Cameras have, arguably, transformed British society, as they quietly record events on our streets, in shops, at fuel stations, motorway services, busy traffic lights and so on. Whether you think this is a good thing or not, when something bad – or funny – happens, we all find ourselves viewing CCTV footage on the TV news and online. 

Relatively new to the scene are dashcams – and more and more of us are waking up to the possible benefits of having our very own eye witness on board. Typically dashcams are mounted to the windscreen using a suction cup fitting, and take in a fairly wide and sweeping view of the road ahead. 

These handy gadgets vary from around £50 to £300 or more, and the quality varies just as widely to match. 

The more expensive dashcams have a long list of desirable features. They have inbuilt GPS that will record the date, time, exact location, direction and speed at the time of any crash you may suffer. This will be overlaid onto maps and saved securely for future use, using ‘SOS’ protection. They use motion-sensors and impact detectors to both warn you of dangers on the road ahead, such as speed cameras and slowing traffic, and alert you to your own lane drifting if that occurs. They typically have huge capacity camera memory cards, crystal-clear footage and parking mode. Recordings of incidents won’t get overwritten when the card is full, batteries so they can record even when the ignition is switched off. They’ll have the leads you need to upload footage to computers and other devices, or they’ll be Wi-Fi enabled. 

But do you really need all these features on your own dashcam, particularly since you’re paying a premium for so much technological wizardry?

We’ve tested the RAC 05, at £149.99, the Garmin Dashcam 20, at £129, and the Mio MiVue 658 WIFI, at £142.96, the Tsumara G3, at £139.99, and the Transcend DrivePro 100, at the low price of £64. We tested the Cobra Drive HD CDR 840, at £99.99 and the RAC 04, costing just £59.99. Then we compared the Next Base IN-Car Cam Duo, at £199.99 and the Trackvue DV300, at £99.

In this review we focus on the RAC 04 dashcam, priced at just £59.99, to see if a budget model could be good enough.

The RAC’s entry-level 04 model is a world away from its all-conquering sibling, the RAC 05, which costs three times as much. The RAC 04 is as basic as dashcams come, with no GPS or other features of note. Like some other budget models, the only output is USB, which means a computer, tablet, smartphone or smart TV is required to view footage. 

Optically, the width of view is restricted compared with that of premium models, but it’s very much in line with other budget entries. One feature we like is the physical size of the unit and the six buttons – three on each side of the screen – which greatly simplify, and speed up, operation.