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Should I Buy A Dash Cam?

Two front view dash cams attached to front windscreen

No matter how careful you are on the road, you never know when you might end up in an accident. Without additional witnesses, however, it can be difficult to ascertain who is at fault. One of the ways in which drivers can settle these disputes is with dash cam footage—clearly showing which party was truly at fault. If you’re not entirely convinced of the wonders of dash cams, and you’re still asking yourself the question, “Should I buy a dash cam?”, our latest guide might be just what you need.

We’re going to look at exactly what dash cams do, the advantages and disadvantages to using them and explain how using one might impact your car insurance. Let’s begin!


Table of contents


What are dash cams?

Nextbase dash cam on display

Dash cams are in-car systems that can make video and audio recordings of your driving journey. As soon as you get behind the wheel and start the ignition, your dash cam will begin recording. As you can imagine, dash cams are extremely handy in the event of an accident—you can use the footage recorded to prove that you’re not at fault. Of course, your dash cam won’t continue storing all recorded footage. At some point, depending on storage limits, it will begin to overwrite footage—meaning that, if you have footage you want to keep, you’ll need to transfer it ASAP.

The capability of a dash cam will vary depending on your chosen model. Some dash cams, for example, will have a parking mode that enables it to start recording the moment something bumps into your car—pretty handy if your pesky neighbours keep scraping past your car. Additional advanced features can include GPS tracking, speed monitoring and low battery usage.

There are three main types of dash cams:

  • Front view: as the name suggests, these dash cams will face forwards and record everything that’s in front of you. These types of dash cams are typically the cheapest option.
  • Front and rear view: not only do these dash cams monitor the traffic in front of you, they also record the traffic that’s following you—this can be particularly useful, as many accidents on the road are due to rear-end collisions.
  • Interior and exterior view: in addition to recording the exterior of your car, this dash cam records interior footage of your journey. Usually favoured by taxi drivers, this type of dash cam enables drivers to keep an eye on their passengers.

Why should I buy a dash cam?

Dash cam facing front towards the traffic
Image source: B&H

To say that dash cams are becoming increasingly popular amongst motorists would be an understatement. In fact, a survey carried out by Aviva with 2,134 motorists, found that one in four drivers currently use a dash cam in the UK. Of these motorists, three in four believe that others should do the same. And it’s only going to increase. According to 2017 research carried out by the AA, dash cam ownership has increased from 1% to 15% in just four years. One can only imagine what it might be like in the next few years.

Can’t quite see the appeal to forking out for a dash cam just yet? That’s fine—we’re going to lay out some of the main advantages to installing a dash cam below.

No more “he said, she said”

The road can be an unpredictable place, no matter how great your defensive driving skills are. If you end up in an accident or incident on the road, it can oftentimes be very difficult for anyone to figure out who was at fault—especially if all drivers are claiming innocence. With a dash cam in action, however, you can have actual evidence to back up your claims. In fact, the footage from your dash cam could be used in court to prosecute dangerous drivers.

It encourages better driving

Much like drivers who are on black box (telematics) insurance policies, having a dash cam installed in your car can push you to be a bit more sensible about your driving habits. That is, if you know you’re being recorded, you might be less likely to partake in risky behaviour, e.g., running a red light. It’s almost like having your mum sat in the passenger seat watching your every move!

Dash cams aren’t just great for improving your driving. They can also be used to help others. If you’re driving and you see a driver swaying between lanes—making you suspect they might be driving under the influence—you could submit your dash cam footage of the event to the police. The UK has a National Dash Cam Safety Portal that enables you to send footage directly to your local police force. Taking such action could help ensure dangerous drivers are off the roads.

Say bye-bye to fraud

Unfortunately, not all car accidents are black and white. Some drivers out there go out of their way to deliberately cause crashes, fake their injuries and then attempt to claim compensation from insurers. As you can imagine, these ‘crash for cash’ schemes cost insurers millions annually. With a dash cam, however, footage could prove that the other driver deliberately took action to cause the accident, e.g., flashing their headlights to let you pass, only to drive forwards anyway.

