The 8 Best Radar Detectors to Buy in 2017

Avoid getting pulled over with these great radar detectors

Everyone is guilty of having a lead foot once in a while. If you're heavy on the pedal, don't rely on your gauges because, sometimes, they just don't work. Let's face it: Seeing blue and red strobe lights pop up in your rearview mirror is one of the worst feelings while on the road.

Fortunately, there are radar detectors that can tip you off on where those speed traps are, so you can avoid paying hefty fines and getting points on your license. 

Not sure which detector to buy? Whether you're looking for the best range, the best design or the best value, these eight radar detectors are your get-out-of-jail-free cards.

The Escort Passport 9500ix is our pick for the best overall radar detector. Capable of detecting X, K, KA, Pop and Laser, the Escort offers a state-of-the-art GPS-based detection system that offers very few false alerts. The ability to provide maximum threat protection with minimal false threats is a fantastic aspect of the 9500ix. The internal GPS offers a comprehensive set of alert features, and allows the user to mark a location as a speed trap, red light camera, speed camera and more. Furthermore, the internal GPS can alert you as you approach a crowdsourced area that has been deemed as a potential threat.

Crystal-clear voice alerts and a high-resolution display provide another level of excellence. Multiple LEDs offer an easy-to-read display in all lighting conditions, with a night-mode that dims the display to avoid being too bright. The included SmartCord has a blinking red light when radar is detected, allowing the 9500ix to run in “dark mode” so the driver can continuously stay apprised of potential threats. Additionally, the SmartCord pairs with an “Escort Live” iPhone/Android app that allows crowdsourced traffic alerts, speed traps, etc. The speed of the vehicle will help adjust the necessary detection range, increasing when you’re driving faster and bringing the range back in while driving around town.

Feature rich with a budget-friendly price, Whistler’s CR90 radar detector is an affordable option that covers all the radar and laser frequency bands currently employed by law enforcement. On top of that, it adds an internal GPS that offers advanced alerts for threats like red-light and speed cameras. Additionally, the CR90 offers a “Stay Alert” feature that helps you stay awake and focused on lengthy road trips. Upon detecting a signal, the blue LED displays the signal strength and a voice alert announces the type of signal detected. The addition of voice alerts ensures that drivers will keep their eyes on the road without any visual distraction from the CR90. Full dark mode is available for night-time driving, which makes the CR90 difficult to identify outside of the vehicle. Unfortunately, with a relatively low price tag, there are a few tradeoffs (mainly the lack of an over-the-speed-limit alert and a crowdsourced option that identifies threats other drivers have picked up).

When it comes to detection range, few radar detectors do it better than the Valentine One. The 10.6-ounce, 6 x 2.5 x 4-inch detector promises excellent range performance, thanks to multiple radar antennas. With one forward-facing and one rear-facing antenna, the Valentine will help identify the signal direction. The Valentine can detect laser, as well as the X, K, Ku and Ka bands. While unconfirmed from the manufacturer, online reviews have pegged the Valentine’s signal reach to almost five miles.

When a threat is detected, Valentine’s auto-mute feature goes to work providing you a full volume first alert, then dialing down the sound with each consecutive alert to avoid annoying the driver. Unfortunately, it lacks up-to-date features like GPS technology that helps avoid many false signal reports or early warning for red light and speed cameras. The interface itself is simplified, although not as digital or advanced as today’s more current options. The main knob turns the Valentine on and off, adjusts the volume and offers just the right amount of information you need, such as the band being detected, strength, etc.

At 1.9 pounds and 5.4 inches long, the Max 360 is larger than most detectors on this list, but with great size comes a greater feature set. With a similar feature set to the Passport Max2, the Max 360 adds enhancements like directional alerts to the display, which tells you the direction a radar ping is coming from. The Max 360 detects all the currently used law enforcement bands: X, K, Ka, Ka-Pop, plus laser detection. The Max 360 includes the “Auto” setting, which expands its detection range based on the speed of the vehicle (so you'll have a longer range on a highway and a shorter range on suburban streets).

As the name implies, the combination of GPS, Escort Live for crowdsourced results and 360-degree protection fills the Max 360 to the brim with features. Extra features include an over-the-speed-limit alert, display lights showing different types of radar detection and Bluetooth connection via your smartphone through Escort Live. The pre-installed Defender Database adds the red-light and speed cameras, though some Escort users have complained that the database is too small and that Escort doesn’t offer frequent updates.

