Best Dash Cam: 2021 Buyers Guide
Dashcams have seen wider adoption in recent years, thanks to the advances in camera technology. We now have compact, yet feature-packed models capable of recording in high resolutions and capturing all the details in your surroundings.
Whether you want to record the stunning vistas for your social media feeds or have video evidence in case of an accident, dash cams come in handy.
However, picking the right camera for your car might be a challenging task due to the wide variety of models available to choose from. In this guide, we’ve narrowed it down to 6 of the best dash cams to help you find the perfect one for your needs, no matter what your budget is.[aawp table=”3365″]
The 6 Best Dash Cams Reviews in 2020
Each of the 6 best dash cams on this list made it here for a reason. Continue reading to explore the ins and outs of these best-selling dash cams.
1. Garmin Dash Cam 66W – Wide Field of View
There’s no doubt that Garmin is one of the prominent players in the dash cam space with a diverse line-up of different models to choose from. The latest 66W dash cam nails all the basics while delivering some extra features to make your life easier on the road.
What makes or breaks a dash cam for a car is its video footage quality, and Garmin 66W doesn’t disappoint on that front. It’s capable of recording in crisp 1440p, enabling you to spot the finest details like a speeding vehicle’s blurry plate number.
Once you start your car, the dash cam is powered up and starts recording in a continuous loop. It also helps that the camera comes with a wide-angle 180 degrees lens, expanding its field of vision to include even cross traffic. This way, you always have video evidence at your disposal in case of any incidents on the road.
Furthermore, the camera gives you more ways to control video and audio recordings. Voice control enables you to save a picture or video, start or stop audio recording, and finally, control Garmin’s Travelaps feature.
Travelapse is the perfect companion on long road trips, as this feature records a short time-lapse of your adventures on the road. Your trip’s highlights will pop even more as the Garmin 66W supports HDR or High Dynamic Range. You get impressive contrast, more details in low-light environments, and overall vibrant colors.
You can also make use of Garmin’s Drive app and connect up to four cameras simultaneously. The smartphone app syncs footage from front, back, and side cameras to create a 360 degrees view of your car. The video stream can be reviewed in real-time on your smartphone, giving you more ways to share the footage with local authorities or insurance companies.
Finally, I found the camera’s 2-inch built-in LCD screen more useful than I expected. The Garmin 66W gives you alerts when crossing lanes or being at risk of a forward collision. The visual notifications on the dash cam’s screen make a huge difference, as you get the necessary data without distracting you while driving.
Given Garmin’s expertise with tracking devices, it comes as no surprise that the 66W comes with a built-in GPS. This way, your video footage provides more accurate location stamps for future reference.
For me, the icing on top is Garmin 66W’s compact footprint. The camera doesn’t take up much space and sits subtly on your windshield. I also appreciate that it’s magnetically mounted –– I find magnets more reliable than suction cups.
- Records in 1440p with HDR support
- Compact footprint
- 360 degrees view through the app
- Can be used to record while your car is parked
- Alerts for red light and speed cameras locations
- Voice control isn’t responsive all the time
- Battery life of only 30 minutes when unplugged from the lighter socket
Hardware and software go hand in hand to make Garmin 66W a true champ when it comes to video capturing on the road. The 180-degree wide-angle lens, together with video auto sync from up to four cameras through the Garmin Drive app, create a 360 degrees coverage of your car.
2. Viofo A129 Pro Duo – Front and Rear Camera Package
You don’t want to leave anything to chance; that’s why investing in a multi-camera system for your car is the way to go to ensure you have eyes covering your vehicle from all angles. However, such a setup doesn’t come cheap. Luckily, Viofo A129 Pro Duo delivers a reasonably priced package with a front and rear camera modules to get you started.
The front cam comes with a viewing angle of 130 degrees, while its rear counterpart spans over a field of vision of 140 degrees. This ensures you have a broad enough view of the road without image bending or distortion.
When it comes to video quality, it gets a little bit tricky. Each camera can capture footage in 4k at 30fps (frames per second), delivering unmatched crispness and details. However, the cameras leave a lot to be desired in terms of video smoothness. The 30fps cap means you might get choppy videos, especially when slowed down.
