While we do not condone speeding, we acknowledge the fact that drivers do exceed the speed limit from time to time. Whether it’s on a rural part in the U.S. with a long and uneventful freeway, or the road has just opened up after being stuck in traffic, drivers like to stretch their car’s legs every now and then. That’s where a radar detector comes in handy, so long as they’re legal in your state (currently illegal in Virginia and Washington, D.C.).
Radar detectors are designed to warn you of police presence and the use of speed detection hardware. They’re an in-car device that mounts inside your vehicle, similar to a dash cam or handheld GPS device.
When shopping for a radar detector, you’ll likely notice they come in a wide range of prices. These devices make a strong case for you get what you pay for, as cheaper models tend to be less accurate and return false positives. We’ll take a look at the top best radar detectors currently available, explaining their features and hopefully finding one that fits your budget.
Updated 10/21/2020 with updated links to product recommendations.
1. Editor's Pick: Cobra XRS9370 Radar/Laser Detector
One of the more affordable radar detectors available, the Cobra XRS9370 offers good performance for the price. It features “superfast sweep circuitry” to provide extra detection range and advanced warning to even the fastest radar guns. The detector also has VG-2 and Spectre alert while Pop mode detects the latest Radar Gun POP. Users can select between city and highway modes to reduce the frequency of false warnings in densely populated urban areas.
The compact unit detects all 14 radar/laser bands including LaserEye 360 degree detection, KU band detection, and has an UltraBright display for easy recognition of the band detected.
2. Best Premium Option: Uniden R3 Extreme Long Range Radar/Laser Detector
Despite its high price—it’s one of the most expensive radar detector on our list—it’s one of the top-sellers in the category on Amazon. The Uniden R3 is an advanced radar detector with 360-degree Eagle Eye detection for laser, X-band, K-band, Ka wideband, and POP mode radar gun. It has three city/highway modes and filters for K- and Ka-bands to prevent false detections.
Voice notifications allows drivers to stay focused on the road while a GPS feature allows the user to get red light camera alerts, mute memory false alerts, or mark location. A color OLED display makes the unit easy-to-see. This detector also has a mini-USB port so you can connect it to a PC for free GPS data updates.
Each package includes the detector, single and double suction cup brackets, cigarette adapter with mute key and USB port, connector double-sided Velcro tape, and carry case.
3. Best Budget Option: Whistler XTR-130 Laser Radar Detector
One of the most affordable units on our list is the Whistler XTR-130. It’s a basic radar detector that offers 360 degrees of perimeter protection against all radar guns including X-band, K-band, Superwide Ka-band, and laser. It has an icon display to provide distinct visual symbols of alerts detected, with tone alerts that provide audible alerts for bands received. The unit does feature VG-2 detection.
Despite its price, the detector also offers three city/highway modes, quiet/auto quiet modes, alert priority, vehicle battery saver mode, and a safety warning system. The safety warning system is used to keep the driver informed of possible situations that require attention, such as emergency vehicles, road hazards, and road construction delays or detours.
Along with the detector, each package comes with a power cord, windshield bracket kit, and user guide.
4. Escort Passport S55 Radar Detector
This is the latest addition to the Passport lineup of radar detectors from Escort. Touted as one of the most advanced, high performance radar and laser detectors on the market, the Passport S55 offers long-range warning on all radar and laser bands, long-range K- and Ka-bands, including instant-on POP mode. One exclusive feature on this device is AutoSensitivity, which intelligently filters out false alarms. You can also choose between Highway, Auto, and Auto No X settings.
Compatible with ESCORT Live, this radar detector provides access to an exclusive, real-time ticket-protection network that warns you of upcoming alerts received and reported by other users in the area. It also gives you access to local speed limit data for over-speed alerts. Customization settings include power on indication, meter type, auto mute, brightness level, audio tones, and selectable radar.
5. Whistler CR65 Laser Radar Detector
Another affordable option comes from Whistler with the CR65. Equipped with 360-degree Maxx Coverage technology, it offers complete perimeter protection, detecting signals from the front, sides, and rear. It offers protection against all radar guns including X-band, K-band, Superwide Ka-band, and laser. The unit’s total laser detection identifies Laser Atlanta stealth modes, Laser Ally, and LTI Truspeed S, while POP Mode is an advanced speed detection capability that responds to brief bursts of radar.
Helping prevent false alerts from radar-based traffic monitoring systems is Traffic Flow Signal Rejection. There are also three city/highway modes to choose from: City, City 1, and City 2.
The unit also has flashing LED lights to provide additional visual information. Each kit comes with a windshield bracket kit, a 12V DC power cord, and an instruction manual.
