Which Dash Cam Should I Buy?

This guide explains what you can get in a hard wired dash cam for different budgets, so you can decide which is right for your vehicle fleet and business. 

In this guide: 

  • We explain the differences between a consumer dash cam and a commercial hard wired dashboard camera designed for professional use. 
  • We define two types of hard wired dash cam.
  • We explain everything you need to know before buying a business dash cam and give our tips to help you choose.

Why should I buy a hard wired dash cam?

You need to weigh up the immediate costs to your business against the potential future benefits. 

Insurance claim evidence

Nearly all business dash cam users buy them for evidence in insurance claims. You can see if your driver was responsible for a collision, and give evidence to your insurer. You can also use dash cam footage to protect your business against “crash for cash” scams, which are continuing to become even more commonplace and a costly menace to professional drivers. 

With a hard wired dash cam, you can get alerts emailed to you if there may have been a collision, either sent by the camera or by your vehicle tracking system (more on this later). With these, you find out immediately and can make the First Notification of Loss (FNOL) to your insurer without delay. Prompt reporting of claims can make a huge different to the cost of the claim altogether, and therefore to the cost of your premium when you come to renew your fleet insurance. 

Driver monitoring to prevent accidents

A dual hard wired dash cam gives you the technology to make spot checks on driver concentration and other behaviour essential to safety. You can see if your driver uses his phone while driving, smokes, eats, or drives tired letting his eyes stray from the road. 

If you spot these habits and deal with them, you can keep your drivers safer and avoid the cost and hassle of vehicle repairs and insurance claims.

What types of hard wired dash cam are available?

There are basically two types of professional hard wired dash cam you can install in a working vehicle. 

Forward-facing hard wired dash cams

Forward-facing cameras capture what goes on in front of your vehicle, showing the driver’s view. Professional hard wired dash cams of this type are usually about the size of a walnut. 

A dual hard wired dash cam solution

A dual camera is a cylinder shape, with the second camera focused on the driver. This gives parallel footage of the road and the driver at the same time. If a collision takes place, seeing what the driver was doing can help show whether he had any liability.

iCompario is the free online marketplace for business products and services, where managers and owners can research and rapidly compare fuel cards, vehicle tracking systems, insurance, telecoms and other essentials. The team follows up online queries by telephone so every site visitor finds their ideal, future-proof product at the best price possible.

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What is the difference between consumer and business dash cams?

Hard wired cameras are the only worthwhile dash cam option for business use. With professional hard wired dash cams: 

  1. Hard wired dash cams mean you don’t have to rely on your drivers to plug the camera into the USB port (or cigarette lighter) to keep it charged. 
  2. Drivers cannot turn off a hard wired camera while the vehicle ignition is on. 
  3. Tamper-proof systems can make it very difficult to remove the SD card. This means there is no risk of the driver removing an SD card and “losing” it after causing a crash. 
  4. You do not have to reformat the SD card every 6 weeks to clear the memory for new recording. It can be auto-formatted remotely. 
  5. You get higher quality lenses and a higher resolution, making sure you can always read number plates and other details. 
  6. Professional grade low-light image sensors give you clearer dash cam picture quality when driving at night or in bad weather.
  7. You can see footage remotely within your linked vehicle tracking or telematics account, streamed and stored in the cloud. 
  8. Your data is encrypted on the SD card.
  9. On professional dash cams, you can change the definition of the image from ultra HD to a lower definition. This gives you a choice of higher images for fewer hours, or lower image quality for more hours – whichever best matches what you need.

Retail dash cams for consumer use rarely offer these benefits. Some consumer dash cams offer a few of these features, but in a business environment you are likely to need all of them, plus robust hardware you can count on.

Features to look for when buying a hard wired dash cam

HD Video quality

The quality of the video recording a hard wired dashboard camera offers may be HD, Full HD, or Quad HD. Sellers offering very high resolution 4G HD, for example, are over-selling and blinding customers with sales jargon. 

Being able to configure the camera’s image resolution to match your computer’s maximum setting, and frames-per-second to suit your business needs, is the real benefit you should look for. Anything over and above this is wasted money. 

Bear in mind your film quality is also going to be affected by the weather and lighting. A good low-light image sensor is also important. 

iCompario view: Choose a good HD camera standard but don’t make this your number one concern when choosing a professional hard wired vehicle camera. 

Wide-angle viewing

Some hard wired cameras can record extremely wide-angle shots of 140 degrees or more. This can make a critical difference to telling the whole story in case of an accident or fault claim. 

iCompario view: Ask to see samples of the film that the camera will record. The fishbowl effect may make it difficult to tell what is really going on. There’s no point getting a super-wide-angle lens if you can’t actually figure out what is happening at the sides of the picture.

Memory size

Memory capacity is extremely important in a professional vehicle camera. 

If you buy a consumer dash-cam, you are likely to be offered an SD card with very limited storage capability. Consumer dash-cams have as little as 32 gigabytes of memory as standard, which may store as little as 5 hours of footage before they overwrite. Professional dash-cam suppliers are likely to offer you hardware with three to four times the memory. The more memory, the more hours of video you can save before the camera starts over-writing with new footage. 

