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Best dash cam 2021: Protect your license and your no-claims bonus with the top in-car cameras

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Don’t be a fall guy for fraudsters and dangerous drivers. Avoid claims and guard your license with our pick of the best dash cams

The dash cam market has gone from strength to strength in recent years. The UK's roads can be dangerous places and, with the ever-increasing cost of car insurance, video evidence of any scrapes and shunts can help put your mind and wallet at ease. After all, shelling out around £100 or so on a dash cam is infinitely preferable to paying thousands of pounds for an accident that wasn't your fault.

Certain countries – such as Russia – have seen millions of drivers adopt dash cams in an attempt to stem the rise of “crash for cash” schemes and hit and run scammers. With a notable upwards trend in similar swindles hitting the UK, it pays to be prepared.

READ NEXT: The best microSD cards to buy


Best dash cam: At a glance


How to choose the best dash cam for you

How much should I spend?

Dash cams vary hugely in price, with budget models starting around £30 and working right up to GPS navigation devices with built-in cameras that can cost as much as £300.

Cheaper models often do away with luxuries such as a screen for previewing footage, but while this makes setup a little more straightforward, it’s by no means essential. Pay more and you can expect higher-quality video and frame rates.

However, if you’re after something a little fancier to film track days or scenic drives, a dash cam is unlikely to cut the mustard – in that instance, it’s worth considering a pricier dedicated action camera, such as a GoPro, which will provide vastly improved image quality. Read our pick of the best action cameras you can buy for more.

Is a dual-camera dash cam worth it?

Some dash cams now offer a dual-camera setup, with one camera recording through the windscreen and the other recording the interior of the cockpit and/or the view through the rear windscreen. The advantage of these is that you’re covered for both front and rear collisions.

For a better view of what’s happening behind your vehicle, you can find other models with a separate rear-windscreen camera, while some manufacturers sell these as an optional extra. Just be aware that this usually involves more cabling to connect the rear camera to the front.

Do I need a memory card?

Most dash cams need a microSD card to store footage, and while some will come with one bundled, they’re often on the small side. This can be a problem because when most dash cams run out of space they start saving new footage over the existing footage.

However, it will generally lock any files where it’s detected any kind of incident and you can normally lock them manually by pressing a button on the dash cam when you know you’ll want that file.

We wouldn’t recommend buying a card smaller than 32GB because you could end up running out of space. Today’s high-resolution dash cams can use anywhere between 100MB and 500MB per minute, depending on their resolution, so even a 32GB card might only give you up to four hours of recording before it starts overwriting the existing files.

If you’re buying a 1440p or 4K dash cam, think about a 64GB or 128GB card, and look for one with a longer warranty or one that’s designed for endurance in continual use. Cheap microSD cards can work well in some devices, but dash cams need something that’s built to last.

Is there anything else worth looking out for?

Some of the best dash cams have their own built-in GPS, enabling them to save the date, time and location of any incident or event recorded. It’s also helpful if your dash cam has a G sensor or accelerometer, as this will recognise any sudden stop or impact and trigger a command to save the relevant footage.

Parking protection to record what’s going on around your car can be a bonus, provided you don’t use it in an area where the sight of your dash cam is more likely to get your car broken in to and the dash cam stolen.

Finally, a growing number have Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or even 4G connectivity. With Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi you can sync videos wirelessly or get a live view on your smartphone, or even set your dashcam to send an alert in the event of an accident. Some companion apps even enable you to sync multiple dash cams wirelessly, so you could have one at the front and one at the rear without a cable connecting the two (as long as both can be powered). Some of these companion apps also allow you to use voice commands to control your dashcam.

Meanwhile, models with 4G/LTE onboard can give you alerts on your phone if your car gets hit while it’s parked, track your vehicle if you’re not driving it or help you find it if you’re not sure where you left it – a feature that could save a lot of arguments in large and crowded car parks. You can even set up an emergency message to be sent if a strong impact crash event is recorded.

How to fit a dash cam

Much like a satnav, most dash cams have a mount that attaches to your car’s windscreen using a suction cup or adhesive pad. You can then click the dash cam into position when you get in the car and remove it after parking. Obviously, many people just stow it in the glove box, but this comes with its own risks.

This means that trailing cables obscuring your vision can be a potential hazard, although you’ll want to look into buying sticky pads for routing the cables where they don’t obstruct your view. If you have a particularly large vehicle or are looking to install a rear-facing dash cam, it’s worth checking the length of the supplied power and extension cables as you may need to get a little creative with cable routing.

How to power a dash cam

Dash cams have built-in batteries that will only last a few hours on a full charge, so unless you’re only driving up the road, it will need constant power from a USB port or 12V accessory socket. If you don’t want to lose your cigarette lighter, hard-wiring is also an option. These tend to draw power from the fuse box, meaning the camera will power up at ignition. If this all sounds like too much hassle, it’s worth looking to see if any retailers in your area will install a dash cam for a fee.

