A dash cam records constantly while you drive in order to capture unexpected incidents on the road ahead.
If you want to capture the road behind, you could buy a second dash cam, but a ‘dual-channel’ model is preferable as it either comes with a rear camera or you can buy an add-on module so video is recorded in sync to a single memory card.
Some dash cams will record while you’re parked and will give you video evidence showing exactly what happened. These typically need hard wiring to your car’s fusebox, although some don’t, such as Nextbase’s Series 2 range.
You can send a recorded video clip to your insurer if you want to avoid a claim against your policy. In many cases the excess that you have to pay for a claim is more than most dash cams cost, so it can pay for itself very quickly indeed.
The big question is which dash cam to buy. And that’s why you’re here. Below you’ll find our top recommendations for dash cams at all budgets.
What to look for in a dash cam
All dash cams record video as short clips, and then begin overwriting the oldest clips when the memory card is full. However, look for one with a G-sensor which will activate when an impact is detected as this will protect the current clip so it doesn’t get deleted.
Do I need a dual dash cam?
Some dash cams come with a second camera which faces backwards and records the view out of the rear window or the cabin. For most people, the rear view camera is well worth the extra money, though if you have a 12V accessory socket in your boot as well as at the front of the car it can work out the same price – or cheaper – to buy two separate dash cams, but you then have two memory cards with separate videos.
Don’t be swayed by a wider-angle lens: the higher the number, the smaller everything is in the centre of the image. We prefer a lens with a 140° field of view, or less.
Image quality varies and a higher resolution doesn’t automatically mean better quality. Read our reviews to find out how each model fares.
Manufacturers often talk of ‘night modes’ but this can be just as misleading as resolution. Again, refer to reviews to find out whether a dash cam is any good at recording at night.
Extras features such as GPS can be worth it as it will record your precise location and speed, so you can prove where you were and that you weren’t speeding.
Wi-Fi, on the other hand, is generally not that useful as it’s quicker to copy video clips by removing the SD card and inserting it into a laptop or PC’s card reader.
We’ve found safety features such as lane-departure warning or forward-movement alerts not too useful as they don’t work reliably enough, but those which warn you of safety camera locations can be very useful.
Many models have a parking mode, but you typically have to get your dash cam hard-wired – connected to your car’s fuse box so there’s a constant power supply – in order to use these.
Finally, leave room in your budget for a microSD card as most dash cams don’t come with one. Here are the best microSD cards to buy.
Best dash cams for 2020
1. Viofo A129 Duo – Best-value front + rear dash cam
This front + rear dash cam dispenses with the frills and concentrates on what’s important: recording good quality video. This means it’s cheaper than most so-called dual-channel dash cams, but do watch out as some bundles don’t include the GPS mount and the polarising filter. Both are worth having so you can prove where the video is recorded and remove most reflections from the windscreen in the video.
The front camera is well designed if you’re after something that will hide out of the way behind your rear-view mirror, but the rear camera, although small, has a very thick cable which can be hard to hide away neatly.
Read our full Viofo A129 Duo review
2. Nextbase 312GW – Best Value
The Nextbase 312GW might be old now, but it is a great all-round dash cam, especially at this price.
It offers great-quality footage during the day, is easy to use and has a convenient magnetic mount that allows you to quickly remove and replace the camera without unplugging cables.
It has GPS, and is very easy to install: all the options are preset so it’s as simple as mounting it on the windscreen and plugging it in.
Quality tops out at 1080p at 30 frames per second, but this is fine for most people and at the current prices, which are roughly half what it originally cost, it’s a bargain.
Read our full Nextbase 312GW review
3. Viofo A119 v3: Best parking mode
Viofo understands what people want from a dash cam: good quality video recording, plus recording options when your car is parked.
There’s no extra features such as lane-departure, speed camera: even GPS is optional, so you can pay less if you don’t want it. This keeps the price down while still offering great quality.
Read our full Viofo A119 v3 with GPS review
4. Nextbase 622GW: Best 4K dash cam
The 622GW is the all-singing, all-dancing flagship from Nextbase. It may be expensive, but it has all the features you can think of, and even more than you can’t.
Core video quality is very good, partly thanks to the stabilisation which helps to sharpen details. At night, it’s still impressive, but don’t expect to be able to read registration plates.
Alexa could be handy if you stream music while driving, and the Emergency SOS and what3words integration is a nice extra (though it is a subscription service).
If you don’t want a rear camera, you might be able to justify spending this much on a front-facing camera, but there isn’t a huge trade-off in quality if you step down to the 522GW.
Read our full Nextbase 522GW review
5. Nextbase 422GW
The lowest-priced model in Nextbase’s new Series 2 range to have Alexa and Emergency Response, the 422GW also supports the range of rear cameras, records at 1440p and cost the same as the older 412GW did.
If you don’t need all the new features, then you can save money by opting for the 322GW, but the older 312GW is even better value at around £55.
Read our full Nextbase 422GW review
6. Z-Edge Z3D
The Z-Edge Z3D system is a budget dual-channel dash cam to cover the front and rear of your vehicle, built-in GPS and more.
The image quality during the day is great from both cameras, and the front-facing camera performs pretty well at night, although that’s where the rear camera struggles with detail and focus and where the budget-friendly price tag starts to show through.
There’s no Wi-Fi, so you have to remove the camera or microSD card to view footage and GPS data.
Read our full Z-Edge Z3D review
7. Thinkware F200
The F200 is a cut-down version of the F800, but the £129.99/$139.99 RRP is a bit misleading. If you want the rear camera, the bundle costs £179 (it’s $49.99 when bought separately in the US), but if you also want GPS, that’s another £25/$29.99.
We’re fans of screen-less dash cams which stick unobtrusively behind your rear-view mirror, but with power, GPS and rear camera attached, wires get a bit messy with the F200.
Also, the included power cable has to be connected to the car’s fuse box, but this is necessary to use the parking mode which records when motion is detected (such as another car hitting yours while parked). Via the app you can choose a minimum voltage level to prevent your battery draining.
If you opt for the GPS module, you can download and install new firmware which includes a database of speed cameras, and you’ll get audible warning when approaching one. This wasn’t documented (at the time of review) so it’s not obvious how to get the warnings.
Image quality is mediocre. Although the F200 records at 1080p, the bit-rate is quite low and details are lacking. This makes it tricky to make out registration plates even in daylight. And the 720p rear camera is markedly worse, so is good only for showing generally what happened in an incident.
If you can afford more, you’ll get better quality from the F800 Pro, but the Viofo A129 Duo is a better-value option.
8. Nextbase 112
The 112 is a sub-£30 dash cam which uses the same handy magnetic quick-release mount as the 312GW, so it’s really convenient to remove from the car to transfer video files or even take a few photos on battery power if you’re in a collision.
It’s the only dash cam here which records at a lowly 1280×720 pixels, and there is certainly less detail. However, the 120-degree lens means it is much easier to read number plates of oncoming cars as they’re physically larger in the resulting video. Quality is acceptable during the day, with most registrations visible when you pause the video.
Like most dash cams, even those costing five times as much, it can’t often capture registrations at night as detail levels really drop off. However, you should still be able to prove what happened if an incident happens in front of you.
There are no frills, such as Wi-Fi or GPS, nor can you review any footage or photos on the 2in screen. But the 112 is nice and compact and has easy-to-use buttons and menus.
We’d recommend paying more for a 1080p dash cam, but if you have a very limited budget, this is a good choice.
Note: We may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site, at no extra cost to you. This doesn’t affect our editorial independence. Learn more.