Tech Corner: A Simple Buyer’s Guide to Dash Cams

“No way, man! Did you just see that?!”

Tech Corner - BeginnerWe’ve all logged onto social media to see some crazy behind-the-wheel footage. Whether it’s someone road-raging in traffic, a jaw-dropping crash, or some sick racing footage, it’s all captured with a dash camera. Aside from their viral shares on Facebook, dash cams are very useful to have on hand. They can be great for insurance purposes or legal fiascoes. And, of course, they’re ideal for sharing experiences with pals.

While you’ll often find dash cams mounted in track or trail vehicles, many people are now opting to install them in their daily drivers. Normally, there isn’t a ton of action on one’s daily commute. But in places like Russia, where driving conditions are notoriously rough (and police are notoriously indifferent), recorded footage is often the only way to prove your case in court. Many drivers have taken a cue from our comrades—installing dash cams to cover their hides in case of an accident.

The idea of picking a camera out seems pretty simple. However, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration. Let’s take a look at some of the camera features that are most important when deciding.

The Very Basics of Dash Cams

One of the first factors to consider is whether you are looking for a single-lens or dual-lens set up. Single-lens is ideal for drivers who are only interested in recording what’s going on out in front of the windshield. Dual-lens can record more than one angle, including what’s going on inside the vehicle. These are often found on track cars, school buses, and ride-sharing vehicles.

Another major factor to consider from the outset is purchasing a dash cam that can get clear and reliable footage in both daylight and nighttime. If the night vision is scratchy, the camera won’t be of much use to you.

Next, it’s a pain to have to set the camera to record every time you embark on your drive. Look for one that hardwires to the vehicle to automatically record as soon as the car starts. They even sell models that continue to record while the vehicle is parked. That’s great for dings and dents caused by rogue shopping carts or aggressive door-opening shoppers.

A Few Upgrades

Consider storage. Having a camera that operates on a loop, automatically deleting the oldest footage as it records, will surely save you the headache of sifting through old video. LifeHacker makes an excellent point about this feature: “Look for dash cams that have G-force sensors that can detect when you’ve been in an accident. These types of dash cams will save whatever footage was being recorded at that time instead of looping over it.”

The profile of the camera is also important. Dash cams can be magnets to thieves, so having one that sticks out will only make you an easy target. Ideally, you would remove the dash cam every time you exit the vehicle or place it into the glove box. Many drivers don’t want this hassle. Instead, they opt for a lower-profile model that tucks inconspicuously behind the rear-view mirror or on the top of the windshield.

Additional specialty features are available depending upon model. Options such as maintenance notifications to alert you when the camera is malfunctioning, WiFi syncing to upload video to your phone or tablet, GPS abilities to track your vehicles, and even advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) like lane departure, forward collision, and speed alert warnings, are all upgrades to think about.

Consider Your Needs

It may be tempting to simply use a hands-free action camera by Wasp or GoPro here. And while they get great, wide-angle footage and are easy-to-use, they are more suited for recreational use. For sport driving, racing, and off-roading, these cameras are fantastic. Many have settings that allow them to capture intense behind-the-wheel footage, including versatile mounting abilities so they can record from multiple angles.

For instance, they can be mounted behind the driver in order to capture driving habits during crawling and cornering to help them make improvements. But since daily driving recording isn’t their primary function, they lack many of the features that would be desirable in that setting, making their performance less-than-ideal. Some great options to consider would be the Old Shark 1080p Dash Cam, the KDLINKS DX2, and the Pruveeo MX2.

Installation Tips

Installation of a dash cam can vary, since it really depends on the model selected. For example, GoPros and Wasp action cameras are simply popped onto an adhesive or suction-cup base and then set to record as needed. But for the cameras that automatically begin recording, installation may require some wiring. This is what makes models like the Pruveeo MX2 a great choice. The power cord simply plugs into the vehicle’s cigarette lighter outlet and automatically begins to record once the vehicle is started. All that leaves for the driver is inserting a memory card and selecting a practical mounting position.

Regardless of choice, we recommend selecting a center location where the view is not obstructed, so it won’t distract you while driving. After that, you’re ready to begin driving with a renewed peace of mind!

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