According to a conservative estimate, more than 125,000 drivers are slapped with a speeding ticket in the US every day. Most people won’t find anything strange about this statistic until they come to know that more than 80% of drivers claim to be aware that over-speeding can cause road accidents.
In other words, even though 8 out of 10 drivers know that driving too fast can be fatal, speed violations still happen frequently. Whether drivers do that knowingly or unknowingly is beside the point here. What matters is that they put their and others’ lives at risk by over-speeding.
Feeling guilty? The best radar detectors will force you out of your guilt. These devices warn you about a speed camera whenever they detect one is in the vicinity. You can count on the information they provide to not only slow down but also (potentially) save lives.
Seems like a fair deal? Then check out our radar detector reviews.
Best Radar Detectors Comparison Chart
Uniden R7 Extreme Long Range Radar Detector
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Escort MAX360C Laser Radar Detector
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Uniden R3 Extreme Long Range Laser/Radar Detector
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Escort Max 360 Laser Radar Detector
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Cobra RAD 450 Laser Radar Detector
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Radenso SP Radar Detector with False Alert Filtering
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Best Radar Detector Reviews (Newest Models)
1. Uniden R7 Extreme Long Range Radar Detector
The Uniden R7 radar detector is easily one of the best models on the market. It offers the longest range of any windshield mount detector in this review. You should take a long, good look at the R7 if you demand the highest level of protection. It does more than enough to justify its asking price.
This detector comes with a bunch of other useful features as well. It offers arrows using which you can find out on which side of yours the threat lies. Its GPS allows the R7 to memorize the areas where it encounters false alerts to stop the detector from needlessly making noises along your regulate commute.
Also on offer is blind-spot monitoring (BSM). This detector can find out whether the signals it is receiving are coming from a speed-checking gun or a blind spot monitoring system on a nearby vehicle. Uniden keeps on sending firmware and software updates to this model to ensure it never goes out of date.
2. Escort MAX360C Laser Radar Detector
The Escort Max 360c is one of those radar detectors which don’t charge a king’s ransom for their high-end features. It is equipped with a built-in Wi-Fi using which this system sends real-time threat alerts to your Android and Apple devices via the Escort Live app.
Apart from alerting you of a speed camera, the app pinpoints red light and speed camera locations. It also lets you know of the speed limit of the highway on which you might be traveling. You can also count on the app to deliver regular traffic updates. Also on offer is 360-degree speed-ticket protection.
This detector detects not only radar but also laser speed cameras. It is equipped with an IVT filter that reduces fake alerts from moving in-vehicle technologies. The Auto Learn technology of this unit allows it to learn and automatically reject false alarms.
3. Uniden R3 Extreme Long Range Laser/Radar Detector
At the time that it was first introduced to the market, the Uniden R3 possessed an unrivaled range. The advent of the abovementioned R7 detector might have taken that tag away from this product. However, it still possesses a plethora of features to deserve your attention.
This competitively-priced model offers dual-end functionality by detecting both laser as well as radar signals. It contains built-in GPS to locate and automatically mute false alerts. Uniden has preloaded this detector with red light and speed camera locations and regularly sends firmware updates.
It delivers visual warnings to make sure that you keep your eyes on the road. The multi-color LED display ensures that you can easily read the display in low light conditions. Its advanced false alert filtering feature eliminates false alerts from collision avoidance systems and blind-spot monitoring systems.
4. Escort Max 360 Laser Radar Detector
In case you are wondering, the Max Escort Max 360 offers many of the features that we have already discussed you can find in the 360c. The main difference between both is that this model doesn’t have a built-in Wi-Fi. Instead, it uses Bluetooth to pair with your smartphone and for cloud integration.
This device also comes with the Escort Live app that delivers all the data you need to remain free of speed tickets on the road. Its rear and front-facing antennas provide 360-degree protection, and the digital signal processor (DSP) offers alerts in lightning-fast time.
