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Whether you’re a habitual speeder or a usually law-abiding citizen, it’s easy to stray above the speed limit every now and then. If you’re unlucky, doing so could result in a hefty fine from law enforcement, but a radar detector could provide some extra reassurance if you’re prone to run-ins with the local cops. The detector can pick up signals from a police radar gun, alerting you to its presence in advance, and giving you the chance to slow down to avoid getting a ticket.
While they’re undoubtedly a useful tool to have, it’s worth keeping in mind that they’re not legal everywhere. A couple of states have banned their use altogether, and others have deemed them illegal to use in specific areas like construction zones or school zones. So, before you fit one to your car, it’s important to check local regulations. Also, to be clear, we’re not condoning speeding even if you have a radar detector fitted — while they’re a great way to gain additional information about the road ahead, they’re not an excuse to evade the law. That said, if you’re looking to buy a radar detector for the first time or upgrade your current device, these eight top picks have you covered.
It might be pricey, but the Escort Redline 360c is about the best you can get for long-range radar detection with plenty of extra features. One of the most annoying things about cheaper radar detectors can be the amount of false alerts they give, with the problem being especially bad in urban areas where everything from automatic gates to sliding doors can trigger them. However, the Redline 360c features intelligent software to filter out most of these false alerts, even if it’s not perfect.
The detector also offers leading levels of connectivity, with the Escort app giving users plenty of options to tweak the settings of the detector to their liking, as well as being able to receive and share information with other drivers. The built-in Wi-Fi connectivity means the Redline 360c also benefits from regular updates, with the onboard database storing information about the locations of static cameras and speed traps. All of these features come at a price: the Escort retails for $799.95, making this a serious investment, but one that’s well worth the cash if you’re looking for the best in class.
Another costly but class-leading radar detector, the Uniden R8 is essentially an updated version of the R7. It provides consistently accurate long-distance detection of K, X, and Ka bands (the three used by law enforcement), with particularly impressive performance regarding Ka band, which is traditionally the trickiest of all three to pick up. Like the Redline 360c, it also features false alert filtering, which is among the most effective in its class.
The R8 packs a laser detection functionality, which is a useful additional tool even if it’s an imperfect one for now. Much like its biggest rival, the Redline 360c, the R8 sits at the top of the segment on price. It’s also significantly more expensive than the R7, which offers most of the same functionality, and if you already own an R7 it might not be worth the upgrade. However, if you’re a first-time buyer looking for a top-tier detector, it’s worth shelling out for. The R8 is currently available for $699.99 on Amazon.
The original Valentine 1 was a long-running favorite among radar detector buyers, but the latest Gen2 significantly improves on the formula. It forgoes the OLED screens and GPS lockouts that many of its competitors offer, instead focusing on getting the basics right. It does so with aplomb, with long-range detection of radar guns and the simple but effective arrow system to indicate which direction the signal is coming from.
Bluetooth connectivity has also been added for the second generation, which allows drivers to connect the detector to their phone via an app. Valentine opened up the API to third parties, which means there’s a range of apps available which add different functionalities, making the Valentine very customizable. Like all of the best radar detectors, the Valentine 1 Gen2 features false alert filtering that’s vastly improved over the previous generation, an especially important feature today given the increasing amount of in-car systems that can trigger older devices. At the time of writing, the Valentine 1 Gen2 is available on Amazon for $649.00.
Although it’s Uniden’s latest R8 that stands out as being the top choice if you’re looking for the best the brand has to offer, the R7 is still well worth considering, not least because it can be found considerably cheaper than its successor. As you’d expect, it’s capable of detecting signals from long range, although it’s not quite as sensitive as the class leaders. It can detect every band used by law enforcement, and sensitivity to each band is adjustable, so it can be tweaked to filter out common bands for false alerts in a particular area if needed.
It packs built-in GPS, giving it the ability to manually lock out permanent sources of false alerts, which is particularly handy on routes you drive regularly, like a daily commute. In short, it’s all the radar detector that most people will ever need, but with a retail price of $499.99 on Amazon, it’s a fair bit cheaper than the top-of-the-line products.
