Dash cams are an essential accessory for any car. They record constantly while you drive so you have video evidence showing exactly what happened should you ever be involved in a collision.
Assuming it’s not your fault, you can then 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.
We’ve already mentioned dash cams that come with a rear camera which sticks in your rear window: these are well worth the extra money, though if you have a 12V 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.
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 not found safety features such as lane-departure warning or forward-movement alerts useful, but those which warn you of safety camera locations can be very useful.
Many models have a parking mode, but you’ll 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 often find it sold for a lot less than the RRP and it also comes in a white / pink version called Rose.
Read our full Nextbase 312GW review
2. Yi Dash Cam Ultra
It's a bit bulky and doesn't have GPS or a quick-release mount, but Yi's Dash Cam Ultra is still a good choice.
It comes with a 16GB microSD card, both suction and adhesive mounts and records at up to 2688x1520 pixels - a resolution of 2.7K. At lower resolutions such as 1080p it can record at 60 frames per second but it's 30fps at the top resolution.
In daylight, quality is very good indeed, with bright and detailed images that let you see the registration plates of parked and passing cars, as well as those in front. The field of view is wide, but not so wide that cars in front become tiny blobs.
At night, quality is a lot worse, but no dash cam lives up to claims that you can still see every last detail in low light.
The app for iOS and Android is great. It connects easily to the dash cam and lets you watch low-resolution clips as well as selecting and downloading only the portion of the full-quality clip that you need in the event of an accident. It works quickly and reliably.
Usefully, a long microUSB cable is supplied with a twin USB adapter so you can still charge a phone from your 12V accessory socket even with the dash cam connected.
3. Nextbase 412GW
Not to be mistaken for the 312GW above, the 412GW is a bit more expensive, but records video at 2560x1440 pixels - also known as Quad HD. It will alternatively record in full HD (1920x1080) at 60fps, unlike the cheaper model which is limited to 30fps.
There's GPS and Wi-Fi, just like the 312GW, and the same convenient magnetic mount. In the box, though, you get two mounts: one adhesive and one suction, so you could swap the camera easily between two cars.
Video quality is excellent during the day with slightly more detail than the 312GW, but there's little between the two dash cams at night. Both are great choices.
Read our full Nextbase 412GW review
4. Nextbase 512GW
The Nextbase 512GW is very good, but it's also more expensive than the company's 312GW and 412GW. For the extra cash you get a polariser to reduce reflections, an automatic parking mode and a connector for attaching the optional rear camera.
If you can afford it, it won't disappoint.
Read our full Nextbase 512GW review
5. 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.
6. Mio MiVue C330
The MiVue C330 is small and unobtrusive, easy-to-use and boasts handy features including built-in GPS and speed camera warnings (with free database updates for life).
It doesn't suffer from the colour issues that plagued older MiVue cameras, though we did notice a slight flicker during daytime recordings. It's not enough to ruin the videos though; there's enough detail to read registration plates and provide evidence in the event of a collision.
Read our full MiVue C330 review
7. DDPai X2 Pro
The X2 Pro has no screen and just one button, so installation is really easy. It comes with a rear camera on a long wire which records the view out of the back, too.
You also get a wireless button for taking photos should you see something that's worth capturing, and the app is one of the best we've seen for downloading videos and photos to your phone for sharing.
It's expensive, though, and if your car has two accessory sockets you might be better off buying two separate dash cams. However, considering the great quality and - after long-term testing - great reliability - this is worth the price.
For the full details, read our DDPai X2 Pro review.
8. Nextbase 112
The 112 is Nextbase's replacement for the 102. This sub-£50 dash cam uses the same magnetic quick-release mount as the 412GW, 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. You can buy it from Halfords for £40 at the moment.
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 limited budget, this is the one to get.
9. 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 (£349) or from the DDPai X2 Pro (above).