Lastly, one of the best features of this detector is its Auto Learn technology. Supported by built-in GPS and ITV filtering, this technology reduces false alerts by learning more about the sources of false alert signals as you drive around. It then uses that information to get better at filtering false alerts.
5. Cobra RAD 450 Laser Radar Detector
If you came here looking for an inexpensive yet reliable radar detector, you wouldn’t go wrong with the Cobra RAD 450. It doesn’t offer GPS capability but masks its shortcomings by detecting all the three bands that are used by law enforcement – X-, K-, and Ka-band.
Its detection range of 2 miles on a straight road isn’t much but should still give you enough time to take your feet off of the accelerator. Also on offer is an IVT Filtering system, which ensures that you hear only those alerts which you need to hear by eliminating false alerts.
This product’s OLED display has high-contrast colors that make the numbers easy to read. The controls on its panel are labeled clearly and are, therefore, easy to use. However, as Cobra has made the controls multi-functional to save spacer, mastering them will require a steep learning curve.
6. Radenso SP Radar Detector with False Alert Filtering
Most detectors you see on the market have displays that don’t remain readable on sunny days. The Radenso SP Radar is different. Its display contains large alphanumeric characters set against a black background. That makes it possible even for passengers sitting on the back seat to read them.
This filter comes with advanced false alert filtering. It analyzes the DNA of the sources of the radar signals to prevent signals coming from the blind spot, radar cruise control, and traffic speed sensor systems from forcing the detector to start issuing alerts.
Aside from warning you, the voice alerts of this model also let you know which radar band the detector is detecting. This is a brilliant feature as, assuming that the radar detects the X band (which is found in less than 1% of law enforcement equipment), you can continue to speed on as it is most likely a fake alert.
Radar Detector Buying Guide
Whether you’re investing in a radar detector to save money on speeding tickets or you’re a responsible citizen who always wants to remain on the good side of the law, there are several questions you need to ask yourself before purchasing this device.
Once you’re done answering those questions, you’d then need to move on to the features that you might ideally want in a radar detector. In this section, we’re going to make sure that you tick both these boxes with assurance.
5 Considerations When Buying a Radar Detector
Here are some of the essential questions you need to ask yourself before you start searching for a radar detector:
Where you’ll be using your radar detector?
If you’re mainly going to use your radar detector on the highway, you can invest in an inexpensive model. It will deliver all the goods you’re looking for without blowing a hole in your pocket. However, you may have to invest in an expensive model if you intend to use your radar detector in the city.
Wondering why that’s the case? When you’re driving around the city, you’ll be most likely passing around sensory systems emitting the same signals (or signals with the same frequency) as those coming out of speed checking cameras, such as automatic sliding doors at your local supermarket.
The signals emitted from these devices are termed as ‘fake signals.’ Cheap radar detectors can’t discriminate between these signals and the ones coming out of a speed-checking camera. That makes them extremely prone to giving false alerts.
Expensive radar detectors, on the contrary, have features such as GPS functionality, directional indicators, and ‘’smart technologies” that lets them set-apart fake signals from the real ones. This allows them to offer two modes – “city mode” and “highway mode” – to reduce the likelihood of false alarms.
How long do you plan on using it?
This will help you choose between a model that receives frequent firmware updates and the one which doesn’t receive any post-sale support from its manufacturer. Models that get frequent firmware updates keep up with the infrastructure, thereby staying current for longer. Those who don’t go out of fashion quickly as they won’t be able to warn you about a newly-installed camera.
What type of radar detector do you want?
There are three types of radar detectors on the market: corded, cordless, and remote. The former come with suction cups using which you can mount them on the shield. You can easily transport them between multiple vehicles of the same manufacturer or even different manufacturers.
Corded detectors sit on top of your dashboard, don’t come with suction cups, and therefore provide cleaner installation. You’d have to keep them plugged in all the time, sure, but this means that you won’t have to worry about their battery timing.
Remote mount-detectors, unlike their corded and cordless counterparts, can’t be transported between vehicles. They are permanently mounted to your car by a professional mechanic. But their shielded installation place means they are less vulnerable to theft.
