Top 5 Cheap Dash Cams 2017

Car crash
Who’s at fault?

Look at the image to the right. Who’s to blame?

It might seem like a ridiculous question given the lack of context, but this is a common situation insurance companies are left with, after a collision. Neither side wants to take the blame, and as a result both parties are forced to pay out.

Investing in a dash cam today can provide the video evidence to save you a fortune in the future.

Whether it’s the increasing case of “crash for cash” incidents, insurance scammersgreedy traffic wardens, or simply bad driving, you can never be too safe on the road. Installing a dash cam gives you the peace of mind to know you’re protected, and they might just reduce the ever increasing insurance costs.

So do you need to spend hundreds to protect yourself on the road? Of course not. We’ve compiled a list of our top 5 best dash cams in 2017, all well within a modest budget. If you have the cash to spend on a high end dash cam it’s certainly worth it, but you don’t need to break the bank for a little peace of mind. The only warning we would give is not to buy the cheapest models out there. What’s the point buying a dash cam if it fails at the vital moment, or the image is too poor to use as evidence?

 

Best Cheap Dash Cams 2017

The following list shows the best 5 dash cams to buy in 2017, based on our personal experience with the products.

Before you start it’s worth noting that all dash cams require a Micro SD card to record any video footage. Make sure you read to the end of the article where I’ve included some recommendations on what to buy, and advice on which cards to avoid.
1. Maisi Smart – Best all round dash cam in 2017

Maisi Smart ReviewAlso known as the Maisi Super HD, this dash cam has good low light recording capabilities, provides great footage during the day, and has exceptional customer support. As one of the best selling car cameras on Amazon UK, this model is more than deserving of it’s near 5 star rating. You get fantastic quality for the price with resolutions up to 1296P, a GPS dongle to provide location and speed data, and both suction and adhesive mounts, offering the choice of temporary or permanent installation.

The design is fantastic, offering a large and high quality screen on the back. This can be used to play back any recorded footage, or access the simple and intuitive menus. The angle is advertised as a 170 degrees wide angle, providing a good field of view, and at the time of writing Maisi are offering a 12 month warranty (be sure to check this is still running). You also get the usual features; Loop Recording, a built in G Sensor, and a Time Stamp, as well as some more advanced features; GPS tracking, motion detection, and a Lane Departure Warning System. I’ll go over some of these below.

The Features

GPS – You can activate this by inserting the USB dongle (included in the box) into the top of the mount. Unlike Sat Navs, this GPS feature is not used for providing directions. Instead, it allows playback of your route on google maps, using a program such as Registrator Viewer.

Resolution – While 1296P sounds like a great resolution, bear in mind you won’t see stunning sharp images such as those taken with professional cameras. Anybody who is into cameras will tell you, capturing great footage is very expensive, and the technology isn’t there yet to allow budget dash cams this privilege. You may also want to reduce the resolution to 1080P, to allow more videos to be stored on the SD card.

Motion Detection – While motion detection is turned on, the camera will automatically record when it senses movement. Be warned though, as the camera battery life isn’t very long you will need to hard wire the camera to your car to make the most of this feature. Be careful not to leave Motion Detection on while using the camera as normal, as this will start and stop recording at seemingly random times. This is one of the most common “faults” with the camera, so make sure this feature is turned off if you are having problems.

In conclusion, the Maisi Smart dash cam provides good quality with a wide range of features. I’ve personally contacted Maisi a couple of times, and their support team has been flawless.

See Full List of Specifications

Pros

  • Great 1296P resolution
  • GPS Dongle to track speed and location
  • 12 Month Warranty with unbeatable customer support
  • Adhesive or suction mount for a choice of temporary/permanent setup

Cons

  • Speed warning set to KPH only
  • No micro SD card included
  • With our model, the audio stopped working after around a year of constant use

Unlike most dash cams, the Maisi Smart requires a faster micro SD card for the higher resolutions. I’ll go into more detail at the end of this article.

