Once used primarily by long haul truckers, dash cams not only capture invaluable data to back up insurance claims for drivers like and me but can offer visual evidence to police in the aftermath of an emergency or collision.
Over the course of two months, I put six of the most popular dash cams on the market to the test to see how well they worked in various lighting conditions while driving over diverse terrain and, in extreme heat. After traveling nearly 1,200 miles, I can tell you the Garmin 67W(available at Amazon for $259.99) is the top dash cam available right now.
These are the best dash cams we tested ranked, in order:
Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2
Garmin Dash Cam 67W
With its beautiful design, excellent video quality, and wealth of features, the Garmin Dash Cam 67W is the dash cam that most people should consider investing in.
With the exception of Garmin’s Mini 2, the 67W is significantly smaller than any other dash cams featured in this guide. Its mounting arm uses an adhesive strip with a rotating ball and socket, allowing you to point the camera in virtually any direction. The 67W’s two-inch display makes for easy camera setup, even without the product's free smartphone companion app iOS / Android devices. Even if it’s not needed to set the 67W up, you’ll still want to download the app, as it provides access to a wide variety of the dash cam’s additional features.
With its crisp, color-accurate 1440p video and wide 180-degree field of view, the footage that the 67W produces should make you and your insurance company happy. During testing, I found it was easy to pick out small details in videos captured during the day, while the dash cam’s low-light footage was heads and shoulders above what the other products in this guide proved capable of providing. That said, when recording in low light conditions, the 67W’s image sensor can’t capture all of the finer detail than it does during the daytime. However, important visual information, such as license plate numbers, remained fully legible. You also should know that the price of the Garmin 67W’s wide180-degree field of view is a bit of distortion at the outer edges of the video it captures.
The 67W’s four-button user interface made navigating its menu options, as well as watching, deleting, or archiving recorded footage a breeze. In lieu of using the buttons, the dash cam can also be controlled via hands-free voice commands. During testing, I found that the 67W’s microphone was quite good at registering voice commands when I wanted to save a piece of video footage or snap a still photo, for example. However, I found it necessary to speak a bit louder for it to understand me if I was playing music in my Jeep or if my passengers were speaking with one another.
This model has a robust feature set: lane departure warnings, collision detection, and red light camera warnings will cause the 67W to emit an audible alert. It’ll even notify you when traffic begins moving again if you’re sitting at a red light. If you find all of the warnings and reminders that the 67W offers to be a bit much, it’s possible to turn them off. I also appreciated 67W’s incident detection functionality, which will save video along with GPS coordinates, thanks to the device’s built-in GPS capabilities, if an accident or other physical damage to your ride is detected. Finally, the product is capable of recording time-lapse video of your journey, making it possible to condense hours of driving into just a few minutes worth of footage.
Garmin also offers up a few features for when you’re not behind the wheel. Live View lets you check in on your vehicle remotely (This feature requires Wi-Fi connectivity and the purchase of a constant power cable for your camera), while Parking Guard will notify you if an incident occurs while your vehicle is unattended.
The Garmin 67W ships with a 16GB MicroSD card, which may be able to hold a day’s worth of footage, at best. We recommend that you consider investing in a high capacity SD card, like this one.
My name’s Mike Yawney. I have reviewed gadgets and electronics for more than 14 years on Canadian national television and, more recently, here for Reviewed. When I’m not in front of the camera, I can be heard on the radio, talking about tech trends, or seen online reviewing gadgets on my personal YouTube channel. My job sees me behind the wheel, a lot of the time, in a part of Canada where the weather conditions are diverse—and extreme. Having to drive in the worst weather nature has to offer puts me in a great position to test dash cams.
Séamus Bellamy is Reviewed's Senior Editor for product review roundups. He wrote the original version of this guide, back in 2019. He also designed the tests used to put each of the dash cams featured here through their paces.
In order to put each dash cam through its paces, I went driving through urban areas, highways, and off-road trails of southern Alberta, Canada. Some days, my adventures would start at sunrise. At other times. I'd hit the road in my Jeep in the dead of night. The variety of terrain I trucked over, in different lighting conditions, allowed me to see how well each of the cameras in this guide performed, in varying circumstances. In the end, I ended up clocking more than 1,200 miles of driving over a two-month period. During this time on the road, I tested each camera for the following:
How easy it was to mount and remove the camera from my windshield
Whether the cameras would remain attached to the windshield for the duration of the trip
Whether road vibration would shift the focus of the cameras away from the points that I had fixed them upon
The quality of video captured during the day and in low-light driving conditions
Whether the camera had a 'parking mode', to record security footage while our vehicle was not in motion
The visibility of the camera’s display, in all lighting conditions
How easy it is to review footage on the camera itself or, where applicable with a smartphone app or on a laptop
I also exposed all the cameras to some extreme heat, with daytime temperatures soaring past 107 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure they could handle the harsh conditions inside my vehicle when left unattended for hours on end.
