Reviews | The Drive

Best Dash Cams: Record the World Around You

For when you want to take “keeping your eyes on the road” to a whole new level.

With decades of combined experience covering the latest news, reviewing the greatest gear, and advising you on your next car purchase, The Drive is the leading authority on all things automotive.

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BYHank O'Hop/ LAST UPDATED ON August 3, 2022

Have you ever noticed how your story of something amazing is different from your buddy's? Both of you were there, both of your eyes saw it, but the takes don’t quite line up.


An accident is no different, and nobody wants to admit they were in the wrong if they can't recall what took place accurately, especially when the person at fault will be faced with a hefty bill. A good way to accurately relay what happened in an accident to authorities and insurance companies is a dash cam. So long as you pick the right model and set it up properly, it can save you thousands of dollars, and that's exactly what we're here to offer some advice on.

Best Overall

Thinkware Q800PRO Car Dash Cam

Summary
This unit is a heavy hitter in terms of recording quality and the number of useful features. The 2K resolution and 140-degree lens angle offer crisp, comprehensive coverage, and the app helps it to double as a tracking device.
Pros
  • Captures video in high-quality resolution
  • Wide lens angle
  • Can be managed from a matching app
  • Can serve as a vehicle tracking device
Cons
  • Relatively high price point
  • Can be difficult to operate
  • No installation or setup instructions included
Best Value

iiwey Three-Channel 1080P Dash Cam

Summary
Sometimes, you need to compromise to save money. This affordable package gives you three recording channels, making it one of the best ways to protect your ride on a budget.
Pros
  • Three recording channels for max coverage
  • Affordable price point
  • Swiveling base simplifies set up
Cons
  • Poor battery life
  • 12-volt charging cable may have issues with the fit
Honorable Mention

Nexar Beam Full HD 1080p Dash Cam

Summary
Quality doesn't drive its price through the roof here. This model offers respectable performance in a package that's easy to install and get up and running in no time.
Pros
  • Competitive pricing
  • Easy to set up and install
  • App makes video file management simple
Cons
  • Power wires are clumsy and unsightly
  • Lack of screen makes it difficult to find the right angle
Best Dash Cams: Record the World Around You

Summary List

Best Dash Cam Overall: Thinkware Q800PRO Car Dash Cam

Best Dual Dash Cam: Kingslim D4 4K Dual Dash Cam

Best Dash Cam for Rideshare Drivers: Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual 1080P 

Best Dash Cam for Truckers: BlackVue DR900X-2CH Dash Cam

Best Mini Dash Cam: Garmin Dash Cam 56 

Best Dash Cam Under $100: Kingslim D5 4K Dash Cam

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Our Methodology

We're fortunate enough to have gotten our hands on a few dash cams for testing this time around. The Thinkware Q800PRO Car Dash Cam, Nexar Beam Full HD 1080p Dash Cam, and Garmin Dash Cam 56 were all purchased by The Drive and put to use by members of the team. Still, three isn't enough to take a comprehensive look at what's on the market. So, we stuck to our tried and true routine of researching the segment through sites and channels dedicated to the craft. Some of which, such as therideshareguy.com, are dedicated to a specific niche. Their takes provided us with some useful insight into what different consumers deem important. Of course, we also factored in our own personal preferences as we do drive cars from time to time. The result is a list of dash cams we think have something to offer to drivers of all shapes and sizes.

Best Dash Cam Reviews & Recommendations

Specs

  • Part Number: TW-Q800PRO32C
  • Image Resolution: 2K QHD 1440P
  • Recording Channels: 1

Pros

  • Captures video in high-quality resolution
  • Wide lens angle
  • Can be managed from a matching app
  • Can serve as a vehicle tracking device

Cons

  • Relatively high price point
  • Can be difficult to operate
  • No installation or setup instructions included

We're kicking off the list by recommending a dashcam we actually put to the test. While no dash cam is really subjected to much abuse, this unit from Thinkware did seem to outperform most. The first thing to separate this from other options is the 2K QHD high-quality video resolution with 140 degrees of coverage. Though it's no 4K, it still does a great job of providing crisp imagery of street signs, road markings, and license plates. This model is also attached to a dedicated app that allows you to edit and manage recording files from your smartphone. As if that's not enough, it can also tap into the cloud and give you real-time tracking of your car's location when hotspots are available.

