The Driver’s Guide to Dash Cams

Thinking of buying a dash cam? You’re not alone. These handy in-car cameras are a common sight in the UK, as more and more drivers look to them for safety, security and protection out on the road.

If you’re ready to invest in a dash cam for your car, our guide can help. We’ve covered the need-to-knows of buying, installing and using a dash cam, so you can get the most from this dependable bit of kit.

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What to Look for When Buying a Dash Cam

Dash cams have become a must-have accessory for many drivers, but what should you look for if you’re thinking of buying one?

Firstly, dash cams vary a lot in price, so it helps to have a budget in mind before you start your search. Places like Halfords offer own-brand dash cams for as little as £40, while a branded unit from manufacturers like Nextbase or Garmin could set you back £250+.

Prices vary based on image quality and storage capacity, as well as special features like smart connectivity, advanced image stabilisation, and night vision. Some cameras also come as part of a bundle, including front and rear-facing cameras, mounts and other accessories, which makes them more expensive.

car camera

As a minimum, you should look for the following when shopping around for the best dash cam for your money:

  • HD video capture – the higher the quality, the better. Remember, the footage needs to pick up small details, like registration plates and road signs.
  • Night vision – if you do a lot of driving in the dark, night-time recording is an absolute must.
  • Wide field of view – the viewing angle of your dash cam is important, as you’ll want to capture as much of what’s around you as possible. Budget dash cams usually have a viewing angle of about 120°, rising to 180° for more expensive options.
  • GPS – location tracking via GPS is a nice feature to have on your dash cam. This will automatically tag the location of your video footage, so it’s great for showing evidence of exactly where an incident occurred.
  • Automatic stop-start – lots of dash cams have automatic stop-start, meaning they sync up with the ignition to start recording automatically. We’d say this is an essential feature, ensuring you never miss a beat out on the road.
  • Storage – how much footage can the camera record on a single SD card? Will you need more than one card for longer journeys? Or when you have both front and rear-facing cameras? All things to consider when buying a dash cam.
  • Wi-Fi – Wi-Fi is a helpful, if not essential, feature which will make it easy to transfer video clips from one device to another.

How to Install a Dash Cam Safely – And Within the Law

As with any mounted device you add to your car, dash cams need to be installed with care to make sure they’re safe and within the law.

Mount a dash cam in the wrong place, and you could find yourself on the receiving end of a police fine and points on your licence. Not only that, but the footage you capture may be inadmissible in court, making it much harder to prove you weren’t liable for an incident.

man setting up dashcam

When deciding on the best place for your new dash cam, refer to the Highway Code, which states that no obstruction should be placed 40mm into the area swept by the wiper blades. In short, it shouldn’t obstruct the main part of the windscreen; the same applies to the rear window, too.

Most people opt to mount their dash cam at the very top of the windscreen, often directly next to the rear-view mirror. This allows for the best and most natural field of view, without obstructing the windscreen.

If you’re in doubt, speak to a dash cam specialist or your motoring supplier. Places like Halfords offer help with fitting, so you can be sure your dash cams are mounted safely and with the best view of the road.

Will a Dash Cam Affect the Cost of Insurance?

Installing a dash cam won’t bring down your insurance cost. It could, however, help you protect your no claims discount – ensuring you can continue to enjoy low-cost cover.

Dash cams are an excellent accessory to have in the event of an accident, theft or other incident. They can help prove your innocence, giving you an extra level of protection and security while safeguarding that big NCD you’ve spent years accumulating.

In the UK, you can use dash cam footage when making a car insurance claim or when a claim is made against you. The video can be shown to the police and used in court, so it’s like having your own CCTV camera.

Essentially, dash cams remove any doubt or conjecture which another party may use as their defence in court. They provide solid evidence that can be used for resolving a range of issues – whether it’s an accident involving your car or other incidents which happen on the road.

black box in car

Other Things to Consider When Using a Dash Cam

If you’re new to dash cam ownership, there are a few things to note before you start recording your car journeys:

  • Watch what you say – remember, dash cams also record audio, so be careful about what you say behind the wheel. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you’ve recorded an incident, only to find that the recording contains slanders about your boss.
  • Shared ownership – this brings us to our next point, which concerns shared ownership. If you drive a company car that’s used by a few other people, you must declare that a dash cam has been installed, as this protects their privacy.
  • The national dash cam safety portal – in 2018, Nextbase launched the national dash cam safety portal, a platform where you can submit footage directly to your local police force. It’s the easiest, safest way to make sure your clips find their way to the right people.
  • Battery power – remember, dash cams run on your car’s battery, so make sure they turn themselves off when you remove the ignition. Some dash cams offer a ‘parking mode’ feature, recording when the car is stationary, but this is only when they have their own power source.
  • Still image capture – most dash cams offer still image capture, and this is a great tool for snapping a few shots after an accident – keeping all your evidence in one place.
  • Hard-wired or portable – depending on how much you want to spend, there is the option to hard-wire a dash cam into your car’s cabin. This offers a few benefits, from removing unsightly wires to making the cameras more secure. Talk to a specialist about the option to hard-wire a camera to your car, or stick with a portable, wires-out option.

Enjoyed this guide on dash cams? Read more articles and features on the Prestone blog. For our full product range, including our high-performance engine maintenance fluids, visit the Prestone homepage.

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