Reviews

Best Radar Detectors (Review & Buying Guide) in 2021

Enjoy lightning-fast detection of speed traps

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BY Ray Prince / LAST UPDATED ON November 8, 2021

A radar detector can be an invaluable automotive accessory for those of us who may have a bit of a lead foot, as getting caught in a speed trap can really put a damper on your day, not to mention a dent in your bank account. This is where having a reliable and sensitive radar detector can come in very handy. Radar detectors run the gamut when it comes to options, reliability, and prices, and it can be confusing trying to figure out which one will be best for you. Don’t worry—we’ve got you covered with our comprehensive product review and our in-depth buying guide that will teach you all you need to know to be certain you’re getting the right radar detector.

 

This is where having a reliable and sensitive radar detector can come in very handy. Designed to sense and alert you to speed traps and radar guns, a high-tech radar detector can save you a lot of headaches. But how do you know which one is best?

 

Radar detectors run the gamut when it comes to options, reliability, and prices. It can be confusing trying to figure out which one will be best for you. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with our comprehensive product review and our in-depth buying guide that will teach you all you need to know to be certain you’re getting the right radar detector.

Best Overall
Valentine V2 Radar Detector
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Summary
Summary

Versatile option that covers all widely used band ranges (K, Ka, X) and access to V1Connection app for real-time threat information.

Pros
Pros
  • Easy-to-read LED display
  • Sleek magnesium case
  • Coiled power cord stretches to 8 feet
  • V1Connection apps offer live streams of all alerts
Cons
Cons
  • Hard to remove the detector from windshield suction cup holder
  • Short warranty length (one year)
Best Overall
Valentine V2 Radar Detector
Best Value
Cobra RAD 350 Radar Detector
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Summary
Summary

Affordable choice with patented IVT FILTER System for false alert detection and easy-to-understand audible alerts.

Pros
Pros
  • Includes numeric signal strength meter
  • Plugs into car's lighter outlet
  • Helpful seven-segment color display
Cons
Cons
  • Does not accept voice commands
  • Only programmed in two languages (English and Spanish)
Best Value
Cobra RAD 350 Radar Detector
Honorable Mention
Uniden R7
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Summary
Summary

Long-range workhorse with helpful directional arrow alerts to point out  threat location.

Pros
Pros
  • 360-degree protection in detecting threats
  • Super, easy-to-read OLED display
  • Audible voice warnings
Cons
Cons
  • Issues false reads at times from other vehicle's blind spot monitoring systems
  • Higher than average cost
Honorable Mention
Uniden R7
Radar Detector Close Up
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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

For our review, we evaluated more than 15 different radar detectors, grading them in several key categories. These key categories included accuracy with radar detection, support for key band ranges (e.g. K, Ka, X, and POP), design, ability to filter false alerts, and auxiliary features such as dedicated smartphone apps and red light/speed camera alerts. Of the twenty we cast our initial gaze upon, we narrowed it down to 10 choices. To learn more about our methodology that helps with our recommendations, please visit About Guides & Gear, And The Drive’s Product Reviews Department

Best Radar Detectors Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall
Valentine V2 Radar Detector

The Valentine V2 is one of the most versatile radar detectors on the market and comes from one of the best brands out there. The V2 is actually the latest edition to the family, replacing the aging V1 that still was everyone’s go-to for top-spec radar detectors and it’s no slouch. The V2 can detect radar signals in all directions, covering the most widely used band ranges (K, Ka, X), and a K-Verifier BSM filter also works to clear out false alerts. We especially appreciate weaker notifications coming through with false signals, which helps increase concentration on the road.


Another key highlight with the Valentine V2 is a built-in Bluetooth 5.0, which allows you to wirelessly connect with your Apple or Android phone. Its V1Connection app also allows you to receive real-time information on all incoming threats. Our only knock on the product is its paltry one-year limited warranty.


Product Specs:

  • Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Power Source: DC
  • Display Type: LED

Pros:

  • Easy-to-read LED display
  • Sleek magnesium case
  • Coiled power cord stretches to 8 feet
  • V1Connection apps offer live streams of all alerts

Cons:

  • Hard to remove the detector from windshield suction cup holder
  • Short warranty length (one year)
Best Value
Cobra RAD 350 Radar Detector

Nothing beats the feeling of getting a great gadget at a pocket-friendly price and that’s why we recommend the Cobra RAD 350. This radar detector uses Cobra's patented IVT FILTER System to reduce false alerts that can be a result of modern car’s collision avoidance radar systems that could get picked up by cheaper radar detectors. It’s designed with an advanced laser eye sensor that can detect threats from the front and rear and the sensor can detect X, K, Ka-band, laser, and VG-2 signals.


