Who likes craning their neck backward every time they’re trying to park? For many, this is an uncomfortable position. Thankfully, it can be avoided using a backup camera. Once you install this device on your car, parking will be easier in tight spots and less cramp-inducing.
Backup cameras are a great addition to any car. Even if yours didn’t come out of the factory with one, you can still install one on your vehicle. Yes, even if you don’t have a rearview receiver in your head unit!
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about backup camera systems, from common questions we get to a list of the best backup cameras on the market now. We have even put together a buying guide just for you. Once you’re done reading this article, you’ll have the answer to “What is the best backup camera to buy?”
How Do Backup Cameras Work?
The short answer is that when you put your car into reverse, the image captured by the rearview camera is transmitted to your head unit or monitor.
An interesting feature of these cameras is the fact that they automatically mirror the image they capture. If they showed you a direct feed instead, you would steer right when you really meant to steer left. Needless to say that would land you in trouble with whoever’s car you drove into.
It’s also important to know that the camera and the monitor or head unit are paired either through cables or through a wireless connection. That’s why you’re shown a live feed with no delay of the rearview camera.
Can a Backup Camera Be Added to a Car Aftermarket?
Absolutely! All the items we have featured on our list are aftermarket cameras. They’re meant to be installed on vehicles who have never had a rearview camera before.
It’s pretty easy to find a camera that will work on your vehicle. If the one you have your heart set on comes with a monitor kit, it’ll most likely work perfectly with whatever car you want. If it doesn’t, make sure the camera’s wires are compatible with your head unit.
How to Connect the Backup Camera to Head Unit?
Each camera comes with its own installation guide. Many even have YouTube video demonstrations done by the manufacturer! In a nutshell, there are three steps to connecting the backup cam to the head unit:
- Mounting the camera in place and wiring it to a power source.
- Running a video wire connection from the camera to the dash. The exception is if it’s a wireless system.
- Connecting the video wire to the input cable of the screen you want to use.
Some parts of the installation (especially step three) can be quite tricky. If you want to play it safe, you can always drive your vehicle to an auto shop. If you want to keep things within budget, we suggest watching this DIY installation video.
Are Backup Cameras Covered Under Warranty?
Around half of the cameras we have reviewed today are covered by factory warranty. This is a good thing to look out for if you’re wary of buying a camera in the first place. It will give you more security and ensure you get your money back in case there’s something wrong with the system.
Benefits of Using a Backup Camera
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 840.000 accidents happen every year because of blind spots. In total, 300 people die annually as a result of those accidents and many more are severely injured.
That’s a lot of accidents! And in most cases, they can be prevented. Backing up and hitting a car isn’t likely to harm you bad physically. Still, it will do some pretty hefty damage to your car and someone else’s. When you get backup cameras, you can easily avoid these kinds of accidents.
Don’t believe us? Let’s run down a list of the main benefits of adding this camera to the back of your vehicle.
- Lower chance of you getting into parking accidents
- More accurate parking 100% of the times
- No more craning your neck backward to see the parking space
- Ability to park in tighter spaces safely, especially in cities
- Reverse safely even with a trailer attached to your vehicle’s ball
But Keep in Mind…
That said, it’s obvious a rearview camera can’t replace caution or an experienced driver. Just because you have one installed doesn’t mean you should ignore what your instincts tell you and stop looking in the mirrors. Think of this device as an added security element, not as an accident-preventer. It’s not just us warning you. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warns drivers of the same thing!
Where to Connect Backup Camera?
Once you have a rearview camera, you’ll need it to be connected to a screen of some sort. Otherwise, how would you be able to see what it’s recording? There are different kinds of screens you can connect your camera to.
Factory Touchscreen Receiver
Did your vehicle come with a screen display head unit? If so, great! Now, you’ll need to find a vehicle-specific camera to mount on the back of your car. Since they’re designed by your vehicle’s maker, they blend in perfectly and you won’t have to worry about connectivity issues.
Alternatively, you could go the cheaper route and just get one of the cameras we reviewed earlier on. Just make sure to read reviews and, if necessary, contact customer support to know if the camera will work with your fabric head unit.
Aftermarket Touchscreen Head Unit
Most cars don’t have a touchscreen head unit. If you’re looking to upgrade your vehicle’s entertainment system and get real-time feedback from your rearview camera, getting an aftermarket head unit is a great idea.
With the Android Auto and CarPlay technology, you can take your whole driving experience to the next level. From playing specific playlists to accessing GPS systems in real-time, you can’t go wrong with one of these add-ons. Plus, you can find decent head units for relatively cheap!
The majority of rearview cameras can be hooked up to aftermarket screen receivers easily. All it takes is some time, patience, and handyman skills.
Rearview Mirror Screen
If you can’t fit a brand-new head unit in your car, there are still options. Getting a rearview mirror screen is one of them. They work just like a normal mirror, but when you touch them, they display video from your backup cam.
Dash-Mounted Screen Display
This is probably the most popular alternative to getting an expensive auto head unit to connect your camera to. These devices have screens between 4.5 and 7 inches. They’re not big and get the job done for a low price. Installing them is also a piece of cake. They look like a car phone mount, with their suction cups and adhesive tape.
Ultimate Backup Camera Buying Guide
Now comes the fun part: shopping around for backup cameras. With so many options out there, it can be easy to get lost in the big world of online retail.
A great way to stay on track and avoid spending hours aimlessly looking for a rearview camera is to keep the following points in mind. The best backup cameras all have these features, so keep an eye out for them in each product’s description.
Most cameras capture what’s behind your car at between a 110-degree and a 190-degree angle. The larger the angle, the more you see behind you. However, too large of an angle will warp the image so much you won’t be able to accurately estimate how much room you have for parking maneuvers.
The optimal angle is around 150 degrees. It’s not too large to throw you off nor too small that it will barely help you more than craning your neck back.
Some cameras allow for these guidelines to show up on your screen. They’re meant to make parking easier, especially if your vehicle doesn’t have rear proximity sensors.
Usually, you’ll see green, yellow, and red lines. They give you an idea of how close you are to an obstacle behind you, be it a car, a pillar, or a trash can. They’re especially useful when parallel parking!
Low Light Quality
You’ll want a camera that works both in bright and dim settings. If you’re parking in a garage, for example, you will need a camera that can still capture good-quality image despite it being dark. The same can be said for parking at night.
The best backup cameras out there have LEDs strategically placed to brighten up the image. Even in low-light conditions, you’ll get a clear picture on your screen.
Different cameras are installed differently. There are three main places in a vehicle where you can install a backup camera. Depending on what kind of car, truck, convertible, or trailer you have, you’ll need a different kind of mounting.
License Plate Mounting
This is pretty self-explanatory. The camera is placed above the license plate and doesn’t cover up any important information. It’s a straightforward installation that is pretty universal.
The trunk of your car may have an insert area, directly above the license plate. If it does, you can install your rearview camera here. Its main advantage is the fact that it’s subtle and discreet.
The most universal approach you can take is bracket mounting. Your camera will come with a special bracket that lets you install it pretty much anywhere you see fit.
Don’t forget to check if the camera you’re getting is waterproof. After all, driving through mud, rain puddles, and snowy or icy roads can damage it if it’s not waterproof.
We can’t stress this enough: not all cameras are compatible with all cars. Depending on what kind of installation they require or what head unit connection they need, you may end up with a piece of equipment that doesn’t work. This is where warranties come in handy.
Lastly, stick to your budget. You don’t need us telling this, but we want to make sure you know that there are awesome cameras out there for less than $50. More expensive doesn’t always equal better!