Dashboard-mounted cameras, or “dash cams,” have been used by law enforcement for decades. True to their name, dash cams are typically cameras mounted to a vehicle’s dashboard and are essentially used like a security camera for the trip duration. Since the early 2000s, dash cams have become popular for commercial and private use because they capture roadway events like checkpoints, driver safety and accidents. There are many benefits to outfitting your car with a dash camera, especially if an incident occurs where specific details are being contested.

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Imagine you were T-boned at an intersection and the at-fault party is providing the police officer a different version of what happened than the version you are telling. Being charged for an accident could not only hurt your driving record, but could increase your insurance rates. In this case, a dash cam could help provide a clear picture of the events as they unfolded and help prove the other driver was at fault. Although there may be an upfront cost, having a dash cam could potentially save you money in the long run. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team put together a list of what to consider when looking into getting a dash camera installed in your car.

How dash cams can impact your car insurance

Typically, insurance carriers do not offer discounts to drivers specifically for having a dash cam in their vehicle. However, the potential cost-saving benefits to having a dash cam should not be overlooked when you are looking for cheap car insurance. In fact, outfitting your car with a dash camera can indirectly impact your car insurance in a few positive ways due to their nature of acting as a witness to certain incidents:

Having a record of your accident

No one wants to get in a car accident, but accidents do happen sometimes. If there is any doubt or question of who is at fault for the crash, the claims process can quickly become messy. In some scenarios, proceedings can devolve into your word against that of the other driver and you could end up being found liable or at least partially at fault. Being found at fault for an accident could bar you from recovering any damages from the other party’s insurance or require you to pay out of your own insurance coverage for repairs, which typically comes with a premium increase.

One of the best ways to avoid a “he-said-she-said” situation is to rely on the footage from your dash camera. If your dash cam recorded the accident as it happened, the video could help remove or alleviate any question of fault during the claims process. A video from a dash cam might even be able to provide sufficient evidence to speed up proceedings and help you settle the claim faster.

Fighting insurance fraud

Car insurance fraud is far too common. If someone tries to involve you in a staged accident to receive a fraudulent claims payout, the result can be disastrous and cost you thousands of dollars in legal fees and increased insurance premiums.

Having a video record of these events could help protect you from insurance fraud. If you believe you have been involved in car insurance fraud, you should contact law enforcement and turn over any video evidence you have as soon as possible.

Any recorded evidence of suspected car insurance fraud can also go a long way toward clearing your case with your insurance company.

Making you a better driver

Safe driving practices take years to master. If you are a new driver or have had a few close calls behind the wheel recently, you may want to review your dash cam video to see what could be done differently next time. Taking the time to refine your technique could result in avoiding a bad car wreck in the future.

Safe driving also directly affects the price you pay for car insurance. If you can avoid traffic tickets and car accidents for a few years, many car insurance providers will reward you with a good driver discount, which can significantly reduce your monthly premium cost.

Capturing unexpected events

Although car accidents are always a danger while driving, many incidents that damage your car happen while parked. If your car insurance policy includes comprehensive coverage, then incidents that damage your car such as theft, vandalism, falling tree limbs and damage from fires are generally covered.

Suppose any of these damaging events occur and your dash camera captures them. In that case, the video from the camera should significantly strengthen your claim and speed up the process of getting your car repaired through your insurance.

If you live in rural areas where crossing wildlife can be a hazard, having a dash camera record the moment of impact can also help your insurance claim. To file a claim of this nature, you’ll generally need to have comprehensive coverage in your policy.

Monitoring your teen’s driving

It is widely known that adding a teen driver onto your policy is an expensive policy change, since statistics show that teenage drivers are more likely to get involved in an accident compared to other age groups. Due to their lack of driving experience combined with a tendency to make riskier decisions, insurance companies generally rate teenage drivers as high-risk motorists and charge a hefty premium for even basic liability coverage.

Although the insurance company will not necessarily lower your costs because you have a dash cam in your teen’s car, your teen may be more conscious while driving knowing that they are being monitored. You could monitor whether your teenage driver is following traffic laws, speed limits or passenger limits, and address any issues before a ticket or accident happens. You may even appreciate the extra peace of mind while your teen is on the road.

Acting as a security camera

Even if it is locked, there is usually no way to monitor or protect your vehicle when it is parked unattended, especially if you are not nearby. In cases where vandalism or theft occurs, there is usually little to no evidence of who committed the crime if there were no witnesses. Although comprehensive coverage could cover the damage, recovering stolen objects is nearly impossible when there is no one to hold at fault. However, a dash camera could act as a first-hand witness if there is sufficient dash cam footage to help law enforcement track down the perpetrator and in some cases, even recover your lost items.

Are dash cams worth it?

Although there may not be a dash cam insurance discount in the U.S., a dash cam can still help to protect you against insurance fraud. Additionally, installing a dash camera can help assist in the insurance claims process, adding convenience to your insurance experience.

However, the benefit you might get from a dashboard camera largely depends on the frequency and use of your car, as well as how much you spend on the camera. Generally speaking, a reliable dash cam costs at least $100, with top-of-the-line models running hundreds of dollars.

The less expensive models generally do not have their own screens for viewing, contain no internal battery and have few features other than HD recording. Higher-end models generally come with many features such as their own screen, extended battery life, and built-in GPS.

Furthermore, some models are easy to set up yourself, while others may require professional installation. You should keep in mind what you want your dash camera to accomplish before making a purchase and make sure it’s running correctly before relying on it for any kind of video evidence.

Frequently asked questions

Can you get a discount for having a dash camera?

While most insurance providers in the U.S. do not currently offer discounts to policyholders with dash cams installed, choosing to install one can provide important video documentation during insurance claims and fraud accusations.

If there is any dispute or question after you file a claim, a dash cam could be the deciding factor in a successful claim and could save you thousands of dollars in expenses.

How much do dash cameras cost?

Most dash cams available in commercial markets generally run about $100 to $500. For example, an APEMAN Dash Cam C860 costs around $100, depending on where you buy it, and comes with basic features.

On the other hand, a Nextbase 522GW Dash Cam will run you somewhere between $260 and $300, depending on where you buy it, and this camera comes with most of the functions you’d want in a reliable dash camera. For example, the dash cam can automatically alert emergency services following an accident.

The Nextbase 622GW 4K Dash Cam is one of the most advanced on the market, including features like image stabilization and precision GPS. But this high-end camera costs about $400+ at the moment.