Some of the cameras in my test group came packing useful extras such as proximity alerts to warn of an impending collision, a driver alert system that randomly beeps loudly to keep one from nodding off behind the wheel, or lane departure warnings. For the right drivers, these tools could be incredibly useful—but they have the potential to be huge distractions or cause unneeded stress, too. Where such features existed, I made sure that they could easily be turned off. Along these same lines, distracted driving has shown to be just as effective a killer as driving while intoxicated, I rated each product on how well it faded into the background. I awarded higher marks to devices with easy-to-use user interfaces; that needed to be physically adjusted less often. If I forgot that it was even there until it was time to review my video footage, I considered it a win.
Finally, after reviewing all five dash cams together, I did a second round of objective testing on my top performers, just to be sure that I hadn’t missed anything. For this second round of tests, the finalists were mounted in my Jeep and taken on a four-hour drive.
What You Should Know About Dash Cams
Terms You Should Know
There are a few terms in this guide that you might not be familiar with. We’ve provided a few explanations:
1440p: This refers to the video’s resolution. 1440p video has a 1440 pixel vertical resolution, which is double the vertical resolution of 720p, and one-third more than 1080p. OBD-II port: The On-Board Diagnostics II port is typically hidden beneath the steering wheel of vehicles typically after 1996. This port can be used to monitor the computerized systems in your vehicle or diagnose errors when the check engine light turns on. Constant Power Cable: A special cable designed to provide power to your dash cam even when your vehicle is turned off. Typically used if you want your dash cam to monitor your vehicle when it is parked overnight.
Why Own a Dash Cam?
The most obvious reason to invest in a dash cam is that it acts as an impartial witness to your travels. If you're involved in a car accident that wasn't your fault, having this kind of video footage that proves you weren't to blame could keep your insurance rates from rising, save you thousands of dollars in the event of a civil suit, or possibly even keep you out of jail.
Depending on the model of dash cam you buy, the hardware may be capable of monitoring your vehicle while it's parked, too. So, should someone back their mini-van into your car while you're in the grocery store picking up some milk, you'll have a record of what happened, waiting for you when you come out.
Finally, if you love creating videos of your travels to share online, a high-definition dash cam is a great way to record a road trip. Some, like the Garmin 65W, even come packing the ability to create time-lapse videos of your journey.
What About Rear-Facing Cameras?
It's possible to get your hands on dash cams that come with a secondary camera that peers in on you and your passengers, as well as ones that come in a kit with a second camera that's designed to be mounted in your vehicle's rear end. We may address these devices in their own guide at a later date. However, for simplicity's sake, we wanted to stick to forward-facing cameras for this guide.
A forward-facing dash cam can be installed in minutes, by just about anyone. That's not the case with camera systems designed to cover both the front and the rear end of a vehicle. Installing an aftermarket back-facing camera often requires a higher level of technical skill than many folks have, or may necessitate a trip to a specialist to have it installed correctly. We prefer not to recommend products that people can't pick up and start using on their own, right out of the box. What's more, chances are, a forward-facing camera will be all you need to cover your bases, from an insurance point of view.
While a forward-facing camera won't collect footage of a car slamming into you from behind, many dash cams now come with features like GPS logging and accelerometers. This makes it possible to record your vehicle’s speed of travel and, in many cases, register an impact. With the other evidence collected during a police or insurance investigation, if you weren’t to blame for an accident, the video your dash cam captured could be enough to get you off the hook.
Are Dash Cams Legal in Your State?
The short answer is yes: it is legal to own a dash cam in all 50 states. However, depending on where you live, owning a dash cam is one thing, actually installing it in your vehicle is another.
Only two states—Missouri and North Carolina—have no restrictions or any mentions of restrictions when it comes to windshield obstructions or dash cams.
A large number of states including Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming, and Ohio have strict rules when it comes to obstructed views through a windshield. Laws clearly state no signs, posters, or non-transparent objects that may obstruct a driver’s view can be placed on a windshield. Technically, a dash cam would fall under that law, even though they are not specifically mentioned. This means law enforcement officers could pull you over, and issue a ticket.
Meanwhile, 13 states including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and Wisconsin have restrictions that limit how much of a vehicle’s windshield can be obstructed. Most dash cams are small enough that they shouldn’t be a concern, however, some states make it quite clear that any mounted obstruction must be placed far away from the driver.
