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Best dash cam 2021: 14 brilliant car cameras for every budget

Included in this guide:

Nextbase 622GW
(Image credit: Nextbase)

Looking for the best dash cam you can buy in 2021? You’ve come to the right place. We've tested a huge range of the windscreen-mounted cameras from a whole host of manufacturers in order to bring you this in-depth guide to the world's finest dash cams.

Like most tech these days, dash cams come in all shapes and sizes, with equally varied price tags. Some are super-simple, set-it-and-forget devices that take just a couple of minutes to set up and install, while others come packed with driver assistance systems like speed camera warnings, voice control, and even smart home integration via Alexa.

With the Black Friday 2021 shopping event kicking off very soon, we're also starting to see some early deals on many of the dash cams on this page. We're expecting the Black Friday camera deals ramp up throughout November, so now's the ideal time to start researching the best dash cams to see which one is best for you.

What's the best dash cam you can buy right now? Our overall pick for the title is the NextBase 622GW. It shoots crisp 4K video, has great stabilization, and is very easy to use thanks to its 3-inch touchscreen. But it’s not necessarily the best choice for you, so read on to find the very best dash cams for every kind of driver.

Usually mounted to the windscreen of your vehicle, dash cams are designed to record a driver’s-eye-view of the road ahead, and include g-sensors that automatically save a portion of footage when a collision is detected. Most can be powered by your car’s USB port or 12V socket, while others can be hardwired to the vehicle, giving them a constant supply of power and the ability to record while parked.

Dash cam manufacturers to consider include Nextbase, Thinkware and Garmin. Both offer a wide range of products at prices to suit most budgets. Try to avoid being tempted by the cheapest dash cam you can find, as video quality is of the utmost importance – after all, it could make the difference when it comes to using video as evidence after a crash. As such, dash cams that record in 1080p Full HD with HDR, or in 4K resolution, through a wide-angle lens with a good view of the road are preferable.

Today's best Black Friday dash cam deals

$129.99

Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2: $129.99 $109.99 at Amazon
Save $20 – In our Dash Cam Mini 2 review, we described this tiny dash cam as the 'definition of set-it-and-forget-it' tech. It's a simple choice, thanks to its magnetic mounting system, and also boasts Full HD video, voice controls and a decent smartphone app.

£99.99

Garmin Dash Cam Mini: £99.99 £65 at Amazon
Save £35 – This virtually invisible dash cam offers superb value in this 35% off deal. It nestles behind your rear view mirror and shoots 1080p video with a 140-degree viewing angle, and pairs with Garmin's slick app. It you want something affordable and super-discreet, you won't find a better deal than this.

£309.99

Nextbase 622GW front and rear camera: £309.99 £279.99 at Amazon
Save £30 – Our number one dash cam has just been given a bonus £20 off voucher at Amazon, which takes it down its lowest price for months. It's a brilliant all-rounder, with superb video quality, stabilization and a crisp 3-inch touchscreen.

Garmin Dash Cam 57: $229.99

Garmin Dash Cam 57: $229.99 $209 at Amazon
This mid-range dash cam is a great all-rounder and offers excellent value in the Black Friday sales. Looking a little like an action cam, it's pretty inconspicuous, but records 1440p video and packs in some advanced features like driver alerts and voice controls.

Garmin Dash Cam 57: £149.99

Garmin Dash Cam 57: £149.99 £99 at Amazon
A mid-range dash cam with an impressively compact design, the Dash Cam 57 now offers great value in this 34% off deal. It shoots 1440p video, has a 2in LCD and includes handy features like voice controls and driver alerts.

The best dash cams in 2021:

Nextbase 622GW

(Image credit: Nextbase)

The most advanced dash cam you can currently buy

Specifications
Video quality: 4K
Viewing angle: 140 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: MicroSD card (not included)
Reasons to buy
+Alexa and what3words built-in+Superb video quality
Reasons to avoid
-Requires large capacity SD card-Poor smartphone app

Rather than being a replacement for the more affordable 522GW (see below), the 622GW is simply a new flagship dash cam. It brings much-improved video quality, better stabilization and the inclusion of what3words geolocation services, which make it possible to pinpoint a stricken vehicle within a three-meter radius.