Can I take my dash cam on holiday and use it in a hire car?

The answer is normally yes – countries that prohibit the use of dash cams due to privacy and data-protection issues, such as Austria, are in the minority – but the laws do vary widely as you cross borders.

While you'll get a hefty fine in Austria just for having one installed, there are countries that place less stringent limitations upon their use. For instance, you can use one in Germany, but the footage can't be posted to YouTube or other social sharing services – you can only provide it as evidence to a German court.

In Luxembourg, meanwhile, it's not illegal to own one, but recording any footage using one could land you with a fine or potentially a jail term. If you're not sure, it pays to check online before packing one in your suitcase.

READ NEXT: Our favourite action cameras

The best dash cams you can buy

1. Nextbase 622GW: The best high-end dash cam

Price: £250 | Buy now from Amazon

It’s expensive, but the Nextbase 622GW packs in the best camera technology of any dash cam on the market today. It's so good, in fact, that we handed it the Dash Cam of the Year title in our Product of the Year Awards 2020.

For starters, you get a choice of recording in 4K at 30fps or 1440p at 60fps. You can even have 1080p at 120fps, which might come in handy if you want to watch it in slow motion after an incident (or just for fun).

It also uses image stabilisation to reduce the impact of vibrations for a smoother, clearer image. Throw in a new Extreme Weather Mode with defogging for misty and rainy days, and you won’t beat this dash cam for picture quality.

The captured footage is impressive. In terms of clarity and detail, it’s a cut above anything we've seen, although it’s a toss-up whether the extra resolution of 4K or the faster frame rate of 1440p is more worthwhile. And you still get access to all of Nextbase’s advanced features, including Alexa connectivity and a Hyper-Sync Wi-Fi connection to the MyNextbase smartphone app.

This dash cam even crams in an emergency response feature and integration with what3words – the ingenious service that can pinpoint your location without needing to relay the exact GPS co-ordinates.

We’re still not convinced by the Alexa support, but this is definitively the best dash cam that money can buy.

Key specs – Max video recording resolution: 1440p, 30fps; Field of view: 140°; Display: 2in; Extra features: GPS, G sensor, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Alexa voice controls

2. Garmin Dash Cam 47: The best compact dash cam

Price: £129 | Buy now from Halfords

Garmin’s excellent mid-range Dash Cam 46 has been replaced by the Dash Cam 47, and the new model is every bit as good as its predecessor. At 56 x 40 x 22mm, it’s still surprisingly tiny, with most of the rear occupied by the 2in screen. It still clips onto the windscreen via a ball-socketed arm that attaches to a coin-sized metal plate via magnets, and it’s both very stable and very easy to fit and remove when you’re in a rush.

It's also nice and easy to use, through clear menus and a simple three-button control system, or you have the option of voice commands for saving recordings, taking still pictures or starting and stopping time-lapse ‘travelapse’ recordings. And if you don’t want to review your footage on the built-in screen, you can do that and a whole lot more through Garmin’s brilliant Drive app. It’s through this that you can access the Dash Cam 47’s biggest new feature: the ability to upload videos directly to an online Vault, where they’ll stay for 24 hours with the basic subscription, 7 days for £5 a month or £10 for 30 days. Videos in the vault can be shared with a link and a passcode, which could be handy if you run into trouble.

As for the footage, 1080p at 30fps might not seem amazing now that 4K dash cams are becoming more affordable, but the Dash Cam 47 gives you crisp, bright images whether you’re driving at night or in bright sunlight, with more shadow detail than some other dash cams and good handling of glare from the sun or headlights. Like the Dash Cam 46 before it, it’s a great all-rounder.

Key specs – Max video recording resolution: 1080p, 30fps; Field of view: 140°; Display: 2in; Extra features: GPS, accelerometer, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, voice control

Buy now from Halfords


3. Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2: The best no-nonsense dash cam

Price: £99 | Buy now from Halfords

We were huge fans of Garmin’s Dash Cam Mini, and this sequel is a chip off the old block. This is the most pared-back dashcam imaginable, with no screen and just one button, but it’s been designed to be used in conjunction with the Garmin Drive app on your smartphone, using Bluetooth to connect and Wi-Fi to sync and transfer images and footage.

You can use the Dash Cam Mini 2 solo, or as a rear-view camera with another Garmin Dash Cam – you can have up to four of Garmin’s Dash Cams attached to the Drive app at once. Each will need its own power, but Garmin supplies a lengthy USB-A to Micro USB power cable along with a 12v socket adapter. The dash cam itself is extremely small and light, attaching firmly to your windscreen through a clip-on ball and socket mount connecting to a 10p-sized adhesive pad.

