Dash cams are a useful item to have in any vehicle and there are a number of reasons why you may want to have one. They can save you a ticket by providing evidence that you were not speeding or prove that you are not at fault should you be involved in an accident.
Now, we know there are tons of benefits to having a dash cam, the next question is what dash cam works best for your BMW? The car model may call for different options. If you are sporting the 4-series you’ll want a dash cam compatible with convertibles, or if you are hoping to record buttery smooth footage at the track for your M4 or 3-series then high FPS is necessary. If car security is the top priority for your 5-series then consider a dash cam that has an advanced parking mode.
We will go into detail about some things BMW owners should consider before buying a dash cam.
Installing a dash cam in a BMW is similar to any other vehicle. All dash cams require power, so you will need to wire it to a power source like a cigarette lighter or USB port. If there are multiple cameras, you’ll have to run the additional cable throughout the cabin.
There are more advanced methods on delivering power to your dash cam which we will talk about later. Depending on how comfortable you are working on your BMW, the dash cam system can be installed in a few hours. If not, you can have it professionally done.
Placement for the front and rear dash cam is similar on all BMW’s and here are some things you should consider when installing it.
The front camera should centered on the windshield, ideally in front or above the rearview mirror. This will give the dash cam a wide angle view of both sides of the vehicle. As for height, it should be as high as possible and close to the headliner. Be mindful of the dash cam placement if your car has a sun strip. Dash cam placement will vary but most importantly it should be centered.
For the rear camera, the placement guidelines are similar. Like the front, it should be in the middle and mounted up high on the glass for a better viewing angle. If you own a BMW convertible, you cannot mount your rear dash cam on your rear windshield glass. The best placement you have is to mount the rear camera on your front windshield, but facing towards the rear. You might have to be creative in terms of viewing angle, but this is the best spot.
Otherwise, consider buying a dash cam that has a built-in cabin camera which will act as your rear viewing angle.
As a last resort, you’ll always have the option to not use the additional cameras if it doesn’t make sense with your setup.
This can be a tedious task and in some cases it is the most difficult part when installing a dashcam. For a cleaner install, it is recommended to tuck the wires under the trim panels. Most dash cams come with this trim tool, otherwise you’ll have to be a little creative. Most trim panels are accessible via fingernails, but a flathead screwdriver can also do the trick.
Feed the cable under the upper trim panel towards one side of the car, down the A-pillar and towards your power source. More on that later.
Installing the rear camera has the same challenges, but you’ll have to run the wire lengthwise towards the rear. Utilize the trim panels, tucking in the wires in the pillars as needed. This will require more patience and determination than skill.
You can power your dash cam using the included plug (usually a cigarette adapter), hardwiring it, or USB.
USB: Many new BMWs now include USB ports. However, you should run a simple check to see if the USB ports sustain power when the car is off. You can do this with any USB-powered device by seeing if the device is powered when the car is off. If it is only powered on by turning on the car, the dash cam will only be active at this time.
Cigarette plug: This is standard adapter included on most dashcams. Usually these cigarette lighters aren’t powered on when the car is off, but you can always check.
Hardwiring: This is the preferred method as it allows for a cleaner install but takes longer to do. In this method, you are tapping into the car’s internal battery which can unlock some cool dash cam features. Since constant power is being supplied to the dash cam, you can now run your dash cam when you are away from the car. It can pick up motion, theft, or accidents.
You’ll need to use the BMW’s cabin fuse box, which is typically located behind the glove compartment. A small hardwiring kit is needed to be installed and you can be on your way.
Features to look for
Most dash cams record at 1080p full HD or better. However, many mid range models now offer 2k or 4k recording. The higher the resolution generally means better image quality although the camera sensor and processor can make a big difference.
As a general rule, the images and footage will be clearer and more detailed. There are times where this is useful such as a hit and run where you may need to record the license plate of the vehicle. Don’t accept anything less than 1080P, and start looking towards 2k or 4k. In terms of FPS, 60 FPS is the top of the line frames per second, while 30 FPS is the standard.
Almost all dash cams have parking mode although how it works will vary by model. These are three types of parking modes.
Time lapse: Basically, the dash cam takes a still photo every second or so and saves it to the microSD card. The main benefit being it uses less power and the photos take up less space on the SD card. If an event is detected like motion or an impact, the camera will turn on and begin normal recording.
