If you're new to dashcams, we understand that the amount of new information can be a bit overwhelming, but don't worry, we'll walk you through the basics!
Basic Dashcam FAQ
Dashcam Basic Questions
Simply put, a Dashcam (or dash cam) is a small video camera that attaches to your car's windshield and continuously records video as you drive. Dashcams were popularized in Russia; more than likely you have seen footage from a Russian dashboard camera. Sometimes a dashcam is called a car DVR (Digital Video Recorder), a car black box or an in-car camera system.
Dashcams, or dashboard video cameras, got their name due to originally being mounted on the dashboard of vehicles (mostly police cars). Now, most dashcams mount to a car's windshield with a secure and easy to use suction cup mount or strong adhesive pad.
Yes, there are several types of dashcams, and while they come in all shapes and sizes, they may be classified into a few distinct categories (click on any category link below to open a new browser window to that category of dashcam):
- Single-lens dashcams
- Dual-lens dashcams (for front + rear recording)
- Dual-lens dashcams (for front + inside recording)
- Rear-view mirror style dashcams
- Professional dashcams
Single-lens dashcams are the most basic type of dashcam. These record from a single camera lens, like a normal camcorder. Typically people mount these dashcams in their front windshield in order to record what is happening in front of the car.
Dual-lens dashcams are a bit more complex. These dashcams can record from more than one camera lens at a time. Typically they utilize one forward-facing lens to record what is happening in front of the vehicle, and one inside-facing lens to record what is happening inside the vehicle. These are particularly useful for fleet or commercial vehicles where typically the driver of the vehicle is not the owner of the vehicle.
There are also dual-lens dashcams for front + rear such as the BlackVue DR750S-2CH that record in front of the vehicle like a single-lens model, but also use the input from a smaller remote camera (a camera mounted in the back of the vehicle - on the rear windshield) to record what is happening behind the vehicle as well.
Rear-view mirror style dashcams are a special type of dashcam. These clip securely to the back of your existing rear-view mirror, and provide video from a small forward-facing lens. This style of dashcam is great for those wanting a less-conspicuous solution.
Professional dashcams are commercial-grade models designed for business use (fleet vehicles, taxis/Uber/Lyft drivers, delivery trucks, etc) or other commercial, municipal or government purposes. These high-reliability units are also desirable to those individuals seeking the added peace of mind that comes from using a professional-level device in their own vehicle.
Unfortunately this is not an easy question to answer. Since dashcams all have different qualities, the best dashcam is the one that suits *you* best. The Dashcam Store™ has created a Buyer's Guide to help you get started picking out the right dashcam for your needs.
Keep in mind that while there are a wide variety of dashcams available on the internet, many of which are cheap and unreliable, you can rest assured that we only sell those cameras which we personally research and which pass our own internal quality tests.
Once you have purchased a dashcam (preferably from The Dashcam Store ), in most cases this is all you need to do to be up and running:
- Insert a memory card.
- Attach the suction-cup mount to your windshield.
- Plug the power cord into the power source (cigarette lighter or other).
Done! Since recording is automatic, just drive your vehicle like you normally would, and enjoy the fact that you are now "protected by dashcam"! See more on our How-Tos page.
Dashcams have many applications, but most importantly, they act as an impartial witness in case of an accident. Sadly, there are dishonest people in the world, and a dashcam provides irrefutable evidence of what happened before, during, and after an incident. No more "your word against theirs" - rest assured you will always have the truth on your side.
Many dashcam models provide GPS data logging as well. These camera units, along with the video, will provide a record of your position and speed at all times. This information, again, proves the facts such as your whereabouts at a particular time, and can also be used to prove (or perhaps more importantly: disprove) your speed. This GPS data can be overlaid on a Google-type map during video playback on your home computer.
You have undoubtedly watched footage recorded on a dashcam at some point on the news or on the internet. Remember the Russian meteorite event? Since dashcams are always recording, they capture amazing, interesting, or even just plain funny events that occur every day around the world. Check out our videos page for examples.
