If you’re thinking about buying a dashcam you’ve found the right video. Today on the hookup I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about buying a dashcam, show you sample video testing these 10 bestselling cameras, and help you find the right set of features to fit your needs and budget.
Let’s start with a quick crash course on dashcam features just so you know what’s out there:
When choosing your dashcam you can go with screen or no screen
For cameras you got front facing cameras only, front and rear, front and cabin, or front, cabin and rear.
You can choose GPS for tracking speed and location or no GPS.
WiFi, Cellular, or no app connectivity.
Lithium battery or super capacitor to provide enough energy to finish recording if the car turns off or loses power.
Suction mount or double sided tape,
And for parking mode the most common options are continuous low resolution recording, impact based recording, and motion based recording.
First of all if wondering whether you need a dashcam then the answer is probably yes, but the more important question is WHY do you need a dashcam? Because that answer will significantly change the style of camera that you should buy and ultimately the price point.
There are 4 general reasons to have a dash cam:
The most common is just having a record of what happened in your own car for security, insurance and possibly legal purposes. Whether you need to prove what actually happened during an accident, or maybe even a traffic stop, the most important features for this purpose are reliability, camera field of view, and quality audio recording.
Features like a cabin camera, GPS, and app connectivity are less important because if you’re the one driving you should already know where you were and what you were doing and you’re unlikely to need to access your footage unless there’s an incident, so pulling the SD card every once and a while isn’t a big deal.
For this use case I’d recommend a dashcam with front and rear cameras, a usable screen, and a super capacitor.
A popular saying is that 90% of at fault crashes will be covered by a front dashcam and 9% will be covered by the rear, so with a front and rear system you are theoretically 99% covered.
For me having a screen gives me the peace of mind to know exactly when and what is being recorded, and a super capacitor power source means your camera will tolerate extreme temperatures and will be less likely to fail then if it were using a lithium ion battery.
My top recommendation in this category is easily the viofo A129 Plus Duo which is $169 and gets you a sharp 1440p front facing camera and 1080p rear camera both with 140 degree field of view and excellent night performance, the A129 has a small but usable 2” screen, built in GPS, and a super capacitor power.
Other cameras I tested in this category were the Nextbase 622GW, Vantrue X4S, and AZDome M01 Pro and to me the VIOFO a129 plus duo has just the right mix of field of view, video clarity, low light performance and price.
If you’re in the market for a higher resolution camera the VIOFO does come in a 4K version, but you can expect the night performance to be slightly worse as the resolution increases. The $250 Vantrue X4S also ticks all the boxes and has a 4K resolution front facing video with 131 degree field of view. Because of the higher resolution and lower field of view, details are slightly more clear with the X4S than the A129, but in my opinion the A129’s significantly better night performance more that outweighs the slightly better daytime performance of the X4S. It’s also worth noting that the viofo includes GPS while the Vantrue X4S needs a $29 external GPS mount.
Both cameras support a number of different parking modes if your camera is hardwired or connected to a dashcam battery, but the viofo has a few more options, including one that is important for me, which limits the amount of time that the camera will stay in parking mode so it will record when you are parked at a store but won’t drain the battery all night when your car is parked in the garage. Obviously if you want your parking mode to run constantly then it can do that as well, but I found that feature really useful.
The other useful feature of the viofo is a constant beeps to alert you if it the dash cam isn’t recording, because as I mentioned, you probably won’t pay much attention to your dash cam until you need it, but when you do need it, it needs to work.
The second most common use case for a dash cam is for Uber, Lyft or other rideshare drivers who may want to have a record of exactly what happened both inside and outside their car.
In this case features like GPS and a cabin camera become more important, and a built in screen becomes less desirable because it makes the camera more conspicuous.
My top pick in this category is the $240 viofo T130 which has front, rear and cabin cameras where the front and cabin camera are located on the same unit and are very easy to both mount and aim. The T130 records the front camera in 1440p and the rear and cabin cameras in 1080p. The front camera has the same 140 degrees of field view as the A129 plus duo, while the cabin camera has a 165 degree fish eye lens that allows you to see the driver and passenger seats with the camera mounted on the windshield.
The other popular screenless camera that I tested in this category was the $279 Garmin Tandem which is significantly smaller than the T130 and has an impressive set of 2 180 degree cameras for the front and cabin view, and completely omits the rear camera. As I mentioned there is always a tradeoff between field of view and video quality at the same resolution, and you can see that the Garmin really struggles to capture any detail and is instead more useful in just showing an overview of an event. The Garmin tandem does have a decent app experience, and people often choose it for its small size but for the money I think the Viofo T130 is a significantly better in almost every way.
