A single dash cam recording the road ahead through your windscreen is better than nothing, but what about a second camera recording rearwards too?
This is where the two-channel, front-and-rear dash cam system comes into play. Fitted to both the front and rear screens, they record the road ahead and the road behind, with the latter useful for determining blame after a rear-end collision.
Sometimes also known as 2CH dash cams, these systems often include a regular forward-facing camera with a smaller rear camera. The resolution of the second camera is usually lower than the front, and it attaches to the forward camera with a long cable.
This means two-channel dash cam systems often require professional installation, or at the very least they need their long cable tucking into the gaps between and behind the interior panels and roof lining of your car. They are then powered either by a single cable attached to the front camera and your car’s 12v lighter socket, or by a hardwiring kit that draws power from the vehicle’s fuse box. The latter is best installed by a professional. Some two- or three-channel dash cams are powered by the car’s OBD port, which is a more accessible means of delivering constant power.
Rear cameras usually stick to the rear screen with an adhesive pad. Some models offer a lot of adjustability, while others need to be positioned carefully to get a perfect view. Although rare, we’ve seen a handful of dash cams where the rear camera is weather-resistant and designed to attach to the rear of the car, close to the license plate.
Although inherently more expensive than an equivalent one-channel dash cam, front-and-rear systems are available at many price points, from under $100 to over $500. It’s also possible to buy a front-facing dash cam, and then expand the system with a compatible rear camera at a later date.
If you want to only cover the front of your vehicle, we also have a guide to the best dash cams for single-direction recording. Then there’s also our guide to the best budget dash cams if you want to spend less money.
Alistair is a technology and automotive journalist who has reviewed dozens of dash cams over the years. Whether they are $20 or $400, he has tried and tested dash cams from companies like Garmin, Thinkware and Nextbase, as well as lesser-known brands. Every model is fitted to his car and used as if his own before it is reviewed, and then judged if suitable as a recommendations in one of our buying guides. With over a decade of experience, Alistair also writes for Wired, Forbes, T3, and The Independent. A typical week includes reviewing light switches, Lamborghinis, and everything in-between.
The Quick List
The Thinkware U1000 dash cam is a hugely impressive piece of kit that gets our top-spot recommendation. It can record footage in UHD 4K at 30fps or 2K 1440p at silky-smooth 60fps. Both are great, although opting for the lower resolution and higher frame rate can make it easier to see detail in paused frames of the footage, and keep file sizes lower.
Best image quality
There are an increasing number of dash cams that promise 4K video capture, but often these give disappointing results. Not so the Cobra which greatly impressed us when we reviewed it. It offers built-in Alexa support and GPS too.
Best for features
It’s not cheap, but it shoots 4K video, has an integrated cabin camera and the option for a rear-view camera. Plus it has 4G for always-on parking surveillance.
Best for value
Best for expandability
This replaces the 66W, which was already one of our favorites. It can be used as a regular front-facing dashcam, but it can be used as a dual dashcam, too. That's thanks to Garmin’s smart Dash Cam Auto Sync expandability feature, where up to four compatible cameras can be set to record at the same time.
Best for Alexa-integration
The Nextbase 622GW dash cam comes in-built with Amazon Alexa assistance. This means you can tell the dash cams to start recording, as well as ask Alexa on other devices for directions, play music, get weather updates, make a call, and so on. And as you don’t want distractions while driving, this is one situation when voice control really is handy.
Best front and rear dash cams in 2024
Why you can trust Digital Camera World
The Thinkware U1000 dash cam is a hugely impressive piece of kit that gets our top-spot recommendation. It can record footage in UHD 4K at 30fps or 2K 1440p at silky-smooth 60fps. Both are great, although opting for the lower resolution and higher frame rate might make it easier to see detail in paused frames of the footage, and also keeps the file sizes lower.
This is a setup with an optional rear camera, which shoots 2K 1440p at 30fps and does so through a lens with a decent 156-degree field of view, giving you a wide latitude for seeing what's going on behind your vehicle. It's also a pleasingly compact and unobtrusive unit, so won't be distracting or get in the way. Just stick it to your rear screen and forget about it.
A suite of handy features like GPS, speed-camera detection and average speed warnings make the Thinkware U1000 a tempting proposition for the vast majority of users. It's a fairly large unit, and there are definitely smaller options available on this list, like the Garmin 67W, but if this doesn't bother you then it's highly recommended.
Read more: Thinkware U1000 review
Best for image quality
The Cobra is a chunky-looking front/rear dash cam, but what impressed us most with this was the quality of the footage from the 4K front camera. We noted that it is sharp, bright and nicely balanced, with minimal grain and a great amount of detail – a revelation compared to some 4K dash cams that overpromise and underdeliver. The rear camera offers a slightly narrower field of view, and an inferior Full HD image quality - but there is plenty to like here. The integrated GPS and Alexa are particularly welcome.
