We’re not saying you should think of speed limits as ballpark suggestions, but we know that pushing in the accelerator a little more than usual on a straight, empty stretch of highway is tempting. The trade-off is that getting caught is usually expensive. That’s where the radar detector comes in.
Radar detectors are designed to warn you of police presence and the use of speed detection hardware. They’re an in-car device that mounts inside your vehicle, similar to a dash cam or handheld GPS device.
In order to make our list of best radar detectors of 2021, each unit had to match or exceed the following criteria: dual radar antennas, superior range capabilities, false-positive filtering, GPS, auto sensitivity adjustment, and radar detection protection.
If you’d like to read more on how a radar detector works and learn where optimum placement in your vehicle is, continue reading. If you’re ready to move ahead and get your radar detector, consider one of the options that we’ve highlighted.
5 Best Radar Detectors of 2021:
If you’re hoping to avoid speeding tickets when you’re out driving, you need a radar detector that works quickly, reliably, and at long-range. With the high-powered radar and laser detection technology on the Cobra RAD 250, you’ll get that all-important on-the-road peace of mind.
It rapidly sweeps for and alerts you to police radar signals on the typical X, K, and Ka bands (and the Ku band used in Europe), with 360-degree coverage for laser signals as well. It even warns you if nearby cops are using VG-2 or Spectre types of radar detector detectors (RDDs) in places where radar detectors are illegal (Virginia and Washington DC).
Light and compact, the RAD 250 is easy to handle and to install. Suction cups allow it to be mounted to your windshield, and a long power cord plugs into your car’s power supply. Using the device is simple, too. Even without more advanced, flashy features like GPS or Bluetooth, it offers plenty of convenient touches.
Three brightness levels include an ultra-bright setting. Alerts can be automatically muted when you’re stopped or moving slowly. The ability to switch between Highway mode and City mode helps cut back on false alerts in busy areas, though users note that it can still be overly sensitive to false signals.
- Long range
- 360-degree laser detection
- Easy to install and use
- False alerts fairly common
- No flashy features
The Escort Redline 360c is one of the best radar detectors that will protect you from potential threats all around. The heightened sensors on the radar detector can pinpoint the location of threats with exceptional accuracy.
Enjoy more peace of mind on the road with the Escort Redline 360C’s extreme range capabilities and performance to know exactly what lies ahead with time to adjust. With AI assisted filtering, the Escort Redline 360C will block false alerts, ensuring a smooth and quiet ride without unnecessary alerts.
Escort has a Defender’s Database, which allows users to connect in real-time with other drivers to send and receive alerts on potential threats.
RDD (radar detector detectors) are sometime used by police to detect which drivers are using detectors. This device will keep you completely anonymous. The advanced stealth technology will keep you invisible against a police radar detector.
The manufactures of the Escort Redline 360c are so confident with this detector that they guarantee to pay for your radar if you receive a ticket in the first year.
- Extreme long-range radar sensors
- Escort 360-degree protection
- Heightened sensors
- Access to the drivers’ database
- Comes only in red
- Directional arrows are small
Despite its high price—it’s one of the most expensive radar detector on our list—it’s one of the top-sellers in the category on Amazon. The Uniden R3 is an advanced radar detector with 360-degree Eagle Eye detection for laser, X-band, K-band, Ka wideband, and POP mode radar gun. It has three city/highway modes and filters for K- and Ka-bands to prevent false detections.
Voice notifications allows drivers to stay focused on the road while a GPS feature allows the user to get red light camera alerts, mute memory false alerts, or mark location. A color OLED display makes the unit easy-to-see. This detector also has a mini-USB port so you can connect it to a PC for free GPS data updates.
Each package includes the detector, single and double suction cup brackets, cigarette adapter with mute key and USB port, connector double-sided Velcro tape, and carry case.
- Best overall protection
- 360-degree Eagle Eye detection
- OLED display, voice notification
- Free GPS data updates
- Very expensive
4. Uniden R7
The Uniden R7 remains our top pick for the best radar detector in 2021, regardless of price.
Without a doubt, Uniden took the industry by storm several years ago and has run away with a significant share of the marketplace in very short order. The directional R7 was the natural evolution of the incredible little wonder, the R3 and clearly bests its radar detection performance.
We found the Uniden R7 has detection performance even more sensitive than the Uniden R3 radar detectors, which means the R7 has some of the best radar detection range of portable windshield-mount radar detectors we’ve ever witnessed.
