The best dash cams are the best way to keep yourself safe in the car. While a basic dashboard camera can do a fine job of recording the road ahead, providing evidence in case you need to resolve with an insurance company, the best dash cams are smarter than that, offering driver aids to avoid things like lane drift or getting too close to a vehicle in front.
Some dash cams can even contact emergency services automatically after an accident, and pass on your GPS co-ordinates to make sure the paramedics can reach you. While you hope you never need such a thing, it's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!
Dash cam footage can provide important evidence, so while it's not necessary for dash cams to record in 4K and other high resolutions, it's certainly no bad thing if they do; better for your footage to be clear and unambiguous than murky and unclear.
Some dash cams just cover the front of a vehicle, while others come in pairs to record what's going on behind as well. We've included a mixture of both types in this guide, but if you're positive you want both-sides coverage, then we have a dedicated guide to the best front and rear dash cams that features this kind exclusively.
In terms of video technology, dash cams tend to use similar setups as the best action cameras, though are designed for longer-term, constant recording in a way that GoPros are not. So dash cams are definitely a better choice if you care more about the consistency of your footage than the quality.
If you need to keep an eye on what's going on inside the car as well as outside, then you might want to take a look at our guide to the e best Uber dash cams. And if you prefer to navigate the road on two wheels rather than four, our list of the best helmet cameras should prove useful for giving yourself the same level of peace of mind.
With all that in mind, let's get to our list of the best dash cams you can buy right now. The top two slots are taken by Garmin, which seems to have the dash cam market pretty tightly sewn up right now. The new Garmin Dash Cam 67W is the latest version of Garmin's high-end model, with the brilliant new Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2 has the same keyfob-size dimensions as its predecessor. We really rate them both, for different reasons.
There are plenty of other choices, though, and for a range of budgets. Naturally, the ones that cost a little more tend to come with more fancy features. If you want to know more about these, you can jump to our explainer on what to look for in a dash cam. For now though, let's start counting off the best dash cams you can buy right now.
The best dash cam in 2021
This Garmin Dash Cam 67W is a refresh of the 66W, our previous favorite model, now including new features like Live View monitoring to check your car remotely and a Parking Guard feature to alerts you to parking lot prangs. It looks like the 66W is still on sale for now, so it's a cheaper alternative that share's this dash cam's key specs. The Garmin Dash Cam 67W truly excellent dash cam that is compact and easy to use, with a good set of useful features and which records top-quality video. It's not the cheapest, but it is a top-notch dash cam that does everything without being needlessly complicated. Even the mounting system is super-simple. It’s a must-buy and deserves the no. 1 spot in this guide.
• Read more: Garmin Dash Cam 67W review
The Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2 might just be the smallest dash cam on the market today. Roughly the size of a car key fob, the camera records in 1080p Full HD resolution with HDR, is easy to set up, has an equally compact windscreen mount, and even features a voice control system – it's the perfect compact dash cam. If you want high-quality Full HD video with HDR from an incredibly compact design, you really should look no further. The voice controls are also very good, the mount is small and simple to use, and you can even pair up to four of these cameras together for synchronised recording right around your vehicle.
• Read our Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2 review
If you’re looking for an all-singing, all-dancing dash cam that does everything – but also lacks a screen to distract you while driving – this is it. The Thinkware U1000 shoots in sharp 4K video (albeit with the associated huge file sizes) through a wide, 150-degree lens. There’s built-in Wi-Fi and GPS, which is used to serve up speed camera alerts and add location and speed data to all of your recordings. An optional rear camera can also be purchased and plugged into the main unit, which shoots in 2K resolution at 30 frames per second for sharp footage of what’s going on behind you. Enhanced night vision and wide dynamic range help to produce high quality video during the day and night. We admit this is an expensive option, and it has to be hardwired into your vehicle. But if it’s a feature-packed, high-quality dash cam you want, this is it!
See full Thinkware U1000 review
The BlackVue DR900S-1CH offers a neat factory-fit look, but also has the advantage of a slim and compact design. The 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.
In this phone-centric world, many dash cams are opting to get rid of the screen entirely. The Thinkware F200 Pro is one such camera, requiring you to hook up your phone via Wi-Fi and the app to monitor what's going on in real time. If you think you'll miss an integrated display then this isn't one for you, but otherwise the F200 Pro is decent value, taking nice-looking Full HD video with a wide colour gamut. It also has some driver-assist features, such as lane-drift alerts and slow-speed front-collision warnings. An integrated supercapacitor also holds a little charge in order to keep the cam going for a few seconds in the event of sudden power interruption. It can be purchased solo, or with an optional rear unit.
