You’re driving along, minding your own business in your own lane, when another car speeds by and then cuts you off. Or maybe you’re in a fender-bender and the other driver swears you’re at fault. Or perhaps you’ve witnessed a dangerous road-rage incident ahead of you.
If you’ve spent any amount of time on the road, chances are you’ve experienced a situation where afterward you’ve thought, “I wish I had a recording of that.”
Enter dash cams—small digital recording devices, typically costing between $100 and $300, which shoot video of everything that happens in front of you while you’re driving. Here’s why you might consider investing in this extra bit of tech for your vehicle:
HOW A DASH CAM CAN HELP
Having a dash cam in your car won’t get you a break on your insurance premiums (yet), but the footage it records can be useful if you need to make an insurance claim due to a collision or other incident. Like photographs taken at an accident scene, dash-cam videos offer an objective view of a given situation, and can be submitted to your insurer to help determine liability. Similarly, cam footage can help prove your case should another driver allege you’re at fault in an accident.
Dash cams can also provide additional peace of mind when it comes to your car’s security. Some higher-end models come equipped with motion detectors that tell the camera to begin recording (for a set period of time) if your vehicle is disturbed while parked. Certain models may even send an alert to your phone.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
No matter how feature-packed the camera, it’s worth little to you—or your insurance company—if its output is grainy, blurry or otherwise indecipherable. Image quality should therefore be your number-one consideration when purchasing a dash cam. Look for a unit that shoots 1080p high-definition video. The better the image resolution, the easier it’ll be to make out license plate numbers and other details, should the need arise.
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Similarly, a camera that performs well in low-light situations is more likely to capture important visual information if you’re driving at night. And its field of view should be ample enough— at least 120 degrees—to take in the majority of what you’re naturally able to see from the driver’s seat.
Storage capacity is another consideration. Most dash cams save to removable SD or microSD memory cards, which you typically have to purchase separately. Ensure the cam supports cards of at least 32 gigabytes—or better yet, 64 GB. High-definition video files take up a lot of space. Some units also include internal memory, which acts as a backup in case of damage to the removable memory card.
AMA Rewards partner The Source has a variety of dash cams and accessories for your vehicle. Members can save up to 20% on these cams and more in-store. Like this discount? It’s just one of many ways you can use your AMA membership, even without a car.
Fluid HD Vehicle Video Camera with Touchscreen
A dash-mountable camera with a widescreen display and touch functionality for easy operation. The 14-megapixel lens records in 1080p with a field of view of up to 154 degrees, and supports memory cards of up to 32 GB.
Thinkware X330 Dash Cam
Records in 1080p with a 140-degree wide-angle view, with the option to automatically tag videos with GPS and speed data. Parking surveillance mode features motion sensor-activated recording.
Thinkware F750 Dash Cam
This higher-end 1080p camera boasts a number of bells and whistles, including built-in Wi-Fi, which allows for video playback on your smartphone, plus safety-monitoring features such as lane departure and forward collision warnings. It can also be combined with a rear-view camera (sold separately) to create a complete vehicle surveillance system.
Like most other “options” for your vehicle, a dash cam can prove useful in certain situations, but it’s important to remember, ultimately, that it’s just a tool. It doesn’t replace good defensive driving skills or your own attentiveness while on the road.
WE’VE GOT YOU COVERED
AMA’s affordable, versatile auto insurance options help protect your car in case of a collision, fire, vandalism or theft, while covering you in case you’re responsible for damages to another person, their vehicle or their property. And if you ever have to make a claim, we’ll ensure the process is as stress-free as possible.