The Viofo A129 Pro Duo’s selling point is the ability to record using the two cameras simultaneously. While this mode limits the image quality to 1080p full HD, you get smoother footage at 60fps.
In terms of design, the front camera is undoubtedly bulkier than other alternatives on the market. Yet, it eventually grew on me during my testing, and I forgot it exists on my windshield.
The two modules also require a wired connection for you to take advantage of the dual recording features. You’ll find yourself dealing with some trailing wires all over your car, which is inconvenient. However, with the proper interior wire stashing, you can get a clean setup.
Aside from the basics, the Viofo A129 Pro Duo comes with some clever tricks up its sleeves. The camera has a parking mode which records a short video sequence upon impact, in addition to an emergency recording mode that’s triggered by a collision and saves the video involving the accident to prevent it from being overwritten by loop recording.
Furthermore, the F1.8 7G lens is perfect for capturing clear and sharp videos in low-light situations. The camera can also stitch together satisfying time-lapse sequences of your long road trips to post on social media.
Just like the Garmin 66W, the Viofo A129 Pro Duo has a built-in GPS, used to record speed and route data, and add such information to your video record. The GPS also ensures your clock is always synchronized to different time zones for the most accurate timestamps on the video captured.
- Delivers exceptional value
- Comes with dual-band Wi-Fi connection for higher speeds
- Runs on supercapacitors for consistent performance in extreme temperatures
- The front camera unit is bulkier than expected
- Requires a lot of cable management inside your car
The Viofo A129 Pro Duo makes multi-camera car setups more accessible than ever. With plenty of recording options to choose from, you get high-quality video recordings in all lighting situations. Though the install process is relatively easy, there are many cables involved, which requires clever workarounds to conceal these long wires.
3. Garmin Dash Cam Mini – Stealthy Camera
On testing the Garmin Dash Cam Mini, I totally understood the appeal behind such a stealthy form factor. The camera is tiny! It’s as big as a car key, which makes it go unnoticed no matter where you place it on your windshield. I found the perfect spot behind the rear-view mirror to mount my camera and quickly forgot that I even have it on.
In terms of video fidelity, the 140-degree lens is capable of recording in full HD. The footage might not be as crisp as that of the Garmin 66W; however, the video quality is good enough for the average driver looking for an extra safety layer on the road.
Unlike its bigger brother, the 66W, the Garmin Mini doesn’t have a built-in battery. This means that it must always be plugged into the lighter socket for it to record. However, the battery life on the 66W isn’t that great, to begin with, and you have to keep it plugged in anyways, so you’re not missing on much here.
The screen is another notable omission on the Garmin Mini. Nevertheless, many drivers prefer a minimalist setup with no distractions, so the absence of a built-in screen might actually be a plus.
You can take your camera setup even one step further and go for a hardwired connection to capture footage when your car is parked. Whenever the Garmin Mini detects any collision, it starts recording and automatically saves the video recording.
You can then download any captured videos right onto your smartphone through the Garmin Drive app. Such seamlessness and ease of data transfer are made possible thanks to the Garmin Mini’s built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technologies.
You can still use the Garmin Drive app to sync footage from different cameras. The Mini’s tiny footprint and affordable price make it an enticing addition to your car camera network, especially if you’re already invested in other Garmin cameras for cars.
It’s also worth mentioning that the camera doesn’t come with any internal storage, and having a minimum of 8GB micro-SD card is a must to start recording. Make sure you transfer the important footage and free up your SD card to not run out of space.
I could easily look past all the Mini’s shortcomings so far, but this quickly changes when I learned that it doesn’t come with a built-in GPS, which renders the dash cam’s footage less ideal for legal use. This shouldn’t be much of an issue, though, if you have other cameras with GPS in your vehicle.
- Tiny design
- Collision detection with auto-recording
- Supports Garmin Drive app
- Fits perfectly in a multi-camera car setup
- Doesn’t come with a microSD card
- No built-in GPS
The Garmin Mini strikes the right balance between delivering a tiny form factor without compromising too much on performance. It truly shines when used as part of a multi-camera setup. The tiny form factor ensures you get less cluttering inside your car, especially if you already have other cameras lying around.
4. Nextbase 522GW – With Emergency SOS
Nextbase delivers an excellent dash cam at almost every price point, giving consumers plenty of options to choose from. I believe the 522GW model delivers the most value with its impressive image quality and tons of features.
