Also known as dashboard cameras or in-car cameras, dash cams are available to suit any budget, although higher quality features are found on the more expensive models.
Some motor insurance companies do take dash cams into account when setting insurance premiums, yet there isn't much information publicly available about how they do these.
Even so, drivers may benefit in other ways from installing a dash cam to record incidents on the road and show who was at fault in the event of a crash.
Can a dash cam save money on car insurance?
Some insurers do offer discounts to drivers with dash cams installed in their vehicles, although there's little information publicly available about how much drivers can save on their motor premiums.
This is partly because driver risk profiles can be very different and the work an insurer does behind the scenes to assess a driver's risk levels can be complicated.
It means that even those insurers who take dash cams into account when calculating an insurance quote are vague about the way they do it.
In the past, we saw providers like Axa and Swiftcover offering fixed discounts for installing a dash cam (10% and 12.5% respectively), but these flat discounts have largely been replaced by variable discounts instead and the decision-making isn't always clear to customers.
When you compare motor insurance quotes using the Choose comparison service, there is a question about whether the vehicle has a dash cam fitted.
Running two quotes can help drivers see whether premiums are lower if they have a dash cam or if there is no change in the quote.
Does a dash cam make a difference?
Key to any debate about motor insurance premiums and dash cams is whether they make a difference to the level of risk our insurers are taking on. In the end, that's what defines our insurance quotes and the amount we pay in premiums each year.
Here are three examples where a dash cam may make a difference:
- Younger drivers often pay higher motor insurance premiums because their age increases their risk level. A dash cam provides evidence of their driving and can be used to prove an accident wasn't their fault.
- If someone's annual estimated mileage is high, their risk level is higher because they're spending more time on the road. A dash cam may reduce premiums in this case because it provides proof of responsibility if the driver is involved in an accident.
- Our postcode can affect our premiums, so having a dash cam that records automatically if someone damages our car outside our home can keep premiums low.
However, as these examples demonstrate, a dash cam may be useful in these cases, but it isn't usually a preventative measure.
Dash cams are often used after an incident to provide evidence one way or the other, so, from an insurer's point of view, it doesn't affect a driver's risk profile so much as prevent spurious claims and settle disputes quickly.
The young driver in our example may see premiums reduced by opting for black box insurance while those who drive long distances can get more ideas on how to get cheaper car insurance in our dedicated guide.
On the other hand, an insurer may appreciate the fact a driver has a dash cam because it could encourage them to drive more cautiously and therefore avoid accidents.
For insurers, a dash cam is one element of many that determines how big an insurance risk a driver is. It's likely to only play a small part, but it may be big enough to make a difference to customer quotes.
There are also some things to consider when choosing a dash cam that may affect insurance premiums.
What to think about when buying a dash cam
Dash cams have been around for many years now. As a customer, that's a good thing because it means there are more models on the market, but it also means there are some duds and spotting them can be difficult.
Here are some things to think about before you buy a dash cam.
1. Does your insurer require a specific brand?
Some insurers will stipulate in their terms and conditions that only dash cams from a particular manufacturer are eligible to be used by drivers to lower their premiums.
This may be because these dash cams have better picture quality and more features than other models, or simply because an insurer has a partnership with the company.
After comparing motor insurance quotes, be sure to check the small print on an insurance agreement to see if they specify which dash cam models can be used by drivers to lower their insurance payments.
2. What's the picture quality like?
If the footage we record on our dash cam can't be easily viewed and doesn't pick out details like licence plates or pedestrians, it isn't useful as a piece of equipment.
Dash cam technology has evolved to the point where grainy video shouldn't be a problem - just so long as customers don't opt for the cheapest models on the market.
There are plenty of cheap dash cams around, but those with 1080p HD video quality are often the minimum requirement these days.
3. Are there front and rear cameras?
While some dash cams only use a forward-facing camera, others come with a rear camera too. This double camera system can be more effective because it catches any events behind the vehicle such as another car running in the back of them at a set of traffic lights.
Double camera systems invariably cost more as a driver is paying for multiple cameras. Plus, the installation may be slightly more complicated.
4. What features does the dash cam have?
Dash cams have a range of features that vary depending on how much a driver is willing to pay. We don't necessarily need the most advanced models on the market, but it's certainly worth knowing what features to look out for.
Here are some common dash cam features:
- Loop recording to overwrite footage on the device unless an incident occurs
- G-sensor to detect moments of high impact
- Night vision for effective night driving
- Image stabilisation
- Built-in WiFi
- Compatibility with mobile
- Parking mode
Some of these features may be considered essential such as the ability to record footage in low light, for example, so it's worth considering whether the cheaper model you've been considering has the necessary features to make the purchase worthwhile.
