Many vehicles these days are rolling off the assembly line with a few built-in cameras that serve as driver assistance aids. But very few vehicles actually allow you to save and record video footage with those built-in cameras, which is why dash cams exist. There are several reasons why you want a dash cam in your car, the main one being evidence if you are ever in an accident. If you’re a rideshare driver, you probably want a dash cam that also records what’s going on inside your cabin, in case there’s ever an incident.
Below, you’ll find our list of recommendations for the best dash cams, and the different use cases for each one. Following our picks, you’ll find more information on dash cams and what to look out for so you get the best one for you and your vehicle.
1. Top pick: Vantrue N4 4K dash cam
One of the most respected and well-known brands in the dash cam market is Vantrue and we found the N4 to be its best overall product. This versatile dash cam is capable of recording the front, rear, and interior of your vehicle at the same time at 1440p (front), 1440p (rear), and 1080p (interior) resolutions. The front camera has a 155° field of view, while the rear camera captures at 160° and the interior is 165°. If you don’t care about capturing interior footage, then you can take advantage of 4K front camera recording and 1080p for the rear.
Powered by Sony’s STARVIS CMOS sensor, the Vantrue N4 has a large f/1.4 aperture, 6-glass lens for the front and a f/1.8, 6-glass lens in the rear to help capture quality video in low-light situations. There are 4 infrared LED lights to support the f/2.0 interior camera so it can record passengers even in pitch black.
The N4 is also equipped with a 24-hour parking mode, which we feel is a really important feature to have in a dash cam. It allows the dash cam to record continuously at a low bitrate, so while the quality isn’t great, it does ensure the dash cam is recording at all times. Of course it also has motion detection and collision detection, so recording will start when either of those things occur near your vehicle. Like most quality dash cams, footage recorded when a collision is detected will automatically be locked, so it can’t be accidentally overwritten. This dash cam can operate in temperatures between 14°F to 158°F.
While it may seem the Vantrue N4 is perfect, it’s not. This dash cam doesn’t support WiFi or Bluetooth, so you won’t get any sort of wireless connectivity with it or with a smartphone app. In order to update the camera’s firmware, you’ll have to download the files and copy it to the device’s memory card. Vantrue does provide an 18-month warranty with this dash cam, which can be extended.
2. Premium pick: BlackVue Cloud DR900X-2CH 4K dash cam
If you’re used to living in a connected world and want a dash cam that’s capable of connecting to the cloud and a smartphone app, we recommend BlackVue’s Cloud 4K dash cam. As you can imagine since it’s our premium pick, this dash cam doesn’t come cheap, but it does come with most of the features you’d want from a dash cam. The main thing to get out of the way is that this dash cam won’t record your interior — so if you need that functionality go with our top pick or other recommendations on this list.
With that out of the way, the front camera is capable of recording up to 4K @ 30fps with a 162° field of view, while the rear camera captures 1080p @ 30fps and a 139° field of view. This dash cam must be hardwired to your vehicle’s fuse panel in order to use parking mode if you don’t want to purchase optional accessories. When it is directly connected to your vehicle’s fuse panel however, the dash cam will automatically switch to parking mode when the ignition is turned off. With the BlackVue app, owners are able to configure the voltage cutoff and timer to ensure the car’s battery doesn’t completely drain.
If your vehicle has data connectivity and can be used as a WiFi hotspot, then you’ll be able to connect the BlackVue Cloud dash cam to the cloud to backup videos. The connection also allows you to view ad download videos from the app so long as the dash cam has an active connection to the Internet. If you don’t have convenient WiFi in your vehicle, you can purchase an optional LTE module, but you’ll need a valid nano SIM and data connectivity for it.
BlackVue provides a 1-year warranty with this dash cam.
3. Best compact: Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2
While this isn’t a 4K dash cam, it’s the recommendation we have if you want something really compact. This recommendation is similar in size to a car key, measuring 2″ by 1″ by 1″. It’s capable of recording 1080p HD video through its 140° wide lens. Just because it’s small doesn’t mean it skips out on features. The Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2 covers all the basics you’d want including automatic recording, incident detection so it automatically saves videos, voice control, and cloud storage if you have WiFi connectivity available.
