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5 Best Radar Detectors: Your Buyer’s Guide

best radar detectors

123RF (Sergiy Tryapitsyn)

Whether you’re shopping for a new driver or a car guy – or just preparing for a rally – a good radar detector can save you money in the long run. Spending a little more now will save you hundreds on tickets and hiked insurance premiums and help you get to work on time regardless of speed traps. Save yourself from a ruined day and a ruined budget with the very best radar detectors available on the market.

What Is the Best Radar Detector You Can Buy?

Escort MAX360C Laser Radar Detector Amazon Customer Reviews
  • WiFi and Bluetooth enabled
  • Autolearning eliminates false alerts
  • Directional alerts
Price: $627.90 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Uniden R7 Extreme Long Range Laser & Radar Detector Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Dual antenna setup with directional alerts
  • GPS learns your common routes
  • Extremely long range
Price: $479.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Cobra Road Scout Dash Cam and Radar Detector Amazon Customer Reviews
  • All-in-one unit for both alerts and recording
  • WiFi and Bluetooth enabled
  • Companion app provides community alerts
Price: $399.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Radenso Pro M Radar Detector Amazon Customer Reviews
  • GPS lockouts to prevent false alerts
  • Speed and red light camera alerts
  • Includes MRCD detection
Price: $499.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Whistler CR90 High Performance Laser Radar Detector Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Internal GPS alerts you to traffic cameras
  • Signal priority when multiple are detected
  • Six filtering modes
Price: $169.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. Escort MAX360C Laser Radar Detector

    • WiFi and Bluetooth enabled offers real-time traffic alerts and updates
    • Autolearning eliminates false alerts
    • Directional alerts
    • Very expensive
    • Steep learning curve that may make it overkill for some
    • Poor customer service

    Along with the R3/R7, the MAX360 is among the best you can buy at any price. Previously known as the Passport, the Escort Max360 gives you the kind of advanced protection you expect from this level of radar detection. This model, the Max360C goes a step further and integrates modern ubiquitous technology to enhance detection.

    In addition to the incredible range on the device itself, this detector is both WiFi and Bluetooth enabled. When connected to a smartphone using the Escort Live! App, real-time traffic alerts inform the GPS unit on-board, providing the device with community-enabled spotting as well as continuously-updated locations of red light and speed cameras.

    This also allows automatic relaying of alerts between units; when your radar detector correctly identifies the presence of an LEO, it broadcasts the hit to the app, thereby strengthening the knowledge of the community on the whole. More typical road hazards, construction, and accidents are also logged via the app.

    The Autolearn technology helps defeat false alerts over time by learning your route and remembering locations where you’ve muted. This is further augmented by sensitivity adjustments which account for differeing speeds on different days. Other filtering help counter the higher rate of false alerts seen in similarly-sensitive units.

    This package includes a few other nice touches such as a suction cup with a magnetic connector to the unit itself and a smart cord with remote and USB port. All comes packaged in a carrying case for convenience.

    To further enhance performance and road security, you can purchase the 360MaxC in a bundle with the Escort M1 Dash Camera. You’ll not only know what’s coming, you’ll have proof of what happened, as well. You an also get the iXc model bundled with the M1 Camera for a bit less. For a lot less, you could opt for the previous-generation units like the Passport 9500iX or 8500 X50.

  2. 2. Uniden R7 Extreme Long Range Laser & Radar Detector

    • Dual antenna setup with directional alerts
    • GPS learns your common routes and suppresses alerts you've muted in the past
    • Extremely long range
    • One of the most expensive units on the market
    • Chasis could be sturdier, particularly compared to other top-of-the-line models
    • Higher rate of false positives until you program your routes

    When discussing the best radar detectors on the market, those who know often mention the predecessor to this unit, the Uniden R3 as the standard-bearer for picking up on LEOs even at high speeds. This is the evolution of that venerable device with a couple of notable upgrades.

    First, the range on this unit is even further than the R3, which is already impressive. It uses a dual antenna array, which takes the 360 degree coverage angle to a new extreme. These provide the second enhancement: directional arrows that show from which direction the threat originates to go along with the strength of the signal. The OLED screen – which, unlike in the R3, is tilted toward the driver – can display up to four signals simultaneously to help you understand the landscape as you drive.

