Once you’ve used a good backup camera, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it. It’s a godsend in tight parking situations, especially for parallel parking on a crowded street. Plus, it can literally be a lifesaver, preventing the kind of backover accidents that occur to at least 50 children every week (some are fatal), according to KidsandCars.org, a nonprofit safety advocacy group.
A backup camera automatically activates when you shift your car into reverse, letting you see the area behind your vehicle on a display. Most systems also superimpose color-coded guidelines over the image to help you judge the distance of people, cars, or other obstacles behind your car.
Backup cameras are so important that all new passenger vehicles built since May 2018 must have one installed as standard equipment, and most cars and SUVs have offered them for much longer. But even if you have an older vehicle without this handy feature, you can easily add one. And the models here have been chosen for a range of do-it-yourselfers, to help you avoid the need for a more-expensive professional installation.
Best Overall: Auto-Vox CS2
Why We Picked It:
The Auto-Vox CS2 is a great overall value. It gives you a lot of handy features for the price, and, as a wireless model, it’s relatively easy to install. The kit includes a 4.3-inch monitor that can be mounted on your car’s dash or windshield, and it can be plugged into the vehicle’s 12-volt outlet (aka cigarette lighter) or hard wired to the fuse box. (The 12-volt plug even includes a USB input so you can still charge your phone.)
The camera uses a reliable digital connection, has adjustable guidelines for different sized vehicles and boasts a sharp 1080p resolution.
- Its digital wireless signal is more reliable than analog wireless connections
- Sharp 1080p resolution in both the camera and monitor
- Rated at an impressive 0.1 lumen for clearer night vision
- Like most “wireless” backup cameras, you still need to connect it to a power source to run (see the FAQs)
- The 110-degree field of view is more narrow than many other models
Best Wireless Rearview Mirror Model: DoHonest S4
Why We Picked It:
The DoHonest S4 uses a 5.0-inch display that doubles as your car’s rearview mirror, eliminating the need for a separate monitor on the dash or windshield. It’s easily fitted over your original mirror with rubber straps, so you don’t have to remove your original mirror. The S4’s image has a sharp 1080p resolution with a 150-degree field of view. Its guidelines are adjustable to work with different vehicles. And the system can be set up with two cameras, allowing you to see the area in both the rear and front of your car. Two-year warranty.
- Reliable digital wireless signal
- Sharp 1080p resolution
- LEDs in the camera help with nighttime use
- Some users say the mirror is slightly darker and bluer than their cars’ original mirror
- A few users have had fit issues with mounting the monitor on their rearview mirror
Easiest installation: Auto-Vox Solar1
Why We Picked It:
Unlike most “wireless” backup cameras, the Solar1 is truly wireless; there are no electrical connections to make. The camera draws power from an internal 3350-mAh lithium-ion battery. And with a solar panel to help charge it, the company claims you only need to plug in the battery every few months to keep it running.
The camera’s integrated license-plate frame takes only a few minutes to install. And the included 5.0-inch monitor, which plugs into your car’s 12-volt outlet, can be mounted to the dash or windshield. A handy button on the monitor’s plug activates the camera whenever you need it.
- Super-easy installation, with no wires to connect
- Solar panel helps keep the camera’s internal battery charged
- 2.4-GHz digital signal provides a reliable connection
- The camera doesn’t activate automatically when you shift into reverse (you need to press a button on the monitor’s power plug)
- It’s not totally set-and-forget; the internal battery may need charging every few months
- It won’t fit some vehicles; check before you order
Best for a Savvy DIYer: LeeKooLuu LK3
Why We Picked It:
The LeeKooLuu LK3 is a good choice if you’re comfortable with performing a more involved installation (see the FAQs). It boasts good specs and features, along with the inherent reliability and speed of a wired camera, all for an affordable price. The LK3’s camera has a sharp 1080p resolution, a wide 149-degree field of view and LEDs to help with nighttime vision.
The 4.3-inch LCD monitor can be installed on the dash or windshield, it allows you to adjust the guide lines, and it can either be plugged into a car’s 12-volt outlet or hard-wired. Two-year warranty.
- A wired connection is inherently more reliable than a wireless one
- Sharp 1080p resolution
- Can be set up for either backup-only or continuous use
- Requires a more involved installation than a wireless system.
