Do You Need a Dash Cam in Your Vehicle?

Are dash cams an unnecessary tech fad or an actual benefit to drivers? Learn more here.

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Maybe a tech-obsessed friend told you to get one. Maybe you’ve seen crazy footage from Russian drivers on YouTube. Regardless of how you stumbled upon the concept of a “dash cam,” here’s a crash course in this relatively new technology, including a look at what dash cams are, how they work, and how they can benefit every driver.

Dashcam behind the front window of a carfhm/Getty Images

What is a Dash Cam?

A dash cam is pretty much what the name describes — it’s a camera mounted on your vehicle’s dash or above it, pointing outwards and recording any and everything in range. It serves as a silent witness to everything that happens to you on the road, unobtrusively documenting your travel.

Dash cams typically draw power from your vehicle’s electrical system, with some models including back-up batteries so they can record even when the car loses power. They’re typically set up to record whenever they’re turned on. While this might feel unnecessary and a quick way to fill up your dash cam’s storage, most dash cams are designed so that once their storage is full, it automatically overwrites the oldest footage to create space for the more recent recordings.

Why Get a Dash Cam?

Like any piece of expensive technology, you probably need some convincing. Here are a few reasons to consider a car camera.

Record Car Accidents

Getting into a car accident is no fun, especially if you’re the one at fault. Footage from a dash cam could make the experience less stressful by providing a clear, accurate portrayal of what actually happened during the collision, largely eliminating any he-said, she-said.

Contest a Ticket in Court

Stopped for a traffic violation that you’re pretty sure wasn’t your fault? Typically, there would be no way to back up your side of the story … unless you captured footage of the incident on a dash cam.

Capturing the Unexpected

A lot of unexpected things that can happen while driving, and they’re not all bad like speeding tickets and fender benders. When those cool and crazy moments happen, whipping out your phone to record them is unsafe, impractical and, in a lot of places, illegal. Having a dash cam means you’ll have easy access to footage that you would be unlikely to get otherwise. Talk about an easy way to document your next road trip!

How Much Do Dash Cams Cost?

Price range varies widely, from around $250 for high-end models to more budget-friendly versions set around $80-$100. The cheaper options will definitely get the job done, without some bells and whistles of the more expensive cameras.

Best of the Best: Nextbase 522GW

The 522GW is the latest from Nextbase, one of the world’s leading dash cam manufacturers. It has everything you could need in a dash cam: a wide 140-degree viewing angle, high quality video recording, Bluetooth and WiFi smartphone connectivity, and up to 128GB’s of memory with microSD support.

Buy now for $209

Middle-of-the-Road Option: Garmin Dash Cam 55

This dash cam is so small you may not remember that it’s there most of the time. Garmin GPS technology keeps time and location data to go along with the video recordings, giving you all the information you might need in an traffic incident.

Buy now for $158.99

Bang for Your Buck: Nextbase 222

While this budget dash cam from Nextbase lacks the extra features of its pricier counterparts, it does offer a simple, easy to use experience at a fraction of the cost. And while the video quality is slightly worse than more recent models, it still records in crisp 1080p.

Buy now for $78.99