With so many cameras recording motorists' every move in drive-thru lanes, parking lots and tollbooths, vehicle dashboard cameras may seem superfluous. But unlike the others, dashcams are designed to work for you.
Whether you want to monitor your new teen driver's habits, document your vacation road trip, show proof of an auto accident or vandalism, or record nature's unexpected beauty, there is probably a dashcam in your budget.
*Power Source and Storage
Dashcams may be hard-wired through your vehicle's 12-volt system (the most common voltage system) or lighter, say the consumer electronics experts at Engadget. These dashcams will start when you turn on your ignition, and shut down when the car is turned off. You can also use battery-powered dashcams to record video on removable storage in a continuous loop. That way, when the storage is full, the unit overwrites the oldest images. These battery-backup units can continue to record when the car is off. These will save you the hassle of having to delete old footage to clear the memory.
Depending on your price point, dashcam memory cards can support up to 128 gigabytes. The cheapest units hold about 16 gigabytes. Choosing which memory size will work best for you depends on how long you'll be in your car each day and the video resolution you're looking for.
*Views and Resolution
Sean Cooper of Engadget describes how single- and multiple-lens units can allow "for simultaneous front and rear recording." Sophisticated units have shock sensors that will geo-tag your location in case of an accident. These models will recognize something has happened and will prevent overwriting of impact recordings. Ultra-high-definition models are also available.
*Be Careful What You Wish For
Sometimes dashcams can work against the drivers. DashCamTalk offers a comprehensive overview of dozens of dashcams, comparing models on price, size, video quality and reliability with the 30,000 members. With more than 300,000 posts in the website's forum, there are many discussions on dashcam scenarios. For example, there's a scenario where Driver 1 enters an intersection on a yellow light, is hit on the side by Driver 2 from the right, and confidently produces a dashcam video to the police offer at the scene. Although the video proves that Driver 1 did have the right of way on a yellow light, it also shows he was speeding. He received a speeding ticket, and both insurance companies received the video as evidence.
Further, says Nationwide Vehicle Contracts Ltd., posting your accident video online could lead to a court case dismissal if the judge rules the defendant's rights have been compromised.
Similarly, if a dashcam records audio, a driver is obliged to inform all passengers they are being recorded in order to avoid a privacy infraction.
If it's time for you to control your driving narrative with dashcam video and audio recordings, expect to pay anything from approximately $16 to $300, plus installation, with many units selling for less than $100. Decide what you need, install what you want and then enjoy the ride -- and the replay.