Check Price And Availability Here – Amazon Rating – 4.7 Stars (4.7 / 5) – 237 Reviews

 

2. Toguard Mini HD – Best dash cam for a tight budget

Toguard Mini Full HD ReviewThe Toguard Mini Full HD is the cheapest dash cam I am willing to recommend, anything costing less is too risky. When buying a dash cam you want something you can trust, otherwise you aren’t protected. At the time of writing, this dash cam is the most popular on the market, likely due to the attractive price. Although video quality isn’t one of it’s strengths, the Toguard has all the features you’ll need in a reliable dash cam, and a free 16GB Micro SD card to sweeten the deal

Despite the small size (it’s only 2.5 inches wide), the Toguard Mini is surprisingly easy to use, with six good sized buttons on the back and an easy to install suction mount. If you’re looking for your first dash cam, or something to cheapen insurance costs, the Mini HD is a relatively safe pick. Your only concern may be the low quality video, but you’re unlikely to find anything better for the price.

Features & Conclusion

As with the Maisi, you get the usual features; Loop Recording, G-Sensor, and a Time Stamp. The only advanced feature is the motion detection, which is surprisingly accurate. However, you’ll need to hardwire the dashcam to make the most of this feature, as the battery life only lasts around an hour with full charge.

The instructions are badly translated from Chinese, but this isn’t a problem as this dash cam is very easy to set up. You receive a suction mount in the box which works great, and allows you to easily set the dash cam up in multiple vehicles (obviously not at the same time).

This camera is a good choice if you; are on a tight budget, are buying your first dash cam, or if you need a camera for work or insurance purposes. If most of your driving is done during the night, if you struggle to read small writing, or if you want decent video quality, the Toguard is not for you.

Although labelled as 1080P Full HD, the Toguard’s footage is choppy and blurry (max frame rate is only 24fps). If most of your driving is in the dark, skip over this camera as it isn’t worth considering. While footage may be relied on during the day, night footage is borderline useless (Read our full guide for video).

See Full List of Specifications

Pros

  • Good value for money
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Free micro SD card included
  • Impressive motion detection
  • Very small = no obstruction

Cons

  • Crackly audio
  • Fairly low quality footage
  • Very poor video quality in low light

Thumbs up to the manufacturer for including a free micro SD card (at the time of writing).

Check Price And Availability Here – Amazon Rating – 4.4 Stars (4.4 / 5) – 271 Reviews

 

3. Maisi Ultra HD/In-Car Camcorder – Best dash cam for motorway driving

Maisi Ultra HD ReviewThe Maisi Ultra HD dash cam has both superb video quality (greater than 1080p), and an incredibly wide field of view. The wide angle can easily pick up all lanes of the motorway, and picks up overtaking cars very early on. For these reasons we highly recommend this dash cam for motorway drivers, as one of the most common incidents is being hit from the side when changing lanes, or having another car pull into a space that just isn’t big enough.

The quality is good enough to pick up finer details such as number plates during the day, and although clarity is lost at night (all dash cams suffer in the dark), the footage is easily good enough to rely on as evidence. If you are looking for an easy to use, great value for money dash cam, the Maisi Ultra HD should be one of your top considerations. As with all Maisi dash cams, the customer support is second to none.

We love the design of this car cam. The buttons are well made and easy to press, and the menus are simple and intuitive. The power switch covers the SD card slot when turned on, preventing the user from removing the SD card and causing damage. The mount can require a lot of force to attach, but once on, makes the Ultra HD easy to install.

Note: this model is very similar to the Maisi In-Car Camcorder. Both the design and specifications are very similar, and although we’ve yet to test out the In-Car camcorder, we recommend taking a look.

Features & Conclusion

The usual features are included; Loop Recording, G-Sensor, and a Time Stamp setting. The Maisi Ultra HD also includes a Lane Departure Warning System to indicate if you are drifting out of lane. Motion detection is a feature of this camera, but we could only get this working when there was no source of power. For this reason it’s only useful for short stops, as hardwiring isn’t really an option for motion detection.

Resolution – While 1296P sounds like a great resolution, you won’t see stunning sharp images such as those taken with professional cameras. Capturing great footage is very expensive, and the technology isn’t there yet to allow budget dash cams this privilege. You may also want to reduce the resolution to 1080P, to allow more videos to be stored on the SD card. I would also recommend trying out 720P at 60fps for smoother video.

In conclusion, the Maisi Ultra HD offers great protection, particularly on motorway journeys. I have no issues with recommending this product based on personal experience. If you do have any problems with the dash cam, their customer support team is fantastic.

