Dash cams are an essential accessory for any car because you never know when you might be involved in accident. They record constantly while you drive so you have video evidence showing exactly what happened, and a two-camera system will show the view from the back as well.
You can send the appropriate clip to your insurer to help your case and avoid a claim against your policy. In many cases the excess that you have to pay for a claim is more than most dash cams cost, so it can pay for itself very quickly indeed.
If you’re worried about installing a dash cam, they’re very simple and should take you less than 30 minutes.
The big question is which dash cam to buy. And that’s why you’re here. Below you’ll find our top recommendations for dash cams at all budgets. If you can afford it, it’s well worth choosing one with two cameras to capture the view out of the rear window as well as the front.
What to look for in a dash cam
All dash cams record video as short clips, and then begin overwriting the oldest clips when the memory card is full. However, look for one with a G-sensor which will activate when an impact is detected as this will protect the current clip so it doesn’t get deleted.
Some dash cams come with a second camera which faces backwards and records the view out of the rear window or the cabin. For most people, the rear view camera is well worth the extra money, though if you have a 12V accessory socket in your boot as well as at the front of the car it can work out the same price – or cheaper - to buy two separate dash cams, but you then have two memory cards with separate videos.
Don’t be swayed by a wider-angle lens: the higher the number, the smaller everything is in the centre of the image. We prefer a lens with a 140° field of view, or less.
Image quality varies and a higher resolution doesn’t automatically mean better quality. Read our reviews to find out how each model fares.
Manufacturers often talk of ‘night modes’ but this can be just as misleading as resolution. Again, refer to reviews to find out whether a dash cam is any good at recording at night.
Extras features such as GPS can be worth it as it will record your precise location and speed, so you can prove where you were and that you weren’t speeding.
Wi-Fi, on the other hand, is generally not that useful as it’s quicker to copy video clips by removing the SD card and inserting it into a laptop or PC’s card reader.
We’ve found safety features such as lane-departure warning or forward-movement alerts not too useful as they don't work reliably enough, but those which warn you of safety camera locations can be very useful.
Many models have a parking mode, but you typically have to get your dash cam hard-wired – connected to your car’s fuse box so there’s a constant power supply - in order to use these.
Finally, leave room in your budget for a microSD card as most dash cams don’t come with one. Here are the best microSD cards to buy.
1. Nextbase 312GW
The Nextbase 312GW is an excellent all-round dash cam. It offers great-quality footage during the day, is easy to use and has a convenient magnetic mount that allows you to quickly remove and replace the camera without unplugging cables.
It has GPS, and is very easy to install: all the options are preset so it's as simple as mounting it on the windscreen and plugging it in.
As long as you don't want your video recorded at 60 frames per second (it supports a maximum of 30fps at full HD, which is fine), it's the best choice for most people. You'll find it sold for a lot less than the RRP because this is now the older model which has been replaced by the 322GW.
Read our full Nextbase 312GW review
2. Viofo A129 Duo
This front + rear dash cam dispenses with the frills and concentrates on what's important: recording good quality video. This means it's cheaper than most so-called dual-channel dash cams, but do watch out as some bundles don't include the GPS mount and the polarising filter. Both are worth having so you can prove where the video is recorded and remove most reflections from the windscreen in the video.
The front camera is well designed if you're after something that will hide out of the way behind your rear-view mirror, but the rear camera, although small, has a very thick cable which can be hard to hide away neatly.
Read our full Viofo A129 Duo review
3. Nextbase 422GW
The lowest-priced model in Nextbase’s new Series 2 range to have Alexa and Emergency Response, the 422GW also supports the range of rear cameras, records at 1440p and cost the same as the older 412GW did. If you don’t need all the new features, then you can save money by opting for the 322GW, but right now, the older 312GW is even better value at around £70.
Read our full Nextbase 422GW review
4. Nextbase 522GW
The 522GW doesn't add a whole lot on top of the already competent 422GW: mainly a built-in polariser. It does improve image quality by reducing glare, though.
The other main difference is a slightly larger touchscreen, but ultimately the 422W is fine for most people.