But the Uniden R7 is more than simply a directional R3. Multa Radar detection has been improved; the processor is 50% more powerful to perform more advanced digital signal processing; and currently has the largest display or any of the radar detectors available. With continued improvements to its firmware and a big price drop (now only $449) we believe the R7 remains the best extreme radar detector produced to date. It continues to provide class-leading performance, capable filtering, and customized configurations like no other.
- Dual antennas, directional arrows
- Easy to program/customize settings
- GPS with red light camera alerts
- Free GPS database updates
- Updateable via USB connection to PC
- Plastic case feels a little chintzy
- Laser sensitivity could be better
Certain technologies have been developed to help law enforcement officers counter radar detector use, and one of these is POP mode. Instead of producing a constant detectable signal, POP radar only transmits for a tiny fraction of a second, making it tough for traditional detectors to pick up. That’s where a model like the Beltronics Pro RX65 Red comes in, with its ability to alert drivers to POP signals. On the flip side, cops don’t use POP radar very commonly due to its reduced accuracy, so you might often end up keeping POP mode off to cut back on false alerts.
The RX65 Red also boasts immunity to VG-2 RDDs, but it does more than get you past police technologies. As its core functionality, the device provides excellent long-range detection for the most common X, K, and Ka bands and includes front and rear laser detection.
It offers a wide range of options in terms of sensitivity modes, alert types, mute settings, and brightness levels for the red LED it gets its name from. The display and overall design aren’t the sleekest to look at, but where it counts, you get a tool that’s both highly customizable and highly effective.
- High-level performance and range
- POP detection
- Many programmable options
- Design and display look outdated
- No GPS features
How Radar Detectors Work?
A radar detector is an in-car device that identifies many of the radar guns used by law enforcement to measure the speed of a passing car. Using the Doppler shift, a radar gun measures the distance and speed between the electromagnetic beam sent out by the handheld gun to a passing car and then back to the device.
Depending on the sophistication of the device, a radar detector can alert a driver via a panel that signals the presence of police radar as well as the posted speed limit and the car’s current speed. Newer, high-end radar detectors can also send out a jamming signals that block the radar from tracking a car equipped with such a device.
The radio waves present in any one area – TV and radio signals, garage door opener signals, and so on – can create many false alarms, but some newer radar detectors can differentiate between various kinds of electromagnetic waves to limit the number of errors.
Radar guns have been used by police for more than 50 years, and as radar detectors have improved, law enforcement agencies have added lidar guns to their arsenal. Lidar, a technology used to create 3D topographic maps, sends out a laser beam which can be directed at a single object to detect its speed within 1.9 miles per hour. In addition, a lidar beam can capture a vehicle’s license plate and even an image of the driver.
Benefits of Radar Detectors
Detect radar guns from afar. The main point of a radar detector is to detect the radar gun before it detects you. While a radar detector doesn’t always need to be used to avoid the police, they do give you a decent idea of where common speed traps are to adjust your driving.
Drive safer. Beyond just driving safely to avoid speeding tickets, many radar detectors can also detect other common hazards and radar signal sources, making you pay more attention to your surroundings.
Red light camera and speed camera alerts. Using built-in GPS databases, many new radar detectors can also alert you to redlight cameras and speed cameras around town.
Features to Consider in Radar Detectors
Before we introduce you to our selections for the 10 Best Radar Detectors of 2020, let’s first take a look at the most important features:
- Sensitivity: The overall sensitivity of the device will help you to determine how good the radar is at picking up signals. Strong sensitivity is vital to having a radar you can depend on.
- Range: It is nearly as important, if not as important as the sensitivity of the signal. If the radar lacks range you will not get notified of an approaching patrol car in enough time, which defeats the purpose of having a car radar. The further the range the better.
- Consistency: You need something reliable. Cheap radar detectors are known for delivering false alarms. The detector should be able to pick up actual cop signals while ignoring ones that are similar yet not the same in order to prevent false readings.
- User Friendliness: When you are driving you have your hands full. So you want a device that is easy to operate and comprehend. Anything that is distracting to your driving is exactly that – a distraction.
Why You Should Trust Me
I’m an automotive engineer, and have used just about every radar detector brand on the market today, including but not limited to Cobra, Valentine and Escort radar detectors.
If you’re wondering why the Valentine V1 didn’t make sure list, it’s because it lacks the essential features that a modern detector has, such as GPS, false alert filtering, AutoLearn, and Smartphone integrations. Moreover, you have to purchase a separate dongle to make it compatible with your Android or iOS device.