The Best Car Camera for Every Budget
If you’re a rideshare driver, you need a dash cam. Not convinced? We wrote an entire post exploring the reasons dash cameras are critical for rideshare drivers. From protecting you from insurance fraud to recording actions of passenger wrongdoings, you have no excuse not to have a dashboard camera in 2018, especially with so many quality car cameras available on Amazon at a reasonable price.
In a previous post, we looked at our roundup of the best dash cams for Uber and Lyft drivers. That post focused on the features and use cases of different cameras. What it didn’t cover, however, was something of real concern to all rideshare drivers: costs.
As a rideshare driver, you’re already covering a lot of expenses out of your own pocket, from gas to insurance to vehicle maintenance. Adding an expensive video camera on top of those expenses can seem like a lot to ask, especially if you operate in a market where fares tend to be lower.
Therefore, we wanted to look at our previous dash cameras from the perspective of cost. This will help you ensure that you can still get a quality dash cam…without breaking the bank.
Essential Dash Cam Features: An Overview
Before we get into the specific cameras, we want to review the features you must have in a rideshare dash cam. As when shopping for any electronics, the number of features and specifications can be overwhelming. Just look at what happens when you search “dash cam” on Amazon:
You’ll find over 1,000 different cameras from a variety of manufacturers, all claiming that their camera is the best. Ignore the hype. These are the dash cam features you must have:
1. Dual Camera
Many of the dash cams on the market only record what’s happening on the road. That’s fine if you’re just driving yourself and want evidence that you weren’t at fault for a fender bender or other traffic accident.
But as a rideshare driver, you’re not just driving yourself; you’re also transporting passengers. And, we’re sad to say, sometimes it’s the passengers you need to record. Maybe a passenger threatens you, or even distracts you to the point that you become involved in an accident. In cases like this, having a recording of what’s going on inside the car is just as important as outside.
Look for dash cams with a “rear view camera” or “rear camera” to make sure the inside of the vehicle is also recorded.
2. Loop Recording
While it would be ideal to have every second of video your camera records backed up to the cloud in real time, this is too expensive to be practical for most rideshare drivers. Besides, you (hopefully) will need dash cam footage only in a few rare instances where you’ve obviously had an accident or other issue.
Therefore, we recommend choosing a camera with a loop recording feature. This means that the footage is stored temporarily on the camera, automatically overwriting itself every few hours if you don’t choose to save it.
3. Built-In GPS
You might think that GPS capability in a camera is unnecessary — after all, your phone is tracking your location in real time already, right? This is true, but what the GPS in your phone likely isn’t saving is your speed. This is where having a GPS-enabled security camera can come in handy.
If you’re involved in an accident where the speed you were driving could mean the difference between a reckless driving charge and a minor citation, having a record of your speed at the time of the accident is key.
4. Night Vision
If you’re like many Uber and Lyft drivers, you’ll choose to operate at night. This is more convenient for many drivers who have a full-time job during the day. It can also increase your chances of getting higher fares, especially if you know where to be when the bars and clubs close.
Driving at night, however, means that many car video recorders will be all but useless, especially when recording what happens inside your car. To ensure that the video of what’s happening in your car is visible at all hours of the day, we suggest getting a camera that can record infrared video. Note that some cameras will have the necessary infrared lights built in, while others will require you to install a couple inexpensive infrared lights to operate correctly.
5. Wide Angle Lens
When recording what goes on in and outside the car, you need to make sure your camera has a wide enough lens to capture all events. After all, a dash cam isn’t much use if it only shows a narrow view of you driving but can’t see a passenger sitting to the side in your back seat. Most dash cams come with this feature, but it’s still worth paying attention to — the last thing you want is to review the footage only to find that the crucial evidence isn’t visible.
6. Sufficient Video Quality
There’s something of an arms race these days among different video camera makers to offer cameras with higher and higher picture quality. You’ll see dash cams that brag about how they offer “1080p full HD” or even “super HD” image quality.
While these terms sound impressive, you need to remember what a dash cam is for: capturing what happened in sufficient detail to use in court or other arbitration. It’s not for making the next Oscar-winning film or hit viral video.
In most cases, you’re just going to delete the footage and never look at it. All you need to cover yourself is a 1080p car camera, which is pretty much the standard these days. Anything more is overkill.
7. Suction Mount
The best video quality in the world is useless if your dash cam falls to the car floor every time you brake. We therefore recommend getting a dash cam with a sturdy suction cup mount. This will allow you to place it on your windshield for maximum video visibility — without obstructing your view of the road.
