Everyone is guilty of having a lead foot once in a while. If you’re heavy on the pedal, don’t rely on your gauges because, sometimes, they just don’t work. Let’s face it: Seeing blue and red strobe lights pop up in your rearview mirror is one of the worst feelings while on the road.
Fortunately, there are radar detectors that can tip you off on where those speed traps are, so you can avoid paying hefty fines and getting points on your license.
Not sure which detector to buy? Whether you’re looking for the best range, the best design or the best value, these eight radar detectors are your get-out-of-jail-free cards.
Escort’s Passport S55 High-Performance Radar/Laser detector more than lives up to its name with excellent all-around performance. However, the S55 adds another layer of excellence with a built-in 720p video/audio webcam that’s easily mounted on a windshield as a dash cam. Capable of providing long-range warning across all radar and laser bands (K, X, and KA), the included digital signal processing helps reduce the number of false alarms while providing a maximum range for detection. The included auto sensitivity mode helps to identify other radar sources from real threats to eliminate false positives. Escort’s own Traffic Signal Rejection is on-board, which helps to reject interstate traffic sensors to eliminate even more false threats.
The S55 is also compatible with Escort Live, the company’s real-time ticket protection network that alerts you of upcoming alerts provided by other users. This real-time threat detection helps give you access to local speed limit data that you otherwise wouldn’t have (especially if you’re driving on roads you’re otherwise unfamiliar with). Additionally, the Escort’s “V-tuned” radar receiver offers extreme long-range detection to help minimize the chances of a ticket. Beyond radar detection, the included 16GB memory card boosts the amount of storage the dashboard camera can record for extra protection while on the road.
The Uniden R3 is a workhorse radar detector that offers a variety of features that’ll make it the perfect car companion, whether on long road trips or just driving around town. It offers a 360-degree, full spectrum digital signal processing that allows for, theoretically, no blind spots (great for detecting even the sneakiest of hiding cruisers). The built-in GPS functionality adds additional red light cam detection, a trap that many fall into even with simpler featured radar detectors.
They’ve included the requisite K False and KA False filters, a feature that will help to limit noisy interference from certain older makes of cars (such as Cadillacs). That last feature is crucial to eliminate the false positive radar detection. Finally, there’s limited voice control, so you don’t have to take your hands off the wheels, and there’s even quiet operation so that the only people who will know you’re using a radar detector are those that you want to know.
Backed by the Cobra name, the ESD7570 nine-band radar and laser detector offers 360 degrees of protection at a fraction of the price. Utilizing Spectre undetectable technology, the Cobra helps make you immune to Spectre I radar detector detectors, so you can get by using one without getting caught. The ultrabright display lets you know immediately when a threat is detected and continues to provide you with proximity alerts, so you know when a threat is passed. Additionally, the Cobra provides separate alerts for X, K and KA bands, as well as laser and VG-2 signals. The incorporation of both city and highway modes helps reduce the false alerts and includes a traffic warning system that helps distinguish real threats from false ones. Thanks to Cobra’s proprietary safety alert transmitters, on-board alerts keeps drivers aware of approaching emergency vehicles, railroad crossings or other road hazards that could be dangerous.
When it comes to detection range, few radar detectors do it better than the Valentine One. The 10.6-ounce, 6 x 2.5 x 4-inch detector promises excellent range performance, thanks to multiple radar antennas. With one forward-facing and one rear-facing antenna, the Valentine will help identify the signal direction. The Valentine can detect laser, as well as the X, K, Ku and Ka bands. While unconfirmed from the manufacturer, online reviews have pegged Valentine’s signal almost five miles.
When a threat is detected, Valentine’s auto-mute feature goes to work providing you a full volume first alert, then dialing down the sound with each consecutive alert to avoid annoying the driver. Unfortunately, it lacks up-to-date features like GPS technology that helps avoid many false signal reports or early warning for red light and speed cameras. The interface itself is simplified, although not as digital or advanced as today’s more current options. The main knob turns the Valentine on and off, adjusts the volume and offers just the right amount of information you need, such as the band being detected, strength, etc.
