Everybody knows that Americans love their cars. That only makes sense given that the U.S. is the place where the automobile was born more than a century ago, and since then, the car – be it a working man’s pickup truck or a testosterone-laden muscle car – has become one of the most recognizable icons of American culture. It’s not surprising, then, to see the increasing number of drivers adding dash cams to their vehicles for a bit of extra insurance on the road.
Whether it’s for your daily commute or your next road trip, a dash camera is a very nice thing to have in case something goes bad on the road. Typically mounted on your windshield behind or underneath your rear-view mirror, a dash cam is designed to capture footage of any on-road incidents for insurance and legal purposes. Certain models also feature a second camera that monitors your car’s interior while it’s parked, while others offer rear-view capabilities as well.
Owing to their growing popularity and the amount of competition on the market today, these things aren’t as expensive as some might think. No matter what your budget might be, there’s a dash cam out there for your ride, and we’ve smoked out the four best ones available on Amazon right now. Our picks run the gamut from simple forward-facing dash cams to dual-camera setups and ones with GPS capabilities, so read on.
Today, Garmin makes everything from action cameras to smartwatches, but this company built its name on its in-car navigation units in the halcyon days before smartphones were common. Although those old GPS screens may seem quaint now, it’s quite fitting to see Garmin take the top spot on our roundup with its excellent Dash Cam 55, which packs a lot of great features despite its diminutive size (it measures just 2.25 by 1.5 inches).
For starters, the Garmin records crisp video at a Quad HD resolution of 1,440p, which is an upgrade over the vast majority of 1080p dash cams on the market. This is important, as you want your camera to be able to capture clear images of things like faces and license plates, especially in low-light conditions (another thing the Dash Cam 55 does very well). The camera itself sticks to your windshield via a magnetic mount so you can easily move or remove it, and it comes with some nice driver assistance capabilities like lane-departure and forward-collision warnings.
Also fitting for a Garmin device is that the Dash Cam 55 comes with a built-in GPS receiver. This is useful as it allows the camera to record not only video footage but the precise locations where any incidents occur. The Garmin camera is also Wi-Fi-enabled for use with the companion app, and voice controls allow you to record or snap photos while keeping both hands on the wheel. This is a pretty impressive suite of features in a tiny dash camera that still manages to ring in at well under $200.
As with many tech gadgets, there’s an ocean of no-name dash cams on Amazon from weird Chinese brands you’ve never heard of; at first glance, Yi might seem like one of them. But this company has actually established itself as one of the best high-value camera makers on the market: Yi may be best known for its action cameras (in fact, Google recently ditched GoPro for Yi), and you could be forgiven for mistaking its smart dash cam for one.
The Yi smart dash cam lacks some of the bells and whistles that the Garmin has, but it packs the essentials: It records video in 1080p resolution at a full 60 frames per second with a 165-degree wide-angle lens that offers three-lane coverage in front of your vehicle. It can immediately detect collisions involving your vehicle and will start recording automatically, committing the video feed of events before, during, and after the incident to the camera’s onboard memory.
The Yi camera also sports a 2.7-inch full-color LCD display as well as a few handy driver assistance features like a lane departure alert. You can sync it up with the Yi Dash Cam app if you want for smartphone control as well. It doesn’t have built-in GPS, but for a super affordable $50, we’re not looking this gift horse in the mouth.
Many newer cars come with built-in rear-view cameras, which are a boon to city folk and anyone who starts panicking at the prospect of parallel parking. Most vehicles on the road still lack this convenience, and if yours is one of them, you can retrofit your auto with an aftermarket dash cam that includes a rear-view camera like this one from Toguard.
The Toguard dual-camera system is a bit different than our other picks. It actually mounts on top of your rear-view mirror, replacing it altogether with a 7-inch touchscreen video panel (that works like a regular mirror when this display is turned off). This mirror-mounted unit houses the 1080p front-view camera, functioning as a standard dash cam, but there’s also a second camera that mounts to the back of your car near your license plate. This serves as a backup camera, delivering a real-time 480p video feed of what’s behind you when you need it, such as when backing up out of your driveway or into a tight parking space.
A G-sensor automatically detects incidents to tell the camera to save the current video feed to memory (just like on the Yi smart cam), and the Toguard also packs a motion sensor that allows it to offer 24/7 exterior monitoring even when your car is parked. For just $80, the Toguard is pretty much the complete package.
A dash cam can do more than just monitor and record the environment outside a car. A unit like the Vantrue N2 Pro can also stand watch over a vehicle’s cabin – an important bit of extra insurance if you’re worried about someone breaking into your car to pilfer your stuff, and a must-have for Uber and Lyft drivers. The N2 Pro uses two cameras to keep eyes simultaneously on the road and on the interior of your auto: Both record at 1080p, and the front features a wide-angle lens which provides a nice full 170-degree field of view.
Both front and interior cameras are capable of recording at night, and the N2 Pro is motion-activated for 24/7 monitoring (meaning it’ll automatically fire up and start recording if it detects movement inside or immediately around your car). The cabin cam also features a microphone for recording audio – another potential boon for ride-for-hire drivers in the case of an unruly passenger. And, along with its dual-camera capabilities, the Vantrue N2 Pro packs many of the same features on our aforementioned picks, like automatic collision detection and driver-assist functions.
The Vantrue N2 Pro dual camera is a premium pick at around 200 bucks, but it’s not a bad value if you want something like the Garmin Dash Cam 55 but with an additional interior camera for some added insurance. Note, however, that the N2 Pro doesn’t have a built-in GPS like the Garmin does, but there is a GPS module available for it that allows for location tracking if you need it.
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