The RAD 350 is designed to provide driver safety by allowing the driver to seek out radar gun signals while keeping his or her eyes on the road. This is made possible by its digital voice announcement feature that reads out alerts in a manner that you can easily understand. Also, for a more manual approach, it’s fitted with an easy-to-read OLED display at the front. But in a world where there are more speakers than just English and Spanish, we’d have liked to see other languages included. 


Product Specs:

  • Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Power Source: DC
  • Display Type: LED

Pros:

  • Includes numeric signal strength meter
  • Plugs into car's lighter outlet
  • Helpful seven-segment color display

Cons:

  • Does not accept voice commands
  • Only programmed in two languages (English and Spanish)
Best Premium
Uniden R7

Easily one of the best radar detectors on the market is the Uniden R7, as it offers the longest range out of any windshield mount radar detector, period. The R7 comes packed with a bunch of other useful features that make for a better driving experience, including offering arrows to help you locate the signals around you. This way, when it goes off, you’ll know immediately if the officer is ahead of you, when you pass him, and when they’re behind you.


An integrated GPS allows you to teach the detector where false alerts are located around town from speed signs on the side of the road and automatic door openers in front of drugstores and grocery stores. Once you do that, the detector will stay quiet along your regular commute. The biggest complaint that people have with the R7, however, is its blind spot monitoring (BSM) filtering. The detector is pretty good at filtering blind spot monitoring systems from other cars, but it still falses a fair amount, especially compared to the competition.


Product Specs:

  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • Power Source: DC
  • Display Type: OLED

Pros:

  • 360-degree protection in detecting threats
  • Super, easy-to-read OLED display
  • Audible voice warnings

Cons:

  • Issues false reads at times from other vehicle's blind spot monitoring systems
  • Higher than average cost
Honorable Mention
Escort Max 3 Laser Radar Detector

The Escort Max 3 Laser Radar Detector is a high-tech, premium range radar detector that delivers state-of-the-art radar sensitivity. While it is a little on the pricey side, you get some serious benefits and high-end features with this model that you won’t find in many other options as the Max 3 is equipped with a next-generation platform that greatly decreases false alerts set off by your in-vehicle technology.


You also get a radar detector that actually learns your driving style and becomes more intelligent based on your regular GPS routes, typical driving speed, and driving habits to even further eliminate false alerts. You can connect to the Escort Live App and join a community of drivers who receive and share continuous updates and alerts about traffic conditions, including red light and speed camera locations, live traffic updates, police radar, and speed limits.


Product Specs:

  • Weight: 8 ounces
  • Power Source: DC
  • Display Type: OLED

Pros:

  • Good at filtering blind spot monitoring systems
  • Excellent at filtering out weak K band alerts
  • Intuitive Escort Live app to change settings and share alerts with other drivers

Cons:

  • Subscription fee required to access Defender Database
  • Suction mount design could be better
Best Mid-Range
Escort Passport 9500iX

Escort is a leading powerhouse in the radar detection field, and the Escort Passport 9500iX is one of our favorite offerings. It comes equipped with integrated traffic sensor rejection to give you fewer false alerts and limits your distractions while driving. It also features national coverage of thousands of pre-loaded speed camera locations and known hot spots in its Defender Database, which updates frequently to give you the most accurate information.


When you do get an alert, you get all the info you could possibly need, including laser band, signal strength, and vehicle speed. Download the app to receive warnings and other valuable info from millions of other Escort users. All your alerts are tailored to your specific vehicle location and motion. One thing to note is that when you do system updates, you can potentially lose some of your stored locations. Also, there are reports of this model giving false alerts when overexposed to extreme heat or direct sun for prolonged periods.


