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What’s the best radar detector? With dozens on the market, choosing one that lives up to its promises can be daunting. The Gear Team has scrutinized the details so that you don’t have to.
Radar speed-detection capabilities were first developed in 1935 by a Bobby in Britain who had his eyes set on your wallet. Some 30 years on, a fed-up comrade and engineer invented one of the earliest radar detection devices, known as the Fuzzbuster. Now, in 2023, law enforcement has
stepped up its speed-detecting game—but so have the good folks who manufacture countermeasures.
Radar detectors can be useful to anyone, regardless of your inclination to speed. They can save you from costly speeding tickets and potentially higher auto insurance rates by alerting you to the existence of different police radar and laser signals. Some of the latest devices frequently incorporate helpful sensors, such as GPS, which identify the locations of red-light cameras. Some can connect to mobile devices and notify you of traffic or accidents along your path.
Radar detectors utilize antennas to monitor and analyze signals from a distance. Naturally, this implies that some are superior to others and that various models may suit certain drivers. It can be difficult to choose the best radar detector, therefore the Gear Team has stepped up to handle the research for you. Our friends at Car and Driver have even conducted a hands-on test of some of the devices on our list.
How they work: Whether your detector uses antennas, microprocessors, or some combination of both, the receivers in your detector tune into active radar signals. The X, K, and Ka bands are the three types of radar and laser most frequently used by law enforcement in the U.S. For many years, law enforcement relied heavily on the now less common X band. K band, its replacement, is more challenging to detect from a distance, in part due to its higher frequency. Ka-band is the hardest form of radar to detect at a distance because it has a narrower beam pattern and lower power output than both X and K bands.
Range: A radar detector that will alert you of an approaching checkpoint far enough in advance for you to slow down is necessary if you want to avoid receiving a ticket. The range of your radar detector effectively dictates how valuable it can be. While some devices can only detect radar 100 feet away, others are able to warn you well in advance. Interference can decrease the effective range of a detector due to things like weather and solid objects. Because of this, many manufacturers refrain from providing you with a detector’s range and instead rely on generalizations like "long range."
False-alert filtering: Sometimes, radar detectors will mistakenly detect radar signals from other devices. There are a number of variables that can trigger false alerts, from sensors on another vehicle and radar-controlled garage door openers to various radio signals. Most radar detectors feature a mute button so you may manually turn off false alarms. Some of the latest software is used to filter out frequent false signals by learning where they commonly occur.
So what’s the best radar detector you can buy? Without a complete and thorough test—which is forthcoming—it’s really impossible to say. However, we can bring you a selection of top brands and personal favorites, hand-picked by the editors of Road & Track.
Escort is one of the most well-known names in the industry. The Escort Max 360c MK II is one of the company’s latest offerings and comes loaded with some of its newest tech. It has two antennas for maximum range, directional arrows that help you quickly identify risk, and an auto-learn feature that remembers false alerts on your commonly used routes.
It also features an intuitive app that makes it easy to adjust settings, and you can opt into Escort’s subscription plan, which allows you to use built-in Wi-Fi to download traffic detection database updates automatically.
The R8 is Uniden’s top-of-the-line offering. It can identify threats coming from all four directions thanks to its dual antenna, and you get notified via voice alerts. Even the band, direction, and signal intensity for each are audibly announced. If voice alerts annoy you, it also features a large multicolor OLED display.
The Passport S55 is a slightly older model from Escort, which in this case is a good thing. It’s good because you get many of the features of their newer models at a slightly lower price point, like smartphone connectivity, automatic sensitivity adjustment based on your speed, and SmartCord USB for power.
The drawback of being an older model is that it doesn’t come as well-equipped for things like storefront automatic doors, or blind-spot-monitoring systems on late-model cars, possibly resulting in more false alerts than newer detectors. But for those who don’t frequently drive through congested areas, it still offers high-level protection on the highways.
Most radar detectors require you to reach the device mounted on your windshield to access features or adjust the volume. The Platinum 100 from K40 solves that issue with a handy remote control.
K40 also offers an insane 12-month ticket-free guarantee that will cover the cost of your fines if you get a radar or laser speeding ticket within the first year of your purchase. (There are some exceptions, but we love this feature.)
The Titan from Whistler offers many of the features of big-name brands at a fraction of the cost. All of the latest features you would expect are present, including multiple city modes, voice alerts, false-alert filtering, auto and manual lock-outs, an adjustable OLED display, and an Intellicord 2.0 power cord which allows you to access the device’s features without reaching up to your windshield.
Escort and Cobra merged in 2015 to form the largest maker of radar detectors on the market. This means Cobra gains the benefit of Escort’s years of know-how and technology.
The DualPro features 360-degree directional alert arrows, a high-resolution multicolor graphic display, iRadar app and cloud connectivity, and a secure EZ Mag windshield mount.
The Pro M by Radenso is a solid option in its price bracket. Despite being one of the most affordable devices on our list, its features include many of the essentials offered by other brands.
What’s cool is that it allows you to adjust the strength of filtering for the various radar bands, including the rarely used X band, without muting it entirely.
While there’s no simple answer to which is the "best," these days, the most reliable radar detectors are those which can ignore false alarms while sounding an early warning for genuine speed traps.
Because they can block out obtrusive signals from radar-controlled door openers, those with GPS offer a significant advantage.
Yes, and moving radar is worse than static radar. The majority of these radars provide front-rear coverage. Vehicles traveling in the same direction in front of or behind the rolling cruiser can also be tracked.
The fastest car in a group can also be targeted. Meeting an approaching cruiser is the most common situation where moving radar is used.
Radar detectors are permitted everywhere in the United States besides Virginia, Washington, D.C., and military sites. These rules only apply to passenger cars. Additionally, they are prohibited in all areas of the country for commercial trucks over 10,000 pounds and all vehicles over 18,000 pounds.
Ten U.S. states, namely California, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia, as well as Washington, D.C., have laws prohibiting the use of laser jammers. Radar jammers are illegal in every state.
Your radar detector may be activated by a variety of radar sources. Only one such source is police radar. Other sources that may create a false alert include speed signs on the side of the road, automatic door openers in front of stores that use radar to detect when someone is approaching, and even some late-model vehicles with radar-based blind-spot-monitoring and collision-avoidance systems.
Road & Track and its sibling publications at Hearst Autos represent three of the most influential automotive publications in the world. We rely on decades of experience in the automotive and gear spaces to help readers make informed purchasing choices. Read more about our testing process here.
With the legacies of Autoweek, Car and Driver, and Road & Track behind us, the Hearst Autos Gear Team is more concerned with the trust our readers have in us than our bottom line. We won’t tell you to buy something if we wouldn’t buy it ourselves or recommend it to our friends, and we’ll never claim to have used or tested something if we haven’t.
We’ve evaluated dozens of products, from Bike Racks for Cars to Rooftop Cargo Carriers to Affordable Watches. Our picks and recommendations of products and gear are based on testing and knowledge, not hype.
Justin Helton is an avid automobile collector and gearhead from New York City.
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