► Getting a dash cam could save you money
► The cheapest ones you can get in 2020
► This article is constantly updated with the latest deals
Dash cams have been growing in popularity over the past decade, and in 2020 it's easy to see why. There are probably more benefits to owning a dash cam than you’ve realised, and they currently represent peace of mind to over a million UK motorists and counting.
But which one to buy?
Our team looked at over 40 cameras to narrow down the cheapest dash cams for the highest quality. We know that finding a reliable model on a budget is not easy, and like we’ve found time and time again, paying the extra dollar doesn’t always mean you’re getting a better product. After interrogating the most reasonable dashcam options available today, we’ve found the below list to be our current top favourites.
So why do you need a dash cam?
Depending on your insurance provider, getting a dash cam can reduce your monthly premiums – and in the event of an accident, a dashboard camera can also be an invaluable piece of kit. As well as proving an accident wasn’t your fault, dash cams will often increase the speed of settlements and help you hang on to your no-claims bonus, too. That’s the dash cam essentially paying for itself right there.
What’s more, they're a great safeguard against a more unsettling trend; those increasingly popular 'crash-for-cash' crimes.
The best cheap dash cams for 2020
Below our team have narrowed down the UK’s best value devices, ensuring the footage is accurate and useable to make it a worthwhile investment. This involves looking at the reliability of the recorded footage, the features included and the quality of the product overall.
You can spend much more than this, but you may not need to. Read to the end or click here to see the best dashcams over £100
For those looking to purchase a dash cam, but not sure of what they’re after exactly, we’ve also put together a handy buying guide at the end of this article.
Our recommended cheap dash cams:
Our team have spent days reviewing the specs of these top rated dash cams to find the ones that suit a smaller budget and deliver what you need. Here’s what you need to know.
Once again, Apeman makes waves in our budget dash cam list. With another great model, this time in a compact form, this cam ticks all the boxes. With 170 degree wide angle lens, great night vision and all the necessary basics from G-sensor and motion detection to loop recording, this is a sound choice and feels slick. The most compact cam in the APEMAN range being around the size of an egg, it’s our favourite if your priority is finding something discreet. Bear in mind though, that the viewing screen therefore also smaller, but large enough to make sure you’ve got the lens angled correctly.
Best cheap dash cam for reliability and discreet installation
This product is our second cheapest cam but the best value for money, as you can get all the features of the above APEMAN, plus a free 32GB MicroSD in exchange for a review. The card came quickly, and the picture is of good quality in all lighting, provided your speed is reasonable. The only downside is the set up manual is rather poor, and the wiring is fiddly, but compromises are to be expected for this exceptionally low price.
Best cheap dash cam for value for money (SD card included)
The large F2.0 aperture of this dash cam means that the lens performs well in low light conditions, although the 120 degree lens is lower than we would like, usually aiming for 150 to 170 degrees (as wide as possible, ideally). Set up was easy and it’s consistently good online reviews are a testament to this cams reliability and performance, despite its slightly smaller field of vision.
Best cheap dash cam for night driving
This dash cam offers real-time display and replay on its 3” screen, with a fairly intuitive interface, but some may find this larger screen intrusive. Along with the usual features, it also offers a 170 degree field of view, F2.0 aperture, 1920x1080P FHD and 60FPS lens, making it the best quality camera in our list. It also has audio recording options, and both suction cup and adhesive mounting stickers.
Best cheap dash cam for high image quality and immediate playback
This compact model had the highest online rating of all of our cams, despite being the cheapest. Audio recording is also optional, along with 3'' large IPS screen offers good functionality. Adjustable exposure and frequency also allows for some level of lens customisation, WDR (Wide Dynamic Range) and 6 glass fixed-focus ensures a good image. Loop recording, 24 parking monitor and G-Sensor is all included - just provide the memory card.
Best cheap dash cam for consistently good reviews
Featuring a 1080P FHD CMOS sensor and 170 degree angle lens, the image quality was good in a range of light conditions. It has a compact feel despite having a 3” screen, but does not offer playback facilities. Despite this, installation and use is easy, and with a 30-day money-back guarantee and quick customer service in case you are in need of setup support. It can also endure up to 75°C which is unique to this cam, although it’s unlikely to be a feature you will need to utilise if you live anywhere north of Liverpool.
Best cheap dash cam for extreme temperature endurance
For a slightly higher price you can get some extra security features built in, such as GPS that allows you to see the route you travelled at the time of an incident and how fast you were going. This can be really useful additional evidence if you are concerned about protecting yourself while on the roads from negligent drivers.
Alongside GPS, this cam also has everything you could require in terms of image quality, with Full-HD 1080P/30FPS, 170 degree angle lens, auto-looping and G-sensor recording lock for saving footage in the event of an accident. It also has built in wifi, which is a nice extra.
