Best dash cam 2018: 12 top cameras tried and tested

Which dash cam is best when it comes to recording your front or rear ends? We've tested them all from Garmin, Nextbase, RAC, Thinkware, Cobra, and more, to bring you the most reliable recommendation

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Want to know which is the best dash cam? Well, good news, we've tested dozens to find the best, and give you the most reliable recommendation out there. There's also a short answer and a long answer, so strap in and come along for the ride.

The short answer is that the Garmin Dash Cam 55 is the best dash cam at the moment. 

A 2.0-inch screen on the back of the Garmin Dash Cam 55 enables you to instantly play back video on the camera. As well as video it records detailed time and location data with GPS, features a good smartphone app, and has extra features such as forward collision and lane departure warnings. All-in-all, a pretty compelling dash cam package!

The NextBase 612GW is a very close second, offering superior image quality to the Garmin, but in a chunkier design.

If you're looking for something invisible, which sits discreetly behind your rear view mirror, check out the Thinkware F800.

The long answer involves how you plan to use the dash cam, what specific features might be useful to you, and different options to suit your budget.

Check out our best dash cam deals for winter 2018 to find the cheapest dash cams available.

How to choose the best dash cam for you

These are a selection of the best dash cams available in the UK, they all automatically record footage when they sense a collision, but some of them have a few extra abilities thrown in. 

They're certainly a worthwhile investment (especially now that it's winter), and could end up saving you a lot of money, either in the event of an accident, or in insurance premiums (for example, some companies will give you a 15-percent discount car insurance with most of these cameras).

There are several things to consider when buying a dash cam, but the most important factor is image quality. These devices are absolutely pointless if, when it comes to reviewing the footage of an accident, it looks like the lens has been smeared with Vaseline and you have difficulty telling whether you were cut up by a grey Vauxhall Corsa or a baby elephant.

We enlisted the help of a brand new Land Rover Discovery to throughly put these dash cams through their paces. Testing all of the cameras with the same lighting conditions, in a number of different, challenging scenarios, such as driving towards the sun and at night.

If we weren't happy with the image quality, they didn't make it in this list. You want at least 1080p recording, 720p doesn't quite cut the mustard.

Next, there are dash cams with screens, and models without. Dash cams with screens are easier to set up and view footage on, but ones without screens are a lot less intrusive. Both are useful, but we'd choose one with a screen for occasional recording (track days and scenic drives), but one without a screen setup and forget about for everyday driving.

Mounting type is also important. Most stick on the windscreen with a suction mount, the same a sat nav, where are some more permanent cams have sticky 3M mounts. 

The key feature to look out for is Wi-Fi smartphone connection, this makes it so much easier to view, download and share footage. 

There's also gimmicks such as lane departure and forward collision warning – while these are potentially interesting inclusions, in practice, they don't work very well, so shouldn't sway you're buying decision.

It's also important to note, that while these are battery powered, we've found they all have minuscule, sub-thirty minute battery lives. That means they're going to require a power cable, similar to a sat nav.

The 12 best dash cams you can buy today

Best dash cam: Garmin Dash Cam 55

1. Garmin Dash Cam 55

Narrowly pips the Nextbase to be crowned the King of Dash Cams in 2018

Camera: 1440p
Screen: 2.0-inch LCD
GPS: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Action cam-like design+Easy operation+Well designed mount+Voice control
Reasons to avoid
-Complex menus

This excellent dash cam from Garmin more than justifies it's asking price, thanks to its quality footage, number of extra features, and actually quite attractive design.

It's the most compact camera here (so takes up less windscreen space) and resembles a GoPro, making it the most attractive as well. That might seem like a funny thing to say, but it won't look out of place in a Range Rover or Mercedes, others on this list will.

Despite being small the Garmin 55 manages to pack in plenty of extra features, such as GPS and smartphone integration with the Garmin Virb app. This is pretty slick, as it's the same app Garmin uses for its action cameras.

