The best budget dash cams

Budget doesn't always mean rubbish. Modern dashcams are becoming increasingly sophisticated and we take a look at those that offer the best value for money.

Best budget dash cams

by Chris Williams |
Updated on

The popularity of dash cams has been growing over the past decade, especially with so many good quality budget dash cams becoming available. There are probably more benefits to owning a dash cam than you've realised, and they currently represent peace of mind to over a million UK motorists and counting.

Depending on your insurance provider, getting a dashcam can reduce your monthly premiums – and in the event of an accident, a dashboard camera can also be an invaluable piece of kit to help settle any claims. What's more, they're a great safeguard against a more unsettling trend; those increasingly popular 'crash-for-cash' crimes.

Our team looked at over 40 cameras, including some mini dash cams, to narrow down the cheapest model for the highest quality. We've found time and time again, paying the extra dollar doesn't always mean you're getting a better product, though it often helps. It boils down to knowing exactly what to look for. After interrogating the most reasonable dashcam options available today, we've found the below list to be our current top favourites.

The best budget dash cams at a glance:

Best value dashcam (Editor's choice): ORSKEY Dash Cam 1080P Car Camera - Buy now from Amazon UK

Best easy-to-use dashcam: Nextbase 222 Dash Cam - Buy now from Amazon UK

Best night vision dashcam: IIWEY 4K Dash Cam - Buy now from Amazon UK

You can spend much more than this, but you may not need to. For those looking to purchase a dash cam but not sure of what they're after exactly, we've also put together a handy buying guide at the end of this article.

The best budget dash cams

Best for value dashcam (Editor's choice)

Orskey cam
Price: $43.99
Alternative retailers
Walmart$39.99View offer

Easy to use, reliable, and with sound performance, it's hard to disparage this budget dash cam. It's not very stylish, but that hardly matters when it performs so well. The large three-inch screen is the same size as what you find on the top-end Nextbase dash cams, for example, and makes the dash cam simple to use.

The S680 records in FHD 1080p at 30fps; it has six infrared LEDs around the lens to help improve night vision, plus WDR software to improve image clarity. Having a 170° wide angle is also very useful, and also 30° wider than Nextbase dash cams.

Pros

  • High image quality
  • Great value

Cons

  • Some may find the larger screen intrusive

Best easy-to-use dash cam

Nextbase 222
Price: $99.99
Alternative retailers
Walmart$99.00View offer

In terms of value, quality and usability, the Nextbase 222 does the business. The high-precision G Sensor means that in the event of an accident, the recording will be saved and not overwritten. The intelligent parking mode looks after things while you are away from your vehicle. Any bump or physical movement will automatically be stored.

It comes with Nextbase's Click&Go PRO powered car mount, which is much more secure than a suction cup, easier to set up and allows you to connect the dash cam with just one hand.

Remember to get an SD memory card. A 32Gb card will take care of more than four hours of footage at 1080p/30fps.

Pros

  • Fantastic design and usability
  • Excellent mounting system

Cons

  • No SD card supplied

Best night vision dash cam

IIWEY J01
Price: $99.00

The IIWEY 4K Dash Cam comes with 4K resolution and a wide-angle lens that provides an impressive 170-degree field of view.

The 3-inch LCD screen gives great results for viewing footage on the go, while the recorded information is stored on the included 32G SD card. Transferring footage is a doddle using the Wi-Fi connectivity to hook up with your phone or tablet.

Night vision has been improved using the CMOS Starvis sensor, plus you get peace of mind when you're away from the vehicle with Smart Parking Monitoring.

Pros

  • 4K recording
  • Wi-Fi

Cons

  • Permanent wiring kit costs extra

Best budget dash cam with GPS

GPS is a very handy additional security feature that allows you to see the route you travelled at the time of an incident and how fast you were going. This can be really useful additional evidence if you are concerned about protecting yourself while on the roads from negligent drivers.

The RSDC3000 records in 1296p FHD and has a wide view angle of 130°. In addition to Parking Mode, magnetic mount, and Wi-Fi-enabled connected Ring dash cam app, you still get built-in GPS. It has a three-inch screen, but we also like the simple magnetic mount. The only downside here is that the maximum memory card size that this dash cam will take is 32GB.

Pros

  • GPS and Wi-Fi
  • Magnetic mount

Cons

  • Max 32GB card size

Best budget HD dashcam

Road Angel has gathered all the features you might expect and has managed to package them in this compact bit of kit for a fairly reasonable price.

The Halo records in full HD at 1080p@30fps through the 130° wide-angle F1.8 aperture lens. Motion-detected recording protects your vehicle while you're away from the vehicle, and you can retrieve footage via Wi-Fi. If you hardwire the Aura, it comes with a handy winter mode which will keep a section of the screen clear of frost and ice to allow continuous recording.

Pros

  • Full HD recording
  • Compact design

Cons

  • Instructions could be better

The best overall dash cam

We don't just test the budget models; some advanced dashcams and well-known brands are well worth the extra outlay. But whether it's worth spending more than the selection above really depends on how involved you want to get with the technology. Our overall favourite dash cam, the Nextbase 622GW below, offers more than just basic recording but includes many advanced features relying on smartphone interaction and extra apps.

