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Dash cams - are they worth it?

Let's say you're involved in an auto accident. One of the questions police officers or perhaps a claims adjuster might ask will be, "Does your vehicle have a dash cam?"

If so, that dash cam could help speed up your claims process, offering definitive proof of how the accident unfolded. But there is a big emphasis on the word, 'could'.

Currently, dash cams are available as aftermarket items with a range of options.  There are a variety of aftermarket dash cams available, and the technology gets better all the time. Prices vary drastically — you can spend less than $100 to several hundred. Typically, dash cams at the $200 price point will offer high-end features such as 4K resolution, parked-car monitoring, and GPS tracking.

These days, dash cams are also offered on some brands of vehicles as an add-on feature. Currently, Tesla, BMW, Subaru, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and Toyota are the biggest brands with integrated dash cams.

So why the emphasis on the word 'could'? There are multiple reasons. Currently, insurance companies don't offer any discount for having a dash cam. There also isn't a guarantee your dash cam will capture the accident if your vehicle is turned off or if you're struck from the side or rear, depending on where your dash cam is mounted.

All the brands listed above have their own potential drawbacks. For example, with Tesla, to save the footage from any incident, you need to manually press the dash camera icon button, which might slip your mind in the chaos following an accident. With BMW's dash cam, you need to manually activate the Drive Recorder via the iDrive menu whenever you want to record something. Cadillac's version can only record a front or a rear-view image - not both simultaneously. Chevrolet has a Performance Data Recorder - but it requires you to manually turn it on to record. Subaru has an EyeSight system - which does record footage in the event of an accident but only retains 22 seconds of it. The access to this recorded footage isn’t straightforward — it requires written permission or a subpoena, adding a layer of complexity to the system. And finally, Toyota offers the Genuine Dash Camera as an optional accessory offered by Toyota Canada for a few select models. But odds are good you're not purchasing your vehicle in Canada.

Our advice? Wait a few more years for the automotive industry to work out the kinks and before you know it, dash cams will become standard on most new models.