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One of the biggest questions about radar detectors is if they are worth the money. Are they really going to save you from a speeding ticket, or are they just another fancy gadget to show off inside your car?
As with most things in life, it depends. That’s why we created this guide to the best radar detectors on the market in 2021, so you don’t waste your hard-earned money on a high-tech, glorified paperweight.
Best Radar Detectors in 2021
We reviewed the best radar detectors on the market, and here are our top picks.
In making this list of the best radar detectors for 2021, we considered the five main points below. Whenever we recommend a radar detector to someone or purchase one ourselves, we always look at these five things:
#1: Long Detection Range
The detection range determines how much time you have between an alert and the police radar signal in question. The longer the range of the radar detector, the earlier you’ll know to slow down.
#2: Bluetooth Connectivity
Bluetooth connectivity isn’t essential, but it’s a handy feature to have. Bluetooth allows you to connect to other gadgets and devices, including your smartwatch and smartphone. Will you get decent alerts without Bluetooth? Yes. Does Bluetooth make your radar detector more feature-rich? Absolutely.
#3: Compatible Apps
Many brands have proprietary apps that let you adjust different settings and signal strength and even connect you to data from other users. This data alerts you to things like an unforeseen red light camera, speed trap, construction work, school zone, or police radar activity. If your radar detector has app capability like this, you will be prepared, especially when driving on unfamiliar roads.
GPS is handy in a radar detector. It helps the device remember your usual routes and recognizes a false alarm, especially in a busy city where many things might trigger an alert. GPS also allows you to monitor your speed more precisely and makes it so you can mark red light cameras and other hazards that you notice along your route.
As a general rule, we tend to avoid blatantly inexpensive radar detectors. In our experience, you will sacrifice quality and performance. Typically, we don’t suggest units that fall much below $100. One possible exception is Uniden DFR1, which is among the best-selling radar detectors on Amazon. It’s not fancy, but for about $60, it’s a good option for an affordable radar detector.
Keep in mind that radar detectors are not always a “go big, or go home” type of purchase. There are plenty of high-quality units from top brands that don’t cost an arm and a leg (some we will cover on this list). With that said, here are the best radar detectors on the market in 2021.
This radar detector is one of the most advanced on the market, equipped with Wi-Fi, GPS, Digital Signal Processing (DSP), and artificial intelligence (to better protect against false alerts). Thanks to its triple-antenna design, the Redline 360c has twice the range as other detectors by Escort. True, it is one of the more expensive units, but Escort’s TotalShield technology is also what sets it apart. This essentially means it’s invisible to “radar detector-detectors,” devices that police use (remember VG-2 from back in the day) to determine if you have a unit.
The Redline 360c quickly filters out interference and false alarms by learning where they are, using intelligent-GPS technology to learn your daily route. Similarly, you receive access to Escort Live, an app that connects you to other drivers, so you know what’s ahead. The app alerts you, in real-time, to things like red light and speed cameras.
The downside is how the Redline 360c is one of the most expensive portable radar detectors at about $750. However, if you want the best of the best, and your budget will allow it, the Redline 360c is worth every penny. The money you spend also comes with Escort’s ticket-free guarantee for one year after the date of purchase.
Trade-In Program & 30-Day Price Match
Escort offers two customer-friendly programs that help them jump to the top of our list. The first is a 30-day price match promise. If you find one of their products, including the Redline 360c, advertised at a better price online, they will honor it up to a month after the original purchase.
The second is a trade-in program. Don’t toss your old Escort unit just yet. It might be worth something towards the purchase of the Redline 360c.
If the Redline 360c is out of your price range, browse through our review of the MAX 360c. You should be able to save about $150 going with the MAX 360c over the Redline 360c. The only thing you’ll really be missing is the Stealth technology.
The Escort Redline 360c is our top pick for the best portable radar detector on the market due to its exceptional 360-degree detection range, advanced features, directional arrows, Stealth technology, Wifi, GPS, AI, and Escort’s additional offerings such as a trade-in program, Escort Live app, price-match, and ticket-free guarantee.
The Uniden R7 offers 360-degree coverage, meaning it will alert you to potential threats from any direction. We like the colorful OLED display, which includes a signal strength monitor and directional arrows that tell you where the alert is coming from. The GPS lockout feature remembers up to 2,000 individual locations to prevent reoccurring false alerts (like automatic doors in a shopping plaza, construction zones, or digital signage).