One final point: dash cams record on to an SD card, so is that included in the price or does it need to be purchased separately?
5. Does it need to be professionally installed?
Many people will opt to install their dash cam themselves, but some systems are more easily installed by a professional.
Plus, it's important to remember a dash cam must not obstruct a driver's view or distract them while they're on the road. A professional installation will reduce those risks.
Factor the price of installation into the overall dash cam costs if you're going this route.
Along with this, it's worth checking on those insurance company terms and conditions whether a dash cam has to be professionally installed to be counted by them.
6. Could a smartphone app replace a dash cam?
Smartphones are almost an obvious replacement for a fixed dash cam and there are apps out there that do the work of a dashboard camera right from a customer's handset.
However, there are a couple of notes of caution to sound about this:
- Smartphone footage may not be of a high enough quality
- If the device is not fixed properly it might not catch an incident and may prove to be a distraction to the driver
- A smartphone is necessarily only a front-facing camera so no rear footage will be captured
- Some insurers will not accept smartphone footage
If the purpose of getting a dash cam is to lower insurance premiums or provide evidence in the event of a crash, it's best to make sure your insurer accepts the type of footage you're hoping to submit.
Benefits of having a dash cam
So far, we've concentrated on the practicalities of using a dash cam and how they may be viewed by insurance companies.
For those still unsure whether a dash cam will work for them, it's worth looking at the benefits in a little more detail.
1. Provides proof after an incident
We've already discussed the possibility of a dash cam reducing insurance premiums, but footage recorded of an incident could be the crucial difference between a claim being accepted as no-fault.
Whether a dash cam lowers a driver's premiums or not, the footage can often be submitted to insurance companies to prove what happened in the event of an incident. If there's a dispute over who was at fault, dash cam footage can help settle that issue.
This can help protect a driver's no claim discount.
2. Encourages cautious driving
In theory, a dash cam can encourage drivers to be more careful on the road since their driving is being recorded. This is a subjective point, but it's still important to note.
It's also possible that a greater take-up of dash cams will encourage safer driving across the roads since the likelihood of being recorded doing something wrong is higher.
3. Can be used by police
It's common after a road traffic accident now to hear the police requesting any dash cam footage of an incident to help with their enquiries.
A driver who happens to be in the area with a dash cam could prove to be a valuable witness in someone else's accident.
4. Protects a vehicle when stationary
Some dash cams are able to automatically turn on in the event of an incident, capturing footage from immediately afterwards. This is useful, for example, if a car is bumped by another overnight or if someone tries to break in.
On the flip side, leaving a dash cam on view overnight can prove to be a security risk, so drivers should think carefully about whether they want to leave it on display or pack it away overnight to prevent thieves seeing an opportunity.
How much do dash cams cost?
Prices of dash cams can start from as low as £20, although it's worth remembering these cameras are likely to be basic and may not provide high quality footage or be accepted by an insurance company as evidence in the event of an accident.
Once we get to the £40 - £50 mark, there are more quality dash cams available, but we have to go a little higher in price before we find Nextbase's most basic model.
Nextbase dash cams are often recommended by insurers, although their basic 720p dash cam is £59 at the time of writing while their most advanced model in 4K quality is £249.
This shows the range of prices a driver can expect to come across when shopping for a dash cam. Bear in mind all the features we've discussed in this dash cam guide to find one that's suitable for your needs.
Verdict: should you get a dash cam?
Dash cams are becoming more common and there's no doubt the footage is being used by insurers, police and other organisations to improve road safety and reduce crime.
If the sole reason a driver wants to get a dash cam is to reduce their insurance premiums, we'd recommend running quotes on our free motor insurance comparison checker to see how much you could save per month and remember to check the small print of any insurance agreement to see if a specific brand of dash cam is mentioned or if it needs to be professionally installed.
Looking beyond insurance premiums, getting a dash cam in your vehicle can be a useful measure in case anything happens and we need proof of who was at fault.
Research commissioned by Aviva in 2019 and undertaken by YouGov found 57% of customers had never used a dash cam but would consider using one in the future.
When asked why they may install one, 89% said they would like proof of what happened in the event of any incidents on the road, while 59% wanted to tackle fraudulent claims and 46% wanted to reduce their motor insurance premiums.
The AA also commissioned research by Populus in 2019 and found interest in dash cams and their potential in fighting crime was growing. 24% owned a dash cam and 70% agreed that anyone prosecuted because of video footage recorded by another road user deserves the punishment given to them.
This research demonstrates there is an appetite not only for the benefits of dash cams by individuals but also a growing awareness of how these benefits can be spread to other road users.
We're likely to see more dash cams on the road in the coming years, but whether this will result in lower insurance premiums is still up for debate.