As much as we love this model, there are some concerns you should be aware of. It's not quite as refined as it could be for a dash cam that sits on the higher end of the price scale. It doesn't come with any directions for installation or setup, and the lack of an LCD display does make it a little more difficult to use than others.

Specs

  • Part Number: T1
  • Image Resolution: 1920X1080P
  • Recording Channels: 3

Pros

  • Three recording channels for max coverage
  • Affordable price point
  • Swiveling base simplifies set up

Cons

  • Poor battery life
  • 12-volt charging cable may have fitment issues

Not everyone has a few hundred dollars to spend on a dash cam. We get that. But who's to say beggars can't be choosers? Take this dash cam bundle from iiwey for example. It sits at an affordable price for most people but offers total coverage of the vehicle with three channels to work with. You can count on this package to record the front and rear ends as well as the interior. We should point out that the main dash cam sits on a swivel, making it easy to adjust as well. That kind of protection is exactly what you need when things go wrong. On top of that, loop recording and the camera's automatically turning on when the G-sensors detect an impact means you'll always have video evidence.

It's not a budget option if there's no compromise. As a battery-dependent model, you do need to make sure it's charged before you get moving, and a short battery life plagues this model. Not only that, but there are complaints surrounding poor fit of the included charger in a vehicle's 12-volt ports.

Specs

  • Part Number: B07ZPGSKLS
  • Image Resolution: 1080P
  • Recording Channels: 1

Pros

  • Competitive pricing
  • Easy to set up and install
  • App makes video file management simple

Cons

  • Power wires are clumsy and unsightly
  • Lack of screen makes it difficult to find the right angle

Here we have a solid option from Nexar for those who want a little more quality for their money. The Beam certainly isn't revolutionary, but it's a great way to get a dependable dash cam in your car without spending a small fortune. Our testing of this unit shows that it's quite capable for something of its size and price range. The 1080p video quality is far better than what you see from many cheaper options, and vibrations pose no threat to its stability. It's also extremely easy to set up and install in your vehicle, as it took us no more than 15 minutes to get up and running. Also, we'll tip our hats to the app's easy-to-use nature that allows you to quickly review and manage video files.

Is it ideal? No, as the clumsy power line running to the 12-volt port of our vehicle is rather unsightly. Also, the lack of a screen makes it hard to angle just right and leaves you second-guessing whether it's recording.

Specs

  • Part Number: D4
  • Image Resolution: 4K
  • Recording Channels: 2

Pros

  • Competitive pricing
  • Wide angle lens and high resolution
  • App compatible

Cons

  • May not actually be a 4K camera
  • SD formatting issues are common

We think this Kingslim D4 4K dash cam is a really tough option to beat if you need a high-resolution dash cam that can record the front and rear of the vehicle. Its advertised 4K (2160p@25fps) resolution paired with the wide 150-degree viewing angle puts it far beyond most in its price range. Speaking of which, this happens to be one of the more affordable options out there. Another killer set of details that work in this model's favor are the touch screen and compatible app and those factors combined make it extremely easy to set up properly and manage video recordings.

Unfortunately, marketing does mislead you a tad here, as some reviewers point out that it's not actually a 4K model. It’s 4K for the front camera, but only 1080 for the rear. Even if it is able to record clearly, that's a detail to be aware of. Also, it does seem that SD formatting issues are somewhat common.

Best Dash Cam for Rideshare Drivers
Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual 1080P
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Specs

  • Part Number: N2 Pro
  • Image Resolution: 1080P
  • Recording Channels: 2

Pros

  • Competitive pricing
  • Records front and interior of vehicle
  • Automatically records when the ignition is on or motion is detected

Cons

  • Quality control issues are common
  • Video looping issues are common

There are a couple of reasons why we picked the Vantrue N2 Pro Uber as the best model for rideshare drivers to pick up. First and foremost, it's within a justifiable price range for anyone who's starting out. This model captures video in 1080P and has two recording channels to work with. Obviously, recording the front end is a primary concern, but recording inside the vehicle offers an extra level of security to drivers. It's also set to automatically begin recording whenever motion is detected and when the ignition is turned on, keeping you covered at virtually all times.

Unfortunately, quality control is a concern, and you need to inspect it thoroughly to ensure it's not defective upon arrival. Also, a few complaints surrounding issues with video looping warrant keeping a close eye on this in the initial stages to ensure it's working correctly.