There's also Lane Departure and Forward Collision warning, as well as Speed Camera warnings. The former two are somewhat less useful than the later. We just turn them all off.

The video footage is great as well. Recording in 1440p, it performed best in the sunlight test, getting the expose just right, and did pretty well in out night test as well.

The video quality might not be as good at the 4K Nextbase 612GW, but it's good enough.

The mount is the best designed here, with a small 3M magnet mount making removal and placement of the dash cam incredibly easy.

The only downside is the slightly fiddly menu system, which is controlled by four buttons on the side. It would benefit from a touch screen.

It's a very good dash cam with some very useful features. Clearly, this has been developed using expertise from other parts of Garmin's business, which is a good thing. It even comes with an 8GB microSD card so you're ready to start recording when it arrives.

Best dash cam: Nextbase 612GW

2. NextBase 612GW

The best dash cam for image quality, but with a clunky design

Camera: 150° FOV, 4K Ultra HD Resolution
Screen: 3.0-inch LCD
GPS: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Best image quality+Magnetic mount+Useful features, no gimmicks
Reasons to avoid
-Large and chunky design-Poor app

NextBase are another major player in the dash cam market, and the company's latest device, the 612GW, is their best yet.

First of all, NextBase has really improved its build quality, replacing plastic with aluminium.

Secondly, we'd say it has the best image quality of any dash cam we've tested, thanks to the 4K Ultra HD Resolution, seven-element lens, Sony Exmor R sensor, and polarising lens (which helps reduce window glare).

It was only let down when driving towards the sun, where it would underexpose the roads and other cars. This can be fixed, however, as NextBase gives you exposure compensation control. 

In other conditions, image quality is excellent, and the most detailed we saw.

You also get all of the useful features from the Garmin, including Wi-Fi and GPS, without the more gimmicky features.

The mount is suction and magnetic, making it easy to remove and place the camera.

There are a few things that let it down, however. 

Svelte this is not, it's ones of the chunkiest dash cams we tested (taking up much more windscreen real estate than the Garmin). When using it you're also hit with a tidal wave of beeps and chimes. It's not a major issue, just slightly annoying, and makes it seem cheaper than it is (these can be turned off).

While the NextBase has Wi-Fi and a companion app available on the Google and Apple app stores, it's worth noting it only has two stars. We didn't have any major problems with it, but other people seem to have connectivity issues. Hopefully this can be fixed with a software update.

All-in-all it's a very good dash cam with excellent image quality, a number of useful features, and no gimmicks.

There's also the NextBase Ride, which is a dash camera specifically for motorcyclists. 

Best dash cam: Thinkware F800 Pro

3. Thinkware F800 Pro

Almost invisible design, video quality good, and night mode very impressive

Camera: 1080p Full HD
Screen: No Screen
GPS: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Non-intrusive design+Parking and Night Modes+Cloud features interesting
Reasons to avoid
-App and connectivity issues-It's there almost permanently

The Thinkware F800 is probably the dash cam that we've used for the longest amount of time – mainly because it's so low profile you just forget about it (which is kind of what you want with these devices).

The F800 is fixed to your car windscreen with sticky 3M tape, and, as there's no screen, you can essentially hide it behind the rear view mirror. We think that's the best place for them.

The F800 comes with GPS tracking, lifetime safety camera and speed alerts, as well as Safety Warnings such as forward collision and lane departure awareness. Although, while these are marginally useful on dash cameras with screens, they are zero use without a screen.

The HD video quality is good, and the night mode (now on its second generation) is very impressive (it's surprisingly sharp and there's next to no noise). There's built-in Wi-Fi so you can connect to your smartphone, although, we did experience some connection issues, and it looks very dated. 

Time Lapse Mode which records your parked car for 48-hours. That's great if you're worried about the vehicle being vandalised while left at night.

That final feature requires the camera to be hardwired into the car. We think that's what you'd want to do with the Thinkware. It's not too difficult and also the neatest looking option, freeing up the 12V port.

