Dashcams are awesome to pair with a radar detector, but what’s the best dashcam and why do you need one? (Updated September 2018)
Why Do You Need A Dashcam?
Accident: Dashcam Protects Driver from False Accusation
Dashcams are a must-have in case of an accident. Here’s an example of a vehicle that accidentally backed into another car while stopped at a stop light. The at-fault driver ahead was initially apologetic and then later went back and told his insurance company that he was rear ended, pinning the blame on the dashcam owner. Only the dashcam saved the rear driver from paying the deductible and having to deal with the hike to his insurance. Full story here.
Accident: Rear Dashcam Protects Driver
Some dashcams also come in two channel variants (front and rear camera) which is incredibly helpful in case something happens from behind such as how this next driver was hit from behind while stopped, pulling into a parking space. The police incorrectly wrote up the police report and the driver behind who was at fault tried to blame it on the front driver. Again it was the dashcam footage that saved the front driver and the driver in the rear was proven to be 100% at fault. Full story here.
Accident: Dashcam Protects Parked Car from Hit & Run
You can also use the to monitor your car when you’re parked as well in case anything happens while you’re gone. Check out this driver who backed into my car while I was parked. The camera detected the impact and recorded the whole thing while the other driver drove off. As soon as I got back in the car, my dashcam told me that an impact was detected while the car was parked.
(Note: If you want this feature, make sure you opt for a camera that can automatically switch between driving mode and parking mode, no button pressing required.)
Recording Radar Detector and Laser Jammer Saves
Dashcams also let you record your saves so you can go back later and review how things went and even share your saves with others.
Dashcams Record Crazy Events on Road
Even if you don’t get into an accident (knock on wood), crazy stuff happens on the road and it can be incredibly helpful to have a dashcam rolling.
Make Beautiful Scenic Videos
On a lighter note, if you go on road trips through beautiful places, you can share clips of your drives with your friends!
What Makes Dash Cameras Unique?
Dashcams are different than action cameras like GoPros. I love GoPros and use them for most of my normal YouTube videos, but specialized dashcams do a few key things that GoPros can’t. For these reasons, dashcams are better as permanent set-it-and-forget-it cameras:
- Automatically power on and start recording when you start your car
- Automatically stop recording and power off when you park
- When your memory card gets full, it overwrites old footage so you can record endlessly
- Detect any impacts such as accidents and protects that clip from being overwritten
- Offers the ability to record while your car is parked and shut off before draining your car battery
- Can notify you if anything happened to your car while parked
- Advanced ones automatically upload important footage to the cloud and remotely monitor your car from your phone
Best Dashcam of 2018?
There’s different dashcams at difference price points, with different features, and different levels of video quality. Which one should you get?
Here’s my top picks including both basic and inexpensive dashcams as well as higher end and more feature-packed dashcams.
Best Affordable Dashcam for Driving Only: Viofo A119 Pro ($89)
The best dashcam you’ll find in the ~$100 price range is the Viofo A119 Pro. It starts at just $89 and offers outstanding video quality for its price point, recording at 1440p (2x the resolution of 1080p). In fact it has some of the best video quality you’ll find at this price point. Viofo has developed a reputation for building inexpensive dashcams with good video quality and thus is now one of the most popular dashcam brands.
The A119 Pro’s wedge-shaped design means it sits flush against your windshield. The lens tilts up and down to ensure you can point it forward. The LCD on the back makes it easy to change settings, view recorded footage, and aim the dashcam’s lens. Video quality is very good with the A119 Pro. If anything interesting happens on the road, a quick tap of the emergency record button on the back (bottom, center) will mark this clip and protect it from being overwritten once your card fills up.
If you get it with the optional GPS mount, the dashcam can log your speed and location and display that on screen. It also adds an additional power connector more conveniently at the top of your dashcam’s mount, instead of just the one built into the side of your dashcam, giving you a more streamlined install. With the power cable plugged into the mount, it also makes it easier to mount and unmount your camera.
The main downside of the dashcam is that it’s best suited to recording your drives, not when your car is parked. It offers some motion detection, timelapse, and impact detection functionality, but you have to manually go into the menu and switch modes every time you start and stop driving which gets old quick and means you won’t use it on a regular basis. Higher end dashcams can do this switching for you automatically, a must if you want your dashcam to record while parked.
