If you haven’t followed the hype surrounding dash cams here in the U.S., you’ve probably at least seen crazy dash cam footage, where everyone has one in their car. BMW Dash Cam Installation may seem complicated, but it’s actually a super-simple project that anyone can do.
Decide if you need a dash cam
Dash cams aren’t as they are elsewhere, so you don’t hear about them as often after a big car crash. When I reached out to insurance companies, most were hesitant to say whether they use dash cams to determine fault or not, or whether they recommend their customers install one.
“There are so many things that go into what happens in an accident,” says Janet Ruiz, spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute. “A lot of times, the police report has to be taken into account first. There might be some states or counties where the police have started using dash cams, and therefore the insurance companies use them. But it’s still too much in the works to say, ‘Put a dash cam in, and that’ll help you determine fault after an accident.’” She did note that they can be useful for combating fraud and theft, though.
While most insurance companies were reluctant to give concrete answers, a spokesperson told me they have used dash cam footage to assist with the determination of fault in the past, even though they don’t have an official recommendation for their customers yet. So while the jury is still out on whether installing a dash cam is a slam-dunk good idea, it may be worthwhile if you want to cover all your bases. Keep in mind, of course, that they may prove your own fault in an accident too, so it can be a double-edged sword.
After my car got totaled earlier this year—in a collision where there were no witnesses beyond the two drivers—I decided to get one for my wife’s car, should anything happen in the future. Even if it doesn’t protect us, at least I’ll know I did everything I could.
Find the right dash cam model
If you’ve decided to go for a dash cam, we’re here to tell you the hardest part of the process is actually finding one. There are plenty of different models out there, and there’s no one-size-fits-all option. There are, however, a few things you should consider as you shop:
- Power source: Many dash cams are powered by the cigarette lighter socket in your car, though there are some that have the ability to be hard-wired directly to your battery. The latter requires professional installation outside the scope of this guide, so we’re focusing on the more typical DIY-friendly models here. In addition, some models contain a lithium-ion battery—like your phone—while others contain a capacitor to store energy. If you live in a particularly hot climate, you’ll want a capacitor model, since they’re more heat resistant than their battery-powered siblings.
- Field of view: Ideally, you want a dash cam with as wide a field of view as possible, so it can see cars not just in front of you, but to the sides, too. You’ll find 140 to 160 degrees is fairly common, though there are some models that go as wide as 170 degrees.
- Picture quality and frame rate: The sharper the video captured by your dash cam, the better, so you can make out the license plate numbers of other cars on the road. Resolution is part of this equation, but not all of it—you also need to consider picture quality in low light, for example, so you can get good nighttime footage. The best thing you can do is look at reviews and see if you can find footage online taken from the model you’re researching.
- Number of cameras: At the bare minimum, a dash cam will record video from your front windshield. But some models have other cameras for other views, like one for your back windshield or a camera facing the driver’s seat to capture other people in the car. (This is particularly useful for Umber and Lift drivers who want evidence of anything that happens on the job.)