May 14, 2020

Benefits of Dash Cam

Read more about Car Insurance

More cars are equipped with dash cams now. But is it worth it? Find out the pros and little-known cons before you buy a dash cam.

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FACT: Dash cams have been widely used in Russia, Europe, and Asia for many years. Other countries, including the United States, are starting to see increased usage in private vehicles.

Benefits of a Dash Cam

The cost of a dashboard camera can be well worth the return on investment. Besides documenting damage, accidents, and traffic violations, dash cams provide additional safety and savings.

  1. Protects you against scams
    "Crash for cash" scams take place daily across the country. They may involve other vehicles or pedestrians who fake being hit.

    These staged accidents lead to fraudulent claims that cost all drivers hundreds of dollars each year.

    Facts About Auto Insurance Fraud
    • All drivers pay for insurance fraud, even if you haven't experienced it. Insurers factor in losses from fraud when they set car insurance rates.
    • The Insurance Information Institute reports that auto insurers lose nearly $35 billion each year to fraud.
    • All auto insurance policies include a fraud tax, which comprises 10% to 25% of the cost of your auto insurance.

    A dash cam can prevent you from being a fraud victim by providing evidence of the crime. It may also record a scam being done to another driver.

    Stopping accident scams helps to reduce auto insurance fraud. That, in turn, keeps insurance costs down for everyone.

    TIP: If you see anything suspicious on your dash cam footage, turn it over to your state's insurance fraud unit to help in the investigation.

  2. Documents hit-and-runs and break-ins
    Some dash cams have motion sensors or a standby mode. This allows them to record when the vehicle is off if motion is detected.

    This feature allows you to see if another driver hit your car or if someone is trying to break into it.

    With the video documentation, the police may be able to track down the responsible person.

    Whether or not the person is caught, your auto insurer can still use the evidence to document the damage and prove you weren't at fault.

  3. Keeps an eye on others driving your vehicle
    If a new or young driver is using your car, you can use the video footage as a teaching moment.

    Review the video and discuss what the driver could have done better. You can share tips to avoid erratic moves, abrupt stops, traffic violations, or an accident.

    You can do the same to improve your driving behavior too.

  4. Keeps the roads safe
    As you're driving, the camera is documenting drivers around you. This includes those who are texting while driving, driving drunk, or driving recklessly.

    You can immediately report the license plate number of bad drivers, road rage incidents, or drunk drivers to get them off the road.

    The camera's footage also provides the proof necessary to ensure the driver doesn't go free.

Is It Worth Getting a Dash Cam?

As with any purchase, it's worth weighing the pros and cons of a dash cam to see if it's a good investment.

Advantages of a Dash Cam

  • Affordable
  • Provides first-hand evidence in accidents and other damage to your car
  • Shows actual proof when fighting a ticket
  • Provides support in court cases and insurance claims
  • Keeps the roads safe from bad, reckless, and intoxicated drivers
  • Prevents insurance fraud
  • Helps new and young drivers learn good driving habits
  • Captures memories of your road trips

Disadvantages of a Dash Cam

  • Might not meet state laws prohibiting windshield obstructions
  • Must follow federal and state laws regarding privacy
  • Could become a distraction
  • No auto insurance discount
  • Basic models only last a few years
  • Could be stolen out of your car

Having a dash cam is a personal preference. You may never need it, but you'll feel more secure if circumstances do arise.

Is There a Dash Cam Insurance Discount?

Currently, no U.S. auto insurance company offers a discount for a dash cam. However, there is talk about it.

New York has legislation pending that would provide a 5% auto insurance discount to drivers with a dash camera installed in their car.

In the meantime, you won't see any savings on your premium. Still, you could save when filing a claim.

Auto insurers review all documentation to determine what happened and who is at fault. Here's how having video surveillance can help:

When Your Car Is Damaged
If a deer runs into your car or debris falls onto it, your dash cam will document the event. You can then submit this evidence with your claim to avoid a rate increase.

When an Accident Occurs
A dash cam has video proof of an accident involving your vehicle. The footage will prove you weren't at fault. It will also help expedite your claim.

TIP: If your car has to be towed from the accident scene, remove your dash cam or memory card. You can submit the video file with your insurance claim.

When a Traffic Violation Occurs
Dash cam footage can be used to contest a traffic violation. Some police officers may even view it on the scene before writing out the ticket.

The footage also can be used to fight tickets you receive in the mail from a speed camera or traffic camera.