Cobra isn’t as well known for dash cams as rivals like Garmin, Nextbase and Thinkware, but we wouldn't let that put you off. It’s not as clever as the pricier Nextbase iQ, nor is it as compact as the Garmin 67W, but we think it does a great job regardless.
Read more: Cobra SC 400D review
Best for features
It’s one of the most expensive dash cams around, but it is also one of the newest and arguably the most impressive. What makes it especially useful for Uber drivers is how, like the Garmin Dash Cam Tandem, every version of iQ (with 1K, 2K or 4K front cameras) comes with an integrated interior camera with Full HD video and infrared night vision.
A rear camera is also available as an optional extra. All three save footage to a microSD card, or with a subscription you can have footage automatically uploaded to the cloud via the iQ’s 4G connection. This is also used to notify you via the Nextbase app when the iQ detects a parking prang or attempted theft, and the camera cleverly receives a constant power supply from your car’s OBD II port.
Constant power and 4G means this is a dash cam that also doubles as an in-car security camera, ready to stream footage to your phone from anywhere in the world.
Nextbase promises a steady supply of over-the-air software updates and new features coming to the iQ soon, including radar-powered vehicle monitoring that uses artificial intelligence to estimate the speed and trajectory of every vehicle within its sight; this data is then added to recordings to help show who caused a collision. The radar is also used to alert you if the iQ spots a potential thief loitering by your unattended car.
The iQ is large, expensive and has ongoing costs to consider, but if you want the very best it’s hard to ignore.
Read more: Nextbase iQ review
Best for value
If you're seeking something a little cheaper than our first choices, check out the Viofo A129 Pro Duo. In terms of video quality, its front camera is one of the best around, capable of capturing 4K UHD, utilizing its 8.29MP Sony Exmor R sensor. You also get multiple bitrate options and H.265 high-efficiency video coding.
The rear camera isn't quite as high quality as that of the Thinkware U1000, being only Full HD rather than the U1000's slightly higher 2560x1440 resolution. This may well be more than enough for your needs, however, and it still looks pretty darn good. You also get some useful extra modes such as Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) and Super Night Vision, meaning you're always prepared no matter the weather and lighting conditions.
The camera units themselves are rather bulky, and can't be removed from their mounts. The front unit especially is sizable, which is partly due to the LCD screen. If you're not bothered about a display and want a smaller dashcam, it may be worth considering one of the others on this list, like those from Garmin or Thinkware. Otherwise, this is a really solid buy.
Read more: Viofo A229 Pro review
Best for expandability
The Garmin Dash Cam 67W updated the 66W, which was already one of our favorites. It can be used as a regular front-facing dash cam, but it also works as a dual dash cam, too. That's thanks to Garmin’s clever Dash Cam Auto Sync feature, where up to four compatible cameras can be set to record at the same time.
That way, you could fit dash cams to the front and rear of your car, but also facing out of the sides, which could be particularly useful for larger vehicles like vans and motorhomes. Obviously, this means you need to buy two or more cameras (as these are not sold in kits) and they each need their own power supply – so factor that into your comparisons.
The Auto Sync feature is not exclusive to the 67W; it also works with Garmin’s 46, 56, Mini, and Tandem dash cams. The latter has two lenses of its own, to record the interior of the car as well as the exterior.
The 67W records in 1440p (so a little higher than Full HD) at 60 frames per second and with HDR. It also has a 180-degree wide-angle lens. Unusually for a dash cam, the 67W has a battery. But since it only lasts for about 30 minutes, you’ll really want to plug in for most journeys, or permanently hardwire the camera to your car.
Pair this dash cam up with a Garmin Mini 2 and you have a formidable two-camera system, albeit one that requires two power sockets or professional hardwiring.
Read more: Garmin Dash Cam 67W review
Best for Alexa-integration
It might look like a fairly regular dash cam at first glance, but the Nextbase 622GW is absolutely packed with features. Compact, and with a well-designed magnetic mount, the 622GW features 4K video recording, GPS, and a function that automatically calls the emergency services and shares your location if the driver is unresponsive after a heavy crash.
There’s more. It also has support for what3words, the system for precisely pinpointing your location when local maps and data coverage aren’t up to the job, and there’s integrated Alexa, the Amazon voice assistant.
A secondary rear camera can be attached via a long cable, in the traditional manner, or Nextbase also sells a rear-view camera that attaches directly to the side of the 622GW. In fact, it actually sells two such cameras; one with a zoomed-in view for recording through the rear window, and another that records the interior.
Other features include digital image stabilization, which can be handy if your car has a firm ride and tends to create shaky dash cam footage, and the option to record at 120 frames per second. This knocks the front camera resolution down from 4K to Full HD (1080p), but we like how the high frame rate can produce smoother footage.
We were less impressed by the clunky smartphone app, but as with most dashcams, this is only needed while setting everything up, and then can be cast aside.
