Over the span of my lifetime I’ve been in a few car accidents (just as a passenger, actually) and have witnessed many more that I wish I hadn’t. When I was a kid I was riding in the back seat of my parents car while when it was rear-ended out of nowhere on the interstate of all places. Another time I was in the back seat of a car when it hit a semi trailer — luckily nobody was severely injured. A dash cam would have provided evidence in these instances as to who was at fault — good information to have when it’s time to talk to the insurance company. But there are actually several other good reasons to have a dash cam in your car.
I’ve been on several trips where I wish I had a recording of something I saw on the road: the Weinermobile, a double rainbow, a scenic drive through the mountains while the Aspen trees are blazing red and yellow. How cool would it be to be able to share those moments with friends and family or just to remember them as they really happened years down the road? Fond memories and laughable moments are great — but catching “bad guys” might be even better.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a bad driver do something that made me furious: cut me off, cut someone else off, flicked something out the window that whooshed into my windshield, litterers (I hate litterers)… and cops. Don’t get me wrong — law enforcement is necessary and there are some good officers out there doing their jobs the right way — but I hate when I see a cop breaking the law and then I get pulled over for something far stupider. I see cops driving bad all the time. I’d love to record it. Better yet, I’d love to have evidence that I didn’t do something they said I did (thank you GPS information and visual proof). As much as I love vindication (or the elusive dream of vindication), I also love cool tech upgrades…
Like smart driving assist features. Usually the best tech features come to luxury cars first and then trickle down over the years to “normal” cars for the middle class. Some dash cams can bring some of those smart driving features to your current ride for a very reasonable price. Want an alert when you’re drifting out of your lane? How about when you look down at something and get too close to the car in front of you? Get a dash cam.
Finally, many dash cams can also alert you when there is motion around your car while it’s parked. Not long ago I was on a vacation and my car was keyed — keyed real bad. Too bad for me. I had no dash cam and thus had not even a chance of finding out who did such an unspeakable act.
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to buy yourself a dash cam. But which one is the best? Well that is what the rest of this article is about. You’re welcome.
YI Smart Dash Camera
The YI Smart Dash Camera caught my attention mainly for two reasons: it’s incredible price (like all YI products) and it’s driving assistance features. I like this combination enough to make it my “goto” dash cam recommendation for most people, but it certainly isn’t for everyone. Plus, I’ve been enjoying the Yi 4K Action Cam recently and that helps me to appreciate the quality this brand can serve up along with that affordability.
At just $70 you could buy two of these dash cams for less than the price of many other models. And yet it’s not the cheapest on the market by any means: if you come through Amazon you will see plenty of off brands offering poorer quality alternatives.
This dash cam is capable of shooting at 1080p quality at 60fps which is great for capturing moments that happen in a flash but it also offers a 1296p at 30fps option if you want slightly better quality (that’s 44% more pixel density just in case you’re curious).
You’ll also get a 165 degree wide angle view from the lens — which YI says is enough to cover three lanes of traffic, night vision and a sensor that detects accidents and autosaves the footage. And everything is viewable and controllable via a 2.7″ touch screen display which is a decent size that also helps to keep the entire device smaller if that is something that appeals to you. YI has also developed an accompanying app that you can use to easily view or share footage from your phone.
One feature that is notably absent is a parking mode — as it stands the YI Smart Dash Camera will only be able to record what is happening while you’re actually driving.
By far the coolest feature on this device is the ADAS, or advanced driver assistance system, which alerts you if you are either leaving a lane (to help prevent lane drift) or if you are driving too close to the car in front of you (to help prevent an accidental fender bender). I love that these features are included in such a budget-friendly dash cam — especially when units that cost far more are missing this feature. This is a great way to grab some “smart driving” features many lower end cars aren’t equipped with for a more “luxurious” ride.
Finally, the looks of this dash cam are nice: they aren’t extravagant or over-the-top or weird like those of many other dash cams. If you don’t want an ugly monstrosity handing from your front windshield, this is a great product to consider.
Black Cam Hybrid BCH 1000
The Black Cam Hybrid BCH 1000 is the most expensive dash cam I’ve included in this article, but don’t let that turn you off to what it can offer. Whereas other dash cams only capture what is happening in front of your vehicle, the Black Cam Hybrid BCH 1000 sees what is happening behind as well thanks to a second included camera. The front-facing camera can shoot 60fps in 1080p HD quality while the back camera shoots in a lower 720p HD format.
This dash cam also features a comparatively large touch screen which measures in at 3.5″. So not only will you be able to see better what is being captured by the dual camera system, but you’ll also benefit from being able to touch to zoom in on the details. Plus the interface looks very nice and usable. I love the one-touch option to quickly save important or exiting footage.
Another upgrade over the YI dash cam is the WDR support which means video will be clearer thanks to being able to pull more detail from shadowy or highlighted areas. Additionally, this setup features external GPS support to tracking route and speed info, night vision, a defog feature and noise reduction. The 3-axis sensor will also auto-detect an accident and save the associated footage accordingly.
With this dash cam you will benefit from a parking mode which can start recording when motion is detected. I like that you can adjust the sensitivity settings here.
One of the big reasons I chose to include this dash cam was it’s looks. Like the YI, they are more refined and that matters since this device will be sitting front and center for your daily commute.
At over $300 this isn’t a cheap option, but you’ll find that it packs in lots of small features and details that you won’t find elsewhere (like scheduled memory formatting, for instance, which makes managing memory usage much easier for people who do a lot of driving).
In terms of looks, the Vantrue R2 dash cam is my least favorite on this list, but, in terms of features it really goes above and beyond the competition.
For starters, this dash cam shoots higher quality footage than the other two featured in this article at 2K resolution. On top of that, it’s got a 170 degree field of view which just edges out the YI dash cam’s 165 degrees and it features WDR for revealing more details from dark or bright areas. At it’s highest resolution, this camera can record for about six hours (and more on lower settings).
While this dash cam doesn’t come with a rear camera, it does have a parking mode and it can hook up to an external GPS (but you’ll need to buy a mount). You’ll also get night vision and a sensor that detects crashes and flags the footage for later review.
One feature I really like about the Vantrue R2 is that it can start recording automatically as long as it’s connected to power. So all you have to do is turn on your car — no need to remember anything extra.
But like I mentioned, I don’t love the design of this device. It’s pretty ugly, in my opinion, and not something I’d like to stare at day in and day out (or something I’d like people to see hanging from my windshield).
At $125 this is a very reasonably priced dash cam — especially when you factor in everything it can do.
Recommendations and Conclusion
- If you’re looking for the best price and/or some smart features, check out the YI Smart Dash Camera.
- If you want more robust protection (front and rear cameras) and/or a large, easy-to-use touch screen check out the Black Cam Hybrid BCH 1000.
- If you don’t care about looks and just want the highest quality footage then check out the Vantrue R2.
I’m surprised car companies aren’t offering built-in dash cams — at least as an optional feature. I know I wish I had gotten one years (and years) ago. There are so many benefits to having a dash cam and I hope this article was able to help you pick the right one for you.