Opting for 4K at 30fps sees the resulting footage look almost cinematic in its presentation, with extremely crisp definition and great detail, even in poor lighting situations. This makes it much easier to pinpoint registration numbers or pick out hard-to-see elements of an accident.

A built-in polarizing filter on the front of the camera can be rotated to reduce glare from windscreens, while digital image stabilization is another first for the dash cam market and helps smooth out those bumps and shakes caused by potholes and poor road surfaces.

Like its 522GW sibling, this model can be controlled via your voice with Alexa Skills, but it requires the accompanying smartphone app to work, which isn’t the best. Despite new dual 2.4GHz + 5GHz Wi-Fi, it still has trouble connecting with phones to transfer images and video clips.

Thankfully, the 3-inch rear touchscreen is crisp, clear and very easy to use, while the inclusion of what3words combines well with Nextbase's EmergencySOS feature, which you get a year's free subscription for with this dash cam. If you're in the UK, it also currently gives you up to 30% off Nextbase's own Insurance.

Nextbase 522GW

(Image credit: Nextbase)

2. Nextbase 522GW

The best dash cam for most people

Specifications
Video quality: 1440p
Viewing angle: 140 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: MicroSD card (not included)
Reasons to buy
+Amazon Alexa built-in+Much cheaper than 622GW
Reasons to avoid
-Footage isn't class-leading-No SD card included

The Nextbase 622GW flagship (above) might be one of the most advanced dash cams you can buy, but the 522GW remains our top choice for all-round value. Thanks to a crisp 1440p resolution and wide-angle lens, it does the basics very well, but also throws in plenty of additional features.

There is a responsive three-inch touchscreen at the back, as well as the option of using the built-in Alexa functionality. Currently, users can ask Alexa to play music, place calls and listen to audiobooks through connected devices, but they'll soon be able to use an upcoming Dash Cam Skill to command it to ‘start recording’, ‘stop recording’, ‘protect a recording’ and ‘send to my phone’.

That all might seem like a bit of a gimmick and, to be honest, we didn't use it all that much, so it is lucky that the remainder of the UX is extremely simple. Videos can be quickly and easily shared to a smart device via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, while a clever Emergency SOS system will alert the emergency services of your location and other details if you prove unresponsive following an accident. 

The Garmin Dash Cam 67W dash cam on a beige background

(Image credit: Garmin)

3. Garmin Dash Cam 67W

Compact, powerful and easy to use

Specifications
Video quality: 1440p
Viewing angle: 180 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: MicroSD card (not included)
Reasons to buy
+Impressively small package+Great quality video+Doddle to install
Reasons to avoid
-Some features need extra kit-Wide-angle warps edge of frame

The 67W supersedes Garmin’s already very good 66W with a few additional connected features that only add to a very enticing package. At about the size of a matchbox, the 67W is one of the smallest dash cams we’ve had the honor of testing – in fact, it's only usurped by Garmin’s own Mini, which is so small it looks like it came out of a Christmas Cracker.

But crammed inside this tiny package is a top-quality sensor that’s capable of capturing crisp 1440p footage and enhancing it in those tricky weather conditions thanks to a HDR (High Dynamic Range) function. It looks great and the additional pixels make it possible to punch into footage on the computer to read number plates or spot minor things that could act as important evidence.

Easy to set up, simple to use and accompanied by a very clean smartphone app, the 67W goes one better than its predecessor by adding connected features, such as the ability to automatically upload any saved clips to Garmin’s cloud when the camera detects a trusted Wi-Fi network. 

