We found the best dash cams, but in all honesty, we hope you never have to use them for their intended purpose: capturing footage to submit to the police in the event of a break in or car accident. A dash cam, like any home security tech, is designed to keep an eye on your property and act as a deterrent to would-be intruders.
The dash cam has been around for several years — and using them is actually mandatory in certain countries — but the best ones available today are a lot better than ones that were available even a few years ago. These cameras can capture HD (or better!) footage, and have a field of view that’s wide enough to capture several lanes of traffic at once.
Again, we hope you never need your dash cam, but highly recommend keeping one of the best dash cams in your car at all times as a precautionary measure.
— Best Overall: Rove R2 4K
— Best Budget: Ssontong Dash Cam
— Best Compact: Viofo A119 V3 Dash Cam
— Best With Multiple Cameras: Vantrue N4
How We Picked The Best Dash Cams
Our recommendations for dash cams are based on research. Below are the factors we considered most highly when deciding which dash cams to include in this buyer's guide.
Video Resolution: Grainy video won’t be very useful (or accurate), so we made sure all of our dash cam recommendations can record 1080p (or higher) resolution video. While video resolution isn’t the only metric you should look at when buying a dash cam, it’s very important.
Night Mode: Older dash cams struggled to record clear video in sub-par lighting conditions, but all of our recommendations are equipped with a “night mode,” which uses sensors that can handle dark scenes without any issues.
Field Of View: Think of the field of view as the camera equivalent of peripheral vision. The wider the field of view, the more lanes of traffic a dash cam can cover. Our recommendations can comfortably record action taking place across two to three lanes of traffic.
Number of Cameras: Some dash cams have a front-facing camera in addition to the outward facing one, so you can record what’s happening inside and outside of your vehicle. Having a dash cam with two cameras will allow you to submit even more evidence to the police proving what you were doing at the time the traffic incident occurred.
Display: Some dash cams have a screen built into them, which allows you to monitor what your dash cam is recording. This is helpful when installing the dash cam, as you’ll know that you’ve gotten its placement correct. In general, you should always keep your eyes on the road, not your dash cam’s screen.
GPS: Some of our dash cam recommendations have a built-in GPS, which allows them to automatically geotag the videos they record. This information can be helpful if you get into an accident in an unfamiliar area and the other driver takes off. It can also prove that you were in the location you said you were when filing a police report. The GPS will also record your current speed, another key factor in determining who was at fault during an accident.
Storage: Dash cams will store the video they record on a MicroSD card, which is typically sold separately. The dash cam will automatically overwrite the oldest footage on its memory card once it runs out of space. This is one of the few occasions when we highly recommend getting the largest-possible MicroSD card that’s compatible with your dash cam. We recommend getting this 256GB MicroSD card from SanDisk as it’s always been reliable in our experience.
App: Many of the dash cams we’re recommending are compatible with an app on your phone, which allows you to send footage from the camera to your phone’s camera roll. You can also get footage from your dash cam by inserting the MicroSD card into your computer (use this adapter if your machine doesn’t have one), but having important clips saved onto your phone is important, too.
Best Dash Cams: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Rove R2 4K
Why It Made The Cut: Rove’s R2-4K can record ultra high resolution video in all conditions, and comes with a whole host of extra accessories.
— Resolution: 4K
— Field of View: 150 degrees
— Display: Yes
— Ultra high resolution
— GPS mode
— High memory card capacity
— Doesn’t come with memory card
Rove’s R2-4K is easily the best single-camera dash cam we’ve found yet, and the ideal choice for most drivers. It can record 4K video, and uses a pair of sensors to enable its night mode. The dash cam is also equipped with a motion-detection sensor, which will turn the dash cam on if someone approaches your vehicle when it’s off.
If someone bumps into your car when you’re away, the R2-4K will record one minute of video, which will be enough time to get a good view of the other driver, or their license plate if they drive away. Rove says the camera will “lock” footage recorded after an accident, so it won’t get written over if your memory card is full.
Speaking of memory cards, the R2-4K is compatible with MicroSD cards with a capacity of up to 512GB. This is understandable because 4K video takes up a lot more space than HD video, but we’re still comfortable with the 256GB card we recommended earlier. Rove doesn’t include a MicroSD card with this dash cam, but does bundle it with a number of other helpful accessories.
The R2-4K comes with: two mounts (one suction, one adhesive), a dual-USB charger, five cable hiding clips, a wire trip tool, a 2.5-foot USB data cable, and a 12-foot USB charging cable. This is extremely generous considering the dash cam’s reasonable price, and ensures you’ll have everything you need to use it right out of the box (MicroSD card excepted).
