Looking for the best backup camera for your vehicle? Our guide will help you choose the right one for your budget – and show you where you can find it at the best price today.
It’s a lot easier to backup with a new car; there’s almost certainly a reversing camera built in. Not so long ago, however, it was an optional extra, and one that car manufacturers seemed to have very little shame in extracting an extreme profit margin on. The components may cost less than a delivery pizza, but somehow on the options list the price was in hundreds. As a retro-fit, though, things can be much cheaper, not to meaning you don’t need to buy a new car. Since most cameras are fitted to license plate mounts, they’re also widely supported, and can be fitted by a garage or a DIY fan (there are different levels of difficulty in this list).
Adding a back-up camera is also a good move on vans, so if you’re the enterprising type and your small business is a mobile one, imagine how much easier things could be if you had a camera to help out when making deliveries at unfamiliar locations. Back into someone’s fence and they’re definitely not going to choose your services again, whereas if you courteously avoid disaster, even without a rear window, you’ll impress.
When it comes to fitting, there are a number of options available. Reversing cameras are typically attached to the top of the license plate, with a cable run to a monitor which you fit on the dash. Since dash cams to record incidents are also a popular option amongst motorists, some combine the functionality.
Given that up to 30% of collisions are caused by rear-ending, it’s not unlikely you’ll want some evidence of this, and these are often discretely fitted to the rear-view mirror. Some even stay recording while you’re parked, helping avoid runaways as well as insurance fraud.
Best back-up cameras in 2020
The Auto-Vox V5 is already a good dash cam, but this ‘Pro’ option is designed to be fitted directly to a car’s fuse box so it really blends into the driving experience. 1080P video might not be the highest resolution available, but the Sony sensors captures good footage which is more than adequate for insurance evaluation. Assuming you supply the maximum 64GB SD card, that’ll record up to 72 hours, automatically recorded on a loop overwriting the older footage, and adding GPS geodata as it goes.
To use as a simple dash cam, the only cable you’ll need to run is the one from the rear camera to the mirror, but to operate as a back-up camera it also needs to be wired to the reversing light. When you engage reverse and the light comes on, and the device knows to display the rear view on the screen.
The whole mirror replacement is a touchscreen which lets you see 5 lanes and has a lot of handy functions; from split-screen dual view to dragging-and-dropping the reversing guide likes once you’ve fitted the camera, and brightness is adjustable (a backlit monitor needs to be much brighter in the day).
Yada actually provide a good range of choices when it comes to monitors, from 2.4-inch options for suction mounting through 3.5 and 4.3 all the way up to this 5-inch. That goes to emphasise the fact that, while size is important, it’s more to do with the space in your vehicle than viewing experience. If you have a big-ish family car, 5-inches (plus bezel) won’t obscure too much of your forward view so it’s a good choice.
Useful for many are Yada’s fitting assistance efforts, including videos, a toll-free helpline (in the USA) and their catalogue of professional installers, so fitting shouldn’t be a chore, and the system is 12 or 24V compatible and, once fitted, is triggered automatically by reverse gear. These are the benefits of an established brand and model (the downside is newer designs have higher resolution, but this has all the important features).
The 2.4GHz digital wireless transmission works through the vehicle but doesn’t really have the range to go at the back of a trailer too. The slightly chunky IP67 camera works in most weather conditions but you should look elsewhere if you expect to face extremes regularly rather than face the risk of the camera fracturing over time. You might also find that, although wireless is convenient to fit, there is a lag between engaging reverse and the monitor detecting & displaying the video signal.
Fitting a reversing camera can be a daunting task if you’re not a motor enthusiast, but there is an unsurmountable need for power (the screen and the camera) and a connection between the two. The Auto-Vox Solar 1 takes advantage of wireless to transmit the video and solar power to avoid the need to run power to the camera.
In pure specification terms, the 480x272 pixel 5-inch display, is a bit disappointing. It is powered via your vehicle’s 12V (cigarette lighter) socket, has three buttons on the side to tweak settings, and a small antenna attachment and a remote, battery-powered switch you can stick somewhere within reach of your driving position.
