After some careful research we bought 7 of the best dash cams of 2020 and took them on the road for more than 500 miles of driving. After reviewing the resulting footage, installing and uninstalling each model in multiple different cars, and tinkering with every available setting and feature, we've found the best cam for every purpose. Whether you want evidence to ensure a minor driving incident doesn't turn into a superfluous legal battle, are a rideshare driver that needs to record both the outside and inside of your car, or want an easy way to capture the magic of your sunset cruises, we can help you find the perfect dashboard companion.
The Best Dash Cams of 2020
Best Overall Dash Cam
Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual
Offering almost every feature you could want from a dash cam, the Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual is the best overall camera on the market today. The front facing camera can record in crystal clear 2.5k 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 a great option for rideshare drivers that will need photographic evidence in the event some rowdy passengers do damage to their car. That camera also has a microphone, so any verbal altercations will be captured as well. On top of this great video quality and nearly 360˚ coverage (310˚ to be exact), the N2's rear-facing camera has infrared sensors, meaning even in complete darkness it can capture usable images.
The clear downside to the N2 is its price. It is often double the price of single-camera models like the AUKEY DR02 that can also produce impressively clear footage. That extra cost is thus only really worth it if you need a cab-facing camera. The unit itself is also a bit on the bulky side, but we honestly prefer that to other 2-camera models that have separate units connected by a mess of wires. Finally, this model lacks wireless video sharing, so you must plug the camera, or the microSD card you're using with it, into a computer in order to download its video. Overall, this is the best camera we've found for rideshare drivers or anyone that wants a cab-facing camera and the best possible footage.
Read Review: Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual
Best for Most Drivers
Outside of rideshare drivers, most people aren't going to need a cab-facing camera. If you fall into that category, the AUKEY DR02 is a great choice. For a relatively reasonable price it provides a high definition front-facing camera with a wide 170˚ field of view. That angle is going to be all most people need for capturing meaningful footage 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 theDR02 is its incredibly small profile. Its largest dimension is just 2.2", making it far and away the smallest camera we tested. If you store away the wire and put it in the corner of your windshield, it essentially disappears. If you've ever been bothered when driving a friend's car that has a dashboard ornament, then this is the camera for you.
Apart from the lack of a second camera, there are a few small annoyances inherent in the DR02's design. The lack of built-in Wi-Fi means you'll have to remove the camera's SD card and plug it into a computer in order to share or save its footage. This isn't ideal, but most people will only be pulling footage off the camera occasionally, so this generally 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 greatly attributes to the DR02's slim profile, some may not want a semi-permanent fixture on their windshield. However, the camera does easily remove from the mount, so you don't have to leave the camera on the windshield all the time. All told we think these drawbacks are quite minor, and that the AUKEY DR02 is going to more than please the vast majority of potential dash cam users.
Read review: AUKEY DR02
Best on a Tight Budget
While no dash cam can truly be considered a "shoestring budget" option, the YI Dash is the least expensive model we've found that still offers a usable suite of features. With relatively sharp video, a wide 165˚ view, and a large display screen, the YI provides everything you need for documenting your driving escapades or misadventures. It even has built-in Wi-Fi for quick uploading of clips to a smartphone. And it does all this for an attractively low price.
The biggest knock against the YI Dash is that for only a bit more you can get the AUKEY DR02, which has slightly crisper video and a smaller form factor (though it does lack built-in Wi-Fi). The YI also has an adhesive mount, which may be off putting for some people. Finally, the YI only saves and protects from overwriting a maximum of 3 minutes of footage when its g-sensor detects an event (like a collision), whereas most models give the option save 10 or at least 5 minutes. This isn't a huge dea but many people like the buffer space afforded by those longer clip length options, However, if you don't need a cab or rear facing the camera, the YI offers nearly all the functionality of the top models for a lower price.
Read review: YI Dash
Best for Documenting the Drive
There is a contingent of people that make a hobby of taking long, relaxing drives in scenic areas, and that mostly want a dash cam in order to record and document those drives. If that's the case, you can't do much better than the Garmin 55. 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're driving. 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 the wide angle cameras.
