Dash cameras are increasingly popular on UK roads. They can help prove your innocence in an accident and protect you from cash for cash scams.
Decent dash cams are simple to use – once installed, you’ll rarely need to touch them unless you need to access your footage. So in many cases the most complicated part of owning a dashcam is choosing the right one and installing it.
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1. Choose a dash cam with the right number of cameras
Front-facing dash cameras are the most common, but some models come with two or even three cameras. These additional cameras usually record behind and inside the vehicle and help give a more complete picture of the buildup of an accident.
Dash cameras with front and rear cameras are capable of recording both the road in front of and behind your vehicle. Rear cameras can generally be divided into the following categories:
- Rear window cameras Secure to your rear windshield using an adhesive pad. These usually require a front camera to function, to which they connect using a long cable.
- Reversing cameras are usually attached (or integrated) to a front-facing dash camera. The advantage is that there are fewer wires to worry about, but the viewing angle can be narrower.
- Cab view cameras are designed to record the interior of your vehicle. They are often used by taxi drivers to record incidents, but can also be used to prove that you have not been distracted when an accident has occurred.
We rigorously test front, rear and cabin dash cameras to find out which ones will give you great images from all angles. Check out our dash cam reviews to find out which ones to choose and which to avoid.
2. Plan how you will adapt your dashcam
It’s usually possible to install your dash cam yourself – check out our step-by-step guide to find out how. If you are using your vehicle’s 12V power outlet (also known as a cigarette lighter socket) then the tricky bit will tuck all the leakage cables into your vehicle’s trim.
This can be made easier with a plastic “pry bar” tool, which will help you get into any crevices without scratching your vehicle. Some dash cams come with a pry tool, but if not, you can buy one online for a few pounds. Your fingers will thank you. Just be careful not to obstruct safety equipment such as airbags when routing the cable around your vehicle.
If you’re not sure whether to install a dash cam on your own, talk to your local garage or automotive electronics experts. Expect to pay around £ 50 for a dash cam installation, but it could be more depending on the complexity of the job. Professional fitting can be especially tempting if your vehicle has existing electronics that you don’t want to interfere with – or if you plan to wire the dash cam into your vehicle’s main battery …
3. Check if you need to wire your dash cam
Wiring connects the dash cam to your vehicle’s battery, giving it a constant source of power. Besides being more convenient than using a USB cable, wiring your dash cam also frees up your car’s 12V or USB port. Wiring often requires a special kit specific to the dash cam you’ve chosen – these kits are often sold separately for around £ 20.
Wiring is also a more complicated process that requires some electrical know-how, so we recommend that you bring in a professional if you have no idea how to do it. The price will vary depending on your vehicle, but it’s often included in the price of a standard dash camera installation.
Most dash cams need to be wired to activate their “park mode” feature, which turns on the dash cam and begins recording if it detects any impacts or movement near the vehicle while you are away. Some dash cameras have built-in batteries that allow you to use park mode without wiring, but often only for a short time. The Mio MiVue 866 is a recent example. If you’re interested in parking mode without having to wire up your dash cam, be sure to see how it went in our in-depth MiVue 866 review.
4. Stay legal when attaching a dash cam to your windshield
An ill-fitting dash cam could render its images inadmissible as evidence, regardless of the clarity of the images. If the police find that your view of the road is obstructed, they could even issue you a fine.
The highway code stipulates that any obstruction cannot exceed 40 mm in the area swept by the wiper blades.
The best place for a dash cam is as central and high as it gets, ideally behind your rearview mirror. This is not always possible however, especially in newer cars without traditional mirrors. It’s worth turning on the camera and using a built-in display or app to check the camera’s viewing angle before attaching it to your windshield.
5. Find out which dash cam is the best
We’ve seen time and time again that price isn’t a guarantee of quality when it comes to dash cams. There are some fantastic dash cameras for well under £ 100, as well as drab models costing £ 300 or more.
Expensive models usually come with more bells and whistles – from voice commands and lane departure warnings to 24/7 video streaming over 4G. None of this means anything if the pictures don’t measure up. Our rigorous testing reveals the best (and worst) dash cams on the market – so you can be sure to pick one that won’t let you down when it counts.
Want to know which is the best dash cam? Check out our Best Buy dash cams for our top recommendations.