Let’s face it, most drivers fail to follow posted speed limits on many major roads and highways. Even if you’re going with the flow of traffic, you can still be pulled over for speeding. Luckily, with a great radar detector, you can be alerted to a police speed trap via radar or laser before you risk getting a ticket. If you live in a place where the use of radar detectors is legal (sorry, friends from Washington, D.C. and Virginia), it’s a great idea to educate yourself on the benefits of owning a radar detector.
Why buy a radar detector?
Radar detectors are an ideal way to help you avoid expensive speeding tickets and even some other traffic violations. They’re designed to warn you whenever there’s a cop car or other police presence nearby, provide you with the area’s speed limit, and measure your vehicle’s speed. They’re not completely foolproof, of course, but they will significantly decrease your chances of getting pulled over for speeding. While various factors can impact exactly how effective individual radars might be, they’re not the outdated piece of technology that some people think they are. In fact, modern radar detectors are better than ever.
While some GPS and map apps on smartphones might alert you to speed limits and police presences, they tend to be reliant on other users to post this information. Thus, while somewhat handy, they aren’t guaranteed to alert you to every cop lying in wait along your route. Radar detectors are much more reliable for this particular task.
What should you look for in a radar detector?
- Range: Since a radar detector’s main function is to give drivers a fair warning of police radars, finding one that can identify them from further away is ideal. A long-range radar detector is even more useful if it can illustrate the signal strength since this will allow you to determine the approximate distance of a speed trap. Long-range radar detectors are also a great choice for those who drive along hilly and winding roads, as these road types tend to shorten the range of radar detection technology.
- Sensitivity: While radar detectors with a higher degree of sensitivity are better at detecting radio waves, this can be problematic if half of your alerts are false positives caused by other vehicles or automatic doors at the store across the street. Luckily, radar detection technology has come a long way in this regard. Finding a highly sensitive device that’s great at automatically filtering out false alerts might cost a bit extra, but it’s often worth it.
- Customization: Although self-optimizing radar detectors remain a great choice, many models will allow you to do a great deal of customizing yourself. Some allow you to “whitelist” alerts on the fly so that you won’t receive the same false alert every time you take your daily commute. This will really come into play when you receive false K-band alerts when driving by retail locations such as drug stores. Low-speed muting and easily adjustable sensitivity are two user-friendly features to keep an eye out for.
Where should you mount your radar detector?
For best results, you’ll want to mount your radar detector as high on the front interior of your car as possible. The higher the placement, the better the range. Most people tend to place theirs somewhere on their front windshield near the rearview mirror. Just be sure that you place your radar detector in a spot that won’t block or hamper your line of sight while driving. If concealing your radar detector is more important to you, you might prefer to place it behind your steering wheel instead.
If your radar detector also comes equipped with a camera, you’ll probably want to place it somewhere on your dashboard so that your rearview mirror won’t block your camera’s line of sight. Even if you don’t have a camera in your radar detector, the dashboard is still a fine place to mount it. However, keep in mind that this will likely affect the device’s range.
This user-friendly radar detector stands out for its handy voice alerts and customizable functions.
Pros: Featuring a highly customizable feature set with adjustable band sensitivity and tone alerts, the Uniden R3 is a stellar radar detector for its price. Its low-speed muting and traffic sensor filtering do a good job of keeping false alerts to a minimum, while its long- and short-range laser detection capabilities impress compared to comparable units. While this radar detector offers good user customization, it also learns about your typical routes and driving style on the fly, offering users an easy-to-use solution for minimizing traffic tickets while staying safe on the road.
Cons: Although the Uniden R3 offers respectable alert accuracy for the price, it’s likely to let more false alerts slip through the cracks than pricier premium radar detectors like the ESCORT MAX360. That being said, if you tend to drive around the same areas and roads for your daily commute, the R3 should improve its performance over time to largely minimize false alerts.
Bottom Line: While this isn’t the most accurate and high-tech radar detector on the market, it offers the best performance and handiest features for its price. It’s also one of the best entry-level radar detectors you can buy, thanks to its easy-to-learn interface and intuitive controls, but its customizable settings and advanced features leave power users with plenty of things to customize to their heart’s content.
Cobra RAD 480i Laser Radar Detector
This budget-priced radar detector's filter is great for eliminating false alerts where other budget options fail.
