/ Motoring, Technology

Life with a dashboard camera – my first impressions

Dashcam

We’ve heard that many of you would consider buying a dashboard camera to protect yourselves against scams on the road. So we bought our own to see what life with a ‘dashcam’ is like.

If you’ve ever spent any time on Youtube, chances are you’ve stumbled upon videos where unhinged drivers slew across the road causing chaos and destruction, felling lampposts and forcing pedestrians to dive out of the way. These are all filmed on dashboard cameras.

The reason so many people are resorting to dashcams is not to become Youtube tycoons, but to protect themselves from scams on the roads. In our poll, 59% of you said that you would consider buying a dashboard camera, so we thought we’d buy our own and see how we got on.

Easy to use, but prices are high

I went for a NextBase In-Car Cam 402G Professional as it offers full high definition recording, GPS logging, a wide angle lens plus motion detection and a G-force sensor.

And the price for all this? Just short of £150. That may sound expensive for a potential defence against scams, but a number of dashboard cameras cost over £300, so this NextBase represents a typical mid-range model. Add in the fact that several car insurers offer discounts of up to 15% if you own a dashcam and the price seems much more palatable.

Fitting the NextBase is simple with a satnav style suction cup that attaches to the windscreen and a long power cable that plugs into a cigarette lighter. Press the on button and the dashboard camera records until you switch it off.

However, even in the week I’ve had with it, sometimes it felt like an effort to fish out the camera, plug it in and arrange the long power cable so that it wasn’t dangling down in front of me. I ended up looping the power cord over the passenger sun visor. Although, if you plan to keep the mount in the car, you could feed the wire around the windscreen more discreetly.

Image quality could be better

NextBase In-Car Cam 402G Professional

NextBase In-Car Cam 402G Professional software (click to enlarge)

The main reason to buy a dashcam is so you can provide evidence that you’re not to blame for an insurance claim. So, image quality is paramount. If you can’t make out number plates in all conditions then your dashcam isn’t really fit for purpose.

Based on our first few outings the NextBase seems to provide reasonable footage, apart from in darker conditions where number plates were often illegible. However, this may be down to my car’s heated windscreen, which gives night images a speckled quality.

If you already own a dashcam, how are you finding it? And if you’re considering buying one, tell us why.

Comments
Mr P says:
21 January 2014

I’ve had a dashcam (or in my case, one that is behind the rear view mirror) for some time now. Having watched (and become slightly obsessed) with these YouTube crash videos, it has opened my eyes to the perils of what lies ahead on the road. I feel I have more awareness, and knowing that my camera is recording, I make that extra effort in driving sensibly. It has also reduced my stress levels as I don’t feel I have to take chances to get anywhere. Besides, if an accident occurs up ahead I may have captured it on my camera.

I haven’t had to use it as evidence as yet (thankfully!) but it makes me feel at ease knowing it is there. I really hope that car manufacturers start to option these into new cars as I’m sure it will make the roads a safer place to be.

Thanks Chris,

That’s the best news I’ve had this year (how sad does that make me?).

I’ve just bought an HP f200 car camcorder on offer at a recent NEC show, so I hope you will be testing it so that I can see whether I’ve managed a “Best Buy”, or not! (Is that even sadder still?)

Great news Chris as I am sure like me, lots of sensible motorists are considering buying one . Any idea when the tests will be available.

Craig Lindsay says:
29 April 2014

When will the results be available?

Ray Clark says:
12 May 2014

Could you let me know when you have results available please

(Re dashboard cameras)
Thank You
Ray Clark

charles buckle says:
28 May 2014

I am interested in a dash-cam. Please can you tell me when you plan to publish your review?
My requirements are particularly:
1. Useable quality video night and day
2. Auto change to night vision
3. Suction cup (and definitely not ‘sticky pad’)
4. Intuitive controls
5. Start/stop with ignition (using cigarette lighter socket)
6. Loop recording (so that it overwrites earlier files without simply stopping because the memory is full)
7. Good length of cable.

