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Radar detectors have been around for decades, with the first ones developed in the late Sixties and early Seventies. But they’ve evolved exponentially throughout the years, keeping up with the technology around us.
A radar detector typically mounts on your windshield via suction cups, and the traditional reason drivers get them is to alert others of a police presence nearby. But most modern radar detectors can also detect things like speed sensors, red light cameras, even hidden cameras.
Radar Detector Buying Guide
Before going all-in on one, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the basics of what to look for in a radar detector:
Sensitivity: There’s a lot more radar on the road these days than ever before, in the forms of things such as other drivers’ collision avoidance systems (like blind-spot monitoring), and mounted police speed cameras – some which can be hidden in parked vehicles along the road. If you know where a false alert is going to be located on your daily route, like the auto-opening doors of a shopping center, you can teach most units to ignore it each time you drive by. A too-sensitive detector that’s always going off can get irritating really fast.
Range: This is one of the core basics when looking for the best radar detector for you. But even a unit with an impressive range of a mile or two can’t perform without a good clear signal. If you’re doing a lot of driving on curvy backroads with tall trees around, you’ll want a strong detector that can compensate for anything that might be blocking a radar signal’s path. With a flat, open road, this won’t matter as much, but still can’t hurt. Some units also include built-in arrows, to tell you which way the picked-up signal is coming from.
Bluetooth: Another great feature of modern detectors is the ability to pair with a device like your smartphone or tablet. This can add way more functionality to your detector unit, providing a screen that’s full of options which are easy to turn on and off.
Setup: All of these are pretty straightforward, simple to set up, and stick onto your windshield. But the more expensive models can get very complex in terms of what the settings can do, and learning the interface around it. If all you want is a basic detector to pick up potential speed traps, you may not need a high-end one with all the bells and whistles.
Legalities: Radar detectors are banned in Virginia and Washington D.C, as well as on military bases, so check your local laws before getting one and making it part of your car’s setup. Police and authorities also have radar detector detectors, giving them the ability to know if you’re using one where you shouldn’t be – so keep it legal and safe every time you drive.
What are the Best Radar Detectors?
Want an extra set of “eyes” on the road? We’ve rounded up some of the best legal radar detectors you can buy online right now.
1. Uniden R7 Laser Radar Detector
Uniden’s range capability here is excellent, stretching up to two miles ahead on a straight, clear road. Arrows are built-in, as is 360º protection all around thanks to the dual antenna. This also has programmable voice alerts, so you can keep your eyes on the road while knowing what your detector is picking up.
There’s no Bluetooth, but you won’t even need to bother connecting a smartphone to the Uniden R7, as everything you need is included and even automatic. The bright OLED display shows it all, and with a swift interface to find what you’re looking for fast after a little familiarization.
Detecting radar from cameras on the road performs well, and firmware updates even include known red light and speed camera locations, so your detector will be up to date wherever you drive. GPS is also included, and is teachable to silence known spots from going off every time you drive by.
2. Escort MAX360C Laser Radar Detector
Escort’s Max360C is a quality-built detector on its own, but once it’s paired with a dedicated community of over three million drivers it becomes something bigger than itself (Think Waze, but specifically just for the things a radar detector is made to do). The Escort has weekly firmware updates, including things like red light cameras from official traffic databases – no user reporting required.
This works especially well with cars that have built-in WiFi hotspots, constantly updating to pinpoint things like traffic jams and ticket traps. It’s Bluetooth-enabled, and compatible with iOS and Android (as well as with the Escort M1 dash cam) through the Escort Live app, but there’s still a built-in OLED screen.
This can detect both MultaRadar CD and MultaRadar CT, picking up stationary and mobile-based traffic cams, and is easily switchable on or off within the app.
The IVT filtering and AutoSensitivity is outstanding here, preventing false alerts and even learning your route and typical driving patterns. It’s pretty much ready to go right out of the box, so if you’re new or not tech-savvy, this one’s recommended.
3. Radenso Pro M Radar Detector
Radenso really shines when it comes to cutting down on false alerts, thanks to both its preloaded database, and also manual ability to silence spots that you know are coming up on your route, and have the unit remember them each time.
The amber-colored OLED display is easy to see in day or night, and 260 different voice alert messages keep your focus on the road ahead. Free monthly updates are available too by simply linking it up via the USB port to your computer.
But one of the big advantages of the Radenso is a small one – its size. This is significantly smaller than both the Uniden and the Escort, so if you’ve got limited windshield space or want a stealth setup, the Radenso is recommended.
4. Cobra RAD 480i Laser Radar Detector
Cobra’s 480i is a reliable radar detector for those not looking to spend big bucks on one of the higher-end models.
This has GPS and Bluetooth, and the OLED display is improved over the cheaper 380 unit. Plus it integrates with the iRadar app, allowing drivers to share alerts in real time with other Cobra users and even Escort users too.
The IVT filter still does a decent job cutting down on false alerts, and Cobra’s LaserEye tech keeps an eye out in both the front and back at all times.