Monitor your car 24/7

The dangers your car faces don’t just apply when it’s in motion. In fact, if you’re not careful, you run the risk of your vehicle being stolen or defaced, depending on where you park it. Of course, these types of situations could occur even when you park your car right outside your house. With a dash cam that has a standby mode, you could rest knowing that you’d have footage if anyone attempted to break into your car or damage it. Dash cams can also serve as a theft-deterrent.

Great for driving lessons

Many driving instructors out there have dash cams installed in their cars that typically record during driving lessons. They can use footage recorded on lessons to show students example test routes or highlight certain scenarios that learners should look out for. Additionally, with most dash cams coming with GPS capabilities, driving instructors can look at what test routes are favoured by driving examiners on the driving test. Please note that the DVSA does not allow internal dash cams on the test.

The GPS functionality can also come in handy if your car breaks down, as it can help emergency services find you more quickly.


Why shouldn’t I buy a dash cam?

Black Think Ware dash cam attached to the front windscree
Image source: Digital Camera World

So, we’ve given you some of the main advantages to buying a dash cam. Now, we’re going to look at why you might not want to buy one—there are two sides to every story after all!

Self-incrimination

As we’ve already mentioned, dash cam footage can be used in court to prove which driver(s) might have been at fault in a car accident or incident. Unfortunately, this works as a two-way street. That is, your dash cam footage can be used against you in court if you are found to be the driver at fault. It’s not as simple as just outright refusing to share your footage—the police are legally allowed to seize your dash cam for its footage.

 Dash cams are illegal in certain countries

Believe it or not, dash cams aren’t as harmless as you’d think. In fact, in certain places in Europe, you might end up slapped with a hefty fine if you’re caught with one. Let’s take a look at some of the countries that ban or prohibit the use of dash cams…

Austria

You aren’t allowed to use dash cams at all. If you’re a first-time dash cam offender, you’re looking at a fine of up to £22,000!

Belgium

You can own and use a dash cam; however, you’re only allowed it for private use. This means you need third party permission if you want to submit footage.

France

Like Belgium, France restricts dash cams to private use only. This means you can’t upload any footage to the internet.

Germany

You are allowed to own and use a dash cam, however, if you want to upload footage to social media, you need to obscure number plates and faces.

Luxembourg

Whilst you’re allowed to own a dash cam, you’re not actually allowed to use it. So, leave your dash cam at home if you’re coming here on vacay!

Norway

Much like the UK, Norway allows the use of dash cams, and the country’s only restriction is ensuring the dash cam isn’t obscuring your view.

Portugal

Here you’re not allowed to own or use a dash cam at all. If you’re planning to head to Portugal, then, we’d advise you leave your dash cam at home!

Switzerland

Here we head into murkier waters. Dash cams are legal here, in theory, but in practice, it’s much more complex. You’re not allowed to use dash cams for entertainment or documenting purposes. Additionally, if you’re recording anyone, you need to give them notice that they’re being recorded.

United States

The laws on dash cams actually vary depending on the state you’re in. If you’re travelling here, we’d suggest looking at state law.

UK

Here you’re allowed to use dash cams as long as they’re not obstructing your view. Additionally, if you have an internal dash cam that records audio, you need to notify your passengers or drivers.

It doesn’t necessarily deter thieves

Though dash cams can provide much peace of mind when it comes to car theft or damage, it’s not a sure-fire thing. In fact, a potential thief could just remove your dash cam if they were determined enough. When you think about the fact that the average price for some dash cam models is over £200, it kind of seems like a pointless and costly affair.

You might have to fork out a lot

Speaking of cost, depending on the model you pick, you could end up spending an arm and a leg for a good dash cam. Thinking about buying a budget model? Though it might be better for your wallet, it might return to bite you. After all, if your dash cam is only capable of recording blurry footage, then a court of law or insurance company won’t be able to use it to prove anything.

Data protection can be a messy affair

One of the reasons that dash cams are banned in certain countries is due to data protection. If you’re recording the roads, it’s likely that you’re capturing footage of members of the public without their consent. It can get very messy, then, if you decide to bring social media into the mix. Desperate to upload that funny footage you recorded of a cyclist bumping into a car to social media? You run the risk of infringing on data protection. Additionally, uploading certain footage could actually hinder an investigation or prosecution.