Do you prefer audio or visual alerts?
Radar detectors that give off voice alerts warn you about an upcoming speed checking camera without forcing you to take your eyes off the road. Those that rely on visual alerts to warn you, meanwhile, start flashing lights whenever they detect a signal in their range. Their quiet operation is preferred mostly by parents who drive with a baby or drivers who prefer to go about their commute in silence.
How will the detector attach to your vehicle?
Some units are designed to sit on your vehicle’s dashboard, whereas others attach to its windscreen via suction cups. While the former are hard to adjust and can be hard to see, windscreen detectors might obstruct your vision if their size is too big. At the same time, they are easier to see. So you might want to choose a windshield detector that is neither too small nor too big.
6 Important Radar Detector Features and Specs
Following are the features and specs which are a must-have for the top-rated OBD2 scanners:
The range of the detector should be big enough to warn you about an approach patrol car in time. If it doesn’t, and the speed-checking camera detects your car’s speed before the detector detects its presence, it defeats the purpose of having a detector.
Speed-checking equipment used by traffic police mostly use three signals bands (X, K, and KA) to locate and penalize over-speeding. Make sure the product you’re looking at is sensitive enough to pick up all these three bands.
Radars that are GPS-powered cut-down on false alerts by logging frivolous signals each time your car drives past them. It also memorizes the exact location of false alerts. This saves your detector from going off the next time you drive past fake signals.
If you’re going to choose a visual detector, make sure it comes with a multi-color display. The colors used should be bright enough, and the letters should be big enough to display the data in bright sunlight.
Models that don’t provide this feature protection won’t alert you about speed tracking from behind or the sides. They only warn you about the speed traps that are lying ahead. That’s why you should go for detectors that offer 360-degree protection.
The majority of top-rated detectors come with a free app for Android and Apple devices. The app stores the exact location of speed-trackers once you have driven past them. It also alerts you about any approaching speed-ticket issuing red light camera. You can also consult it to know more about your local speed limits.
Types of Detectors
There are two types of detectors available on the market:
These detectors detect the form of electromagnetic energy that travels at the speed of light. The signals that they detect bounce off of objects, thereby creating what is known as returned pulses. Radar detectors tell when these signals have hit their antennas.
The better the design of the antenna (and other hardware inside the detector), the easier it will be for the detector to detect signals from a long distance. However, these products aren’t able to detect signals emitted from newer technology.
Aside from that, cheap radar detectors are very prone to giving off false alarms. They can’t discriminate between signals coming out of a cop’s speed-checking gun and those emanating from a nearby vehicle’s blind spot monitor. That’s why we always recommend high-end models to our readers.
Provided you have ever gone shopping for a laser detector – or checked their price on the internet out of curiosity – you might recall that they cost twice as much as their radar counterparts. That’s mainly because they detect both the radar as well as laser signals.
Laser detectors only need half a second to locate over-speeding, compared to 2 to 3 seconds for a radar detector. Also, since a laser beam is narrower than a radar beam, it can more accurately pinpoint a specific vehicle.
The disadvantages of laser detectors are also important to consider. Apart from being astronomically expensive, laser guns can’t be used from behind a glass or from a moving vehicle. You have to have a very steady hand – or a tripod – to accurately aim them.
What is a Radar Detector?
Radar detectors are electronic devices that motorists use in their vehicles to detect if law enforcement is checking their speed. These devices work by identifying the frequency of signals that are emitted from speed checking cameras, red traffic lights, and speed checking guns.
Common Radar Detector Terms
Here are some of the terms you might see mentioned on your radar detector’s packing:
- Anti-Laser Priority (ALP): ALP is a technology that detects speed-checking guns and jams signals coming out of them. It should be unsurprising to note that because of this feature, they are illegal in some states.
- Radar Detection Rejection (RDR): Models that have this feature can filter out false alerts more effectively than those who don’t. So you can travel with the assurance that your local hypermarket’s scanner won’t be able to force your detector to go off.
