Dashboard cameras, or dash cams, have become an important means of protection for motorists, but choosing the best dash cam can be difficult, especially if this is the first time you’ve bought one. Even if you have a dash cam already, the technology is moving so quickly it’s worth catching up on the latest tech to see if you’re still using the best dash cam for your needs.
New dash cams include our new top choice, the Garmin Dash Cam 66W, the tiny Garmin Dash Cam Mini and the low cost Motorola MDC150. The technology has a lot in common with the best action cams, but is specially adapted for in-car needs.
Dashboard cameras come in all shapes and sizes, with feature sets and prices to match. Some shoot in Ultra HD and offer driver-assistance technology, while others try and win points for being compact, cheap and simple to use.
Best dash cam: the basics
What you want from a dash cam may vary, the very basics are pretty simple and universal. 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 – or witness one – the camera can save its footage to an SD card, ready to be used as evidence. The 'insuretech' company ThingCo, for example, is working on its Theo 'super dash cam', which not only helps prevent accidents but can assist in a claim afterwards.
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.
There are also some new hybrid devices like the Akaso EK7000 Pro, a 4K action camera with a remote control that also moonlights as a dash cam. We reckon you will be seeing more and more of these hybrid devices on the market. If you're a cyclist or a motorcyclist, our list of the best GoPro cameras might help you find the ideal helmet cam to record events on the road, along with the best GoPro accessories.
If you're concerned about security and safety, you might also want to take a look at our guide to the best insurance for photographers.
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 66W
High resolution and an extra-wide field of view
Video quality: 1440p with HDR at 60fps | Viewing angle: 180 degrees | Integrated GPS: Yes | Screen: 2.0-inch LCD, 320 x 240
The new Garmin Dash Cam 66W is the replacement to our favourite dash cam from the last year, the Garmin 55. The new model retains its predecessor’s compact size and ease-of-use, but increases the field of view from 122 degrees to 180 degrees, giving a far broader view of the front of your car and the road ahead. Also new is HDR (High Dynamic Range) video recording, to help retain detail in high-contrast lighting, while a Wi-Fi connection to your smartphone and the free Garmin Drive app means you can connect up to four cameras at once and synchronised the video they shoot, giving a 360-degree view around your car. Battery life is just 30 minutes without plugging into your car’s lighter socket, and if opt for a hardwired professional install the camera (or cameras) will stay on when parked, then record if someone carelessly bumps into your car while parking or driving past.
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. Garmin Dash Cam Mini
A tiny, key-sized camera at very affordable price
Video quality: 1080p at 30fps | Viewing angle: 140 degrees | Integrated GPS: No | Screen: No
A new member of the Garmin Dash Cam family, the Mini records 1080 Full HD video through a 140-degree lens, and measures just 3.1 x 5.3 x 2.9cm - roughly the size of a small car key. Truly a set-it-and-forget-it device, the Garmin Dash Cam Mini is designed to tuck neatly and subtly behind your rear view mirror, and once either plugged into the lighter socket or hardwired to the car’s fuse box, will boot up when you turn the ignition and record when it detects a collision. If hardwired it will also remain alert while parked, then record if someone drive into your vehicle. There’s no display (so no distraction for the driver) and no internal battery, but the compact size and simplicity more than make up for this. A Wi-Fi connection to the Garmin Drive phone app makes it easy to download saved footage from the camera when you need it.
5. 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.
6. Motorola MDC150
Full HD and a 2.0-inch display at a bargain price
Video quality: 1080p | Viewing angle: 150 degrees | Integrated GPS: No | Display: 2.0-inches LCD
This dash cam from Motorola undercuts most of its rivals, yet still offers 1080p Full HD video recording, a 2.0-inch display, compact design, and night vision. No memory card is included, which is a shame, but these are relatively inexpensive and dash cams do not require particularly large-capacity cards, due to recording footage on a loop. On the up side, the Motorola MDC150 costs just under £50, yet has an attractive and subtle design which shouldn’t attract too much attention to itself. The camera constantly records on a loop, then saves a block of footage when its G sensor detects a collision. There’s also a night vision function, and the lens offers a decent viewing angle of 150 degrees. Our only real criticism is the windscreen suction mount, which is larger than the magnetic mounts used by rivals like Garmin.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.