Radar detectors help keep track of your speed
We've all (mostly) been there. You're
driving along, thinking about your upcoming plans, when all of a sudden there
are flashing lights in your rear-view mirror. You pull over and ask the officer
(politely) what you did wrong, and he notifies you that you missed a sign that
announced a lower speed limit over the stretch you are currently traveling. This
is not an unusual occurrence, especially in areas where there is a mix of
different types of neighborhoods and the speed limit may change frequently.
While the aim of most traffic enforcement is to make sure everyone stays safe
on America's roads, we like to think that for most people, speeding is an
unintentional lapse, not their normal behavior. For those drivers, radar detectors can
be a valuable tool to remind you to slow down and avoid that speeding ticket.
radar detectors are perfect, of course, and can't detect every tool used to
track speeders, for example, speed cameras, which photograph and measure the
time it takes for a car to pass between two points, are impossible to spot in
advance with any type of active detector.
with all electronics, radar-detector makers continually update designs and add features, such as
built-in Laser detectors and GPS and social media features that track the
locations of fixed-position speed-enforcement (speed traps and speed cameras,
also challenges to the effectiveness of radar detectors from car makers. Safety
features such as automatic emergency braking, lane assist and blind spot
monitoring are appearing in more and more automobiles. The challenge for radar
detectors is that they work using the exact same K-band frequencies as used by police
radar in many locations, and that can trigger a cacophony of false alerts as
you drive. Radar makers now offer models with filtering designed to address
this issue, and firmware fixes are available for some older models, but for
other detectors, particularly lower-cost models, lots of false alerts are now
Finding The Best Radar Detectors
Evaluating feedback on radar detectors
can be challenging. That's because aside from occasional articles on mainstream
sites like Car & Driver and Road & Track, most feedback comes from
sites that have some "skin in the game" because they make, sell or
service radar detectors, which, of course, introduces some (or lots of) bias.
Because of that, while we looked at those sites for background, we based our recommendations
on sources we considered to be impartial, as well as feedback from users at
retail sites and enthusiast forums. We looked for common threads among the
feedback we gathered, recommending radar detectors that score well across the
review spectrum based on performance, of course, but also factors such as important
features and ease of use.
The best radar detectors
consensus among experts, enthusiasts and owners as to which radar detector is
best for most users under most circumstances can be a challenge, but the (Est. $635) rises to the occasion on all fronts, except, perhaps for price.
"If you can afford the price, the Max 360 offers confidence-inspiring insurance
against a cop with a radar gun," says Eric Tingwall at Car & Driver.
also come from most other experts. "Given my experiences with the Max 360,
Escort's most advanced detector ever provides drivers the highest level of
protection and awareness today and is highly recommended," says Rob R , the "Veil Guy," founder and CEO of the Veil
Corporation, maker of an automotive spray designed to absorb laser light in
order to reduce a laser gun's targeting range
satisfaction is excellent as well -- though how excellent depends on which set
of users you ask. Some enthusiasts are a bit hard on the Max 360 as it's beaten
as far as absolute best range by some other, less expensive radar detectors.
However, most concede that the Max 360 is at least more than good enough for
most typical situations, and it's more feature packed and easier to use than
other flagship radar detectors. In terms of ratings, the feedback at Amazon.com
is rather soft, just 3.8 stars after nearly 210 reviews. However, we see much
higher satisfaction elsewhere, including a 4.7 star rating at BestBuy.com
following more than 200 reviews, and a 4.5 star rating at RadarBusters.com
following more than 70 user reviews.
doubt that this is one feature-packed radar detector. It earns its 360
designation because it includes front and rear antennas and a
direction-indicator on the unit to show the heading and band of any detected
signals. It includes filtering to minimize false alerts triggered by vehicle
technologies such as collision avoidance systems. Reviews indicate that the
filtering is still a work in progress -- and might need some user tinkering
with settings to best adapt to radar conditions in your area -- but that it is
among the most effective available in a radar detector to date. "It did
give me a few false hits—I'm pretty sure an Acura was at fault at one
point—but it was remarkably quiet," reports Road & Track's Jason
Harper following a month-long test.
GPS equipped and pre-loaded with a database of known, fixed speed-enforcement
locations, such as speed traps and photo enforcement. You can update your unit
with locations you discover. Automatic updates to the database are available
for free for the first three months, after which it is subscription based (Est.
$20 per year or $40 for three years).
radar detectors, the Max 360 also incorporates a Laser detector. Feedback
indicates that, for a Laser detector, it works fairly well. But keep in mind
that most expert and user guidance indicates that if the Laser indicator goes
off while you are exceeding the speed limit, it's very often too late to do any
it's Escort Live! compatible. Escort Live! crowdsources information on speed
enforcement activities. Subscribe to the premium version of Escort Live! (Est.
$50 per year), pair your detector to your Android or Apple smartphone, and you
can send and receive real-time updates of fixed and recent mobile police-radar
All of these
features could be daunting to a radar neophyte, but one big advantage of the
Max 360 compared to other top-of-the line units is ease of use. "I think
the Max360 is a great option for people who want all the bells and whistles and
also want something easy to use that does everything for you," says
"Vortex" of VortexRadar.com. "Everything just kinda works on its
own and that's pretty refreshing sometimes," he adds.