The most interesting capability bundled in with the F800 Pro is Thinkware's new Cloud service. This includes the ability to get notified when your car leaves a geofenced area, or when an impact occurs to your vehicle. You can also use it to locate your vehicle when parked.

These are potentially very useful features, but we found it very difficult to get them working, and from reading other online reviews, we're not the only ones.

Best dash cam: Mio MiVue C330

4. Mio MiVue C330

A great dash cam for less than £100!

Camera: 1080p Full HD
Screen: No Screen
GPS: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Small+Fully featured
Reasons to avoid
-Large mount-Not good at night

If you want to test the dash cam waters before jumping in, this affordable model from Mio is a great place to start. 

The MiVue C330 will begin filming in 1080p at 30 frames per second as soon as you start your car. Video quality is good, although, obviously not as good as the more expensive options on this list.

The C330 comes with plenty of extra features, including safety camera warnings and built-in GPS tracking. That's particularly impressive, given the price.

The only thing that really lets this camera down is the night mode – it's not great, so if you a lot of night driving this one isn't for you.

Best dash cam: Philips ARD 810

5. Philips ADR81BLX1 ADR 810

Easy operation and decent image quality

Camera: 156° FOV, 1080p
Screen: 2.7-inch LCD
Reasons to buy
+Image quality in low light+Secure sticky mount
Reasons to avoid
-No internal battery, despite size-Not too many features

While Philips may be better known for making electric toothbrushes than dash cameras, it doesn't mean it can't have its finger in more than one pie. The catchily named ADR81BLX1 ADR 810 impressed us with its clear screen and decent image quality.

It even has something we've not seen on a dash cam before - Driver Fatigue Warning. Could be a useful feature, could also have the potential to be annoying.

A few things let the Philips dash cam down. First is that is has no internal battery what so ever, so as soon as it unplugged it dies (after saving the footage). Most of these have backup batteries, so they keep running for a bit longer. The second is the build quality, it's not what we'd expect from a Philips product.

These are minor quibbles though, and at the end of the day, the Philips dash cam produces decent 1080p video and is very easy to operate.

Best dash cam: RAC 05

6. ProofCam RAC 05

One of the most fully-featured cams around

Camera: 150° FOV, Super HD 1296p
Screen: 2.7-inch LCD TFT
GPS: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Simple with excellent features+Lifetime speed camera warnings
Reasons to avoid
-Zero battery life-Safety features not great

The RAC 05, just like the Garmin Dash Cam 55, is one of the most fully featured we've seen. In fact, the RAC 05 matches the Garmin in almost every area, with GPS tracking, lifetime safety camera and speed alerts (in over 80 countries), as well as forward collision and lane departure warning.

The three areas where the ProofCam falls behind the Garmin is that there's no Wi-Fi and smartphone companion app (which makes getting footage off slightly more difficult), the mount is suction and not as well designed, and it's a more intrusive design. 

You see we're nit picking there, so if you can pick up the ProofCam RAC 05 for significantly cheaper than the Garmin, it's probably worth going for this.

We were super impressed with the image quality of the RAC 05, it was our pick of when it came to recording at night.

The benefit to the larger design is that there's space for a larger screen. This makes viewing video on the device more pleasing.

Just like the Garmin, this dash cam also comes with a 8GB microSD.

Best dash cam: Mio MiVue 688

7. Mio MiVue 688

Impressive Sony sensor in a compact casing

Camera: 140º, Full HD
Screen: 2.7-inch touchscreen
GPS: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Small+Sony Image Sensor
Reasons to avoid
-Quite expensive-Not the most secure mount

The Mio MiVue is a really neat little device, but despite the dinky body, it manages to squeeze in a reasonably sized 2.7-inch screen on it.

The Mio MiVue is one for tech fans amongst us, featuring GPS tracking, lifetime speed limit notifications, but no Wi-Fi so it can't connect directly to your phone.

Footage is captured in Full HD at 30fps, and Mio uses Sony's optic sensor so it looks really impressive, especially in low light. The one button/touch screen combination is intuitive, but it features a 3-axis G-sensor to automatically record in the event of a collision.

