Want to know which is the best dash cam? Well, good news, we've tested dozens of dash cams 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 Nextbase 622GW is the best dash cam you can currently buy.
The 622GW is a hugely impressive dash cam, which not only nails the basics (such as recording outstanding image quality and solid smartphone connectivity), but also offers features never before seen in a dash cam, such as Alexa voice control and What3Words integration. All in all, it's a very compelling dash cam package!
The Garmin Dash Cam 66W is a very close second, offering a slimmer, more stylish design than the Nextbase, but inferior image quality and less useful safety features, or, if you're looking for an invisible dash cam, which sits discreetly behind your rearview mirror, check out the Thinkware F800.
If you're looking for the best budget dash cam, try the Nextbase 222.
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.
How to choose the best dash cam for you
You want at least 1080p recording, 720p doesn't quite cut the mustard, and while 4K is a nice option to have, the file sizes are very large and older computers will struggle to play them.
Next, you'll have to decide whether you want a dash cam with a screen or a model 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, whereas some more permanent cams have sticky 3M mounts.
The key feature to look out for is a Wi-Fi smartphone connection, this makes it so much easier to view, download and share footage.
There are 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.
One feature which isn't a gimmick is GPS – this allows the car to record your speed and direction of travel, which could be used as extra evidence in an insurance case.
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.
All companies include a charger that plugs into your car's cigarette lighter, while some offer kits which allow you to hardwire the dash cam into your car's fusebox.
The best dash cams you can buy today
Don't view this as merely a replacement for the previous range-topping 522GW, the latest dash cam from Nextbase boasts much-improved video quality, improved stabilisation and the inclusion of some rather clever What3Words geolocation services and a bunch of Amazon Alexa Skills.
Plump for the 4K at 30fps video resolution and the resulting footage isn't too far off today's leading action cameras, proving incredibly detailed, vibrant and smooth when viewed on a laptop or PC.
Even in poor lighting, it's easy to pick out details and features, while a special Super Slow-Mo mode (1080p at 120fps) means it is now easier than ever to read registration plates on fast-moving vehicles.
A built-in polarising filter on the front of the camera can be rotated to reduce glare from windscreens, while digital image stabilisation is another first for the dash cam market and helps smooth out those bumps and shakes caused by potholes and poor road surfaces.
Like its 522GW sibling, this model can be controlled via the voice with Alexa Skills, but it requires the accompanying smartphone app to work, which isn’t the best. Despite new dual 2.4GHz + 5GHz Wi-Fi, it still has trouble connecting with phones to transfer images and video clips.
Thankfully the 3-inch rear touchscreen is crisp, clear and very easy to use, while the inclusion of What3Words is clever, as it can alert the emergency and breakdown services of an exact location, even when there is no Wi-Fi or mobile data available.
Easy to set up, sleekly packaged and a doddle to operate, the Nextbase 622GW is our top pick, doing everything that's required of a dash cam and doing it well, but also offers some useful additional features.
This fantastic little dash cam from Garmin earns second place on this list with good image quality, a number of extra features, and actually quite attractive design. It's one of the most compact cameras 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, while others on this list will.
Despite being small the Garmin 66 manages to pack in plenty of extra features, such as GPS and smartphone integration with the Garmin Virb app. 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.
The video footage is great as well. Recording in 1440p with an ultra-wide 180-degree field of view. The video quality might not be as good at the Nextbase 522GW, but it's good enough.
The mount is excellently designed, with a small 3M magnet mount making removal and placement of the dash cam incredibly easy. The downside is the slightly fiddly menu system, which is controlled by four buttons on the side, and the inconsistent voice control.
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.
If you like the low profile design of the F800 Pro, but require even better video quality, then you should read our review of the Q800 Pro, which records at 2K resolution.
The 522GW is a massively impressive dash cam, which not only nails the basics (such as recording outstanding image quality), but also offers features never before seen in a dash cam.
It’s the first dash cam available in the UK with Alexa built-in, so you can play music, find parking, control smart home devices and make calls whenever you want, without taking your eyes off the road. We found it surprisingly useful.
There’s also impressive safety features, such as Emergency SOS, which will alert the emergency services to your location in the event of an accident. This feature is potentially lifesaving, and is one of the main reasons we rate it as the best dash cam in 2019.
That's not all, however, the 522GW also packs an 'Intelligent Parking Mode' that records any bump or physical movement on the vehicle when left unattended.
It's not just the impressive list of features that means this is the best dash cam, however, as we previously mentioned, the Nextbase 522GW is also a master when it comes to the basics. It records incredibly crisp, perfectly lit 1440p video, the Click&Go mount is a really neat solution, and its smartphone app, MyNextbase, is the most polished experience we've encountered.
