Dash cams have become ubiquitous among daily driver tools. Increasing distractions and decreasing attention spans have made for a dangerous, traffic-laden commute. Using a dash cam means irrefutable proof of fault in the event of an accident, and, while we don’t have quite as much auto insurance fraud cases here in the United States as abroad, the best dash cams can shut those cons down too.
Then there’s the ancillary benefit of potentially recording the next outrageous, viral vehicular drama. Car drives into nearby pond? You’ll want that on camera. An airplane crashes in Seattle? Your footage might be priceless to investigators.
At this stage, there are numerous options (and price points) for those who are ready to rig up one of the best dash cams. It’s not easy to pick a clear winner, but our tests have elevated a few cams above the rest.
Garmin Dash Cam 55
Why should you buy this: It boasts a robust set of features that actually work as intended
Who’s it for: Anyone who wants the absolute best in dash cam tech
How much will it cost: $199
Why we picked the Garmin Dash Cam 55:
At $200, the Garmin Dash Cam 55 offers a ton of features and quality for a reasonable price. In a crowded market, it takes more than just being good — and the unique attributes of the Dash Cam 55 give it an edge.
At 1440p HD resolution and 30 frames per second, the Dash Cam 55 shoots in stunning quality during the day and respectable quality at night. Like some other dash cams on the market, the Dash Cam 55 offers innovative driver aids, but unlike other cameras, its alerts are often relevant (instead of driving you nuts with false alarms). And thanks to a slew of voice-activated functions, it lets drivers focus on the road ahead. Also, the nifty Travelapse feature makes cool time-lapse videos that can easily be shared via the app.
The Garmin Dash Cam 55 looks great, feels sturdy, and has better features than competitors costing far more. What’s not to love?
The best dual-lens dash cam
Thinkware X500D Dashcam
Why should you buy this: You want front and rear video surveillance
Who’s it for: Extra cautious drivers
How much will it cost: $259
Why we picked the Thinkware X500D Dashcam:
The latest innovation among dash cams is the addition of a second, rear-facing camera lens to monitor activity in and around the cabin of your vehicle. There are plenty of choices within this new segment of cams, however, the Thinkware X500D stands out for its safety add-ons.
In addition to its stellar hardware, including a Sony Exmore SMOS sensor (the same one found in the brand’s action cams) with 1080p HD front and rear video recording, built-in GPS for speed and location data, and a 32GB Micro SD card, the X500 features a speed camera alert, forward collision warning system, and lane departure notification to mimic built-in systems on today’s most advanced vehicles. Like the Vantrue cam, the X500 has a parking mode to initiate recording based on motion near your vehicle.
The X500’s trend-setting safety tech may be a little on the sensitive side, but for those who want to freshen their older cars with new features, while benefitting from a dual-camera setup, the X500 is a great pick.
The best budget dash cam
Why should you buy this: Protect yourself for cheap
Who’s it for: Cost-conscious consumers
How much will it cost: $69
Why we picked the Mobius ActionCam:
If you’ve done your research, it’s probably clear that adding a dash cam to your car is a smart move, but that doesn’t mean it’s an affordable one. Fortunately, the Mobius Actioncam allows drivers to protect themselves without going broke.
The Actioncam benefits from more than just a low price tag. Its compact size fits perfectly just in front of your car’s rear view mirror. This option doesn’t sacrifice any windshield visibility and maintains the clean look of your interior. This little guy also packs 1080p video recording at 30fps and can overwrite previous footage when the memory card reaches capacity. Rounding out the cam’s highlights is downloadable software for camera settings tweaks and a painless setup process.
Our gripes with the Actioncam are few, but it’s worth mentioning that you’ll have to do without a built-in display to monitor your recordings – for that you’ll need a computer or TV. Finally, the lack of accelerometer and G-sensor means accident footage may appear chaotic compared to other, stabilized cameras.
The best feature-rich dash cam
Lukas LK-7950 WD
Why should you buy this: If you live in extreme temperature climates or drive a lot at night, this is your best bet.
Who’s it for: The bells-and-whistles guy or gal
How much will it cost: $269
Why we picked the Lukas LK-7950 WD:
If you want the most advanced dash cam on the market, look no further than the Lukas LK-7950 WD. Sure, it’s a mouthful, but it’s also full of some innovative features to record video in high-resolution day or night.
With two cameras (front and rear) recording video at 1080p, Sony Exmor IMX322 sensors in each lens, and support for two SD cards with up to 256GB capacity apiece, the LK-7950 churns out crystal clear footage for hours on end without needing to overlap old video. This cam is also well regarded for its resistance to high heat or extreme cold, so you won’t have to worry about frying your expensive new device on the windshield.
Durability and great quality video is important, but the LK-7950 goes beyond the competition with W-Fi for viewing on a smartphone, GPS, OBD-II, parking mode, High Dynamic Range (HDR) for optimal night vision recording, UV and CPL filters, a G-sensor, and built-in battery discharge prevention. There really isn’t a dash cam feature on the market that the LK-7950 doesn’t include. Our only complaints come down to its high price point and bulky size.
The best all-around dash cam
Why you should buy this: You want a basic dash cam that does it all without breaking the bank
Who’s it for: Commuters
How much will it cost: $99
Why we picked the Rexing V1:
The Rexing V1 is ideal for commuters who want a dash cam that does it all but doesn’t come with an expensive price tag. Its discreet design blends in with the interior of many cars, too, so it won’t draw unnecessary attention. It offers a 1080p resolution at 30 fps thanks in part to a Sony Exmor IMX323 video sensor, ensuring it records high-quality video, and wide dynamic range technology allows it to perform well in low-light situations.
The device’s loop recording function also means it’s not necessary to delete video files when the SD card is full. The newest video files automatically overwrite the oldest ones on the card, allowing you to record for hours on end. Users can choose whether to create a new file every three, five, or 10 minutes. Rexing recommends using a 128GB SD card, but keep in mind that said card isn’t included with the V1.
Video files are automatically locked when the built-in G sensor detects an accident, meaning the files are available even if the device fails to shut off and continues recording. Locked files aren’t deleted unless the user manually removes them from the SD card. Rexing’s V1 currently retails for $100, a reasonable price which makes it difficult to beat as a basic all-arounder. Basically, it’s the Toyota Corolla of the dash cam world.
How we test
Our dash cams log many hours recording real-world tests, both on and off-road. We judge them by their ease of installation, storage capacity, video quality, and stability. We also note any additional features as well as how well the dash cam controls, either by attachments or through an app.
First time dash cam buyer
Dash Cam technology has advanced pretty quickly, so if this is your first device purchase, it’s best to choose one that has features you’ll use consistently rather than one with new tech that you might use down the road. New cameras with improved usability and more robust functionality will continue to lower prices and will force manufacturers to load products with cutting-edge features. That means when you’re ready to upgrade, chances are you’ll find a great option, with more goodies, for less than today’s leading models.