Cheapest dash cam with GPS
The best dash cams over £100
We don't just test the budget models - some advanced dashcams and well-known brands are well worth the extra outlay, but whether it's worth spending more than the selection above really depends on how involved you want to get with the technology. The three mentioned below offer more than just basic recording, but many advanced features rely on smartphone interaction and extra apps.
Nextbase GW-622, £249
If there's an Apple of dashcams, it's Nextbase. Over several years, they've evolved sensors, mounts and optics that refine the user experience to the point that now, the mounts are powerful magnets, the software's quick to set up, and the build quality is clearly superior to lower-cost alternatives. Having said that, the focus on 'quality' does mean there are fewer crazy features.
What the GW622 does offer is done incredibly well. From the first step - the mount - to the downloading and sharing functions, it's seamless and 'just works'. Magnetic attachment means no clips or dangling leads, and the mount design is efficient and unobtrusive, so finding the best position on the windscreen doesn't mean sacrificing your view out.
Even in the flat, tight-spaced confines of a Jeep windscreen it's possible to hide the camera entirely behind the mirror. For cars with bulky sensor arrays, it's low-enough profile to sit in a space as compact as the sunvisor. You can use a suction-cup or stick on mount, the former is preferable and at least when new and clean, stays firmly attached for weeks without leaving any residue, even in direct sunlight.
You can choose a default frame rate and resolution - with a 16GB card there's no reason to use anything less than 4K, but you can also film in HD resolutions at 120 frames per second; while that would be good for accident assessment, you need to select it - it doesn't automatically change modes when detecting an incident.
Of course, what's most important is the quality of the image. Clarity, exposure and detail are very good. NextBase were one of the first to use a circular polariser to cut reflections and enhance readability of numberplates, and this is now perfectly integrated; everything about the GW-622 has been fully developed and researched, unlike quickly-packaged reference designs branded by overnight firms.
Where the GW622 shines for the end user is in the sheer ease of use, from automating the smartphone's WiFi connection to What Three Words location, and automatic connection to emergency services in the event of an accident, it's a thorough, polished system all the way through. The high cost is justifiable if you want the best.
How to buy the right dash cam, and what to look for
When it comes to finding the best dash cam for you, there’s a fair few factors that contribute to making a model the right one for your needs.
The first and most obvious is the quality of the footage. In the event of an incident, if you can’t rely on that footage to prove your case, it’s a waste of an investment so you need to make sure it’s reliable in all conditions. This is the first thing we looked at when rating the above dash cams.
The main specification that you need to look out for here is the video resolution, so for this the recording needs to be 1080p at least - 720p just isn’t good enough. All of the dash cams mentioned here are 1080p or above, but there are other image quality features that come into play to really make it a quality product.
These include the frame rate (how many frames are captured per second), having ‘low light performance’ features (meaning it can see well at any time of day), a high dynamic range (good levels of contrast in the image) and the widest lens possible (minimum 120 degrees).
Other features that might impact which dash cam is best for you come down to your use of the camera, how it looks & is mounted and accessing the footage. For instance, screens are useful if you are doing more one-off recordings such as a specific journey or track run, but for everyday driving where you are continually recording, you may want something less intrusive. However if you don’t care about aesthetics, this may not be an impact factor.
Mounting can be another important feature, since you may wish to move the cam between vehicles. Most dash cams utilise suction cups that fit to the windscreen, however some models come with 3M double-sided adhesive stickers to offer a more permanent and secure solution.
Accessing the footage can either be done via mobile apps or by plugging the device into your computer; the former of course offers more instant access to footage, but this bonus usually comes with a heftier price tag. If you’re happy to take on the hassle of unmounting, connecting and manually downloading the files, you’re likely to save a good few pennies, but it depends on what’s important to you. You can spot which cams can connect to your mobile by seeing which ones have WiFi smartphone features.
We’ve outlined all the things that you need to consider when choosing your dash cam in a quick checklist below.
Checklist for choosing a quality dashcam
- HD Quality video (1080x1920)
- High frame rate
- Has ‘low light performance’ features (measured in ISO)
- Ideally has a wide lens type (120-150 degrees)
- High/wide dynamic range (good levels of contrast)
- G-force sensor (most have this) when sensor is triggered it specifically saves that segment
- Optional but useful features:
- Ease of installation
- Ease of access to footage (eg. phone apps)
- GPS – tags the video at location
One thing to note, is that we found the cleanliness of the windscreen and back window hugely impacted the quality of the video. It might seem obvious but it’s a key point to bear in mind if you’re going to make the investment, especially if your visits to the car wash are somewhat infrequent; for optimal results, ensuring that your car is well-maintained will be one of the greatest factors in obtaining clear, usable footage.