- Lack of RCA connectors makes it harder to use with an in-dash display
Best for Drivers Who Use a Garmin GPS Navigator: Garmin BC 30
Why We Picked It:
The BC 30 is a natural choice if you regularly use a Garmin portable GPS for directions, such as our top recommended model, the DriveSmart 66. It’s designed to work wirelessly with a wide range of Garmin models, and it eliminates the need to have a second monitor for your backup camera.
It can be wired to activate automatically when you shift your car into reverse, or it can be set up for continuous use, letting you easily switch between the navigation screen and camera view by pressing a button on the device.
- Allows use of a Garmin navigator for both directions and a backup camera
- Capable of wirelessly transmitting up to 45 feet
- Can be set up so you can toggle between navigating and the backup camera with the press of a button, without needing to shift into reverse
- More expensive than many other models
- 240p resolution isn’t as sharp as other models here
- Transmits the video signal over a radio band, which is more susceptible to interference than a digital connection
- Plug and Play,Very easy installation.The system is powered by connecting to reverse lights for use when vehicle is in reverse gear. Or can be powered by directly connecting to a 12v source fuse box or cigarette lighter/power point/ignition switch for continuous use.
- Upgraded IP 69 Waterproof. High performance waterproof, never worry about water inside the camera. Color HD license plate camera with 149 degree viewing angle and 6 White LED Lights provide crystal clear color both at night and day.Camera is connected to monitor via direct wire (provided).
- Multifunctional 4.3 Inch LCD Display’ Menu:You can adjust the parking lines’s width,moving Left/Right/Up/Down to make it fits for the real condition.You can also turn it off if you do not want it.The image can be flipped between mirror (rear view) and facing (front view).You can use the camera as rear camera or front camera optional.
- ►Excellent license plate wired backup camera,designed for Car,Pickup Truck,SUV,Minivan and Sedans.Work well on old cars,new cars or used cars.
- ►Universal rear view camera,Suit for 12-24V DC Power.26ft RCA video cable.It will work well if your radio,monitor,DVD player or screen has the RCA connector.
- ►Crystal Clear Image Nice Night Vision: Pretty Clear Video,6 Glass Lens,100% True Color Reproduction,100% Updated Chip. Vivid Picture Helps Us to Drive or Reverse with a pleasant Mood.8 LED lights do a great job to get a nice colorful image in the dark.Excellent parking camera for safe reversing and driving.
- 【Stable and Vivid Image】With digital wireless transmission, CS-2 delivers a stable image without any interference from other signals such as Bluetooth. Equipped with a PC1058 sensor, the camera provides a vivid picture, which restores what you see behind your car directly.
- 【Accuracy – Top priority for parking】The bigger the camera angle is, the more image distortion you get when the angle over 110 degrees, which makes 110 degrees golden angle for parking. Together with the adjustable parking lines fit different heights camera installation place make CS-2 a trusted parking assistant.
- 【Ideal Camera】The waterproof standard of this camera is IP 68, the highest and lowest temperature resistance is -4°F~149°F, and the lumen rating is 0.1 at low light night. Therefore whether it is sunny or rainy, hot or cold, day or night, the camera always performs well.
- ★ Wireless Design for Easy Installation – No More Complex Wiring Problem. DoHonest 7” TFT rear view monitor connects a backup camera by a wireless transmitter.You just need to connect the monitor to the lighter charger, connect the camera to running light or reversing light and you are good to go. No more complicated long video cables from the monitor to the camera. Make all things much easier.
- ★ Stable and Vivid HD1080P Image –With digital wireless transmission , delivers a stable image without any interference from other signals such as Bluetooth. Equipped with great sensor, the camera provides vivid picture , which restores what you see behind your car directly.V29 wireless backup camera system is with a built-in wide voltage range within 12V-35V for more vehicle models, and voltage can be adjusted by the circuit board on extension cable to greatly extend the service life 4-5 years.
- ★ Ideal Camera – The waterproof standard of this camera is IP69 , the highest and lowest temperature resistance is -4°F~149°F, and the lumen rating is 0.1 at low light night. Therefore whether it is sunny or rainy, hot or cold, day or night, the camera always performs well.
- Backup camera with IP69K waterproof IP rate.It designed with fully sealed glue filling craft, so it waterproof function is better than IP67 and IP68, you absolutely no need to worry about water, fog or mist inside. NOTE: please separately order a suitable harness to complete installation if connect it to a factory radio/screen.
- Rear view camera with a latest HD 600TVL 1/2.7inch image sensor and 170 degree super wide viewing angle lens, that’s great for you to check the invisible blind spot clearly and make parking safe and simple.
