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Featured Product: Vava 1080p Dash Cam | $40 | Amazon

The first time I totaled my car, I was just 18 years old. It was a late and blustery December night when a speeding vehicle slammed into mine, seemingly coming out of nowhere. The driver bolted away on foot and appeared intoxicated, yet the accident was deemed my fault.

It impacted my wallet for years as my insurance premiums shot through the roof, even higher than the already steep rates for young drivers. If I had owned a dash cam back then, I would’ve had the evidence needed to clear my name and prove that the accident wasn’t my fault.

Don’t make that mistake now. You never know when an accident might happen, and you’re better safe than sorry. Invest a little bit of a cash to equip your dash with a camera and avoid the battle against plausible deniability should you end up in a wreck down the line.

Best for Cars Overall: Vava 1080p Dash Cam

Illustration for article titled Rest Assured You’re Not at Fault With the Best Dash Cams to Tell the Whole Story

Graphic: Chaya Milchtein

Jaime V Salazar writes in an Amazon review that she too was a skeptic and didn’t understand why anyone even needs a dashcam. But she wanted to know what all the fuss was about, so she bought the Vava 1080p dash cam, an economical choice sold for just $40 on Amazon.

“I am pretty impressed with this little thing,” she writes in her review.

The video quality on this dash cam is good—not the best, but it gets the job done without the unnecessary bells and whistles that drive the price up for most of its competitors. In my own use, I was impressed with the lightweight design, intuitive setup, and bright screen to top it all off

Jamie did point out one troubling factor, which I picked up on as well. “The battery life is terrible. My guess is you should always have the cord and car adapter when using it. I was running it just off the battery and it died fairly quickly,” she writes.

As long as you aren’t looking for top-of-the-line video quality, don’t need any fancy features, and don’t mind keeping the device plugged in, the Vava 1080p dash cam is all business and no frills. You can’t do better at this price point.

Best for Road Photographers: Vava 4K Dash Cam

Illustration for article titled Rest Assured You’re Not at Fault With the Best Dash Cams to Tell the Whole Story

Image: Gabe Carey/The Inventory

While the 1080p version listed above hits the sweet spot in terms of price and functionality for most drivers, there’s an even better version available for those who want improved image quality.

The Vava 4K Dash Cam upgrades the image resolution to 4K, which means you’ll not only get clearer results when monitoring your surroundings, but you might actually want to use the thing to grab some sweet, sweet 4K content on roadtrips. The included infrared snapshot remote lets you grab little 20-second clips of footage, perfect for social media sharing.

Amidst a pandemic and shelter-in-place orders, the latter might be out of reach for now, but our own Gabe Carey sees big possibilities for the future.

“The snapshot remote, its killer app so to speak, provides a visual reference to my friends and family back home for the wild west that is NYC traffic amid shelter-in-place. On weekends, a 320mAh battery keeps it alive to ensure days of uninterrupted street parking surveillance. And someday, I hope, I’ll be able to use it as originally intended—for taking Instagram-worthy shots documenting scenic drives through rural and urban America and everything in between.”

Best for ADAS: Thinkware Q800PRO Car Dash Cam

Illustration for article titled Rest Assured You’re Not at Fault With the Best Dash Cams to Tell the Whole Story

Graphic: Chaya Milchtein

Thinkware offers a dash cam that does a whole lot more than just record the view outside of your car as you drive. It boasts the advanced driver assistance systems new cars are known for, albeit without the price tag to match. The dash cab alerts the driver if they aren’t paying attention to impending forward collisions, lane departures if the driver is drifting, and front vehicle departures.

“The video quality is great, [it has a] very sleek design so I can’t even see it while driving,” B Jackson writes in an Amazon review of the dash cam. “I had hardwired it a few months ago and it has been great to see it recording motion and events when the car is in park to make sure my vehicle stays safe and any incidents are recorded.”

The Thinkware Q800Pro is easy to install and doesn’t have to be hardwired unless you want it to be. “The Thinkware Q800PRo may be expensive, but is also fairly worry-free and installation-friendly,” writes Trianine. “Comes with both a hardwire kit and cigarette adapter so you can fire it up immediately, and then worry about the installation later.”

The cloud feature is on that multiple reviewers took issue with. “It really isn’t that great since the camera requires an external internet connection to make this work,” Jackson continues in their review. “So if you use your phone, sure it will keep things backed up when you have it connected.”

The cost is steep, but the extra trappings make it a great value purchase.

Bottom Line?

Even if your budget is small, you’re better off getting something simple rather than skipping a dash cam altogether. While the pricier models on this list offer advanced features and functionality, which can certainly come in handy, the basic $40 Vava 1080p cam is a solid option. And if you try it and want something more powerful, you can move up from there.

This article was originally published by Chaya Milchtein in December 2020 and updated with new information by Andrew Hayward on 02/05/2021. 

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