The 5 Best Dash Cams for Under $100 in 2021

Don't head out on the road without one

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The Rundown
"When the car is parked, and the camera detects motion, it captures 30 seconds of video, just in case anything happens."
"It comes equipped with auto-HDR, which can help prevent images from being overexposed and make them easier to see at night."
"This camera is about the size of a car key and sticks up just behind your mirror, or anywhere else you might want to place it."
Best Motion Detector:
AUKEY Mini Dash Cam at Amazon
"The camera, itself, is tiny and should fit nicely behind your rearview mirror to stay out of the way."
"It's compact, but still manages to have a large 3-inch screen on the back to view your footage."

There are a lot of reasons you would want to find the best dash camera for your car. They are extremely useful devices that capture everything that happens as you drive. They're a lot like insurance: You don't ever want to need it, but when you need it, you really need it. They can be useful in accident litigation—did that car really make that turn suddenly without putting on its signal? Some of the better dash cams can even record incidents that happen while you're away from your car.

In short, a good dash cam is a great thing to have, and if you're just starting out with webcams, you don't want your initial investment to be too high. That's why we've assembled a list of the best dash cams you can buy that won't break the bank.

Best Overall: Z-Edge Z3G Dash Cam

What We Like
  • Intuitive controls and interface

  • Crystal-clear HD resolution

What We Don't Like
  • Only one way to mount

  • Short battery life

One of the best dash cams you can get comes from Z-Edge. If you don't look too closely, it almost looks like a normal point-and-shoot camera with a large lens on the front and a 2.7-inch screen on the back. The camera can grab crystal-clear HD footage, though doing so takes up a lot of space. There is no onboard storage, so purchasing an SD card up to 256GB is necessary. The controls on the camera are very easy to use.

The camera comes with a surveillance mode. When the car is parked, and the camera detects motion, it captures approximately 30 seconds of video, just in case anything happens. But the battery life on the camera is fairly short, lasting around 10 minutes on a charge. Dash cams are meant to be continuously powered by the power outlet in your car, so the battery is only for when the car is off, but still, we'd like to see longer life, especially for cars left outside overnight.

Resolution: 1440p | Sensor Type: OV4689 CMOS image sensor | Display Size: 2.7 inches | Wi-Fi/Bluetooth: Neither | GPS: Yes | Field of View: 150 degrees | Mounting Type: Suction mount with screw-in attachment

Best Display: Kenwood DRV-A301W Dash Cam

What We Like
  • Wi-Fi

  • Auto-HDR

  • Very clear 2.7-inch screen

What We Don't Like
  • App can be difficult to work with

  • Instructions are hard to read

  • Narrow field of view

The Kenwood DRV-A301W has a mouthful of a name, but it has some nifty features you might like. The camera comes with built-in Wi-Fi so you can connect the camera to your smartphone. That's nice, but the app, itself, isn't the greatest. It's not very intuitive to use and file transfer can be a bit slow. The instructions are a little hard to read since they're in a small font. That may or may not bother you.

What you get from this camera are really great images. It comes equipped with auto-HDR, which can help prevent images from being overexposed and make them easier to see at night. All of those images look great on the 2.7-inch screen on the back of the device. You get only a 136-degree field of view, which is not the best for this industry. But the camera comes with a suction cup and double-sided tape mounting options, meaning it can fit just about anywhere in your vehicle.

Resolution: 1080p | Sensor Type: 1/2.8-inch CMOS image sensor | Display Size: 2.7 inches | Wi-Fi/Bluetooth: Wi-Fi only | GPS: Yes | Field of View: 136 degrees | Mounting Type: Adhesive or suction cup via magnet

Most Compact: Garmin Dash Cam Mini

What We Like
  • Tiny

  • Built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth

  • Can be powered while the car is off

  • 140-degree field of view

  • View multiple feeds through the app

What We Don't Like
  • No screen

  • No SD card included

If you want a dash cam that you can just set up and forget about, look no further than the Garmin Dash Cam Mini. This camera is about the size of a car key and sticks up just behind your mirror, or anywhere else you might want to place it. There is no screen on the back so you can't see what the camera is filming, but the 140-degree field of view is wide enough to capture anything in the general direction it's pointing. One hundred forty degrees is barely acceptable in this category, but it is still acceptable.

The camera has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth for viewing clips and moving them to your phone. If you're using the Garmin app, you can view multiple feeds (if you have multiple cameras) at the same time, which is pretty neat. There is no SD card included, so you will need to purchase one separately. Also, you can purchase a cable kit (view on Amazon) designed to wire to your car's power so you can keep the camera on and recording while the car is powered off.