    Unlike the Whistler variant, the smart power cord with remote is included in the package. It also provides a USB outlet on the back so you aren’t down a charging port for other devices. Both a single suction dash mount and a dual suction windshield mount are also included in the very nice carrying case in which the unit ships.

    An internal GPS receiver pulls double duty, both alerting you to speed and red light camera and learning your common routes and storing the places you normally mute false positives and thus suppressing them on future drives without the need for hit-or-miss filtering. The range and sensitivity do lend to a higher frequency of false positives, but the learning capability can help you adapt the unit over time.

    Of course, the R3 is still available, including in a bundle that comes with a hardwire kit, if wanted. For absolute beginner units, they also offer the Uniden DFR1, which is extremely inexpensive.

    While you’re shopping Uniden, don’t forget to grab a scanner to complete your early warning system.

  3. 3. Cobra Road Scout Dash Cam and Radar Detector

    • All-in-one unit for both alerts and recording
    • WiFi and Bluetooth enabled
    • Companion app provides community alerts
    • Combination of functions means neither is best-in-class
    • No directional alerts
    • Customer service is lacking

    Cobra are among the most commonly-available radar detectors with offerings like their RAD250 relatively ubiquitous. They do innovate, though, and this all-in-one Road Scout unit is evidence of that.

    If you’ve been considering buying a dash cam to protect yourself during your drives, but also have a need for a radar detector, combining them is a pretty sensible move. The full HD dashcam records to the on-board SD card (16GB card included), but can also be controlled via smartphone with direct WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity.

    Those connectivity options also feedback into the radar detector side as community alerts from the Cobra iRadar app – data for which is shared with the Escort app – provide real-time road condition updates. Speed traps, hazards and other potential slow-downs help the detector operate optimally.

    As for the detector itself, it has decent range and full detection for all kinds of radar and laser signals. It’s not quite on the level of the first two picks on this list, nor of the Cobra DualPro 360 (which is a close cousin of the Escort Max360), but unless you’re attempting a Cannonball, it’s definitely up to the task of your daily commute.

    In addition to the SD card, the package includes a magnet mount, smart cable, and carry case.

    If you’re looking something more middle of the road and don’t need the camera, consider the Cobra RAD480i.

  4. 4. Radenso Pro M Radar Detector

    • GPS lockouts to prevent false alerts
    • Speed and red light camera alerts
    • Includes MRCD detection
    • Ugly look and cheap construction
    • Hard-to-read screen, particularly in sunlight
    • Some alerts don't auto-mute

    If you’re not a fan of the modern radar detector interfaces and would prefer something a bit more subdued, this offering from Radenso takes a more old-school approach while still offering some modern amenities.

    Range is no problem on this unit as it offers several miles of detection from every type of radar, including MultaRadar. As with the more advanced offerings, on-board GPS allows you to save spots where common false alerts occur to have them ignored on future drives.

    Each unit ships with a preloaded database of 6,000 red light and speed camera locations and a USB cable is included for free lifetime updates. The filtering is above-average, and notably better than that of the Uniden R3, which requires some lead time to program out the false alerts.

    The display is OLED, but with only four brightness levels and a single color, it’s nothing special to look at and can be difficult to see in bright conditions. On the whole, the construction can’t measure up to rivals, but if you’re distracted by the fussy modern interfaces, this could be the solution for you.

    In addition to this top-of-the-line unit, they also offer the XP and SP models, both of which can be augmented with a smart cord.

  5. 5. Whistler CR90 High Performance Laser Radar Detector

    • Internal GPS alerts you to speed and red light cameras
    • Signal priority when multiple are detected
    • Six filtering modes
    • More expensive than better-trusted rivals
    • Filtering against falses occasionally means later detection
    • Requires some initial configuration

    Radar detectors from Whistler are the entry point for most people when they consider getting their first, usually something down range like the CR68. I had one of the ancient predecessors when I started driving and they’re better than nothing, certainly. If you want better protection with improved elimination of false detection, you’ll want to look further uprange at this offering, the CR90.