Specs

  • Part Number: DR900X-2CH
  • Image Resolution: 4K
  • Recording Channels: 2

Pros

  • High-resolution imagery
  • Wide lens angles
  • Front and rear coverage
  • App compatible

Cons

  • Premium price point
  • Lack of screens makes it hard to find proper recording angle

Why do we think this is a good option for truckers? View angles and the first thing you need to know is that this BlackVue offers camera coverage for the front and rear of the vehicle. That makes it good for everyone, but the 162-degree coverage for the front end and 139-degree angle for the rear classifies it as a must-have for larger vehicles. Also, the 4K resolution makes it hard to miss any details from so high up. Of course, being app-compatible is great for video management, but the ability to communicate from the app through the speaker makes it a premier choice for any professional driver.

Speaking of professionals, the premium pricing does make this an option that only career drivers are likely to consider. Also, the lack of display makes angling the lenses just right a tad more difficult than it could be.

Specs

  • Part Number: 010-02231-10
  • Image Resolution: 1440P
  • Recording Channels: 1

Pros

  • Compact and easy to tuck out of the way
  • Easy to set up and install
  • Wide lens angle and high resolution

Cons

  • Short battery life keeps cords attached
  • May be too small for large hands to operate

Being the last of the three dashcams subjected to hands-on testing, we opted to give the Garmin 56 the best mini dash cam award. There may be smaller options out there, but this isn't attached to the difficult installs or many of the others. Also, this model still manages to incorporate an LCD display and 140-degree lens angle into the mix, despite being so small. Much to our surprise, video quality is also of high resolution regardless of the time or conditions we subjected this model to. Of course, the swiveling mount is also a nice touch worth mentioning as it helps keep setting up as simple as possible.

While it's a heavy-hitter, it's not perfect, as a short battery life keeps you tapped into the 12-volt port with wires dangling in front of the windshield. Also, it is small enough that it can be hard to operate in large hands.

Specs

  • Part Number: D5
  • Image Resolution: 4K
  • Recording Channels: 1

Pros

  • Affordable price point
  • High-resolution imagery and wide lens angle
  • Easy to set up

Cons

  • May not be 4K
  • Compatible app is clumsy

Trying to find the best dash cam for under $100 is easier said than done. For one, the lower the price range, the more junk you find disguised in clever marketing. Two, everyone wants something different. But instead of looking for a camera that does more than others, we looked for one that does one thing exceptionally well. Here we have the Kingslim D5, which claims to record in 4K with a 170-degree lens angle and shines well beyond anything in its price range in terms of clarity. Also, the fact that it is easy to set up with the help of the app and rear display does sweeten the pot some.

The second Kingslim offering on our list is the second Kingslim model that's marketing of 4K resolution may be slightly misleading as it isn’t true 4K resolution, though very close. Furthermore, the app is notably clunky, according to a few too many reviewers.

Specs

  • Part Number: TW-U1000D32CHF
  • Image Resolution: 4K UHD 30FPS or 2K QHD 60FPS
  • Recording Channels: 2

Pros

  • Superior image resolution
  • Two lenses for maximum protection
  • Anti-file corruption promises coverage

Cons

  • Premium price point
  • Difficult to install

Not placing this Thinkware U1000 dual dash cam higher on our list was difficult as many do feel it is arguably the single best dash cam on the market. The quality of manufacturing, performance, and image quality put it in a league of its own. Though, we feel crowning it the title as Best 4K dash cam still does it justice, as this model can record in 4K but can switch to 2K to help give sharp readings of license plate numbers or other essential information. That paired with the 150-degree viewing angle makes it hard to pass on when superior image quality is of utmost importance. This model also features two recording angles for maximum protection and anti-file corrupting technology to ensure you're always covered.

Unfortunately, the price is out of range for most individuals which is what put it further down the list. Listen, we’re not all Jeff Bezos. It's also worth mentioning that this is one of the more complicated dash cams to install in your vehicle and that can put a lot of folks off from clicking the Buy It Now button.

