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Dash cams: everything you auto know

Rachel White

Updated 22 Mar 2023

Rachel White

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Go to YouTube, type in ‘dash cam footage’, and you’ll find yourself quickly delving into a world of recorded crashes, near misses, alleged insurance scams, idiotic behaviour, road rage, strange and amusing incidents . . . the list is endless and judging from the millions of views some of these videos receive, they are educational, entertaining, scary, but most of all, hypnotically watchable.

None of this footage would exist were it not for the dash cam - the small digital recording devices that have become one of the most sought after automotive accessories.

There are good reasons to have a dash cam. In the aftermath of an accident or another nasty incident, dash cam footage is no doubt useful as evidence.

But if you don’t have one yet, are thinking about purchasing one, and are curious about the technology, here is some information you’ll find useful.

How do dash cams work?

Dash cams are cameras mounted to your windscreen or the rear of a vehicle.

They are hardwired into your vehicle, powered by a cigarette lighter cable, or are battery-powered.

They record road activity either onto internal memory or onto a memory card or to the Cloud, and the footage can be downloaded when required.

Some dash cams may offer motion detection recording when your vehicle is stationary.

Why do you need a dash cam?

Dash cams are not a necessity but they can provide evidence following an accident and may also record vandalism or theft when your car is parked.

Are all dash cams built-in?

No. Some modern vehicles come with factory-fitted dash cams as standard or as an optional extra but, currently, the majority of dash cams are fitted as an aftermarket accessory.

Where can I get a dash cam?

Auto parts suppliers, auto electricians, online, home entertainment retailers, electronic stores and car sound system retailers can provide dash cams and some also offer an installation service.

What types of dash cams are available?

Single Channel: for one-directional recording and typically faces the front of the vehicle

Dual Channel: offers front and rear recording with a dual camera view

In-car: for inside cabin viewing. Used for recording driver and passenger behaviour

How much are dash cams?

Some of the more dependable options will range from $49 to nearly $600 depending on what features you want.

Installation will also come with a fee and could be between $40 to $150 depending on your choice of dash cam.

Who can install a dash cam?

Suppliers of dash cams will usually offer an installation service. If the dash cam requires battery packs or a cigarette lighter to power the unit then anyone can fit the unit.

If the dash cam is hard-wired into the vehicle then you would need a qualified auto electrician to complete the installation.

How do you use a dash cam?

Most dash cams will start to operate as you turn on the ignition and/or start driving. Others may need to be powered on and off.

They will record and save files to a memory card, through wi-fi or to the cloud.

You can access video footage on a computer or a phone if enabled.

What is a dash cams recording length?

Dash cam footage is typically saved to a memory card which can then be transferred to a computer.

Usually, the video footage is saved into a file around every 5 minutes you drive. This keeps the file size down and makes it easier to find a particular incident.

Once your memory card is full, the dash cam may stop recording unless the unit allows for old files to be overwritten when full.

There are some dash cams that upload straight to the cloud or utilise wi-fi for instant access.

Are dash cams an invasion of privacy?

Dash cams are legal as long as you are recording in public.

If you are recording a private activity then it becomes an invasion of privacy. This includes if you record a private conversation between people.

Do dash cams record audio?

Yes. Most dash cams come with audio recording option included.

Can you get reverse dash cams?

Yes. There are dual camera options, or you can install two separate cameras. Some cameras offer external and in-cabin viewing and there are remote cameras that can be set up to view the road behind the vehicle as well.

Do dash cams work while the car is off?

Yes. But only if you purchase a dash cam with that option and it is installed and programmed to operate when the vehicle is off. This usually works on a motion detection system.

There are dash cam batteries available if you choose to record constantly.

Can dash cam video be used with insurance claims?

Yes. It is common practice for insurance companies to ask if you have dash cam footage when making a claim. This will not reduce your premiums but may save on not-at-fault excess charges.

Can I use a dash cam to spy on my vehicle’s occupants?

Some high-end dash cams can be operated and viewed externally. A dash cam can be used to listen to and view driver and passenger activity.

As long as the vehicle occupants are well aware they are being recorded then it is legal, otherwise recording private activity can be considered an invasion of privacy.

What should you consider when buying a dash cam?


: consider what works with your lifestyle and ease of use

Heat protection

: vehicles get very hot, so make sure the chosen dash cam will cope


: keep within your budget but consider that quality and ease of use may be worth the extra dollars

Video quality

: the idea of a dash cam is to have good quality footage when needed


: choose one that offers the best range of view and quality that works for you


: a correctly fitted dash cam can not legally be within your field of view when driving

If you’re looking to install a dash cam have an AutoGuruexpert installer get the job done hassle-free.

Rachel White

Written By

Rachel White

Rachel spent her early adult life around cars, motorsport and hands-on with her own cars. This interest moved into various careers within the Automotive industry. Joined with her passion for writing, Rachel loves putting the two together to share her experience, so we can all become AutoGuru’s.