Compare the 3 Main Dash Cam Types

Basic, advanced, and dual camera dash cams

Among dash cams, you'll find basic no-frills cameras, sophisticated models with advanced features, and cameras that record the inside and outside of the vehicle. Your budget and intended use will dictate which kind is best for you.

Overall Findings

Basic Dash Cams Advanced Dash Cams Interior/Exterior Dash Cams
The cheapest option More expensive Most expensive
No advanced features GPS, audio, and sensors Monitors interior as well as exterior

Basic Dashcam Pros and Cons

  • The most affordable type of dashcam.

  • Easy to set up.

  • Records only exterior/front-facing view. No interior view.

  • No advanced features (such as GPS tagging, speed sensors, and accelerometers).

Basic dash cams sit on the dashboard and capture the road ahead. Because you can set them to record when the car starts, these cameras have a "set it and forget it" appeal. Typically hardwired into a vehicle's electrical system, some plug into the car's 12V socket, while others include built-in lithium-ion batteries.

Basic dash cams constantly record video and loop over old footage to make room for new. The built-in storage is removable, giving you added control over recorded content. This type is the cheapest option available.

Advanced Dashcam Pros and Cons

  • Advanced features (GPS tagging, audio, and accelerometers) can prove invaluable after an incident.

  • Records only exterior/front-facing view. No interior view.

  • Pricier than a basic dashcam.

Although most dash cams are relatively simple, some come with more advanced features that can include:

  • Audio recording
  • GPS logging
  • Speed sensors
  • Accelerometers
  • Uninterruptible power supplies (UPS)

GPS logging is one of the most intriguing features at this pricier level. A built-in GPS receiver provides a video overlay for a vehicle's physical location, which is helpful if you must establish the location of your car after an incident.

Speed sensors and accelerometers can also be helpful. These systems provide a record of how fast your vehicle was traveling at the time of an incident and the change in acceleration if you've struck another vehicle.

An uninterruptible power supply allows a dash camera to continue recording even if the car's power goes out. This feature is helpful if you want to use the camera as a surveillance device when you park your vehicle without draining the car battery.

Interior/Exterior (Dual-Camera) Dashcam Pros and Cons

  • Surveils the interior of a car. Ideal for capturing thieves and monitoring children.

  • Generally, the most expensive type of dashcam.

  • Despite the price, might lack advanced features.

Some dash cams have two cameras, one side facing the windshield and the other facing the interior. These dash cams have two primary purposes:

  • They allow parents to monitor their kids' driving behavior.
  • They enable owners to surveil both the interiors and exteriors of their vehicles.

If you're the parent of a new driver, this type of dash camera can be worthwhile. A view of the car's interior, including the driver, and a front-facing view through the windshield allows you to monitor your kids' driving behavior. Dash cams typically combine these images into a single video, providing a concerned parent with proof of their child's safe (or unsafe) driving habits.

Although this type of parental surveillance will undoubtedly upset any privacy-minded teen, it can provide an opportunity to open a dialogue about privileges, responsibilities, trust, and privacy. According to a study commissioned by American Family Insurance, teens exhibited a 70 percent reduction in risky driving behavior after owners installed these devices in their cars.

This type of dual-camera device is also helpful for security purposes. If you set one of these devices up to record while your vehicle is parked, it can catch video evidence of theft or hit-and-run accidents.

Final Verdict

While there's no one-size-fits-all solution, you can find a dashcam that suits your needs by keeping these features in mind. Maybe an inexpensive, no-frills unit will get the job done. If you live in a high-crime area, you might be better off with a dual-camera model. You might also consider an alternative device such as a smartphone app that mimics the functions of a dashcam.

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