Best Dash Cam of 2020
Best For Most Drivers
Most people don't need a rear-facing camera with their dash cam, and if that is you, the AUKEY DR02 is a great choice. It provides a high-definition front-facing camera with a wide 170˚ field of view for a relatively reasonable price. That angle is going to be most ideal for people looking to capture meaningful footage in the case of an accident or just making sure you catch that once-in-a-lifetime event on your way to work. Possibly the best thing about the DR02 is its incredibly small profile. Its largest dimension is just 2.2 inches, making it the smallest camera that we tested. If you store the wire and put it in the corner of your windshield, it becomes relatively inconspicuous. If you've ever been bothered when driving a friend's car that has a dashboard ornament, then this is the camera for you.
There are a few small annoyances with the DR02's design. It lacks built-in Wi-Fi, so to share or save the footage, you will have to remove the camera's SD card and plug it into a computer. This process isn't ideal, but most people will only be pulling footage off the camera occasionally, so this usually won't be an everyday occurrence. The one thing that might be a dealbreaker for some is the adhesive mount, which glues to the windshield. While this mount contributes to the DR02's slim profile, some may not like the idea of a semi-permanent fixture on their windshield. However, you don't have to leave the camera on the windshield all the time since the camera comes out easily from its mount. We think the drawbacks are minor and that the AUKEY DR02 will please the vast majority of potential dash cam users.
Read review: AUKEY DR02
Best For Rideshare Drivers
Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual
The Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual offers almost every feature you could want from a dash cam and consequently is one of the best cameras available today. The front-facing camera can record in crystal-clear 2.5k resolution with a wide (but not distorted) 170˚ field of view. The secondary cabin-facing camera records in 1080p HD with a 140˚ field of view. This second camera makes the N2 Pro Uber Dual an excellent option for rideshare drivers that will need photographic evidence in the event some passengers get rowdy or do damage to their car. The camera also has a microphone so that any verbal interactions will be captured. On top of this great video quality and nearly 310˚ of coverage, the N2's rear-facing camera has infrared sensors that enable it to capture usable images even in complete darkness.
A definite downside to the N2 is its price. It is almost twice the price of some other single-camera models that can also produce impressively clear footage. That extra cost is only really worth it if you need the second cab-facing camera. The unit itself is also a bit on the bulky side, but we honestly prefer having one larger unit over other dual-camera models that have separate units connected by a mess of wires. Finally, this model lacks wireless video sharing, so you must plug in the camera (or the microSD card) to a computer to download its video. Overall, this is the best camera we've found for rideshare drivers or anyone that wants a cab-facing camera with high-quality video capture.
Read Review: Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual
Best Bang for the Buck
If you're looking for the peace of mind offered by a dash cam at a bargain price, look no further than the Roav A1. It has a slim profile, built-in Wi-Fi for quick clip sharing/saving, and a very intuitive user interface.
The video quality on this affordable model was noticeably worse and was the biggest downside of the unit. However, while the Roav A1's video is a bit grainy when compared to that of our other awards winners, it is certainly good enough to catch a good view of the action or capture a license place if you happen to get into an accident.
Read review: Roav A1
Best for Documenting the Drive
If you are someone who wants to capture the experience of your hobby of taking long, scenic drives, the Garmin 55 would be a great choice. It offers better-than-HD 1440p resolution, crisp motion, accurate and vivid colors, and is so small that it won't get in the way of enjoying the sights while you are on the road. It also has a relatively narrow field of view. While this is a detriment if your main goal is to capture what happened in the event of an accident, it presents a much more natural-looking video than the fisheye, utilitarian look of wide-angle cameras.
Getting that extra video quality does come at a price. The 55 costs quite a bit more than most competing models. Navigating its settings menus we found to be less than intuitive, and the tiny 2-inch touchscreen makes it even more challenging. However, for those just looking to capture the magic of a sunset drive, the fantastic video quality will likely outweigh these drawbacks.
Read review: Garmin 55
Why You Should Trust Us
Steven Tata and Max Mutter have tested and reviewed more than 200 smart and video capture devices over the past three years. They have a very good idea of the features that can make gadgets like these integrate well into your daily life and the kinds of drawbacks that may make them more trouble than they're worth. Additionally, the two have become experts in analyzing the quality of video footage, having now reviewed more than 100 camera drones, projectors, home security cameras, and Chromebooks.
In completing this review, we captured more than 50 hours of footage, driving more than 500 miles, day and night. We became familiar with the installation process of each camera in multiple cars and carefully noted the impact that each product setup had on peripheral vision. Once we got a feel for how to operate each of these cameras, we then offloaded all the video, using both memory cards and each camera's associated app, onto a computer. We then compared both day and night time footage from each camera side-by-side, paying particular attention to things like how each model captured license plate numbers and the impact that travel, speed, and light conditions have on video clarity.