It’s also worth noting some states have laws regarding the recording of conversions within vehicles. All of the dash cams we tested are capable of recording audio, which can be problematic if occupants are not aware their conversation is being recorded.
If you are concerned about getting pulled over and possibly being issued a ticket, you could always use a beanbag-style mounting system that keeps the dash cam off your windshield, leaving it free from obstructions.
Can You Hardwire a Dash Cam?
Many mid-to-high-end dash cams come with features that continue to run once your vehicle has been shut down. Once their engines have been turned off, most vehicles disable the flow of electricity to their 12 Volt power ports to prevent the vehicle’s battery from being depleted. As such, in order to continue to power your dash cam, you’ll need to have a constant power supply cable installed in your car (provided one is available for the dash cam you own.)
While the majority of constant power supply cables will need to be hardwired into your vehicle’s electrical system, some dash cams can be paired with cables designed to plug into your car’s OBD-II port.
Other Dash Cams We Tested
Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2
The Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2 is about the size of a vehicle key fob, which makes it easy to tuck away behind your rear-view mirror, freeing up valuable real estate on your windshield.
Installing the Mini 2 is a simple affair: a small adhesive sticker allows the Dash Cam Mini 2 to cling to the windshield via a ball and socket mount. During testing, the camera remained firmly in place while traversing bumpy gravel backroads. The camera is powered by a micro USB cable which plugs into a 12V adaptor.
The Mini 2 captures video at 1080p with a 140-degree view, which is broad enough to easily see right across busy 4, even 6 lane roadways. Daylight footage appeared crisp, making it easy to see the writing on road signs and license plates. The camera’s nighttime footage was also surprisingly good. While reviewing the low-light video I’d captured, I found that I was able to read the small print on a restaurant’s drive-through menu. However, text on reflective surfaces, such as a highway sign, sometimes looked a little fuzzy.
Despite its size, the Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2 comes packing almost all of the features that the larger Garmin 67W does: including lane departure, collision, and red light camera warnings all produce an audible alarm. The camera also features Garmin’s Parking Guard and Live View functionality—provided the Mini 2 is connected to a constant power source and Wi-Fi. However, due to the Mini 2’s tiny dimensions, it doesn’t come equipped with a display. In order to view captured footage or change any of its settings, use Garmin’s companion app (iOS / Android.) It’s also possible to review the Mini 2’s footage by inserting its microSD card into a Windows or Apple computer.
In addition to using an SD card to store footage, the Mini 2, like the Garmin 67W, can use Garmin’s Vault cloud platform to store video files.
It’s important to note, due to its small size, the Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2 doesn’t have a display. While this isn’t a dealbreaker, you need to know there’s no way to review footage, or even change settings on the device without logging into the companion smartphone app or inserting the Micro SD card onto a computer. Additionally, you should know that this dash cam ships without a Micro SD card.
The Nextbase 522GW captures front-facing 1440p video recorded at 30 frames-per-minute, with a 140-degree field of view. As with other Nextbase cameras that we’ve tested in the past, the quality of daylight footage that we recorded was outstanding. As the 522GW is able to make use of SD cards up to 128GB in size, you’ll have plenty of space to store this high-quality video.
It’s also possible to sync footage with your smartphone using Nextbase’s free app, available for iPhones and Android handsets. Connectivity between your smartphone is achieved using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
During testing, I suffered a number of in-app hang-ups while trying to get the dash cam’s footage onto an iPhone. This irritation was compounded by the app’s user interface which, while greatly improved since the last time we played with the company’s software, can still be a bear to navigate.
Some users may be interested to know that the 522GW can also be controlled using Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant. However, this is not a feature that we tested. We were also impressed by the fact that it’s possible to accessorize this dash cam with a second camera for in-car recording and a backup camera.
The only major complaint we can level at the 522GW is that its 3-inch touch display isn’t as responsive as we’d have liked. During testing, input, on a number of occasions, was ignored by the device.
The Cobra SC200 is significantly heavier than any other model we tested for this guide, sporting almost the same heft as a point and shoot camera. As a result, I was expecting the video quality to be a bit higher than other models, and for the most part, it didn’t disappoint.
The SC200 magnetically attaches to its mount and, in turn, the mount attaches to your vehicle’s window with an adhesive pad. With only two pads to work with, you’ll want to do some careful planning before securing the SC200’s mount to your windshield. Once installed in my Jeep, I found the video and audio quality produced by this dash cam were both quite good. Footage captured during the Lots of detail during the day, making it easy to draw out details like license plates. Video files are also imprinted with useful information, including date, time, GPS coordinates, and the speed at which you were traveling when the video was recorded—that’s more than enough data to fill in the blanks for most insurance claims or police reports. It’s worth noting, however, that the SC200’s video isn’t able to capture as detailed video in lower lighting conditions.