Bear in mind Garmin will charge you for a storage plan and if you want to make the most of its connected features, such as the ability to remotely check in on a parked car from anywhere in the world, you’ll have to hardwire the camera into your vehicle’s main power source. 

You’ll also need to make sure the camera is connected to a Wi-Fi network, so this means parking next to a friendly router or investing in a mobile hotspot, which will also require constant power. You can see how it rapidly becomes a deep and expensive rabbit hole.

Regardless, if you just want great quality footage that’s automatically recorded by something that will fit into a shirt pocket, look no further.

Viofo A129 Pro Duo

(Image credit: Viofo)

4. Viofo A129 Pro Duo

A superb value front and rear cam package

Specifications
Video quality: 4K
Viewing angle: 140 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: MicroSD card (not included)
Reasons to buy
+Great value for a front/rear cam+Crisp footage
Reasons to avoid
-Lots of trailing wires-Relatively bulky front camera unit

We won’t hold it against you if you’ve never heard of Viofo, because it certainly ins’t the most recognized name in the dash cam business, but its 4K resolution Pro Duo model represents phenomenal value for money. 

The front camera is quite a bit bulkier than many rivals on this list, but it features a built-in GPS module, something that many other brands offer as an optional extra. Its plastic casing looks and feel basic, but it houses some rather trick technology that belies its overall build quality.

It runs super capacitors, rather than a traditional rechargeable battery set up, meaning its power source is built to last and can withstand an extreme temperature range without blunting performance. On top of this, you get the option of glorious 4K (3840 x 2160p) video recording up front, with the resulting footage offering a great amount of details and Wide Dynamic Range for rich colors in all weather conditions.

Unfortunately, 4K recording is only possible at 30fps, which isn’t the greatest if you want to slow footage down. However, dual recording (front and rear cameras) is only available at full HD (1080p) anyway and this is pumped out at 60fps for much smoother results.

Set up is very easy and Viofo offers a smartphone app for quickly reviewing and saving clips. Unfortunately, instillation of dual cameras requires the removal of interior trim and the clever stashing of long wires. It can be a messy and infuriating process to get it right, but worth it to avoid a dangling tangle of power cables.

The fact that you get night vision, a parking mode, motion detection, automatic emergency recording, GPS tracking and dual channel 1080p at this price makes this a package well worth considering if you cover a lot of miles and want total camera coverage that doesn’t cost a small fortune.  

Garmin Dash Cam Tandem

(Image credit: Garmin)

5. Garmin Dash Cam Tandem

Compact design, excellent picture quality

Specifications
Video quality: 1440p front-facing lens, 720p night vision interior lens
Viewing angle: Dual 180 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: MicroSD card provided
Reasons to buy
+Compact unit+Versatile dual lens design
Reasons to avoid
-Low-quality night vision-Garmin app isn't the best

Garmin’s first dual lens dash cam allows you to view what’s going on both inside and outside the car while you are driving, which is handy for taxi drivers and others wanting to keep an eye on their passengers. 

Extremely compact in design, the Dash Cam Tandem features a clip-in magnetic mount and can be easily installed below the rear-view mirror and removed when not in use. 

Two lengths of USB cable are provided (the longer one enables you to run the cable around the car cabin neatly) as is a cigarette lighter USB socket with two ports for charging your phone at the same time. However, if you want to use the dash cam for incident recording – such as if your car gets bumped in the car park while you are shopping – you will need to get it professionally installed so it’s constantly recording.

Key for control of the camera is the Garmin Drive app (Android and iOS) where you can review video and audio footage from your drives without having to take the MicroSD card out of the camera. Picture quality is generally excellent especially from the front camera. And while the rear camera struggles a bit in very low light, you can still make out passengers reasonably clearly in black and white. There’s also a picture-in-picture option so you can view both rear- and front-facing camera footage simultaneously. 

Rather usefully, footage is displayed with a time stamp, the speed of the vehicle and its location. Voice control is also provided, which enables hands-free control with instructions such as ‘OK Garmin, take a picture’ or ‘OK Garmin, save video’. Safety cam alert updates will also be added to the app soon. 