Related: How We Tested Dash Cams
Analysis and Test Results
Most dash cams have somewhat similar levels of functionality and performance, so you'll likely end up choosing one based on a specific feature or price point. We designed our tests to identify and amplify those small differences. After spending over 100 hours driving and sorting through the resulting footage, we graded each camera on its video quality, reliability, convenience in capturing and offloading video, interface design, and how much space the units take up on a windshield.
Dash cameras differ in price mainly as a function of how many features any given model has. We think the AUKEY DR02 hits the sweet spot, offering all of the performance and features the vast majority of people will want or need for a relatively low price. The higher-priced Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual is the best option we've tested if you are looking for additional features, like a cabin-facing camera and infrared night vision. If you're looking to spend as little as possible, then the bare bones experience of the Roav A1 will satisfy most people's needs, though its video isn't quite as crisp as that of the more expensive AUKEY DR02.
Dash cams are completely legal in most areas as long as they don't obscure more than a 7-inch square of the windshield on the passenger side or more than a 5-inch square of the windshield on the driver's side. Some government agencies do not allow mounting anything on the windshield, in which case you'll have to get a dashboard mount to make it legal. Be sure to research your state's specific laws.
All of the cameras that we tested can produce decent looking footage, though some offer a bit more clarity, and others perform better than others in low-light situations. We analyzed all of the videos from both a practical perspective (e.g., the ability to read license plates) and a recreational perspective (e.g., sharing scenery on social media). We conducted all of these tests in various daytime lighting conditions and at night to cover the full range of potential driving scenarios.
The best performer in our video testing was the Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual. Its 2.5k resolution produces very crisp footage, and the wide 170˚ field of view covers a lot of area without making the video look distorted. In daylight footage, we had no problem with reading license plate numbers, even in swift-moving traffic. This model is also one of the only cameras on the market with infrared sensors (on the cab-facing camera only), resulting in usable images even in the complete dark. However, it is worth noting that the video quality is slightly lower on the cab-facing cam, and it has a narrower field of view than the front-facing camera. Occasionally at night, we had a bit of trouble making out license plates on moving cars, which was the only reason this model missed out on a perfect score.
Three different models fell just behind the Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual in our video quality tests. These include the Rexing V1, the AUKEY DR02, and the Garmin 55. All of these cameras produce a clear, crisp video with reasonable color accuracy. However, there are some differences worth noting between the three. The Rexing V1 video quality seems sharper than most of the other 1080p models we tested, and the 170˚ field of view covers a wide viewing area. We did have some difficulty reading license plates at night when cars were moving fast or when there were odd lighting conditions. The AUKEY DR02 is similarly crisp, also sports a 170˚ field of view, and in night conditions it offers a bit clearer look at license plates. During the day, however, it is more prone to blurring license plates than the Rexing. The Garmin 55 has a much narrower 106˚ field of view. While this sacrifices a lot of coverage, it does allow distant objects to come into better focus over the cameras with wider angles. It is stellar at capturing clear license plate shots during the day, but in nighttime lighting, it does struggle more than most.
The Roav A1 offers about average video quality, which is what most would probably expect from a lower-priced and compact camera. Despite 1080p resolution, the video quality is a bit grainy. It is clear enough to identify license plates for the most part but isn't ideal for documenting a scenic drive. Speaking of license plates, in most conditions, we were able to read them easily, but the image was more likely to be washed out in bright light and near stoplights at night.
The worst video quality of any camera we tested came from the APEMAN C450A. All of its footage looks somewhat blocky and grainy, and there is an overly warm hue added to it. This camera is more prone to washing things out in bright light, especially when approaching a traffic light at night.
All dash cams capture video using a technique called loop recording, where many video clips of a specified length get saved to a memory card (in this case, a microSD card). When the memory card fills up, the oldest clips get deleted to make way for the new. If a dash cam's G-sensor senses an incident (like a car accident), it will protect the current clip from being deleted until you physically delete it, ensuring the most important footage is not lost. All dash cams in our review 1) have a feature where it automatically starts recording when the car is started, and 2) have evidence that its G-sensor is effective. Beyond that, we assessed the loop recording options offered by each camera. Shorter loop recording clips, say one minute, prevent the memory card from filling up with clips from every time you stop short, but it also increases the likelihood that an event could occur towards the very end of a clip, with most of the action occurring in the next, unprotected clip. Longer clips take up much more space but are protected against this possibility. Finally, we assessed footage management in this metric, giving higher scores to models that have built-in Wi-Fi networks that allow you to beam clips directly to your phone instead of removing a memory card and plugging it into a computer.
Earning one of the top scores in this metric was the Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual. It offers loop recording clip settings of one, three, and five minutes. This is more than most cameras provide, but it does lack the 10-minute option that some offer. The unique cab-facing camera also captures audio, which is great for rideshare drivers, as you can record any verbal interactions that might occur with one of your passengers.
Another top performer is the Roav A1 that offers the most adjustability in terms of loop recording settings of any camera we tested, with one, three, five, and 10-minute clip options. It also sports built-in Wi-Fi for smooth video transfer to your phone. The lack of a secondary camera was the only reason it lost out on a top score.