The R7 supports firmware updates, which include new red light and speed camera locations, increased MRCD detection range, and enhanced voice alert capability for better hands-free operation. With the R7’s suction cup mounts, it should be pretty easy to remove the unit from your car and plug it into your computer for new firmware updates.
When we searched for the best deal on a Uniden R7, Amazon was the clear winner at around $450.
Our Bronze Medal award goes to the Cobra DualPro 360 – it’s easy to use with its seven buttons, including a mute button, positioned along the top of the unit. The GPS capabilities are great for displaying the speed limit, your current speed, and warning you of any red light or speed cameras in the area. Using the GPS, you can also mark speed traps and other hazards using the iRadar app (similar to Waze). One of the best features of the Cobra DualPro 360 is the directional arrows that point towards the threat.
The DualPro 360 features an easy-to-read four-color OLED display, and you can choose the display color you prefer from green, copper, blue, and red. OLEDs last a long time, which is a perk. But they can be difficult to see in bright sunlight. That said, there are multiple display adjustments to cope with this, including an auto setting that adjusts to the ambient light.
The Valentine One Gen2 has an entirely new look and design from its predecessor. Not only is it thinner and sleeker, but it also has new power and volume controls that are much easier to use than on the Gen1.
Long-range performance and sensitivity are excellent, giving you more range and earlier warnings via LNA technology (Valentine calls this a “signal magnifier”). Though it responds to some interference at times, these false alarms are much less intense. Coverage is good as the unit includes a radar antenna and a laser eye that monitor the front of your vehicle, while a separate antenna-eye monitors the rear.
The Valentine One Gen2 also has a ramp-up feature, which slowly increases the alarm’s intensity as you near the source. Users have mixed feelings about it. Some love it because it doesn’t get crazy and loud as soon as it picks up something, while others feel it doesn’t always warn early enough about what lies ahead.
There are multiple mode settings, which makes the Valentine One Gen2 more flexible for everyday driving. All Bogies Mode allows visual and audio alerts; Logic Mode gives visual alerts but mutes weak signals for a quieter ride; and Advanced Logic Mode for L, X, and K bands. Valentine recommends this mode for city driving.
Integrated Bluetooth and an open API make this a versatile option that you can use with other devices, apps, and accessories. Useful apps are available on both iOS and Android to add functionalities like voice announcements, logging alerts, and automatic lockouts. There are even some apps that work with the Apple Watch, so you can mute alerts just by moving your wrist.
One downside is that the Valentine One Gen2 does not have GPS, meaning you don’t get automatic red light or speed camera alerts. But, you can pair it with your smartphone if you want to add GPS functionality, so this isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker.
If you’re looking for an effective radar detector that’s a little more budget-friendly, we recommend the Escort Max 3. It has impressive long-range detection and good false alert filtering. Furthermore, AutoLearn and GPS technology, Bluetooth and laser jammer capability, and a multicolor OLED display make the Escort MAX 3 a no-brainer in this price range.
You also receive access to the Defender Database through the Escort Live app. It’s a subscription service, but the benefits are well worth it, especially when traveling someplace new. It offers shared alerts from other drivers and updated locations for speed cameras and red lights. We recommend the three-year subscription ($49.95) versus the one-year plan ($24.95) as it’s a better value overall.
Like the Redline 360c, the MAX 3 is also covered by Escort’s ticket-free guarantee program for one year after purchase.
Pre-loaded with red light & speed camera locations
Poor quality power cable
If you’re looking to get the best bang for the buck, we recommend the Uniden R3. Like its big brother, the R7, the Uniden R3 offers a GPS lockout feature to prevent any reoccurring false alerts. The GPS feature also lets you mark points along your drive where you commonly see red light cameras and speed traps so you can customize your alarms.
The R3 (also like the R7) is pre-loaded with red light and speed camera locations, which are kept current through Uniden’s regular firmware updates.
Voice alerts allow for hands-free operation and even alert you to the type of radar you’re approaching. The Uniden R3 offers X, K, and Ka-band driver-set sensitivity levels, MRCD/MRCT detection, and an auto-dimming feature.
The Cobra RAD 480i is a great option for a radar detector under $200. You’re not going to get the same performance as you would from our top picks, but this one is impressive for the price. It uses Cobra’s LaserEye technology to provide front and rear protection, and the iRadar app gives you real-time alerts for everything from speed cameras to police activity crowdsourced from a community of more than three million other users.
