Financial Resource Center

You’ve probably seen the videos online: footage from someone’s dashcam catching all the insanity of the roads. Maybe now you’re thinking about getting one to cover yourself in case one of those bad drivers runs into you. A video could help prove your innocence and help you avoid a ticket.

There are a lot of options out there when it comes to buying a camera system to protect your vehicle—from buying a high-end sports car with a built-in track recording system to easy-to-install kits that simply stick to your windshield. In the latter category, there are more options on the market than stars in the sky, so here’s a list of features and functions to find what best suits your needs and budget.

Features to consider:

  • Resolution – While 4k video makes for better content for your YouTube channel, it eats up a lot of storage. You’ll never re-watch 99% of what your camera captures, and when you do, you’ll need license plates or the officer’s badge.
  • Power supply – You can get cameras that are battery operated but expect to charge or replace batteries regularly, like every 30 minutes of usage for some models. A camera that plugs into your car’s USB hub or other power supply will last as long as the vehicle is on. Having a system hardwired into your car can allow it to turn on the moment your car is turned on.
  • Rear-facing – Some cameras are actually two cameras: one facing forward and one recording what is behind you. This can be helpful since not every problem you’re going to encounter will be head-on.
  • Parking monitor – Accidents don’t just happen with you’re behind the wheel. Some systems are always on, recording if the car is on or parked. Some have built-in sensors to turn on with motion or sound to catch any issues that may occur in the parking lot.
  • Wi-Fi or Bluetooth – These cameras are discreet, often tucked behind your review mirror. Having a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection allows you easy access to recordings without having to touch the camera.
  • Night vision – Some cameras offer night vision, seeing further into the night than you’re going to get with your headlights. It’s a helpful feature if you’re using the camera in park mode at night.
  • Emergency calls – Since some cameras can already communicate with your phone, the system can call emergency services if they sense an accident and you’re not able to respond. Chances are that if your car has Bluetooth, it already has a system like this in place, so double check before you pay for a feature you don’t need.

Where dashcams can save you money:

  • Tickets – Having proof of what happened can help you keep the story straight if you ever have a run-in with the police. Some cams can track your speed, so if you know you’re not the car that the trooper was looking at, use that in court. Maybe the “No Right Turn” sign was knocked down and your camera can prove what you saw, or didn’t see.
  • Insurance – You’ll have a hard time finding an insurance company that gives you a discount for having a dashcam installed. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t save on insurance. As mentioned, some systems can track speed and other statistics from your vehicle. If you can prove that you’re a safe driver, you may be able to haggle a discount. You can also use the footage to prevent your premium from going up if there ever is an accident.

Buy from a reputable source or a brand you trust. You can find a lot of cheap cameras through online retailers, but they’re often knockoffs and the features may not match the description. A dashcam is supposed to save you money by protecting two of your most valuable investments, yourself and your car, so saving five bucks by getting a cheap knockoff isn’t going to help when it stops working after a crash.