The Best Dash Cams 2021
Safeguarding good drivers and their reputations, dash cam technology has become widely popular with insurance companies and individuals in the UK, offering peace of mind (and often lower insurance premiums).
Recent advances in technology mean that dash cams now offer premium features for lower prices, but with so many models on the market, where should you start your search for which is the best dash cam to buy in 2021?
We take a look at ten dash cams available on the market right now and have picked our top three favourites, choosing the Nextbase 522GW as our overall favourite, with the Blackvue DR900S-2CH as our best high-end option, and third the Garmin Dash Cam Mini.
Nextbase is a market-leading, best-selling dash cam brand with sensor technology from Sony.
The Nextbase 522GW came onto the market in 2019 and is the top of the Series 2 Dash Cam range.
It wins tech points for being the first dash cam available in the UK to have Amazon Alexa built-in, meaning you can use it for a variety of things other than as a dash cam.
The Emergency SOS feature alerts emergency services should you have a crash or accident, and using Bluetooth 4.2 or Quick-Link WiFi, the smartphone app (MyNextbase) offers slick connectivity to your smartphone so you can easily transfer your videos.
The Intelligent Parking Mode automatically records bangs, bumps or movement on the vehicle when it is left unattended.
We picked this one as our favourite as it is a great all-rounder at a decent price and won’t look out of place whatever kind of car you drive.
It covers all the basic features well and also offers a host of added bonus features.
It’s discreet and the power cable can be installed into the mount directly so it can be entirely wireless. The mountings are easy to attach and the camera is small enough to hide behind the rearview mirror and remain secure.
Note, the SD card is not included. You need a high endurance U3 class micro SD card specifically designed for dash cam use.
- 1440p HD resolution
- 3” HD IPS touch screen
- 140° field of view
- Forward camera and easily connects to a rear-facing module
Best high-end dash cam
Packed full of top technology, this dash cam has front and rear-facing ultra-wide camera angles and a whopping eight-megapixel sensor that produces crystal clear 4K Ultra HD footage, even in the dark. If you have the budget, this BlackVue dash cam packs a serious punch – set it up and forget about it and it will deliver the best footage possible, day or night.£411.82 on Amazon
For top-end dash cams, BlackVue delivers high-quality recording and impressive technology packaged in sleek cases which will suit even the fanciest of vehicles.
The BlackVue DR900S-2CH offers both front and rear-facing wide-angle cameras and the current highest-quality 4K video recording, which works in any lighting conditions, even in the dark.
It also allows you to view the footage from your smartphone or computer as it uploads videos to the Cloud.
So much more than just a dash cam, it is essentially a complete video surveillance system and operates whether or not you are in or with the vehicle.
Most dash cams require a memory card but the BlackVue DR900S-2CH comes with the required 16 GB SD Card (also included is a micro SD Card Reader and it supports micro SD cards up to 128 GB giving eight hours recording time). It does come preset to 5ghz WiFi which needs to be reset in the UK.
Sony STARVIS technology provides exceptional footage even on the darkest country roads, and it operates in a temperature range greater than even the hardiest driver might tolerate, making it a great option if you’re off on an epic road trip.
All this comes at a cost, though, and at £411.82 on Amazon, it is one of the more expensive models on the market – although that is for two cameras and the SD card is included, so that should be taken into account when comparing prices.
- 4K HD resolution
- 162˚ front field of view, rear 139°
US tech company Garmin is best known for its GPS navigation and wearable technology (if you know anyone who cycles seriously, they probably own a Garmin watch) and this has now extended to its dash cam range.
Small and discreet, the Garmin Dash Cam Mini fits onto your windscreen and is barely noticeable thanks to its size – it is around the same dimensions as a car key.
Using a micro SD HC card (it takes a class 10 (or faster) card from 8 GB to 256 GB), which you have to buy separately, it records clear 1080p HD footage using the 140-degree wide-angle lens – and all for £89 from Amazon.
The Garmin Dash Cam Mini has no screen so all set up is done via smartphone pairing with the app via Bluetooth or WiFi, and it also has no night mode. However, it is a straightforward tiny cam which records clear footage – you can also sync up to four of them together on your smartphone to capture every angle, should you wish.
- 1080p HD resolution
- 140° field of view
- No battery, uses the 12V car charger
- Included charger has an extra USB port
- Parking surveillance mode
What Is a Dash Cam?
Dash cams (or dashboard cameras) are mini video cameras that record what happens to the car – from the front, the back or both depending on the model.
