Are you looking for an awesome radar detector to help keep you protected from speeding tickets while you’re out driving? Something easy to use? What are the best first radar detectors?
Have you been reading reviews and watching YouTube videos to learn more and yet you’re still not sure which one to buy?
Let’s make this simple. 🙂
In this article we’re going to go over the best 4 choices for your first radar detector, particularly if you’re not interested in becoming a radar detector expert. 🙂
Best First Radar Detectors
So jumping right into things, if you prefer watching a video where I show you things over reading an article, here’s the video on this subject.
If you prefer reading, then read on. 🙂
What does a radar detector do for you?
A radar detector is designed to alert you when police officers are using radar guns up the road ahead of you to look for speeders and write them tickets. Good quality detectors will generally give you sufficient advanced warning so that you can take action as necessary before they can clock you.
It’s important to note, however, that radar detectors are not police car detectors. If the officer doesn’t have a radar gun in their vehicle or they have it turned off as you’re driving, your radar detector won’t alert you. If they are actively patrolling with radar, your radar detector will warn you as you get close.
What makes a good radar detector?
How can you tell the difference between a good quality radar detector and something that won’t offer you sufficient protection, especially if you’re just starting out with radar detectors?
1) Easy to use
In general we’re going to look for radar detectors that do a great job out of the box. There’s some radar detectors that are great options for more advanced users, but they will require some more complicated setup and configuration and they will often require you to pair your detector and run additional apps to do things that other detectors can do all by themselves. Keeping things simple and easy to use so you can have the best experience possible without having to become a radar detector expert is the goal here.
2) Great performance
Did you know that low end radar detectors often won’t give you much advanced warning and by the time it goes off, the officer already has your speed? That’s not very helpful. You want a detector that can give you a bunch of advanced warning.
In the open desert that could mean several miles of warning which may sound like overkill, but if there’s not much traffic and the officer keeps turning his radar gun on and off to try and avoid alerting other radar detector users (a technique called instant on), that alert a few miles up the road might be the only advanced warning you’ll get.
Additionally if there’s a lot of things that are blocking or absorbing the radar signals such as trees, hills, or curves in the road, those make it tougher on a radar detector. In the mountains you may be lucky to get a quarter mile of warning but that is the difference between getting a ticket or not.
The radar detectors we’ll be looking at here can all provide sufficient warning in not only the really easy driving situations, but also the more challenging ones.
3) Great false alert filtering
One of the biggest complaints about radar detectors is that they give lots of false alerts.. to the point where people wind up crying wolf so often that people stop paying attention to them. This is especially true with older generations of radar detectors which is why you’ll want something more modern that can filter out false alerts for you.
Lots of cars these days have radar based collision avoidance systems such as blind spot monitoring (BSM) systems that can cause radar detectors nearby to go off. These false alerts can be tough to filter altogether, but the newest detectors can handle most BSM systems on the road today.
You’ll also run into radar based speed signs and automatic door openers in shopping centers and grocery stores and so having a radar detector with a GPS chip will allow it to learn that specific radar signal in that specific location so it can learn and filter those signals out for you in the future. If you later encounter a new signal such as a police officer, the detector will alert you to the presence of a new different signal.
The 4 Best First Radar Detectors
These radar detectors have all been chosen because they all offer great performance, great filtering, and are easy to use. There’s a lot lousy of radar detectors that didn’t make the cut as well as a lot of great detectors that are excellent, but they’re more complicated or advanced. Each detector here . Let’s take a look at your best options.
1. Uniden DFR6 ($199)
This is your best basic, entry level radar detector. It offers performance on par with many more expensive detectors, performing well above its price class. It is also one of the best at filtering out those annoying blind spot monitoring systems on the road.
It lacks a GPS chip so it doesn’t have the ability to learn where false alerts are located on your typical commutes and so it will alert to the same false alerts every time you drive past them. However, if you do primarily highway driving and want high performance on a budget, this is a great choice.
Additionally if you live in California, it’s almost exclusively Ka band. Because there is little to no K band in use, you can shut that band off altogether (it’s where most false alerts happen) and so you won’t have to rely on or pay for all the filtering techniques that the other detectors offer.
Once you purchase the DFR6, watch this video to learn how to set it up and use it.
2. Escort Passport Max2 (~$350)
This is my go-to recommendation for people who want an all-around easy to use detector that’s good for both city and highway driving.
What makes this detector special is that it offers all the core features you need in a plug-and-play package. Simply plug it in and put it on your windshield and it starts working for you automatically.
It offers reasonably good performance, reasonably good BSM filtering, plus that all important GPS chip that allows it to learn where false alerts are located around you in shopping centers, grocery stores, and speed signs. Additionally, while some other detectors offer this feature too, the Max2 can automatically learn these false alerts for you over time so as you drive around and it keeps seeing the same false alerts over and over again, it will begin learning them and filtering them out for you and thus it gets quieter and quieter over time.
