Avoiding speeding tickets can be tricky, especially when you get caught in an unexpected speed trap. Fortunately, radar detectors are evening up the playing field by allowing drivers to spot these speed traps from miles away.
Next comes the all-powerful question: how can you choose the best radar detector for 2016? With so many models to choose from, deciding on the best one can make your head spin! Don’t worry- in the following sections we’re going to teach you what to look for in an affordable and reliable radar detector for 2016.
What Is A Radar Detector And How They Work
Most people don’t know that the word “radar” is actually an acronym that stands for “Radio Detection and Ranging”. Since the 1950s, radar technology has been used by law enforcement to catch people speeding. Radar detectors send out high frequency waves and measure the amount of time it takes for those waves to reflect back to the device.
This is how radars determine the distance between objects. Radar devices also have the ability to detect changes in the frequency of a reflected wave (which is what allows it to determine how fast an object is moving). All radar detectors operate on one of four different frequency ranges, which are also known as “bands”. These are:
- Ku Band: 12 to 18 GHz
- Ka Band: 34.2 to 35.2 GHz
- K Band: 24.05 to 24.24 GHz
- X Band: 10.5 to 10.55 GHz
The three bands used primarily in the United States are the Ka, K, and X bands. In today’s day and age, drivers can purchase radar detectors that can actually hone in on the band signals coming from a police speed trap. Now that you understand what radar detectors are and how they work, let’s show you how to choose the best one for 2016.
What to Look For in a Radar Detector
Every consumer radar detector on the market today has its own set of technical and performance-based pros and cons. Here are a few important considerations to keep in mind when shopping for one:
- Coverage: Preferably you’d want to purchase a radar detector that offers both front and rear coverage. The location of the detector on your vehicle can also determine its ability to pick up on speed traps. For example, if a detector’s radar path is forward-facing, then you’re only going to receive front coverage. Likewise, one that’s backward-facing won’t let you know what’s coming up ahead of you. For this reason, one with both front and back coverage will give you the best value for your dollar.
- False Alerts: All radar detectors are capable of false alerts, which are usually caused by non-speed detection devices that happen to be on the same frequency as the radar you’re using. The last thing you want is to be driving down the street and get bombarded with false alert after false alert. Radars that are very sensitive in regards to their coverage will be more likely to give off false alerts. In order to prevent this from happening, it’s best to purchase a radar detector that can “remember” these false alert locations via GPS so that they don’t keep happening.
- Warning System: Every radar detector will use a slightly different method for telling you when a speed detection device is in range. For example, some radar detectors may tell you if the signal is coming from the front or rear of the vehicle, as well as tell you how strong the signal is. Other models may be as complex as differentiating between different radar bands or laser detection devices.
When shopping for a radar detector in 2016, these are three very important qualities that you’ll want to keep in mind. Now let’s take a look at some specific features to watch out for that will make owning your radar detector a much more worthwhile experience.
Specific Features to Watch Out For
Here are some specific features in radar detectors that can help you address certain situations while on the road:
- Emergency Vehicle Warning: This will provide the radar with the ability to give the drier a visual or audible warning when emergency vehicles- medical, police, or fire- are nearby or approaching. Why is this feature useful? Well, if you have your music turned up loud then you won’t be able to hear these emergency vehicles coming. The emergency vehicle warning will give you an audio and visual warning so that you’re always in the knowing.
- Safety Warning System: Are there hazardous road conditions ahead? Highway construction? Railroad crossings? Accidents? Without a safety warning system, you’ll never know. Radar detectors with this feature will give you audible warnings when these safety-related issues are nearby.
- Voice Alerts: Rather than an audible beep, wouldn’t it be nice if you got to hear a spoken warning instead? That’s what voice alert features are for.
- Radar Detector-Detector Blocking: This advanced feature will ensure that other detectors aren’t able to pick up on your own radar.
- Red Light Camera Database: Also known as a “Safety Camera Database”, this feature relies on GPS capabilities to track red light cameras throughout the United States. It will then warn the driver when they’re approaching an intersection with these cameras. Some models come with this database already pre-loaded, while others require access to the internet so that they can update the position of these cameras in real-time. Obviously there are pros and cons to both options.
- Automated Volume: Cheaper radar detectors will allow you to manually adjust the volume of the device based on your surroundings. The better ones, however, will automatically adjust the volume of the detector to compensate for loud noises that may already be present (like the radio). This ensures that you’ll never miss a warning while driving down the streets.
- Accelerometer Logic: When the vehicle is moving very slowly, or not moving at all, some radar detectors will automatically “mute” or disable all audible warnings. Why is this important? Well if you’re going slow, or not moving, you don’t really need to worry about any nearby speed traps!
- City/Highway Modes: You can adjust the radar detector to become more sensitive on the highway (where police presence is higher) and less sensitive in the city (where you’re more likely to receive false readings, and where there’s less likely to be a speed trap).
One final feature to watch out for is GPS-Based False Signal Rejection. Basically, in models with this feature, locations where false alerts have occurred will be remembered. So next time you drive by that location, the device will ignore that specific signal and avoid giving you the false reading. It’s just one more way to make your experiencing with a radar detector a more enjoyable and reliable one.
Ease of Installation
The amount of effort that it takes to install a radar detector in your vehicle or on your motorcycle should be one of the most importance when shopping . Many radar detectors come with suction cup mounting brackets that will allow you to place it on your dashboard with ease and not have to worry about it falling. Other models may not come these.
Remember that in some states, having your radar detector on the dashboard is illegal, so make sure that you’re aware of any legal restrictions beforehand. On the same token, you also want to purchase a radar detector that’s easy to program. The majority of models come with simple one-touch programming buttons that will allow you to switch from one mode to another with ease. These are the models you want, especially if you have limited experience with radar detectors.
Radar detectors range dramatically in price. Cheaper models hover around the $50 range while more sophisticated models can easily exceed $500. However, just remember that like with most things in life, you get what you pay for.
Cheaper models may continually give off false readings, or worse, not give off a reading at all when there’s a speed trap nearby. Higher priced models are typically equipped with GPS technology that’s able to “remember” where false readings occur. It will then store these locations to ensure that it doesn’t continue to deliver false alerts in those locations in the future.
Read the Reviews before Buying
Perhaps the best tip that you should remember when buying the best radar detector for 2016 is this: always read the reviews before buying. Go to Amazon.com to read real customer reviews. These will typically be much more relevant to you since these are real people who’ve had real experiences with the device you’re interested in. Just because a device is reviewed very well on a review site, doesn’t mean that it’s actually all that great. By reading real customer reviews, you’ll get a better feel for whether or not a specific radar detector is worth investing in.