Your Buying Guide for the Best Dash Cams in 2018
Dash cams record video while you're driving so you have evidence if anything happens. Footage from dash cams is now accepted by some insurers to settle who was at fault in an accident and it’s also admissible in court. Here’s what to look out for so you can spend your money wisely.
Some dash cams can also double as an action camera. Halfords charges £30 for dash cam fitting, but it's very easy to do it yourself, so long as you don't want it 'hard-wired'.
How much do I need to spend?
Prices range from around £20 to £200, so there's a model affordable for everyone. However, those cheapest models tend to have poor-quality lenses, and record low-resolution video which is unlikely to be good enough to allow you to read number plates and signs.
Just watch some of the UK dash cam compilation clips on YouTube to get an idea of how picture quality varies.
Sometimes paying more is a good idea, especially if it means you can make out the registration plate of the car that crashed into you and drove off. You can get a decent dash cam with GPS for around £70-100, but you'll pay more if you want extra features, and even more if you want a rear camera as well as front.
What about insurance discounts?
Some insurance companies offer discounts if you have a dash cam. For example, Adrian Flux offers a 15 percent discount if you have one of the cameras listed on its website. AXA and Swiftcover also offer discounts. New insurer Sure Thing! offers 20 percent, and for young drivers, MyFirst Insurance has a specific dash cam policy in association with Nextbase which gives you a 30 percent discount.
Since some insurers have a limited list of cameras, it's important to get one of those. However, if you change insurers regularly, it isn't worth paying more for a camera on one insurer's list. In general, Nextbase cameras are the most widely supported in the UK.
Which features should I look for?
Most models come with a small battery that allows it to finish saving a file when you turn off the ignition. It can also run for a few minutes so you can take photos as more evidence if you have a collision.
Here are other things to look for:
GPS means your location as well as your speed is recorded. The GPS data syncs up with the video clips when played back in software bundled with the dash cam so you can watch the footage and see your location on a map. If you're using your phone as a GPS, check out our round up of the best phone car mounts and holders.
The G-sensor detects impacts and - usually - locks the recorded video to prevent it being deleted. All dedicated dash cams have one, but action cameras generally don't.
This may use the g-sensor, but is specifically for recording impacts (or movement) when your car is parked. It doesn't guarantee you will see what happened, which is why it can be an advantage to have two dash cams, with the second facing out of the back window. Parking modes typically require the dash cam to be hard wired, as most cars turn off power to the accessory socket when the ignition is switched off.
Most manufacturers don't recommend leaving a dash cam recording when parked as it can drain the battery. Dedicated parking modes usually watch for motion and only record when they detect some.
Hardwire kits can be installed to give the camera power all the time, or in cars whose 12V socket remains on when you turn off the ignition. The latter is handy as it means the camera can't drain the car's battery if you accidentally leave it plugged in.
Do I need Wi-Fi?
Cameras with Wi-Fi usually allow you to install an app and view recordings from your phone or tablet. This can be useful, especially if it lets you download recordings. However, transferring video over Wi-Fi can be painfully slow, and the videos trapped within the app and not easily sharable.
Often, it's much easier to remove the microSD card (or even the dash cam from the car) and transfer the files to a laptop or PC. Either way, you'll see much more detail than if you review footage on the small, low-resolution screens on the dash cams themselves.
Will I need an SD card?
Most cameras don't include any storage, so you'll need to buy some. Here are the best microSD cards to buy.
Many dash cams are limited to 32GB cards because they don't support SDXC, so check before buying a larger card. With most cameras, a 32GB card will be enough for about 4-5 hours of footage.
Accessories vary between dash cams, but you can expect a fairly long power cable which is designed to be routed around your windscreen and down to your 12V socket. It's a shame that manufacturers don't provide a long USB cable instead, as you'd then be able to use a 12V USB adaptor with multiple USB outputs.
If you use the included cable, you won't be able to use your 12V socket for anything else, such as charging your phone. Also check out our Tronsmart USB Rapid Car Charger review.
The Nextbase 312GW is an excellent all-round dash cam. It offers great-quality footage during the day, is easy to use and has a convenient magnetic mount that allows you to quickly remove and replace the camera without unplugging cables.
It has GPS, and is very easy to install: all the options are preset so it's as simple as mounting it on the windscreen and plugging it in.
As long as you don't want your video recorded at 60 frames per second (it supports 30fps at full HD, which is fine), it's the best choice for most people unless you are on a more limited budget.
Read our full Nextbase 312GW review
Yi Dash Cam Ultra
It's a bit bulky and doesn't have GPS or a quick-release mount, but Yi's Dash Cam Ultra is still a good choice.
It comes with a 16GB microSD card, both suction and adhesive mounts and records at up to 2688x1520 pixels - a resolution of 2.7K. At lower resolutions such as 1080p it can record at 60 frames per second but it's 30fps at the top resolution.
In daylight, quality is very good indeed, with bright and detailed images that let you see the registration plates of parked and passing cars, as well as those in front. The field of view is wide, but not so wide that cars in front become tiny blobs.
At night, quality is a lot worse, but no dash cam lives up to claims that you can still see every last detail in low light.
The app for iOS and Android is great. It connects easily to the dash cam and lets you watch low-resolution clips as well as selecting and downloading only the portion of the full-quality clip that you need in the event of an accident. It works quickly and reliably.