See Full List of Specifications

Pros

  • 1296P resolution looks great
  • Extremely wide field of view
  • Very intuitive and easy to use
  • Great customer support

Cons

  • Very noisy recordings
  • No micro SD card included

Unlike most dash cams, the Maisi Ultra HD requires a faster micro SD card for the higher resolutions. I’ll go into more detail at the end of this article.

Check Price And Availability Here – Amazon Rating – 4.7 Stars (4.7 / 5) – 27 Reviews

 

4. Vantrue N2 Dual Dash CamBest dash cam for taxi drivers / uber drivers

Vantrue N2 ReviewThe Vantrue N2 is the most expensive dash cam on our list, due to the dual camera system. This allows you to record inside the car as well as outside, a must have dashcam for taxi/uber drivers. The front camera’s 1080p footage is great, while the rear facing 720p camera can suffer in the dark. When recording in dual cam mode, the front camera records at 1440 x 1080.

With this camera you get all the usual features; a built in G Sensor, Loop Recording, etc, as well as 2 different parking modes. The first of these uses motion detection, and allows the camera to record if motion is detected near your car. The second is triggered by Time Lapse, and will keep taking photos at a set time interval, before editing them together into a video clip. You’ll need to hard wire the dash cam to make the most of motion detection, as the battery life is very short.

Conclusion

Vantrue is becoming an established authority in the dash cam market, which is emphasized by their good product ratings. The N2 is no different, currently maintaining a 4.4 star rating on Amazon. They also offer a 30 day money back guarantee, as well as a 18 months free replacement (click here to visit Amazon and check this is still being offered). Setup is very easy, and the instruction manual is informative and easy to understand.

The Vantrue N2 is a good choice for anyone needing to record both inside and outside of the car. If you only require a camera facing inside the car, you should consider buying a cheaper dash cam and facing it inwards (not all models can do this). If this dash cam is currently over £120 we suggest waiting, as it goes on sale fairly often.

See Full List of Specifications

Pros

  • Dual dash cam system
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Motion Detection
  • Nice design

Cons

  • Inside camera is poor in the dark
  • No micro SD card included

Check Price And Availability Here – Amazon Rating – 4.4 Stars (4.4 / 5) – 124 Reviews

 

5. Apeman 1080P Dash Cam – Best dash cam for front and rear protection

Apeman Dash Cam Review

Like the Vantrue N2, the Apeman dash cam has a dual camera system. However, rather than for recording inside the vehicle, the Apeman’s second camera can be used to record behind. It may seem like an obvious decision, but the majority of dash cams on the market only protect the front of your car. As one of the most common accidents is being hit from behind while stationary or slowing down, the Apeman provides more complete protection.

The quality of the front facing 1080p 30fps camera is impressive for the price you pay, and still offers adequate footage during the night. Although the rear camera only manages 480p, footage is still fit for purpose, and demonstrates this dash cam’s fantastic value for money. 

The Apeman dash cam has a little bit of a cheap plastic feel, but you would expect this from a budget camera. Wiring up the camera can be a bit fiddly and time consuming depending on how much cable you want to hide, as you will need to run a power cable from the cigarette lighter socket to the front camera, and a long wire from the front camera to the back one.

Features & Conclusion

The dash cam has a built in G Sensor to protect important footage, and uses loop recording to provide more space on the SD card (not included at the time of writing). There is also a slot for a GPS dongle to track speed and location data, but this needs to be purchased separately. The only other notable feature is the Motion Detection, but as this camera has no internal battery, you need to hardwire it to make use of this parking protection. 

In conclusion, the main reason for purchasing this dash cam is for both front and rear protection. Be warned though, the rear camera quality is poor, and may not pick up number plates.

See Full List of Specifications

Pros

  • Front and Rear cameras
  • Adjustable camera
  • Easy to attach

Cons

  • Rear camera requires long wires
  • Rear camera quality is poor

Check Price And Availability Here – Amazon Rating – 4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5) – 44 Reviews

 

Honourable Mentions

Nextbase 101 While other companies may come and go, Nextbase have established themselves as one of the big players in the dash cam market. Although this particular model only manages 720p with a 120 degree viewing angle, it certainly offers value for money.

