BEST RADAR DETECTORS | NOVEMBER 2017
Radar detectors can save you a lot of money and trouble. Speed traps can lead to expensive tickets and even impact how much you pay for insurance, so if you want to protect yourself, a good radar detector can practically pay for itself. We looked at radar detectors at a wide variety of price points to determine which ones worked best for the average driver, while also keeping an eye out for useful features and models that covered a wide range of radar bands that you might encounter both on the highway and in cities. Read more about our methodology.
Our favorite radar detector protects you from a wide range of threats, with cross-band functionality, 360-degree coverage, and very few false alerts. At this price range, you’ll have a hard time finding another detector with the same level of performance.Read full review.
Our budget pick is a handy, easy-to-use radar detector that performs surprisingly well in both cities and highways. It’s convenient and easy to install, and covers a very wide array of radar and laser bands commonly used in police speed traps.Read full review.
Radar Detectors BUYING GUIDE
One major consideration when choosing a radar detector is its range of operation. While this can largely depend upon the terrain and how fast you’re moving, you’ll generally want a detector that can sense threats from far away and give you extra time to slow down. This means you should seek out a radar detector with a range of at least a mile.
Highway vs. City Driving
Radar detectors aren’t just for detecting speed traps on the open highway. In fact, many models now incorporate different modes for city and highway driving, which lets you use the detector in a wider variety of settings. Some of the higher-end models even let you switch between modes, which is particularly useful if you commute into a city and find yourself driving in multiple types of areas.
While all radar detectors can detect signals from 360 degrees, they don’t all do so reliably. Lower-end models might only detect radar straight ahead or behind, with 360-degree detection when radar signals bounce off of other vehicles. A 360-degree detector will find many more signals and provide extra protection.
Radar Bands Detected
While most radar detectors currently on the market will detect radar bands that are commonly used in police radar guns, there are many bands that track speed, including those found in traffic lights. You’ll want a radar detector that detects frequencies across multiple bands, to ensure that you’re fully protected from all forms of radar detection.
While all radar detectors can give false alerts, many models incorporate technology that filters out these signals to provide a more accurate picture of nearby radar. With more cars on the road using lane detection or collision-prevention technology, there are extra radar signals bouncing around that can interfere with some detectors, which can make it more difficult to accurately assess and recognize threats.
Radar detectors are available at a variety of price points, from models under $50 to top-of-the-line versions that can easily cost between $500 and $600. While many of the lower-end models are relatively limited in functionality and effectiveness, you can still find quality detectors in the $50 to $200 price range. Considering that these models pay for themselves if they prevent even one speeding ticket, they’re a very good value. Once you get into the higher end of the price range, most radar detectors will offer long-range, 360-degree coverage, along with features like indicators to tell you exactly which direction the radar signal is coming from. A $500 radar detector is a significant investment, however, so you’ll have to decide if you think it will provide enough protection to offset the cost. If you’re a frequent driver who often takes long trips, then a radar detector can protect you from a lot of speed traps and other threats, so it makes sense to spend a little bit more to save more money over time.
FULL product reviews
We research hundreds of products in order to bring you a final, unbiased list of the very best. We also use a proprietary algorithm to score each product in terms of quality, value, and brand reputation. These subscores are then weighted to calculate our overall scores. Read more about how we calculate our scores.
The Escort Passport 8500X50 is a solid radar detector that provides a perfect level of protection for most users. It offers excellent coverage, both in terms of radar bands detected and range, without breaking the bank. It’s also easy to set up, customize, and switch between city and highway modes, which is perfect for everyday commuters. There are some issues with false alerts, but this detector easily outperforms competitors at the same price point.
Why We Recommend It
- 360-degree coverage offers more protection. The Escort Passport 8500X50 provides excellent multidirectional coverage while you drive. This is particularly useful for avoiding speed traps where you might not otherwise notice a police car monitoring your speed.
- Covers many commonly used radar bands. The Escort Passport covers several commonly used radar bands, including X, K, Ka, and several laser frequencies. It’s also designed to filter out vehicle collision detection radar to prevent false alerts on the highway.
- Easy to setup and customize. This detector is also very easy to set up and adjust, so you can start using it very quickly once it’s installed. You can customize audio tones and brightness, and also toggle certain radar band detection on and off.
- Prone to false Alerts in cities. If there’s one major issue with the Escort Passport, it’s that it has a tendency to give false alerts in cities. In areas where more radar devices are active, the filtering software just doesn’t perform as well, which can be a hassle.
- Mounting system not ideal. While it’s not as much of an issue as false alerts, the mounting system on the Escort Passport could be better. If you regularly drive on rough roads, you may find that the detector rattles or comes loose.
The Meter.llc Radar Detector is an ultra-portable radar detector that provides a great level of protection for drivers who don’t want to invest a lot of money. While it may miss some signals that a higher-end detector would pick up, it does reliably detect police radar guns to give you enough time to slow down and save yourself from getting a ticket.