Resolution: 1080p | Sensor Type: Sony IMX323 | Display Size: N/A | Wi-Fi/Bluetooth: Both | GPS: Yes | Field of View: 140 degrees | Mounting Type: Adhesive mount

Best Motion Detector: AUKEY Mini Dash Cam

What We Like
  • 170-degree field of view

  • Small

  • Optional 24-hour power kit

  • Good price

What We Don't Like
  • Low-quality screen

  • Clunky interface

  • Memory card not included

AUKEY is a great name in the dash-cam space, and its Mini Dash Cam is a great option for people just starting out with this technology. The camera, itself, is tiny and should fit nicely behind your rearview mirror to stay out of the way. Placing it there will obstruct the screen on the back, but the screen isn't very high quality, so maybe that's not a loss. 

What you do get is awesome 170 degrees of vision, which is almost everything in front of the car. There's an optional power kit (view on Amazon) that you can get to keep the camera on when your car is not in operation, but it costs extra. 

The camera's interface is not the best. There are four buttons across the bottom, and instructions on the screen tell you what each button does. The camera does not include a memory card, but it can support up to 128GB. A lot of that can be forgiven because this camera costs less than $50, which makes it a winner in our book.

Resolution: 1080p | Sensor Type: GC2053 CMOS sensor | Display Size: 1.5 inches | Wi-Fi/Bluetooth: Both | GPS: No | Field of View: 170 degrees | Mounting Type: Suction mount

Best Budget: Apeman C450 Dash Cam

What We Like
  • Good price

  • Great footage

  • Compact

  • 170-degree field of view

What We Don't Like
  • Damages easily

  • Unintuitive interface

The Apeman C450 Dash Cam is one of the best budget options you can find. It's compact, but still manages to have a large 3-inch screen on the back to view your footage. Our reviewer had some trouble with the mount that came with the camera, losing a critical pin that held the assembly together. It turned out to be fixable, but that's still not ideal. If you can get past that, you'll have a great budget camera that records 170-degree footage for a low price. That's a hard combination to beat.

Our reviewer also did not care for the included instruction manual, which was made even more egregious by the unintuitive interface for the camera. It's not hard to set up, but retrieving footage and navigating the settings can be on the tough side. Overall, though, it's hard to argue with this camera and everything it brings for a low price.

Resolution: 1080p | Sensor Type: Starvis sensor | Display Size: 3 inches | Wi-Fi/Bluetooth: Neither | GPS: No | Field of View: 170 degrees | Mounting Type: Suction mount, adhesive

"The Apeman C450 performs decently for a camera this small and inexpensive, and for many, its design flaws can be forgiven for its price tag." — Jeffrey Daniel Chadwick, Product Tester

Final Verdict

Our best dash camera pick has to go to the Z-Edge Z3G (view on Amazon), with its crystal-clear HD recording capabilities. The 2.7-inch screen on the back makes it great for reviewing footage before you move it over to your smartphone or computer. It's a great combination of everything you're looking for in a dash cam.


Our runner-up has to go to the Apeman C450 (view on Amazon). This is a great all-around camera, with a couple of minor physical defects. When you consider that this camera has everything that makes both the Z-Edge and the AUKEY Mini Dash Cam great, and it's rolled into one package, that's hard to pass up. Plus, it costs less than $50. That's a great deal.

About Our Trusted Experts

Adam Doud has been writing in the technology space for almost a decade. When he's not hosting the Benefit of the Doud podcast, he's going on long road trips and recoding all the footage he can.

Jeffrey Daniel Chadwick has published hundreds of articles, reviews, and videos on Top Ten Reviews. His work has also appeared in publications including LAPTOP Mag and BusinessNewsDaily.

What to Look for in a Dash Cam

Field of View - Field of view is a critical component in any dashboard camera. A field of view is measured in degrees and it determines how wide the video capture is. For instance, 180 degrees will capture everything from side to side. A 170-degree field of view is more typical and loses only a little bit of the picture. Narrower fields of view will capture less, which can be problematic for incidents that don't occur head-on.

Included Storage - Pay attention to how much storage the camera comes with. It may be onboard storage, but more likely it will be an included memory card that comes with the camera. Some cameras may not come with any storage, so it will fall to you to purchase a memory card.

Extras - Pay attention to the extras that you get with the camera. How many mounting methods does it come with? Does it have/require an app for your phone? Does the power cable have any USB outlets (since it'll be taking up your power outlet)? Do the cameras have any theft detection or power-off coverage? These are all things that should be considered when making your choice.

FAQ

Will a dash camera record when the car is off?

That depends on the camera and on the car. Dash cameras typically plug into your power outlet. Not all cars turn off the power outlet when the car is turned off. Even so, some of the cameras have optional accessories you can wire to your car's battery to bypass the power outlet and keep it running 24/7.


What are the different ways you can mount a dash camera?

Most dash cameras are mounted on a car's windshield using a suction cup or double-sided tape. Others used a weighted mounting plate to hold the dash camera down at dashboard level.


Is a dash camera legal?

You will want to consult with your individual state as to whether or not a dashboard camera is legal. Many states have laws against obstructions in your field of view, and others prohibit video recordings without consent. Take a look at your local ordinances before purchasing a camera.

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