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.
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.
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.
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.
Also, most manufacturers don't recommend leaving the camera turned on when parked as it can drain the battery. Plus, many cars cut power to the accessory socket when you turn off the ignition, so you may need to get the camera hard-wired by a professional to use this feature.
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.
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.