Best Car Dash Cams
Man Driving in Car
The skinny on dash cams

When you start shopping for a dash cam, don’t be afraid to take it slow. Dash cams have so many features in common that it can be hard to parse out what makes each one unique.

To give you a head start, we’ve researched a number of cameras and chosen three to recommend.

KDLINKS X1 tops our list thanks to features like automatic video recording, a wide field of view, and high-definition video that lets you read a license plate up to 50 feet away.

KDLINKS X1 Dash Cam: Best Overall
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Standard Features

The KDLINKS X1 has all the standard features of a dash cam, with HD video, 1080p resolution, and a 2.7-inch screen. It starts recording when you turn on your car, and the footage loops, erasing older footage. It has a wide angle lens that delivers a 165-degree field of view.
 

Bonus Features

  • At only a half-inch thick, this camera has a super slim design.

  • The camera can rotate a full 360 degrees, so you can turn the camera to record in any direction, which is great if you want to record an interaction with someone outside your vehicle.

  • The video playback software includes a map and route information for each video, so the viewer can see exactly where an incident occurred.

  • The X1 comes with a high-quality lithium-ion battery designed to withstand extreme temperatures.

  • The memory card is included with your purchase.
     

Drawbacks

The X1’s built-in accelerometer will lock down your video recording if it detects a crash, but its sensitivity means that hitting a pothole may also trigger the lockdown response. 

We also wish you didn’t have to manually set the time, because an automatic time stamp seems like a feature that should come standard with a GPS-enabled device.
 

Pros 

  • High video quality

  • Slim design

  • GPS video tracking

Cons 

  • Sensitive crash sensor

  • Manual time setting
     

Summary

The KDLINKS X1 checks a lot of boxes for a great dash camera: it has high-quality video recording that can let you read license plates 50 feet away, superior night vision, comprehensive computer software, and a small, discreet design. There are a few features that you might need to tweak to get it working to your satisfaction, but overall it’s a good buy.

Garmin Dash Cam 55: Best Features
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Standard Features

The Garmin Dash Cam 55 comes with all the standard features of a GPS-enabled dash cam, but it’s smaller than most at only 1.5 x 2.2 inches. It has 1440p video capture with a 122-degree field of view, with looped recording and collision detection for automatic recording. 

Bonus Features

  • Traffic safety warnings will alert you when you get too close to the person in front of you or if you start to drift out of your lane. 

  • The Travelapse feature lets you condense a long trip into a brief, sped-up video clip that you can share with friends and family.

  • Sharing video is easy with this HD dash camera’s built-in Wi-Fi and VIRB app, which lets you stitch together video. 

  • You can control your Garmin 55 using only your voice: just say “Okay, Garmin,” and then give a command like “Start recording” or “Take a photo.” 

 

Drawbacks

The Garmin 55’s field of vision is narrower than other dash cams, so you might not get a good view of what’s happening on either side of your car. The traffic safety warnings can get annoying, especially in stop-and-go traffic, but you can turn them off if they bother you. 

This model has had some issues with overheating, and it doesn’t do well in extreme temperatures.

 

Pros 

  • Voice control

  • Travelapse photo feature

  • Wireless video sharing

 

Cons 

  • Narrow viewing angle

  • Overheating issues

 

Summary

When it comes to dash cams, you want something that’s simple to use while you’re driving and makes it easy to share video when you need to, and the Garmin Dash Cam 55 does both very well. It’s pricier than other models, but its built-in Wi-Fi, hands-free controls, and fun Travelapse feature justify the higher price tag.

YI Smart Dash Cam: Budget Pick
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Standard Features

The YI Smart Dash Camera records at 1080p and has a nice, wide 165-degree-angle lens. It’s a little bigger than other dash cams at 3 x 2 inches, but it has all the standard features of a good dash cam, minus a built-in GPS. 
 

Bonus Features

  • The built-in Wi-Fi and intuitive app let you download video wirelessly from the YI dash cam.