8. USB Charger
You don’t want to go spend good money on a dash cam only to have it die halfway through your night of driving. To keep this from happening, get a dash cam that you can charge with a standard USB cable (and definitely don’t get one that you have to plug into a wall outlet). This is a standard feature for most cameras these days, but be sure to read the fine print!
The Top 5 Dash Cams Ranked by Price
With the information above, you’ll be well-equipped to shop for a dash cam on your own. But we don’t want you to have to spend hours combing through all the listings on Amazon. Here are our top five dash cam picks, sorted by the budget that’s right for you. For a full review of each of these cameras, check out our Best Dash Cam for Uber and Lyft Drivers guide.
1. Affordable Without Compromising Quality: Pruveeo C2 Dash Cam
Coming in at most affordable, we have the Pruveeo C2. We know that $140 still isn’t cheap, but that’s exactly the point: When you get cheap equipment, you pay for it later in other ways such as grainy picture or spotty audio.
The Pruveeo C2 strikes the right balance of affordability and quality, recording rear and front video in 1080p. The main drawback is its lack of GPS, as well as an SD card that is difficult to get in and out (and must be purchased separately for $19.99). Still, this camera is a good buy for the price.
2. Stepping It Up a Notch: Falcon Zero F360
Have a bit more cash to spend? Then the Falcon Zero F360 is the camera to consider. It can capture footage at night, is easily mounted on the rearview mirror (saving space on the dashboard), and is well-rated on Amazon.
However, this camera is not without its drawbacks. It has poor audio quality, which could be an issue if a passenger was making threatening comments. It also lacks GPS capability, and the camera can lose focus if it’s too bright outside. That being said, the camera will still offer you more protection than you’d have without one.
3. Another Strong Contender: Vantrue N2
Price: $170 ($192 with GPS capability)
The base price of the Vantrue N2 is the same as the Falcon Zero F360. However, for just an additional $22, you have the option to add GPS capability. This is money well-spent because it provides evidence in cases where the speed you were traveling during an accident can make all the difference.
It also comes with an automatic collision detector, which will automatically save any footage taken before and during a collision. This is a handy feature because depending on the severity of the collision, you may not be able manually lock the dashcam footage.
It’s not a perfect camera, however. The infrared picture quality is poor and requires additional infrared lights to be effective. Furthermore, the GPS capability requires you to attach a separate piece that takes up additional space (which could especially be a drawback if you’re operating a small vehicle with limited windshield space). Those minor cons aside, it’s a solid dash cam with adequate functionality for most situations.
4. Best Value for Your Money: Vantrue N2 Pro
Price: $222 (with GPS)
Want to really step it up? The Vantrue N2 Pro is the camera to get. In fact, as far as quality to price ratio, this camera is our top pick. The name and appearance are similar to the Vantrue N2, but the extra $52 in price makes a huge difference. To start, the night vision recording is highly visible, a huge step up from the previous cameras in terms of picture quality. It also records the footage from each camera into separate files, making them much easier to review later.
Really, the only drawbacks to this camera are the slightly higher price (though we believe it’s worth it) and the fact that you still have to get a separate GPS add-on. You’ll also need to buy your own memory card, though the good news is that the Vantrue N2 Pro supports microSD cards of up to 64GB. This equates to about four hours of recording time, more than enough to provide all the evidence you need in an accident.
5. If You’re Feeling Flush: BlackVue DR750S
Okay, so you’ve read this far, and you want the highest-end dash cam you can get — money is no object. If that’s the case, the BlackVue DR750S is the camera for you. Our favorite thing about this camera is that, unlike all the other previous ones we’ve discussed, it has GPS built right in. There’s no need to buy any add-ons. Along with GPS, it also has a WiFi connection, allowing you to download any footage to your phone (no cables required).
Furthermore, this camera is subtle. While a passenger can still see it if they’re looking for it, it doesn’t look like you have a security camera mounted on your dashboard. This can be especially important if you’re driving for a higher-end rideshare service such as UberBLACK. The appearance of your car is of the utmost importance in such cases, second only to the quality of service you provide. A bulky camera can harm the sophisticated, professional image so crucial to getting top reviews.
So are there any drawbacks to this camera? Unfortunately, yes. The major drawback is the lack of infrared capability on the rear camera. This is a serious drawback, one that we hope BlackVue will improve in future models. Still, this is the camera to go with if subtlety and utmost video quality are your top priorities, all with the convenience of built-in GPS.
Get the Right Dash Cam for Your Budget
If you’re serious about being a rideshare driver, having a dash cam isn’t optional. It’s the sort of tool that you hope you never need…but are relieved to have when you do need it. Also, remember that although you’ll have to spend some money on a dash cam up front, you can deduct the cost when you file your taxes.
Wishing you safe (and well-documented) driving!