The Best Dash Cams of 2020
Best For Most Drivers
Most people aren't going to need a cab-facing camera, so if that is you, 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 what 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 that we tested. If you store the wire and put it in the corner of your windshield, it becomes fairly 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 inherent in the DR02's design. It lacks built-in Wi-Fi which means you will have to remove the camera's SD card and plug it into a computer in order to share or save 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 contributes to the DR02's slim profile, some may not want a semi-permanent fixture on their windshield. However, the camera does come out easily from the mount, so you don't have to leave it on the windshield all the time. All told we think these drawbacks are minor, and that the AUKEY DR02 is going to 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 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. The camera also has a microphone, so any verbal interactions will be captured as well. On top of this great video quality and nearly 310˚ of coverage, 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 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 in the camera (or the microSD card you're using with it) to 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 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, great user interface, built-in WiFi for quick clip sharing/saving, and a very intuitive user interface.
The biggest downside in going with this budget model is a noticeably worse video quality. 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 frame of 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 just makes a hobby of taking long, scenic drives, and you want to capture the experience, 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 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. We also found navigating its settings menus is less than intuitive, and is made even more challenging by the tiny 2-inch touchscreen. 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 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, 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 special attention to things like how clearly 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
Dash cams largely have fairly similar functionality and similar levels of performance, so it's likely you'll end up choosing one based on a specific feature or price point. We designed our tests to parse 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 the units take up on a windshield.
Dash cameras differ in price largely 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 inexpensive price. If you are looking for additional 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 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.
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 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 utilitarian perspective (e.g. the ability to read license plates) and a recreational perspective (e.g. sharing scenery 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. In daylight footage, we had no problem 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 is a fairly unique feature that generates great images, though it is worth noting that the video quality is slightly lower and the camera has a narrower field of view than the front-facing camera. 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. These include the Rexing V1, the AUKEY DR02, and the Garmin 55. All of these cameras produce very clear, crisp video with fairly good color accuracy. However, there are some differences worth noting between the three. The Rexing V1 video seems 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 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 than the wider angle cameras. It is stellar at capturing clear license plate shots during the day, but does struggle more than most in nighttime lighting.
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 is 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 likely to be washed out.
The worst camera we tested is the APEMAN C450A. All of its footage looks somewhat blocky and grainy, and there is an overly warm hue added to it. 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 an 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 offered by each camera. Shorter loop recording clips, say 1 minute, prevent the memory card from filling up with clips from every time you stop short but 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 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 WiFi 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 interactions 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-in Wi-Fi for easy clip transfer to a phone. The only reason it lost out on a top score is that it lacks a secondary camera.
The Garmin 55 fell just out of top tier contention with a score of 6 out of 10. It has some nice features, like built-in WiFi and the ability to create driving time-lapses. However, it only has a fixed, 1-minute loop recording clip length. This is a relatively short amount of time 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 sure 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 recording clips with options of 3, 5, and 10 minutes. However, it does not have any built-in WiFi, so you will have to plug in its memory card to 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 WiFi as the AUKEY DR02, and thus both earn 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.
We found the most user-friendly model to be the Roav A1. Thanks to a large 3" screen, an intuitive set of well-labeled controls, and easily navigable menus, this model makes adjusting settings and managing footage right from the camera quite easy and painless.
Falling just behind the top scorer, we also like the interfaces of 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".
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 Roav DashCam A1 and the APEMAN C450A to be about even. Both are certainly noticeable when installed, but present little enough surface area that you'll likely be able to ignore the small spot they occupy in your peripheral vision.
Due to its titular dual cameras and an array of infrared sensors, the Vantrue N2 Pro Uber Dual sports a pretty hefty visual footprint. Measuring 3.8" x 1.5" 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. That being said, it is still well smaller than the 5" square that most states consider the legal maximum, and 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, 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