The quality of your SD card is as important as its memory capacity, because it needs to cope with being overwritten again and again with new video footage. A lower quality SD card will give you significantly lower re-writes than a higher grade SD card fit for business use. 

Consumer dash cams usually rely on the driver pressing buttons to save important footage before it is overwritten This can be a fiddly operation and it is easy to make mistakes and lose the video forever – in some cases, deliberately.

iCompario view: This is one of the main reasons for the price difference between consumer cameras and professional cameras. Check what you get in terms of memory at different price points.

GPS technology

GPS technology in vehicle cameras can show the precise vehicle location in relation to any video frame. This is very useful information. 

You can either buy a dash cam with an integral GPS tracker, or use a more reliable separate GPS tracker as part of a vehicle tracking system. This gives you more reliable and complete information, and it’s easier to access. 

iCompario view: You definitely need a GPS tracker with your dash cam. For the majority of businesses it’s better to use a reliable separate one, rather than a tiny GPS that comes free inside the camera. 

Built-in G-force recording vehicle cameras

G-force recording is a classic feature of vehicle tracking and telematics systems. It depends on a sensor called an accelerometer, which detects when a vehicle has stopped very abruptly (or is accelerating rapidly or cornering sharply). Stopping very suddenly could mean the vehicle has had a collision. 

When working with a g-force recorder and a dash cam, a vehicle tracking system can send the fleet manager an alert including some video footage when it senses that a crash could have happened. 

Some hard wired cameras have g-force recording built in, or link directly with a telematics device. They bookmark film in response to sudden braking or other g-force events, meaning you can see each potential incident or driving infringement without watching through the footage in between.

iCompario view: We recommend you pick a camera system that will synchronise with a telematics device, or has a built in g-force sensor. A hard wired dash cam synchronised with a telematics system will send far fewer false alerts, and help manage your overall risk and driver performance.

iCompario is the free online marketplace for business products and services, where managers and owners can research and rapidly compare fuel cards, vehicle tracking systems, insurance, telecoms and other essentials. The team follows up online queries by telephone so every site visitor finds their ideal, future-proof product at the best price possible.

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Remote access cloud-based camera systems

Hard wired dash-cams can connect to vehicle tracking or telematics systems and transmit footage to a cloud server. This means the footage is backed up. 

Make sure they use a multi-SIM card connected to more than one mobile phone network. (This is called a machine-to-machine roaming SIM.) The SIM picks whichever is the strongest network available in the vehicle location, to guarantee the most reliable signal at all times. So basically, the vehicle camera is like a collection of mobile phones subscribed to every mobile network provider. 

You should be paying for this as a fixed price monthly subscription, to make sure you are not stung with a high data usage bill. With some providers you may hit your viewing cap or full data allowance, and then find you cannot see all the footage that you need to check at a later point. 

When choosing a cloud-based vehicle camera system, the service you get will depend on your vehicle tracking system as well as the camera itself. 

iCompario view: Here are some questions you should ask your vehicle tracking provider before adding your hard wired dash cams:

  1. Is all footage stored, or only selected clips relating to g-force collision alerts that may be useful in insurance claims? Collision alerts are never 100% reliable so you may miss out on important footage. 
  2. How long is the footage stored for? Some systems save your footage for 30 days, but some suppliers offer less. 
  3. How is the pricing structured? Check the monthly fee for cloud video storage and exactly what you get for this. 
  4. How much does the multi-SIM monthly subscription cost and which mobile networks does it work on? 

Live streaming hard wired dash cams

Live streaming means real time transmission of video from the dash cam. It sounds cool but it tends to be very pixelated and nothing like the quality you can download afterwards. 

Live streaming is expensive. Much more affordable systems have just a few minutes delay, or let you download footage of specific incidents or send them to you automatically. Although far cheaper, they offer all the functionality you will actually need unless you are the police. 

iCompario view: We don’t recommend splashing out on live streaming. After a couple of days, the novelty of watching your vehicles go down the motorway from your computer will have worn off. As you return to your busy routine, you may regret the very costly subscription contract you signed up for. 

Audio recording hard wired dash cams

Audio recording as an option can add information to recorded video in case of incidents. The main reason some companies use this is to check if their driver uses a mobile phone while on the road. This audio evidence could include audible warnings made by the driver such as sounding the horn, or the reversing sensors beeping. 

Some type of hard wired dash cam can record the interior of the driver’s cab, revealing if he is using a phone while driving and also recording what he is saying. Some drivers are unaware that their dash cam is recording them. We did hear of a driver who was sacked after being recorded criticising his boss. There are legal restrictions on using recordings that you make of people when they are not aware you are recording them. If you think you may need to use recording for legal evidence in any situation, it is vital that you tell your drivers you are recording audio. 

iCompario view: Audio is great for some businesses, but most small companies turn it off because it is inappropriate to record private conversations. In industries where members of the public are passengers, it is standard to disable camera audio for privacy reasons.

About this website

iCompario is the free online marketplace for business products and services, where managers and owners can research and rapidly compare fuel cards, vehicle tracking systems, insurance, telecoms and other essentials. The team follows up online queries by telephone so every site visitor finds their ideal, future-proof product at the best price possible.

GET A QUOTE