Dashcam buying guide: what you need to know about dashcams

dash cam footage on freeway

Jessica Taylor Yates

Posted November 28, 2022

Dash cams have gained significant popularity in Australia, with one in five drivers now using them when on the road. This is what you need to know before you buy one too. 

While the idea to record driving footage goes back to a police officer putting a camera on his dashboard in 1939, dash cams have exploded in popularity over the past decade as the sizes of the cameras have shrunk, and the quality produced has improved. 

Used for everything from recording driving footage to insurance claims, holiday vlogs, and emergency surveillance; dash cams have become so commonplace across the country that footage from Australian dash cams has become the second-most viewed in the world. 

Here’s what you need to know about dash cams, including the legalities of owning one.

Giving way when merging | RACV

What is a dash cam?

Dashboard cameras, know colloquially as dash cams, are a type of onboard camera that records the vehicle’s perspective of the road. While they are usually mounted with a suction cup or adhesive tape, they don’t always sit on the dashboard. 

Many new dash cams are secured to the windshield – often hidden from view behind the rear-view mirror.

Sometimes called an in-car camera, dash camera, car DVRs, or automotive Blackbox recorder, dash cams are commonly used to continuously record from when the vehicle starts or is turned on, though many new cars’ dash cams record even while the car is off, in case of an incident. 

Are dash cams legal in Australia? 

According to VicRoads, dash cams in Australia are legal, however, they must be legally secured with uninterrupted views of the road. This means the driver must not have their field of view impaired due to the dash cam, and it cannot be mounted in an area where it may increase risk, such as in front of or near an airbag deployment zone. 

All cables, power cords, batteries and other accessories must not obstruct the view of the driver, or view of the speedometer or indicator warning signal lights. 

Additionally, while public recording outside of the vehicle is permitted, audio recording without consent may be deemed illegal. It is best to either disconnect the microphone, or advise anyone interacting with the dash cam audio that they are being recorded. 


a dash cam front mounted

Dash cams record everything happening outside the vehicle in view when the car is in motion. Image: Getty. 

Can dash cam footage be submitted with an insurance claim?

Dash cam footage can be submitted with claims related to vehicle insurance to assist in determining who is at fault, particularly if there is a disagreement or difference in views.

When making an insurance claim, you will be asked to explain your version of events, and the use of dash cam footage may be suggested if available. 

Which dash cam should I buy?

While there are many varieties, sizes, colours, and brands of dash cams, they all generally share the same goal: to record what can be seen outside the vehicle.  

The main types of dash cams to consider when buying are: 

  • Front-facing dash cam

A front facing dash cam is usually stuck on to the front dashboard or windshield, with the camera facing forwards.

  • Dual dash cam

A dual or ‘two channel’ dash cam records both the front and rear of the vehicle, with a second camera that is also mounted to the back of the vehicle. 

  • Four-way channel dash cam 

Like a dual dash cam, these cover the front and back of the vehicle, but have two additional cameras mounted to both the left and right of the vehicle to record all surroundings. These are mainly used by companies with trucking or large freight. 

The pricing of dash cams will affect the video quality, resolution, motion detection, and inclusion of extra features such as voice control, night vision and parking mode.

Higher-end dash cams also have features including Wi-Fi, allowing for footage to be viewed from a smartphone app; and GPS features, which can assist with showing vehicle speed, location, and alerts. 


dash cam front facing

It is imperative that dash cams are installed safely to meet legal driving requirements. Image: Getty. 

How do dash cams work? 

Each dash cam holds a memory card, which stores the captured footage once the camera is activated.

Very few dash cam models are battery-operated, so most will have a power cable which is plugged into the 12v port (or cigarette lighter) in the vehicle. Once the car starts, or the camera detects motion, the dash cam will start recording. They will often stop operating when the vehicle is turned off. 

Depending on the dash cam you buy, when the memory card becomes full, some may simply start overwriting the oldest file and start recording again. 

To watch the footage, you can take the memory card out and insert into your computer. Some dash cams may have functions that allow you to play back directly on the device or on your smartphone. 

What are dash cams used for? 

Anyone with a vehicle is legally allowed to use a dash cam, provided it is installed properly. Some newer cars, such as the BMWs produced after 2019, newer Mercedes-Benz, and Tesla, have dash cams built-in as standard.

Many car dealerships will also offer dash cams as an aftermarket purchase which will be installed prior to delivery. 

While 83 per cent of study respondents said the main reason they purchased a dash cam was for insurance purposes, they can used for a variety of reasons, including: 

  • Evidence for insurance claims
  • Monitoring other drivers (grown children borrowing the vehicle)
  • Road safety, or reporting other reckless or illegal driving
  • Vlogging and entertainment

How do I install a dash cam? 

Dash cams can either be mounted on the windshield, usually just behind the rear-view mirror so you still have a clear view of the road and traffic around you. This can be with a DIY suction cup, or professionally mounted. 

If aesthetics are important to you, consider going with the professional who may be able to hide the wiring for the dash cam inside the fabrics of the roof or down the edge of the windshield. 

RACV Members save on dash cams at Repco.

If you’re opting for the DIY solutions, that’s fine, but before you decide where to position your dash cam, according to VicRoads, dash cams “must be securely mounted to the vehicle to ensure that the fitment does not pose a hazard to vehicle occupants or obstruct the driver’s vision.”


Looking to stay safe on the road? 
Get a quote with RACV Motor Insurance 

The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit racv.com.au. As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s) issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.