Product Specs:

  • Weight: 8.1 ounces
  • Power Source: Corded electric
  • Display Type: LED

Pros:

  • 360-degree laser protection
  • Excellent field of view
  • Intuitive Escort Live app and access to Defender Database

Cons:

  • May trigger false alerts on occasion from motion sensors
Best LED Display
Escort Passport S55

In the same breath as the 9500iX, we’re going to recommend the Escort Passport S55, another advanced radar and laser detector in the Escort Passport series. It provides extended range warnings of long-range K and Ka bands while using Exclusive AutoSensitivity Mode to filter false warnings. Also, it features an ExpertMeter that allows it to seek out up to four signals at once.


If you are navigating through an unknown destination, the Escort Passport S55 will give you access to the local speed limit and upcoming alerts from other Escort users in the area. Information is presented on a backlit display with a red LED light to make it easy to read in the daytime. However, you may get what you pay for, as you may still get several false alarms despite having the AutoSensitivity feature, and it can easily get triggered by blind monitoring systems in other vehicles.


Product Specs:

  • Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Power Source: DC
  • Display Type: LED

Pros:

  • Sensitivity adjusts in real-time to reduce false alerts
  • Detects radar bands of all types (X band, K band, Superwide Ka band, POP)
  • Includes carrying case

Cons:

  • Constructed using lower grade plastic
  • Not compatible with vehicles with gesture control systems
Best Bluetooth and Wi-Fi Enabled
Cobra DualPro Radar Detector

The Cobra DualPro is one of the most top-notch, state-of-the-art radar detectors on our list. It’s also one of the priciest but what do you get for that price? Well, you get lightning-fast detection with 360-degree directional sensors and alert arrows, as well as the integrated DSP technology that quickly and accurately pinpoints radar traps all around you.


We like the Cobra DualPro Radar Detector for its customizable, high-resolution, multi-color display, which gives you the best viewing capability of detected bands and types of threat. GPS-based auto-learning technology provides five different levels of filtration to eliminate unwanted noise and repeated false alerts. A handy voice alert system can even warn of approaching radars in either English or Spanish.


Even though this is one of the most technologically advanced units on our list, some users still report getting frequent false alerts, or being caught by lidar speed traps from time to time. Nothing’s totally foolproof, right?


Product Specs:

  • Weight: 15.9 ounces
  • Power Source: DC
  • Display Type: OLED

Pros:

  • Four-band detection (X, K, Ka, Laser) using 360-degree directional alert arrows
  • Includes stable EZ Mag windshield mount
  • Works with Cobra Driving Community app
  • Very readable OLED display with five brightness settings

Cons:

  • Poor length of warranty (one year)
  • Voice alerts only available in English and Spanish
Best Voice Alert 
Escort X80 Laser Radar Detector

Another top offering from Escort is the Escort X80 Laser Radar Detector. This unit uses high performance laser sensors to provide long range protection and maximum early warnings and alerts against a large variety of radar bands, including instant and conventional radar guns. You even receive clear and informative voice alerts to allow for safe, hands-free operation. Alerts are specifically tailored to your particular speed, location, and movement so you can keep your eyes on the road and minimize distractions.


Another benefit of the Escort X80 Laser Radar Detector is its proprietary Escort Live app, which provides more info about what lies ahead, potential radar traps, and hazards from millions of like-minded users. One downside to this already pricey unit is that you need to have a subscription to SmartCord to have your speed displayed on the unit. You’d think that after spending that amount of cash on a radar detector, the company would include that at no extra charge.


Product Specs:

  • Weight: 1.17 pounds
  • Power Source: DC
  • Display Type: OLED

Pros:

  • Loud, two-tone audible alert system
  • Warns on K-band, X-band, SuperWide Ka-band, and POP radar detectors
  • Three sensitivity options (Auto, Auto No X, and Highway)

Cons:

  • Subscription to SmartCord not included
  • Higher than average number of false alarms (especially K-band)
  • Dim, poor contrast display
Best GPS-Enabled
Escort IXC Laser Radar Detector

The Escort IXC Laser Radar Detector is a customizable device that learns your route and prevents false alerts by using GPS, IVT filtering, and auto sensitivity. The device is also Wi-Fi compatible and provides accurate and precise information by tapping into a database of real-time, user-generated alerts.


One of our favorite features with the Escort IXC Laser Radar Detector is the Escort Live app. You can receive information about red light and speed camera locations, traffic updates, and police radar. It alerts you to those signals so you have plenty of time to react, and it auto locks false signals. While you can customize the alert types, sounds, colors, and so on, you must do so through the app. It's not possible through the actual device, which can be a slight inconvenience. Also, the app's interface could be a little better. Pairing it with Bluetooth can also be a hassle for some people.