The third use case for dash cams is to encourage safe driving habits for someone other than yourself. This could be to monitor a teenager who just got their license or employee using a company vehicle. In this use case features like GPS to track speed and location, interior facing cameras to monitor both the driver and passengers, and app connectivity to be able to easily view footage are all important.
Similar to security cameras the main focus is to encourage good behavior rather than act on bad behavior, and typically just knowing that a camera is running is enough to cause drivers to make safer decisions because of this you may or may not want a screen since a screen lets the driver know exactly what is and isn’t being recorded, but also gives a more constant visual reminder.
That said blackvue is the clear pick for this use case because of their unique blackvue cloud. While it’s not uncommon for dash cams to have app connectivity they usually work by broadcasting their own wifi network which you directly connect to with your phone and then open up their respective apps. I found this method to be of questionable usefulness since it was almost always faster to just eject the SD card when I needed to access my footage, and it was especially annoying for me since if you use wireless apple carplay or android auto your phone will automatically disconnect from the dashcam to reconnect to your cars infotainment system.
The Blackvue cloud on the other hand works by connecting to your home or business’s wifi network. When blackvue cameras are hardwired or connected to a blackvue battery they connect to the internet and are accessible through the blackvue app. In the app you can view events, normal recordings, and even live view using the free version, and if you pay for the monthly subscription you can additionally see a GPS record of the car’s position throughout the day. If you want to go even further than that you can buy the blackvue LTE module to be able to get realtime video and event push notifications from blackvue cloud. The app is highly configurable as to what would constitute an event, but you can choose things like impact detection, overspeed, hard braking, hard acceleration and hard cornering.
I specifically tested the Blackvue DR900x which is available in packages with a rear camera or an interior camera with infrared night vision, but depending on your needs blackvue also makes a complete driver monitoring solution called the DX750 that can even record and notify on drowsy and distracted driving using AI video analysis.
The last use case for dashcams is for people who have a car or truck with limited visibility, spend a lot of time towing trailers or have older cars with no back up camera. For this use case rear view mirror dash cams are a simple, quick, and surprisingly affordable way to significantly increase rear visibility with the added bonus of front and rear recording. I regularly tow a boat and I don’t like that I can’t see what’s happening inside the boat with my rear view mirror or built in back up camera, but if I mount the rear camera high enough I can see potential issues that occur at highway speeds like cushions lifting, or unsecured items blowing around.
In this category my recommendation is the $89 volway 10” mirror camera. The video quality won’t compete with cameras like the Viofo a129, but still gives a good idea of what’s happening and the real value added is the crystal clear rear video and high quality 10” touch display. You can also turn the monitor off and use the mirror camera as a traditional mirror, but it’s not the same quality as a non-video screen mirror. Mirrored touch screens are unfortunately finger print magnets so it’s nice that the volway also includes locally processed voice controls that convenient and surprisingly fast, in fact it sometimes seems like the command gets processed before I finish what I’m saying…
and if you’re at all worried about privacy, you’ll be happy that the volway mirror dashcam has zero wifi or Bluetooth connectivity, so no chance of being hacked.
In this category I also tested the Rexing M3, Nexigo D90 and GKU G800, but I found that the Volway gave the best performance vs price. I also preferred the smaller mirror size since larger and heavier screens vibrated more while driving which I found distracting.
My second pick in this category is the GKU 800 since unlike the other 3 options the GKU doesn’t have the camera built into the mirror, which allows it to fit exactly over your car’s existing mirror and gives a little more flexibility in camera mounting location. The GKU 800 also has the best designed rear camera that allows the camera to be mounted directly to the glass, unlike the others that need to be mounted to your car’s trim with double sided tape which I found to be unreliable at best, especially in the Florida sun. If the GKU 800 added voice commands and some better cable management options it would be my top pick.
So those are my recommendations and justifications, if you want to see more sample video from a specific dashcam then check the description for links to unlisted videos from each camera. If you’ve seen enough and this was helpful for you to decide on a dashcam I’d appreciate if you use the links in the description since as an amazon affiliate I earn a small commission at no cost to you.
But this video is far from over, so next, next let’s talk about dashcam accessories.
As I mentioned, arguably the most important aspect of a dashcam is reliability because when you need access footage from it, it better be there. The best thing you can do to ensure reliability is buy a high endurance SD card, and in my experience sandisk makes the best ones, though I’ve also heard good things about the Samsung pro endurance line. Dashcam file size is varies significantly, but for high quality footage you should expect around 200 megabytes per minute of footage for the front camera and 100 megabytes per minute for rear and interior cameras. That means that a 64 gigabyte SD card will hold roughly 3 and a half hours of 2 channel recording or 2 and a half hours of 3 channel.