Read our full Nextbase 522GW review
5. Nextbase 512GW
The Nextbase 512GW is very good, especially at current prices of under £100. For the extra cash over the 312GW you get a polariser to reduce reflections, an automatic parking mode and a connector for attaching the optional rear camera. It will also record at a higher resolution of 1440p, or at 1080p at a faster rate of 60 frames per second.
Read our full Nextbase 512GW review
6. Z-Edge Z3D
The Z-Edge Z3D system is a decent dash cam at a budget price, especially with a two-camera setup to cover the front and rear of your vehicle, built-in GPS and more. The build quality is decent, although the 8m USB cable that connects the two cameras is unusually thick, making it harder to conceal. It's certainly not a dealbreaker, as a replacement thin USB cable can be picked up fairly cheaply from Amazon.
The image quality during the day is great from both cameras, and the front-facing camera continues to perform well at night, although that’s where the rear camera struggles and where the budget-friendly price tag starts to shine through. The rear camera seems to struggle to focus in low-light conditions - it’s enough to see what’s going on, but you may not make out finer details like you can with the front-facing camera.
There’s no Bluetooth or Wi-Fi on offer from the Z3D either, so you have to remove the camera or microSD card to view footage and GPS data. The good news is the Z-Edge media player is available for both PC and Mac, making the review process slightly easier, although it's in desperate need of some UI TLC.
Read our full Z-Edge Z3D review
7. Garmin Dash Cam 55 Plus
Garmin's dinky dash cam is well designed and easy to use. It's also easy to install, but it will use up your car's 12V socket so you can't plug in your phone or sat nav.
Unlike some of its rivals, the 55 Plus has a safety camera warning system which can alert you to accident black spots, and hopefully prevent you being slapped with a speeding fine.
Video quality is good, but at the top resolution you don't get the option to record at 60 frames per second or in HDR: those are limited to lower resolutions.
There's built-in GPS and Wi-Fi, although the app isn't as useful as some: it doesn't allow you to change any settings on the dash cam. Still, it's not bad value at this price.
Read our full Garmin Dash Cam 55 Plus review.
8. Thinkware F200
There aren't many 2-channel dash cams, but it is very useful to have a second camera recording what happens behind you as well as in front. If you car has a 12V accessory socket in the boot, then just buy a second dash cam and plug it in. Most people don't have that luxury which is where 2-channel cameras come in.
The F200 is a new, cut-down version of the F800, but the £129.99 / US$139.99 price is a bit misleading. If you want the rear camera, the bundle costs £169.99 (it's US$49.99 when bought separately), but if you also want GPS, that's another £25 / US$29.99.
We're fans of screen-less dash cams which stick unobtrusively behind your rear-view mirror, but with power, GPS and rear camera attached, wires get a bit messy with the F200. Also, the included power cable has to be connected to the car's fuse box, but this is necessary to use the parking mode which records when motion is detected (such as another car hitting yours while parked). Via the app you can choose a minimum voltage level to prevent your battery draining.
If you opt for the GPS module, you can download and install new firmware which includes a database of speed cameras, and you'll get audible warning when approaching one. This isn't documented, so it's not obvious how to get the warnings.
The bad news is that image quality is mediocre. Although the F200 records at 1080p, the bit-rate is quite low and details are lacking. This makes it tricky to make out registration plates even in daylight. And the 720p rear camera is markedly worse, so is good only for showing generally what happened in an incident.
If you can afford more, you'll get better quality from the F800 Pro (but it ain't cheap at £349).
9. Nextbase 112
The 112 is a sub-£30 dash cam which uses the same handy magnetic quick-release mount as the 312GW, so it's really convenient to remove from the car to transfer video files or even take a few photos on battery power if you're in a collision.
It's the only dash cam here which records at a lowly 1280x720 pixels, and there is certainly less detail. However, the 120-degree lens means it is much easier to read number plates of oncoming cars as they're physically larger in the resulting video. Quality is acceptable during the day, with most registrations visible when you pause the video.
But you'll be lucky to capture any registrations at night as detail levels really do drop off. However, you should still be able to prove what happened if an incident happens in front of you, even if you can't pick out the registration.
There are no frills, such as Wi-Fi or GPS, nor can you review any footage or photos on the 2in screen. But the 112 is nice and compact and has easy-to-use buttons and menus.
We'd recommend paying more for a 1080p dash cam, but if you have a very limited budget, this is the one to get.