The actual fitting involved removing your rear license plate (which must be under 17cm/6.97-inches tall). After that, tuck the the solar panel & camera bracket behind and screw it back together. The solar block houses a 2,800mAh battery which the panel will help top up, but there is also a Micro USB socket which you’ll definitely need if you keep your vehicle in the dark a lot (it certainly needs a full charge before first use, too).
With a theoretical maximum (without obstruction), the 1080P video signals from these cameras can travel nearly 1000ft (300m), meaning they still have a decent amount of range when the radio waves need to negotiate the structures of a truck or RV.
Each of the cameras is designed to withstand the outdoors, with an IP69 rating. The mounting brackets afford a good range of movement, though at 3.3-inches/8.5cm wide they’re not designed for smaller vehicles. Not that the extra size doesn’t have a purpose; it houses 16 LEDs to provide automatically enabled infra-red night vision when needed – don’t forget you’ll need to hook the cameras to power sources – a big camper’s running lights are handy for this.
The 7-inch monitor is sharp, with a selection of buttons to tweak settings like reversing lines and split screens. It’s designed for a big cab, but offers fan shaped or bracket bases. It is also home to the SD card which can record a loop from the up-to four cameras (the included 32GB records 68 hours in this dual camera arrangement).
The chances are, if you’re thinking of adding a backup camera to your vehicle, you’ve come to accept there will be an extra monitor in the cab. If so, it’d be nice to have as many features as possible for as little clutter, which is along the lines Garmin, perhaps better known for its GPS navigation systems, have been thinking. The result is the BC35 camera which can be used with several of its Navigators, including the dezl 780 or the Overlander.
The BC35 has wide 160˚ horizontal viewing through its CMOS sensor, and sends its video signal wirelessly, though you’ll need to draw power from a source in the vehicle when you fit it.
Garmin also offer a battery wireless camera which can be attached to the top of a license plate, the Garmin BC40, but the BC35 comes with a good length power cable (15ft/4.5m) but a slightly random selection of other cables with the fuse flimsily mounted in the lead.
If you opt for the touchscreen Garmin Overlander – which is like a kind of motorist’s tablet – you get the BC35 with a range of other features including cloud backup as well as local recording, so this is an elegant and useful solution for traveler.
This is a popular example of a simple and very modestly priced option, but it does the job well and still offers key features. It can be powered via the reversing light or the cigarette lighter (the first is more like new cars, the latter easier to fit and switchable at any time). It can be used front or back; by default the image is mirror flipped but you can choose to flip it normal when you fit it by cutting a wire. The guides can also be adjusted after fitting via buttons on the screen.
The camera mount is designed for the standard screw holes found on US license plates (and all similar jurisdictions), giving the option of tucking the mounting plate behind the plate for a more discrete appearance or (for Americans) the option to obscure your State name if you prefer. Crucially the camera is IP69K waterproof, can survive down to -20˚C (-4˚F), and includes 6 LEDs to boost night vision.
It’s worth saying that 4.3-inches doesn’t sound a lot, but it’s about right for something your mounting near your driving position; in fact you can tuck it into the driver’s side pillar and it won’t obscure your view out like a bigger screen might, or use the included tray and sticky pad. The screen itself is a bit contrasty, but plenty easy to see, especially given the price.
This is a simple and cheap solution which can obtain its power via the cigarette lighter and then needs only one cable to be run to the camera, which clips over the license place. Despite the modest price, the screen can be used in normal and mirrored modes with optional reversing guides and the camera even has ‘Super Night Vision’.
The backup camera itself is pleasingly discrete, not only IP68 waterproof but can be fitted without drilling but just attaching to the top of your number plate. (You could attach it over the front plate too if that’s where you needed help). The resolution might not be true HD, but it’s more than up to the task.
Manual switching may offend the sensibilities of car tech enthusiasts, and changing settings is far from simple, but many car and van drivers like having the ability to keep the view on in other driving situations, so for some that might be a plus.
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