The only slight problem we experienced was that the app wasn’t as intuitive as we would’ve liked and didn’t automatically connect to the Wi-Fi connection when reviewing footage from our drives. Aside from that, this is a pricey but excellent option for those who want to keep an eye on their car, inside and out. 

The Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2 on an orange background

(Image credit: Garmin)

6. Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2

A keyfob-sized dash cam with voice control and a parking mode

Specifications
Video quality: 1080p
Viewing angle: 140 degrees
GPS tracker: No
Memory: MicroSD card (not included)
Reasons to buy
+Easy to set up and use+Full HD video with HDR
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks a display-No battery-No GPS

The Garmin Mini 2 is a tiny dash cam that all but disappears behind your car’s rear view mirror, yet boasts Full HD video with HDR, voice control that actually works reliably, a decent smartphone app and a dead-simple magnetic mounting system. Installing the Mini 2 is the same as other members of the Garmin Dash Cam family, with the setup process taking just a few minutes with the use of Garmin’s Drive smartphone app (iOS and Android).

The simple but effective mounting system comprises a ball-and-socket joint for positioning the camera at the perfect angle, and a coin-sized magnet that sticks to your windscreen and holds the dash cam securely in place.

Video quality is good for the size of the camera, recording at Full HD, 30fps with HDR and producing footage that is sharp enough to pick out key details like registration plates, whatever the ambient light and weather conditions. At 140 degrees, the lens' field-of-view isn’t the widest on the market, but still provides a good view of the road ahead.

There’s a button for quickly saving a portion of video (or you can rely on the g-sensor to automatically detect a collision) and voice controls for functions like taking a photo or turning audio recording on and off work surprisingly well.

Given the Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2’s compact size, it does not have a display. Instead, you need to use the smartphone app to check the camera’s view and access recordings. It also misses out on GPS, which is a shame, but this is arguably the only major feature missing here. Unless you require a dash cam with driver assistance functions like speed camera alerts, the Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2 will leave you wanting for very little. Simple, subtle and reliable, it’s the definition of set-it-and-forget-it technology.

Kenwood DRV-A601W

(Image credit: Kenwood / Future)

A solid 4K option without the bells and whistles

Specifications
Video quality: 3840 x 2160 4K Ultra HD
Viewing angle: 161 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: MicroSD (64GB included)
Reasons to buy
+Great video quality +Neat compact package+Easy to set up and use
Reasons to avoid
-Low on features-Additional extras quickly add up

The Kenwood DRV-A601W does everything you ask of it, and does it well, without including many of the annoying additional features – such as lane keeping assist warnings and speed limit alerts – that many modern units attempt to woo potential customers with.

The 4K footage is smooth, and the addition of a removable polarizing filter and built-in HDR technology means it’s possible to get incredibly crisp and clear images, even in adverse weather conditions or low-light situations.

That said, the DRV-A601W is expensive; similarly priced rivals offer equally good video quality with the addition of innovative features, such as the Emergency SOS geo-location service found on the Nextbase 622GW.

Kenwood also pushes its rear view camera, which offers fantastic HD quality footage to capture rear-end collisions and the like, as well as its hard-wiring kit that allows the camera to draw a certain amount of power when the ignition is off, without draining the vehicle’s battery. This opens up parking surveillance opportunities and gets around modern engine stop/start technology that can often see the power cut off to cameras and recording terminated.

However, adding these extras can get expensive, and there are models such as the new Viofo A139 that offer a perfectly good three-camera setup for the same price as the Kenwood’s front-facing unit. Of course, it can’t compete on video quality, but if you want all-round coverage on a budget, there are options.

