Everyone who has ever been pulled over and ticketed for speeding has probably had the same thought: I wish I had a radar detector. Even though there is a common misconception that these gadgets are illegal (they are in Washington D.C. and Virginia) radar detectors are very useful to those of us that have a lead foot. There are a couple different brands of radar detectors out there all with different features and prices. I hope to show you what to look for and where to find the best radar detector for you.
- What does a radar detector detect? Most law enforcement agencies use an apparatus that measures the speed of vehicles, usually with a radar or laser. The radar is basically a microwave radio signal that bounces off your car and returns to the gun, the frequency of the return radio wave determines the speed of the vehicle.
Laser or Lidar guns do the same thing but with light beams. Just like the frequency bands in a radio you listen to, there are different bands that radar guns use. The most common are the X band, the K band and the Ka band. The Ka band is used in roughly seventy percent of all radar guns produced today. For you Europeans there is also the Ku band. Laser guns are becoming more and more popular but are still nowhere as prevalent as radar.
Another thing to look for in detection is POP detectors. This is a short burst of radar that some older radar detectors cannot pick up on. There are newer photo radars (speed cameras) which use a weak radar signal and photograph your license plate if they determine you are speeding. Most detectors cannot see or have a hard time seeing these radars but they do make products to shield these cameras from photographing your plate.
- What kind of radar detector should you get? Well I guess it depends on a couple things: how bad are the speed traps where you drive and how much do you want to spend? If you live in an area with sophisticated speed traps or you drive long stretches that take you through various jurisdictions then you probably want a pretty good radar detector that picks up a variety of radar signals, also known as "multi threat". Most detectors do this already, so the next concern is range. The rule of thumb here is, the better quality the radar detector, the more range you get.
Check out Radar Test for comparisons of different models including their features and capabilities. Some different features include customizable text and voice alerts, different detection modes to minimize false alerts, anti detector detection and memory for your personal settings. The big radar detector brands are Bel, Cobra, Escort, PNI, and Whistler.
- How much do radar detectors cost? For the most part you can get a reliable radar detector for under $200. In fact, there are many more-than-adequate radar detectors to be had for under $150. The higher priced detectors are usually cordless or mounted inside the grille of your vehicle, hidden away. Your average person does not need these "extras" as the units that go for far less will perform nearly as well as the high priced radar detectors. That's not to say a $50 unit is the same as a $150 one though. Spend a little money for a mid-range radar detector and you'll be fine; they'll offer a good number of features and multi threat alerts.
- Where should you buy radar detectors? My first choice when it comes to all car electronics is to go to my local shop. These guys will take you through buying and installing and answer all questions along the way. Check out the local yellow pages for places that install car electronics like stereos and alarms, they will also carry radar detectors. Then you could try a bigger electronics store like Best Buy or Circuit City. They have radar detectors and installation available.
The internet is always the cheapest route. Buy Radar Detectors is great for info and for purchasing detectors. Ebay and Amazon always have great deals on all things electronic and radar detectors are no different. Some others I found are Best Radar Detectors and eTronics.
That is about all you need to know concerning the purchase of a radar detector. Look through the sites I showed you and if you have any questions remaining, they should clear them up.