How Much Is a Dash Cam?
If you're considering buying a dash cam for the first time, how much a dash cam costs is probably one of your top questions. And once you do a little shopping around, you'll find everything from budget cameras for $50 or less to incredibly advanced dash cam systems for your car at prices over $4,000. At their most basic, dash cams are special digital cameras installed in your vehicle that record the road around you, giving you video evidence of incidents or unexpected situations. The features that a good dash cam offers, however, can be the difference between capturing that vital piece of video evidence and losing important footage.
Because dash cams are growing in popularity in the U.S., you can find a wider range of products at a variety of price points. When buying a dash cam, however, make sure that it includes these features:
- High quality video (1080P or higher) to capture more details
- A suitably wide angle view to record most of the road
- Continuous loop recording so that the most recent footage will always be recorded
- A microphone to capture audio
- Built-in G-sensor to automatically lock and protect footage of a likely accident
- Built-in GPS to capture your location and speed in the event of an incident
- Easy access to view or share your video recordings through Bluetooth® and/or Wi-Fi
- Simple to mount or install
- Extreme temperature protection so the dash cam will work in any condition
These are only the most basic requirements for a dash cam, and there are many additional features that make paying for a more expensive dash cam worth the money. But no matter your budget, having a good quality dash cam can save you a lot of headaches – and may even save your life.
How Much Does a Good Dash Cam Cost?
A good quality dash cam price will typically run between $100 and $400. At this price point, you can buy a car camera from a trusted brand name, built with reliable components, and covered by a warranty. This is a pretty wide price range, but the higher you go, the more features are included with the product. Along with the basics, a good dash cam should be reliable in temperature extremes, offer a Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth® connection, provide access to cloud video management, and have an associated smartphone app. A smartphone application like the Drive Smarter® app, for example, can provide you with access to a community of drivers for real-time driver alerts that help make your trip safer.
One of the factors that will play a part in how much you pay for a dash cam is how many cameras it has. A single-view dash cam will typically be set up to record what's happening only in front of the vehicle; if you want to also record the road behind you or inside the vehicle, you'll likely need to spend a little more for a model with rear-view or cabin-view cameras. Adding in a display screen may also boost the price slightly, as can increasing the internal storage with a larger SD memory card. Keep in mind that many dash cams do not include a SD memory card or will charge you for storing your videos in the cloud. Others may charge for additional safety or security services, which can add to the overall total price.
The Benefits of a Budget Dash Cam
If you don't have a lot of money to spend, a budget dash cam will still provide you with video recordings in case of an incident or accident. As long as the budget model offers the important basics mentioned above, including high quality video, wide angle view, and automatic video locking, it should provide you with the essential features you need. Stick with the budget model from a reputable dash cam manufacturer; buying a cheap camera from a brand you've never heard of might seem like a great deal, but you'll find it's not worth the money if you get in an accident and can't recover useful footage or if the product stops working after a short period of time.
A budget dash cam may be smaller than a more expensive model, especially if it doesn't include a viewing screen; while the lack of a screen can make it more difficult to see what the camera is capturing, the smaller profile may make it easier to mount the device in an out of the way location. Most of the less expensive dash cams also only have one camera, which can make it easier to install in your car. Budget cameras also often don't include a SD card, so make sure to factor this into your shopping research.
Why Buy an Expensive Dash Cam?
When you have a higher budget, you can buy a dash cam with more features to improve your safety and security, and which make the device easier to use. A good dash cam will have a resolution of at least 1080P, for example, but at 1600P or better, you'll be able to capture even more vital details like a license plate or street sign in your videos. A clear display screen will not only allow you to see that your camera is set up correctly and recording what it should be, but you may also be able to spot unexpected movement on screen from the camera's wide view. And a screen that shows a rear or cabin view can help you spot problems out of your line of sight, helping you avoid an incident. Please note that it's important to keep your eyes on the road and not be distracted by watching the camera screen as you drive.
Spending more on a dash cam can also bring you additional safety and security features, such as a parking security mode, advanced driver assistance warnings, and emergency alerts. Parking mode, which requires the camera to be plugged into an always-on port or hardwired to your vehicle's fuse box, uses motion sensors to record activity in the field of view of your dash cam in the event of a bump or collision. Advanced driver assistance features such as lane departure or forward collision warnings may also be available on higher-end models. A more expensive dash cam may also offer emergency alerts, such as Cobra's Mayday alert, which notifies a designated contact in the event of a severe impact.
Voice control is also available on some premium dash cameras, allowing you to keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. Allowing you to do things like turn the view screen on or off, take photos, or lock an important video with just your voice, this feature is useful for both its added convenience and its improved safety.
You're also likely to get a higher capacity SD card with a more expensive dash cam, which means that you can record more video to the card before it's full and records over older footage. A good dash cam will offer loop recording, which means that older video will be recorded over once the memory card is full, so a larger capacity card allows you to keep more video longer. A larger SD card is useful if you drive frequently and don't have time to check older footage, but it's also a must-have for road trips, so you can save a shot of a beautiful sunset or video of the spectacular views from a winding mountain road.
If you have thousands of dollars to spend on your dash cam, you'll probably want a fully integrated surveillance system that will require professional installation. For a bit less money (in the $350 - $500 range), go for a 2-in-1 driver alert system like the Cobra Road Scout. Pairing a dash cam with a radar detector will provide you with the peace of mind to drive with confidence, giving you intelligent alerts and capturing clear video of the road ahead.
The Bottom Line
Whether or not you have the budget to spend on an expensive dash cam with all of the features it offers, having a good quality dash cam from a trusted manufacturer can bring great benefits. You can drive more safely and with more confidence knowing that you have extra eyes watching out for you and recording the road around you. Once you've chosen a reliable brand (like Cobra) with quality products, how much the dash cam costs over a budget model is mostly determined by the additional features you feel will add to the usefulness and security that the device provides. If having an advanced driver assistance system incorporated into your camera is important to you, then spending the extra money is worth it for a more expensive model.