    In addition to total detection for all radar and laser guns in use, including things like the Laser Ally, this unit offers a full OLED text display and voice alerts. The icing on the cake for this unit is the internal GPS which maps out all red light and speed camera locations. This is updateable via USB to ensure you’re alerted to newly-installed cameras.

    You can slso buy a bundle with the next model up that comes with the Whistler Intellicord which allows you to control functions remotely, thereby moving them closer to the driving position.

    Whistler make a wide variety of detectors to choose from and you can certainly spend under $100 if that’s your budget, including the entry-level 4500ES.

Are Radar Detectors Legal?

Surprisingly enough, radar detectors are legal for passenger vehicles in every part of the United States with the exception of Virginia and Washington D.C., according to AAA. They're illegal in commercial vehicles everywhere, however.

The Virginia exception should be no surprise considering Donut Media and VinWiki have both thoroughly explored the arcane laws, speed traps and continual overreaches of law enforcement there.

Additionally, you might be surprised to learn that laser scramblers are actually legal. Radar jammers very much are not legal, however, and at the end of the day, you don't want to get pulled over with either one of them in your car.

While a police officer may use the presence of a radar detector to infer that you're more likely to speed or have previous citations, they are perfectly legal to have and won't necessarily increase your troubles once you've been pulled over. If you have both a detector and a laser jammer, you're unlikely to be able to talk yourself out of that ticket.

On top of that, if you have too many devices attached to your windshield, you may be cited for obstructed view. Naturally, with the radar detectors on this list, you're much less likely to run into any of these problems in the first place.

Will Getting a Ticket Affect My Car Insurance?

According to Allstate, the answer is probably yes. While it won't immediately increase your premium, your rate is likely to go up upon renewal or if you switch companies or buy a new car. Any time you require a quote from an insurance company, they'll check your driving record to determine what kind of liability you are as a driver.

The following factors will be considered with each ticket:

  • Your prior driving record
  • Whether the ticket was a first offense
  • Amount of time since your last moving violation
  • How many miles per hour you were going over the speed limit
  • Location where the violation occurred

The more frequent and serious the violation, the higher risk you are for increased costs and perhaps even loss of coverage.

Considering that, as well as the included cost of the violation, even the relatively high price tag on our chosen radar detectors can easily save you money in the long run.

What Should I Do If I'm Pulled Over? What If I've Recieved a Ticket?

If you're pulled over, stop as soon as you can safely park both cars on the side of the road. A police car is an emergency vehicle, so if they have lights and sirens going, it's the law for you to move over, anyway, and continuing as though you may not be the target may itself be a violation and can complicate matters when it comes to understanding if you've broken the law.

For both your safety and the safety of the officer, the ALCU and Nolo.com have a few tips for initiating the interaction:

  1. Turn off the car and put on your hazard lights
  2. If it's dark, turn on a light inside the car and roll the window at least part way
  3. Put your hands on the steering wheel so the officer can see you've stopped moving before getting out of the cruiser
  4. Be prepared to show license, registration, and proof of insurance - if you need to go into a glove box to get these things, do it slowly or ask if you can take your hands off the wheel
  5. Don't be hostile - escalating the situation will virtually ensure a ticket and possibly lead to other violations
  6. Don't admit guilt - answer relevant questions and be respectful, but it's up to their judgement to cite you, so there's no reason to offer additional details
  7. Lying probably won't work - it's more effective to be calm and respectful than it is to concoct a story; they've heard them all

If you get a ticket, you essentially have two choices. First, if the violation is minor and unlikely to have a serious effect on your insurance, pay it quickly. There's no need to compound the situation by being late to pay the fine.

Second, you can, of course, fight it. While you can represent yourself in court, you probably shouldn't. Engage a service like The Ticket Clinic or Off the Record to help keep your driving record clean. Lawyers local to the site of your violation know the law and the likely members of the courts nearby better than you do and it's not always as straightforward as making a good argument to the judge.

Either of these services come with a cost, so again, a quality radar detector is your first line of defense when it comes to saving money.

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