount

Minimalist styling and operation

Cons

To set up and use iOttie, you will need an iOttie Account

For minimalist types, iOttie’s Aivo View consists of just a small camera that magnetically attached to a semi-permanent mount. It uses your phone’s interface and viewer. It can capture at up 1600p/30 frames per seconds, or as low 720p to conserve space on your SD card. It also has integrated GPS. An iOttie account is required to access the Aivo View.

If that doesn’t sit well with you, the Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2 is another excellent choice for stealth operation, measuring just 1.23 x 2.1 x 1.5 inches—small enough to remain hidden behind your sun visor. It doesn’t have GPS, however.

Please read our full article
iOttie Aivo View dash cam review

8. Garmin Dash Cam Tandem – Best front/interior dash cam

Pros

It is very easy to install and use

Compact profile

Mount is excellent

360-degree front/interior View (minus obstructions).

Cons

Expensive

Average captures

Garmin’s front/interior camera is easy to install, features a compact body that helps it avoid detection, and has an excellent magnetic mount—all useful features that make up for the average 1440p/720p video capture quality. The Tandem doesn’t have a display; it nicely uses Bluetooth (as opposed to Wi-Fi) to connect to your phone, where Garmin’s easy-to-use app lets you configure settings—although the defaults are spot-on.

Please read our full article
Garmin Dash Cam Tandem review

9. Cobra SC 201 – Best budget front/interior dash cam

Pros

Great video, especially at night

Front and inner cameras for ride-givers

GPS with automatic setup

16GB SD card included

Cons

12-volt batteries are required for all captures

Buggy software during testing

App doesn’t support smartphones running Android 7 or earlier

Dash cams are all about capturing the action, and few do it better than the front/interior Cobra SC 201. The exterior night camera is particularly impressive in its ability show details in dark environments. It also has a long list of features such as GPS and cloud uploads. The company also includes a 16GB SD Card. It’s well worth the money for what you get—just don’t try to use the cloud functionality with an older phone OS.

Check out our complete article
Cobra SC 201 Smart Dash Cam review

What to look out for in a dash camera

We’ll step you through what to think about when you’re shopping for a dash cam, from video capabilities, recording options, power connections, and more. 

Video capabilities

Dual-channel support: This is what you’ll need if you want to run both front and rear, or interior (cabin-view) cameras. The dash cam is the most common place for interior cameras, but rear cameras require additional cabling. A decently large field for view: You’ll see cameras with as little as 90-degrees field of view, but you’ll catch more of what’s around you if you go for 120 to 140 degrees. Some cameras offer 160-180-degree lenses. The larger the field, the more fisheye distortion there is and the more processing is needed to compensate.Day and Night Video recording (night quality can be a big variant).Infrared Lighting is important if you want to assure good captures of nocturnal events inside the cabin of your vehicle.HDR (high dynamic range) isn’t necessary, but it does make for more detailed video because of better contrast. It generally indicates richer colors.WDR (wide dynamic range) is similar to the above, but it often refers only to color and not to contrast.Do you need 4K UHD? It’s easy to fall victim to the specsmanship of a higher-res image. We found that 4K video (2160p), while displaying more detail, has a four-fold storage requirement, or approximately 1GB for each three minutes of video. 1080p is the best option for most everyday purposes. Don’t avoid 4K UHD—which is a feature in our best overall picks—but read the reviews first so you know whether the cost is justified.Recording options

Continuous loop recording Storage requirements can be minimized. Video is recorded and then overwritten at a specific interval unless saved. Video is automatically saved (protected by overwriting) after an incident is detected. Most dash cameras will overwrite older recordings if they run out of space. Cloud storage You can upload to the cloud with a few dash cameras. Uploading to the cloud in real time is a nice hedge against damage and theft—assuming the thief isn’t smart enough to kill the dash cam immediately. It’s handy for those managing fleets of vehicles, too, as incident videos are safely stashed online.Self-powered recording You can capture every moment even if power goes out. This requires a battery or large super-capacitor (see below in “Power connections”). The camera should have a setting that allows for you to specify how long it runs on 12-volt before shutting off.  Incident recording Activated by impact (G), sensors, or when in Parking Mode (see below), motion detection. MicroSD Card storage. Pricier dash cams bundle a storage card. Some come with larger cards, while others are less expensive. Many cards come with bundles. Some cameras choose hard-wired internal storage like the Miofive 4K. Power connections

Something most people don’t consider before they buy is that dash cams connect to a power source in your car via a physical cable. That cable can sometimes be tucked out of the way, but more likely than not you’ll have loose cable hanging somewhere. This can be fixed with a shorter or longer cable (or professional installation). This is something to keep in mind when you are considering your power options.