The camera records in 1440p at 30fps, delivering high-quality footage to help you pick out the finest details in case of an incident on the road. You don’t need to worry about running out of storage, as you can keep all your videos shared to the cloud through MyNextbase cloud service.
Furthermore, the camera adjusts to different lighting situations throughout the day to ensure you always get the best footage. The lens is compatible with polarizing light filters to limit glares and annoying reflections. You also get a dedicated night mode, adding an extra layer of details and clarity to your nighttime footage.
I don’t usually rely on voice assistants, but driving is one of the few activities where voice control fits seamlessly. I wasn’t blown away by the Garmin 66W’s attempt to implement voice controls, as the overall experience felt limited, unresponsive, and clumsy at times.
Luckily, this isn’t the case with the Nextbase 522GW as the camera implements Amazon’s smart voice assistant Alexa. You can control music, make voice calls, and get directions. Though the dash cam’s video recording features can’t be triggered through Alexa right now, Nextbase promises that these features are coming down the line.
In case the unthinkable happens, it’s reassuring to know that your dash cam can save your life. The Nextbase 522GW automatically detects accidents and sends emergency SOS alerts to the local authorities with your car’s exact location. This is made possible through the camera array of sensors and built-in GPS to pinpoint your accurate location.
If all of this isn’t enough to sell you on the Nextbase 522GW, wait till you hear its killer feature. I was genuinely impressed by the potential of the camera’s modular design. You can easily plug in extra units to expand your field of view without worrying about cable management.
Additionally, you can choose to add a rear-facing camera for more spatial awareness while driving. Moreover, the cabin view module will be the perfect fit for parents who want to keep an eye on their kids. It’ll also be of great help to Uber and Lyft drivers.
Finally, the Nextbase 522GW brings a unique twist to the dash cam’s parking mode. Thanks to its ultra-sensitive G-force detector, the camera can detect if something bumps into your car when left unattended.
You might wonder how this is different from the other parking modes we’ve seen with some previous entries already. Unlike other cameras for cars, the Nextbase 522GW doesn’t require a hardwiring kit to make use of its parking capabilities as the built-in smart sensor gets the job done.
- Amazon Alexa support
- Dedicated night mode
- Modular camera design to easily expand your view
- A parking mode that doesn’t require hardwiring
- Doesn’t come with a microSD card
With its reasonable price, Alexa support, emergency SOS features, and 1440p video recording capabilities, the Nextbase 522GW offers consumers a well-rounded package. The modular design ensures that adding extra camera units down the line is as seamless as plugging a USB drive.
5. Apeman C450 Dash Cam – Budget Pick
If you look past the funny name, you’ll be surprised how much Apeman managed to pack in its dash cam at under $50. The camera nails the basics, providing you with reliable, HD video evidence in case of road accidents, and cuts any extra non-essential features to keep the price as accessible as possible to more people.
The fact that such a budget dash camera for a car comes with a 170 degrees lens, which is comparable to our wide-angle champion, the Garmin Dash Cam 66W, is truly impressive. This means you get even more footage in frame with fewer blind spots.
I also found the 3-inch screen extra helpful as a viewfinder for my camera, reviewing recorded footage, and navigating through the dash cam’s different menus.
Speaking of menus, the camera’s interface is far from intuitive. However, once you get past the initial setup, you won’t have to worry about it, as the camera automatically performs all its key functions without you interfering.
The Apeman C450 borrows a page from the Nextbase 522GW’s book and implements a G-force sensor for collision detection. This enables the dash cam to start recording all incidents that take place, whether you’re driving or parking your car.
Given its price, you can’t complain much about the camera’s 1080p full HD resolution. Though it won’t produce social media-worthy footage, it serves its primary purpose as proof that a particular incident wasn’t your fault.
What’s more, you wouldn’t expect the camera’s sensor to hold up when it comes to low light video recording. The Apeman C450 will manage to prove you wrong with its F1.8 wide aperture that lets more light in, plus its support for WDR and HDR technologies. Nighttime footage will pop with contrast and details, enabling you to spot nearby cars’ license plates clearly.
Finally, you don’t need to be a computer geek to set up the Apeman C450 properly. The installation process is hassle-free, giving first-time users less to worry about to get started. The camera goes on your windshield with a reliable suction cup that doesn’t seem to loosen up with time.