- Reverse camera housing is metal,small size and OEM style design. Also it is built in multifunctional switching loops function,you can switch it to be front view, also support guide line on/off switching and cut the purple loop to choose a vertical down-ward view from like a tailgate down view(tailgate mounting).
- ♦【Reverse Rear View Camera and Monitor】Default with parking guidelines, the reverse camera monitor kit will automatically show the rear images and parking guidelines full time whether it’s driving or reversing. Perfect for backing into tight spots or moving in reverse, especially for the Large Vehicles, just like having an extra eye in the back.
- ♦【Wired Backup Camera of Stable Transmission】 The reverse camera come with a 4 pin 49.2ft long enough cable, it suitable for most of cars, vans, camping cars, trucks, trailer even RVs. The transmission of the wired backup camera is more stable and reliable, it would not lost sign while important moment. 24/7 protect the car security.
- ♦【Easy Installation & Remote Control】The Backup Camera for Car system is easy to install. The screen can be mounted with no obstruction of driving sight and is large enough to see clearly from the driver seat. The backup camera monitor also has a remote so the user doesn’t have to reach for the monitor to turn on or off.
- ►UPGRADED WIRELESS BACKUPＣAMERA – With unique dual antenna design and the latest digital signal chip, DoHonest RV backup camera can send HD 1080P videos to the display via the stronger signal. The signal can reach 500ft in open area and 240ft in vehicles. You don’t worry signal interference and delay issues.
- ►FOUR WAY VIDEO INPUTS – The monitor has split screen ability with 4 way video Input CH1/CH2/CH3/CH4–,You can watch singal image or split screen for dual view or quad view. B096ZB181Z camera is compatiable with it. Also you can use the side view bracket B089Y3NXQ4 to install camera on the side. NOTE: The newly upgraded system can add a compatible license plate camera B098T69F7W.
- ►QUICK&SIMPLE SETUP – No More Complex Wiring Problem. The transmitter is built into DoHonest rear view camera.There is no complicated wires. Just hook up the antennas and power them up, They will transport video signal automatically. With the latest sealing tech, the wireless backup camera is IP69 waterproof, also can withstand extreme temperatures from -4℉~149℉. No more lens water or fog problems. Also, you can flexibly install the monitor on the dashboard or windshield.
- ★Wireless Design for Easy Installation-Truck backup camera are transmitted through 2.4G HZ wireless signal,which takes the place of complicated long video cables,makes all things much easier. However, that doesn’t mean it’s completely wireless. ①Power the monitor by the included cigarette lighter or Fuse box, ACC, Radio, Ignition switch. ②Connect the camera to continuous power source like Tail light/Running light/license plate light for monitoring, or connect to backup light for reversing only.
- ★ Super Stable Signal-Wireless backup camera can work with vehicle under 33ft, like most cars,vans,camping cars, trucks even small RVs. Note: If your vehicle is VW,Dodge,Audi,BMW,Mercedes cars, when you meet signal issues, please contact us to get one free 12V DC Power Adapter Filter Rectifier to keep signal stable.
- ★ Parking Safely & Effortlessly – With DoHonest HD 1080P car backup camera,you will be able to easily park your car even in the tiniest parking spots.Without risking damaging it and ruining your day or night! There is no battery in the backup camera,it will be safer. Also, we have specially upgraded the voltage board for the system, which is not easy to burn the fuse compared to the general camera.
- ✔ DoHonest AHD 1080P ResolutionTechnology: The 1st to Introduce AHD 1080P Technology for Backup Cameras. Digital High definition Image Processor Will Make Your Backing More Confident and Safe. This Wired System Never Has Picture Delay or Signal Issues, Different From the Unstable Wireless Products.
- ✔ Flexible Vehicle Compatibility: Voltage Range From 9-36V DC Power To Accomodate a Wide Variety of Large Vehicle as Semi-Trailer/Box Truck/5th Wheel/Trailer/Bus. Hard Wired System is Also Easy to Install with the Included Professional Instructions.
- ✔ Two Way Video Inputs: This kit can be add up to 2 cameras(CH1/CH2) so there are 2 Channels. You can switch each channel as you want. NOTE: If you need an extra camera(the same one or license plate camera), just contact us to get it free. Also,Bracket adapter and pigtail wire for Furrion pre-wired system can be provided according to your need.