If the dash cam video shows no proof of wrongdoing, you save in 2 ways:

  1. Your auto insurance rates don't go up.
  2. You don't get points against your driving record, if applicable in your state.

TIP: Remember to save any dash cam footage related to an accident or traffic violation and submit the images to your auto insurance company.

What If Dash Cam Video Incriminates You?
Even if you caused an accident or moving violation, save the camera footage for your court case. It may help your lawyer defend your actions in building your case.

Is It Illegal to Use a Dash Cam?

Several federal and state laws address the use of a dash cam.

Federal Laws
In the U.S., there is no federal law prohibiting the use of dash cams. However, it is illegal to use dash cams with audio recording without the knowledge of others in the car.

If you are recording audio, you must let other riders know before they enter the car. Some types of dash cams allow you to disable the audio when passengers are in your vehicle.

State Laws
Most U.S. states prohibit dash cams from being mounted on the windshield. Additionally, some states prohibit or limit their use.

There are two main concerns:

  • Privacy: Some states consider dash cams electronic surveillance devices and ban them outright. Others have regulations on what can and can't be recorded and stored.

    Additionally, interior dash cams may breach privacy laws. Most states require you to inform passengers about the recording to avoid violating privacy and wiretapping laws.

  • Safety: Most states require dashboard cameras to be mounted in a way that doesn't obstruct the driver's view.

    As of 2019, 36 states prohibit windshield obstructions. The remaining 14 states have windshield obstruction restrictions. They regulate the amount of space the device takes up on the windshield.

TIP: Check with your state to see whether dash cams are legal in private cars. Be sure to ask about any state regulations for dash cam privacy and safety.

Dash Cam Basics

Here are some quick basics about dashboard cameras:

What does a dash cam do?
It continuously records what is taking place on the road. It can also record what's going on inside the car.

What does a dash cam record?
The device records images and, in some models, sounds.

How does a dash cam work?
As soon as you start your vehicle and plug in the dash cam, it starts recording.

Can I view what the dash cam records?
There are 2 ways to play back dash cam footage:

  1. Use Wi-Fi to connect the camera to an app on your mobile phone.
  2. Put the camera's micro SD card into a personal computer.

Depending on the model, you might be able to view footage right from the camera's built-in LCD screen.

Can I save footage from a dash cam?
When a dash cam's storage runs out, it simply records over the existing data. If there's footage you want to save, you have to off-load it from the camera's SD card.

How long does a dash cam record for?
All units have a maximum recording time, which varies. Most record for up to 6 hours before automatically recording over the existing data.

How Much Is a Dash Cam?

The cost of dash cams varies widely depending on the type and features.

Basic dash cams cost about $60 to $100. Those with more functions and features range in price from $140 to as high as $500.

The more expensive ones are professional-grade, with wide-angle lenses that record up to 170 degrees versus the 120 degrees of cheaper dash cams.

The cost includes a dash cam warranty, usually 12 or 18 months from date of purchase.

Dash Cam Installation Price
You might have to pay a separate installation cost.

Basic dash cams are plug and play and can be installed easily on your own. Hardwired units should be installed by a professional.

Dash cam installation ranges from $35 to $100, depending on the model you choose and your vehicle type.

Cameras with two lenses cost more to install than single lens. Additional fees also apply for any required materials, custom work, or accessories.

Types of Dash Cams

You can choose from several different camera types with various features.

Power options include:

  • Battery powered with a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Wired to plug into your vehicle's 12-volt power adapter
  • Hardwired to your car's battery or electrical system

Camera lens options include:

  • Single lens: Records the road ahead of you
  • Front and rear lens: Records the road ahead and behind you
  • Interior lens: Records only the view inside your vehicle
  • Interior/exterior lens: Two separate lenses that record inside and outside your car

Key features to look for in any type of dash cam:

  • HD quality camera so it can capture details, like a license plate number
  • Audio recording
  • Night vision recording capability
  • Built-in GPS tagging that identifies where the image was recorded

Where to buy a dash cam?
You can find dash cams at electronics stores, home improvement stores, and more. If you're buying a hardwired cam, look for a store that will also install it.

Dash cams can also be purchased online. No matter where you shop, be sure to check the return policy before you buy.

Bottom Line

Dash cams can be valuable devices when driving. They record what's going on around you and can give you peace of mind.

They're a great asset to have in your car. Just be sure you are following federal and state laws.

Write to Maryellen Cicione at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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