That GPS chip also gives you low speed muting so it’s quiet when you’re driving around parking lots or sitting at a stop light plus it can alert you to redlight cameras and speed cameras in the area.
The Max2 also has a bluetooth chip built in so you can pair the detector with your cell phone. When you run the app Escort Live on your cell phone (Android and iOS available), it can automatically post your alerts to the cloud and you will get notified of other Escort users’ alerts too, adding yet another layer of protection to your driving experience.
This is the radar detector that I gave to my brother. He has no interest in becoming a radar detector expert and just wants something simple that he can put on his windshield and it does everything for him. That’s what makes this detector such an appealing pick.
Once you purchase your Max2, watch this video to learn about the settings and options it offers.
3. Uniden DFR7 ($299)
The Max2 is my general recommendation for an all-around plug and play detector. The Max2’s biggest limitation, IMHO, is that its blind spot filtering is really just okay. The GPS lockouts and low speed muting are helpful for city driving in areas you drive regularly, but if you’re willing to do a little more work initially to teach the detector where the stationary false alerts are located, you can get a similar detector which will give you a quieter experience overall with fewer false alerts. Enter the Uniden DFR7.
The Uniden DFR7 is a very popular choice. It’s the DFR6 plus a GPS chip. It offers great performance and BSM filtering, plus it gives you the ability to teach it where those permanent false alerts are located around town. The difference between the DFR7 and Max2 is that the Max2 can do it over time for you automatically after it keeps seeing the same false alerts repeatedly. The Uniden will require you to teach manually it which signals are stationary false alerts by double pressing the mute button on the front of the detector. It’s not hard, but you do run the risk of inadvertently locking out a signal you shouldn’t. However, I’ve put together a video teaching you how to use this feature properly.
If you’re willing to lock false alerts out manually, which is really only something you have to do at the beginning, then you’ll have the benefits of the Max2 with the low speed muting, GPS lockouts, and red light camera alerts. You’ll also get a detector that even better at filtering out pesky blind spot monitoring systems so you’ll have a quieter experience overall, plus it costs less!
Now the DFR7 also lacks a bluetooth chip so you can’t pair it with your phone. Those realtime alerts to and from the cloud are very handy so instead of Escort Live, you can simply run the free app Waze on your phone. It can also notify you of police in the area, but it doesn’t integrate with your radar detector the way Escort Live does. It’s standalone and so again will require a bit more work on your end, but it’s a great way to have an all-around excellent city/highway detector with even better BSM filtering than the Max2 for less money overall.
Once you buy the DFR7, watch this video to learn how to set it up.
4. Escort Max360 ($649)
If you’re the type of person who loves having all the bells and whistles, take a look at the Max360. This offers everything that the Max2 does with its plug-and-play automatic capabilities, plus it adds arrows to let you know where the radar source is located which is a big help in practice.
The arrows of the 360 make it clear which direction the police officer is (things are different if he’s ahead of you and you’re driving towards him vs. if he’s back behind you somewhere), the arrows changing from front to rear let you know when you pass the source (especially helpful at night), and in a nutshell they offer way more useful information than just some beeps alone.
(Note: The Valentine 1 is another popular detector with arrows, but it involves more complicated setup as well a cell phone, additional bluetooth module, and third party apps to add the functionality that the Max360 offers as a standalone package.)
The Max360 can be paired with a cell phone as well, but this is just to add some bonus features. For example, it can give you realtime alerts to and from the cloud, display speed limit information for the road you’re on, and make it easier for you to change any settings as needed. However, all of the core key features that you need are built right into the detector which makes everything very simple and easy to use. It’s for this reason that if you’re wanting a fully loaded detector without having to become a radar detector expert, this is the one to get.
Once you purchase the Max360, watch this video to learn about setting up your Max360.
Bonus Radar Detector Accessories
Radar detectors all come with a cig. lighter power cable which makes installation very convenient. However, it’s not too pretty having a cable running down your dash. It’s preferable to run your RD up high by your rear view mirror for best performance and for a cleaner and professional looking permanent installation, you’ll want to pick up a hardwire cable and have the cable tucked out of sight like this.
To read a tutorial and learn how to hardwire your radar detector, click here.
To see all of your hardwire cable options, click here.
Radar detectors come standard with a suction cup windshield mount. These work great, especially when new, but they do tend to lose their suction over time and they leave tell tale suction cup marks on your windshield that are visible to potential thieves. Additionally, mounting electronics to your windshield (radar detectors, GPS receivers, cell phones) is illegal in many states.
The best solution is the BlendMount which is a third party mount designed to hang your RD under your rear view mirror. They are very well built and they’re compatible with most modern radar detectors including all the ones we discussed here. They also fit most cars and rear view mirror designs and have a guide to help ensure you select the one that fits your vehicle. Finally, use the link below and you’ll get a discount coupon to save some money when purchasing a Blendmount.