Hi Chris,
Good to hear that Which? Is going to review Dashcam. Any indication when the results will be published? Someone mentioned to me about Techmoan reviews on YouTube and I am waiting for your review to buy one. The features of interest would be auto night vision recording, wide angle, GPS, date & time and also multiple cameras so you have full coverage both front and rear of the car. I would go for hardwiring so it will be ON all the time as otherwise there is a possibility of not using on particular journey and you regret later if something happens.
Many thanks,

Ali says:
8 June 2014

Hi Chris, any ideas on when you’ll have the reviews concluded?
thanks…

Hi Ali,
I found today in the current Which? magazine that the test results for in-car camera is expected in August issue. Probably Chris can confirm.
I assume in-car camera and Dashcam are the same.

Woodbeedashcammer says:
14 December 2014

“Thanks to the significant interest in dashboard cameras we are planning a thorough lab test, ”

When??

Hi Woodbee, we’ve published some advice and reviews on Dash cams – it can all be found on the which.co.uk site.

You can read some advice about what to consider when buying a Dash Cam here: http://www.which.co.uk/technology/computing/guides/how-to-buy-the-best-dash-cam/

And you can find the reviews here: http://www.which.co.uk/technology/computing/reviews/dash-cams-and-in-car-cameras/

I’ve been thinking about this recently; no reason why forward and rear facing cameras could not be discretely mounted into new cars so that images are saved to a hard drive (which many new cars already have). They could record all the time the ignition is on (or even when off). Images could be replayed in the car or also be sent to cloud storage and viewed from anywhere using 3G/4G networks.

Grandad says:
22 January 2014

I bought one quite cheaply. The satisfaction of knowing that the actions of the idiot in front, is being recorded, is worth the money! There not that expensive, quite cheap if you look around, and the quality is adequate to identify the car beyond doubt even if the reg number is not captured.

There is also an added bonus, I have clips of the scenery for my holiday movies!

I drive up to 75,000 miles a year in a LGV. I’m fed up with all manner of drivers treating my work place with such disdain. Commercial drivers are under constant scrutiny by the police and VOSA with nary a sip of liquid allowed, nor the bite of an apple. Car drivers use phones in their hands, exceed speed limits, cut lanes and brake sharply in front of us, and car drivers avoiding commercial regs use the outside lane and draw trailers at up to 75mph at night. That’s additional to holiday makers drawing caravans at similar speeds. (All trailers max is 60mph). Sounds like a rant but my camera observes them all and protects me when it’s my word against the police. That’s all in addition to commercial drivers who also break the law and scammers! Get cameras in every vehicle and put average speed checks on all motorways.

Grandad says:
22 January 2014

I was driving down the A12 a few years ago. In front of me was a woman who was about to overtake an artic at 70mph (80 to be exact). She was wearing one of those two-piece hair grips and decided to redo her hair and took both hands off the steering wheel to do so! Had she hit a pothole (and there were plenty of those at the time) she would have gone straight under the artic!

Had I had a dash-cam fitted at the time, I would have copied it to the Police!

airbed, you just stated my experience of commercial drivers they are the worse on the road, no sorry that would be motor cylists, i’m glad you didn’t use the title professional driver

I bought 1 of these cameras, but only paid £49-99 fot it.
It records in HD and also sound. If you need to keep something you just press a button and it records the last 5 minutes onto a card.
Iff you leave it connected to the cig. lighter socket it automatically switches on when you start the car and switches off when you turn off the ignition so you know it’s always on.

Personally, I see them as a great idea and with all the gizmos put into a car these days, this is one of the better ideas.

[This comment has been edited to align with our community guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Mary M Green says:
22 January 2014

Agree with you on these points particularly the Mums doing the school runs. Not only do the drive madly on the road usually exceeding the 20 mile speed limits around school areas, they seem to take off from driveways going over footpaths in top gear. Don’t even have time to reverse out safely.

john says:
22 January 2014

I bought the hp car cam f200,£99 great cam hope i dont have to use it for evidence lol,modern cars now have built in tom toms so would it be a good idea to add a car cam.

A slight departure from earlier posts. I purchased a camera, not to gather incriminating evidence of ne’erdowells, but, as a self-critical driver using the material gathered to assess my own standard of driving. Is my driving of a standard to cope with the tribulations of other road users – including pedestrians. What could I have done differently?

I would be most concerned about the use of camera’s to capture evidence by motorists who choose not to assess how much they may have contributed to the incident. The “it was my right of way” mentality prevails. Consider “giving way in the interests of safety” where you may be deemed to having priority. Remember, pedestrians have “rights of way”, motorists are there by licence!

