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The Best Dash Cams

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Britain’s roads can be a dangerous place, but keeping a good dash cam handy could well save you some stress.

Britain's roads can be a dangerous place and, with the ever-increasing cost of car insurance, video evidence of any scrapes and shunts can help put your mind and wallet at ease. In 2018, we saw the dash cam market go from strength to strength – after all, shelling out around £100 or so on a dash cam is infinitely preferable to paying thousands of pounds for an accident that wasn't your fault.

Certain countries – Russia, for one – have seen millions of drivers adopt dash cams in an attempt to stem the rise of crash-for-cash schemes and hit-and-run scammers. With a notable upwards trend in similar scams hitting the UK, it pays to be prepared.

The best dash cams you can buy

1. Garmin Dash Cam Mini

Are you looking for a dash cam that does its job with the minimum of fuss? The Garmin Dash Cam Mini is the one. This tiny dash cam only has a single button and doesn’t even have a screen, but is designed to work with your smartphone using Bluetooth to connect and Wi-Fi to sync and transfer video. Install the Garmin Drive app on your smartphone and you can get a live feed straight from the camera, and can change settings and manage the SD card. You can even connect multiple cameras if you want a Dash Cam Mini front and rear. They’re incredibly light and easy to fit, with the small clip-on ball and socket mount sticking to your window using a coin-sized adhesive pad.

The only time you’ll need to touch the camera is if you want to press the button to manually save a clip. The accelerometer should do so automatically if any sudden stop or incident occurs. Just be aware that there’s no onboard GPS, and so no location data is embedded with your videos.

The Dash Cam Mini’s strength is that there’s nothing to distract you – you just connect it and let it do its work. And while it’s sometimes hard to trust that it’s busy recording, the LED indicators light up or flash green, red or yellow to let you know what state it’s in or if something has gone wrong. As for the footage, it’s nice, bright and crisp for daytime driving, and only a little fuzzier with minor blocky artefacts at night. If you’re happy working through your smartphone, this is one of the best dash cams you can buy in this price bracket.

Key specs – Max video recording resolution: 1080p, 30fps; Field of view: 140°; Extra features: Accelerometer, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

2. Nextbase 322GW

Nextbase’s entry-level dash cam isn’t short on features. Unlike other budget dash cams, it has built-in GPS, along with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, auto-sync to share videos to Nextbase’s smartphone app and an Emergency SOS feature. If the dash cam registers an incident and the driver is unresponsive, the app puts your phone into a beacon mode and alerts the emergency services. This does require a subscription to be paid after the first twelve months.

The design is in step with Nextbase’s higher-end satnavs. It uses the same ingenious magnetic front connector, where the cables hook into the windscreen mount and the dash cam clicks on and off. The menus are clear and easy to navigate, and you can protect important footage at the click of a button. What’s more, the 322GW is compatible with Nextbase’s range of add-ons, including the rear-view camera and cabin-view camera, either of which can click into position on the side. Most importantly, the captured video is good and clear. It might lack the definition of the more expensive Garmin and Nextbase cameras, but it’s fine for the job in hand, with a smoother 60fps update than you’ll find on many cheaper dash cams and much better performance after dark. If your main concern is protecting your no-claims bonus, why pay more?

Key specs – Max video recording resolution: 1080p, 60fps; Field of view: 140°; Display: 2.5in; Extra features: GPS, G-Sensor, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

3. Viofo A129 Pro Duo 4K

The Viofo A129 Pro isn’t the easiest dash cam to fit or use. All the connectivity is on the right-hand side, which isn’t ideal if you prefer your dash cam on the left in a right-hand drive car, and there’s a whole lot of chunky cable to route around the cockpit, particularly if you splash out on the Duo cam version with its additional rear-view camera.

Why bother? First, because it has some impressive features, including an effective parking mode, a good time-lapse feature and real-time previews and downloads over Wi-Fi to a companion smartphone app.

Second, the video quality is nothing short of excellent, thanks to a high-end 8-megapixel Sony sensor that can record in 4K at 30fps. You get fantastic picture quality in daylight and it’s still great in bad weather or the dark. There’s an argument that this is overkill for normal insurance purposes – you’re getting a record of the situation, not a holiday video – and that the file sizes won’t be worth your while.

However, if you want the best image quality on the market, the A129 Pro is the dash cam for your car.

Key specs – Max video recording resolution: 2160p, 30fps; Field of view: 130°; Display: 2in; Extra features: GPS, G sensor, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi

4. Zenfox T3 3CH

The Zenfox T3 goes one better than the dual dash-cam combos by bundling a dual-view windscreen and interior camera with a secondary camera to fit on the rear windscreen, giving you all the coverage you might need both inside and outside the vehicle.