The Mio MiVue J60 is a really neat little device, with a compact body which manages to squeeze in a lot of technology.
It's the sleek design that's key here, as the shape of the camera and small mount means it'll sit discreetly behind your rear view mirror. Despite its small size, the MiVue J60 has a sensor capable of capturing sharp 1080p footage at 30 frames per second with a wide 150-degree viewing-angle.
It's got a dedicated night mode as well, which ensures registration plates and small details are captured in most lighting conditions.
The J60 not only captures clear video; it also features Wi-Fi, for video playback and updating camera settings via a smartphone app; as well as GPS, which tracks your vehicle's location and speed.
The MiVue J60 is packed full of safety features (although, you know what we think about those) including Advanced Driving Assistance System, Lane Departure Warning System, Forward Collision Warning System and Fatigue Alert.
If you decide to have these on (they can be turned off through the app) the dash cam will emit a beep if you start to drift over road markings or go over the speed limit.
The device also comes with safety camera data, and free data updates for the lifetime of the device, so drivers can avoid any dreaded speeding fines. That's potentially very useful, depending on your driving style.
If you’re looking for the smallest dash cam possible, then you'll want the Garmin Dash Cam Mini, which really is tiny, and will fit comfortably out of sight behind you rear view mirror.
Of course, the small size does mean the Garmin Dash Cam Mini is a pretty barebones device, it does exactly what you expect it to, and no more. There are no extra features here, and it lacks GPS, but it does record excellent 1080p footage, and it's very simple to use.
We found it very easy to set up and use, and for under £100 / US$130, we think it's difficult to fault.
The Nextbase 222 is a well-priced and smartly designed dash cam which gets the basics right. It is small enough to fit neatly behind your rear view mirror, has a good-sized screen for adjusting settings and viewing recorded video, and comes with a smart magnetic mount.
Those wanting more from their dash cams - like Bluetooth, GPS, driver assistance features and a more useful parking mode - will want to look elsewhere, but in doing so they will invariably spend more. If you want a simple, no-fuss dash cam with Full HD video recording, the Nextbase 222 is a solid option.
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.
It's highly unlike you've heard of Viofo but that's no reason to dismiss it, because its 4K resolution Pro Duo model represents phenomenal value for money. It's no way near as sleek as some of its more recognisable rivals but this package comes with both front and rear cameras.
That does mean plenty of trailing wires to stash underneath headliners but it also adds further peace of mind for all-round coverage. There's the option of glorious 4K (3840 x 2160p) video recording up front, with the resulting footage offering a great amount of details and Wide Dynamic Range for rich colours in all weather conditions.
The fact that you get night vision, a parking mode, motion detection, automatic emergency recording, GPS tracking and dual channel 1080p for under £200 / US$250 makes this a package well worth considering if you cover a lot of miles and want total camera coverage that doesn’t cost a small fortune.
Much like the Viofo that precedes this camera, the Zenfox T3 is a little-known name in the dash cam game but it claims to have professional drivers covered by its excellent three-channel recording.
This consists of an interior camera mounted to the standard windscreen camera unit, as well as an individual rear camera to cover everything that is going on behind the vehicle.
Easy access to awesome Sony image sensors and the latest video processing chips means the resulting footage is largely excellent and on a par with many cameras on this list. Crisp, high-quality 4K footage can be selected at 30fps, with resulting imagery featuring plenty of detail and good colour handling.
An infrared interior camera is also a neat touch for those professional drivers wanting to capture the cabin but it is the peripheral bits the Zenfox doesn't quite get right. The buttons are fiddly to use and the overall build quality is very bulky and cheap to touch. Still, it does exactly what it says on the tin.
The Garmin 55 is a fantastic little dash cam which is more compact and stylish than most others on the market. It offers good video quality, voice control, and convenient driver assistant features. Plus, the small size and discreet design means we would feel comfortable leaving the camera permanently installed in our car.
It's slightly older than others on this list, but that means you can get an excellent dash cam for a great price.
The cheapest, smallest unit here, the 122 packs a 120-degree camera and smooth brushed-plastic casing. The two-inch screen is a little fiddly in this touchscreen era, rivals have sharper images, and extremes of light and shade throw it a little, but the 122 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, although we'd suggest spending a little more on the Nextbase 222.
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.
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.
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.
How we tested the dash cams
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 in the 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.
Here is everything you need to consider when buying a dash cam:
- Mount type – permanent or suction cup
- Design – screen or no screen
- Installation – cigarette lighter or fusebox
Here are a list of dash cam features you should look out for:
- 1080p video
- Voice control
- Compact design
- Parking mode
And here are the dash cam features you should ignore:
- Lane departure warning
- Collision warning
- Any other superfluous features