Giving peace of mind, they record short loops of video footage that can be reviewed by the police or insurers (or indeed, posted to YouTube) in the case of a collision, bump or accident.
Dash cams record and then overwrite the oldest videos as the memory card fills. They retain the most recent recording so you can use it as evidence should the worst happen.
The most basic versions record short loops, have short battery life and are powered by the 12v power outlet in your car.
The pricier models come with various combinations of features including rear and forward cameras, hard-wired systems, CCTV mode (which is useful when you park up) and might even be voice-activated or have the ability to activate other smart devices using Amazon Alexa.
Why You Might Want to Use a Dash Cam
Once easy to dismiss as an unnecessary expense, dash cams are quickly gaining traction with drivers.
A combination of increased features for lower prices, evidence should you have an accident, getting on side with insurers, having your own CCTV and the ability to record footage for YouTube, means more drivers than ever are installing ever increasingly sophisticated tech setups on their dashboards.
The most appealing benefit by far, though, is that you can use the footage to prove that you aren’t at fault if your car is involved in a collision.
Important Features to Look For
As with all technology, the more you’re willing to pay, the more features you’ll get, but some budget dash cams are still worth considering, depending on what you deem essential.
Important features to consider when choosing a dash cam include:
4K video is the best, capturing crystal clear footage (but is also the priciest).
A 4K camera will ensure you can make out the tiny but essential details on the images captured, including scrolling in to make out a number plate, for example.
4K has video resolution four times the size of HD – we wouldn’t recommend choosing a dash cam with a lower resolution than HD.
Storage/Memory Card Size
The better quality the video your dash cam captures, the larger the files it will need to store.
If you want to be able to store lots of footage, you’ll either need a camera with a suitably large memory card or the capacity to install a larger SD card. Some cameras will also store video in the Cloud.
Remember that you won’t need most (ideally any) of your recordings, so in theory, you can just rely on the stop function to save the most recent footage when an impact is detected.
G-Sensor That Activates When an Impact Is Detected
This is the function which alerts the dash cam to record and save the footage before it is looped, so it can be downloaded for review. Pretty much all models have this as standard, but it is still worth checking.
Field of View
Another important factor to consider is how much of the road ahead or behind the car can be recorded.
A camera that can only see directly in front of the bonnet is usually going to capture much less useful footage than one that can capture 180 degrees of vision (more even than the standard human eyeball) meaning that any impact from the side is also captured.
Many cameras offer a wide-angle field of view, meaning that the lens is capable of capturing 80 degrees or more.
A higher-end camera will usually have a 120 to 130-degree field of view. Some cameras offer ‘super-wide-angle’ which means they can capture up to 180 degrees.
Front or Rear-Facing Cameras
As you’d expect, front-facing cameras record what appears in front of the car, and rear-facing models record everything that happens behind the vehicle.
The best models do both but, if you are on a smaller budget, you may need to decide if a wider field of vision on a forward-facing camera may be better than basic front and rear footage.
If you do a lot of driving at night, you’ll want to make sure that the camera still records decent footage in low light or, better still, has full night vision mode so that clear footage can be captured even on unlit roads.
A camera adding a location automatically to your footage can be very helpful for police trying to ascertain the facts of an accident or to prove where you were when.
This safety feature found on some models will alert the emergency services in case of an accident.
This can be a reassuring safety feature, particularly if you do a lot of driving in remote locations.
Lane Departure and Forward Collision Warning
Some models have features which give you an alert should you let the car drift near, onto or over a lane marking – this is only effective to prevent accidents if the driver then takes corrective action, but it can be a reassuring feature to add if you’re doing a long motorway drive.
Other Features to Consider
- Potential for hard-wired installation to free up 12v connection for other things
- How do you charge it/how long does it take to charge?
- 3D touch screen for ease of use
- WiFi/smartphone connectivity to allow footage to be transmitted easily for review
- Bespoke smartphone app for ease of connectivity
- Voice control
- Speed camera warnings
- Size/style – Does it match the style of your car/look discreet on your dashboard
- Mounting – How does it attach?
- Intelligent parking mode to monitor those car park collisions where no-one bothers to leave a note
Other Dash Cams That We Looked At
We looked at a range of dash cams. Some of the other cameras we looked at are listed below:
Occupying a similar market position to the Nextbase 522GW, the Garmin Dash Cam 66W offers an extra-wide 180-degree field of view and captures 1440p HD footage, but it has no Amazon Alexa or Emergency SOS, which is why it did not make our top three.