So there you have it—you’ve got the main advantages and disadvantages to buying a dash cam. Before we move onto answering your question “Should I buy a dash cam?”, we’re first going to look at what using a dash cam might mean for your insurance. Hint: it might help you enjoy cheaper insurance!


How would it impact my insurance?

Installing a dash cam in your car could have quite an impact on your insurance. For starters, if you end up in an accident that wasn’t your fault, your dash cam footage will be vital in proving that it wasn’t your fault. Your insurance company would then be able to settle your claim(s) much faster and with far less hassle. In turn, you might be able to maintain your No Claims Bonus (NCB).

And that’s not all! Some insurance companies—though not many —even offer drivers discounts on policies if they agree to use a dash cam when driving:

To get a dash cam discount, you might have to install a specific model type that has been approved by the insurance company. As an example, Swift Cover only offers the discount if you have a Nextbase dash cam installed. If you’ve been struggling to find a decent insurance policy, this is certainly something to consider—getting up to 15% off your policy could help you save hundreds of pounds!

Of course, you might want to do some careful reading before installing a dash cam in your car. Certain insurance companies might view it as a car modification, which can increase your insurance premiums.


What’s the verdict?

For peace of mind, it’s certainly worth at least thinking about buying a dash cam. Whilst dash cams might have a few disadvantages, we’d argue that they’re mostly outweighed by the advantages. Think of a dash cam like your defensive driving and hazard perception skills—it can help you avoid messy situations.

If you’re not at all interested in forking out for a dash cam, but you’re still looking for ways in which you can cut the cost of your insurance, you might want to look into black box (telematics) insurance. Your insurer will monitor your driving habits and offer you discounts if you abide by their rules. Alternatively, you might want to read up on our guide to what to check for when you’re buying car insurance for some handy tips.


FAQs

1. Are driving instructors allowed to use dash cams?

Within reason, yes. There’s nothing stopping them from using front or rear view dash cams. If, however, the dash cam is recording audio or visual footage from inside the car, the instructor needs to inform their learners and other passengers. Additionally, they may be asked by driving examiners to remove their dash cam for the duration of the practical.

2. Do I need more than one dash cam?

It’s entirely up to you. If you feel like you only need a front view dash cam, then there’s no need to fork out for a rear view one. If, on the other hand, you want to err on the side of caution—and you can afford it—it might be worth going in for the whole shebang.

3. Can my dash cam footage be used against me in court?

Yes, it can. If you’re involved in an accident, the police could seize your dash cam for its footage, regardless of whether you’re the driver at fault or not. You can’t refuse to hand over your dash cam.

4. What’s the difference between a black box and a dash cam?

Black boxes are used by insurance companies to monitor your driving habits, e.g., how harshly you brake and whether you’re prone to speeding. Black box insurance policies could reduce your insurance premiums. Dash cams, by comparison, just record video and audio footage of the road ahead and behind you.

5. Are dash cams legal in the UK?

Yep! You’re allowed to own and use a dash cam in the UK. Bear in mind, however, that your dash cam must not obstruct your view at all. If you’re guilty of this, you could be slapped with a hefty fine from the police.

6. Why doesn’t my insurance company offer a discount for using a dash cam?

It’s simple really. Insurers are all about reducing risk and minimising the likelihood of them having to fork out for a claim. Unfortunately, there isn’t much evidence to suggest that using dash cams minimises the chances of drivers getting into an accident. As such, most insurers don’t really see the point to offering discounts for dash cam users.

7. Will using a dash cam change my driving style?

It may very well do. When you know that you’re being monitored, you tend to be far more careful. As such, you might find yourself adopting much safer driving habits after installing a dash cam in your car. Not too shabby!

8. Can I use my Go Pro as a dash cam?

You could, if you made necessary adjustments, but it certainly wouldn’t be more cost effective. In fact, it probably costs more than a decent dash cam. Plus, you’d have to switch it on every time you get into the car. If you’re a bit forgetful, you could end up losing out if you end up in an accident on the day you forget to record.

By Bethany Hall

Whether you’re a learner or a pro driver, Bethany is here to help. From defensive driving to the Highway Code, she’ll tell you everything you need know about driving. If she’s not on the road, you’ll probably find Bethany with her head in a book or binge-watching the latest TV show.

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