Usefully, a long microUSB cable is supplied with a twin USB adapter so you can still charge a phone from your 12V accessory socket even with the dash cam connected.
Not to be mistaken for the 312GW above, the 412GW is £30 more expensive, but records video at 2560x1440 pixels - also known as Quad HD. It will also record in full HD (1920x1080) at 60fps, unlike the cheaper model.
It has GPS and Wi-Fi, just like the 312GW, and the same convenient magnetic mount. In the box, though, you get two mounts: one adhesive and one suction, so you could swap the camera easily between two cars.
Video quality is excellent during the day (slightly more detail than the 312GW), but there's little between the two dash cams at night. Both are great choices.
Read our full Nextbase 412GW review
The Nextbase 512GW is very good, but it's also more expensive than the company's 312GW and 412GW. You get more features, though: a polariser to reduce reflections, an automatic parking mode and a connector for attaching a rear camera (which Nextbase doesn't sell yet).
If you can afford it, it won't disappoint.
Read our full Nextbase 512GW review
Garmin Dash Cam 55 Plus
Garmin's dinky dash cam is well designed and easy to use. It's also easy to install, but it will use up your car's 12V socket so you can't plug in your phone or sat nav.
Unlike some of its rivals, the 55 Plus has a safety camera warning system which can alert you to accident black spots, and hopefully prevent you being slapped with a speeding fine.
Video quality is good, but at the top resolution you don't get the option to record at 60 frames per second or in HDR: those are limited to lower resolutions.
There's built-in GPS and Wi-Fi, although the app isn't as useful as some: it doesn't allow you to change any settings on the dash cam. Still, it's not bad value at this price.
Read our full Garmin Dash Cam 55 Plus review.
Mio MiVue C330
The MiVue C330 is small and unobtrusive, easy-to-use and boasts handy features including built-in GPS and speed camera warnings (with free database updates for life).
It doesn't suffer from the colour issues that plagued older MiVue cameras, though we did notice a slight flicker during daytime recordings. It's not enough to ruin the videos though; there's enough detail to read registration plates and provide evidence in the event of a collision.
Read our full MiVue C330 review
DDPai X2 Pro
The X2 Pro has no screen and just one button, so installation is really easy. It comes with a rear camera on a long wire which records the view out of the back, too.
You also get a wireless button for taking photos should you see something that's worth capturing, and the app is one of the best we've seen for downloading videos and photos to your phone for sharing.
It's expensive, though, and if your car has two accessory sockets you might be better off buying two separate dash cams. However, considering the great quality and - after long-term testing - great reliability - this is worth the price.
For the full details, read our DDPai X2 Pro review.
Asus Reco Classic
The Reco Classic is a great dash cam which records very good quality video both during the day and at night. It's not the cheapest, but it's good value considering it includes GPS.
It doesn't have Wi-Fi, but that's really not an issue: it's quicker to copy videos directly to your PC via a USB cable.
In some countries it will also warn you of speed camera locations using GPS location.
Read our full Asus Reco Classic review
The 112 is Nextbase's replacement for the 102. This sub-£50 dash cam uses the same magnetic quick-release mount as the 412GW, so it's really convenient to remove from the car to transfer video files or even take a few photos on battery power if you're in a collision. You can buy it from Halfords for £40 at the moment.
It's the only dash cam here which records at a lowly 1280x720 pixels, and there is certainly less detail. However, the 120-degree lens means it is much easier to read number plates of oncoming cars as they're physically larger in the resulting video. Quality is acceptable during the day, with most registrations visible when you pause the video.
But you'll be lucky to capture any registrations at night as detail levels really do drop off. However, you should still be able to prove what happened if an incident happens in front of you, even if you can't pick out the registration.
There are no frills, such as Wi-Fi or GPS, nor can you review any footage or photos on the 2in screen. But the 112 is nice and compact and has easy-to-use buttons and menus.
We'd recommend paying more for a 1080p dash cam, but if you have a limited budget, this is the one to get.
Thinkware F200 2Ch
There aren't many 2-channel dash cams, but it is very useful to have a second camera recording what happens behind you as well as in front. If you car has a 12V accessory socket in the boot, then just buy a second dash cam and plug it in. Most people don't have that luxury which is where 2-channel cameras come in.
The F200 is a new, cut-down version of the F800, but the £129.99 / US$139.99 price is a bit misleading. If you want the rear camera, the bundle costs £169.99 (it's US$49.99 when bought separately), but if you also want GPS, that's another £25 / US$29.99.
We're fans of screen-less dash cams which stick unobtrusively behind your rear-view mirror, but with power, GPS and rear camera attached, wires get a bit messy with the F200. Also, the included power cable has to be connected to the car's fuse box, but this is necessary to use the parking mode which records when motion is detected (such as another car hitting yours while parked). Via the app you can choose a minimum voltage level to prevent your battery draining.
If you opt for the GPS module, you can download and install new firmware which includes a database of speed cameras, and you'll get audible warning when approaching one. This isn't documented, so it's not obvious how to get the warnings.
The bad news is that image quality is mediocre. Although the F200 records at 1080p, the bit-rate is quite low and details are lacking. This makes it tricky to make out registration plates even in daylight. And the 720p rear camera is markedly worse, so is good only for showing generally what happened in an incident.
If you can afford more, you'll get better quality from the F800 or from the DDPai X2 Pro.