- HEAVY-DUTY LICENSE PLATE FRAME BACKUP CAMERA: Perfect for all vehicles that us a standard US license plate, holds your car backup driving security. Not only it can offer the protection for license plate but also offer the stylish look
- IP67 WATERPROOF &SHOCKPROOF: High waterproof level, reverse camera would never be fogged or wet even in storm or bad rainy day. Plus, professional shockproof design, the safety & security assist camera does work for your vehicle all the time
- 170° WIDELY VIEWING ANGLE: To work perfectly, the viewing angle macro lens with mirror image give you a wide viewing horizon. License plate camera built high sensitive color CMOS image sensor to eliminates all the blind spots behind the car
Forbes Wheels compared the features, specs and pricing of more than 60 backup-camera models; reviewed evaluations by other critics and end users; and drew on our own experiences and discussions with installers and industry representatives. The five systems selected here represent the best overall values in this category for people with different needs.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions):
How much of the area behind my vehicle can I see?
The field of view (FOV) for most aftermarket backup cameras ranges from a fairly narrow 110 degrees to a much wider 170. Wider FOVs let you see more area behind your vehicle but they also make objects and people look farther away, which can be deceiving when backing up. (That’s why the colored guidelines are handy.) We generally prefer midrange FOVs of about 140 to 150 degrees, or narrower.
What’s the difference between a wired and wireless system?
Traditionally, most aftermarket backup cameras have been wired systems, in which the camera in the rear of the car is connected to the monitor in the dash area with an electrical wire. This makes the system reliable and ensures the image is transmitted quickly. Wired cameras also often use RCA-type connectors, so it’s easier to connect them to an aftermarket car stereo and other in-dash displays with RCA inputs.
But a wired system requires a lot more time and effort to install properly because much of the vehicle’s interior trim needs to be removed to route and hide the wire. That’s why many buyers have a professional shop install a wired system, which increases the cost.
In recent years, wireless systems have become more popular because they’re quicker and easier to install, even for the average DIYer. In many earlier systems, and some of today’s less expensive ones, the video signal is sent from the camera to the monitor via an analog radio-frequency signal. But this is susceptible to interference from other electrical or electronic sources, and many users have complained about longer lag times for the monitor to connect and show the video.
Many newer wireless systems now use a digital connection, which is less susceptible to interference. We’ve also seen fewer complaints about lagging with those models. When buying a wireless system, maybe sure its transmission range is long enough to work with your vehicle.
Can I install a backup camera myself?
Installing a backup camera is not difficult as long as you’re comfortable with making a wiring connection or two in your car and possibly removing and reinstalling trim pieces. But the time it takes can vary a lot, depending on the type of system, as described above.
Most cameras are designed to mount to a vehicle’s license plate, although some can also be mounted directly to the vehicle. For optimum operation, the camera should be centered in the rear of the vehicle, without interfering with a door handle or bumper. (The best systems allow the video image to be flipped in the display, which lets you mount the camera upside down, if necessary.)
To have the camera automatically activate when you shift the car into reverse, the camera needs to be tapped into the car’s backup-light circuit. Basically, you route a couple wires from the camera into the trunk area, find the wires going to a backup light (which could mean removing some trim), and connect the camera wires to them.
If the system includes its own separate monitor, then you can either plug that into your vehicle’s 12V outlet (aka cigarette lighter) or wire it to the fuse box.
For most wireless systems, that’s it. For a wired system, you also need to route a wire from the camera to the monitor through the vehicle, which involves removing trim pieces along one side, and connecting the wire directly to the monitor. If you’re connecting it to an in-dash display, you’ll also need to access the rear of the stereo or pull it out from the dash.
Can I use a backup camera on a trailer or in other positions on my vehicle?
Backup cameras can be easily mounted to the back of a trailer instead of your vehicle. With a wireless camera, it’s important to check the system’s transmitter range to make sure the signal can reach from the trailer to the monitor.
Many add-on systems also let you use two cameras at once, so you can mount one behind your car and another in front or on the side (or on both a car and trailer). If you’re mounting a camera in front, be sure to set it up so the image is flipped and appears correctly in the monitor.
Can I send the backup-camera signal to my smartphone?
Wireless backup cameras typically transmit to a compatible monitor, so they won’t work with a smartphone. That said, there are a few models designed to send their video signals to a compatible iPhone or Android app via Wi-Fi. Because it eliminates the need to have a separate monitor on the dash, this promises to be a handy solution, especially if you use a smartphone mount. But, based on our experience as well as the user ratings and reviews we’ve seen, those models can be finicky, with unreliable connections and laggy video. That’s why we don’t recommend one (yet).