July 22, 2024

Tech Nologist

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The best radar detectors: Expert recommended

7 min read

When cruising down a lonely stretch of highway, it’s easy to get swept away and forget about the pressure of your foot on the gas. Next thing you know, you might be getting a pricey speeding ticket or even a date in traffic court. If only you had a radar detector.

A radar detector notifies you when your vehicle’s speed may be monitored by law enforcement. This allows you to find police before they find you, allowing you to slow your speed and correct your driving. In short, radar detectors can help you drive safer while saving you money with fewer tickets. They are legal in only two areas (Washington, DC and Virginia). 

Also: Best dash cams

What is the best radar detector right now?

ZDNET researched the best radar detectors available based on features, display, and price. Our pick for the best radar detector overall is the Uniden R7, thanks to its integrated GPS, strong signal, and ease of use. Read on to learn about the best radar detectors you can buy right now.

The best radar detectors of 2024

Pros

  • Integrated GPS
  • Strong signal strength
  • Ease of use
Cons

  • On the larger side
  • Lacks Bluetooth

Uniden R7 features: GPS: Yes | Voice alerts: Yes | Power source: DC | Voltage: 12V | Display type: OLED

The Uniden R7 gets our pick for the best radar detector overall, thanks to its customizable voice alerts and false alarm detection. It keeps you safer with advanced false alert filtering, 360-degree monitoring, and arrow detection. There is even GPS technology employed to help the device remember and mute typical false alarms. You’ll also find red light and speed camera locations will automatically update to remain current at all times. The OLED display is a bonus for easy visibility. 

Customers who bought the Uniden R7 said they love that it’s easy to set up and use, as well as its extensive configuration settings.

Pros

  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Voice alerts
  • Adjustable sensitivity
Cons

  • Noisy
  • Suffers from false alerts

Cobra RAD 480i features: GPS: No | Voice alerts: No | Power source: DC | Voltage: 12V | Display type: OLED

If you find yourself on a budget, the Cobra RAD 480i could be a great fit for you. At just $150, it’s very affordable when compared to others in its class. LaserEye technology helps detect signals from all around your vehicle for better front and rear detection, while built-in security protocols help provide early warnings while reducing the threat of false alarms. Use the corresponding iRadar app to view further up the road or receive real-time alerts from the over 3 million drivers in the community. 

Users who own the Cobra Rad 480i report in reviews that they like that the unit allows you to adjust sensitivity as well as the low rate of false positive alerts.

Pros

  • Excellent connectivity
  • Rear radar antenna
  • Auto lockout
Cons

  • Pricey
  • Mediocre rear-range

Escort MAX 360c features: GPS: Yes, via app | Voice alerts: Yes | Power source: DC | Voltage: 12V | Display type: OLED 

The Escort MAX 360c gives you the ability to customize your screen, viewing in high resolution details like signal type and strength when you connect to Escort Live. Incorporated is a full-color graphic display that uses both antennas and arrows to identify risks around your vehicle and near your location. This radar detector is compatible with both iPhone and Android devices for easy connectivity. Plus, there is the benefit of built-in Wi-Fi, so you can see in real-time if there is a ticket threat in your future. 

Users who own the Escort Max 360c praise the detector’s range and accuracy as well as the built-in dash camera. 

Pros

  • Simple installation
  • Long-range use
  • Rarely false alarms
Cons

  • Suction cup fixture
  • Average display

Uniden R3 features: GPS: Yes | Voice alerts: Yes | Power source: DC | Voltage: 12V | Display type: OLED

The Uniden R3 uses a combination of technologies — Advanced False Alert Filtering provides greater protection against invalid threats, while GPS technology finds and tracks your location against known radars in and around your location. When you drive along your usual route, you will skip all of the common false alerts with built-in memory for your detector. Your device will also come preloaded with red lights and speed cameras, staying current with firmware updates to ensure you have a head start wherever you need one. 

Verified reviewers who have bought the Uniden R3 said they appreciate the longer range of the radar detector as well as balance between price and performance.