Read more: Nextbase 622GW Dash Cam review
How to choose the best front and rear dash cam
The same rules apply here to most other types of dash cam. You of course need to pick a system that works with a secondary, rear-facing camera. Sometimes these are included as part of a bundle, other times you can buy the second camera separately.
After that, you’ll want to strike the best balance you can between your budget and a dash cam that offers high quality video with a resolution of at least 1080p (Full HD), ideally with HDR and perhaps also a frame rate about 30 fps. After that comes the design of the dash cam – does it fit neatly behind the rear view mirror?; is the rear camera also compact and easy to install in your vehicle? – and finally we suggest buyers look at additional features. These can include speed camera alerts, but also functions like the SOS emergency calling of the Nextbase 622GW, or the always-on 4G connection of a Nextbase iQ.
Ultimately, your choice will come down to whichever dash cam offers a front-and-rear system with the best video quality for your budget.
Our overall favorite front and rear dash cam is the Thinkware U1000. We’re big fans of the 4K video of the front camera, but also love how the resolution can be lowered to 1440p in favor of a higher 60fps frame rate. The rear camera is Full HD at 30 fps, and we like how the main unit lacks a display, making it relatively compact and discreet when installed.
Other favorites include the hugely capable (but equally expensive) Nextbase iQ, as well as the Cobra SC 400D for its excellent video quality, and the Garmin 67W for the company’s clever way of wirelessly linking up to four dash cams at once. Dash cams from Viofo always offer great value, and the A129 Pro Duo featured in this guide is no exception. For a dash cam packed with features, including emergency phone calling in the event of a heavy crash, Alexa and support for what3words, we highly recommend the Nextbase 622GW.
Can all dash cams work with a second camera?
Most do, but not all. You should check carefully that the dash cam you want to buy can be connected to a rear-facing secondary camera. We recommend buying a two-camera kit, so that you can be certain the two cameras will connect and work together.
In some cases there are multiple rear camera options available. For example, the Nextbase 622GW featured earlier can be fitted with a camera that plug directly into its side, then records a zoomed-in view through the rear windscreen. That way, there[s no need to run a cable to a camera stuck to the rear screen itself. Alternatively, an interior camera can be connected directly to the 622GW, while a rear-view camera can be attached via a long cable.
Up to four of Garmin’s dash cams can wirelessly connect to each other, then record four streams of synchronized video. This can be a nice alternative to running long cables to the rear screen, but each camera requires its own power connection.
Do front and rear dash cams require professional installation?
No, but in some cases it can make a big difference. This is especially true with front-and-rear systems, since they include a long cable that connects the main unit on the windscreen to a secondary camera on the rear screen. It can be difficult to route this cable neatly around the interior or your car, and while not impossible for an amateur – most dash cams come with a tool for tucking the cable into gaps between and behind interior panels – a professional might well do a neater job.
This is assuming you plug the dash cam into a 12V socket or a USB port. If you want to hardwire the camera, this involves attaching it to the car’s fuse box for a constant source of power, and unless you are a competent home mechanic, we recommend paying for professional installation. With that complete, the dash cam (and rear camera) will be neatly installed, automatically turn on when the car is powered up, switch into parking mode when it’s turned off, and look like it was installed when the car was built.
Do any front and rear dash cams record in 4K?
Yes. Some dash cam systems record 4K video (also known as 2160p), but only with the forward view. There are currently no systems that record 4K to the rear.
Systems that shoot forward-facing 4K include the Thinkware U1000 and the Nextbase iQ, with the latter also available in cheaper 1080p and 2K (also known as 1440p) guises.
In some cases, the front camera’s ability to shoot in 4K is removed when a rear camera is connected, because of the processing power required when running two cameras at once. You might also see a drop in frame rate for the front camera when a second is installed, often from 60 frames per second to 30. Carefully check the specifications of a dash cam – and check if this changes when a rear camera is connected – before making your purchase.
Ultimately, Full HD is acceptable, 1440p (also known as 2K) is preferable, and 4K is a luxury only found in today’s most expensive dash cams. Be sure to avoid cheaper, sub-$150 models claiming to offer 4K, because the pixel count is true but the video quality is far from cinematic.
How we test front and rear dash cams
Every dash cam featured in our buying guides is installed and tested thoroughly. I fit each dash cam to my car and use it as if it is my own, logging into the smartphone app (where necessary) and using the camera for every journey. I test the dash cams at day and night, adjust their video settings, and look at any additional features they have.
Dash cams cannot be hardwired for every test. Instead, they are plugged into the 12V socket of my car – or the OBD port, as is an option in some cases – and the cables are tucked away as neatly as possible. How a dash cam is hardwired to the fuse box varies by car, so isn’t included as an assessment criteria for our reviews and buying guides.
Naturally, I cannot truly test the crash detection of these cameras, but endeavor to try out every other feature and function before reaching a verdict.