The front and rear cameras of the Vava 2K Dual Dash cam

(Image credit: Vava)

8. Vava 2K Dual Dash Cam

A nice two-camera set-up let down by rear footage

Specifications
Video quality: 2K front & 1800p Rear
Viewing angle: 155 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: MicroSD card (not included)
Reasons to buy
+Great build quality+Wi-fi data transfer+Simple smartphone app 
Reasons to avoid
-Rear footage not perfect-Unit gets hot-Rivals are cheaper

Vava joins a growing list of relative newcomers to the dash cam game that includes brands like Vantrue and Viofo, but it offers a level of build quality and finish that could easily rival some of the bigger names in the market.

Arriving in neatly divided and high quality packaging, the Vava 2K Dual Dash Cam immediately feels like a premium offering. This is reflected in the fairly lofty price but unfortunately the footage isn’t as crisp, detailed or clear as some of the 4K rivals higher up in this guide.

On top of this, the rear camera, which is neatly integrated into the single, lozenge-shaped unit, predominantly captures what is going on inside the cabin, rather than the important stuff happening out of the rear window.

That said, the extra niceties, including a wireless physical button for recording footage on the fly and capturing still images when driving, are neat things to have. Plus, features like a driver fatigue alarm and infrared lighting for inside the cabin feel like welcome extras.

It’s a good little dash cam, it just doesn’t capture footage as well as those products that feature separate front and rear cameras. 

Kenwood DRV-830

(Image credit: Kenwood)

9. Kenwood DRV-830

Massive storage capabilities for full HD recordings

Specifications
Video quality: 1440p (Full HD)
Viewing angle: 144 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: MicroSD card (included) and internal memory
Reasons to buy
+Good image quality in all light+Massive storage potential
Reasons to avoid
-Not the best-looking camera-Menus can be fiddly to navigate

Kenwood might be a brand that’s most associated with sub-woofers and colorful head units favored by boy racers, but its recent line of dash cams is sleek and packed with cutting-edge technology. Oh, and they’re very good too.

This DRV-830 unit might not be compatible with existing Kenwood head units (you’ll need the DRV-520 for that) but it sports it own 3-inch full color TFT display, making reviewing and saving clips a doddle.

The viewing angle of 144-degrees is among some of the widest on the market and the 1440p footage is perfectly good in both day and low light conditions. Granted, it can’t keep up with the Nextbase or hideously expensive BlackVue models for image quality, but it belies its sub-£100 price tag.

Advanced driver assist systems, such as lane departure and front collision warnings, are built into the system, but many will find them a tad annoying. Thankfully, they can be switched off by rummaging through the numerous settings.

Footage is automatically captured via 3-axis G-Force detection hardware and the camera will manage storage by overwriting any older files that haven’t been saved. That said, if you are the sort of person who likes to regularly save clips, this camera boasts some of the largest memory available thanks to two SDHC micro card slots, capable of a massive 256GB with the appropriate cards.

BlackVue DR900S-2CH

(Image credit: Blackvue)

10. BlackVue DR900S-2CH

Top notch video quality, but it costs a packet

Specifications
Video quality: 4K Ultra-HD
Viewing angle: 162 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: MicroSD card included
Reasons to buy
+Superb image quality+Beautifully designed unit
Reasons to avoid
-Price tag is now a bit steep-Irritating to install

Those doing high mileage on a regular basis, braving all conditions and types of roads, will likely want to part with a little extra for their dash cam. We're not suggesting the camera needs to boast lots of fancy gizmos and superfluous tech, but spending a bit more means image quality is improved.

This is very handy in the case of an accident, especially in a hit-and-run scenario, where reading a number plate from a distance and making out any distinguishing features can be the difference between catching a perpetrator and ending up with a hefty insurance claim.

Sitting very much at the premium end of the dash cam spectrum, this package from BlackVue includes front- and rear-facing cameras, both of which capture the action in HD quality.

Its price tag might feel incredibly steep for a dash cam, but this is the only camera to feature an 8MP CMOS sensor up front and a high-performance Sony STARVIS CMOS sensor in the rear camera. As a result, the footage is undeniably the best on the market, day and night.

