- Best All-Around Radar Detector
- Best Laser Detector
- Best Budget Radar Detector
- Best Installed Radar Detector and Laser Jammer
- Best GPS Radar Detector
Best Radar Detectors
Many police officers claim that radar detectors are tools for scofflaws and habitual speeders with disregard towards other road users. While I am not advocating reckless driving in any way, some areas are known for artificially under-posting the speed limit to create 'speeders' out of passing traffic. A speed trap is then set up to ambush those driving over the posted speed limit. A radar detector will help even the playing field so that you're less likely to be caught off guard. Take a look at our recommendations below and a close look at our buyer's guide to find the best radar detector for your needs.
Best All-Around Radar Detector:
Law enforcement officers dislike radar detectors for a reason: effective use of one can alert you to the presence of a possible speed trap much earlier than humanly possible. Better radar detectors offer complete protection, giving users ample time to adjust their speed before encountering an ambush. Also, keep in mind that a radar detector that does not provide an alert in time to avoid passing through a trap unprepared is a total waste of money at any price. Here is a brief look at the best radar detectors sold today.
For the vast majority of drivers on the road today, the Escort Passport 9500ix is the best radar detector with all things considered. The Passport 9500ix combines an ultra-sensitive receiver with GPS capabilities that offer pre-loaded locations of annoyances such as photo radar traps and red light cameras, and can also block out repeat offenders of false alarms. Its certainly expensive, but the peace of mind that comes with this detectors ability to alert only to real threats is one thats worth paying for. Read Full Review
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The Escort Redline was developed to address most of the criticisms leveled at other radar detectors, including lack of sensitivity and response times. To address this, the Redline packs two front-facing antennas for maximum detection capabilities. The matte black case resists reflections and glare, while the small lip that houses the major controls allows easy manipulation while the unit is mounted onto your cars windshield. The Escort Redline is expensive (like most of the other recommendations here), but packages all of its abilities behind stealth technology that makes it invisible to police radar detector detectors. Read Full Review
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The Valentine One (or V1 shorthand) is instantly recognizable because of its directional threat arrows and its distinctive case. This is one of the most sensitive radar detectors on the market today, which works for and against it. While keen drivers will appreciate the chatty nature of the V1, it will be an annoyance to most who deal with crowded city traffic. The high price tag is also another drawback, but the extra performance may be worth it for some. Read Full Review
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Though no longer considered 'high-end', the Escort Passport 8500 X50 Black is an outstanding radar detector for the price. The 'Black' features several improvements over the previous 'silver' model, including heightened radar sensitivity and user-friendliness. If you don't have more than $300 to spend on a radar detector, this should be your first pick. Read Full Review
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For drivers looking for the best of the best when it comes to speed trap countermeasures, a high-end installed radar detector is the only choice. The Beltronics STiR Plus outperforms all other radar detectors on the market, and also includes the same impressive GPS technology as found in Escort models. This allows the STiR Plus to boast unbeatable sensitivity while keeping false alerts to a bare minimum. Though the STiR Plus is expensive at over $1000, this flagship radar detector system is still an excellent value considering the elevated performance. Read Full Review
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Best Laser Detector:
While police traffic enforcement with radar guns is well-known and well-documented, there is a movement towards switching to laser-based LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) within various police departments. The result is that most standard radar detectors will not be able to alert users to the presence of laser at all. Because LIDAR is unlike radar in that the beam does not spread as much, it is entirely possible for a car in the next lane to be targeted without the detector in your car going off. Often, laser detection capability in radar detectors is derided as a 'ticket notifier' because of the simple fact that by the time your detector alerts you to the presence of LIDAR, you are already the target. For complete laser protection, combination use of a radar detector and a laser jammer is highly recommended. Otherwise, here are the best radar detectors that have a chance at sniffing out LIDAR.