The Whistler CR65 is the cheapest in the CR lineup of detectors from the brand, with more expensive models coming in the form of the CR70, CR75, CR80, CR85, and CR90. The higher-end models include additional features such as real voice alerts, a digital compass, compatibility with Whistler Intellicord, Ka Max mode, RSID, LSID, internal GPS, and an external audio jack.
6. Escort Passport 8500 X50
If the Escort Passport 9500ix is out of your price range, take a look at the Passport 8500 X50. The more affordable unit features an improved “V-Tuned” radar receiver that provides 360-degree extreme detection range on all police radar including conventional and instant-on radar. It also offers protection against POP mode radar threat, X-band, K, and Ka bands.
Escort says the Passport 8500 X50 uses an advanced technology called Digital Signal Processing (DSP) for wide detection range while minimizing false alarms. It also includes Escort’s proprietary Traffic Sensor Rejection (TSR) to also help eliminate false alerts.
Users can choose from three levels of brightness control for the detector, along with three types of meter displays: standard bar graph, exclusive ExpertMeter, and a unique SpecDisplay. Another nice benefit to this unit is an automute feature that automatically reduces the volume level during an alert so they’re less annoying.
Included in each box is the detector, an Escort-zippered travel case, quick-release windshield mount, coiled SmartCord, owner’s manual, and quick reference card.
7. Beltronics RX65 Professional Series Radar Detector
Offering full X, K, Superwide Ka, and safety warning system, the Beltronics RX65 radar detector is a mid-range offering in terms of price. It features Advanced AutoScan processing and digital signal processing for increased range and helping eliminate false alerts. The unit is also immune to VG-2 detection and has easy-to-use programming, so drivers can customize up to seven options based on driving style.
Controlling alerts on this detector is a bit more convenient compared to other units, thanks to the included SmartPlug power cord which has patented Mute and AutoMute technology. Using a 280-LED display, the detector is ultra bright and easy to read. The safety warning system is similar to other units, using a modified K-band radar signal to alert users of highway construction or maintenance, highway hazard zone advisories, weather related hazards, travel information/convenience, and fast/slow moving vehicles.
The unit comes with a one-year limited warranty.
8. Escort Max 360 Radar Detector
The highest-priced radar detector on our list is the Escort Max 360, providing drivers with extreme range, state of the art response time, pinpoint precision, and directional alert display. The Escort Max 360 features front and rear antennas that scan rapidly in all directions, taking advantage of the lightening-fast focus of Digital Signal Processing (DSP) to detect faster and more accurately than other detectors.
The detector has five levels of filtering to prevent false positives, combining three driving modes along with speed-based sensitivity, Cruise Alert, and seamless connectivity via Bluetooth to the Escort Live app. It also has a patented AutoLearn technology that uses GPS to actually learn the route of its user, automatically eliminating false alerts unique to a daily drive.
The Escort Max 360 comes preloaded with the company’s Defender Database, which has thousands of redlight and speed camera locations in North America.
9. Escort Passport 9500ix Radar Detector
The Escort Passport 9500ix is more expensive than most radar detectors, but it’s also one of the highest-rated and most popular on Amazon. The unit delivers long-range warning on all radar bands including X, K, Superwide Ka, and instant-on POP modes. It features multiple front and rear laser sensors, providing 360-degree protection. Helping prevent against false alarms from automatic door openers, motion sensors, and other radar-based sensors is the Passport 9500ix’s GPS-powered intelligence. The detector also comes pre-loaded with thousands of red light and fixed position speed camera locations throughout North America.
This detector is also compatible with ESCORT Live, an award-winning app that warns of upcoming alerts received and reported by other users in the area. The app also gives access to local speed limit data for over-speed alerts.
Programmable features on the Escort Passport 9500ix include power-on indication, SpeedAlert, AutoLearn, Signal Strength Meter, AutoMute, AutoPower, Units, Voice, Dark Mode, Radar/Laser Bands, Markers, and five levels of brightness control.
10. Cobra RAD 450 Laser Radar Detector
Back to more affordable options, the Cobra RAD 450 is the final detector on our list. It uses Cobra’s patented IVT Filter TM system, which reduces false alerts from sources like collision avoidance systems. It’s a long-range detector with a range of at least two miles on flat, open conditions. The Cobra RAD 450 can detect from both front and rear with its advanced laser eye sensor and seeks out X, K, and Ka bands with signal strength indicator, laser, and VG-2 signals.
There is also digital voice announcements that provide band identification and easy to understand alerts, allowing the driver to keep their eyes on the road. On the front of the detector is an OLED display that’s easy to read.
