The best dash cams (2023)

CAR's most highly recommended dash cams from a range of categories, and dash cam buying advice to find the right model for you.

Garmin Mini 2 mounted on car windscreen

by Chris Williams |
Updated on

Imagine a more harmonious world where even a budget dash cam wasn't necessary. We could drive around waving at one another like in Postman Pat; hedgehogs could snuffle along roadsides safe in the knowledge any oncoming traffic would actively avoid them. The whole world would revolve to the sound of a gentle overture. Alas, the world is what it is. Said hedgehogs become spike pancakes because some drivers are sadistic or blind.

It's become a reality that you not only have to drive defensibly but also act defensibly. If something goes wrong, it makes life so much easier if you can provide some form of proof, and a dash cam can do just that. You don't need to spend a fortune as there are some good, easy-to-fit pieces of kit around, like mirror dash cams which require minimum effort to install.

A worrying trend is an increase in crash-for-cash scams, where someone deliberately causes an accident or runs out in front of you while you are stationary and then claims you knocked them down. These situations can prove difficult to resolve without evidence, but by installing a dash cam, you can provide yourself with evidence should such a situation arise.

Shortlist:

  • Nextbase 522GW Dash Cam Front and Rear Camera - Best dual dash cam - View on Amazon

  • Thinkware Q800 Pro Front and Rear Cam Kit - Best dash cam for hardwiring- View on Amazon

  • San Disk High Endurance MicroSDXC 64GB - Best dash cam memory card - View on Amazon

The dash cam market is split into several categories. Here, we have rounded up our current favourites from these categories. Further below, there is also a helpful collection of dash cam buying advice.

Editor's pick

Nextbase 522GW
Price: $250.38
Alternative retailers
Walmart$188.90View offer
Best Buy$269.99View offer

It's been around for a while, but the Nextbase 522GW is still a ripper of a dash cam. In terms of a price-performance-quality balance, nothing comes close.  

The resolution is excellent at 1440p, and the best frame rate is 60fps (1080p HD). The 522GW has clever night vision software and a built-in polariser to improve nighttime and poor weather recording.

But there's more. Via the 3-inch HD touchscreen, you can access extras such as Alexa Built-in for hands-free control and a subscription-based Emergency SOS function. There is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for app connection, footage sharing and useful additions such as GPS.

Nextbase also produces the more expensive 622GW, but is it worth paying extra for? Find out more about them both here.

Pros

  • Great Value
  • Loaded with useful features
  • Very easy setup

Cons

  • You may not want all the features

Best budget dash cam

Orskey S680
Price: $43.99
Alternative retailers
Walmart$39.99View offer

The Orskey S680 is the best of the budget dash cams because it keeps things simple. Full HD 1080p recording at 30fps is perfectly adequate. However, footage clarity is aided by a Sony sensor, Wide Dynamic Range software, and an interesting infrared LED system.

That's about all there is to the S680. Good performance and easy usability. To keep things civilised, the S680 does possess important basic features such as a G-sensor and loop recording.

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Keeps things simple
  • 3-inch screen for easy use

Cons

  • Only accepts up to 32GB microSD

Best dual dash cam

Take our favourite dash cam, connect it to a superb wired rear camera, and you get the best dual dash cam, the Nextbase 522GW Dash Cam Front and Rear.

Nextbase's cameras (front and rear-facing) all benefit from magnetic mounts. This makes them highly adjustable and very secure. Wiring this camera is very easy; just try to hide the wire. It captures footage in up to 1080p HD with a 140-degree field of view (the same as the front camera).

While this offers the best rear footage, Nextbase has another rear camera module we recommend. Its Rear View Click-in Cam plugs straight into the front camera via HDMI.

Pros

  • One of the best rear cameras
  • Easy installation
  • Magnetic mounts

Cons

  • The supplied wiring kit connectors may not suit all vehicles

Best mini dash cam

Garmin Mini 2
Price: $241.00

The Garmin Mini 2 is hard to fault. It's about the size of a small garlic bulb and sits behind the rear-view mirror, unseen as a mini dash cam.