The Escort Max 3 is a solid choice for a mid-range radar detector, with a unique advantage over its similarly-priced rivals: access to the Escort app. Using the Defender Database, drivers get access to information on everything from new camera locations to construction zones. It will require a subscription, but Escort’s community relay a constant feed of updates about changing road hazards so you’ll be better informed than anyone using a free alternative app like Waze or Google Maps.
Much like the pricier Redline R360c, the Max 3 has built-in GPS which enables lockouts so problem signal sources can be filtered out. Another feature shared with flagship rivals is Auto Mode, which detects your speed and reduces the detector’s sensitivity to certain bands accordingly. The aim is to reduce false alerts from built-up areas or other traffic at lower speeds, and it’s an effective tool in keeping the Max 3 quiet most of the time. It might not be quite as feature-packed nor as adept at detecting the longest range signals as the top-spec competition, but at a price of $399.95 on Amazon, it costs half what a Redline 360c does. That kind of value can’t be ignored, even if there’s some tough competition at this mid-range price point.
Anyone who’s not so keen on the idea of paying a subscription fee for up-to-date camera location information should consider the Radenso DS1, which comes with a complimentary lifetime subscription to the company’s photo enforcement camera database. The compact detector features a prominent screen with varying brightness settings to keep it readable in varying light conditions. In bright sunlight, it’s less than ideal, but in any other situation, it’s easy to read.
The company is so confident in its long-range detection capabilities that it offers a “1-year ticket-free guarantee,” promising to pay the fines of any buyers who get caught within their first year of using the DS1. They also claim it has the highest range of any Ka-band radar detector, although that assertion is disputable, especially when compared to the latest and greatest radar detectors out there. Nonetheless, it remains up there with the best of them, although there’s one notable disadvantage: there are no arrows to indicate where the detected signal is coming from. Whether that’s a dealbreaker is down to personal choice, but either way, the DS1 remains an attractive option for the money, backed up by that unique ticket guarantee. It’s currently available to purchase from $364.99 on Amazon.
If you’re on a tighter budget and can’t justify forking out for a top-spec or even a mid-range radar detector, the Uniden DFR9 is about the best you can get in the budget-oriented segment. It misses out on most of the extra features that differentiate the brand’s halo products, but it packs all the essentials. It’s compact, boasts long-range detection, and features intelligent filtering to try and cut down on false positives. It’s also one of the best affordable devices to ship with built-in GPS, to lock out unwanted alerts on regular routes.
It misses out on arrows to display which direction a signal has been detected, much like the Radenso DS1. However, unlike the DS1, there’s no guarantee offered for speeding tickets, although the DFR9’s range and accuracy mean that should be no big deal. Moreover, its cheaper price might well sway undecided buyers. At a retail price of $299.75 on Amazon, it’s hard to knock its value for money.
While there are plenty of even cheaper radar detectors out there, the cheapest device we’d recommend is the Uniden DFR7, the predecessor to the DFR9. It might be older, and it certainly doesn’t look as premium as most of the other detectors here, but those two factors do make it significantly more affordable. It can be found for $189.99 on Amazon, making it our de facto “best radar detector under $200.” Much like its newer and pricier stablemates, the DFR7 offers solid long-range detection and an easy-to-use interface, although it’s worth noting it can’t detect MultaRadar, so it’s not quite as foolproof as other models in the brand’s range.
The key advantage the DFR7 boasts over other budget rivals is the built-in GPS system, which it shares with other Uniden detectors. It’s proprietary technology, but it means the DFR7 filters out false alerts to a degree that other detectors in this price bracket can’t hope to achieve. The cheapest radar detectors will be triggered by almost any radar signal, and with cars, buildings, and road monitoring systems all adding to the noise, they won’t be much help when it comes to detecting an actual police radar gun. The DFR7 is about the most affordable solution to that, making it well worth considering as an entry-level option or even as a money-saving alternative to a mid-range device.