Viofo sells several different versions of the A119 series dashcams including the A119S (1080p only, optimized for low light) and the original A119 v2 (also 1440p, and the lens can move side to side), but the updated A119 Pro is now available featuring a new lens and sensor, and is my favorite of the three. They all support recording on up to a 128gb memory card.
The A119 Pro is an excellent value for the money and at the price they’re asking, there’s no reason to drive without one.
Best Affordable Dashcam for Driving & Parking: Viofo A129 ($129-$169)
If you also want your dashcam to be able to record while you’re parked, take a look at the newly released Viofo A129. It looks similar to the A119 series dashcams, but it has been physically redesigned. One of the biggest changes under the hood is that it now supports the ability to automatically switch between driving mode and parking mode hands-free so once you wire it into your vehicle, it is able to continue protecting your car even when you’re not there.
Note: Parking mode recording will require a special new hardwire power cable that is coming soon, so if you buy this dashcam, definitely keep an eye out for it. I’ll update this article once the new cable is out.
Besides the new parking mode functionality, they’ve also added WiFi so you can change settings and view and download footage from your phone.
In even bigger news, the A129 is also available as a dual channel version meaning you can get it with a rear camera if you’d like to also have a second camera installed on your rear window, recording everything happening behind you. Both cameras record at 1080p, Full HD, and the A129 supports up to 256gb memory cards, giving you increased capacity to store footage from both cameras. Recording both front and rear, as well as when driving and when parked, you now get complete coverage with your dashcam.
Best High End Dashcam: Blackvue DR900S-1CH ($369) or DR900S-2CH ($479)
Finally, my favorite dashcam and the one that I personally run in my own car is the Blackvue DR900S-2CH. It’s jam packed with useful features, shoots in 4K to capture details, offers the best parking mode recording available of any manufacturer, is available in a single and dual channel version depending on if you’d like a rear camera, and offers cloud support for remote notifications and alerts to your phone. In short, it’s my top pick for title of The Ultimate Dashcam.
4K video (4x the resolution of 1080p) is the big new feature for the DR900S over its predecessor, and my previous primary dashcam, the DR750S-2CH. Stepping up from 1080p to 4K, the DR900S is noticeably better at capturing details such as license plates farther away than previous models. It also adds a new and more efficient compression algorithm (H.265) which allows file sizes to be comparable to 1080p while offering you the detail of 4K.
Built in to the camera you’ll find GPS to log your location and speed (which can be disabled) as well as WiFi so you can pair it to your phone to view footage and change settings. When paired to a WiFi hotspot, the DR900S can send notifications out to your phone in case of an accident. Via the app, the dashcam can also be tracked remotely and realtime video can be streamed from the dashcam to the app or even livestreamed to Facebook.
Blackvue’s dashcams also offer the ability to automatically switch between driving mode and parking mode automatically, an absolute must if you want your dashcam to record while you’re parked. When you’re parked, your DR900S is powered by either your car battery using the Power Magic Pro voltage monitor (I get about 12 hours of record time) or a dedicated battery pack like the Blackvue B-124 (I get about 20 hours of record time) and the camera offers motion detection, time lapse recording, and impact detection. Should someone hit your car while you’re gone, the dashcam will verbally tell you next time you get in. You can view the footage immediately from your phone or when popping the memory card into your computer. If you’re worried about a thief stealing your dashcam, your DR900S can be set up to automatically upload any events to the cloud as soon as they happen so the thief is captured on camera as soon as they touch your car.
The DR900S is the complete all-around package. You can get it in a single channel form (front camera only) or in the dual channel form (front cam is 4K, rear cam is 1080p). I prefer running the dual channel version for complete coverage and protection. If you’re looking for the best dashcam on the market, this is the one I’d recommend you get.
Note: The Blackvue branded cards are pretty pricey and not necessarily better than other brands of cards. Take a look at the links below for less expensive cards that are designed specifically for dashcam usage, work great with the DR900S, and will save you some cash. 🙂