There is no screen on this dash cam; it's all controlled through the app. But don't groan, Garmin Drive is the best dash cam app we've used. With it, you can view footage, but also a live view from the camera and other neat features. Performance of 1080p HD at 30fps is the bare minimum. However, build quality counts for a lot, and the Mini 2 has a healthy dose of that.

Find out more about the Garmin Mini 2 here.

Pros

  • Very small
  • Very easy to use
  • Good build quality

Cons

  • Can only be used with the app

Best dash cam for hardwiring

Thinkware's dash cams are intended to be hardwired to make the most of features like park mode, so they are packaged complete with wiring kits. This means a bit more faff for installation, but once it's done, the shape of the Q800 Pro Front and Rear dash cam makes it sit behind the rear-view mirror like a key in a keyhole.

Like the Nextbase 522GW, the Q800 Pro Dual will record 1440p at the front and 1080p at the rear. Like the Garmin Mini 2, it has no screen, so all control is via the Thinkware Cloud app. It's not as good as Garmin Drive, but it's acceptable.

Pros

  • Supplied with a hardwiring kit
  • Excellent footage quality
  • Good security features

Cons

  • The app could be improved

Best dash cam memory card

SanDisk High Endurance 128GB

Rrp: $14.99

Price: $9.97
Alternative retailers
B&H Photo Video$9.99View offer
Walmart$12.99View offer

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.

Pros

  • Ideal for harsher conditions in a vehicle
  • High endurance

Cons

  • Write speed may not be fast enough for some cams

Why you need a dash cam

As we mentioned above, our Editor Adam Binnie had to get the door mirror of his car repaired because someone got too close. Annoyingly common scenarios like this immediately justify the need for a dash cam. After all, the fundamental function of a dash cam is to record the road ahead in case of an incident. If that is all you want from a dash cam, you need not spend more than £100 for a well-designed model. You can spend merely half that if you really want to.

However, it didn't take long for dash cam brands to begin one-upping each other with better video quality and more features. Some are very useful in terms of performance and safety. But some are gimmicks only helpful for point scoring, and it's important to be able to make the distinction between them.

There are financial incentives, too, in addition to security ones. You can usually save some money on your car insurance premium when you have a dash cam fitted. Dash cam heavyweight Nextbase has even partnered with insurance brands to offer its own insurance deals.

Dash cam buying advice

Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2 next to a red toy car
©Photo: CAR

Budget

Whatever your budget is, stick firmly to it. There are enough dash cams out there, so there will be at least six suitable models within your price range. But if you're considering spending as little as possible, make sure the dashcam focuses on performance rather than the number of features. If your budget is over £100, you can be more selective about what matters to you. GPS? Size? 4K? Be fussy.

Minimum performance

Full HD 1080p at 30fps is the dash cam minimum. You'll struggle to find anything with 720p these days, but you can still find quite a few cheap 4K dash cams running 25fps. Anything less than 30fps doesn't provide smooth footage, and vital details in an incident can become unclear.

Field of view

A human eye (that doesn't suffer from tunnel vision) has a horizontal field of view of just over 180 degrees. Dash cams don't need to match this, but at least 120 degrees is necessary to avoid activity on the periphery being missed.

WDR/HRD or polarising filter

To keep footage clear in high contrast conditions, effective anti-glare techniques are needed. Wide/High Dynamic Range software helps with this, and so does a polarising filter.

Extra features

We've yet to come across a dash cam without a G-sensor and loop recording, so we can take those as read. But what extra features are worth it? The Nextbase 622GW is a triumph of useful features. For example, it carries clever image stabilisation and Extreme Weather software for the clearest footage possible. It's also the only dash cam to employ the what3words location system.

But if you're interested in security features like park mode, we recommend that you choose a dash cam that has an available hardwire kit.

We suggest you think carefully about what features are useful to you. Only spend the extra on a top-end model if you'll use the extra function.

Mounting

All the dash cams here are discreet when mounted correctly behind the rear-view mirror. Take care to push cables into the headlining properly so they don't fall out. Also, clean the glass before attaching the dash cam mount to make sure it'll remain secure. For the best possible footage, remember to keep the windscreen and rear window clean.

Chris Williams is an Automotive Content Writer for Parkers and CAR Magazine, he trained as an automotive journalist in New Zealand, prior to which he studied International Relations and History.

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