When Samantha Dunne’s car was hit at a roundabout, she struggled to prove she was not at fault. As a result, she ended up “thousands of pounds out of pocket” while the claim was being settled.
“I had to pay the excess on the policy, buy a new car as my own was written off in the accident and I lost my nine-year no-claims bonus, which meant a hike in premiums,” she says.
Determined not to find herself in the same position again, Dunne, from Southampton, decided to take steps to protect herself.
“I bought a dashboard camera so that I could provide video footage if I was unlucky enough to have another accident,” she says. “I wanted to be certain I could prove who was at fault and avoid a lengthy claim process.”
Dashboard cameras – commonly know as “dashcams” – are wired into your car and they automatically turn on and start recording when the car is started. They come with built-in memory and record on a continuous loop, ensuring that you never miss an accident.
These gadgets were once only found in countries where unscrupulous driving practices are a more regular occurrence. But with car insurance scams becoming more prevalent on UK roads, a growing number of motorists are using such devices to protect themselves from fraudsters. In fact, figures from market research company GFK show that dashcam sales have increased by 918% over the last 12 months.
The big driver behind this has been “crash for cash” scams. These can take many forms, from fraudsters disabling their own brake lights or “flashing” drivers to let them out of junctions before crashing into them, through to staged accidents and false witnesses. But whatever the form, it is costing motorists and the industry dear.
According to the Metropolitan Police, these scams could be adding an extra &50 to &100 to the annual premiums of honest drivers.
However, anyone considering such a policy would be wise to see if the total savings could be beaten by simply shopping around for a better deal and, even if the price is right, the cost of the camera needs to be factored in.
You can pay anything from &20 to over &300 for a camera.
So what do you need to know if you decide to buy one?
The most basic type is a single lens mounted on the front windscreen to record the road ahead. Multiple lens models record from more than one camera at the same time so they can monitor the road ahead and behind – one lens is fixed to the front windscreen and one to the back.
There is also a camera that fits on to your rear-view mirror and has a small forward-facing lens. Some also come with a rear-facing lens for interior or rear-view recording.
“The most important thing to bear in mind when buying a dashboard camera is image quality across a range of conditions,” says a spokesman for Which?. “If image quality isn’t high enough, you might not be able to use your footage in the case of an accident to prove you’re not to blame – and you could be forced to pay your car insurance excess and lose your no-claims bonus.”
Other features to consider are those which take a Class 6 or above SD memory card, and GPS functionality to pinpoint locations.
Also worth a look are those with G-force sensors, says Mark Kelly, spokesman at AppliancesDirect.co.uk.
“It detects excessive and unexpected force, such as collisions and sudden braking, to ensure footage of incidents is recorded. It also logs the severity of the impact, and saves this information and footage to the camera’s memory in a secure way.”
Three to consider
■ Budget buy: &36.98
Dual Camera In Car Dash Cam from Appliances Direct
Stand-out features: Two cameras which give a 180-degree view; night vision
■ Best all rounder: &149.99
Nextbase InCarCam 402G Professional from Halfords
Stand-out feature: Three-axis G-Sensor, which records and displays G-force data on a graph
■ Ease of use, plus GPS: &124.99
RAC02 Dashboard Camera
Stand-out feature: An adaptor that lets you constantly record your speed and position for proof in event of a collision.