Specs

  • Part Number: G840
  • Image Resolution: 1296P
  • Recording Channels: 2

Pros

  • Discreet appearance
  • Can function as a backup camera
  • Free SD card

Cons

  • Inherently difficult install
  • Difficult to set up

We're wrapping up our list with what is clearly one of the most discreet solutions when it comes to dash cams. The Wolfbox 12-inch mirror dash cam is designed to replace your rearview mirror and act as a dash cam. In other words, you never have to worry about it serving as a distraction or ruining the vibes of a clean interior. That's not all, though. This dual-channel dash cam can also serve as a backup camera. Still not floored? What if we told you that it also has a GPS function to help you navigate and that WolfBox also throws in a free 32 GB SD card? Make no mistake — this thing does way more than you might expect it to.

Of course, seeing as this replaces the existing rearview mirror, installation is slightly more complicated than usual. That, paired with the not-so-user-friendly setup and lack of MPH readings, makes it a no-go for some consumers.

Our Verdict on Dash Cams

We stand behind the Thinkware Q800PRO Car Dash Cam as our top pick. It's a solid performer, and the price is right for most consumers. Though there's no arguing that the iiwey Three-Channel 1080P Dash Cam is a good route to take if saving money while still getting a decent range of functions is on the agenda. Don't agree with us? Tell us about it. Be sure to reach out and fill us in on what you think the best dash cams are! 

What to Consider When Buying A Dash Cam

Still here, huh? All right, we'll stick around too. It should go without saying that you shouldn't just take our word for it. You should get as many takes and input from as many sources as possible to help you make an informed decision. That's why we're going to give you some tips on what to look for in a dash cam. 

Dash Cam Key Features

Solid Lens and Sensor Combo 

The lens is one of the most important details of any dash cam you should read into. It determines what your viewing angle is as well as the recording quality. The wider the view angle and the higher the resolution, the better it will perform. Obviously, these factors also play a big role in the price you pay, and it's worth saying that you don't need state-of-the-art technology to get a good review of an incident. Still, you don't want to go too cheap as lower performance does obscure the facts. 

Sensors and lenses also go hand in hand, as the sensors used essentially tell the dash cam when to make necessary adjustments to increase clarity.

Ample Memory 

Most dash cams work with a micro SD card, which means you pick how much storage you have. Still, there is only so much room to work with, and the way a dash cam saves video files is essential to getting the right footage. 

Virtually any dash cam is set to record continuously as you're driving. Saving all of that footage would burn through SD cards and make it a pain to pinpoint any incident it records along the way. That's why you want to make sure you select a dash cam that automatically loops recordings. It also helps to pick a model that automatically begins recording when the G-sensors detect an impact when you’re away from the vehicle.

Feasible Size and Proper Mounting 

It doesn't matter how state-of-the-art or affordable a dash cam is if it won't fit nicely in your vehicle. In fact, you really need to be careful to select a model that doesn't obstruct your view as that can pose legal issues in your jurisdiction. You want to make sure whatever you pick is small enough not to serve as a distraction or that you can hide behind the rearview mirror. 

We will take the time to say that you also want to read into how well a dash cam sticks to whatever surface you intend to mount it on. Generally speaking, it is better to mount it on the dash, and we will explain why in a minute, but you always want to make sure it's not known for coming loose from any surface as you're driving.

Dash Cam Pricing 

While it's not impossible, finding a good dash cam for $100 or less can be easier said than done. There are a lot of cheaply made pieces of equipment in this range that warrant extra homework to nail down a true contender. That said, moving to the $100-$200 price range starts to bring in more reputable offerings and is where most people find exactly what they're looking for. Rarely do you need to spend more than $200. However, if you're a professional driver of any kind, the extra functions, superior quality, and state-of-the-art features found in this price range usually justify spending a little bit more. 

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q. Can a dash cam prevent an accident from happening?

A: No, a dash cam cannot prevent an accident. It's just in place to provide an accurate record of what took place during an accident, and that can save you thousands of dollars after a collision. 

Q. How is a dash cam powered?

A: The power source depends on the model you use. Some are hardwired to the vehicle, while others tap into 12-volt ports, there are even those that run on battery power. Each type has a unique list of pros and cons, so which is best ultimately comes down to user preference. 

Q. Does a dash cam record all the time?

A: Dash cam cameras typically begin recording once you turn your vehicle on, with some room for exception for battery-powered models. There may be manual settings you can use as needed, but this feature usually works well for most motorists. 

Q. Are dash cams legal?

A: Yes, dash cams are legal. There are no laws restricting their use throughout the US. There are, however, laws that restrict you from mounting the dash cam in certain places, and you need to familiarize yourself with the guidelines in your local area.

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