You will have to miss out on the odd feature here and there – there’s no onboard GPS or speed recording – but you still get voice commands, a parking guard feature and the same Vault features as the Dash Cam 47. What’s more there’s little between the two dash cams when it comes to video quality. In brightly sunlit and dull conditions it’s excellent, and pretty clear and blur-free at night, although the Dash Cam 47 seems slightly better at dealing with windscreen reflections and glare. Still, there’s a lot to like about the Dash Cam Mini 2’s fuss-free operations and the fact that it’s so unobtrusive on the windscreen. If having no screen isn’t a dealbreaker, it’s a fantastic low-cost option.

Key specs – Max video recording resolution: 1080p, 30fps; Field of view: 140°; Extra features: Accelerometer, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

Buy now from Halfords


4. Nextbase 322GW: The best entry-level dash cam

Price: £110 | Buy now from Amazon

Nextbase’s entry-level dash cam isn’t short on features. Unlike other budget dash cams, it has built-in GPS, along with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, auto-sync to share videos to Nextbase’s smartphone app and an Emergency SOS feature. If the dash cam registers an incident and the driver is unresponsive, the app puts your phone into a beacon mode and alerts the emergency services. This does require a subscription to be paid after the first 12 months.

The design is in step with Nextbase’s higher-end dash cams. It uses the same ingenious magnetic front connector, where the cables hook into the windscreen mount and the dash cam clicks on and off. The menus are clear and easy to navigate, and you can protect important footage at the click of a button.

What’s more, the 322GW is compatible with Nextbase’s range of add-ons, including the rear-view camera and cabin-view camera, either of which can click into position on the side.

Most importantly, the captured video is good and clear. It might lack the definition of more expensive cameras, but it’s fine for the job in hand, with a smoother 60fps update than you’ll find on many cheaper dash cams and much better performance after dark.

If your main concern is protecting your no-claims bonus, why pay more?

Key specs – Max video recording resolution: 1080p, 60fps; Field of view: 140°; Display: 2.5in; Extra features: GPS, G sensor, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

5. Garmin Dash Cam 67W: The best wide-angle dash cam

Price: £180 | Buy now from Argos

If you’re looking to make sure you catch everything on the road in front, you can’t beat the Garmin Dash Cam 67W. Where most Dash Coms stop at a 120 to 140° viewing angle, this one goes up to a full 180°. The 1440p HDR video you get is great, as well, even if the HDR bit doesn’t seem to mean the same kind of HDR you’d get from a TV, more the kind of image post-processing you’d expect from your smartphone camera. There’s inevitably a slight fishbowl effect, and you don’t quite get the detail you see in footage from the Nextbase 622GW or Thinkware Q800 Pro, but you can expect super-smooth motion, crisp image quality and well-balanced colour, even in overcast conditions. Our only real grumble is that, at night, the image can be a little fuzzy, while headlights and streetlights get a strong vertical flare.

Otherwise, this one has all the strengths of the Dash Cam 47, including basic but effective voice commands, the online Vault and a range of useful driver assists. It’s just as compact, and Garmin still has one of the simplest but most hassle free approaches to mounting the camera on your windscreen. Other dash-cams have an edge on raw image quality, but for ease-of-use and overall features, this is the best dash cam under £200.

Key specs – Max video recording resolution: 1440p, 30fps; Field of view: 180°; Display: 2in; Extra features: GPS, accelerometer, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, voice control, driving assists

Buy now from Argos


6. Thinkware Q800 Pro: Great image quality and features

Price: £229 (front only), £299 (front and rear) | Buy now from Thinkware

Thinkware’s Q800 Pro is a slick, low-profile dash cam that hugs the windscreen while in use thanks to a simple slide-and-click mount. There’s no screen on this one, just a simple control pad and some indicator LEDs, but it’s another dash cam that’s been designed to be used through a smartphone, connecting via Wi-Fi to Thinkware’s Dash Cam mobile app.

With this installed you can get a live view of your videos, can check your recordings and change the settings on your dash cam, and it’s very easy to use. What’s more, you can also use Thinkware’s Cloud App to track your car’s location, with geo-fencing to let you know if it leaves the area and alerts on impact events. Throw in timelapse recording, an energy-saving parking mode that suspends activities unless there’s an impact and a range of useful visual collision warning systems, and you’ll struggle to find a more fully featured dash cam.

Yet perhaps the best reason to buy this dashcam is that its recorded footage is up there with the very best. Sure, it can’t match the resolution of the Viofo A129 Pro Duo 4K, but the 2K recordings are still extremely crisp and clear, while colour and exposure are arguably better, especially in dull conditions or very bright sunlight. It’s an expensive dash cam, although its front and rear camera package is good value, and it’s a little annoying that it comes with a cable kit for hardwiring into your car’s electric system rather than the standard USB cable by default. If you want that, it’s an £18 extra, or Thinkware offers a nationwide fitting service.