Not only is the Valentine One a top-of-the-line choice when it comes to radar sensitivity, this capable radar detector also boasts class-leading laser detection capabilities as well. If you are unwilling or unable to install a laser jammer on your vehicle, the Valentine One is your best bet. Read Full Review
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The Escort RedLine is one of the most sensitive radar detectors on the market today, and this distinction is true for both radar and laser. Just like how the RedLine utilizes two antennas for maximum radar sensitivity, this detector is equipped with multiple laser sensors to increase laser detection capabilities. Read Full Review
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The Escort Passport 9500ix is without a doubt the most well-rounded radar detector on the market today, pairing GPS technology with high-end radar and laser detection capabilities. The Valentine One ultimately holds the edge when it comes to laser detection, but the Passport 9500ix is certainly no slouch. Read Full Review
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The Beltronics Pro RX65 offers up excellent radar and laser detection performance, and is considered a 'high-end' model despite its lower price tag. Multiple laser sensors allow superior laser sensitivity, and is important when it comes to catching 'stray lasers' that bounce off other motorists' cars and road signs. For the price, the RX65 is an excellent value. Read Full Review
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The updated Escort Passport 8500 X50 Black is easily one of the best all-around radar detectors, and features top-notch laser detection capabilities as well. Although LIDAR beams are notoriously difficult to detect at close ranges, the higher laser sensitivity of the X50 Black opens up more of an opportunity for detection in case a stray beam reflects off of objects ahead.
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Best Budget Radar Detector:
'You get what you pay for' is how the mantra goes. This couldn't be truer as far as radar detectors go, with performance varying wildly until you get to the high-end models. However, let's face it - not everyone can afford the latest high-end radar detector, some of which can cost around $500. This does not mean that you've been left out in the cold, though. There are radar detectors on sale today for substantially less than what the high-end models cost that can still offer you reliable protection. A word of warning: none of the units listed here cost less than $150, as you'd be better off saving your money for one of the detectors listed below.
Aside from sporting a new black casing, the Passport 8500 X50 Black continues everything the 8500 series is known for. This is definitely a good thing in this case - the Passport 8500 X50 Black is easily one of the best values in the world of radar detectors. Escort's claims of improved performance are backed up by modified internals and different warning characteristics. Value shoppers should go for the red display version to keep the price down. Read Full Review
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The Beltronics RX65 shares the same basic electronic platform as the outstanding Escort Passport 8500 X50, and the performance is comparable as a result. As with the Escort, the Beltronics RX65 comes in two versions - blue display and red display. The red display model is slightly cheaper, making it a better choice for buyers unwilling or unable to spend too much. Read Full Review
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The one advantage that the Beltronics Vector 995 holds over its RX65 sibling (as well as the Escort Passport 8500 X50 Black) is its ability to detect Ku-band radar. While drivers in North America need not worry, traffic enforcement overseas relies on the Ku band on a regular basis. However, be aware that many European countries strictly prohibit the use of a radar detector in a moving vehicle. Read Full Review
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Best Installed Radar Detector and Laser Jammer:
While dash-mount radar detectors offer the convenience of a small form factor and the portability to use the detector in multiple cars, they have their drawbacks. The most obvious one is the fact that they are highly visible, especially when mounted correctly at the base of the windshield. This leaves you open to freeloaders tailgating (essentially using your radar detector to provide them with a warning), or thieves that will smash your car's window to take your radar detector. For a more integrated solution that offers better protection than even the best dash-mount radar detectors, custom-installed remote radar detectors pick up the slack and then some. Not only do they offer better sensitivity to radar in most cases, some of the better models include laser jammers/shifters to prevent a lidar ambush. However, be prepared to shell out big bucks for these systems.
