As technology advances, drivers are presented with a wider variety of cool gadgets to use in their vehicles. One such gadget is a radar detector, which help to alert the driver to radar signals from law enforcement and speed cameras. We’ll go over the best radar detectors of 2019 in the guide below.
Quick Picks for the Best Radar Detector
These selections were made based on a combination of features, price/value, performance and customer reviews.
Key Features: 360 degree detection; long range; extreme radar sensitivity; red-light camera detection
Price Range: $$$
The Uniden R3 Extreme is our pick for the best radar detector on the market. It’s 360 degree detection technology can alert you to radar being used all around you, whether it’s directly behind you or a 1/2 mile up the road.
The R3 features extreme radar sensitivity, so it can pick up a wide range of signals even from long distances. Thankfully, it also has advanced digital signal processing and filters to weed out unimportant signals. Compared to many cheaper models, this unit does a great job of alerting you when there’s an actual problem, and filtering out random signals that are unimportant.
In radar detector reviews, the Uniden R3 consistently scores very well. It’s certainly not the cheapest option, but if you’re looking for an effective, long-range radar detector, it’s a great choice. Click here to learn more.
Key Features: Good range; AutoLearn tech filters false alerts; optional paid access to red light camera database + alerts
Price Range: $$$
The Escort Passport 9500IX is our runner-up for best radar detector 2019. This is actually an older model, but it remains one of the flagship products in the industry with a lot of positive reviews. It’s got a good signal range, innovative AutoLearn technology that filters out repeat false alerts, and many more unique features.
It also comes with Escort’s Defender database, which keeps track of red light camera and speed camera locations using GPS. This database is updated frequently. Unfortunately, this is a paid subscription service after the initial 90-day free trial. It’s not a huge amount of money, but given the relatively high cost of the unit itself, this added expense is a bit annoying.
The Escort 9500IX is among the best radar detectors on the market. If it wasn’t for the ongoing subscription cost, this may have been our #1 pick. Click here to learn more.
Key Features: Affordable; good filters to reduce false alerts; good range for the price
Price Range: $
The Cobra RAD450 is perhaps the best radar detector for those on a budget. There are certainly cheaper models, but in our opinion it’s worth paying a few extra bucks for the RAD450. It’s not Cobra’s cheapest model, but it offers the best combination of features and value.
The RAD450 is capable of detecting all radar signals (X, K and KA bands) as well as laser and VG-2 signals. It also features filtering technology that helps to reduce interference from in-vehicle collision detection systems, which can sometimes cause false alerts on cheaper radar detectors.
Lastly, this model is small and discrete. It consistently ranks well in radar detector reviews from customers. To us, it’s the perfect budget-friendly option in terms of features, range and price. Click here to learn more.
You can also check out our guide to affordable radar detectors for more budget-friendly models.
Key Features: Feature-rich technology; directional alerts; great range; fast response
Price Range: $$$$
The Escort Max 360 is one of the most advanced radar detectors available today. It’s a relatively large unit that packs in a ton of unique features. For one, it has a directional alert system that uses arrow displays to show you which direction the radar is coming from. It also features excellent range.
The Max 360 is a highly intelligent device. If left on the “auto” feature, it automatically adjusts the detection range based on the speed of your vehicle. So, if you’re on the freeway, the range will be much wider than if you are driving in the suburbs. The Max 360 is able to easily detect all the radar bands commonly used by law enforcement.
It’s not a cheap unit, but for those looking for as many features as possible, it’s a great choice. Click here to learn more.
Key Features: Long-range tech; fast-response DSP tech; AutoLearn tech improves over time
Price Range: $$$
The Escort iX is a powerful long-range radar detector. It features an early warning alert system with fast-response tech. It offers great signal sensitivity on all radar bands, and can detect radar signals long before you approach them.
Another interesting feature of this unit is the AutoLearn GPS technology. Basically, if the device continually detects false alerts in a specific area, it will learn to ignore those signals in the future. This is quite useful for people who commute the same route every day. The Escort iX is also effective in filtering out false alerts from in-car radar sources such as collision avoidance systems.
For long-range tech, it’s tough to beat the Escort iX. Click here to learn more.
Features – Each device has a different set of features, ranging from basics like false alert filters to more advanced perks like directional alerts. We looked for a good combination of features that would serve the needs of most people.
Performance/range – The effective range and performance of radar detectors is quite important, particularly for freeway driving. We focused on models with long range technology that can alert you of a threat from a distance.
Value – We like to save our readers money, so we focused on models that provide excellent value. With that said, good radar detectors are not something you want to cheap out on – so we selected largely mid-range models that are affordable yet very high quality.
Reviews – We analyzed lots of third party radar detector reviews to see what real customers thought of each product. This helped to round out our own findings.
Radar detectors are small devices that are installed in your vehicle to help detect radar frequencies. They work by scanning for radar frequencies commonly used by police and emergency vehicles. Typically these are Doppler bands, which are used to measure speeds of a moving vehicle. Some police departments use LiDAR, a similar technology that is picked up by some, but not all, radar detectors.
Good radar detectors will pick up a wide range of frequencies, are able to filter out the “noise” to focus on important frequencies. In essence, radar detectors function as radio receivers, which are tuned to pick up specific frequencies that are commonly used by emergency vehicles. Police radar guns typically put out a wide range of radio waves, but are only tracking one specific target at a time. Because of this, a radar detector will often alert the user to the presence of a radar signal, before coming within range of the signal’s tracking ability.
In ultra-simple terms, here’s how it works: Police radar detectors put out a signal that can be picked up by radar detectors. A radar detector will alert the driver when a signal is picked up, typically before your vehicle gets within range of the actual speed tracking device.
Essentially, this gives you a good opportunity to slow down before reaching the speed trap – potentially saving you from a speeding ticket.
For all you scienc-y drivers out there, this guide goes into more details on how radar detectors work.
Are radar detectors worth it? What are the benefits of using a radar detector?
Speeding Tickets: The main reason most people use radar detectors is to help reduce the chances of getting a speeding ticket. We do not condone speeding at all, but we also understand that getting a ticket can be a frustrating (and expensive) experience. While a radar detector is certainly not a foolproof way to avoid tickets, they can help. Of course, the best way to avoid speeding tickets is simply to not speed. Keep it safe out there, folks!
Insurance Costs: A speeding ticket can sting, but where it really gets is expensive is when you factor in the increased insurance costs. Getting a single ticket can increase your insurance premiums significantly. One NerdWallet study found that a speeding ticket could raise premiums by as much as $600 per year for 1-3+ years following the violation. By helping to avoid tickets in the first place, a radar detector might help save you a bunch of money in the long run.
Safety: In some situations, radar detectors can alert you when emergency vehicles are approaching, such as ambulances and fire trucks. This could potentially give you advanced notice of a safety hazard or an accident that should be avoided. Of course, this functionality is limited in use, as not all emergency vehicles have transmitters, and most will be using sirens in emergency situations, anyways.
We hope this guide helped you choose a good radar detector for your needs and budget. One final thing to keep in mind – laws surrounding the use of radar detectors vary from state to state. We wrote a guide on the legality of radar detectors – and AAA also has a good guide on the subject.