The Garmin 55 has some nice features like built-in Wi-Fi and the ability to create driving time-lapses. However, its fixed, one-minute loop recording clip length is responsible for it falling out of top tier contention. This relatively short amount of time is fine if you're looking to be economical with the space on your memory card, but most people will want to use a slightly longer setting to make sure the camera protects all of the footage from a crash or accident.
The AUKEY DR02 also lets you select the length of recording clips with options of three, five, and 10 minutes. However, to get its footage off of the camera, you will have to plug in its memory card to a computer since it lacks any built-in Wi-Fi. Both the APEMAN C450A and the Rexing V1 share the same clip length options and lack of Wi-Fi as the AUKEY DR02.
All dash cams in our lineup have a small LCD screen that lets you see what the camera is seeing and displays settings menus and some controls to navigate those menus. This interface allows you to position the camera correctly, select specific video capture settings, and to review and manage the camera's footage. In our testing, we used the LCD screen to position and reposition the cameras in multiple cars, and extensively used each control panel to change settings and manage footage. We were able to get a very good feel for the annoyances and benefits inherent in each camera's interface after choosing every setting possible and sorting through over a hundred hours of video.
Adjusting settings and managing footage right from the camera of the Roav A1 was quite easy and painless. We found it to be the most user-friendly model tested, thanks to a large 3-inch screen, an intuitive set of well-labeled controls, and easily navigable menus.
We also like the interfaces of the AUKEY DR02, which fell just behind the top scorer. It has somewhat large buttons, and the menus are easy to navigate, but at 1.5 inches, its screen is on the smaller side.
We liked but didn't love the interface of the Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual. It provides relatively intuitive menus and reliable controls for navigating those menus. While this camera has more features than almost any other model on the market, navigating all the settings related to those features on a small, 1.5-inch screen could sometimes feel cumbersome.
We also feel somewhat neutral overall about the APEMAN C450A's interface. We love the large 3-inch screen, but its menus and controls take a bit more getting used to than those of the higher scoring models. For some more advanced settings, we had to consult the manual to find what we were looking for, something that we didn't have to do with any of the above models.
Our least favorite interface belongs to the Rexing V1. The relatively large 2.4-inch screen is useful, but the benefits end there. We found both of its controls and menus to be so unreliable and circuitous that we had to consult the manual, and it took several attempts to complete any task.
The worst thing one of these cameras can do is encroach on your peripheral vision and create a visual annoyance, or worse, an impediment. All of these cameras have different style mounts and may be mounted in different areas of the windshield (for example, some often go in the corner while others hide behind the rearview mirror). Thus we evaluated each model's visual footprint subjectively, driving with each on our windshield for dozens of hours in varying conditions and noting how often we noticed the camera in our vision and how distracting it was when that happened.
Of all the cameras we tested, the AUKEY DR02 offers the least visually obtrusive profile. Its adhesive mount is tiny, and the back of the camera measures just 2 inches x 3 inches. We hardly noticed this camera when it was tucked in the corner of the windshield or to the right side of the rearview mirror.
Presenting slightly larger profiles than the AUKEY are both the Rexing V1 and the Garmin 55. They still manage to mostly hide from view when driving. Both use adhesives mounts that cut down on overall bulkiness when compared to suction mounts. The Rexing V1 is somewhat larger, with its face measuring 5 inches x 3.4 inches, but its angular shape allows it to hide away quite well. The Garmin 55 is impressively small, with its face measuring just 2.2 inches x 1.6 inches, but with its mount, it is still a bit more visible than the AUKEY. Regardless, we don't think any of these cameras are prominent enough to annoy or obstruct your peripheral vision.
Outside of the top three models, all of the cameras we tested have large enough visual footprints to be easily noticed while driving but aren't so large as to be a constant annoyance. Bottom line, if you're the kind of person that plasters your sunglasses right up to your face because you can't stand seeing the frames in your peripheral vision, you should probably get one of the top three models. If that's not your case, you should be ok with any of the models below.
In terms of the visual footprint, we found the Roav DashCam A1 and the APEMAN C450A to be about even. Both are undoubtedly noticeable when installed, but present little enough surface area that you shouldn't have a problem ignoring the small spot they occupy in your peripheral vision.
Due to its dual cameras and an array of infrared sensors, the Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual sports a pretty hefty visual footprint. Measuring 3.8 inches x 1.5 inches and utilizing a large suction mount that only adds to its visual weight, it's pretty much a guarantee that this camera will be noticeable in your peripheral vision. It is still well smaller than the 5-inch square that most government agencies consider the legal maximum. If placed right below the rearview mirror, it doesn't present too much of a visual annoyance.
Though we certainly wouldn't call dash cams a necessity for all drivers, they certainly can provide some peace of mind for people who often drive on crowded, more accident-prone streets. We've found that, while almost any dash cam can get the job done, specific models offer much better user experiences and video quality than others. We hope that our testing results have helped you find the best way to spend your dash cam budget.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata