The best dash cam is about more than recording your driving. You need a device that can provide a high level of detail, day or night, in any weather condition. So that in the unfortunate event of an accident, you have a full record of the event for your insurers.
To truly discover the best performers, we tested a whole heap of models, putting them through their paces on real roads. Our testing has allowed us to confidently tell you which is the best model for you. To that, we have a long answer and a short answer...
The Nextbase 622GW is currently the best dash cam you can currently buy. This hugely impressive dash cam 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 Q800 PRO or the positively tiny Garmin Mini Dash Cam.
But the best dash cam for you really depends on how you plan to use it, what specific features might be useful to you, and the options that suit your budget. Discover more how to choose the best dash cam for you in our handy guide.
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 stabilization 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 stabilization 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 the 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.
Read the full Nextbase 622GW review
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 latter.
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.
Read the full Garmin Dash Cam 66W review
The Thinkware Q800 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 Q800 is fixed to your car windscreen with sticky 3M tape, and, as there's no screen, you can essentially hide it behind the rearview mirror. We think that's the best place for them.
The Q800 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 of zero use without a screen.
Video quality has improved over the various versions of this camera and the latest Ultra-HD 1440p clips rival the best on this list. 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 records your parked car for 48-hours. That's great if you're worried about the vehicle being vandalized 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 Q800 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.
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 was the first camera 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 are 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 rated it as the best dash cams last year.
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.
Read the full Nextbase 522GW dash cam review
If value for money is high on the list, this camera from the bizarrely-named Apeman is very difficult to beat. It feels a little cheap in the hand but offers all of the dash cam features that most will ever want and need.
Apeman provides a 32GB memory card to capture the action from a brilliant 170-degree angle from the front camera, while the rear is good enough quality to provide 720p playback. That said, making out number plates can be tricky in poor weather or low light from this rear cam.
That said, footage from the front is crisp and clear, with a Wide Dynamic Range setting balancing exposure and contrast to react with the weather and light conditions. There's also a solid low-light mode for peace of mind at night.
Initial set-up is a bit of a pain, as the user is required to remove the vehicle headliner to neatly tuck away the wires that run to the rear camera. A lack of GPS is a bit poor, considering this is a vital price of information if using the resulting video as evidence. Users will also have to plug the memory card into a laptop or PC to retrieve the footage.
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 rearview 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 $130, we think it's difficult to fault.
Read the full Garmin Dash Cam Mini Review
The Nextbase 222G is a well-priced and smartly designed dash cam that gets the basics right. It is small enough to fit neatly behind your rearview mirror, has a good-sized screen for adjusting settings and viewing the 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, especially seeing as it can be picked up for under $90.
Read the full Nextbase 222 dash cam review
It's likely you haven't 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 recognizable 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 upfront, with the resulting footage offering a great amount of detail and Wide Dynamic Range for rich colors 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 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.
The Garmin 55 is a fantastic little dash cam that 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 mean 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.
Read the full Garmin Dash Cam 55 review
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.
Read the full Nextbase 122 dash cam review
How we tested the dash cams
These are a selection of the best dash cams available in the US, 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 discount 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 thoroughly 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.
How to choose the best dash cam for you
You want your dash cam to have at least 1080p recording, 720p doesn't quite cut it, 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 as 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.
Here is everything you need to consider:
- Mount type – permanent or suction cup
- Design – screen or no screen
- Installation – cigarette lighter or fusebox
Here are a list of features you should look out for:
- 1080p video
- Voice control
- Compact design
- Parking mode
And here are the features you should ignore:
- Lane departure warning
- Collision warning
- Any other superfluous features