The front camera records at 1440p at 30fps, while the rear camera shoots at 1080p and 30fps. Meanwhile, the interior camera shoots in black and white at 1080p using infrared sensors, so it will even capture footage while it’s dark. This is a must for commercial, minicab and Uber drivers, but it’s handy if you do a lot of driving at night and need to prove that you weren’t distracted or asleep at the wheel.

Video quality is extremely good, particularly through the front windscreen camera, and the Zenfox avoids a lot of the mistakes we’ve seen with other dash cams from smaller brands.

True, there’s a lot of cabling to work into your car’s interior and the main module is fairly huge, but at least the screen and controls are sensibly positioned and all the connections are on the left-hand side. What’s more, the two modules are easy to mount and adjust, with the front camera tilting in a wide range of angles to make sure you capture the best view.

You’ll need a 128GB or 256GB SSD card to record more than a couple of hours of footage, but you can view it easily and change any settings by connecting over Wi-Fi to Zenfox’s smartphone app. Throw in a parking mode and built-in GPS, and this bundle covers all your dash cam needs.

Key specs – Max video recording resolution: 1440p, 30fps; Field of view: 160° (front), 140° (interior and rear); Display: 2in LCD; Extra features: GPS, G sensor, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi

How to choose the best dash cam for you

How much should I spend?

Dash cams vary hugely in price, with budget models starting around £30 and working right up to GPS navigation devices with built-in cameras that can cost as much as £200. Cheaper models often do away with luxuries such as a screen for previewing footage, but while this makes setup a little more straightforward, it’s by no means essential. Pay more and you can expect higher-quality video and frame rates.

However, if you’re after something a little fancier to film track days or scenic drives, then a dash cam is unlikely to cut the mustard – in that instance, it’s worth considering a pricier dedicated action camera, such as a GoPro, which will provide vastly improved image quality.

Is a dual-camera dash cam worth it?

Some pricier models offer a dual-camera setup. These can be a little bulkier than single-camera models but will allow you to record both the front and rear view at the same time – meaning you’ll be better covered in the event of a collision. For a better view of what’s happening in front of and behind you, however, some models use two separate cameras mounted in the front and rear of the car. Alternatively, of course, you can just buy two (or more) cheaper dash cams and mount them wherever you want.

Do I need a memory card?

Most dash cams will need a microSD card to store footage on – some come with one but it might be on the small side. Generally, we wouldn’t recommend buying one smaller than 32GB or you could end up running out of space. These cards aren’t expensive: you can get a 32GB card for little more than a tenner and, at 720p resolution this should store around seven hours of footage. However, if you’re looking at a dash cam that records video in 1080p, HD and higher bit rates, it’s well worth investing in a 64GB or 128GB card – otherwise, the card will fill up more quickly and record over old footage.

How to fit a dash cam

Much like a satnav, most dash cams have suction mounts that allow the device to be securely fixed onto the vehicle’s windows. Smaller models make it easy to attach a dash cam just behind the rear-view mirror, but it’s advisable to position any dash cam near the top of the windscreen rather than the bottom, if possible, as this will allow the cam to get a great, high-level view of the road.

This means that trailing cables obscuring your vision can be a potential hazard, although you’ll want to look into buying sticky pads (or gaffer tape, if you’re less fussy about looks) for routing the cables where they don’t obstruct your view. If you have a particularly large vehicle or are looking to install a rear-facing dash cam, it’s worth checking how long the supplied power and extension cables are, as you may need to get a little creative with cable routing.

How to power a dash cam

Dash cams have built-in batteries that will only last a few hours on a full charge, so unless you’re only driving up the road, it will need constant power from a USB port or 12V accessory socket. If you don’t want to lose your cigarette lighter, hard-wiring is also an option. These tend to draw power from the fuse box, meaning the camera will power up at ignition. If this all sounds like too much hassle, it’s worth looking to see if any retailers in your area will install a dash cam for a fee.

Can I take my dash cam on holiday and use it in a hire car?

The answer is normally yes – countries that prohibit the use of dash cams due to privacy and data-protection issues, such as Austria, are in the minority – but the laws do vary widely as you cross borders. While you'll get a hefty fine in Austria just for having one installed, there are countries that place less stringent limitations upon their use.

For instance, you can use one in Germany, but the footage can't be posted to YouTube or other social sharing services – you can only provide it as evidence to a German court. In Luxembourg, meanwhile, it's not illegal to own one, but recording any footage using one could land you with a fine or potentially a jail term. If you're not sure, it pays to check online before packing one in your suitcase.

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