- Blind Spot Monitor (BSM): Many of the latest cars come with blind-spot monitors that emit signals of their own that can interfere with the radar detector, causing it to give off a false alarm. BSM filters most such false signals, but not all, as those coming from GM vehicles are hard to filter.
- Digital Signal Processing (DSP): Radar detectors that are capable of processing digital signals are equipped with a built-in microchip. They use that microchip not only to recognize but also to prioritize bands that are generally used by law enforcement authorities around the world.
Tip: Want to know more about equipment law enforcement use? Then check out our police scanner buying guide.
- Safety Warning System SWS: Some highway authorities use radar to promote the safety of their drivers by transmitting signals to warn you of accidents, railroad crossings, or potentially hazardous road conditions. On detecting SWS signals, your radar detector will emit an alert signal distinct from the signal it gives off for speed detection.
- Selectivity: Different from the sensitivity of your detector, a radar’s selectivity indicates its ability to detect speed-checking cameras while ignoring the signals coming from other devices such as microwaves and automatic garage door openers.
What Exactly is a Radar Wave?
At the cost of disappointing you, there is no such thing as a ‘radar wave.’ The signals that radars use to detect the presence of speed checking cameras – and a plethora of other things, including transmitting mobile phone and television signals – are known as radio waves.
Like waves that emerge on a pond once you drop a stone, a radio wave is a mixture of crests (peaks) and troughs (valleys). These waves have longer wavelengths than other electromagnetic waves, which means they cover more distance to complete one cycle, though their frequency is greater.
These waves are generally divided into nine bands to differentiate them according to the function that each band performs. While some bands like the VLF (very low frequency) are used for long-distance communication, others such as the VHF (very high frequency) are used for exactly the opposite.
Despite all their differences, all the bands work in the same manner. They receive audio signals, encode it into carrier waves, transmit those waves to its destination point by powering them through the air, and then decode them again into audio signals that you can easily decipher.
Differences Between Ka, K, and X Bands?
Following are the differences between these three bands:
- Operating frequency: While the K band operates between 24.05 and 24.25 GHz frequency, the Ka-band works between 33.4 and 36.0 GHz frequency. The X band has a lower frequency range, one that falls between 10.5 and 10.55 GHz.
- Compatible devices: Almost all handheld radar guns that you see in the hands of traffic cops use either K-band or Ka-band. The X-band is more ubiquitous as it is used in everything from automatic supermarket doors to law enforcement and in traffic sensors.
- Ease of detection: Simply because it’s the latest of all three bands, the Ka-band is harder to detect at long distances than both K and X band. That is precisely the reason why it’s the band that most law enforcement authorities rely on to catch over-speeding drivers.
- Frequency of false alarms: If your car’s radar detector is giving X-band warning, it’s almost certainly a false alarm because this band is used in many devices besides speed-checking guns. The frequency of false alarms is lower in the K band and is almost non-existent in Ka bands. So when your radar detector shows Ka-band warning, slow down as the threat is real.
Are Radar Detectors Legal?
Radar detectors are a godsend for drivers who wish to keep their eyes on the road at all times, rather than alternating between glancing at the speedometer, any speed limit signboards, and their car’s rearview mirror in search of blinking lights.
Unfortunately, despite their innumerable benefits, radar detectors are illegal in some states. That’s because the legislation around owning a radar detector is under the purview of states. The Federal government has left it to them to devise laws using which states can allow or prohibit their usage.
The states which have banned radar detectors have done so for one simple reason: they make drivers careless on the road. The drivers do not need to be always on the lookout for Police interceptors as they know that their electronic savior will come to their rescue.
That might hear like a perfect excuse for police officers to stop repeated speed offenders on the road and check out their car for a detector, but that’s not the case. More than 2/3rd of US states allow the usage of radar detectors in personal vehicles.
What states are radar detectors illegal?