I use a GoPro, the first type, as a dash camera, In daylight the quality is very good, but at night it’s rather poor. I’ve used the video for evidence only once. This was to support a lady driver whose car was run into by another driver who was going the wrong way around a local car park. Like others I feel it could support my version of events should I be involved in a driving incident.

Andrew McCann says:
22 July 2014

Which version of the Go pro do you use? I have a GoPro Hero 3 + which does respond to night driving well, with the appropriate settings and headlights do not create undue problems.
Personally I chose this because not only does it serve well as a dashcam, but also creates excellent renditions of scenic journeys as personal keepsakes and has many other usual purposes away from its in-car (or exterior) usage,

Phil says:
25 January 2014

It’s easy to see how these cameras can contribute to road safety and, like others, It would be great to see car manufacturers offering them as integrated options.

In the meantime, I greatly appreciate the initial appraisal of the Nextbase Incar Cam, and would ask that Which? undertake a full comparison test, to provide test results, and hopefully, some Best Buy choices.

I really don’t want additional devices cluttering my dashboard with annoying cables; my satnav is factory-fitted and I would like a camera to be likewise factory-fitted.

I wonder how long it will be before the police provide an upload page on their web sites to report traffic offences with video evidence from these devices. For example, today I was waiting before a box junction in the correct lane, and when my exit became clear, I moved forward but someone waiting next to me in the turning-right lane overtook me at the same time and blocked my exit to the box junction, leaving me stationary in the box junction. It’s times like these when it would be extremely useful to have proof of someone else’s offence in order to defend against any allegation of offence by oneself.

The reason for these cameras’ popularity in Russia is because of police corruption. Pedestrians deliberately jump in front of slow-moving vehicles and then lie down on the ground, falsely claiming to be injured. The police, who are in on the scam, are waiting nearby and then attend. In the following video, jump ahead to 3:23 for the best example, where as soon as the police realise that the “offending” vehicle has a dashboard video camera, they abandon the scam and drive off: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=cYrjyk0q4N0#t=203s

Grandad says:
25 January 2014

The reason for their popularity in this country is not dissimilar from that in Russia. A common ploy is to brake sharply, having disconnected the brake lights, causing the car behind to collide.

They can be placed quite discretely behind the mirror causing no real loss to the vision. There have been a few occasions recently when, had the incident turned into an accident, the video evidence would have prevented a false claim being made.

Personally I think this is a brilliant idea, a lot of woman drivers would welcome this as well as most men drivers too, surely this would help a great deal with Insurances which can only be a good thing,
Why should honest decent people be made to suffer at the hands of anyone with no respect for other people or the Law!
Having these cameras surely would also bring Insurance costs down yippee!

Roger says:
29 January 2014

I’m surprised that Which have not cottoned on to this quicker. Like others who have made the same comment, Which should be promoting these cameras and providing best buy options as there are some poor models out there.. I purchased two, one for the front and the other for the rear window (tailgaters are a pain ) They certainly make me feel more relaxed and as everyone says, they are invaluable in the event of an accident (if it wasn’t your fault) or a scam.
Car makers should wake up and start offering these gadgets wired in asap

Janet says:
31 January 2014

We bought one for our new motorhome, having listened to tales of people jamming on the brakes to cause an accident etc. We were so impressed with the camera, clarity, recording etc. we bought a second one for our car. We did get fed up moving the first one from motorhome to car and vice versa. We bought 2x Roadhawk as we understood that buses and HGV’s also used that brand. Now feel secure when driving….although i must remember not to sing….or swear …at other drivers while the camera/microphone is on.!!!

pete says:
31 January 2014

I’ve been using a dash cam on a daily basis for about two years. It cost £25. The picture quality in daylight is excellent but poor in town/city lighting at night. It has a x10 optical zoom which is useful in differing traffic conditions. It stores the video on a micro SD card and overwrites the earliest files when full. I always carry a spare mSD card so that in case of an incident I can swap cards. I have it permanently fitted up behind the interior mirror. It starts recording when the ignition is switched on. It does not have GPS but my Garmin sat nav provides a continuous GPS route. Having seen dash cams owned by other people I would be wary of assuming that more money means a better product, particularly when it comes to picture quality. It seems that many devices, regardless of cost use the same CCD.

