Dashboard cameras, or dash cams, come in all shapes and sizes, with feature sets and prices to match so finding the best dash cam can be tricky. Some shoot in Ultra HD and offer driver-assistance technology, while others win points for being compact, cheap and simple to use.
Although exactly what you want from a dash cam may vary, the very basics are simple and universally shared. These are cameras recording a front-facing view of the road ahead as you drive; if you should be unfortunate enough to have an accident - of witness one - the camera can save its footage to an SD card, ready to be used as evidence.
With the public roads sometimes resembling a battleground, as commuters jostle with school-runners and delivery drivers - not to mention cyclists and pedestrians - it makes more sense than ever to have a dash cam in your car.
Some remain permanently attached to your windscreen and start recording when you fire up the ignition, making them feel like factory-fit optional extras.
Others can be stored in your glovebox, then clipped to a magnetic dock on the windscreen for each journey.
Some models can be hooked up to second, rearwards-facing camera, and other systems record timelapse footage for a couple of days after you last parked, thanks to feeding off the car’s battery.
With so many options to consider, Digital Camera World is here to walk you through the best dash cams available right now.
1. Garmin Dash Cam 55
The compact all-in-one
Video quality: 1440p at 60fps | Viewing angle: 122 degrees | Integrated GPS: Yes | Screen: 2.0-inch LCD
The Garmin Dash Cam 55 is an excellent and well-priced all-rounder, blending a compact and discrete form factor with excellent video quality, integrated GPS, and voice commands. The Dash Cam 55 also includes a g-sensor to automatically save video when a collision it detected, and the magnetic mounting system means the camera can be fitted to your windscreen in just a few seconds.
While the Garmin’s menu system isn’t particularly intuitive, it provides all of the options you’ll need in day-to-day use. Our only real criticism is the short 30-minute battery life, which means you’ll need to plug into the lighter socket for all but the shortest of journeys.
2. Nextbase 612GW
The world’s first 4K dash cam
Video quality: 4K at 30fps / 1440p at 60fps | Integrated GPS: Yes | Screen: 3.0-inch LCD
Claimed to be the world’s first 4K dash cam, the Nextbase 612GW produces market-leading video footage and is controlled via a large 3-inch touchscreen. HDR video is shot using a Sony Exmor R CMOS sensor, and GPS logging means you can view your journeys (and any incidents) on Google Maps.
Parking mode automatically records a two-minute video when movement is detected while your car is parked; an internal battery powers this, meaning you don’t need to leave the camera plugged in while your car isn’t in use. However, when driving the battery is rated for just 15 minutes of use, so plugging in will be necessary for almost every journey.
This is also one of the larger dash cams on the market, which could either serve as a distraction while driving, or make itself attractive to thieves.
3. Philips ADR820
Wi-Fi for live streaming, a CMOS sensor and compact design
Video quality: 1296p | Integrated GPS: No, available separately | Screen: 2.7-inch LCD
A Wi-Fi connection means you can stream live video from the cameras to your smartphone, and set everything up via the app (iOS and Android) instead of reaching for the camera itself. Recording starts automatically when the camera is plugged in to your car’s 12V lighter socket, and a G-sensor automatically saves the last three minutes when a collision is detected.
This Philips is more compact than some dash cams, but misses out on GPS unless you buy a special windscreen suction cup. Also on the optional extras list is a rear-facing camera, which works in the same way and records footage if someone crashes into you from behind. Very little internal storage means you’ll need to provide your own SD card.
4. Thinkware F800 Pro
Speed camera alerts, night mode and a factory-fit look
Video quality: 1080p | Integrated GPS: Yes | Screen: No
If you want a dash cam which looks like it was fitted to your car in the factory, the Thinkware F800 Pro is for you. It’s designed to fit snugly up against the top of your windscreen, behind the rear-view mirror and neatly out of the way. The Pro model can also be hard-wired to your car’s battery, meaning it will boot up when you turn the key, continue recording while parked, and leave your car’s 12V socket free for other uses, like charging your phone.
There’s also an enhanced night vision setting to improve low-light videos, speed camera alerts, and the option to fit a rear-facing camera too. There’s no touchscreen, which could be seen as a negative, but Wi-Fi means it’s easy enough to connect the camera to your smartphone to view recordings and alter the settings.
