Social media channels are awash with uploaded dashcam videos, showing everything from meteor storms to cats on zebra crossings. But they have a serious role to play in the event of an accident or crime, often saving hours of bickering with insurance companies and paying for themselves many times over.
So in the event of an incident, any camera is better than no camera at all, but the new buyer has a huge choice. The quality of the captured images also varies greatly from model to model, while the specifications and features on offer can be confusing.
Do you need filters, cabling, Alexa and WiFi? While there are cameras that cost as little as £15 and a whopping £1,000, we’ve rounded up the eight best options in the most popular price range, from £60 to £300, to see what works and what’s important.
How we tested them
The main feature of any dash camera is to capture clear images in a wide variety of weather and lighting conditions. To test this, we drove a route in bright sunlight and at night.
Most cameras have an app to view footage, so this was used along with a clarity check on a larger computer screen.
Great importance was attached to being able to read license plates clearly in all circumstances. Finally, we took into account the value for money and additional useful features.
Please note that some cameras have SD card in the package. If not, don’t forget to budget between £10 and £20 for something suitable for storing footage.
While the Nextbase 622GW is still the benchmark for the quality of its footage, a price hike means it’s starting to look expensive, especially when rival Kenwood ramps up the value.
It’s enough to see the Nextbase knocked out of the top spot by a newcomer in the form of the Ring RSDC3000. It costs less than £100, even with the added cost of an SD card, but it has all the features we think are essential in a camera. The RSDC3000 also produces surprisingly good quality images.
- Ring RSDC3000
- Nextbase 622GW
- Kenwood A601W
- Price: about £85 (plus memory card)
- Rating: 5 stars
- Solution: 1296p
- Contact: ringautomotive.com
If your priority with a dashcam is to have the very best quality images, the Ring won’t provide that. But for a package that costs less than £100, it offers an unbeatable combination of features and value.
The compact RSDC3000 has a resolution of 1296 pixels, which gives it a significant improvement in quality over the 1080p resolution of most cameras in this price range. It also coped well with changing lighting conditions.
It also has GPS tracking data to record speed and location, and a 2-inch screen to make navigating menus easier. It connects to the Ring app over a Wi-Fi connection to view and download files.
- Price: about £250 (plus memory card)
- Rating: 4.5 stars
- Solution: 4K
- Contact: nextbase.com
In terms of image quality, the Nextbase 622GW is still the benchmark for dashcams. It has the clearest images in all conditions, even compared to rivals we’ve tried that cost twice as much.
The 622GW also has some interesting – albeit gimmick – extra features, such as What3Words location data and Alexa voice activation, which work better in theory than in practice.
But we can’t ignore the fact that the Nextbase’s price has gone up by £30 since it won our last test, so adding extras like an SD card and rear camera brings the total price to £319. It’s still the best camera, but you pay for it.
Kenwood DRV A601W
Kenwood’s 4K camera almost matched the Nextbase 622GW for image quality, but can’t quite repeat the image stabilization in dark conditions, especially on rougher roads.
It also has to do without Nextbase’s Alexa and What3Words features, but in return it costs less than £200, and that includes a 64GB memory card.
You can also buy the Kenwood as part of a bundle that includes a hardwire kit, an SD card, and a rear camera for the same price as the standard Nextbase 622.
Kenwood DRV A501W
If you don’t need the full quality of 4K resolution, but want a step up from 1080p, Kenwood’s A501W offers all the useful functionality and features of the company’s A601W camera (see page 59), at a significantly lower price.
The £139.95 cost includes a 16GB SD memory card, but what elevates the Kenwood above similarly priced rivals is the standard inclusion of a polarizing filter. This works like sunglasses in bright conditions and noticeably reduces glare on footage. Taking into account the camera’s Wi-Fi, GPS, and magnetic mount, the A501W makes a decent package.
- Price: about £100 (plus memory card)
- Rating: 3.5 stars
- Solution: 1440p
- Contact: ringautomotive.com
The DC4000, Ring’s top of the range, has no screen, which is a feature we always appreciate on a dash cam as it makes the device much easier to set up and view footage.
But we can almost forgive it, as connecting the camera to the Ring app is easy and means the RSDC4000 is small. This can be a real bonus if you have a shallow windshield and want to hide the camera behind the mirror.
The visuals can’t challenge the 4K cameras and also lacks the detail of Kenwood’s 1440P A501W, but the Ring is good value, even when you factor in the lack of an SD card.
The Vantrue is the cheapest way we’ve found to get full 4K dashcam footage, and the X4S also has a 3-inch rear screen to view it on. As you’d expect from a dashcam in this price range, there’s a Wi-Fi connection and a simple app to download and manage your video.
But there are also a few surprising omissions, the biggest of which is a lack of GPS location and speed stamps. To add these features you need to buy a module which costs an extra £23.99. That, plus an SD card, puts the overall price on par with the superior Kenwood 601.
Garmin Dash Cam 57
- Price: about £130 (including 16GB memory card)
- Rating: 3.5 stars
- Solution: 1440p
- Contact: garmin.com
This compact Garmin 57 has the usual GPS, a nice screen and app, but also has a number of innovative gadgets whose sound we found very good.
The first of these features is the ability to use voice activation to save clips, and the second is the ability to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot and view the camera images even when you’re not in the car.
Unfortunately, none of these features worked smoothly in our testing, making it hard to justify the extra cost over the other 1440p cameras here.
- Price: about £60 (plus memory card)
- Rating: 3 stars
- Solution: 1080p
- Contact: halfords.com
The Mio has two big pluses: the price and the size. The downside is that the C312 also has no features, without GPS, smartphone link or other useful gadgets. However, it has a 2-inch screen, making it easy to navigate menus and make sure the camera is pointing the right way.
But that screen is also a hindrance because it’s permanently on, which can be especially distracting at night. The images also suffer in the dark. While the Mio captures acceptable detail during the day, its small lens struggles at night.