I have been researching dash cams for months, but I have delayed purchase hoping Which would test a batch of them to help me decide which is the most reliable. Looking at reviews it seems so many of them give a similar results, but suffer from reliability problems. Come on Which, this is a hot topic…get testing..

Kenny says:
1 February 2014

I struggle to find much info on positioning a camera, what is “legal” Etc. We all want to keep safe but I have seen some of these cameras slap bang in the center of the windscreen.
I would like to see just how Which had the cameras mounted as I trust and believe you would not break any laws.
Regards.

I’ve stuck mine as high as possible behind the rear view mirror so as little as possible is showing unless I bring the screen down. It is just on the edge of the windscreen wipers so it keeps clear!

Andrew McCann says:
22 July 2014

I wholeheartedly agree with you, Kenny. Advertisers constantly show their car cams slap bang in the middle of the windscreen, which is illegal in England where (from my understanding) they should be positioned in such a way as not to visually impact on the area covered by the windscreen wipers. (Apparently laws relating to the use of sat navs are slightly different, which adds to the confusion.)

Also a video screen showing output should not be displayed where it can be seen by the driver.

Failure to meet these very precise requirements can result in prosecution, especially in the case of an accident or at the very least MOT failure.

It is important that Which addresses these issues in any reports and draws attention to those advertisers who do not make the appropriate legal requirements in the UK clear.

SlobbyK says:
3 February 2014

They are obviously a good idea, whether factory fitted (I wish) or purchased and fitted afterwards.

There is anecdotal evidence that it can make better drivers of users as one is conscious of your driving safety and speed because if the video was ever to be used in ‘anger’ your own unsafe driving would be recorded on the same ‘loop’ as the other driver. I know I am more aware of my own driving when its on.

Fleet operators are now fitting them and have found that accident claims against the company have dropped for two reasons. (1) Fraudulent claims and the 50/50, knock for knock claims are reduced as you would expect and is the original reason for fitting and (2) there is a reduction in employee fault accidents because they are aware of the camera and generally drive more safely.

Regarding the choice of devices to use it’s good that Which! has begun testing them and with all product testing its good to balance personal requirements and the unbiased reviews. I personally use an iPhone app that provides me with virtually all the functions and options of the best fixed cams, the only two functions I can find that aren’t covered are automatic starting when the ignition is switched on and a link to a rear view camera. At £1 or so or free it suits me for my requirements. Its certainly an option for anyone with a smart phone to try before opting for a fixed purpose built device.

Odin's Raven says:
4 February 2014

As a jobbing HGV driver I have often wished I could adapt a cam-corder to fit on the dash, but now I find there are dedicated dashcams available, mainly through the internet.
There are a myriad out there and most are Chinese developed for the Russian market but at last we can now get them with instructions in English as well. So, in the absence of a Which? investigation, I trawled the net and found a guy in the Manchester area who has taken it upon himself to review some of them and post his observations on the net. Until Which? makes their report I think you will find him interesting. Just search for “Techmoan”. He has a beginners video to get you up to speed with the technical jargon and then you’re set to watch his reviews. He does not recommend a Best Buy as there are so many and people have differing requirements.
I bought a Mini 0801 on the strength of his reports for just under 60 Sovs. and this records in 1080 HD onto a 32Gb class 6 card with a 120 degree wide angle lens. There is a small screen at the rear so you can detach it to show your evidence to the Police at the scene and you can also take still pix of the damage when you get out of the car. I have it positioned behind the rear view mirror on the passenger side so it does not impede my forward vision and is also difficult to be seen by thieving eyes. I have chased the wiring around the windscreen and passenger footwell to the cigar lighter socket.
I chose the version without GPS as I don’t see the need to have all that extra information logged including your speed, but each to their own. Perhaps you want to show your friends how heavy your right foot is!
Any way I can say I am extremely pleased with my Mini 0801 and look forward to Which? agreeing with me.

Katy bee says:
19 February 2014

Looking for in car camera which will record through the night ie respond to movement around the car ……..which has been vandalised several times over several months ……… By the same individual who needs to be caught on camera. So the police can make an arrest !!! Please if anyone can advise if such a device exists where and how much we would be extremely grateful !
Desperate !!!!!

See my comment below re techmoan