Beltronics quietly discontinued the old STi-R remote mount system due to slow sales, only to return to the market with the much-improved STiR Plus. Essentially a de-contented Escort Passport 9500ci with undeniably superior performance, the new STiR Plus is one of the best value radar detectors on the market today. The $1300 MSRP is far from affordable, but the STiR Plus incorporates the same GPS system as high-end Escort models while leaving the laser jammer system as an optional extra in order to keep prices in check. Read Full Review
The Escort Passport 9500ci certainly isn't cheap, but this custom-installed radar detector is one of the highest-performing systems on the market today. The radar detector itself is ultra-sensitive, but resists false alarms due to the use of GPS technology. The 9500ci also features a database of fixed camera locations, and is capable of sounding an alert before they become a real threat. Part of the 9500ci system is Escort's 'laser shifter' system, which jams LIDAR guns and prevents a speed reading. If you can afford this feature-packed system, there is no reason why you should settle for anything less. Read Full Review
Best GPS Radar Detector:
While most people may not realize it, having a radar detector with an integrated GPS circuit has more benefits than simply alerting you to the locations of red light cameras. For one, GPS-based radar detectors have an almost supernatural resistance to false alarms, which any detector user can tell you is a major annoyance. A good GPS-based radar detector should be able to do all of the above seamlessly without compromising radar and laser detection performance.
Although the Escort Passport 9500ix is not the company's highest-performing dash-mount radar detector (that honor goes to the Redline, which does not feature GPS), the Passport 9500ix is an impressive product due to its high radar sensitivity coupled with a preloaded database of speed traps and red light cameras. The built-in GPS receiver allows the 9500ix to rival top radar detectors in terms of sensitivity while remaining silent until a genuine threat is encountered. Read Full Review
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The external case designs may look entirely different, but the Beltronics GX65 is actually a sister model to Escort's Passport 9500ix. This means the GX65 shares the same radar detection capabilities paired with an intelligent GPS function that can lock out false alerts and focus on real threats. The Beltronics GX65 is priced slightly lower than the Escort model, which makes it the better deal between the two if you don't need a blue display. Read Full Review
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A while back, Beltronics decided to discontinue the slow-selling STi-R high-end remote mount radar detector. Enthusiasts were disappointed, but Beltronics has more than made up for this by releasing the STiR Plus, which represents a major upgrade over the old model. The STiR Plus inherits the built-in GPS receiver and its capabilities from the Escort Passport 9500ci, but offers unmatched performance that can alert drivers to the presence of police radar from impossibly far away. Read Full Review
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The Escort Passport 9500ci is built on Escort's highest-performing platform and absolutely loaded with features. This remote mount radar detector offers blistering radar detection performance, and augments this protection with front and rear laser jammers and a GPS-based database of known speed camera and red light camera locations. This top-of-the-line unit is extremely expensive, but the premium features and performance make it well worth the cost. Read Full Review
Radar Detector Buyer's Guide
A radar detector is a tool or utility, and is best treated as such. When combined with high levels of situational awareness and making intelligent decisions, a good radar detector acts as an extra 'sense' in paying attention to the road. Radar detectors are primarily designed to detect the usage of radar within its operating range, hence the name. The mere presence of a police car is not enough to trigger an alert unless a radar device is active.
Not all radar detectors are created equal. The ones worth any consideration are usually pricey, so buyers must decide whether the investment is worth it compared to the cost of even a single ticket. There is no such thing as a 'budget' radar detector - only good ones and bad ones. We've narrowed down the wide array of radar detectors offered for sale to recommend only the best since the difference between a 'close call' and a speeding ticket can be quite expensive.
A sensitive radar detector will alert users to even the slightest hint of radar presence. The best radar detectors on the market will sound an alert if there is an active radar trap around the corner, over a hill, and way out of visual contact. The more sensitivity a radar detector has, the more likely it is to alert you to the presence of a radar speed trap. Unfortunately, this also often includes non-threats such as automatic door openers, microwaves, and even other poorly shielded radar detectors. False alerts can get annoying and tedious, though many of the newer GPS-equipped radar detectors can automatically lock out false alarm signals at the source. For more information about this feature, scroll down to the 'features' section.