The 162-degree field of view feels absolutely perfect for the task in hand and rids the resulting footage of that awkward fisheye look that some wider-angle cameras suffer from. 

Paranoid owners can also make use of BlackVue's advanced intelligent park mode, which essentially carries on recording when the vehicle is powered down. This is possible thanks to the Power Magic Pro, which is wired in to the vehicle's battery and ensures the dash cam doesn't deplete reserves when recording overnight.

You can expect all of the obvious features, too, including built-in GPS, incident detection and the ability to send clips to BlackVue's bespoke smartphone app via the on-board Wi-Fi.

Alternatively, users can make the most of BlackVue's over-the-cloud storage offering or remotely check in on a parked vehicle (via the app) and view real-time footage from the camera.

The front and underside of the Thinkware T700 dash cam

(Image credit: Thinkware)

11. Thinkware T700

A constantly connected camera for paranoid vehicle owners

Specifications
Video quality: 1080p @ 30fps
Viewing angle: 140-degrees and 127-degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: MicroSD (included)
Reasons to buy
+Easy access to footage +Great night vision+Constantly connected
Reasons to avoid
-Comprehensive set-up required-Lots of cabling for rear camera -Connectivity incurs monthly cost

The Thinkware T700 focuses on clever additional features, rather than blowing the budget on the latest image sensors and huge video resolutions. The result is perfectly adequate, if not completely faultless, HD-quality footage with a healthy dollop of online features that make it great for particularly paranoid car owners.

That’s because this camera accepts Vodafone’s V-Sim card, meaning that for a few quid a month, you can have a constantly connected 4G LTE camera that you can tap into via a smart device from pretty much anywhere in the world.

Due to this fact, the T700 requires hard-wiring into a vehicle’s power supply to make the most of these remote features, which is both fiddly and a bit tricky for most. That said, once initial set-up is complete, it’s very easy to rapidly download clips to a smart device, receive warnings when the car has been involved in a parking shunt, and spy on the kids if and when they grab the keys to your prized wheels.

Vantrue N2 Pro

(Image credit: Vantrue)

12. Vantrue N2 Pro

Heavyweight features without the heavyweight price tag

Specifications
Video quality: 1440p
Viewing angle: 170 degrees
GPS tracker: Optional tracker
Memory: MicroSD card (not included)
Reasons to buy
+Top-quality sensor+Ultra-wide viewing angle
Reasons to avoid
-No GPS tracking-Second camera films cabin, not rear view

Type the words ‘dash cam’ into Amazon and the number of search results that appear can be intimidating. But nestled in amongst the pile of offerings is this Chinese brand that flaunts professional spec dash cams that cost up to half as much as some of the market leaders.

The front lens, which is arguably the most important here, is comprised of six individual glass elements and packs a whopping f/1.8 aperture, making it brilliant for capturing crisp imagery in low light situations.

On top of this, a second f/2 lens faces the cabin and is supported by four IR LED lights to boost what is often tricky, gloomy footage via an excellent Sony IMX323 sensor. Although not for everyone, this sort of functionality is perfect for professional drivers who may or may not want to relive any incidents that occur late on a Friday night. There’s also a built-in microphone to record sound. 

Continuous loop recording is a given here, as is G-sensor technology that detects an incident and will automatically save the footage to the MicroSD card. However, buyers will have to plump for an optional GPS mount that saves data on speed and location alongside the video file.

Thanks largely to the brilliant Sony sensor, image quality is generally very good and linking the device to a laptop or PC is as simple as it gets. Front and rear footage is handily divided into two separate files too, reducing the time spent browsing the various folders for the desired clip.

Parking Mode is also good value at this price point, as it can be switched on to auto record whenever it senses motion. Alas, it requires a power source, so needs to either be hard-wired into the vehicle via a separate accessory or attached to an external power source. 