By using the Garmin Drive app on your smartphone, you can remotely access your dash cam to get a live view of what it sees. Of course this also requires a WiFi connection and constant power to the camera. One feature we particularly like is the included dual USB charger, so you still have an open USB charging port even with the camera plugged in.
Another reason why we recommend this camera is its brand name: Garmin. If you’ve ever shopped for navigation systems in the past, you’ve likely heard of Garmin. It’s a very reputable company that offers excellent products for the price, so if you want a more basic dash cam that’s compact and easy to install, consider the Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2.
4. Best on a budget: REXING V1 4K dash cam
Believe it or not, you can actually get a decent 4K dash cam at an affordable price. Now, it won’t have all the bells and whistles that more expensive dash cams have to offer, but for those who occasionally drive and just need some video recording, this might fit the bill. From REXING, this dash cam does capture 4K video through a 170° wide angle lens and you can connect it directly to your phone via WiFi to transfer video clips.
If you connect the camera with the optional smart hardwire kit or intelligent hardwire kit, then you can use the camera’s parking surveillance mode. Like other dash cams, this mode allows the camera to automatically detect any motion or movement, causing it to turn on and start recording video.
Given the price, it’s unsurprisingly not a feature-rich dash cam. Some complaints include an unintuitive user interface, poor instruction manual, and having to reconnect the camera to the phone via WiFi every single time. We’d only recommend this dash cam if you’re strictly shopping on a budget and need some recording capabilities rather than something robust.
5. Also consider: Nexar Beam dash cam
Our final recommendation comes from Nexar and on paper, it’s a rather basic dash cam, but it makes up for it in other areas. Called the Nexar Beam, it’s an affordable and extremely compact dash cam, capable of recording 1080p HD video with a 135° field of view. But where it shines is its free and unlimited cloud storage — with a catch.
Nexar dash cams require a smartphone connection, so while you’re driving, it will seamlessly stream live footage to your phone. That does mean the app must run in the background when you’re driving, so it does drain your phone’s battery. Included with the camera is 32GB of internal storage, which is about 4 hours of footage. It will automatically loop, so make sure you save any videos you need into the cloud. The app will detect unusual events, such as hard braking or collisions, and automatically save them as short clips so you can grab them from your phone. It too will automatically start recording if it senses movement when your car is parked.
Finally, the Nexar app also makes it easy to submit an insurance report that includes footage and data of the incident. It’s clear that the Nexar Beam is designed to appeal to younger drivers who are familiar with using smartphone apps and accessing video content in the cloud. If its features sound like what you’re looking for in a dash cam, take a look at everything Nexar has to offer.
Why do you need a dash cam?
As we mentioned in our introduction, the main reason you want a dash cam is for evidence if you’re ever in an accident. But that’s not the only reason to get one. Most quality dash cams will record events while your vehicle is parked and it detects motion or impact. This can be really handy to see what’s happening in or around your vehicle when you’re away from it. In some cases, it might even deter theft if the thieves don’t know whether or not the dash cam is automatically uploading footage to the cloud. Dash cams are also a fun way to record your road trips if you’re passing through somewhere scenic.
Do I need a 4K dash cam?
You don’t necessarily need a 4K dash cam, but the recorded video content is obviously higher quality. But in most cases, 1080p, which is full HD, is good enough. Keep in mind that 4K videos tend to be larger in size as well, so you’ll need more memory space on your card or in the cloud to store 4K footage.
What other features are important in a dash cam?
The field of view is an important factor to consider when choosing the right dash cam. A wider field of view will capture more of what’s going on around your vehicle. If you often drive at night, you’ll want a dash cam that performs well in low light situations. Look for cameras that disclose their actual f-stop — you want a large aperture for low light, which would be a lower f-stop value.
Finally, consider the other features such as parking mode, automatic recording, cloud storage, etc. and whether they pertain to you. If you don’t think you’ll take advantage or need any of those additional features, then you don’t necessarily have to spend money on them. But generally, we recommend getting at least a dash cam with the ability to auto record while you’re parked.