Product Specs:

  • Weight: 8 ounces
  • Power Source: DC
  • Display Type: OLED

Pros:

  • Very clear, audible alerts
  • IVT filter blocks false alerts
  • Compatible with Escort Live! to discover crowdsourced speed cameras and red light cameras

Cons:

  • OLED display not as viewable under direct sunlight
  • Paltry one-year limited warranty
  • Only two voice alert languages are available (English and Spanish)
Best for Laser
Cobra RAD 480i Laser Radar Detector

Another budget-friendly option that we think is a great buy is the Cobra RAD 480i Laser Radar Detector. It is equipped with front and rear detection capabilities, thanks to its LaserEye technology, which gives you all-around protection wherever you go. It also features updatable next-generation IVT filters and advanced anti-false technology to decrease false alerts from other vehicle avoidance systems and blind spot systems. This provides you with a more accurate and longer range of radar detection.


Special digital signal processing allows for faster and earlier warnings of incoming laser gun signals to help alert you to a radar trap before you’re right on top of it. The RAD 480i comes with everything you need, including a 12-volt power cord, a hook and loop fastener for dash mounting, and a suction cup mount for your windshield. You can also download and connect to the iRadar App to get real-time alerts to speed traps, red light cameras, speed cameras, and other potential hazards from more than 3 million other drivers.


Product Specs:

  • Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Power Source: DC
  • Display Type: OLED

Pros:

  • Alerts for X, K, and Ka radar bands and laser guns
  • Three brightness settings (bright, dim, and dimmer)
  • Four sensitivity levels (High, Medium, Low, and Auto)
  • Excellent long-range detection

Cons:

  • No color display
  • Struggles with false alerts on occasion

Our Verdict on Radar Detectors

Our pick for the best radar detector goes to the Valentine V2 Radar Detector . It is an absolute workhorse, detecting the most popular band ranges K, Ka, X with an effective K-Verifier BSM filter system that helps minimize false alerts. It also includes the V1Connection app for real-time threat detection and built-in Bluetooth 5.0 for an easy connection to your smartphone.

What to Consider When Buying A Radar Detector

Types of Radar Detectors

Windshield Mount: Corded

Corded radar detectors make it easy to supply power to the device anytime the car is on. Most corded options plug right into the car’s 12-volt power outlet. These can be difficult to install since the cord adds some extra bulk to secure and get out of the way if you want to maximize the space inside the vehicle. You can also hardwire the detector into your fuse box for a cleaner install with no cable hanging down your dash.

Windshield Mount: Cordless

Cordless radar detectors make it easier to install the device inside a vehicle without worrying about cord management. You can mount the detector nearly anywhere in the vehicle for the best results. Given the battery power, however, you will need to keep the device charged. The device may also remain on when the car turns off.

Mounted

A few rare radar detectors actually mount to the car via permanent installation. These tend to be hidden from view and mounted in the position for the best detection results with a controller and display installed in your dash. Unfortunately, installation usually requires a professional. 

Radar Detector Key Features

Radar Detection

The main part of a radar detector is the actual detector. Using a superheterodyne receiver, radar detectors can pick up the radio frequencies radars use when they bounce waves off an object to determine the speed (known as the Doppler effect). 

Radar guns can be handheld like a gun, dash mounted in the officer’s vehicle so they can work while they drive, or connected to a camera for photo radar applications where they mail you a ticket. Radar can be shot out the front, sides, and rear of a police car. Police radar devices tend to use different types of radar bands that use different frequencies: X-band (10.5 to 10.55 GHz), Ku-band (12 to 18 GHz), K-band (24.05 to 24.24 GHz), and Ka-band (34.2 to 35.2 GHz). The best detectors have the ability to detect and identify all four types.

False Alert Filtering

False alerts are a common issue with radar detectors. Radar detectors pick up not only police radar guns, but they also detect various sources of radar including speed signs on the side of the road, automatic door openers in drugstores, and radar-based collision avoidance systems built into many newer vehicles. 

That is why most detectors come with different modes that change the sensitivity and selectivity of the receiver. City modes, for example, adjust the receiver in urban environments to filter out more common signal sources, reducing false alerting. Highway modes, on the other hand, decrease the selectivity. A detector with GPS tagging can automatically change the modes, depending on the vehicle’s location (in addition to remembering camera locations). Some modes can also detect other things like red light cameras.