Best dash cam: NextBase 112

8. NextBase 112

A compact dash cam with a screen

Camera: 120° FOV, 720p HD
Screen: 2.0-inch LCD
GPS: Yes
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
-Fiddly screen-Not the sharpest

The cheapest, smallest unit here, the 112 packs a 120-degree camera and smart brushed-metal detailing. The two-inch screen is fiddly in this touchscreen era, rivals have sharper images, and extremes of light and shade throw it a little, but the 112 does the job and records to the 32GB SD card in three-minute chunks. 

There’s also a mic, and a battery for 30 minutes of post-smash recording – the camera doesn’t switch off when the car does. Consider that a dash-cam is for emergencies, not something you interact with daily, and the 112 is a great budget choice.

Best dash cam: Garmin DriveAssist 51

9. Garmin DriveAssist 51 LMT-S

A great sat nav with a built in dash cam

Camera: Unknown
Screen: 5.0-inch LCD
GPS: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Large screen+Sat nav as well
Reasons to avoid
-Driver alerts annoying-Large

The DriveAssist 51 is both a dash-cam and a sat-nav. The five-inch screen lets you check the camera position, and there’s a 4GB card to record onto, either all the time or in the event of a smash. 

Footage is high-quality and saved in one-minute chunks. Time, date, speed and location are included (each of these can be turned off), as is a microphone, providing you vital screechy information. There’s also Bluetooth, and driver-assistance features such as lane-departure and forward-collision warnings, while Go Alert tells phone-gawpers that the traffic’s moving.

Best dash cam: Snooper DVR-4HD

10. Snooper DVR-4HD

A dash cam with built-in speed camera detectors

Camera: 120° FOV, 1080p HD
Screen: 3.0-inch LCD
GPS: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Built in speed camera detectors+Good quality recording
Reasons to avoid
-Plasticy design-Narrow FOV

Snooper made its name with speed-camera detectors, so it’s no surprise that the DVR-4HD packs one, as well as forward-collision alerts and lane-departure warnings. Like most rivals, it records automatically and on a loop, overwriting earlier footage when the 16GB memory card fills. 

The 140-degree lens, 2MP camera and 1080P HD provide some of the sharpest imagery here: pause it and car number plates ping off the screen. You also get time, date, speed and GPS coordinates. A 2.7-inch touchscreen, clear sound, top Wi-Fi connectivity and a free app all swing the balance in its favour.

Best dash cam: RoadHawk Vision

11. RoadHawk Vision

Camera: 160° FOV, 1296p Super HD
Screen: None
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
-Cheap build quality-No speed or location

The RoadHawk Vision looks a little cheap, but its compact design packs some nice tricks. There’s no screen, but Wi-Fi means you can use the free app to check the camera position on your phone, and also watch your favourite crashes – though rivals do this better. 

The 160-degree, 5MP camera gives a great view of junctions – most are 120-degree – and its images are crisp. Constant-loop recording means you never miss a thing, and ‘event’ clips are saved to a folder on the 8GB card. Speed and location aren’t shown, but you get a mic for some ‘I’m Ronnie Pickering’ YouTube gold.

Best dash cam: Cobra CDR 900 E

12. Cobra CDR 900 E

A neat dash cam which produces good quality footage and doubles as an action camera

Camera: 160° FOV, 1296p Super HD
Screen: 2.0-inch LCD
GPS: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Neat design+Good quality recording
Reasons to avoid
-Poor mic-Faffy interface

The CDR 900 E gets off to a great start with a smart, sturdy body and some premium detailing. The 160-degree lens, 3MP camera and 1296P Super HD recording translate to high-quality footage with a great field of vision, and linking to your smartphone via the Wi-Fi and reviewing footage on the free app is a cinch. 

There’s a lot to like about the CDR 900 E, but it lets itself down with a faffy interface and a microphone that sounds like you’ve hung it out of the window. That it costs so much yet can’t record speed or location has it spinning out of contention.

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