The Nextbase 522GW is a great dash cam for those who want a whole suite of features – including Alexa, GPS and Emergency SOS – but who are also on a budget. The 522GW shoots 2K resolution (1440p) at 30 frames per second, or regular 1080p Full HD at 60fps. It also features a 140-degree viewing angle, integrated GPS for accurate location, direction and speed data, and even Amazon Alexa. This means that, using your smartphone's internet connection, the 522GW works just like an Alexa smart speaker at home, enabling you to play music, hear news headlines, get directions and even control your smart home gadgets while on the road. Emergency SOS can sense a collision and then, if the driver doesn’t respond to a prompt, will alert the local emergency services and share your location – potentially saving lives.
This is the big brother of the Nextbase 522GW, and is the best choice if you want a 4K dashcam without the need to have the dashboard device hardwired into your vehicle. The step up in video quality is noticeable – and there is the added feature of support for What3Words – and ingenious global system that you can use to give your precise location to first responders by just giving them three words (and is a proven lifesaver). With an easy-to-use app that connects your smartphone to the 622GW over its own wifi network, you can see all your clips with ease – and download those you want to save or review.
If you want a dash cam that does absolutely everything but 4K, the Thinkware Q800 Pro is for you. As well as shooting in high-quality 1440p with advanced night vision, the camera also has a wide range of safety features. These include speed camera alerts, lane departure and forward collision warnings, and a system for alerting you when the vehicle ahead moves off, saving you from an awkward beep by the driver behind.
Wide dynamic range and auto exposure help to keep footage clear in harsh or low lighting, and everything is shot through a 140-degree lens. A second rear-facing dash cam is an optional extra, too. And if you hardwire the Q800 Pro to your car (giving it a permanent power source from the battery) there’s a smart parking mode to record incidents while parked.
Because it lacks a display, the Thinkware Q800 Pro has a more subtle design than most dash cams, hugging your windscreen and fitting neatly below or behind the rear view mirror. Designed to be a permanent addition to your car, the camera sticks to the screen and works best when hard-wired, so there’s no quick way to switch it between multiple vehicles.
Kenwood is a popular choice if you buy your dash cam from a dealership – but you can buy its range of dashboard cameras online too. This 4K model is great value, offering useful features such as built-in GPS, a bright f/1.8 wide-angle lens, and an integrated polarizing filter for cutting through windshield reflections. The magnetic mount makes this easier, and more between different vehicles, than with some rivals. You get a 16GB SD memory card supplied, but you can uses up to a capacity of 256GB if you want to keep footage for longer - or do lots of driving. A dual-camera kit is also available.
What to look for in a dash cam
There are a huge number of dash cams on the market today, and some of them are very cheap indeed. But the best dash cams go further, with better quality, better connectivity, more driver aids or more safety features. So here’s a quick run-down of what to look for:
• Angle of view: Dash cams typically have wide-angle lenses. The wider the angle of view, the more likely it is to take in what’s happening in junctions and side roads, but objects up ahead will be smaller.
• Resolution: 4K capture is great, and high resolution means clearer, sharper images with more detail, but it also means the files are bigger and you need more storage.
• Batteries vs wired: Some dash cams have batteries and can easily be installed without wires, but the batteries won’t last long – typically around 30 minutes. Some dash cams can plug into a USB socket or 12V supply and keep running indefinitely, though the cables may look messy. The other alternative is to get your dash cam installed professionally with hidden wiring. It will cost more, and you can’t move the camera from one vehicle to another, but it looks better.
• Protection while parked: The advantage of a wired in dash cam is that it can keep running while your car is parked, and record suspicious activity, attempted theft or parking bumps.
• Front and rear dash cams: Sometimes, the hazard is from behind, so a rear-facing dash cam can be very useful. We have a separate buying guide to the best front and rear dash cams. Some front facing dash cams come with an optional rear camera upgrade.
• High dynamic range: It sounds like a feature for a high-end digital camera, but HDR capture can be an advantage in very bright, high-contrast lighting.
• Night vision: We don’t just drive in the daytime. A dash cam with night vision can offer protection and security at night, too.
• Wi-Fi: Dash cams with Wi-Fi can communicate with a smartphone app for controlling settings or checking video.
• Cloud subscription: An optional extra with some dash cams which could be useful for fleet owners keeping track of a number of vehicles.
• Driver assist safety aids: Some dash cams can sound alerts if you cross lane markings or warn you that a vehicle ahead has stopped in traffic.
• Voice control: You need to keep your hands on the wheel while you’re driving, so voice control is a safety feature, not just a convenience.
• GPS and emergency services: It’s the last item on our list but perhaps the most important. If you are involved in an accident, you may not be able to ask for help, and some of the best dash cams can detect a collision and automatically notify the emergency services. And if they have GPS, they can send your exact location to the emergency services too.
Read more guides:
Best front and rear dash cams
Best Uber dash cams
The Best camera phones today
Best indoor security cameras in 2021
Best outdoor security cameras
The 10 best action cameras
The best helmet cameras
Best backup camera
The best baby camera monitors