For background video and audio recording, you need a 32GB microSD card to store your footage. The camera doesn’t come with one out of the box, so make sure you invest in a fast memory to make the most of your dash cam.
- Collision detection with automatic recording
- Comes with a 170-degree ultra-wide-angle lens
- Doubles as a PC cam
- Doesn’t ship with an SD card
- No built-in GPS
Apeman C450 proves that quality products exist at all price ranges. If all you care about is having a trusty companion on the road to record video footage in case things go south, you get just that without having to pay for extra features that you won’t be using.
6. Thinkware F800 Pro – Impressive Night Mode
I’ll wrap up my list with yet another low profile dash cam that you can easily forget it exists once you mount it to your windscreen. The Thinkware F800 Pro records in full HD with exceptional results at night time. You get almost no noise in low light, which makes details easily discernible in your video footage.
Furthermore, Thinkware pulls off some nifty tricks by integrating its own cloud service and the camera’s GPS. You can receive real-time notifications once your vehicle leaves a geofenced area, or when the dash cam’s sensors detect any impact.
The camera can also record up to 48 hours of timelapse footage, ensuring you have eyes on your car all the time. This brings in an extra layer of safety and gives you peace of mind no matter where you’ve parked your car.
Nevertheless, you need a hardwired connection to your car’s battery to make use of the dash cam’s idle parking features. This might sound like a lot of work, but the payoff is totally worth it.
Drivers who want minimal distractions on the road will appreciate that the Thinkware F800 Pro doesn’t come with a built-in screen. You can still get all the functionality you need, like reviewing recorded footage and adjusting the camera’s settings through Thinkware’s smartphone app.
The camera’s WiFi network is robust enough most of the time; however, you might occasionally run into connection issues. Also, the mobile app feels outdated, some crashes here and there are common. It’s worth mentioning that none of these issues are deal-breakers by any means, but they still remain minor inconveniences that we hope get fixed with software updates.
Just like the Garmin Dash Cam 66W, the Thinkware makes use of its accelerometer to give you lane-departure and forward-collision alerts. Add this to traffic camera alerts, and you ensure your tickets are kept to an all-time low record.
- Minimalist design that fits right onto the windscreen
- Smart alert system
- Impressive night mode
- Integrated Thinkware cloud features
- Requires a hardwired connection for parking mode
- Occasional connectivity issues with Thinkware’s smartphone app
Powered by the cloud, the Thinkware F800 Pro provides you with real-time notifications in case anything happens to your vehicle when you’re not around. The excellent HD video quality, impressive night mode, and safety alerts make it more than just another generic dash cam.
Best Dash Cam Buying Guide & FAQs
By now, you’re well-acquainted with your dash cam selection. Next, let’s answer some of the frequently asked questions about dash cameras to ensure you have all the data you need to make an informed purchase decision.
What Are the Different Types of Dash Cams?
Dash cams can be categorized into front-facing or dual-camera setups that give you a front and rear camera view. The front camera simply sits on your windshield with the lens directed towards the road ahead of you.
On the other hand, you get plenty of options to choose from when it comes to rear-facing camera units. The rear-window dash cam is a whole separate unit mounted to the rear window and records footage of the road behind your car.
Moving on to the rear-view camera, it basically aims at serving the same task of its rear-window counterpart; however, this module needs to be plugged into the front
The first setup requires a means of synchronization between your car cameras in the form of wired or wireless connections. This isn’t the case if you choose to go with the second setup, as the two camera modules serve as one.
Finally, there’s a third cabin-view camera that captures the interior of your car. With the right angle adjustments, you can capture more of the car’s surroundings through the side windows and rear windscreen.
Though the average driver won’t necessarily need to add such cameras to their dash cam network, they still serve a great purpose for parents, taxi drivers, and on-demand car services’ drivers.
Can You Use a GoPro as a Dash Cam?
Yes! However, an adventure camera is far from ideal when used as a dash cam. A GoPro comes with relatively short battery life. You’ll need expensive extra batteries to get you through a long trip, adding extra cost and inconvenience to your setup.
Furthermore, there are no collision detection sensors on the GoPro. This means the camera can’t automatically record in case of an accident. You need to push the record button every single time, defying the main reason for getting car cams.