According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), only two US states – Virginia and Washington DC – bar the usage of radar detectors in passenger cars. However, in commercial vehicles, you cannot use a radar detector anywhere in the United States.
How Traffic Radar Works?
Law enforcement uses two kinds of radar – stationary and moving.
Stationary radars are used from a stagnant position, usually a traffic police patrol car parked on the hard shoulder. Moving radar, meanwhile, allows the officer to use them and check the car’s speed on the go. Some moving radars have dual antennas using which the office can clock a vehicle from behind.
Both types of radar work on the same principle. The radar emits a beam of light and aims it on the target vehicle. After colliding with the vehicle, the beam returns to the radar’s antenna. There is a slight change in frequency between the emitted wave and the reflected one.
That change is known in technical terms as Doppler Shift. Radars have built-in devices that calculate the change in frequency, shift it to speed, and display the same on the radar’s screen. This lets the officer know whether the vehicle they are monitoring is driving within the speed limit or not.
How Radar Detector Works?
Radar detectors are the yin to the yang of traffic radars. These devices alert you that a speed checking radar is nearby by identifying it based on the frequency of its emitted radio waves. Most law enforcement uses Doppler radar to check the speed of your vehicle. That’s the same radio wave technology use in aviation and weather forecast.
Radar detectors, like the ones you saw above, are scanning all the time for frequencies that fall within the Doppler bands. It goes off whenever it detects a similar frequency signal, telling you to slow down before the police slap you with a speeding ticket.
False Alerts on a Radar Detector
Almost all radar detectors you see on the market cannot be hundred percent correct all the time. There will be an instance when the device would go off even when no speed checking camera is nearby. Such false alerts happen because these devices can detect other types of signals as well.
While most of these signals do not have the same frequency as those coming from a police speed checking gun possess, some, like the ones coming from your hypermarket’s automatic door, do. These signals have the potential to send your detector haywire.
Based on their source, we can categorize false alerts into two types:
Stationary False Alerts
These fake alerts have been around forever. They come from non-moving locations, typically automatic door openers. These alerts can send you crazy if you live near a hypermarket or drive past one daily on your way to the office.
Another false alert that we have heard drivers complaining about is from orange construction signs with digital messages written on them. These signs usually emit signals on K and Ka-band, forcing your radar detector to treat them as a strong radar alert.
Yet another type of stationary false alert comes from traffic sensor systems. These equipment are installed on the roadside to monitor congestion of traffic. The signals that these systems emit are of high-frequency but low duration, forcing your radar to go crazy one second and silent the next.
Stationary false alarms have increased in frequency over the past few years. The rise in population density and commercial development are to blame. That means you shouldn’t be surprised if your radar detector gives simultaneous false alerts as you’re driving through a parking plaza.
Moving False Alerts
With the arrival of latest and high-tech vehicles on the road, moving false alerts have joined hands with their stationary cousins to trouble drivers. They usually come from the advanced safety systems (see our backup camera reviews) that you pay to have installed in your car.
These systems include emergency collision avoidance systems, radar cruise control, blind-spot monitoring systems, and backup cameras. Almost all these systems track speed and distance to work and rely on radar emitters to gain that information.
The advent of moving radar systems have outdated several radar detectors that drivers were using for years. These detectors didn’t have the hardware or the technology to identify and filter out moving false alerts. So they went obsolete within a matter of years.
Luckily, though, the high-end radar detectors come with features such as ‘’city mode’’, “GPS compatibility” and “signal analysis” that allow them to filter the majority of these alerts. It should go without saying, though, that detectors with these high-tech features won’t weigh lightly on your pocket.
Difference Between Traffic Cameras, Red Lights, etc.
Here are the different types of cameras that might be watching your vehicle on the road:
Red Light Cameras
As most of you will already know, red-light traffic cameras are placed at traffic intersections to issue tickets when a vehicle runs a red light automatically. These cameras take pictures of the vehicle and its license plate and send them to the motor vehicle’s department (DMV).