Getting that extra video quality does come at a literal price, as the 55 costs quite a bit more than most competing models. We also found navigating its settings menus to be slightly less than intuitive, which isn't helped by the cramped 2-inch touchscreen. For those just looking to capture the magic of a sunset drive, however, 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 3+ years. Thus they have a very good idea of the types of things 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 drove more than 500 miles, day and night, and captured more than 50 hours of footage. Throughout that process we installed each camera in multiple cars, becoming quite familiar with their installation processes. We also kept careful notes of how visible each camera was in our peripheral vision throughout all those hours in the car. Once we got a feel for the day-to-day experience of using each of these cameras, we then offloaded all the video, using both memory cards and each camera's associated app, onto our computers. Testing finished with a marathon session of comparing both day and night time footage from each camera side-by-side, focusing on things like how clearly each captured license plate numbers, and how much varying speeds and lighting conditions degraded video clarity.
Related: How We Tested Dash Cams
Analysis and Test Results
Dash cams, on the whole, have fairly similar functionality and similar levels of performance, so it's likely you'll end up choosing one based on a specific feature, ability, or price point. We designed our tests to parcel out those small differences. After spending over 100 hours driving and sorting through the resulting footage, we graded each camera on its video quality, reliability and convenience in both capturing and offloading video, interface design, and how much space they take up on a windshield.
Dash cameras differ in price largely due to the features they do or do not have. 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 inexpensive price. If you need extra features, like a cabin-facing camera and infrared night vision, the higher priced Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual is the best option we've found. If you're looking to spend as little as possible the bare bones experience of the YI Dash will satisfy most people's needs, though its video isn't quite as crisp as that of the only slightly more expensive AUKEY DR02.
In most areas, dash cams are completely legal as long as they don't obscure more than a 7" square of the windshield on the passenger side, or more than a 5" square of the windshield on the driver's side. Some states do not allow mounting anything on the windshield, in which case you'll have to get some sort of a dashboard mount to make it legal. Be sure to research your state's specific laws.
All the cameras we tested are able to produce decent looking footage, though some offer a bit more clarity, and others perform somewhat better in low-light situations. We analyzed all of the videos in a functional aspect (the ability to read license plates that could identify the party at fault in a crash) and a recreational aspect (how well the video looks for sharing scenic driving clips on social media). All of these tests were conducted in various daytime lighting conditions and at night in order 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. During the day we had no problems reading license plate numbers, even in swift traffic. This 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. The cab-facing camera, also a fairly unique feature, is slightly lower quality and has a slightly narrower field of view, but still creates a great image. The only reason this model missed out on a perfect score is that occasionally at night we had a bit of trouble making out license plates on moving cars.
Three different models fell just behind the Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual in our video quality tests, including the Rexing V1, the AUKEY DR02, and the Garmin 55. All of these cameras produce very clear, crisp video with fairly good color accuracy, but there are some differences between the 3. The Rexing V1 video seems a bit crisper than most of the other 1080p models we tested, and the 170˚ field of view covers a lot of area. However, we did have some difficulty reading license plates at night when cars were moving fast or there were odd lighting conditions. The AUKEY DR02 is similarly crisp, also sports a 170˚ field of view, and offers a bit clearer look at license plates in night conditions. During the day, however, it is a bit 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 it to get distant objects in better focus than the wider angle cameras. It is stellar at capturing clear license plate shots during the day, but does struggle more than most in more challenging nighttime lighting.
Our Best Buy winner, the YI Dash, offers a great if not top-notch picture. It has an impressive resolution of 2.3k, which results in very clear footage. However, both at night and during the day it was more prone to blurring the license plates of fast moving cars than the top scorers.
The Roav A1's video quality is about average, offering what most would probably expect from a low-priced and compact camera. Despite 1080p credentials, the video is a bit grainy. It's generally clear enough to identify license plates but definitely isn't worthy of documenting a scenic drive. Speaking of license plates, in most conditions we were able to read them easily, but in bright light during the day or near stoplights at night the image was more prone to being washed out than those of most other models.
The worst camera we tested is the APEMAN C450A. All of its video looks somewhat blocky and grainy, and there is an overly warm hue added to all the footage. This makes the camera 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 are saved to (in this case) a microSD card. When the memory card fills up, the oldest clips are then deleted to make way for the new. If a dash cam's G-sensor senses an incident (like and accident) it will protect the current clip from being deleted until you yourself physically delete it, ensuring the most important footage is not lost. For a dash cam to be included in our review it had to 1) have a feature where it automatically starts recording when the car is turned on, and 2) have evidence in the form of user reviews that its G-sensor is effective. Beyond that we assessed the loop recording options each camera offers. Shorter loop recording clips, say 1 minute, keeps the memory card from quickly filling up with clips from everytime you stop short, but increases the likelihood that an event could occur towards the very end of a clip, with most of the action occuring in the next, unprotected clip. Longer clips protect against this possibility, but take up much more space. 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 1, 3, and 5 minutes. This is more adjustability than most cameras provide, but it does lack the longer 10-minute option that some offer. The unique cab-facing camera also captures audio. This is great for rideshare drivers, as you can record any verbal altercations that might occur with one of your passengers.
