What is a Dashcam?
A dashcam is a small video recording device which is mounted in your vehicle, usually on the front windscreen, or dashboard (hence the term dash cam).
The majority of cameras are front facing only, recording the journey from your point of view, however you can also get dual cameras, basically a normal dash camera with an additional camera which faces out of your rear window to record the road behind you.
Why do you need a dashcam?
As dash cams become more common, the uses for them are growing daily, but perhaps the most prevelant use for a dashcam is to clear yourself of any liability in the event of an accident.
“Crash for cash” has become more common over the past 5 – 10 years, this is basically where someone intentionally causes you to crash into them, perhaps by braking harshly in front of you so you hit their rear end, or perhaps pulling into your path so you hit them.
In crash for cash type scenarios, especially hitting the rear of another road user, you are found liable for the crash and lose your no claims bonus, and your insurance company pays out for repairs to the other car, and, in most cases, personal injury too.
If you have a dashcam fitted you can prove exactly what happened and often save your no-claims bonus and be cleared of any blame.
Whats more is, some insurance companies are starting to recognise a dash camera as a safety device and are actually giving discounts to people with dash cameras fitted to their vehicle, so not only can they save you money in the event of an accident, they can even save you money on your yearly insurance premium.
What to look out for when choosing a dash cam?
With hundreds of different dash cams entering the market every day it can often be a daunting task to select one, use our short feature list to choose a dashcam, or check out our dashcam reviews.
Video Recording Quality
The most important thing to look out for when selecting a dashboard camera is the recording quality, after all, a dashcams primary function is to record your journey. With most cameras supporting 1080p (Full HD) recording these days (we say most, but not all do – look out for this, this is now a must!) it is important to check out some videos of journeys recorded both in daylight and night time (both lit and unlit roads) before making your choice. We’ve seen some cameras which are excellent, crystal clear quality in daylight, but when it comes to night time recording the quality was so poor you couldn’t even read a number plate of a car sitting stationery in front of us in traffic!
When watching videos, try to watch them on the highest possible resolution to see what the pixelation is like on larger screens/higher resolution. Watch both day and night videos, on lit and unlit roads, as well as videos recorded in adverse weather – a shower could be fine whereas a major downpour may cause issues – check as many different weather types as possible.
Don’t use the manufacturers videos as a reference, use user recorded videos on Youtube and Vimeo etc.
Size, look and fitting
A discreet, small camera is generally the best choice for most applications, you don’t want a big bulky device which everyone notices from outside, let alone one which partially blocks your view from the drivers seat!
Likewise, ease of fitting is something to think about, you don’t want to purchase a camera you need to hire an auto electrician to fit if you can help it – a small camera which easily fits behind the rear view mirror is an excellent choice, one supplied with a long power cable will ensure you have enough cable to route it behind the head lining, a and b pillars and under the carpet to keep it out of sight.
Try to avoid a dashcam that leaves gaps between recordings, this makes playback look less seemless and can in some extreme cases actually miss parts of your recording. Some dashcams claim to have nightvision and include 1 or more small LEDs above or around the lense, whilst this should work in theory, in practice it actually degrades the image quality, so we’d avoid these cameras unless you have watched videos (from real users) showing that it has increased the recording quality in night conditions.
If you stick to all of the above you shouldn’t go too far wrong – but if you’re still not sure, check out our top dashcams of 2016 post which should give you some ideas of what cameras to consider, and the best place to purchase them.
Happy dashcam shopping!