Halfords HDC400

(Image credit: Halfords)

13. Halfords HDC400

Discreet package boasts ultra-wide viewing angle and HD footage

Specifications
Video quality: 1440p
Viewing angle: 180 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: MicroSD card (not included)
Reasons to buy
+Sleek, unobtrusive styling+Clear, crisp footage
Reasons to avoid
-No monitor-Max 32GB SD card

If you've already got a smartphone holder and sat-nav system cluttering the dashboard and front windscreen, it can be a step too far to throw another device into the mix – which is where the sleek shell of this Halfords number comes in.

Easily mounted directly to the windscreen, the diminutive package tucks neatly out of the way, but still manages to record in full HD and capture the action via an extremely wide 180-degree viewing angle. 

Alas, there are a few drawbacks, chiefly a lack of screen or monitor, which makes the set-up process slightly complicated. You will first have to download the accompanying smartphone app, connect to the device’s Wi-Fi and then get a live feed from the camera to check positioning.

Downloading footage this way can also be overtly time consuming, but there’s always the option to lift footage directly from the SD card. On this subject, the maximum card size is just 32GB here, which means it will quickly fill up if multiple full HD clips (the file sizes are large) are saved to the device.

That said, the footage is of very good quality, with WDR abilities making even low light image capture a suit above some more expensive rivals. Built-in functionality, such as GPS recording, is also a welcome bonus at this price point.

Viofo A139

(Image credit: Viofo / Future)

A decent three-camera option for pro drivers

Specifications
Video quality: 2560 x 1440p & 1920 x 1080p
Viewing angle: 140 & 170 degrees
GPS tracker: Yes
Memory: MicroSD (not included)
Reasons to buy
+Three-camera package+Easy to use
Reasons to avoid
-Footage isn’t the best-Time-consuming to set up

There aren’t many folk outside of the professional driving world that legitimately need a three-camera setup such as this, where individual units capture footage out of the windscreen, out of the rear and inside the cabin.

But if you’re one of those people, Viofo’s package is enticing, since it offers a lot of technology for the money. In addition, the entire setup is compact and simple enough to discreetly install without impeding too much on windscreen real estate. Just be prepared to deal with lots of trailing wires and get used to hiding them in the car’s headliner or under the carpet. 

Footage captured out of the front camera is perfectly good enough for most scenarios, but it falls some way behind some of the market leaders, which now offer impressive 4K capabilities, excellent low-light capture and Wide Dynamic Range technology for all driving conditions.

That said, Viofo uses Sony Starvis image sensors, which work well when capturing footage in low light, although the drop in resolution means that some of the quality is lost in sub-par driving conditions. You’ll be able to punch in to the footage using some video software, but distant details become fuzzy.

The interior and rear cameras capture 170-degrees of action, thanks to a wide field of view, while that interior camera also uses six LEDs to assist with its infrared capabilities. Even in the darkest driving conditions, it’s possible to easily make out what’s going on inside the car.  

But at this price, the A139 competes with a lot of fantastic cameras on this list, with many offering lots of additional technology, a more user-friendly app and touchscreens for easier interaction. Plus, Viofo’s own A129 4K dual dash cam setup is a very similar price. Unless you absolutely need the interior footage, the higher-resolution A129 (with rear screen) is the better buy.

How to pick the best dash cam for you

The best dash cams broadly have similar technology to one another, and, for the most part, mount somewhere along a car's front windscreen or windshield. Of course, wherever you place your dash cam must not block your view of the road.

The advent of rear-facing cameras (or complete kits that contain both front and rear) require a little extra instillation, as these often involve cables that run from front to back. Expect some fiddly work involving the car's headliner to get these fitted correctly. 

Dash cams record smaller snippets of footage, usually in increments of one to two minutes at a time. The cameras continually record over the oldest clip in order to keep the memory card from filling up as well.

While older models typically required the user to manually save or tag the appropriate clip in the event of an accident, new G-Sensor-based incident detection technology has taken over, and now takes care of this automatically.