Basically every dashcam supports loop recording, which means that you don’t really need to worry about monitoring the space on your SD card, it will just delete the oldest files first once it fills up. However, if you are driving a few hours a day that means that you’ll be cycling your SD card 300 or more times per year which will quickly kill a non high endurance card, and again with dashcams reliability is everything.
The size of the card isn’t particularly important since you can also protect files from being deleted by manually pressing the protect or save button on the dashcam, or on some cameras you can set it automatically protect events like hard braking, hard acceleration, or impact sensing, and those protected files won’t be automatically overwritten by the loop recording, but keep in mind that if you are protecting a lot of clips your free space for loop recording goes down.
The second most important accessory and decision is deciding how you are going to power your dashcam. Most dashcams come with an accessory plug adapter which in most cars will power on and off with the car’s ignition. If you want to use your camera’s parking mode then you’ll need to supply power even when the car is off, and there are two ways to accomplish that: The first and most common is to hardwire your camera into your car’s fuse panel. Some cameras come with the hardwire kit while for others it’s an optional accessory and usually those kits come with a set of fuse splitters and a little box that detects when your car’s battery is getting too low and will cut off power to the dashcam. The process of hardwiring isn’t particularly difficult, but it will be slightly different for each car and I understand it could be overwhelming for some people, and others just don’t want to mess with the electronics in their car.
For those people a second option exists option exists to buy a dashcam battery. These batteries work by recharging themselves with your car's accessory outlet when you are driving and then they provide power to your dashcam when the car is off. Normally you can fit these batteries into your glove compartment and make the wiring look nice enough with just the included pry bar without needing to remove any of your car’s interior trim pieces. The other nice part about using a dashcam battery is you don’t need to worry about running your car’s battery down or messing with the fuse panel, BUT the drawback is that they only work if you drive at least an hour a day, otherwise you won’t have enough recharge time to top off the battery.
Features like the Viofo A129’s automatic parking mode shutoff are useful for extending battery life, but there’s still a minimum amount of time per day you’ll need to drive to keep the battery charged.
The last accessory is a very inexpensive way to provide a significant improvement in video quality: The circular polarizing filter. An unavoidable downside of recording through your windshield glass is interior reflections of your dashboard like you can see in this footage from the Viofo A129. Installing a circular polarizing filter can reduce or eliminate these reflections, just place it over the camera lens check the footage, and if needed rotate the polarizing lens until the reflections are gone. A polarizing filter can sometimes cause a sunburst effect in direct sunlight, but for me the overall increase in video quality is well worth it.
Links to all those accessories are down in the description.
Next lets talk legality. Depending on where you live there are some different laws that may or may not apply to your dashcam.
First, most states and countries recognize your right to record anything that happens in a public place with no expectation of privacy as long as the recordings are for personal use only. However, posting or sharing dashcam footage may be illegal based on your local laws.
Second, recording audio is generally covered by an older set of laws regulating wiretapping and eavesdropping, and there isn’t much case law about how it relates to dashcams. In the US the regulations vary by state, but require either one party or all party consent to recordings. Meaning an uber driver in Nebraska doesn’t need to notify passengers that their conversations are being recorded, but in an all party state like Florida passengers need to be aware of the microphone prior to recording. However these laws are a little muddy because they do allow the recording of conversations that happen in a public place where they may be reasonably overheard, but whether that applies to the back of an uber or taxi has yet to be defined.
The third and most confusing law you may be breaking is that some states and countries prohibit you from attaching any non transparent object to your windshield that could reduce driver visibility. This not only includes dashcams, but also GPS, phone holders, and window stickers for parking garages, security gates, and rideshare services. However, no one seems to pay attention to this law and in Florida we have a law that expressly prohibits attaching things to the windshield, however if you go to the florida sunpass website which is owned and operated by the florida department of transportation they specifically instruct you to attach your sunpass toll road transponder to your windshield in a location that would be against the law.
The point is that there may be laws pertaining to dashcams based on your specific location, but in my googling I couldn’t find a single record of a person being arrested or even ticketed for having a dashcam, while I found hundreds of news stories about people who were able to prove they were wrongfully ticketed or arrested by using the footage from their dashcams. But keep in mind that I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice, so you’ll ultimately need to decide what to do with that information.
If you have any other questions about these specific models or dashcams in general go ahead and leave a comment and I’ll do my best to get your question answered as fast as possible.
Thank you so much to my awesome patrons over at patreon for your continued support of my channel, and if you’re interested in supporting my channel please check out the links in the description. If you enjoyed this video please hit that thumbs up button and consider subscribing, and as always thanks for watching the hookup.