Pros

  • Real-time user updates
  • Integrated GPS
  • Event alerts for traffic jams and special events
  • Free

Waze app features: GPS: Yes | Voice alerts: Yes | Power source: N/A | Voltage: N/A | Display type: N/A

While the Waze app isn’t billed as a radar detector, the user base does help to provide real-time information on the locations of red light cameras and speed traps along your route. And along with helping you avoid getting a ticket, Waze users can provide real-time updates on traffic jams, restaurant and gas station locations, and even special events like parades and street carnivals. The app also features an integrated GPS system that operates similarly to Google Maps, and you can integrate your Spotify playlists for safer multitasking while driving. 

Waze app users said they love the ability to report real-time traffic information as well as the integrated GPS functionality.

The Uniden R7 wins ZDNET’s pick as the best radar detector, thanks to its incredible performance, reliability, and value. To see how it stacks up against our other best radar detectors, here is an overview of each model. 

Best radar detector

Price

GPS

Power

Uniden R7

$460

Built-in

12V DC

Cobra RAD 480i

$150

N/A

12V DC

Escort MAX 360c

$650

Companion app

12V DC

Uniden R3

$270

Built-in

12V DC

Waze

Free

Built-in

N/A

When choosing a radar detector, the most important thing to keep in mind is whether or not it’s legal to own and use in your state. Some areas have outlawed the use of radar detectors for civilians, so check all local laws and ordinances to make sure you aren’t illegally owning and operating one.

Buy this radar detector…

If you need…

Uniden R7

A well-rounded radar detector. The Uniden R7 features integrated GPS and voice alerts for additional road safety.

Cobra RAD 480i

A budget-friendly radar detector. The Cobra RAD 480i retails for about $150, making it one of the cheaper options on the market.

Escort MAX 360c

A radar detector with a great display. The Escort MAX 360c uses an OLED display for cleaner, easier to read text.

Uniden R3

A radar detector that provides great value for the price. It features built-in GPS and voice alerts as well as an OLED display and dual radar and laser detection systems

Waze app

A user-friendly radar detector app. Waze users help provide real-time updates to red light camera and speed trap locations.

While searching for the best radar detectors, you should consider the following factors: 

  • Features: There are several bonus features you may find from model to model, such as GPS connectivity or false alert detection. These features can greatly simplify use and improve your chances of picking up on radar. 
  • Display: Visibility is a critical factor when selecting a radar detector. The best radar detectors come with an OLED display that provides greater clarity and color for your images.
  • Cost: Budget is a primary concern for many users, so we look for the best affordable radar detectors that come at a reasonable cost for their features.

When researching each radar detector featured on this list, I kept these criteria in mind:

  • Legality: Not all states or cities allow the use of radar detectors, or radar jammers. Each model on this list has been ensured to follow federal guidelines for radar detection, but be sure to check all state and local laws before purchasing.
  • Installation: Setting up a radar detector shouldn’t take all day or require special knowledge. Each model on this list has been chosen for its easy setup and user-friendly controls.
  • Consistency and reliability: A radar detector should give you clear and consistent warnings each time it picks up a radar signal. Each model on this list was chosen for its reliability based on customer reviews.

While federal law only bans radar detectors from being used in commercial vehicles, use in personal vehicles is regulated at the state and municipal level. Make sure you consult all applicable laws before you purchase a radar detector. 

A radar detector, well, detects radar signals. These devices search for signals given off by police radar scanners and alert you to their presence, allowing you to correct your speed or other driving faux pas and avoid a ticket. Radar detectors are generally legal across the United States, except in commercial vehicles. Though it is best to check state and local laws before purchasing anything.

A radar jammer is something very different, and very illegal. Both federal law and FTC regulations prohibit the use of radar jammers, as they intentionally interfere with radar communication systems to provide false readings. Offenders, even first-time offenders, can face heavy fines, equipment and property forfeiture, and even prison time. 

The cost of a radar detector significantly varies from a few hundred dollars to more than a thousand dollars. The best radar detectors range in price from $150 to less than $700, depending on the model you choose.

More radar detectors to consider

This is the best radar detector if you’re looking to splurge.

If you are in the market for a radar detector but don’t want to spend a whole paycheck on one, this Uniden radar detector does the trick. 


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