There are also dash cams that boast additional features that, just like any other technology, translate to a higher asking price.

There are also dash cams that boast additional features that, just like any other technology, translate to a higher asking price.

These extra features can include multiple lenses for front- and rear-facing coverage, together with a more refined sensor for better video quality. Some cameras only record 720p HD footage, for example, while many others now offer Full HD (1080p) and 4K capture. Night vision and built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth for easy file transfer may also be included.

A rise in popularity of voice control has also made its way over to the humble dash cam, so expect Alexa integration and other such voice-activated technology at the very pinnacle of the range.

Numerous parking modes are also possibilities. These use a time-lapse feature as a surveillance function to capture details of those irksome car park prangs when you're off running errands.

Nextbase 622GW

(Image credit: Nextbase)

Is it worth having a dash cam?

Yes, absolutely. Some drivers might not like the idea of a camera constantly monitoring their vehicle, but some models of dash cam (like the Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2) are compact and subtle enough to almost disappear behind the central rear view mirror. In other words, once they are up and running you soon forget about them; they just sit there, quietly keeping an eye out, ready to save footage if you’re caught in an accident.

If the worst were to happen, and you need to prove your innocence, the dash cam’s footage could do exactly that. This footage can also be set to include your speed, along with the time and date to help reinforce the validity of your evidence if blame is disputed by the other party. As well as monitoring the road ahead, dash cams can be used to record out of the rear windscreen too, recording footage if you are unfortunate enough to be rear-ended by another motorist.

Even if you're not directly involved in a collision, dash cams can still be useful. Many have a button for quickly saving the last few seconds of video. That way, if you need something ahead that you think needs recording, like an accident between two other vehicles, an example of bad driving, or something else noteworthy, you can provide that evidence to whoever might need it. Another useful feature of some dash cams is how they will call the emergency services if a crash is detected and you don’t respond; they can then share your location and ensure help is on its way.

Furthermore, many dash cams come with additional driver assistance features. These include alerts to let you know about nearby speed cameras and red light cameras, plus a prompt to tell you the vehicle in front has set off – just in case you weren’t paying attention while sat in traffic.

Lastly, some dash cams can be permanently installed in your vehicle and hard-wired, giving them a constant power supply. When paired with a special parking mode, this enables the camera to sense impacts and record footage while the car is parked, potentially gathering useful evidence of your neighbor’s poor parking.

A man adjusting a Nextbase dash cam in a car

(Image credit: Nextbase)

How we test dash cams

Almost all dash cams can be fitted to a car without making any permanent modification. They can be attached to a windscreen using a suction cup or removable adhesive pad, and powered from either a USB port or the 12V socket found in almost all cars. To test dash cams, we install them in our car, attach them to the windscreen and pair them to our smartphone as if we had bought them ourselves.

We then drive, at day and night, to test how the camera handles different lighting conditions, and ideally in varied weather too. The footage is then transferred to a smartphone or computer and viewed to check out the quality, and whether key details like vehicle registration plates are legible. This also gives us an opportunity to see how easy (or difficult) it is to view, transfer and save recorded footage.

Additional features like voice assistants and drive assistance systems get a thorough workout, and we also test how easy it is to turn these off, or adjust them to our personal preferences. Being able to quickly and easily turn audio recording off is key, especially when carrying passengers who don’t want their conversations recorded.

Naturally, we cannot crash a vehicle to see how well the dash cam detects collisions. Instead, firmly tapping the dash cam can simulate a collision, allowing us to see what happens when footage is saved. It is also possible to trigger a recording by powering the camera with a portable battery and tapping it against our desk. It may seem rudimentary, but it works and keeps our insurance company happy.

Sometimes, driving over a particularly aggressive speed bump can trigger a dash cam recording. In these cases we learn that the camera’s g-sensor is too sensitive, and needs to be adjusted, providing the menu system includes such an option.