These systems are typically easy to locate. They consist of a bulky box containing all the hardware and two external lights, one on each side of the intersection. These units can be easily spotted in busy intersections as most red-light running offenses happen in these areas.
Available in two types – stationary and moving – speed cameras measure the speed of the vehicle to enforce speed limits, both on the highway and in the city. The law enforcement strategically positions these cameras in less populated areas, as drivers are more likely to over-speed in these localities.
Moving speed cameras are harder to locate because, well, they are constantly on the move. Only premium radar detectors – like the ones we have recommended above – can be counted on to warn you that a moving speed camera is checking your car’s speed.
Traffic Sensor Cameras
Housed in a weatherproof box and mounted on the traffic pole, these cameras are the easiest to locate. Motorists usually past several of them on their way to the office. They can also be described as one of the most common cameras on the road.
Unlike their speed and red light counterparts, traffic sensor cameras aren’t there to judge you. They simply determine the timing of the traffic light and calculate the traffic flow. As such, they cannot be described as a part of law enforcement.
Automated Number Plate Recognition
As their name implies, ANPR cameras read and analyze the numbers on your license plate. They are available in two types – fixed or mobile – with the former mounted on a traffic pole and a police officer carrying the mobile ANPR camera in their vehicle.
These systems commonly use infrared lighting that allows the camera to take the picture at any time of the day. Some of them also contain a powerful flash to illuminate the picture for better image quality and let the offender know that they have committed a mistake.
Mounting Your Radar Detector
Following are some positions where you can mount your radar detector:
3 Positions You Can Mount Your Radar Detector*
Center of the windshield
The most common location where the majority of users mount their radar detectors is in the middle of the windshield. Manufacturers of these devices also suggest the same location – as it helps the detector provide the best range of detection.
However, not everything is hunky-dory about this location. The first issue you may encounter, provided your detector is too big, is visual obstruction. Secondly, its location will expose the detector to the thief, especially if you often park your car in a parking lot.
Beneath the rearview mirror
Provided you place your radar in this position, it won’t obstruct your view. Its front-facing position will allow it to easily and quickly detect the traffic radar. However, since you’ll be mounting it on a higher position, its cord will travel through your line of sight, serving as a distraction. And the radar will still be exposed to thieves and the Police.
Low on the windshield
The best place to mount your radar detector is on the part of the dash just behind the windshield or low on the windshield. Such positioning will allow the detector to provide the best range for radar detection, stay outside of your vision, and remain shielded from police officers or thieves.
FAQs and Answers
- Q: Can you use radar detectors on commercial vehicles?
A: According to the United States Department of Transportation Rule, you cannot use radar detectors on commercial vehicles in any US state.
- Q: Why didn’t my radar detector go off?
A: Here are some of the reasons why that might have happened:
– The police officer might just be holding the speed checking gun in his hand and not actively running the radar.
– You have an older radar detector that doesn’t detect new radars due to the advancements in detection technology.
– LASER might have been used to measure the speed of your vehicle instead of RADAR.
- Q: Does a police officer know if you have a radar detector?
A: Provided they have a Radar Detector Detection (RDD) device on them, the police officers can detect whether your car has a radar detector. These are devices that measure signals emitted from radar detectors.
Fortunately, in recent years, detector manufacturers have started equipping their model with technologies that let them beat the RDD. So it’s less likely that your radar detector will get caught by an RDD.
- Q: How to install a Radar Detector?
Check our car enthusiast guide to see if you’ve missed anything important!
Having said all that can be said about the best radar detectors, we just want to add one more thing before wrapping up this article. All the products that you saw in this review are trusted by hundreds, if not thousands of drivers like you.
These were the people who invested their money in these detectors. They then used it on the road to evade cops who were out there to get them. That gave them ample time to find out any flaws, if any existed in these products and mention them.
However, as you can see by scrolling back to our radar detectors reviews section, there isn’t much negative that can be said or written about these models. You can, therefore, count on them to make your life on the road (almost) ticket-free.