Dash cams are becoming more and more popular; our guide will help you decide if you should get one
Dash cams are small cameras mounted on the windscreen or dashboard of your car. They record footage of each journey you take which can be used as evidence in the case of an accident.
In this article we discuss the pros and cons of dash cams to help you decide whether it is worth buying one.
What is a dash cam?
A dash cam is a small camera that is designed to continuously capture video footage of the road while you are driving. It is usually stuck to your windscreen or dashboard, with some types having a second camera that is placed on the rear window. Most have a long power cord which needs to be plugged into the cigarette lighter, while others can be wired into the car’s electrical system.
Most modern dash cams do not require any interaction as they automatically start recording when the engine is turned on and stop when it is turned off. Some even have a parking mode where a built-in g-force sensor can detect a collision when your vehicle is parked and automatically start recording.
The footage can be stored on a memory card or in the cloud, which makes the data more secure and less likely to be tampered with. Some designs have Wi-Fi capability which allow you to connect to them via your smart phone.
Higher-end dash cams also have speed alerts, lane departure warning capabilities and small screens which can display what is being recorded.
Why install a dash cam?
- Video evidence of collisions for insurance companies
- Record dangerous driving of other road users
- Help track down parking lot hit-and-run offenders
- Protect yourself from ‘cash for cash’ scammers
The main purpose of a dash cam is to provide video evidence to insurers in case you are involved in an accident. Some insurance companies may even offer lower insurance premiums if you have a dash cam installed, but this is not always the case.
They are also useful in recording driving offences, allowing you to submit a complaint to the authorities with video evidence of your claims. The footage will need to show number plates or other unique vehicle identifying information to be admissible as evidence.
Some dash cams can automatically start recording when they detect impacts and collisions even when the car is parked. This can help track down someone who bumped or damaged your car and didn’t leave a note.
Are they any disadvantages?
There are times when it seems like everyone on the road is driving like a complete buffoon. With a dash cam recording your every move you better hope that it’s not you that’s causing the chaos as the video footage can be used against you if you are prosecuted.
If the police pull you over, they have the right to examine your dash cam and you may be caught for a driving violation that might otherwise have gone down as a stern warning for lack of evidence.
Are dash cams legal in the UK?
Yes. Dash cams are legal and do not require ay special permit to use. You do need to ensure that they are mounted correctly, usually behind or next to the rear-view mirror.
If the dash cam obscures your view or intrudes more than 40mm into the area covered by your windscreen wipers then you may be fined, and the recording may not be admissible in court.
If your dash cam has a power cord, then it needs to be neatly tucked away around the edge of the windscreen. Most can be hardwired into your car’s electrical system, allowing them to operate automatically whenever the car is turned on and removing the issue of hanging cables.
Some dash cams record audio and even have a cabin-facing camera. You need to inform your passengers or other drivers that they are being recorded. You may face legal consequences if you use the footage without their consent.
How much does a dash cam cost?
Simple dash cams can be bought for under £15, with fancy models going for over £600. You may be tempted by those suspiciously cheap models, but as always, you get what you pay for. Most good quality dash cams with a decent list of features cost between £80 and £120. Some also require you to invest in an SD memory card which cost from £6 for a 32GB version to £9 for 64GB.
Rear-view cameras, Alexa voice control, GPS location, speed warning capability and built-in touchscreens will all ramp up the price, so make sure you pick the one that’s right for you.
What to look for:
- High quality video recording (1080p) – including night driving
- Wi-Fi connectivity – helps download video footage
- User-friendly smartphone app – easier to control and set up
- Large storage and/or cloud upload capability
- Compact size – easier to fit without causing an obstruction
So, should I get a dash cam?
The final decision comes down to your specific needs. If you are a careful driver who wants to make sure that they are not unfairly penalised in the event of a collision, or you want to be able to report unsafe driving with some form of evidence to back up your claims, then a dash cam is a good idea. Dash cams can also help protect you from ‘crash for cash’ scammers. You may even save on your insurance premiums.
Remember though, that you will need to practice safe driving habits yourself. Your driving infringements will be recorded too and can be used by the authorities to prosecute you.
Dash cam FAQs
How do you fit a dash cam?
A dash cam should be fitted either behind or next to your rear-view mirror. Most have suction cups or a sticky pad to help you secure it in place. The dash cam cannot obscure your view or intrude more than 40mm into the area covered by your windscreen wipers.
Any cabling or wiring should be neatly routed around the cabin so as not to cause an obstruction. Most can be wired into your car’s electrical system, in which case you will want to use a professional installer.
Do some cars have built-in dash cams?
Yes, a few, but it’s not common, partly as privacy laws vary from country to country, and car makers may not want the hassle of negotiating compliance adding complication to the build process of different models for different markets.
MINI has the ‘advanced eye’ dual-camera system which has a GPS locator and can record footage even when the car is left parked. Tesla has a sentry-mode on their models which can record footage when parked, and the various built-in cameras can also be set up to record video while in motion. Citroen has previously offered a built-in dash-cam with its C3 supermini, too.
Does having a dash cam affect my insurance?
While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, some insurance companies may reduce your premiums if you use a dash cam. It may also be easier to prove that an accident wasn’t your fault via dash cam footage – potentially saving your no claim bonus.
Can my own dash cam footage be used against me?
Yes. Police have the right to request your dash cam footage and can use this to prosecute you for a driving violation. If you are involved in a court case, the judge may also use your dash cam footage against you. Deleting the footage is illegal and you may be prosecuted as a result.
What is the best dash cam?
Nextbase manufacture some of the very best dash cams around. Their 622GW model offers 4k recording, Alexa compatibility, WiFi, Bluetooth a 3-inch touchscreen and the option of a rear-facing camera. Prices range from £399 for the base model to almost £650 for the range-topper with dual cameras and a 256GB SD card.
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