The main drawback to time lapse is you will not have any audio or video leading up to the event.
Motion detection: In this mode, the camera is on but does not record unless motion is detected. When that happens, it will begin recording and save the video to the SD card. There are also dash cams that use a radar sensor to activate the camera.
The downside to motion detection is it can drain the battery quickly if you park in a busy area. Basically, the camera will be recording lots of useless footage. However, on most models you can adjust the sensitivity.
Buffered parking mode: With this setting, the camera is constantly recording in real time although the footage is not saved unless an impact or movement is detected. At that time, it will be saved to the SD card so you will have a recording of the moments leading up to the event.
The benefit of buffered parking mode is you will have footage leading up to the event. This is unlike motion or impact detection where the camera may take several seconds to begin recording. By that time, the vehicle that hit you may be out of the camera’s view.
Of course, it comes with a drawback as it uses a lot of power as the camera is constantly recording. Most modern cars don’t have power concerns if you are driving your car every few days to recharge the car’s battery.
Heat is usually the biggest concern and the dash cam may suddenly stop recording. This can be an issue if the vehicle is parked in the sun and you are using the parking mode.
BlackVue has a reputation for making some of the most advanced dashcams on the market and in terms of cloud connectivity they are second to none. The current top offering in the Blackvue line is the DR900X and it is an ideal accessory for your BMW. With 4k UHD recording for the front camera and 1080P for the rear image quality is among the best out there for a dashcam. It also features great night vision due to its aperture.
However, the main selling points are the built-in LTE capability. What this means is your dashcam can upload videos to the cloud with a cellular connection. There are times where this feature can be useful especially when using the parking mode and thieves steal your camera. You will have backup video in the cloud.
Other selling points for the DR900X are a parking mode that is considered to be the best of any dash cam available. It has motion detection and a built-in voltage monitor to protect your car’s battery. With LTE capabilities, you can remotely view your dash cam as long as you have an internet connection.
The Thinkware U1000 is another dash cam that is perfect for the BMW driver. It boasts 4K UHD front recording at 30 FPS. However, the rear camera’s ability to record at 2K is a step below, but still a great resolution. Overall, image quality is good and the rear camera is perhaps the best available for a dash cam.
Another thing we like about the U1000 is the parking mode. It can use an optional radar sensor that will activate the camera when movement is detected. This uses less battery than buffered parking mode and is ideal if you do not drive your car on a daily basis. It also features a lane departure warning although it is not as good as the sensor installed in most newer BMW’s.
Overall, the U1000 is a top end dash cam with a good image quality and parking mode. It is ideal for any BMW owner.
BMW Advanced Car Eye 2.0
The BMW Advanced Car Eye is a factory dash cam that is available on most newer models. This is a 2CH dash cam with the front camera recording 1080p full HD at 60 frames per second and 30 frames per second for the rear camera. It also includes most of the features you would expect in any aftermarket dash cam like GPS, loop recording, and a G-sensor .
What makes the Advanced Car Eye 2.0 popular for BMW’s is the fact this is a factory accessory and not a third-party. It integrates with the vehicle’s systems. The front camera is installed near the rearview mirror and looks stock.
A nice feature on the parking mode is it uses the OEM radar sensor and if any movement is detected it will activate the dash cam and begin normal recording.
In terms of video quality, it is decent although equal to many of the mid range dash cams. However, the price is similar to the high end BlackVue or Thinkware models and both of them offer more features, including 4k recording.
The BMW Advanced Car Eye 2.0 is ideal for anyone who prefers an OEM product that integrates with the vehicle’s systems. However, if that’s not important there are some other high quality dash cams out there for the same price.
VAVA 2K Dual Dash Cam
For those who own convertibles and don’t need the traditional front and rear dash cam setup, you will want to take a look at cameras that have front and cabin facing angles.
The VAVA 2K Dual Dash Cam is the gold standard for this setup. The front films in 2K and the cabin in 1080P. The interior camera comes with infrared lights which will deliver a clear night vision picture. It also comes with built-in WiFi and GPS for ease of use and location monitoring.
One neat feature is that the VAVA doesn’t require it to be hardwired into your car because it has an internal battery to power the parking mode. While the internal battery is small, it is able to pick up the important moments and record them for future review.
This VAVA model is highly trusted and popular because of its versatility and numerous features. We really like this camera for BMW convertibles.