6 best dash cams 2017: save money and record bad driving

Which dash cam is best when it comes to recording your front or rear ends?

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Want to know which is the best dash cam? Well, good news, we've tested dozens to find the best. 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 our favourite 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 smartphone app, and has extra features such as forward collision and lane departure warnings. All-in-all, a pretty compelling dash cam package!

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

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. They're certainly a worthwhile investment, and could end up saving you a lot of money in insurance premiums (for example, Adrian Flux 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 permeant 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.

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 6 best dash cams you can buy today

Here are the 6 best dash cams available right now.

1. Garmin Dash Cam 55

Narrowly pips the ProofCam RAC 05 to be crowned the King of Dash Cams in 2017

Specifications
Camera: 1440p
Screen: 2.0-inch LCD TFT
GPS: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Action cam-like design+Easy operation+Well designed mount
Reasons to avoid
-Complex menus
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This excellent dash cam from Garmin more than justifies it's asking price, thanks to its quality of footage, number of extra features, and actually quite attractive design.

It's the most compact camera here (resembling a GoPro, it's also the most attractive), yet 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 it's 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.

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 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.

2. ProofCam RAC 05

One of the most fully-featured cams around

Specifications
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
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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.

3. Thinkware F770

Video quality good, night mode very impressive

Specifications
Camera: 1080p Full HD
Screen: No Screen
GPS: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Non-intrusive+Parking and Night Modes
Reasons to avoid
-App looks dated-It's there almost permanently 
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The Thinkware F770 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 F770 is fixed to your car windscreen with 3M tape, and as there's no screen, it means you can essentially hide it behind the rear view mirror. We think that's the best place for them.

The F770 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 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, while the app works fine it looks very dated, and a Time Lapse Mode which records your parked 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, freeing up the 12V port.

4. NextBase 512GW

A great dash camera but with a clunky design

Specifications
Camera: 140° FOV, 1440p
Screen: 3.0-inch LCD
GPS: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Image quality+Magnetic mount+Useful features, no gimmicks
Reasons to avoid
-Ugly and chunky design-Poor app
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NextBase are another major player in the dash cam market, and the company's latest device, the 512GW is a excellent camera.

First of all, you get all of the useful features as our favourites, the Garmin and the ProofCam, including Wi-Fi and GPS, without the more gimmicky features.

Image quality is excellent thanks to the Sony Exmor R sensor and polarising lens. It was only let down when driving towards, when it would under expose the roads and other cars. In other conditions, image quality is excellent, and one of the most detailed we saw.

The mount is 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. When using it you're also hit with a tidal wave of beeps and chimes. It's not a major issue, just slightly annoying.

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 large 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.

5. Mio MiVue 688

Impressive Sony sensor in a compact casing

Specifications
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
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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.

6. Philips ADR81BLX1 ADR 810

Easy operation and decent image quality

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

Highly commended

So those are out top five dash cams, but there are a few others we're happy to recommend. First is the Cobra CDR 900E, which is an all-bells-and-whistles dash cam, with live streaming, which no other camera we've tested has.

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

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