“Small size, big performance,” touts Cobra of the DSP 9200BT radar detector. Measuring just 3.35 x 2.28 x 1.1 inches and weighing eight ounces, this device is one of the most compact on the market. It’s also Cobra’s first digital detector, which extends range and increases reliability by taking advantage of digital signal processing (DSP) to differentiate between real alerts and false alerts. The DSP 9200 also connects to Cobra’s iRadar Community via Bluetooth for added protection.

With the accompanying Cobra iRadar app, you can tap into speed camera and trap notifications, not to mention real-time user-reported police and traffic threat information. The app also includes a navigation function, a car finder and music controls. Reviewers on Amazon especially like that it has distinct sounds to differentiate the type of band it's detecting and that the power cord has a USB input, so you can charge an extra device while using your radar.

Powered by two AA batteries, Escort’s Solo S3 is the lone cordless radar detector on this list, but it separates itself from the pack by adding a convenience factor. Setup is just as easy as its corded rivals, just place it on the windshield or dashboard and drive. If you’re someone who switches cars often or travels frequently, the lack of a necessary power cord makes the S3 an immediate consideration. The S3 can detect the usual spread of radar, pop and laser frequencies, and it even offers a safety signal alerting you to emergency vehicles in close proximity. Unfortunately, while running on battery detection range is more limited, however, it can still provide ample coverage for driving in most city and urban environments.

To aid in battery conservation, the S3 will automatically switch off after a vehicle has stopped for more than 25 minutes. Overall, the battery life of the S3 will be around 30 to 40 hours (even with the battery conservation functionality) before requiring new batteries. Beyond its cordless identity, the S3 offers a standardized feature set in line with its Escort siblings, including a high-resolution OLED display that identifies signal strength, type of threat and four brightness levels. Auto, highway and city mode are available, which enables the S3 to determine the appropriate range to identify threats and reduce false alerts. Unfortunately, it lacks GPS alerts, which means it does not offer red light or speed camera detection. But, if you’re a traveler that moves cars often, the S3 is a great choice that goes anywhere you do.

While most radar detectors are hardly noteworthy in the design department, the Beltronics GT-7's smooth lines and copper and black color combination make it stand out. Unlike some detectors that can feel blocky, the GT-7 feels like it was designed to look as good as it operates. At 1.5 pounds, the 8 x 2 x 8.5-inch GT-7 is one of the longer detectors on this list, but feels well-built. Setup takes no time at all with quick, easy attachment of the magnetic bracket to the windshield and running the power cord to a 12v power insert. The power cord aids the GT-7 with a series of LED lights that alert the driver to law enforcement detection. Additionally, the high-resolution display on the detector itself shows the type, strength and quality of signals.

Also available is real-time speed data determined by the included GPS that alert a driver when going too fast. Three driving modes are available, each of which works to scale back or enlarge the signal area depending on the driving environment to help remove potential false alerts. Threat detection is handled extremely fast, thanks to a power Digital Signal Processing microprocessor that also works to identify false signals from real alerts. All potential law enforcement bands are built-into the GT-7, which offers full range protection in the form of 360-degree radar detection. While it misses out on crowdsourced data, the overall look of the GT-7 is matched only by its feature set and long-range detection. 

While it's more expensive than its sibling, Escort’s Passport Max2 is a shining example of how Escort is quickly becoming the most dominant force in radar detectors. However, unlike the 9500ix, the Passport Max2 has multi-color display features intuitive icons that help easily identify the type of threat being alerted. User-selectable backlit colors help match to the driver’s existing vehicle interior gauges. The 9.6-ounce Max2 incorporates the Escort Live app via Bluetooth to an Android or iPhone, which provides real-time sharing of information between other drivers on the road. That threat detection and information sharing is benefitted by one of the longest listening ranges on the market. Additionally, the Max2 and its GPS-installed hardware comes pre-loaded with red light and speed camera locations throughout North America that is aided by weekly updates.

Identifying the threats is done through detection of the K, Ka and X-band radar frequencies, along with a nodule for 360-degree laser protection. To best detect threats, Escort includes a suction-cup mount that fits on either the windshield or dashboard with a quick release tab. As a bonus, the Escort will alert you when you are over the speed limit, along with identifying red-light cameras, speed-cameras and speed-trap locations.


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