What’s a dash cam and how does it work?

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dash cam on windscreen

Dash cams are popular and can help when you need to claim, so we’re here to answer some frequently asked questions.

What’s a dash cam?

A dash cam (short for dashboard camera) is a small device you fit inside your car to record the road. There are four types of dash cam:

  1. forward-facing
  2. front-and-rear-facing
  3. rear-facing
  4. interior-view

Forward-facing cameras are the most used; they’re affordable, but only record in front of the car. Front-and-rear-facing cameras are usually expensive but protect against rear-end collisions.

How do dash cams work?

It depends on your model.

Generally, they work by recording footage on a loop, saving new recordings over old ones.

Most are wi-fi enabled to make transferring footage easier to other devices. Some have an accompanying app.

Others have a built-in sensor that picks up sudden changes in G-force.

For example, if another car collides with yours, it’ll automatically record and save it. You can get models with a parking mode too, which detects bumps or collisions to parked cars.

Where to put a dash cam

Your dash cam should sit behind your rear-view mirror. That way, it can record both sides of the road, and it won’t block your view.

UK law states your dash cam shouldn’t sit more than 40mm into the area your windscreen wipers cover.

Your dash cam mustn’t block your view when you install it either. If your dash cam blocks your vision or distracts you, and you’re involved in an incident, insurers could count it as your fault.

How to fit a dash cam

There are two ways to install it:

  1. plugging it into the 12v socket (the old lighter)
  2. hardwiring

The former is the easier option while the latter is the neatest, as you can hide wires. Most dash cams come with a lead long enough to tuck it away around the edge of the windscreen.

Don’t plug it in and leave the cable dangling. At best, it'll be annoying. At worst, it could prove distracting and dangerous.

The dash cam itself usually attaches to the windscreen with a suction cup. There are guides on hardwiring a dash cam. Places like Halfords can do it if DIY isn’t your thing.

Are dash cams legal?

Dash cams are legal in the UK. However, you must notify passengers in your car if you’re recording the inside. It’s a breach of privacy laws to record someone without consent.

How much is a dash cam?

Prices vary. The most basic models start at around £20, with higher-end ones up to £400. You should prioritise footage quality - any other features are nice to have.

Do dash cams work when the car is off?

It depends on the model. Make sure you buy the right one that records when the engine is off if you need that.

Are dash cams worth it?

Dash cam footage is useful. Some insurers (including us) use it if it’s available when you make a claim. It can help work out who was at fault. It’s worth getting one if you can afford it, but it isn’t necessary.

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