Drivers who want to make sure they don’t fall straight into a speed trap can be proactive about their situation and invest in a radar detector. Contrary to what you might have heard, radar detectors are legal to use by private citizens in all US states besides Virginia and the DC area.
Some of the units that made our list are among the best radar detectors under 200 dollars while others creep over that price, but considering how expensive traffic violations can be these devices can pay for themselves in no time.
What to look for when buying a Radar Detector
With advances in police monitoring equipment as well as speed radar guns that don’t put out a very strong signal, some experts have said that we’re in what could be called a period of electronic warfare between drivers and troopers. So, how do you pick a radar detector that can deal with this kind of environment? Here are some of the hottest features that can help you avoid traffic violations:
GPS Connectivity: Regular speed traps can be recorded on a GPS map and detected even if the system the police are using is impervious to a radar detector. GPS connected detectors can alert you to these threats to give you plenty of time to slow down. Some models also function as regular GPS receivers too.
False Alert Filtering: Many makes of cars today have proximity sensors designed to apply the brakes if they sense oncoming traffic. These sensors employ a primitive form of radar that can set off detectors. Radio emissions from mobile phones and lots of fancy tech gadgets can be a problem too. False alert filters help to sort out these mistakes so you only get alerts when dealing with actual speed radar.
Digital Signal Processing: DSP used to be found only on expensive models, but this signal-boosting feature is becoming more common. It increases the range at which a detector can pick up signals, which increases the amount of time you have to slow down.
Radio quietness: While radar detectors might be legal in most jurisdictions, that doesn’t mean that the cops aren’t looking to pick on those who use them. Some models are “quieter” than others, which means they’re harder for troopers with sensors to find.
Cobra RAD 500G Radar Detector
• Filters false signals, including proximity sensors from other cars
• Can detect other signals besides just those from police cars, including those produced by cam lights
• Supports some forms of voice output
• Notifies drivers when near garages or banks, which could be misconstrued as being warned about police
• A connection to a GPS service is needed to use the onboard AURA red light camera detector
• Tends to run toward the higher end of the price spectrum
Cobra’s engineers decided to build on their older RAD 450 detectors, and anyone who might have used those earlier models will feel right at home with RAD 500G. Like the previous models, it offers an instant-on capability to detect radar guns that have very fast speed monitoring sensors. As the model number suggests, it now comes with an integrated GPS receiver coupled to an onboard database that provides location-based alerts of known speed traps and traffic signals.
Build quality might be a bit suspect because it’s a rather new product, but Cobra’s technicians seem to have already fixed most of the problems the earliest of adopters have complained about. They’ve also fixed several issues that plagued drivers who used their older units. For instance, the 500G doesn’t leak radar signals between frequency bands.
Since it comes with Cobra’s patented Lasereye technology, the 500G can detect police laser guns from both the front and rear of a vehicle. While it might carry a somewhat hefty price tag, it offers features like a dedicated anti-falsing circuit and in-vehicle electronics filters to provide much better detection than previous Cobra units as well as some more expensive competitors. Drivers can program it to ignore harmless road-side slow signs that use radar so they can focus purely on the police. Unfortunately, it has a rather old-fashioned LED display that’s difficult to read when the sun gets in your eye.
Radenso SP Radar & Laser Detector
• Bright modern OLED display is visible even when there’s glare from the sun
• Nearly 270 different voice alerts are programmed into the detector by default
• Comes with a convenient hole in the top of the unit to mount it in your vehicle
• Doesn’t work as well with Ka-band radar equipment as it does with other bands
• The display may not show what frequency police are currently using
• Some users have complained that tends to develop power-related issues over time
Radenso Radar is something of a tech startup company as far as the radar detector industry goes, and they’ve made a name for themselves by splitting their products into one of four market segments. The SP is their newest budget-minded radar detector, but it comes with features that are more common on units that carry a much higher price tag.
Excellent sensitivity and range might make it one of the best radar detectors in its price class, and it’s also known as one of the quietest. This new model turns the blind spot monitor on by default and comes with a traffic sensor rejection filter so that any blind spot alerts you might receive are going to be legitimate ones. The SP is stealthy up to 14 feet when it comes to dealing with VG2 and Specter Elite equipment, so it’s certainly earned this reputation. Radenso offers regular firmware updates for download, and these often improve on some already beefy stats.