5. BlackVue DR900S-1CH
4K video, discreet design and remote access via the cloud
Video quality: 4K at 30fps | Integrated GPS: Yes | Screen: No
This offers a neat factory-fit look, but also has the advantage of a slim and compact design. The BlackVue DR900S-1CH offers 4K video recording, a wider lens than most of its rivals (162 degrees), GPS and parking mode.
On top of all that, there’s a cloud-based subscription package for viewing live and recorded footage remotely, and a service which pushes a notification to your smartphone when the camera detects a collision – useful if your car has been bumped while you’re away. Not everyone will want to pay for a subscription service, but we can see the added benefits being useful for fleet managers who want to keep tabs on their vehicles.
6. Mio MiVue 792 WiFi Pro
Packed full of safety and driver assistance features
Video quality: 1080p at 60fps | Integrated GPS: Yes | Screen: 2.7-inch
This camera packs a lot of features for the price, including a range of driver assistance tech, like warnings for when you drift out of lane, approach a speed camera, and when the camera thinks you are about to have a frontal collision. There’s also a system to warn you if the camera thinks you are tired, based on your driving.
Although resolution is capped at 1080p Full HD, it is recorded at 60 frames per second, which is better than most, and the 2.7-inch display is also one of the biggest around. A rear-facing camera can be added to the system, and there’s a parking mode to record while the car is left overnight, although this requires the camera to be hard-wired to the car’s battery.
7. Orskey Dash Cam
Best budget dash cam: Full HD & 3in touchscreen
Video quality: 1080p | Integrated GPS: No | Screen: 3.0-inch LCD
This dash cam is a sold option for those on a budget. Despite the low price, you get a reasonably compact camera with a Full HD image sensor and night vision. The camera uses a suction cup for attaching to your windscreen, which means no need to fit a more permanent sticky-backed magnet.
The camera has a G-sensor for automatically saving footage from just before and after a collision, and an HDMI port makes for easy video playback. Downsides are that the video footage is capped at 30 frames per second (many other dash cams record at 60fps), and there is no internal storage. On a related note, it only accepts SD cards of up to 32GB, which isn’t a huge amount.
8. Nextbase 112
Fantastic bang for your buck
Video quality: 720p at 30fps | Integrated GPS: No | Display: 2-inch
With its compact design and low price, the Nextbase 112 is a strong contender for best budget dash cam. It records in HD (albeit only 720p resolution instead of the superior and sharper 1080p), has a two-inch screen on its back, and fixes to a convenient magnetic windscreen mount.
Endorsed by the UK's Automobile Assocation, this camera is intended to be plugged into your car’s lighter socket, but also has a backup battery which can record video for up to 30 minutes should the camera’s G-sensor detect a collision.
Readers who drive a lot at night may want to consider a camera with a higher resolution sensor and better low-light performance. Of course extras like voice commands and a parking mode are absent here, but for the price it’s hard to fault this camera.
RoadHawk Vision Super HD
Small, simple and easy to use
Video quality: 1296p | Integrated GPS: No | Screen: No
Your money here is going into a compact and subtle design rather than a boat-load of features. The RoadHawk dash cam is small enough to hide neatly behind your interior mirror, fitting to a very small mount stuck to the windscreen (instead of a larger suction cup).
However, the lens is only 120 degrees, there’s no display (obviously, given the size), and the camera lacks GPS. Video is transferred to your smartphone via Wi-Fi, or you can pop out the included 8GB SD card for copying to your computer. Full HD is only offered at 30 frames per second, or 720p at 60fps.
10. Pruveeo F5
Unique design offers an OEM look with 1.5-inch display
This bargain of a camera offers an alternative design which is intended to be less distracting while you’re driving. It offers Full HD video, WiF for sending video to the iOS and Android smartphone app, and a small 1.5-inch display to quickly check the camera’s view when installing, and view footage.
This is a camera which, more than most, would benefit from being hard-wired, or at least installed in a way where its power cable is ticked behind your car’s interior panels, as the power cable sprouts out the top of the device. Once installed, it should fit neatly behind your mirror for that smart factory-fit look.