Sharing the top spot in this metric is the Roav A1. It offers the most adjustability in terms of loop recording settings of any camera we tested, with 1, 3, 5, and 10-minute clip options. It also sports built- Wi-Fi for easy clip transfer to a phone. The only reason it lost out on a top score is because it lacks any secondary camera.
Rounding out the top 3 is the YI Dash. It has built-in Wi-Fi, making it great for posting clips to social media. However, it only has a single 3-minute loop recording clip setting. While this setting is a nice middle ground, we would appreciate the ability to make some adjustments in that arena.
The Garmin 55 fell just out of medal contention with a score of 6 out of 10. It has some nice features, like built-in Wi-Fi and the ability to create driving timelapses. However, it only has a single, 1-minute loop recording clip length setting. This is a relatively short setting, which is fine if you're looking to be economical with the space on your memory card, but most people are going to want to use a slightly longer setting to make suer the camera protects all of the footage from a crash or accident.
The AUKEY DR02 also earned a 6 out of 10. It lets you select the length of loop recording clips with options of 3, 5 or 10 minute. However, it does not have any built-in Wi-Fi, so you'll have to plug its memory card into a computer to get its footage off of the camera. Both the APEMAN C450A and the Rexing V1 share the same clip length options and lack of Wi-Fi as the AUKEY DR02, and thus both earned the same score.
All dash cams 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. After selecting every setting possible and sorting through over a hundred hours of video, we have a very good feel for the annoyances and benefits inherent in each camera's interface.
Our favorite interface is that of the Roav A1. Its 3" screen is amongst the largest on the market, making it easy to tell which footage should or shouldn't be deleted. The controls are well labeled and make for easy navigation of footage and menus.
Falling just behind the top scorer, we also like the interfaces of both the YI Dash and the AUKEY DR02. The AUKEY has relatively large buttons and easy to navigate menus, but its screen is a bit on the small side at 1.5". The YI's buttons are noticeably smaller but it is still fairly easy to scroll through all of its settings and menu option. It also has a much larger, 2.7" screen that makes those menus a bit easier to read.
Venturing into more average territory, we liked but didn't love the interface of the Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual. It actually provides fairly intuitive menus and good controls for navigating those menus. However, this camera has more features than almost any other model on the market, and navigating all the settings related to those features on a small, 1.5" screen could sometimes feel cumbersome.
We also feel somewhat neutral overall about the APEMAN C450A's interface. We love the large 3" 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" screen is nice, but that's where the benefits end. We found both its controls and menus to be so unreliable and circuitous that we had to consult the manual and spend a few 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 are often put on 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.
The AUKEY DR02 offers the least visually obtrusive profile of all the cameras we tested. Its adhesive mount is very small, and the back of the camera measures just 2" x 3". We hardly noticed this camera when it was tucked in the corner of the windshield or to the right side of the rearview mirror.
The Rexing V1 and the Garmin 55 both present slightly larger profiles than the AUKEY, but 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 actually somewhat larger with its face measuring 5" x 3.4", but its angular shape allows it to hide away quite well. The Garmin 55 is impressively small, with its face measuring just 2.2" x 1.6", 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 cause annoyance in your peripheral vision.
Outside of the top 3 models, all of the cameras we tested have large enough visual footprints to be easily noticed whilst 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 3 models. If not, you should be ok with any of the models below.
In terms of the visual footprint we found the YI Dash, the Roav DashCam A1, and the APEMAN C450A to be about even. All of these cameras are noticeable when installed, but don't obscure a significant portion of the windshield. Importantly, they all also obscure far less than a 5" square of the windshield, which is the legal maximum in most areas.
The largest profile of any camera we tested belongs to the Editors' Choice Award-winning Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual. While we love all of this camera's features, the infrared sensors and rear-facing lens do take up extra space. In fact, the camera measures in at a whopping 3.8" x 1.5", and the suction cup mount takes up a bit more space. However, we still think most people won't be too annoyed by having it on their windshield, and it is still well under the 5" square that most states consider the legal maximum (on the driver's side).
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, certain 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