What is a dashcam?
A "dash cam" is a video camera designed for use in a vehicle, whose primary function is to record anything that might happen while you're driving.
Dash cams tend to differentiate themselves from other types of cameras through their robust construction, loop-based recording, and discreet designs.
While dash cams have only recently begun to gain popularity in the United States, other countries (most specifically Russia) have been producing...interesting dash cam footage for years:
For those of us who live more "uneventful" lives, it may be difficult to see the benefits of a dash cam. However, rest assured that almost every driver can benefit from the use of a dash cam in their car.
Why should I buy one?
Dash cams provide many benefits:
- A documented history of anything and everything that you might encounter while on the road
- Video evidence can potentially be used by authorities to confidently determine the party at fault in the event of an accident
- Prevent fraud - when someone purposely causes an accident in an attempt to collect insurance claims
- Record hit-and-runs
Which one should I buy?
In recent years, the market for dash cams has grown tremendously. There are now options for almost any budget, but as a rule of thumb, there's a few things to look for:
- HD recording - the higher the resolution, the easier it will be to identify license plates, registration tags, and other features
- Low-light compatibility - a camera's ability to capture low-light video is extremely important; cheaper models will struggle to capture important details in nighttime driving
- Integrated LCD - not a requirement, but can make it easier to set up and to review footage real-time
- Integrated microphone - this is a nice plus, but in reality most car's cabins are so well insulated the only sound you'll capture is your passenger's singing
- Battery - obviously a requirement if you don't plan on hard-wiring your dash cam, but it's more reliable to connect your camera to a car-based power source
- Low-profile design - the smaller the camera, the less windshield it occupies; depending on where you mount it, larger units can obscure the driver's view
- G-sensor - cameras equipped with a g-sensor provide the capability to capture potential hit-and-run incidents or automatically save a section of video in the event of an accident
Listed below are a few options, both of which I have personally owned, for different budgets:
Budget: Black Box G1W-H
The Black Box G1W-H is an excellent entry-level dash cam. It provides many of the features mentioned above, but at a very reasonable price point. There are a few drawbacks, however.
The provided suction mount is fairly weak, and I would often get into the car on a hot day to find the camera dangling from the windshield. In addition, the cheapness of its construction is readily apparent - my G1W-H's USB charging port became extremely finicky after a year or so of use, requiring the cable to be seated in a very certain way in order to remain powered on consistently.
Despite these drawbacks, Black Box's G1W-H is still a great option for a first dash cam!
Here's some sample nighttime footage taken with the G1W-H:
Mid-Range: Rexing V1
The Rexing V1 is another great option. A little more expensive than the aforementioned G1W-H, the V1 provides all the same features in a much sleeker, more robust design.
The V1's construction is significantly nicer than the G1W-H, and the low-profile, angled design means it can be mounted farther up your windshield; allowing for a cleaner installation.
I've been running the V1 in my vehicle for several months, and am loving it's unobtrusive design much more than my original G1W-H. In addition, I've had zero issues with reliability, and the extra function buttons have come in handy (no more clicking through menus to turn things on/off!).
Here's some sample footage taken with the V1:
Overall, a dash cam is an infinitely smart investment. It's one of those purchases you hope you'll never need to use, but be grateful you have it when the time comes.
Case in point:
In this incident, the video from my vehicle was submitted for use as evidence in court. No one was seriously injured, but the mere fact that video evidence was available helped investigators determine the exact cause of an otherwise random accident.
It's this type of irrefutable evidence, along with the numerous other advantages highlighted earlier, that emphasizes the silent security provided by dash cams.