The user interface is very user-friendly. Small on-screen icons appear over the four buttons which are on the underside of the unit, taking the guesswork out of what each one does. As with the Garmin cameras featured in this guide, the SC200 provides lane departure and potential collision warnings. However, I felt the need to turn them off. I feel like I am a fairly courteous driver, yet the SC200 thought I was tailgating everyone I was driving behind. I also got dozens of lane departure warnings, even when I was clearly in my own lane. Additionally, this dash cam has a few I didn’t see in the competition. An emergency button on the side will send a text message to a contact of your choice when pressed (through the smartphone app) to alert them of a potentially serious situation. Plus, this camera is built with expansion in mind. A small port allows you to connect either a secondary interior camera or rear camera into the mix.
I didn’t like that the SC200 only ships with an 8GB SD card. It’s nice that it allows you to use the camera, right out of the box, but you’ll likely want to spring for some high-capacity storage. And while the dash cam’s companion app provides some useful features, such as information about speed traps and red-light cameras, I found it difficult to maintain my smartphone’s connection to the dash cam.
With its simple setup and easy-to-navigate user interface, the Roav A1 focuses on being a user-friendly device. Even its suction cup mount is designed to be forgiving, allowing users to adjust not only the dash cam’s physical placement, but its horizontal and vertical orientation to make sure you have the best view of the road. Considering the number of other devices in this guide that stick to windshields with a get-it-right-the-first-time adhesive pad, I’d call this design decision a win.
Instead of hiding the navigational buttons on the side of the body, as most dash cams do, the A1’s are prominently on display on the front right next to its 2.7-inch display. The placement of the buttons lends itself to easy access, which helps to make navigating the dash cam’s menus easy. The camera’s interface was so intuitive, that I was able to figure out how to use all of its features without a glance at its manual.
Unfortunately, the Roam A1 stumbles in the area of video quality. Daytime footage taken during sunny days was largely crisp and full of detail. However, when the sun went behind a cloud, the A1’s footage appeared noticeably darker. The darkness of the footage was, naturally, amplified while recording video at night. After dark, the camera had difficulties adjusting to light sources and reflective surfaces, both of which appeared as being overexposed when I reviewed the A1’s footage.
I was also disappointed recorded footage lacked some of the user data seen in other dash cams. Each video has a date and time stamp but doesn’t display other info like travel speed, or GPS coordinates, both of which can be useful in the wake of a car accident.
Equipped with a USB-C port, the VanTrue T3 comes with a number of options for charging it. The dash cam can be plugged into your vehicle’s 12V adapter, an available USB-A port or, provided it’s within reach, your car’s OBD Port. Unfortunately, in the case of the vehicle we used during testing, the latter cable was not long enough to reach the OBD port, with the T3 placed behind our rear-view mirror.
We found the T3 to be a lightweight device. Unfortunately, its lack of heft comes at a cost of build quality. One could argue that durability doesn’t matter much for a device that’s designed to stick to a window and, generally, not be moved. It’d be a good point if it wasn’t for the fact the camera’s suction cup mount refused to stay attached to the windshield during testing. As such, the T3, constructed out of cheap, poorly sealed plastic, was sent clattering to the dash multiple times and in one instance, into the driver’s side footwell. The delicate electronics and plastic lens cover of this camera simply aren’t designed for this level of abuse.
Almost as frustrating, was the fact that the ball socket that connects the suction cup mount to the T3 camera can’t be tightened enough to keep the camera from moving around. After a few hours of driving, we were forced to reposition it.
With its solid build quality, responsive menu buttons placed down both sides of the camera, 1080p video, and a 170-degree field of view, we were hoping that the Chortau B-T19 Dash Cam might have placed higher in this guide. Unfortunately, when we set it up to test, it was unable to measure up to the other cameras we reviewed.
For starters, while its suction cup mounting system stays where it’s put on your windshield, the camera attached to it does not. This is due to a poorly designed ball and socket mounting system. During testing, the camera was repeatedly knocked out of position by road vibration.
And then there’s the footage. It’s not great. Video recorded during the daytime is washed out. Low-light video is grainy. While the Chortau might be adequate for proving to your insurance company that you were not responsible for a crash, it’s not up to the task of reliably capturing license plate information to tell insurers and police who was.
Séamus Bellamy is a senior editor on Reviewed's Electronics Team. When he's not busy ensuring his team's The Best Right Now roundups are up-to-date, he spends his time reviewing, smartwatches, tablets, fringe tech, and writing how-to guides.
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