Toguard Stealth This dash cam is quickly becoming on of the best selling and top rated cameras on the market. Currently at 4.8 stars on Amazon UK, this model offers a stealthy design with a 170 degree lens, 1080p resolution, and built in WiFi to transfer files.

Oldshark FHD Dash Cam Although we have yet to test out this camera, it currently sits at 4.6 stars with 100 reviews on Amazon. With 1080p capabilities and a free 32GB micro SD card, it’s worth taking a look.

Toguard Dual Dash CamWith similar features to the Apeman, this Toguard model uses 1080p front and 480p rear facing cameras for a similar price.

 

Best Dash Cams 2017
ModelResolutionMain FeatureAmazon Rating 
1. Maisi Smart Dash Cam
(Best All Round Dash Cam)
1296pGPS / LDWS4.7 Stars (4.7 / 5)Check Price
2. Toguard Mini HD Dash Cam
(Best For A Tight Budget Cam)
1080pValue for money4.4 Stars (4.4 / 5)Check Price
3. Maisi Ultra HD
(Best For Motorway Driving)
1296pWide field of view4.7 Stars (4.7 / 5)Check Price
4. Vantrue N2
(Best For Uber/Taxi Drivers)
1080pInside & outside cams4.4 Stars (4.4 / 5)Check Price
5. Apeman 1080P Dash Cam
(Best For Front & Rear Protection)
1080pFront &
rear cams
4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)Check Price

 

Which Micro SD Card Should You buy?

Most dash cams have a feature called Loop Recording, which allows video files to be recorded in loops of various lengths. As these loops are being recorded, the dash cam decides whether or not the video files are important. If the driver manually protects the loop with a button, or the G Sensor detects an impact, that particular loop is marked as important.

Once the micro SD card fills up, the dash cam will begin overwriting the earliest footage marked as unimportant. In this way, one SD card can provide infinite storage. Although this sounds like a great way of doing things, the SD card is slightly damaged each time files are overwritten.

 

Choice 1 – NAND Type

Without boring you with too much detail, there are two common types of micro SD storage, TLC and MLC. TLC cards are cheaper and less reliable, usually experiencing failures after overwriting around 500 times. These are the majority of cards you see on the market. MLC is more reliable, allowing around 2000 to 3000 overwrites before failing. The downside is, they are more expensive. The choice is yours, you will likely find TLC to be sufficient.

 

Choice 2 – Resolution

If you’re recording at 1080p Full HD, you’ll need a minimum Class 10 Micro SD card. Different dash cams support various sizes, but your safest bet is with a 16GB or 32GB card. If you’re buying one of the Maisi dash cams above, I recommend a Class 10 U3 card (SanDisk Extreme) for the highest resolution, as these cards have a minimum write speed of 30mb/s.

 

warningUnfortunately the Amazon store has become flooded with fake micro SD cards. These are either slower than described, have less storage than advertised, or refuse to work entirely. It is very important that the item is dispatched and sold by either Amazon or the manufacturer. If you purchase from another seller you are likely to receive a counterfeit product.

Even with these precautions there is still a chance of receiving a faulty item. Don’t worry though, as Amazon will replace or refund any broken or counterfeit items. Just make sure to test out the SD card when it arrives, and get in touch with Amazon if there are any problems. You should also consider reporting the seller so other buyers aren’t caught out.

 

Don’t Buy The Sandisk Ultra

While Sandisk is a reputable manufacturer who offer some fantastic products, the Sandisk Ultra Micro SD card has been known to have compatibility issues with a wide range of dash cams.

 

SD Card List

1. Sandisk Extreme – Class 10 U3, perfect for 1296P resolution of the Maisi dash cams. For 1080p dash cams, go for another card.

2. Transcend High Endurance – Highly recommended if you’re willing to spend a bit more. MLC micro SD card designed specifically for dash cams and security systems. Class 10 speed, good enough for 1080p.

3. Kingston Micro SD – Be wary as I’ve received a couple of fake Kingston cards. Usually the cheapest micro SD cards. At Class 10, they are suitable for 1080p.

4. Samsung Evo – Similar to the Kingston, but tend to be more reliable in my experience. Class 10 speed, fast enough for 1080p.

5. Lexar 300x – We’ve never used this card before, but as a Class 10 card it’s fast enough for 1080p.

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