12-volt Auxiliary power (adequate). Most vendors continue to use the auxiliary 12-volt power socket (also known by the cigarette lighter) and USB cables to power their dash cams. It can lead to an unsightly cable run, and the power disappears when you turn off the car, but it’s universal and easy.12-volt power hard-wired (better) Many vendors sell kits that connect your dash cam to a constant 12-volt source in the wiring harness behind it. This provides always-on power, but it isn’t particularly easy to install.OBD-II 12-volt power, better PureCam and the Owl use the OBD-II connector to draw constant 12-volt power. OBD-II to-USB power cables can now be purchased separately as an alternative to hardwiring kits which draw constant 12-volt power from a wiring harness. I recommend one with a USB Type A port. This will allow you to use any dash cam. Most of those with captive cables I’ve seen are mini-USB. The only downside is a long cable run, as the OBD-II port is usually next to the driver’s left knee, under the dash.Rearview 12-volt power (better). Another option is to power your dash cam with your auto-dimming backview mirror. This has a very short cable run. Dongar Technologies has adapters available. If your car qualifies for this, it is your best choice.Power from a battery (or super-capacitor). Many dash cams come with super-capacitors, which allow the dash cam to operate for a brief period after losing regular power—such as during a collision. They don’t record for very long though, and sometimes not at all. A battery will give you a better chance to record an entire incident, even if 12-volt power is lost. If the run time is sufficient, you can record for a while even if the car is turned off. Other useful features

Phone connectivity Although it is not necessary, it can make configuring the dash camera and offloading video easier. We’ve noticed just recently (12/15/2020) that phone apps are starting to require later versions of Android. If you’re rocking anything older than 8, keep that in mind.GPS: This feature can be the tipping point if your captured video is used to resolve a disagreement. While watermarking is common, embedding GPS information into the video can be extremely useful for mapping your travels. GPS will automatically set the time in higher quality cameras.Parking monitoring This could be one of two things. You can either run the dash camera continuously in low frame-rate mode to conserve card space and battery or you can use standby mode to alert you when motion or g force are detected. We’ve reviewed cameras that have a battery large enough to monitor the car with the 12-volt turned off for several days, but most cameras require a constant 12-volt source.How we test dash cams

Few people are so well placed geographically as I am to test dashcams. There are major four- and six lane thoroughfares, many bike lanes, joggers and dog walkers within two blocks. A major bus nexus serves both private and public coaches. There are many opportunities for near-accidents.

I mount every dash cam in my car and judge its ease and convenience. Tip: Many dash cams rely on adhesive for mounting to your windshield. The adhesive can become almost impossible to remove in hot weather. You can either remove the film in a cool place or put it in the refrigerator for a few minutes before you install it.

I put each dash cam through several days’ and nights’ worth of driving, recording video and judging the image quality. All the dash cams I’ve reviewed in the last couple of years take good daytime video. Night video is often marred by headlight flare and murky shades. However, new sensors are making night video quality better. Take a look at the night shots in each of these reviews. 

I tried all the features: Display controls, buttons, apps. The most notable differences between the products, aside from rear-view and GPS, are the interface controls and extra features such as collision warnings or lane departure. I try them…and I turn them off. In practice, they usually tell me I’m changing lanes, in heavy traffic, or have just been cut off. I know this. The collision warnings can also be distracting, as they are often too late to help. 

Note that the one thing I can’t relate to you is the longevity of any dash cam, as my testing occurs over a relatively short amount of time. Please read the warranty and check out user reviews.

FAQ 1.
Do I really need a dashcam?

Although dash cams are a recent trend in consumer vehicles, many people have been driving without them for years. Although it may not be necessary, there are real benefits to having a dash camera in your car. 

Many people who install dash cams act as insurance for their actions and the actions of others. You can be protected from other drivers in many ways by installing dash cams. They can prove your innocence if you are involved in an accident. They can also be used to deter aggressive drivers. Some dash cameras have motion-sensor parking modes which can record any possible hit and runs or thefts while you’re away from your car.

In the end, it’s ultimately up to you as to whether you believe the possible benefits of buying and using a dash cam are worth the investment.

2.
Is it legal to use dash cams?

Yes, dash cameras are legal in all 50 states. However, it’s best to check with your particular state’s traffic laws to determine what type of dash cam you should use. For example, not all states allow a dash cam to be mounted to a windshield—it’s best to do a little research before you buy.

3.
Will a dash cam drain my car battery?

Probably not. We mean almost certainly. A standard dashcam with motion detection, front and back coverage, and WiFi will only use 0.25 to 0.45 Amps per hour while your car is parked. A typical car battery of small or medium size is rated at 45 amp hour. This means that your car’s battery will need to run for a few days before it can power your dash cam.

Another feature that’s becoming more common in dash cams is a low-voltage cutoff as a safeguard against dead batteries. This feature automatically shuts down your dash camera if the power drops below a threshold. So you can rest assured knowing that your dash cam won’t kill your car battery.

4.
How much storage should I have to store my dash cam footage?

To store recorded data, dash cams use removable SD cards or microSD cards. A dash cam uses an overwrite function to overwrite old data, rather than your mobile phone or other device. Therefore, you shouldn’t have to worry about your dash cam shutting off because the memory card is full. 

That being said, if you want to ensure that you aren’t overwriting valuable old data, you’ll want to get an adequate-sized memory card, and consider the resolution at which the camera captures the video. 4K recordings take up more space than 1080p recordings.

We believe that 128GB is the ideal memory card size. This will allow you to record continuously at 4K for approximately five hours or 20 hours if recorded at 1080p. Thankfully though, memory cards are relatively cheap and you won’t need to break the bank if you opt for even more storage capacity.



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