The 622GW's performance is top-notch. You can choose a default frame rate and resolution, but there are also bits of software to aid clarity, such as image stabilisation and polariser. There are also smart features, including Alexa Built-in, What Three Words location, and an automated, subscription-based emergency SOS system.

It might be a couple of years old now, but it's still the best.

The best of the best

Rrp: $395.99

Price: $349.99
Alternative retailers
Walmart$297.99View offer
Best Buy$349.99View offer

Over several years, Nextbase has evolved sensors, mounts and optics that refine the user experience to the point that now, the mounts are powerful magnets, the software's quick to set up, and the build quality is clearly superior to lower-cost alternatives.

Having said that, the focus on 'quality' does mean there are fewer crazy features. What the 622GW does offer is done incredibly well. From installation to the downloading and sharing functions, it's seamless and 'just works'. Magnetic attachment means no clips or dangling leads, and the mount design is efficient and unobtrusive, so finding the best position on the windscreen doesn't mean sacrificing your view. Even in the flat, tight-spaced confines of a Jeep windscreen, it's possible to hide the camera entirely behind the mirror.

Pros

  • Large storage
  • slow motion playback
  • 4k resolution

Cons

  • Pushes 'Budget' to the extreme

Recording and storing footage

Once you have chosen which dash cam suits you, it's worth investing in a decent SD card. San Disk's High Endurance MicroSD cards are everything you need for use in a dash cam: reliable, fast, and great value. Our pick of the lot is the 64GB version, which is good for all circumstances except perhaps high-quality dual recording, in which case we suggest getting one of the larger ones. It even comes with an SD adaptor.

Budget dash cam buying advice

Nextbase 522GW mounted on car windscreen
©Photo: CAR

Essential features

When it comes to finding the best dash cam for you, there are several that contribute to making a model the right one for your needs.

The first and most obvious is the quality of the footage. In the event of an incident, if you can't rely on that footage to prove your case, it's a waste of an investment, so you must ensure it's reliable in all conditions. This is the first thing we looked at when rating the above dash cams.

The main specification that you need to look out for here is the video resolution, so for this, the recording needs to be 1080p at least - 720p just isn't good enough. All of the dash cams mentioned here are 1080p or above, but other image quality features come into play to make them a quality product.

These include the frame rate (how many frames are captured per second), having 'low light performance' features (meaning it can see well at any time of day), a high dynamic range (good levels of contrast in the image) and the widest lens possible (minimum 120 degrees).

Extra features

Other features that might impact which dash cam is best for you come down to your use of the camera, how it looks & is mounted and accessing the footage. For instance, screens are useful if you are doing more one-off recordings, such as a specific journey or track runs, but for everyday driving where you are continually recording, you may want something less intrusive.

Mounting can be another important feature since you may wish to move the cam between vehicles. Most dash cams utilise suction cups that fit the windscreen. However, some models come with 3M double-sided adhesive stickers to offer a more permanent and secure solution.

The footage can be accessed via mobile apps or by plugging the device into your computer. The former offers more instant access to footage, but this bonus usually comes with a heftier price tag. Apps vary in quality too. The best come from brands including Garmin and Nextbase. If you're not bothered with unmounting, connecting and manually downloading the files, you can save a good few pennies. You can spot which cams connect to your mobile by seeing which have Wi-Fi smartphone features.

We've outlined all the things that you need to consider when choosing your dash cam in a quick checklist below.

Checklist for choosing a quality dashcam

• HD Quality Video (1080x1920)

• High frame rate

• Has 'low light performance' features (measured in ISO)

• Ideally has a wide lens type (120+ degrees)

• High/wide dynamic range (good levels of contrast)

• G-force sensor (most have this) when the sensor is triggered, it specifically saves that segment

Optional but useful features:

• Audio

• Ease of installation

• Ease of access to footage (eg. phone apps)

• GPS – tags the video at a location

One thing to note is that we found the cleanliness of the windscreen and back window hugely impacted the quality of the video. It might seem obvious, but it's a key point to bear in mind if you're going to make the investment, especially if your visits to the car wash are somewhat infrequent; for optimal results, ensuring that your car is well-maintained will be one of the greatest factors in obtaining clear, usable footage.

Dashcam installation

Via 12V socket

Cheap dash cams are often reasonably priced for a reason. This can be because of fewer features or a more fiddly setup. But a cheaper model can certainly be worth the extra effort if you're looking to save money. The same goes for the dash cam installation. You can plug the cam into your cigarette lighter and go, which is what most of us do. It's the easiest option.

Hardwiring

Or you can opt to hardwire the dash cam to take advantage of parking sensor features. The internal battery of some cams may last a little while, but they can never outlast a hardwired cam.

You can hardwire a dash cam yourself with an installation kit or fitted professionally. Service stores such as Halfords offer fitting services from £50. If you buy through them, the RAC can include the fitting as part of the dash cam package.

If you're worried about the dash cam draining your car's battery (possible if you drive infrequently), you can install a battery pack to keep things topped up. These can cost anything from £100-£300, though, so the budget aspect is gone. Instead, you might want to run to the shops once a week to keep your car battery healthy and happy.

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Chris Williams is an Automotive Content Writer for Parkers and CAR Magazine, but he also contributes to Live For The Outdoors and What's The Best. He trained as an automotive journalist in New Zealand, prior to which he studied International Relations and History.

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