Key specs – Max video recording resolution: 1440p, 30fps; Field of view: 140°; Display: N/A; Extra features: A-GPS, accelerometer, Wi-Fi, speed camera alert, timelapse and energy-saving parking recording, collision and departure warning

Buy now from Thinkware


7. Viofo A129 Pro Duo 4K: The best dash cam for image quality

Price: £165 (solo), £220 (duo) | Buy now from Amazon

The Viofo A129 Pro isn’t the easiest dash cam to fit or use. All the connectivity is on the right-hand side, which isn’t ideal if you prefer your dash cam on the left-hand side in a right-hand drive car, and there’s a whole lot of chunky cable to route around the cockpit, particularly if you splash out on the Duo cam version with its additional rear-view camera.

Why bother? First, because it has some impressive features, including an effective parking mode, a good time-lapse feature and real-time previews and downloads over Wi-Fi to a companion smartphone app.

Second, the video quality is nothing short of excellent, thanks to a high-end 8-megapixel Sony sensor that can record in 4K at 30fps. You get fantastic picture quality in daylight and it’s still great in bad weather or the dark. There’s an argument that this is overkill for normal insurance purposes – you’re getting a record of the situation, not a holiday video – and that the file sizes won’t be worth your while.

However, if you want the best image quality on the market, the A129 Pro is the dash cam for your car.

Key specs – Max video recording resolution: 2160p, 30fps; Field of view: 130°; Display: 2in; Extra features: GPS, G sensor, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi

8. Thinkware T700: The best-connected dash cam

Price: £279 (front only), £349 (front and rear) | Buy now from Amazon

The T700 is another premium dash cam from Thinkware, but with this one it’s all about the connectivity. As well as the Wi-Fi and app features of the Q800 Pro, it has built-in 4G/LTE connectivity. Sign up for a data plan on the provided Vodafone Smart SIM, and you can access a range of live features, including a live view when you’re parked or moving, real-time alerts – complete with video – if your car gets smashed into while it’s parked, plus location tagging and pictures of where you last parked your car. You can also have the dashcam send an emergency message to a contact if your car is detected as having been in a serious collision. For £3 per month, you get 5GB of data, which Thinkware says should cover most people’s needs.

Otherwise, the T700 matches all of the Q800 Pro’s major features. Video quality isn’t quite as stellar, with a 1080p rather than a 2K resolution and some macro blocking artefacts at higher speeds, but we’re still impressed by the sure grasp of contrast and exposure, and you won’t have any problem reading number plates or spotting road signs, even with footage recorded at night. For most of us, the 4G connectivity will be overkill, but if you spend most of your working week travelling, this could be a smart investment.

Key specs – Max video recording resolution: 1080p, 30fps; Field of view: 140°; Display: N/A; Extra features: A-GPS, accelerometer, Wi-Fi, speed camera alert, CPL filter, timelapse and energy-saving parking recording, collision and departure warning, 4G LTE

9. Zenfox T3 3CH: The best all-in-one dash cam bundle

Price: £210 | Buy now from Amazon

The Zenfox T3 goes one better than the dual dash-cam combos by bundling a dual-view windscreen and interior camera with a secondary camera to fit on the rear windscreen, giving you all the coverage you might need both inside and outside the vehicle.

The front camera records at 1440p at 30fps, while the rear camera shoots at 1080p and 30fps. Meanwhile, the interior camera shoots in black and white 1080p using infrared sensors, so it’ll even capture footage while it’s dark. This is a must for commercial, minicab and Uber drivers, but it’s handy if you do a lot of driving at night and need to prove that you weren’t distracted or asleep at the wheel.

Video quality is extremely good, particularly through the front windscreen camera, and the Zenfox avoids a lot of the mistakes we’ve seen with other dash cams from smaller brands.

True, there’s a lot of cabling to work into your car’s interior and the main module is fairly huge, but at least the screen and controls are sensibly positioned and all the connections are on the left-hand side. What’s more, the two modules are easy to mount and adjust, with the front camera tilting in a wide range of angles to make sure you capture the best view.

You’ll need a 128GB or 256GB SSD card to record more than a couple of hours of footage, but you can view it easily and change any settings by connecting over Wi-Fi to Zenfox’s smartphone app. Throw in a parking mode and built-in GPS, and this bundle covers all your dash cam needs.

Key specs – Max video recording resolution: 1440p, 30fps; Field of view: 160° (front), 140° (interior and rear); Display: 2in LCD; Extra features: GPS, G sensor, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi

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