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Radar Detector Shopping Guide

Got a lead foot? If so, you may want to invest in a quality radar detector in order to reduce your chances of getting a speeding ticket, traffic school, and higher insurance rates.

A radar detector is a great way to alert you to highway patrol radar traps before you reach them. But which type of radar detector is best for you? With a handful of brands on the market and many more models to choose from, figuring out which model is appropriate for your needs can be trying. Fortunately, Dealio is here to eliminate your purchase frustration and help you make an executive decision on the best type of radar detector to you're your particular wants and needs.

How Radar Detectors Work

As you're driving down the highway at speed, highway patrol officers use radar speed detectors to emit radio waves, which bounce off moving cars and return to their devices. The measurement recorded is the change in frequency of the radio waves when they return, and this calculates your exact speed.

Although radar guns can use different bands (X, K, and Ka) to detect your speed, K and Ka bands are the most widely used today. Because radio beams are emitted over a broader area, most quality radar detectors can identify a signal and alert you with ample time to react. This is the reason why many highway patrol officers have transitioned to using laser speed detectors, which emit a narrow laser beam that covers a very limited area. Because of the narrow beam, even today's best detection devices will give you less of a lead time to react since it cannot pick up the signal as quickly. However, there are plenty of radar detectors on the market today can track both radar and laser speed detector devices.

Types of Radar Detectors

(1) Portable, Dash-Mounted System

If you want a simple, inexpensive, and portable device, a dash-mounted system is probably the best type of radar detector for you. In addition to being easy to mount to your dashboard or the inside of your windshield, dash-mounted systems also give you the ability to transfer your unit between different automobiles. They are also less expensive than permanently installed systems, which are completely invisible within the automobile's cabin.

Cost: The lowest price radar detector costs an average of $100, while the higher end models can cost an upwards of $400.

(2) Installed, Hidden System

If you tend to travel in one car and you want your detection device to be virtually invisible, a permanently installed "Stealth" device is the best radar detector for your needs. These employ sensors at the front and rear of your car and are completely hidden from view. The alarming device is located in the cabin, usually under your dashboard in a place that not easily seen and are extremely effective at detecting almost any type of speed detection device. However, these types of radar detectors are a lot more expensive than dash-mounted systems.

Cost:The lowest price radar detector costs an average of $500, while the higher end models can cost an upwards of $1,000 once the system has been installed by a professional.

Radar Detector Features

Once you've figured out which type of radar detector is your best buy, the next step is to understand the array of different feature options that are available.

(1) Laser and Radar Equipped

With the highway patrol using both radar and laser speed detection devices, you should consider buying a radar detector that is capable of picking up both types of signals. Most radar detectors can pick up X, K, and Ka band signals, but if you are interested in picking up laser signals too, make sure the model also has 'Laser' listed as a detection method. The lowest price radar detectors usually have only radar detecting capability, while the higher end models have both radar and laser detecting capability.

(2) Power Supply

Dash-mounted radar detectors can utilize a 12v power adapter that plugs into your power source or rechargeable or non-rechargeable AA batteries. The advantage to running your radar detector on batteries is that you can make it wireless (described below), thus eliminating those unsightly power wires.

(3) Wireless

Do you want to be able to transfer your radar detector to another car in a quick and efficient manner? Do you want to avoid having unsightly power wires hanging over your dashboard? If you answered yes to either of the aforementioned questions, a wireless radar detector is your best option. Wireless models are powered by battery, although they usually come with a 12v power adapter that you can plug into your power input if need be.

(4) Alert Style

All radar detectors come with a visual alert feature, which flashes to alert you to slow down when radar or laser signals are detected. If you want to be alerted with an audible message, certain models can tell you the band of the radar, the strength of the signal, and even alert you in different languages. When shopping for a radar detector, note that these two features are labeled "visual alert" and "audible alert" respectively. The lowest price radar detectors usually have only visual alert capability, while the higher end models have both visual and audible alert capability.

(5) VG-2 Protection

VG-2 is a device the highway patrol uses to detect your radar detector. If you have VG-2 protection, your device will temporarily shut down before the highway patrol detects you have yours turned on. This feature is ideal to have if want to avoid letting highway patrol know that you own a radar detector. While the lowest price radar detectors usually do not include this feature, there are many higher end models that do.

(6) Display Brightness

Display brightness settings allow you to change the brightness of the LED display on your radar detector to match your preferences. This setting is especially helpful when driving at night.

(7) Headphone Jack

If you don't want to disturb your passengers on long trips, you should look out for a model with a headphone jack so you can keep the audible alerts to yourself.