Dashcam footage can help others as well. If you capture an accident on film, it is almost certain that the other drivers will be happy to know you (and your dashcam) were there as witness. We've seen plenty of clips like this on YouTube, including some hit-and-run incidents where only the dashcam saw what really occurred, and the innocent victim would be left to pay the bill if not for the license plate captured by someone else's dashcam.
Yes! Many dashcam models provide GPS data logging as well. These camera units, along with the video, will provide a record of your position and speed at all times. This information, again, proves the facts such as your whereabouts at a particular time, and can also be used to prove (or perhaps more importantly: disprove) your speed. This GPS data can be overlaid on a Google-type map during video playback on your home computer.
The majority of all police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, city buses, etc., already use dashcams. Increasingly, individuals concerned with false liability claims and protecting themselves in the case of an accident are utilizing the protection offered by on-board video recorders. This includes every day drivers like you, parents, truckers and 18-wheeler drivers, etc.
Fleet owners and contract drivers as well can benefit greatly from having a video (and position) data from their fleet vehicles when they are out in service for the day.
Almost every driver should be using a dashcam! More and more drivers every day agree with this statement and join the group of those who are "protected by dashcam".
You can't explain that! Just kidding. Dashcams record video to a removable memory card inside the camera itself. Any time your car is on and the dashcam is plugged in, it is acting as your backup witness. Dashcams automatically start recording when they are powered on, and stop recording once you turn your car off. Note: Some dashcam models have the ability to keep recording even while the vehicle is parked! This is known as "parking mode".
Generally, yes. In the United States, using a dashboard camera to record video on public roads is legal in almost all cases. The law allows one to record video as long as you are not infringing on another's privacy. However, anything done in public is not protected by privacy laws; there is no expectation of privacy in public. Therefore, recording pictures/video in public is a First Amendment protected right so long as you do not violate other laws (for example: stopping in the middle of traffic to record the arrest of an individual, or otherwise interfering with a traffic, police, or rescue operation).*
The laws for recording *audio* however are different. Because oral communication laws vary by locale, we recommend notifying your passengers that audio recording is taking place, or simply disabling the microphone on your dashcam. It is also our recommendation to always inform any police or government official that they are being recorded if you believe your dashcam is recording them (either video or audio).
Please see the following articles for further information:
- Recording in Public Places and Your First Amendment Rights
- Taking Photos In Public Places Is Not A Crime: Analysis
- What are the laws regarding video recording in public?
For countries other than the United States, please refer to your local laws.* The DashCam Store does not offer this advice as legal council; it is only our opinion (as we are not lawyers).
All dashcams come with a power cord that plugs into the 12v cigarette lighter outlet in your car. Plug this cord in, and you are up and running! This cord is usually quite long, long enough to tuck behind and route around the interior panels of your vehicle (on the way to the power outlet) so it will not be visible to the driver or passengers.
Optionally, you or your local car audio shop can easily install or "hard-wire" the dashcam by tapping into your vehicle's 12v power circuit. This provides a complete professional installation and frees up your power outlet for your cell phone charger or other electronic device. We sell our own patent-pending installation kits that include simple instructions for quickly plugging in to your car's fuse box. Check out our dashcam accessories page for more information.
Furthermore, typically dashcams include a small built-in battery. This battery isn't meant to power the camera for long periods of time, but is there in case power from the car is severed during an accident. The internal battery ensures the camera will keep recording even after a major accident.
A dashcam starts creating video files on an empty memory card. These video files are typically segmented into 1, 3, or 5 minute chunks, since it is easier to view and work with small video files on your computer rather than one long continuous file. When the memory card is full, the dashcam simply starts over at the beginning of the memory card, and in this way, never needs any attention from you until you have captured an incident on video that you would like to save. This is known as "loop recording", and is one of the most important abilities of dashcams.
Glad you asked! The Dashcam Store™ now has a Video Bounty program where you can earn cash for your footage! If you happen to capture something amazing on dashcam, and you own the rights to the video (meaning, you recorded the incident yourself on your own Dashcam), you can upload the clip using our easy drag-and-drop video upload page. If the clip is interesting enough, and we use it for any reason (such as promotional or educational purposes), we will pay you!
To request additional information, please don't hesitate to contact us. We give our best effort to respond to all inquiries within 1 business day.