At 1.9 pounds and 5.4 inches long, the Max 360 is larger than most detectors on this list, but with great size comes a greater feature set. With a similar feature set to the Passport Max2, the Max 360 adds enhancements like directional alerts to the display, which tells you the direction a radar ping is coming from. The Max 360 detects all the currently used law enforcement bands: X, K, Ka, Ka-Pop, plus laser detection. The Max 360 includes the “Auto” setting, which expands its detection range based on the speed of the vehicle (so you’ll have a longer range on a highway and a shorter range on suburban streets).
As the name implies, the combination of GPS, Escort Live for crowdsourced results and 360-degree protection fills the Max 360 to the brim with features. Extra features include an over-the-speed-limit alert, display lights showing different types of radar detection and Bluetooth connection via your smartphone through Escort Live. The pre-installed Defender Database adds the red-light and speed cameras, though some Escort users have complained that the database is too small and that Escort doesn’t offer frequent updates.
Intelligent and high performing, the Escort iX offers some of the longest potential range on a radar detector across the X, K, KA and POP frequencies. Buoyed by its superior sensitivity, the maximum range coverage is a real boost for drivers who are constantly on the road, especially on long stretches of highway where advanced detection can make all the difference. Escort’s DSP technology and its enhanced laser sensors provide one of the earliest warnings of speed-monitoring threats or traps that could be on the road ahead.
Escort’s proprietary false-threat detection combines with GPS to automatically detect and fix false alarms for drivers. Syncing to Escort’s Live community, iX users are afforded real-time ticket protection against photo enforcement, caution areas and live police alerts, thanks to the huge number of users working behind the scenes to protect against threat detection and the 10,000 radar and speed cameras inside the United States.
Powered by two AA batteries, Escort’s Solo S3 is the lone cordless radar detector on this list, but it separates itself from the pack by adding a convenience factor. Setup is just as easy as its corded rivals, just place it on the windshield or dashboard and drive. If you’re someone who switches cars often or travels frequently, the lack of a necessary power cord makes the S3 an immediate consideration. The S3 can detect the usual spread of radar, pop and laser frequencies, and it even offers a safety signal alerting you to emergency vehicles in close proximity. Unfortunately, while running on battery detection range is more limited, however, it can still provide ample coverage for driving in the most city and urban environments.
To aid in battery conservation, the S3 will automatically switch off after a vehicle has stopped for more than 25 minutes. Overall, the battery life of the S3 will be around 30 to 40 hours (even with the battery conservation functionality) before requiring new batteries. Beyond its cordless identity, the S3 offers a standardized feature set in line with its Escort siblings, including a high-resolution OLED display that identifies signal strength, type of threat and four brightness levels. Auto, highway and city mode are available, which enables the S3 to determine the appropriate range to identify threats and reduce false alerts. Unfortunately, it lacks GPS alerts, which means it does not offer red light or speed camera detection. But, if you’re a traveler that moves cars often, the S3 is a great choice that goes anywhere you do.
While most radar detectors are hardly noteworthy in the design department, the Beltronics GT-7’s smooth lines and copper and black color combination make it stand out. Unlike some detectors that can feel blocky, the GT-7 feels like it was designed to look as good as it operates. At 1.5 pounds, the 8 x 2 x 8.5-inch GT-7 is one of the longer detectors on this list but feels well-built. Setup takes no time at all with quick, easy attachment of the magnetic bracket to the windshield and running the power cord to a 12v power insert. The power cord aids the GT-7 with a series of LED lights that alert the driver to law enforcement detection. Additionally, the high-resolution display on the detector itself shows the type, strength, and quality of signals.
Also available is real-time speed data determined by the included GPS that alert a driver when going too fast. Three driving modes are available, each of which works to scale back or enlarge the signal area depending on the driving environment to help remove potential false alerts. Threat detection is handled extremely fast, thanks to a power Digital Signal Processing microprocessor that also works to identify false signals from real alerts. All potential law enforcement bands are built-into the GT-7, which offers full range protection in the form of 360-degree radar detection. While it misses out on crowdsourced data, the overall look of the GT-7 is matched only by its feature set and long-range detection.