  • The camera has excellent night vision and an infrared filter to reduce glare.

  • You can set the sensitivity of the collision sensor if you’re getting a lot of false impact detections.

  • The YI has lane departure warnings to help you stay safer on the road.
     

Drawbacks

Despite the 1080p resolution, the YI image quality isn’t always great, but you can improve it by rotating the lens and manually refocusing it.

The driver lane assistance is often unreliable and will alert you even if you’re driving straight between the lines, so you may want to turn it off.

Pros 

  • Clear sound recording

  • Intuitive app

  • Straightforward camera buttons
     

Cons 

  • Unreliable driver assist

  • No GPS

Summary

The YI Smart dash cam gives you everything you need in a good dash cam, but you won’t get a GPS at this price point. It’s good for getting a basic record of collision events, and we like the wireless video download feature, which is something usually seen only in higher-end dash cam models. If you’d like to have a basic, inexpensive device just in case you’re in a wreck, the YI is a solid choice.

How a Dash Cam Works

These days it may feel odd, outdated, or even extravagant to buy a camera with a single function. Next to a smartphone, a camera can seem so inefficient.

But dash cams are sophisticated devices doing a job that other cameras, even professional photographers’ cameras, just can’t do. They’re designed to meet the needs that arise while driving a car—to keep your field of vision clear, to protect yourself from loose items, to be able to monitor the road instead of the camera, and so on.

The features below make a dash cam what it is. You’ll find them on most, if not all, dashboard cameras on the market today. Whether you’re looking for the best dash cam for car, truck, or van use, these are the features to watch for.
 

Auto-On and Auto-Off

Dash cams are designed to turn on and off with your car—but only if you leave the camera plugged into the cigarette lighter outlet between drives. If you disconnect the camera between drives, just plug it in to power up.
 

30 or 60 FPS

For most dash cams, the number of frames captured per second (fps) is 30, but some cameras take 60fps to better capture fast action.
 

Auto-Record

Many dash cams start recording the moment they turn on, while others activate the record function by sensing when the car is in motion.
 

Wide-Angle Lens

Wide‐angle lenses help dash cams see and record more of the areas surrounding a car.
 

Audio Footage

Many dash cams come with a built‐in microphone to capture both audio and video footage.
 

Image Correction

Most dash cams have some ability to manipulate light within an image while recording so that night shots, high-contrast imagery, and low‐light footage are clearer when you play back the recording.
 

LCD Screen and Instant Playback

Most dash cams have an LCD screen and the ability to play back video on the spot. Instant playback is one of the most valuable features of a dash cam: it can exonerate you on the spot instead of in the courtroom.
 

Suction Mount

Most dash cams attach to your windshield with a suction cup.
 

Loop Recording

To keep you from having to manually erase hours of non‐collision footage, dash cams are designed to record over existing footage (starting with the oldest) when the memory is full.
 

Lockdown Recording

In the even of a crash, many dash cams will lock down the automatic recording. This means it will catch the entire event and save it. A lockdown recording won’t be looped over, so you don’t have to worry about downloading it in the aftermath of a scary situation.
 

32GB Storage Capacity

Most dash cams take micro SD cards with up to 32GB capacity (about five hours of HD footage). And pay attention to the details—some dash cams come with SD cards included, but others require you to buy one separately. Some dash cams are fussy about the class of the card, so read the reviews to see which SD cards worked for other customers.
 

G-Sensor

Most dash cams have a sensor that detects sharp turns, rapid braking, and other signs of collision. When you trigger the sensor, the camera saves that footage automatically or with the touch of a button. This type of footage is typically protected from automatic looping, so you won’t accidentally lose crucial video footage.
 

Transferrable Files

Download high-definition video footage anytime using an SD adapter or USB cable. Some dash cams come with companion software, but not many‐it’s usually your job to find a compatible media player for your camera’s file type.
 

HD Resolution

Almost all dash cams record in HD (1080 x 720 pixels or more) to help you see license plates and other details clearly.