Why We Recommend It
- Great range and coverage. This radar detector has 360-degree coverage and can detect radar signals from a relatively long distance, which are both features that are difficult to find on radar detectors at this price range.
- Excellent value for level of performance. With its range and effectiveness, the Meter.llc detector will likely save you from at least one ticket, which means that this detector pays for itself almost immediately.
- Easy to move to different vehicles. This radar detector is very small and portable, which is perfect if you’re a frequent traveler and want to transfer the detector from one vehicle to another.
- Speaker isn't the best. By far, the biggest issue with this radar detector is that the speaker is difficult to understand. While it does alert you to nearby radar signals, it can be difficult to make out exactly what it’s saying.
- Non-slip mat not effective. The Meter.llc radar detector doesn’t feature any mounting hardware, and instead uses a non-slip mat that goes on the dashboard. The mat doesn’t feel very secure, however, so the detector is prone to falling from the dash.
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Best Radar Detector Under $100
If you’re looking for an entry-level radar detector, you can find some high-quality models for under $100. While they won’t have the capabilities of more expensive detectors and may be more prone to false detection of radar signals, they can definitely help save money by keeping you more aware of your surroundings and preventing expensive speeding tickets. You’ll need to spend more than $100 if you want a detector that covers every radar band, but lower-priced models can still do an excellent job of detecting police radar.
The Cobra Electronics RAD 350 radar detector is an effective and easy-to-use radar detector. While it’s relatively light on bells and whistles, it makes up for its simplicity by reliably detecting radar signals across bands, incorporating “instant-on” technology to quickly detect new threats, and reliable signal filtering to reduce false alerts from collision-prevention and traffic sensing technologies.
Why We Recommend It
- Effective cross-band detection. The Cobra RAD 350 detects radar signals on all of the most frequently-used bands, including K, Ka, X, and V. It also prominently displays which bands it’s detecting at any given moment, which helps keep you aware of threats.
- Signal filtering yields fewer false alerts. The RAD 350 does a really great job of reducing false alerts. Vehicle collision detectors and traffic monitoring radar don’t set it off, so you’ll know that the signals are actual threats.
- Immediately picks up new signals. Since many police radar guns don’t give off a signal until they’re pointed at a vehicle and turned on, the RAD 350’s “instant-on” technology is an excellent feature. It immediately senses new signals, providing plenty of time to adjust your speed.
- Hard to hear. The alert sounds on the RAD 350 could definitely be louder. If you’re driving with the windows down or the radio turned on, you’ll have to keep an eye on the detector if you don’t want to miss an alert.
- No voice alert. Closely related to the volume of the alerts, the RAD 350 doesn’t have a voice alert system. This would be a very helpful feature, and it is available on the more-expensive Cobra RAD 450.
Best Radar Detector Under $200
There are many radar detectors that fall in the $100 to $200 price range, and these devices represent a significant step up from lower-priced models. These radar detectors will usually have the ability to pick up police radar from a mile out or more. Some even have features you’d find on more expensive models, like 360-degree coverage and the ability to detect more bands and frequencies. You may still get false alerts from these radar detectors, but not as much as you might with an under-$100 model.
The Beltronics Pro 100 Radar Detector is a straightforward radar detector that’s a great buy for users who don’t need too many extra features. It does exactly what you expect and need a high-quality radar detector to do, monitoring multiple radar bands and alerting you of threats with plenty of time to adjust your speed. With a long detection range and 360-degree coverage, you can detect radar from about a mile away in any direction.
Why We Recommend It
- Long distance detection. The detection distance on the Pro 100 is really excellent, even if you’re driving in mountainous or hilly areas. It can detect radar signals from roughly a mile away, which gives you a lot of time to adjust your speed.
- Not many false alerts. The signal filtering technology on the Pro 100 is incredibly effective, keeping false alerts from other vehicles to a minimum. This provides an extra level of protection, since you’ll know that the signals and alerts are legitimate.
- Easy to customize. Like many radar detectors, the Pro 100 has multiple modes for city or highway driving. It’s also fully programmable so that you can customize it to better suit your driving and detection needs.
- Mounting hardware could be improved. The Pro 100 has a suction cup and clip mounting system, which is very common in radar detectors. It’s not ideal, and tends to fall too much, either due to the suction cups giving out or the clip slipping.
- No auto scan. With so many police speed traps using “instant-on” radar guns or lasers, the Pro 100’s lack of an auto-scan feature is somewhat limiting. It will only detect these signals if the laser is pointed directly at you, at which point it may already be too late.