LIDAR is becoming increasingly popular with some police agencies. Instead of using sound waves as a medium to measure speed, LIDAR sends out invisible laser pulses and calculates the closing speed. This laser beam is extremely narrow compared to radar, and traffic enforcement officers can use a LIDAR gun to pick out a single car from a crowd. LIDAR is also extremely quick and does not have the same 'spread' as radar, making it very difficult to detect. The car in the next lane could be targeted by an officer using LIDAR, and your detector may not even alert. By the time your own detector alerts you to LIDAR, you have already been clocked.
This is not all doom and gloom, however. There are inherent drawbacks to laser speed detection, and several instances of case law acknowledge this fact. LIDAR also operates on a light principle, which means variables such as humidity, precipitation, and other weather factors can affect the reading. On top of that, there are highly effective countermeasures available. While high-end radar detectors can sometimes alert drivers to LIDAR before they themselves become the target, laser jammers can prevent a LIDAR gun from registering a speed. This is another category altogether, so head over to Best Laser Jammers if you want more information.
The detection range of a radar detector is another important factor. A highly sensitive radar detector is of little practical use if it cannot detect the presence of speed traps past 500 feet. On an open road, some of the best radar detectors sold today such as the Escort RedLine and Beltronics STI Driver can pick out radar from more than 10 miles away. Better detection range always works in your favor to buy you time before you fall within ticket range. When looking at potential radar detectors to purchase for yourself, prioritize the ones which offer longer detection range even if you plan on driving mostly in the city.
LIDAR is a different story. At further ranges, a radar beam can be hundreds of feet wide. A speed-measuring laser pulse is never more than a few feet wide, even past a quarter mile. Though the accuracy of LIDAR at that range is questionable, the beam itself is still present and can be picked out by more capable radar detectors. This means that even if the car in front of you is being targeted, you have a chance to react before your speed can be measured. The Escort RedLine, Beltronics STI Driver, and Valentine One are particularly talented at picking out laser from a distance.
These days, 'radar detectors' are no longer just simple devices which sniff out radar frequencies. The general trend nowadays is that manufacturers are including GPS capabilities with their high-end detectors, combining ultra-high sensitivity and range with a GPS function which can pinpoint the location of false alerts. This means that the radar detector will stay quiet until a genuine threat is encountered. Models like the Escort Passport 9500ix and Beltronics GX 65 come with pre-loaded databases of photo enforcement locations, making it much easier to avoid any problems before they come up. You can also program these models manually in case the auto false alert lockout fails for whatever reason.
Some radar detectors feature signal shielding so that they are undetectable to a police radar detector detector (RDD). For passenger cars, radar detectors are illegal in Virginia, District of Columbia, and on military bases. Federal regulations prohibit the use of radar detectors in commercial vehicles over 10,000 pounds. Radar detectors are also illegal in most of Canada, with the exceptions being British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. If you fall into any of these categories and insist on using a radar detector, do so at your own risk. Models such as the Beltronics STI Driver and Escort RedLine are undetectable to the latest Spectre RDDs used by law enforcement, and provide class-leading detection capabilities. However, Bestcovery.com does not condone skirting the law, and you can expect stiff fines and penalties if you are caught using a radar detector illegally.
The Valentine One (popularly called 'V1') radar detector deserves a special mention in this category due to its unique display system. Directional arrows and a 'bogey counter' allow the detector to pinpoint where the threat is coming from and how many threats exist. This is made possible by the dual antenna arrangement, though the Valentine One is not the only radar detector which comes equipped with multiple antennas. The V1 has one antenna facing forwards and one facing backwards for all-direction threat detection capability.
Price & Value
This is a tricky segment for radar detectors. While spending $400-$500 for a box to sit on your dashboard may seem absurd, you need to keep detection performance in mind. At nearly $500, a radar detector like the Escort RedLine is better priced and is a much better value than something you can buy for $49.99 at a local electronics store simply because it offers superior performance. A radar detector which will not alert you to police speed traps is a waste of money at any price while one that will spare you those precious few seconds before you're clocked is worth every penny. This is something to keep in mind when considering which radar detector to purchase.