Red Light Camera/Speed Camera Alerts

In addition to alerting you to radar threats, radar detectors with GPS typically have an updatable database that can give you advanced warning to ticket-issuing redlight cameras and speed cameras.

Laser Detection

In general, laser detectors are more accurate than radar detectors, making them increasingly popular with law enforcement.  This is because a laser’s pulses are much narrower than traditional radar guns, making it easier to detect vehicle speed. We highly recommend radar detectors that offer 360-degree laser detection, which uses two or more sensors to discover pulses on both sides and behind you.

Top Brands

Uniden

Founded in 1977, Uniden is a popular manufacturer of all types of car electronic equipment, including dash cameras, radar detectors, and CB radios. At one point, it was the largest global manufacturer of cordless telephones, especially known for its introduction of 900 MHz cordless telephones in the European market.

Valentine Research, Inc.

Privately-owned Valentine Research, Inc. is well known for its V1 Gen1 and Gen2 radar detectors, which offer an intuitive arrow system and numerical rating that tracks all signals in range ahead, beside, or behind you., as well as a counter to show the number of signals being tracked. Its V1 app for iPhone and Android also allows users to view all signals on legal traffic-radar bands, as well as the location and frequency of all nearby signals.

Cobra

Cobra is a well-known manufacturer of car electronics such as jump starters, CB radios, and dash cams. Its radar detector line is well regarded, featuring Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and In-Vehicle Technology (IVT) Filtering for quick and accurate signals. Each of its radar detectors is also compatible with the Cobra iRadar app which provides real[time shared alerts from fellow Cobra radar detector owners.

Escort

In the market for more than 40 years, Escort is a highly regarded manufacturer of radar detector equipment. It has won numerous awards, such as the 2019 Autoweek Reader’s Choice Top Pick for Best Radar Detector Brand. The ESCORT Live mobile app also connects drivers with other fellow drivers to receive real-time shared alerts of all threats on the road.

Other Considerations

  • Legality: It’s important to note that radar detectors aren’t always legal in all states and cities. They are legal to use in most of the U.S., with a few exceptions. They are illegal in most Canadian provinces. Learn about radar detector laws. In certain areas, police officers use special radar detector detectors. A few radar detectors are designed with special stealth technology that makes them undetectable to RDDs. 
  • Hardwiring: Radar detectors come with a power cable that plugs into your 12-volt outlet. However, if your car doesn’t have an outlet or you’d prefer a cleaner installation with no cable hanging down your windshield and dash, you can hardwire your radar detector. When hardwired, your radar detector wires into your fuse box for power so the cable is tucked away and hidden behind your vehicle’s trim. This way, you have a much more stealthy and good-looking install.

Tips and Tricks

As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and radar detectors. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.

  • Keep in mind that a radar detector can potentially be a distraction while driving. Choose one with voice alerts and voice control to maintain eye contact with the road for the safest driving setup.
  • Keep your radar detector inside when not in use. Heat on hot summer days can damage the radar detector if left out for too long.
  • Even in areas where radar detectors are legal, there may be extra laws that determine how and where you can mount it in your vehicle. In general, low mounting positions with suction cups on the dashboard are preferable.

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers!

Q. What are sensitivity and selectivity?

A. Sensitivity is essentially how well a radar detector actually picks up signals. The more sensitive a detector is, the better it detects signals, especially weak ones. Selectivity refers to a detector’s ability to ignore signal sources that can cause false alerts. Some detectors have better digital signal processing for signal rejection than others. 

Q. How can I reduce the amount of false radar detections my detector picks up?

A. Buy a newer radar detector that is designed to filter out the various sources of false alerts. Keep your detector updated and use the various filtering options available to help it filter out non-police radar alerts.

Q. How far can a police radar detect your speed?

A police radar can detect you as far as a mile away. Target detection range greatly depends on the police radar power and frequency, as well as weather, the angle to the target, and antenna factors. The larger a target, the farther away it can be detected, so they will see a semi-truck before they can detect a tiny sports car.

Q. Why didn’t my radar detector go off when I passed a cop?

Radar detectors aren’t cop car detectors. If the officer wasn’t running their radar, then there’s nothing to detect and your radar detector won’t alert you.