The road is a dangerous place. One day you’re driving down the highway and the next thing you’re pulled over on the side of the road because you crashed into someone who was brake-checking you (here's a link for those who don’t know what brake-checking is).
You never think you’re going to get into this mess unless it’s too late. According to Statista, in 2015, there were 6.3 million fatal, injury, and property damage crashes that occurred in the U.S. alone.
That's what makes a dashcam such an excellent investment. The security of having a dashcam watch over you as you drive is empowering. It keeps you level-headed and it makes you more aware of the road. With a dashcam, you know that in the event of a crash that isn’t your fault, you’ll have more than enough evidence to prove that you weren’t at fault.
So how do you decide what dashcam is right for you? There is a wide variety of dashcams to choose from. They come in different sizes, shapes, and most importantly, price range.
We know what you’re thinking. “Shouldn’t I test the waters with a cheaper, more affordable model first?”
That’s a very common way of thinking, but let’s think of it in other terms. When you purchase dashcams, you are getting what you pay for. The inside of a car isn’t an easy environment to stay in for prolonged periods of time. Do you really want to risk getting a budget piece of equipment that’s going to fail on you within the first few months of using it?
Having said that, let’s break down what you should look for in a dashcam.
Qualities Of A Good Dashcam
When you’re purchasing a dashcam, you’re going to be looking for several key qualities in your dashcam. You might be willing to sacrifice one or two of these features to save a bit of cash, but we’d recommend against that. As the common saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
High Quality Recording
The purpose of a dashcam is to record everything that happens to your car, whether it’s parked outside or you’re driving it on the highway. Your dashcam has to be able to accurately catch everything in front of you. If you purchase a dashcam that has really bad quality video, even with sufficient proof, your footage might be deemed unusable because it isn’t clear enough.
Modern dashcams are capable of recording up to 4K videos, depending on the brand. While that might seem like overkill, if you’ve got the budget, it’s not a bad idea. If not, you’d ideally like to find a dashcam that at least offers 1080p recording on 60FPS.
Can you imagine having a dashcam that doesn't work when you needed it the most? A premium dashcam commands a high price due to its reliability. The inside of a car is subject to a variety of conditions. Leaving an electronic on the the windshield on a hot day could cause a lot of problems. How about a dashcam that needs to be used in freezing conditions?
You want a dashcam that can handle the extremes, because when it comes down to it, you’re making an investment on that dashcam to keep you protected. If you buy a cheap package with poor quality, is that investment really worth it?
We’re not just talking about the durability of the dashcam. The actual parts within a dashcam makes a huge difference in its performance. The processor is the main CPU of your dashcam. It plays a huge part in how well your dashcam functions. The lens and CMOS sensor of your dashcam is also important.
When looking to purchase a dashcam, take a look at the spec sheet. You want to know what you’re buying and whether the parts in your dashcam are worth the price.
What to Expect: Budget Dashcams
When you’re looking at budget dashcams, don’t let the cheaper price tag fool you. First off, a lot of budget dashcams are unable to promise the video quality that they might state on their product listing. It’s important that you do your due diligence when finding reviews on different dashcam models. It should be easy to locate a quick review on Google or YouTube on a specific model.
Second, budget dashcam builds are typically not the greatest quality. You’ll usually see a lot of plastic and sometimes rubber being used. This might be an oversimplification, but the build qualities are generally poor. It’s easier to spot imperfections on a budget dashcam. They’re also more susceptible to damage from hot or cold conditions due to the quality of their parts.
Lastly, you should also look into the form factor and the system that the dashcam runs. For form factor, you’re going to want something sleek and simple that can sit in your car without drawing attention. The last thing you want is a behemoth of a unit sitting on your windshield. You also want the system to be easy to use. A lot of budget dashcams have a menu system that’s poorly translated and difficult to maneuver through. Some are even unable to hold a setting for an extended period of time. You want something that’s intuitive, simple to use, and reliable.
What To Expect: Premium Dashcam
First thing’s first: pricing. A premium dashcam can cost anywhere between $200 to $500. It might look like a hefty price tag for a dashcam, but consider the implications. A one-time fee of $300 to ensure a safety net over your driving safety is money well spent. It’s also a small price to pay when you compare it to the potential cost of paying for repairs because you didn’t have evidence that proves your innocence.
A premium dashcam offers great recording quality. Some cameras offer 4K recording capabilities, and at the minimum, they’re able to record at 1080P. This is necessary if you want to actually catch something valuable on video. Capturing a license plate is crucial in a hit-and-run situation. A premium dashcam is able to deliver.
You’re also looking for a quality build. Premium dashcams are built with durability in mind. They’re able to withstand tough conditions and still function as intended. They will also sometimes come with additional features, such as GPS tracking and Cloud access.
What’s Right For You?
If you’re concerned about the price tag and you want to test out the waters first, a budget dashcam might be for you. You might be able to squeeze out some decent performance, depending on the model you buy. The best idea is to try out the budget dashcam for a while until it doesn’t work for your situation.
If you’re aware of the necessity for a good dashcam, you should really go the premium route. The differences between a budget and premium dashcam is like day and night. Once you’ve used a premium dashcam and explored its functions, there’s no going back. Brands like Blackvue and Dod are great options for this.
Regardless, a dashcam is something that every driver should look into. It’s not just a camera you install on your windshield. It’s a tool that will help keep you safe.