We feel comfortable recommending the R2-4K to any driver, regardless of the make and model of your vehicle. Rove’s premium hardware is complemented by helpful accessories, so there isn’t much of a reason to look elsewhere unless you have very specific feature requirements.
Best Budget: Ssontong Dash Cam
Why It Made The Cut: Ssontong’s Dash Cam can hold its own against models that cost two to three times its price.
— Resolution: 1080p
— Field of View: 170 degrees
— Display: Yes
— Incredible field of view
— Memory card is included
— Okay resolution
— Won’t record when the car is off
Ssontong’s Dash Cam is on part with most of our other recommendations, but is available for as little as $31.49. That’s especially impressive because Ssontong includes a 32 GB MicroSD card with its dash cam.
Let’s get this dash cam’s biggest weakness out of the way: It can only record 1080p footage. This isn’t much of a limitation, but many dash cams have started recording video in 1440p or 4K, which puts Ssontong’s at a bit of a disadvantage. To be clear, this dash cam will still record excellent footage, we’re only dinging its maximum resolution when compared to our other recommendations.
With that out of the way, we’re very pleased with what this dash cam has to offer. It has the largest field of view of any dash cam in this guide, which will come in handy if you tend to drive on three- or four-lane highways. Ssontong’s camera will be able to record footage of a car crossing several lanes from beginning to end, which is very helpful if there’s a traffic accident.
If you’re involved in a car crash, this dash cam will “lock” any footage associated with the incident thanks to its G-sensor, which will recognize when your vehicle makes contact with another surface. In general, Ssontong’s dash cam will record video clips to its memory card every one, three, or five minutes depending on your preferences. There isn’t much of a difference between these settings, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re particular.
Our only other complaint about Ssontong’s dash cam is that its built-in battery is only used to maintain your settings. This dash cam will not record video when your car is turned off. Seeing a dash cam can still put burglars off (they don’t know it can’t record video, of course), but this is something to keep in mind.
In general, you won’t find a better value in the dash cam world than this one from Ssontong. It’s currently $36.49 for anyone shopping on Amazon, and $5 cheaper for Prime members. We’d go so far as to say this is the best tech accessory for your car in this price range.
Best Compact: Viofo A119 V3 Dash Cam
Why It Made The Cut: Viofo’s Dash Cam will keep a watchful eye on your vehicle whether you’re in it or away.
— Resolution: 1440p
— Field of View: 140 degrees
— Display: Yes
— High resolution camera
— Three parking monitor modes
— No suction mount
— Slightly limited field of view
— Parking modes require $15 cable
If you’re primarily interested in getting a subtle-looking dash cam to keep your car protected when you’re parked in a public space, Viofo’s A119 is the perfect one to get.
This dash cam can record video in 1440p, and has a Sony-developed image sensor to ensure it gets sharp video at night. Viofio touts the A119’s HDR (high dynamic range) mode, which allows it to evenly capture scenes with a lot of contrast. Practically speaking, this means a car’s brake lights won’t wash out its license plates when you’re driving at night.
We’re pleased with the A119 V3’s video resolution, but a little wary of its 140-degree field of view, which will be fine when you’re traveling on a two-lane road and three-lane highway, but not on larger roads. That is a weakness, but it’s a little more understandable when you learn about this dash cam’s three parking monitor modes.
The A119’s “Auto Event Detection” mode will save a 45-second clip whenever its motion sensors are triggered. The recording will include the 15 seconds preceding the “event” and 30 seconds afterward. If you enable its time-lapse mode, you’ll get a complete video recording of everything that’s happened since you’ve been away from your car in a truncated fashion. Finally, the dash cam will record slightly lower resolution video when it’s parked to avoid eating up all of your memory card’s storage. The hope is that nothing happens when your car is parked anyway.
All of the A119’s parking modes require an additional $15 cable that will hardwire it to your car, though, which is unfortunate. Viofo seems to understand that, and is offering a $15 coupon on the A119 to counteract the additional cost. If you don’t care about parking modes, you’ll end up saving a little bit of money. It’ll require a little DIY ingenuity, but Viofo’s A119 is still the dash cam we recommend most highly if you’re worried about people breaking into your car.
Best With Multiple Cameras: Vantrue N4
Why It Made The Cut: Vantrue’s N4 can keep an eye on the front, back, and interior of your vehicle.
— Resolution: 4K (indoor camera and rear cameras are 1080P)
— Field of View: Forward-facing camera: 150 degrees, indoor camera: 165 degrees, rear camera: 160 degrees.
— Display: Yes
— Three cameras
— 4K Video recording
— Parking modes
— No GPS
— Lower resolution when all cameras are used
— Parking modes require a hardwiring kit
Vantrue’s N4 isn’t just a dashcam, it’s a whole-car security system that more than justifies its higher price tag.