The Cobra RAD 480i has twice the range of other radar detectors in its class. With its long-range detection and an early-warning system, you’ll know what’s ahead of you on the road.
At $99, the Cobra RAD 380 is a winner if you want something inexpensive but not cheap. The RAD 380 offers front and rear detection, an IVT filer to reduce false alerts, sensitivity adjustments, proximity and strength meter, and a dim button.
Although we don’t often recommend radar detectors under $100, this one is an exception. It’s our pick for the best budget radar detector under $100. We’d still recommend spending the extra $50 and stepping up into the RAD 480i (above), but if you’re on a strict budget, the RAD 380 will do the trick.
The Cobra Road Scout Elite is our pick for the best radar detector with built-in dash camera. Having them “bundled” like this will save you money over buying them individually.
Let’s start with the radar detector. Though it doesn’t match some of the more expensive units on this list in terms of performance, this is still a great option. The laser detection and range are pretty good, and the false alarms are minimal, thanks to four different filter settings.
As for the 1080p dashcam, it’s pretty good, too. The Wi-Fi-enabled camera includes a 16GB card that stores up to four hours of recordings before looping back over what’s stored. Everything you record is timestamped with the location and date, and you can share and edit videos on your phone. As a bonus, there is an emergency recording feature too, which is activated by a G-sensor.
Some radar detectors are designed to sit on your dashboard, while others attach to the windshield with a suction cup. There are pros and cons to both, but what’s important is that it works for your vehicle. If you have a small car, putting a radar detector on the windshield might obstruct your view. Keep the installation in mind when you’re choosing the one that’s right for you. In general, you should try to mount the detector high up, with a good line of sight.
We suggest using BlendMount’s custom-fit mounts. They’re made for all popular radar detectors and are meant to mount the unit in the best possible place for detection without blocking your view.
Installation usually comes in one of three flavors:
A corded radar detector is the most common and comes with (you guessed it!) a cord that plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter.
The advantages of a corded detector are that it remains very portable and never runs out of batteries. It does, however, have a sometimes annoying cable that hangs down over your center console and gets in your way.
A cordless radar detector gets rid of the annoying cable and remains highly portable. However, since it runs on batteries, you’re going to have to change those regularly. Plus, how comfortable do you feel knowing the only thing between you and that huge speeding ticket is a AA battery?
This one is for the pros. No, really, leave this for professionals to install because it requires wiring the unit directly into your car’s electrical system.
Even though it has wires, they won’t be in your way because they’re strung through your car’s interior to stay out of your eyesight. The downsides to hard-wiring? You give up all portability this way, and it’s typically more expensive.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Are radar detectors legal?
In 49 states, yes. They are illegal in Virginia and Washington D.C. Commercial vehicles aren’t allowed to use them, and they are prohibited on military bases by federal law. Check out our in-depth guide to radar detector laws here.
How far away can police detect your speed?
It depends on the size of your vehicle and the model of radar gun the police use. Larger vehicles are bigger targets. For large semis and other trucks, a speed gun can measure speed from a mile away. For a small car, they only need about 500 feet. This is not a lot of time to slow down, so you need a radar detector that alerts you as soon as possible.
Should I get a radar detector or jammer?
Radar jammers are illegal, so you should definitely get a radar detector. Jammers work by disabling police radar and are banned in most places. You will still see them for sale, but we don’t recommend buying one. Laser jammers, however, are legal in most states.
Can police tell if I have a radar detector?
They can’t be sure in every case, but some highly trained police officers will be able to tell. For one, most radar detectors are mounted on the windshield, so they’re easily visible. You can’t get pulled over for this unless it is obstructing your view, so be careful where you put it.
Some police officers use RDDs, or Radar Detector Detectors, which can detect your unit’s signal. You only really have to worry about this if you’re using your radar detector in a state or vehicle where it is illegal. Plus, the best radar detectors will have some kind of stealth technology to hide you from RDDs.
Which radar bands should my detector detect?
Police use three primary bands in the U.S. – X, K, and Ka bands. All of the radar detectors on our list detect all of the most popular radar bands, as well as offering laser detection.
Can radar detectors drain my car battery?
This depends on your specific car. Some models continue to serve power through the 12V outlet (where most portable radar detectors and other accessories plug in) even though the car is turned off. Check your specific model to be sure.
Can radar detectors detect speed cameras?
Any good radar detector with built-in GPS will alert you to speed cameras, red light cameras, and speed traps.