Radar Detectors Exposed
Radar Detectors Exposed
Pros and cons of the different types
By Radartest staff
Last updated: 2016
As the name suggests, a windshield-mounted radar detector clings to the windshield with suction cups. Its chief advantage is versatility. It can be easily moved among vehicles and powered by a cigarette lighter or power outlet.
On open roads, long range is crucial. It can make the difference between getting nailed and driving ticket-free. But only a few radar detectors deliver the range to spot police radar soon enough.
High performance doesn't come cheap, though. The most desirable models all cost over five C-notes. Among windshield-mounts, the best-performing models we've seen are the Escort RedlineXR and its twin, the Beltronics (BEL) STi Magnum. Although lower in performance, the Escort Passport is an attractive alternative due to its substantially lower price. Learn more about the Passport...
The battery-powered radar detector can be invaluable if you're frequently driving other people's vehicles—rental cars, for example. Other candidates for a cordless radar detector are those who prefer not to string a power cord around the cockpit.
One can be used with a power cord to allow operation should the batteries die. But don't expect a power boost when it's hooked up to the car's electrical system: performance stays the same.
The best of these, the Escort Passport Solo S3 is slightly more expensive than a corded model with similar features.
GPS in a radar detector won't keep you from getting lost. But it can keep you from getting nailed by a red light camera. With camera location GPS coordinates stored in the detector's database, a good GPS-enabled radar detector will alert as you approach one of these devices.
Those same GPS coordinates allow the best models in this class to nearly eliminate false alarms in town, an enormous advantage—at least if you don't like spiking the brakes unnecessarily. Warnings of camera-monitored intersections have a safety payoff as well since our studies show that these locations experience higher crash rates—usually due to drivers spiking their brakes unexpectedly.
Escort patent-protected this GPS technology, allowing only it and subsidiary BEL to offer the most useful features afforded by GPS. One example is AutoLearn. Cruise past the same non-police radar signal three times and the signal is automatically locked out.
They also decrease sensitivity automatically at low speeds to cut false alarms. Escort calls this Speed-variable sensitivity. And by tracking vehicle speed, the onset of a red light camera alert can be adjusted, so the driver won't be pestered unnecessarily.
The Escort and BEL GPS-enabled radar detectors also count down the distance to a danger location in hundred-foot increments, allowing drivers to respond appropriately without needless panic-braking for distant cameras. They also depict what type of camera is being encountered: red light or speed. A red light camera can also be used to cite for speeding; identifying these can be useful.
A remote (built-in) radar detector offers the best of both worlds: high performance but without advertising that you're packing protection. It has discreet components: a radar/laser antenna that mounts in the grille area, with controls and a display in the cockpit.
The latter can be mounted anywhere within reach. Those who want no evidence of aftermarket equipment favor high-end models with bi-color LEDs that replace the display module. The LED can be built-in to the instrument cluster or a flat panel. The control unit is frequently hidden in the ash tray or flush-mounted elsewhere.
There's no cord clutter and most of these detectors power-up automatically with engine start. Some Escort and BEL models have GPS, which reduces false alarms and protects from red light cameras.