The kit comes with three cameras: a dashcam with front and rear-facing lenses, and a third that can be mounted onto the back of your vehicle. Vantrue includes a 20-foot cable to connect the rear dash cam to your power adapter, but setting it up does require you to string a cable through your entire car. This is a hassle, but you’ll end up with cameras that can record video of events that happen in front and behind your car, which can be very helpful if you get rear-ended.
The Vantrue N4 has parking modes that can continuously record events that happen around your car when it's parked, but you’ll need to get an optional $19 adapter to enable those features. The company is currently offering a $20 coupon on its dash cams, though, so you can technically get the parking features for free (unless you want to hardware both the front and rear cameras).
If you opt to hardwire these dash cams to your car, you’ll get the benefits of 24/7 collision detection, motion detection, and constant low-bitrate recording. If you keep your car on the streets of a city, it’s worth paying a little extra to enable these features, even if we feel that Vantrue should bundle them together for a slightly lower price. That’s especially true because the company requires you to buy an additional $22 accessory if you want the cameras to record your current location and speed with a GPS.
On the video recording side, we’re generally happy with how Vantrue’s cameras fare. The forward facing camera can record video in 4K, while the rear-facing camera tops out at 1080p. If you have all three cameras running at once, the forward-facing camera will lower its resolution to 1440p (still better than HD), while the rear camera records 1080p video.
Frankly, we’re impressed that this dash cam is able to handle recording three streams of simultaneous video. We highly recommend getting a 256 GB MicroSD card, though, because those three streams of video will eat up space fast. All of the cameras support a night mode, including the indoor camera, which uses infrared lights to keep an eye on you without causing a distraction.
Is a three-camera dash cam overkill? That’s up to you, but Vantrue’s N4 is capable of monitoring a greater area than any of our other dash cam recommendations. It’s worthwhile if you want the peace of mind of knowing you’ll have as much evidence as possible regardless of where your car is hit.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Dash Cam
Positioning: Dash cams typically come with a stand that has a suction cup on it. You can install the camera on your car’s dashboard (as the name implies), or its windshield. In any case, make sure the camera is as close to the center of your car as possible to have the best chance of covering the greatest area. Some cameras also come with an adhesive mount, which you can use if you’re absolutely sure about where to stick the camera.
Cable Management: A dash cam will need to draw power through your car’s DC output (cigarette lighter), while you drive. Some have a backup battery for when your car is turned off, but it’ll need to be connected while you’re driving.
It’s important to make sure the cable coming from your dash cam to the DC output cannot be wrapped around your gear shift, or in a place that’ll distract you while you drive. You can hold the cable in place using these inexpensive wire organizers. If your dash cam doesn’t come with a car charger, this charger from Anker has always done the trick for us.
Q: Will my dash cam come with a charging cable?
Yes. All of our dash cam recommendations come with a charging cable.
Q: How do I responsibly dispose of my dash cam?
If you're replacing an older dash cam with one of our recommendations, we recommend reading our guide on how to responsibly dispose of e-waste.
Q: Can my dash cam record audio?
Yes. Most dash cams will have this feature set to off by default for the sake of privacy, but you can enable it to have it record both video and audio.
Q: Will my dash cam footage be accessible on a PC, Mac, iPhone, and Android device?
Yes. We’ve made sure to choose dash cams that are compatible with every widely-used operating system. You will not need an app to view or copy the videos recorded by your dash cam if the MicroSD card is inserted into a computer.
Q: Can I move the position of my dash cam?
Yes. If your dash cam falls off, or you realize it wasn’t perfectly centered, you can move it. This is far easier if you’re using a suction cup mount, as you can just pop it off and pop it back onto a different part of your car. If you’re using an adhesive dash cam mount, you may have to get another adhesive pad (or velcro pads) to move it.
Q: Do I need WiFi for the dash cam?
No. An active WiFi connection is not required to use a dash cam.
Q: Is a 4k dash cam worth it?
Yes. If your budget allows, a 4K webcam will record higher-quality video than an HD model, which can be helpful if you need to submit footage to the police.
Final Thoughts on the Best Dash Cams
Having a dash cam in your car is very important, but we really hope you don’t have to use it — unless you have a two-camera model and want to capture some homemade Carpool Karaoke. Using one can help give you a little piece of mind while driving, knowing that you’ll have a definitive recording of what happened in the event of a fender bender.
If you’re part of a hit-and-run, you’ll have video evidence of the other car’s license plate, which will make tracking down the other driver substantially easier. At the very least, people may think twice about peering into your car, which is very helpful if you need to leave it parked on the street overnight, or an airport parking lot for several days.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.