Radar-detector enthusiasts are a passionate group, and the experts at the foremost testing authority, Speed Measurement Laboratories, are fanatical in their attention to detail. Rarely do we see such devotion to critical analysis and pure love of research. This source thoroughly tests most of the latest detectors, although the results are sometimes not explained in a user-friendly way. Testers here don't pick any favorites. Instead, they publish charts full of test-result numbers and let readers decide for themselves which radar detector best suits their needs.
Well-known auto and electronics publications (including Popular Mechanics, Edmunds.com, Wired and CNET) rate some radar detectors, but not many. Plentiful owner reviews at Amazon.com, Epinions.com, BestBuy.com and PC World may be the biggest help if you've narrowed your choices down to a few detectors. Notably, ConsumerReports.org refuses to test radar detectors. "CR doesn't test certain products as a matter of policy, like guns and for many years, alcohol. (We now do test wine and beer)," one of ConsumerReports.org's forum moderators explained in February 2010 in response to a reader question. "Radar detectors fall into that policy realm as something that is used to intentionally skirt the law."
Although manufacturers and users may say otherwise, most people buy radar detectors for one reason -- to avoid speeding tickets. It's not surprising, then, that there's a bit of an outlaw mentality among the people who review radar detectors. Craig Peterson of RadarTest.com has been accused of sabotaging a radar-detector field test by the editors of GuysOfLidar.com, who post a video on their website to back up the claim. We found no response on Peterson's website.
Roy Reyer, a former police officer and proprietor of RadarBusters.com, is a prominent expert and tester of radar detectors. He has had legal problems in the past, although not related to the use or review of radar detectors. Reyer pleaded guilty in 2001 to felony solicitation to commit computer tampering in connection with a satellite-TV fraud case, according to records from Maricopa County Superior Court in Arizona. Reyer's sentence was suspended, and he was placed on probation for three years and ordered to pay restitution to DirecTV. Cases such as these can make it difficult for consumers to figure out which radar-detector reviewers are trustworthy. Despite this, we did choose to consult testing data and ratings put forth by Peterson and Reyer, but only in conjunction with test results we read elsewhere. We looked for common threads within multiple tests, choosing to recommend radar detectors that perform well across the review spectrum.
And then there are the dubious devices. Rocky Mountain Radar sells several so-called radar scramblers. The problem is that it's a federal felony to attempt to jam police radar. In 2007, the Federal Communications Commission cited Rocky Mountain Radar in connection with the sale of illegal devices, but they're still for sale at Walmart.com, Amazon.com and other mainstream retailers. Ten years earlier, in 1997, Rocky Mountain Radar earned some bad press for its Phazer radar scrambler; reviews by both CBS News and ABC's "20/20" suggested that the Phazer simply didn't work.
Although radar jammers are illegal, you can legally jam police laser guns in most states. But laser jammers are steeped in controversy. The manufacturer of the top-performing laser jammer in GuysOfLidar.com's 2008 test, the Laser Interceptor (*Est. $600 to $2,100) , was accused in August 2009 of patent infringement by a rival company; the lawsuit was recently settled (see our Laser Jammers section). The parent corporation of the no. 2 performer, Laser Pro Park (*Est. $450 to $650) , was dissolved by the U.K. government in February 2009, although we found the product still for sale online in October 2011.