Drivers should keep an eye on the power light and avoid using the unit in areas where police only employ Ka-type equipment, however.
Uniden DFR8 Radar Detector
• Comes with a micro USB cord and an easily accessible mute button
• Advanced K-band filter and radar band frequency display let you know more about what kind of equipment the police are using
• Features both a city and highway mode with 360° coverage
• Uses a somewhat busy dual-color OLED-based display
• Lacks any sort of GPS connectivity, unlike other Uniden scanners
• Having been released only in June 2018, the DFR8 hasn’t been as extensively tested as most other models
While it can run a little more than some drivers want to pay, the DFR8 is a stripped-down version of Uniden’s slightly older GPS-enabled DFR9 that’s designed to be slightly more affordable. Boasting an advanced K-band filter and radar band frequency detector, the DFR8 is designed with those who want to know as much as possible about radar signal strength. If you’re the kind of driver who wants to know just how close the next speed trap is without using a networked scanner, then the DFR8 might be appealing.
Even though it might look the most appealing to those who are regularly early adopters of the latest tech, the DFR8 has plenty to like. Uniden’s scanner circuits are among the best in the industry. When they say that the DFR8 can detect signals coming from all four sides of your vehicle, they’re not just making a boast.
Escort Solo S4 Radar Detector
• Excellent battery life that can last over a week
• The long-range sensitivity of the Solo S4 has been consistently rated the best in its class
• DSP technology and multiple laser sensors provide early warnings of laser-based speed monitoring threats
• Certainly, among the more expensive options when it comes to the best radar detectors under $200
• Programming feature can be somewhat complicated and takes a while to configure
• Considerably larger than many competing units
While it might carry a heftier price tag than the competition and could look a tad bulky, the Solo S4 offers some of the best performance of any cordless radar detector. Drivers have noted that it can even outperform the manufacturer’s own specifications. It listens to all three bands of radar frequencies currently used by police in the US as well as a number of different laser options.
Some drivers might claim that cordless detectors will never work as well as those that have cords. While the Solo S4 doesn’t have all of the so-called next-generation features that some of Escort’s other product lines offer, it does pack a great deal of functionality into a relatively small package. You can program nine of these features to operate automatically if you don’t mind reading all of the documentation that it came with.
Escort X80 Radar Detector with Bluetooth
• Clear voice alerts and crowdsourcing features
• One of the longest highway ranges combined with onboard learning software to help determine valid threats
• Full support for Bluetooth connectivity
• The color display can be difficult to read in traffic
• Some drivers report problems with the top release button
• Tends to skew toward the higher end of the price spectrum
The first Escort X80 models flew off the production line around two years ago, and the company recently released some updates that should keep this as their latest X-series detector for some years to come. While the price has fallen somewhat in that time, it still tends to be a little higher than most of the other detectors that made this list.
Fortunately, the build quality is very good in spite of a flimsy top button and it tends to pick up highway deployed radar police crews far quicker than most other units. This helps to make up for any sticker shock that it might cause budget-minded drivers. It uses a primitive form of AI to interface with a GPS system in order to check for false alerts. While the X80 does come with a standard false alert filter as well, this more sophisticated system prevents it from crying wolf. Many drivers have noted that they didn’t receive a false alert once even after using the device for some time.
All of the devices on this list represent the best radar detectors under 200 or 300 dollars, and each one should appeal to at least someone in a specific use case. A majority of drivers may want to look into the Radenso SP, which is essentially a stripped-down version of the company’s far more expensive Pro M model. It offers a wide range of features and the drawbacks related to the power supply shouldn’t be too much of a problem in most situations. The fact that it’s extremely quiet when it comes to dealing with cops who have sensors and can detect all three bands of police radar currently in use should prove quite attractive.
While Cobra might be better known for making low-end radar devices, those who need something with GPS may be pleasantly surprised when they try out the RAD 500G. The build quality has improved considerably. Otherwise, though, the Radenso SP looks like a solid pick for those who are looking for filtered results and voice alerts in a package that isn’t going to break the bank.