Best Radar Detector Under $300
In the $200 to $300 range, most radar detectors will offer excellent all-around radar detection on multiple bands. These radar detectors are a big step up from lower-end models, and may even compete with detectors at the highest end of the price range. Some of the models under $300 also offer unique features to add more flexibility and convenience, such as cordless operation and the ability to program the detector for different styles and areas of driving, such as highway and city driving.
The Uniden DFR7 Radar/Laser detector is a versatile, high-quality radar detector with several unique features that set it apart from its competitors. It has an extremely long detection range, so you can detect threats from way off and prepare. It’s also one of the most customizable radar detectors on the market, which lets you really fine-tune the detector and get the performance you need from it.
Why We Recommend It
- Great range compared to other models. The Uniden DFR7 is one of the best long-range detectors on the market. Even in terrain that might interfere with the long-range detection, the DFR7 alerts you to far-off threats so you have plenty of time to assess them and slow down.
- Includes GPS system. The integrated GPS system is one of the features that really sets this detector apart. You can fine-tune the signal filtering at a specific location if you know there’s something that interferes and produces false alerts, which saves a lot of hassle
- Easy to program. The DFR7 is also one of the most user-friendly and customizable radar detectors on the market. You can easily set radar bands, preferences, and GPS lockouts to fully control how the detector performs.
- Prone to false alerts. While you can use the GPS to turn off radar detection in certain areas, the default programming on the DFR7 tends to have a lot of false alerts. While the customization can help offset this issue, it’s can still be a problem.
Best Radar Detector Under $400
Radar detectors in the $300-$400 price range are geared toward heavy drivers, travelers, and commuters who need reliable and rigorous radar detection on long runs. These detectors are pricey, but they do tend to be packed with useful features that really enhance performance. At this price range, you should expect 360-degree coverage, detection that covers any radar band you might encounter on the road, and almost no false alerts. These radar detectors also offer long-range scanning so that you can detect threats from miles away.
The Escort Passport 9500ix introduces a whole bevy of next-generation features into a highly effective and accurate radar detector. Features like a companion app and GPS auto-learn functionality enhance this detector’s performance and protect you from speed traps and cameras both in cities and on the highway. Those smart features are closely related to the main issue with this detector, however: you’ll need to pay to update the software to get the latest data on cameras and traps.
Why We Recommend It
- GPS auto-learn functionality. If you drive the same route every day, you can “train” the Passport 9500ix to ignore false alerts coming from the same sources, which is great if you realize your usual route has an interfering signal. If you mute the same source several times, the unit will log it in the GPS and ignore it.
- Incredible accuracy. The range and accuracy of the Passport 9500ix are both excellent, detecting a wide range of radar bands from over a mile away. While you may get a few false alerts, this detector is generally very accurate.
- App connectivity. While it’s not the main selling point, the ability to connect this radar detector to the Escort app is an excellent added feature. This lets you see areas where other users have detected radar or identified speed traps, which can provide added protection against tickets.
- Subscription-based updates. While the “smart” features are incredibly useful, they do come with a price: you’ll need to pay for updates after owning the 9500ix for 90 days. These updates are relatively expensive, but they do provide the latest data on speed camera and red light cameras.
Best Radar Detector Under $500
A top-of-the-line radar detector can be a big investment, but if you spend a lot of time on the road, then installing one in your vehicle can really pay off. Radar detectors at the higher end of the price range have incredibly sophisticated technology that detects radar signals from any direction, along with a much wider range of radar bands. Some will even show you which direction the radar is coming from, which can help further avoid tickets.
The Valentine One radar detector is a tried-and-true device with a 25-year history of quality and performance. It doesn’t have extra features like app compatibility or GPS, but it does offer dual antennae to precisely locate and pinpoint radar signals. It also has display arrows to indicate which direction the signal is coming from, which can help with awareness of your surroundings and threats while you’re on the road.
Why We Recommend It
- Dual antenna for better coverage. The Valentine One has two separate antennae: one pointing forward and one pointing backward. This gives it an excellent 360-degree view of threats, allowing you to detect radar and lasers from every direction.
- Pinpoints direction of signal. The indicator arrows are a very useful feature: instead of seeing that there’s a threat and having to try to look in every direction at once, the arrows can tell you the source of the threat and where you should expect it from.
- Updateable and upgradeable. The body style of the Valentine One hasn’t changed in decades, which makes it easy to upgrade and update. Simply send it back to the company, and they will install the latest version (for a charge).
- Simple to setup. There’s almost no setup required for this unit. It plugs directly into your car’s 12V outlet and mounts on the windshield using suction cups. After that, it’s ready to go.
- Difficult to program. While it’s easy to install and set up, the Valentine One is somewhat difficult to customize or program. You actually need an Android device to make any changes to this detector’s programming.
- Some false alarms. Right out of the box, the Valentine One can have some issues with false alerts. While you can adjust it to cut down on interference, you’ll need to program it to do so, which offers its own set of challenges.