Prior to the
introduction of the Max 360, only one radar detector had front and rear
antennas and display arrows to indicate the direction in which the speed
enforcement activities lay. That was the (Est. $400).
It is the darling of a lot of enthusiasts; has many of the same features as the
Max 360, albeit in a "roll your own" way; and it slightly outperforms
the Max 360 in some controlled tests.
The V1, as
it's also known, has been around for years (since 1992). But it's being
continuously updated with features, the newest of which is Junk-K Fighter, a
software filter that fends off K-band false alerts now being generated by
automotive systems, and similar to the filtering in the Max 360. It's built
into all currently shipping V1s, and available as an upgrade on older units.
are missing, however. GPS, for example, though some limited GPS features (for
example, the ability to lock out known sources of false positives, such as
store automatic door-opening systems) can be added via third-party apps, but
only if you also spring for a Bluetooth adapter (Est. $50) to connect to your
Apple or Android smartphone. There's also no live gathering of speed
enforcement activities nor is there a database of known, fixed, speed
The VI is
highly programmable. That's the good news; the bad news is that feedback
indicates that you need to do some programming to get the best experience.
"Vortex" says that "The V1 is pretty chatty out of the box,"
but that with a little work you can wind up with a quiet unit and maximum
performance; he provides details here.
line: These two radar detectors are terrific top-of-the line options, and each
could be the right choice for different users. The Valentine One edges out the
Max 360 in performance, is highly programmable, and somewhat cheaper, but is
probably best suited to enthusiasts willing to spend the time to get the best results.
The Max 360, while pricier, is richer in features and easier to use, and is
likely the better choice for drivers that just want a radar detector to work.
Are cheap radar detectors worth the
wants to spend $400 or more (and in the case of the Max 360, much more), but
lower-priced radar detectors struggle to get much love. Still, if you are
willing to live with some compromises, the (Est. $300) looks like it's
worth considering. "Vortex" even names this radar detector as the
best option among in-vehicle mounted models. "It offers a more performance
and capability than most anything else in this price range, making it a great
bang for the buck," he says.
is a re-badged version of the Uniden LRD950, with only cosmetics and updated
firmware setting the two units apart. Both Uniden detectors get decent respect
in the enthusiast community, and among users -- albeit with limited feedback.
Be that as it may, the LRD950 earns a 4.4 star rating at Amazon.com based on
more than 80 reviews (but don't buy that discontinued model as it's priced
higher than the current version). On its own, the DFR7 earns just over 10
reviews so far (although Amazon.com lumps together the reviews of all current Uniden radar detectors into
one score), with all but one rating coming in at 4 stars or higher.
set is pretty good for this price point. It's GPS equipped, with a periodically
updated database of speed camera and other fixed traffic enforcement locations
that you can download for free, and you can store any locations you spot
yourself to the unit for future reference. It's got K-band filtering to
minimize false positives from vehicle safety systems as well. There's a Laser
looking to spend less than $200 for a radar detector will find themselves with
relatively few options that get much in the way of positive feedback. One
exception is the (Est. $180). This is the successor model to the (Est. $155), a model that earned good expert feedback,
especially when compared to other radar detectors in its price class. The CR93
builds upon that model by offering improved sensitivity per testing by
price point, this is a well-equipped radar detector. Of particular note is a
feature that alerts you to the presence of potentially disruptive signals from
collision avoidance systems in nearby vehicles. This is different from systems
that use digital processing to filter out these signals -- your detector will
still sound, though with a "less intrusive alert." While that leaves
the ride a little noisier than with some detectors, the plus is that you won't
be lulled into a false sense of security. Though it's a rare occurrence, if you
happen to come within range of actual K-band radar being used while active K-band
filtering is engaged, most radar detectors --including many even more powerful,
and pricier detectors, such as the Max 360 -- will leave you vulnerable, notes
The CR93 is
also GPS-equipped, with a database with known red light and camera speed
enforcement locations. That database can be user updated via a USB connection
to a computer.
is good for a radar detector in this price range, though some enthusiast
feedback indicates that pricier models -- even the DFR7 -- beat it in terms of
range. One concern, noted by "Veil Guy" is that X-band radar
sensitivity has dropped a little compared to its predecessor -- but that's only
a concern in the handful of states that use that less popular frequency. User
reviews at retailer sites are limited -- but the handful that weigh in at
Amazon.com all rate it 4 stars or better.
Expert & User Review Sources
There's a bit of a wild-west mentality
among radar-detector enthusiasts, and reviewers, which makes this one of the
tougher categories to evaluate. Credible expert reviews by mainstream sources
are relatively hard to come by, though we did find some limited feedback at
sites like Road & Track and Car & Driver. Beyond that, we
looked at enthusiast feedback and testing at busy forums, such as RDForum.org,
as well as owner reviews at sites like Amazon.com, BestBuy.com,
and RadarBusters.com. The bulk of the feedback in this category,
however, comes from individuals and sites that are in the business of selling
or making radar detectors and related products. Those include RadarTest.com, RadarDetector.org, StealthVeil.com, Vortex Radar, and
others. While we looked at those sites, and have shared some of their
evaluations, those opinions and ratings were not relied on when finding the
Best Reviewed radar detectors.