Depending on where you live and how much you drive installing a dashboard camera may be something that is really useful for your everyday driving. If you commute hours a day on busy highways or if you have business vehicles a dashboard camera can give you evidence you need when other people cause accidents or even if you just want to monitor your employees use of the delivery truck.
The type and cost will be up to you and they can vary greatly from under $50 for a full HD Kit all the way into the thousands of dollars just to setup one vehicle. Price really will be a major factor and you can expect to get what you pay for however some of the cheaper solutions can give excellent results for their price.
We will look at some of the options you have for buying and installing your camera and how you can automate its use so you won’t need to think about it until you need to review the tape.
First lets get this out of the way If I name company names in this how to its for my convenience its not an endorsement. I may or may not have ever owned any of the products I am describing here they are just examples of whats out there and what you might come across. For all the years I have been writing content I have never written a prepaid endorsement.. however hey if the price is right hahaha .. yeah well seriously contact me if you want to give me thousands of dollars of products I want for free or cash money.. even gold would be acceptable.. … now back to the How To..
What is the Price Range for a Dashboard Camera?
Sticker shock might not hit you at first when you are looking for a dashboard camera. Lets face it because of its popularity many people are going to want to take a look at the gopro cameras. Although GoPro is not the most expensive HD camera you can purchase you can still expect to pay $200 to $400 even on a discount for just the base camera. There are some really nice features that come with the GoPro that might make it worth that much money but if you are looking for a basic generic Dashboard camera you probably are not going to consider this camera. If you are making videos with the camera that happen to include video of you driving that is another thing.. but for recording whats happening in front of you while you drive its a bit of overkill.
On the other hand if you are going on a family vacation and expect to be doing a lot of driving across country .. maybe thousands of miles and you also need a camera to record your daily treks outside of the vehicle.. then a go pro with a dash mount might be an excellent choice. In that case you would just want to have a memory card that is used for the road and a separate one for family memories.
The next option since we are naming names here is the Vivitar HD Dashcams with an assortment of mounting kits for most applications. You can expect to pay in the range of $40 for this entire kit including the camera and mounts which is about 10% of a GoPro Black version camera. But the thing is although it is not a great camera for everyone it gives you much more than 10% of the value of a GoPro for a dashcam application. Sure the video is a little sketchy and you don’t get WiFi or Mobile Apps but you get a camera and a bunch of mounts and all you really need is a decent cheap Memory card and you are off to the rat race.
Not to mention if you leave it on your dash its less likely someone is going to crash through your window to steal it than if it was a GoPro.. then again whos to say if thieves think that hard.
The two final options are mini spy cameras that may or may not look like a camera and may or may not come with mounts. Spy cameras are often very small and although you have a 50% chance they will work well they often don’t live long in harsh environments or situations where they are going to be mounted, unmounted, dropped .. whatever. They also don’t provide high quality video but they do provide very acceptable video for surveillance situations. For video quality they are on the same level of the very first hd point and shoot cameras .. the video can look like you are shooting underwater because it is kinda wavy if you understand what I mean.. but it is HD so you can normally find a clip or still or two out of the loop to prove a point like someone ran a redlight in front of you.
The other type of dashcam is an actual dashcam. This is the type of video camera that is designed specifically for use as a dashboard camera. Many vehicle manufacturers are installing video cameras especially in rear bumpers of high dollar SUVs because people are reversing over their children in the driveway… however there are also commercial packages that conceal the cameras in commercial applications such as fleet vehicles. An actual professional dash camera setup may or may not provided you with all the options you need and the video may not be much better than what we have already talked about but they are worth looking into if you are doing this for business reasons. For that reason we won’t be covering the commercial dashcams. I suggest you contact your Fleet provider or car manufacturer for these options because they will be specific to your vehicle.
What do you need when installing a Dashboard Camera?
The most important thing about a dashboard cam is its mounting device. I personally like ones that have a universal tripod mount. They can be mounted to any tripod screw meaning you can use your manufacturer’s mount kits or buy one. You can even hit the dollar store and buy a small tripod mount and use it to make your own mount. That is what I did and it works pretty good.
Mounts should allow you to access the camera’s features to turn it on and off and some of the kits out there are in sealed cases that allow some level of water resistance. They may or may not require you to remove the camera every time you want to turn it on and off so be aware of that.
Double sided tape and velcro are your friends when actually mounting the mount on your dash. You want a mount that can eventually be removed without destroying your dash if you want to resell your vehicle in the future. Look for mounts that incorporate this in their designs or ones that you can modify if they have a large flat mounting surface that can accept tape and velcro.
As for the camera although you may want to turn this feature off while it is in continual use for battery conservation you may want a camera that has a lcd preview. Even if that preview is small it will give a police officer some evidence up front and it will also let you double check your positioning of the camera when mounted. If you can’t preview the camera while mounted you will need to do some testing and then make sure the mount does not lose that position when you seat the camera for daily use.
External battery sources are great because that means you can use the camera for extended periods and not worry about charging. This may also give you the ability to power on the camera automatically when you insert your key. But a drawback would be that if you remove your keys at the scene of an accident your camera would stop working.
You will also need a fast memory card to record in HD and you want one that is large enough to last a few hours. A Class 10 Micro SD card is a good idea and you should check your camera’s options to see if video will be saved as a loop which will record over the earliest part once the card is full or if the entire file would be lost or if you need to manually delete the full video card to allow further recording. I have seen all of those options. The cameras that will loop over the earliest video normally will also only record single smaller files which you would have to piece together.. but that allows them to go over the first file when the storage media is full.
Some cameras can also tell when the vehicle is in motion. This is called a potentiometer which is different than motion detection. Motion detection is if something in front of the camera moves not if the camera is moving down the road.
As covered before some cameras will power up and begin recording when the car is started that is also an option.
Forgetting to use your camera will be something you need to get use to. Having it work automatically is the workaround but not every option of this solution is great. That is why professional dedicated commercial dash cams are thousands of dollars and the solution you are looking at may only be $50.
You won’t get every option no matter what solution you are considering.
If you are on a budget like most of us I would look for a under $50 camera solution that comes with an assortment of mounts. Don’t worry about all the functionality if you need a camera now.
If you are putting a camera in your car for a road trip then a higher end camera that you can use for general use is a good way to go. Just make sure to remove it from your car whenever you stop or it might be a magnet for thieves.
If you are protecting your business vehicles then contact the manufacturer of the truck or car.
They will have a variety of options that will include hidden internal and external cameras to monitor the road and your employees. Just remember the legal problems with this and you will most likely need to have your employees sign a release to be monitored by camera anytime they are on the clock or using or around your equipment.
My personal preference is to go cheap and see how you like that. If there are problems that make you want to buy something better then you will be solving specific problems and not just buying something really expensive that might not do much more for you. Remember you aren’t recording a hollywood picture you are just keeping a record of your driving.
And those spy cameras.. they are a great novelty or good to use in specific situations and the cost is cheap… but I would not rely on them for monitoring anything security or safety related because they are known to fail.
Please do your own shopping and read reviews of specific models. I hope I pointed you in the right directions for your needs and be safe out there on the road. There are a lot of people that really should not be driving.