You should also consider that GoPro’s iconic design can’t go unnoticed. People know that this adventure camera isn’t cheap, and this notion might put your car on thieves’ radar. On the other hand, many dash cams go for a subtle, stealthy look.
Finally, dash cams are built to withstand extreme temperatures. They can do just fine after days in direct sunlight, unlike a GoPro. So, why go through the hassle when you can pick a less-expensive, dedicated dash cam instead?
What Features to Look for in a Dash Cam
There’s no doubt that easy installation is a huge plus when picking a dash cam. Not all car owners want to go through the process of hardwiring their newly purchased camera to their car’s battery to get started.
Most of the best dash cameras on the market record in full HD resolution, which is quite enough to get you all the details you need for legal purposes. Nevertheless, the resolution only tells one part of the story, as the camera’s video processing is key for overall great footage.
Keep an eye on how the camera fares in low light situations, and whether it comes with dedicated night mode and HDR support. Such extra additions can make your camera better usable in various weather conditions and throughout the whole day.
One of the key features that completely transform the dashcam experience is having a built-in GPS. Location data adds an extra layer of credibility to your footage when presenting video evidence in court.
Dashcam manufacturers don’t just stop at that. They always come up with an innovative app to push GPS functionality the extra mile. You can receive alerts once your vehicle leaves a preset geofence, or, by using data from cloud databases, get real-time alerts to the location of upcoming red light or speed cameras.
Dashcams like the Nextbase 522GW and the Apeman C450 come with dedicated G-force sensors. This means that such cameras don’t need hardwiring to your car’s battery to remain idle in the background and ready to record. They’re triggered by events like collision and ensure the captured footage is saved and isn’t overwritten by any newly recorded videos.
Dash cams with Wi-Fi features can communicate with other devices on your network, like smartphones or other cameras covering different viewing angles. Through Wi-Fi, you can also transfer saved footage from your camera and free up its storage.
Do Dash Cams Record Audio?
It goes without saying that the main reason why people install dash cams is for their video recording features. However, that’s not all! Such cameras are capable of recording audio inside the passenger compartment as well.
In order to avoid any legal ramifications, make sure that you’re part of any conversations recorded. Otherwise, it’s considered a breach of privacy, and you might face legal consequences for eavesdropping on passengers in your vehicle.
We hope our in-depth dash camera reviews have brought you closer than ever to pick the best dash cam that suits your needs. Whether you’re looking for a basic camera that gets the job done or one that comes with tons of bells and whistles to deliver extra functionality to your car setup, our list has it all.
Drivers looking for an affordable multi-camera system will get their money’s worth with the Viofo A129 Pro Duo. The front and rear camera package widens your spatial awareness while driving and ensures you have more footage at your disposal if you run into an accident on the road.
If you’re looking for a camera with an ultra-wide-angle view, you can pick between the Garmin Dash Cam 66W and the Apeman C450. The former is capable of recording in 1440p, comes with a GPS, and offers smart alerts, while the latter is only limited to 1080p full HD, doesn’t have a built-in GPS, but comes at a much affordable price.
Furthermore, the Garmin Mini and the Thinkware F800 Pro are our picks for non-intrusive dash cams design. Their compact footprint and lack of back screen ensure that the cameras don’t take up much space on your windshield and never distract you while driving.
Finally, the Nextbase 522GW brings emergency SOS services and Amazon’s voice assistant to the dash cam space. Its modular design opens up new ways to expand your car’s video coverage by adding extra camera units.
No matter which model you settle for, we’re sure you won’t miss your life before installing dash cams to your car. By knowing you always have video footage of your car on the road and in the parking lot, you get a sense of peace of mind.
Feel free to check our picks for the best dash cam by category:
- GPS dash cam combo
- Hidden dash cam
- Dash cam for hot weather
- Capacitor dash cam
- Dash cam with night vision
- Dash cam for truckers
- 4k dash cam
- Dash cam with parking mode
Or if You are interested in our special picks check out the:
- Best Uber dash cam
- Best cheap dash cam
- Best Lyft dash cam
- Best motorcycle dash cam
- Top mini dashboard cameras
- Best dash cam picked by Reddit users
- Best SD card for dash cam
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