Pros: This radar detector is spectacularly priced, especially when considering how great its range is. Both the front and rear detection perform very well compared to alternative budget-priced models, and the RAD 480i has no problem detecting red light cameras. This radar detector also scores points for coming with several mounting options, making it a versatile pick that works well with an array of vehicles and driving styles.
Cons: While the app that this radar detector comes with is really useful (You get access to live hotspots and community-generated alert reporting.), it does come at a monthly subscription cost. Thankfully, if you already use Waze or a similar app, you can pass on this functionality and the monthly charges. Additionally, this radar detector is highly sensitive to K-band, so expect some false alerts along your route when passing retail establishments.
Bottom Line: If you’re seeking an entry-level or budget-friendly radar detector, you can’t do much better than this one. While it lacks some of the advanced functionality of its peers, it does well enough to be a dependable (if not somewhat bare-bones) option for people who are on a budget.
Uniden R7 Laser Radar Detector
This rugged product utilizes GPS technology and firmware updates to keep it up to date and features an unbeatable range and sensitivity.
Pros: The R7’s range is every bit as impressive as advertised and even shows its worth when you’re driving in conditions that are usually troublesome for radar detector users (especially hilly areas and winding roads). Its multi-colored display also scores top marks for being attention-grabbing and easy to read when you’re paying attention to the road. For people who absolutely loathe visual distractions, the voice alerts provide plenty of timely information.
Cons: Like many other radar detectors, this one suffers from an excess of K-band false alerts. While this can be somewhat fixed via sensitivity tweaking and GPS filtering, many will find it a lot of extra work, especially for a model this pricey. Speaking of pricing, it’s impossible to talk about this device without addressing the fact that it’s more expensive than other models with similar features.
Bottom Line: For many, this radar detector’s unbeatable range will be worth the cost. Additionally, the R7 packs enough advanced features and customizable options to make you feel like you’re receiving a complete product. However, people who don’t tend to push the envelope in terms of speed might find more value in a less expensive option.
Cobra Road Scout Dashcam and Radar Detector
A multifunctional radar detector that doubles as a dash camera and offers a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connection.
Pros: For a device that essentially offers two products for the price of one, the Road Scout does really well to keep the entire package easy to use so that inexperienced radar detector and dashcam owners can operate it. The dashcam features G-Sensor recording to ensure that your footage gets recorded and stored in the event of an accident. With reliable radar detection and HD dashcam recordings, there isn’t a lot to dislike here in terms of overall performance.
Cons: While the radar detector is good at reliably producing alerts, its lower-than-average detection range will leave you jamming on the brakes when an alert comes since it will mean that you’re in immediate danger of receiving a ticket. In terms of the dashcam, while the recording quality is great, it’s stored in .mov format and will use up a lot of space on your SD card.
Bottom Line: While there are better dashcam and radar detectors out there, this is the best option around for people looking for a space-saving two-in-one option. However, for people who drive on hilly roads that cause problems for radar detectors even in the best of times, this device’s lack of range might be a deal-breaker.
For the price, this radar detector's false alert filtering and customizable options really separate it from the pack.
Pros: Thanks to its built-in Bluetooth compatibility, the Escort MAX360 is regularly updated via Escort Live and Defender Database with minimal input from the driver. While this is by no means a budget radar detector, its advanced accuracy, stellar range, and wealth of customizable settings set it apart from more affordable offerings. This product also stands out for its informative visual alerts and dual-antenna system, which offers a superior coverage area that includes in front, to the side, and behind your vehicle.
Cons: This product’s OLED interface is easy on the eyes, but it tends to get jam-packed with information and can be hard to read under direct sunlight. It’s also worth noting that this might not be an ideal radar detector for newbies since its wealth of customizable features takes a while to get used to.
Bottom Line: This is one of the most resourceful radar detectors out there. Although many other products have caught up with it in terms of technology, this product still outperforms most of its competitors in terms of range, usability, and detection quality. It also comes equipped with a handy Novice Mode for beginners who are turned away by its feature-rich offerings.
Whether you have a long daily commute to work, take a lot of road trips, or simply can’t afford another speeding ticket, a radar detector can be a worthwhile investment. They’re great for crowded urban environments and for rural, sparsely populated roads. Also, since they’re meant to help you avoid traffic violations, owning a radar detector might actually help make you a better, more aware driver.