The Thinkware U1000 is a top of the range dash cam with more features than you could probably ever need, including wide-angled field of vision, advanced parking surveillance mode, impressive night vision 4K filming capabilities and it comes with a compatible memory card included.
It also benefits from being Cloud-enabled via the Thinkware Cloud app as long as you have an internet hotspot in your car.
Designed by a Korean company for left-hand drive cars, the wires face you when used on a right-hand drive car, and there are no instructions included for hardwiring in, as you are expected to have a professional installation.
The Motorola MDC150 is the cheapest dash cam that we considered. If you’re after a super inexpensive option, this one could suit you well.
Suction mounted and not fancy, it offers reasonable recording resolution and a decent field of vision with night vision mode, but no further features. It offers WiFi connectivity but no app.
If you’re wanting to record the interior of your car as well as the front (perhaps you have a minicab or just want to record your kids), then the Vantrue N2 Pro is worth considering as it offers full HD video on both front and interior facing cameras.
It benefits from infrared night vision and 24-hour parking sensor mode.
The AUKEY DR021080p Dash Cam is a very basic model with no WiFi connectivity.
It offers a sharp full 1080p resolution recording ability coupled with a super-wide 170° field of view in a low key ‘stealth’ discreet package which fixes easily behind the rearview mirror.
If you’re dead-set on a dual-camera dash cam, with one forward and one rear-facing camera, the Akaso Trace 1 represents fantastic value for money and includes a night vision mode and parking surveillance.
The mid-range Garmin Dash Cam 46 offers basic features and decent recording for a reasonable price, although you may find that you’d be better off with either a cheaper model with fewer features or spending a little bit more cash for a host more.
It is a decent brand, though, so this should be a reliable purchase.
At a Glance Comparison
|Camera||Cost||Resolution||Field of Vision||Smart Assistant and Integration||Extra Features||Front Camera, Rear Camera or Both||SD Card Requirement||Connectivity|
|Nextbase 522GW||£139.95||1440p HD||140°||Amazon Alexa||Emergency SOS||Front only||High endurance U3 class micro SD card (not included)||Bluetooth 4.2 Quick-Link WiFi|
|BlackVue DR900S-2CH||£411.82||4K HD||162° front field of view, rear 139°||Voice control||Live View and remote Cloud back up; Super sharp high-resolution recordings||Front and rear||16 GB SD card included (also included is a micro SD card reader)||WiFi; Cloud connectivity|
|Garmin Dash Cam Mini||£89||1080p HD resolution||140°||No||No driver assistance and very few features||Front only||Class 10 (or faster) card from 8 GB to 256 GB (not included)||WiFi|
|Garmin Dash Cam 66W||£169||1440p HD||180°||Voice control but not Amazon Alexa||Travelapse feature; Speed camera alerts; Red-light cameras||Front only||Needs 8 GB micro SD HC cards (class 10 required) not included||WiFi|
|Thinkware U1000||£469||4K UltraHD||150°||Voice control||Super night vision; Live View; Geo Fencing; Parking surveillance||Dual||U1000 comes with a 32 GB micro SD card but you really need the 128 GB for 4K||WiFi; Cloud|
|Motorola MDC150||£39.99||1080p HD||140°||None||Night mode||Front only||Memory card (not included)||WiFi|
|Vantrue N2 Pro||£159.99||1920x1080P||170° front, 140° cabin||None||24-hour motion detection; Parking mode||Front and inside cabin||micro SD (class 10) up to 256 GB (not included||no|
|Aukey DR02||£64.99||1080p||170°||None||Time-lapse recording||Front only||128 GB (Max) Class 10+ card supported (not included)||no|
|Akaso Trace 1 Dual||£69.99||1080P||170°||None||Night mode; Front and inside parking surveillance||Front and inside cabin||128 GB micro SD card supported (not included)||no|
|Garmin Dash Cam 46||£109||1080 HD||140°||Voice control||Travelapse feature; Speed camera alerts; Red light cameras||Front only||Class 10 (or faster) card from 8 GB to 256 GB (not included)||Bluetooth and WiFi|
When choosing your camera, think about how often you drive your car, how long you spend driving your car and in what conditions (e.g. at night). This will help you decide on the features and specifications you want or need.
Dash cams have the potential to prove an accident is fault-free and lower insurance premiums, so are well worth the initial outlay.
Models that include parking surveillance can be a good investment if you do not have off-road parking or have to regularly leave your car at a public car park.
Choose a dash cam for your car and you will ultimately ensure your peace of mind.