So you’ve heard those stories about there being less police on the highways during the COVID-19 pandemic, or how the police on the highways are less likely to pull you over because of social distancing? Yeah, those reports are totally bogus. Going balls-out on the highways is still a really terrible idea. Because now that the roads are mostly empty, busting speeders is like shooting fish in a barrel.
However, we also understand that sometimes your feet get a little heavy on the pedal. And while we certainly can’t endorse such behavior, we can give you a little help to keep you out of traffic court with these six great radar detector choices.
A couple of pertinent facts:
- Radar detectors are illegal in Virginia and Washington, D.C.
- They are not allowed to be used on military bases or in federal parks
- They cannot be windshield-mounted in California and Minnesota, which pretty much eliminates everything except models that can be hardwired into your car
Short of these restrictions, the best radar detectors can save you from expensive speeding tickets. To help you stay out of traffic court, here are six stellar picks to help you run from the gun, thwart the speed traps, and keep your lead foot from crushing your driving record, your checkbook, and your insurance rate:
1. Uniden R7
When it comes to the best radar detectors for civilian use, Uniden is the name to know. Its models routinely win best-of awards by the armful, and the R7 is our favorite of them all. It has the longest detection range on the market, which means maximum warning time and protection. The directional arrows on the display lets you know if the officer is ahead of you, complete with band type and signal strength, and when you pass them by. It comes preloaded with red-light camera and speed camera locations — two of the hardest types of traps to evade — and continuously updates its database and firmware. It even has an integrated GPS which learns and remembers false alerts, everything from those unmanned speed signs to automatic door openers in stores. (Who knew, right?)
Before long your regular commute will be virtually free of those annoying false alarms. If there’s a fuzzbuster on the market which closely approximates a cloaking device, it’s the Uniden R7. Yes, it’s an expensive product, but if it saves you from just one speeding ticket, then it’s already paid for itself.
2. Escort Passport 9500iX
Escort, another big hitter in the radar-detector field, takes the silver with the Passport 9500iX. For a couple hundred dollars less than the Uniden R7 you get many of the same protections, including a robust database of permanent camera locations which is constantly updated in real-time. The Passport 9500iX also can access the data of other Escort users, so you’re also always looped in to the location of temporary traps. The Escort gives you omnidirectional coverage from both radar and laser speed guns, and delivers the threat information on a bright and easy to read alphanumeric screen.
3. Valentine V1 Gen2
Do you read car magazines? If so, then you’ve seen the face of Mike Valentine hundreds of times over the years, on ads for his Valentine V1 radar detector. The V1 has been a stalwart for almost 30 years, and a longtime favorite of car enthusiasts — a seriously tough crowd to please, and not averse to putting the pedal to the metal. So it was big news indeed when Valentine, at long last, unveiled the successor to the venerable V1.
The Valentine V1 Gen2 has built-in Bluetooth and is equipped with technology found in military chirp radars to help find targets at distance. New low-noise amplifier tech helps detect weaker signals and also traps local oscillator output, making the Gen2 nearly undetectable. It also includes the K-band verifier which sorts out false hits from automatic door openers. Our favorite feature, though? Valentine is rewarding loyal customers by offering to upgrade their V1 to the new Gen2 tech. You can do far worse than trusting the brand favored by car nerds for nearly three decades.
4. Uniden R3 Extreme Long Range
A half-step below its cousin the Uniden R7 in features and a full step below in price, the Uniden R3’s main appeal is clearly spelled out in its name: extreme long range. It also has 360-degree Eagle Eye detection to thwart a comprehensive list of bands and varieties of speed-busting waves: laser, X- and K-bands, Ka wideband, and POP mode radar guns, along with false-detection K- and Ka-band filters. The R3 announces threats in a clear voice to allow you to keep your eyes on the road, and the color OLED display is easy to read for someone sitting shotgun. The R3, like most of today’s high-end detectors, has an updatable database, but this one must be connected to a PC via the included mini-USB cord. But that’s a minor inconvenience at best for a unit that performs as well as the R3.
5. Cobra Dual Pro 360
BEST CROWDSOURCED DETECTOR
Take the very best features of the uber-popular Waze crowdsourced traffic app, merge them with one of Cobra’s better radar detectors, and you get the Dual Pro 360. Cobra pairs this device with its iRadar app, with constant real-time alerts from fellow drivers downloaded from the cloud and uploaded directly to the Dual Pro. As the popularity of Waze shows, sometimes it takes a community to keep drivers fully informed about their obstacles, even the nearly-invisible ones. But even if the Dual Pro 360 was not armed with this awesome crowdsourcing tool, it would be a killer device.
Omnidirectional coverage is provided by front and rear antennae, powerful intelligent filtering keeps you free from false alarms, and high-speed digital signal processing (DSP) alerts you to threats faster, giving you more time to ease back on the pedal and cruise thru the trap unscathed.
6. Cobra RAD 380
BEST BUDGET PICK
In your search for the best radar detector under $200, you are sure to encounter more than your share of budget models. To be frank, most of them suck. And the only thing worse than driving without radar protection is driving with the false sense of security provided by a bad radar detector. The money you skimped on will pale in comparison to the price of your speeding ticket. So when we found a rock-solid detector for a hair under $100, we were stunned. But we shouldn’t have been, because it’s a Cobra.
The Rad 380 has all the features you look for in the best radar laser detectors— 360-degree coverage, solid range, anti-false-alarm filtration, DSP-boosted processing time, updatable firmware, and a clear color-coded display. It just has them in more modest doses than the more pricey members of the Cobra line. Maybe this isn’t the model for you if you’re planning on doing a Cannonball Run remake or some Fast and Furious driving (and please don’t do that), but if you just want a solid layer of protection on the highway at an unbeatable price, look no further.