Everything You Need to Know About Radar Detectors
We get it. Every now and then you just need to travel above the speed limit, whether it’s an open road or you’re trying to get through traffic. AutoGuide.com does not condone speeding, but we’re also realistic that not everyone stays below the speed limit at all times. That’s where a radar detector can come in handy, potentially saving you from an expensive ticket if they’re legal in your state. When it comes to U.S. states, currently only Virginia and Washington, D.C. have made radar detectors illegal.
Shopping for a radar detector is no easy task, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience with the technology. There are likely words and bands you don’t recognize in various product descriptions, so we’re here to help make things as clear as possible.
What is a Radar Detector?
In the most basic sense, a radar detector will warn you of possible upcoming police or other law enforcement who are monitoring speed. Good radar detectors are able to detect a wide variety of bands at long range, giving you ample time to slow down before getting a ticket. Essentially, a radar detector hones in on the band signal coming from a speed gun, alerting you through a visual or auditory signal.
What are all the Different Bands?
In the U.S., police radar guns operate on three frequency bands: X, K, and Ka. The oldest of the three bands is the X-band, which is being phased out with newer and smaller DSP Ka-band radar guns. The K-band is still common, while the Ka-band offers wider coverage for law enforcement to detect speeders.
There is also POP radar, which was designed to transmit a single radar transmission that’s extremely short to render radar detectors obsolete. Since then, however, radar detector manufacturers have developed technology to detect POP radars.
Along with three radar bands and POP radar, law enforcement in the U.S. also use one laser band.
What Exactly is Radar?
According to Escort, a reputable manufacturer of radar detectors, there are over 100,000 radar guns being used in the U.S. On a daily basis, across multiple shifts in multiple vehicles, there are potentially 100 million radar traps in the U.S. every year. To explain how radar works, the company uses a simple analogy:
“Think of a guard performing his security check at night. From hundreds and hundreds of yards away we are able to see his progress as he searches back and forth in the dark – yet, the guard can’t see us,” Escort explains. “In fact, the guard can turn the flashlight directly at us and still never see us! Why? Because in order for us to become visible to the guard, there must be sufficient light reflected off our our clothing and returned to his eyes before he can see us. Notice – we can always see the flashlight even though the guard can’t see us. That’s because we only need a small amount of light from the flashlight to see it in the dark.” In a way, that’s how a radar detector works, giving the driver an advantage when using one.
A high-quality radar detector is designed to detect the energy from a radar gun, even though the radar gun won’t be able to see the driver until they’re getting closer.
What About Laser?
Laser guns aren’t as popular as radar guns, with Escort estimating 35,000 in use today. Unlike radar guns, law enforcement using a laser gun must do it from a stationary position, which means you’ll likely see them being used near highway overpasses and from interstate medians. They are also affected by certain weather conditions such as rain and fog, and in most cases, cannot be used through glass.
Laser guns use a very narrow beam of light to target vehicles, with the beam being fired at a vehicle at the speed of light. Once the light hits the target, the light reflects off and back to the laser gun. The laser gun uses the reflected light pulses to calculate a vehicle’s speed, based on the amount of time it takes for the light pulses to come back to the gun.
A good laser detector will be able to see the laser source and the reflected light signals that bounce off other objects. Typically when a group of cars is being targeted, you can expect your laser detector to alert you.
What About Radar Detector Detection?
In the U.S., radar detectors are legal to use in non-commercial vehicles so long as you aren’t traveling in Virginia or Washington, D.C. Since they are illegal in Virginia and the nation’s capital, as well as in commercial vehicles, some areas use radar detector detectors, also known as RDDs.
There are two common types of RDD technologies: VG-2 and Spectre. VG-2 works by detecting the oscillations on a single frequency band, while Spectre is a more sophisticated technology that operates on several frequency bands and can pick up more emissions from a radar detector.
More expensive radar detectors will offer shielding and protection against VG-2 and Spectre. If RDDs are a concern to you, make sure you grab a radar detector that prevents VG-2 and Spectre.
Types of Radar Detectors
Before you start researching individual products, you should determine the type of radar detector you want. Most radar detectors are corded units, which means they must be plugged into a cigarette lighter for power. These are typically the best performing detectors and are the most reliable, so long as you can deal with the sight of a cord dangling from your windshield.
If you travel a lot or often have to switch cars for whatever reason, you may want to consider a cordless detector. These are powered by batteries, which means you can take them on the go. Just make sure you keep a spare set of the batteries it needs, just in case it runs out of power.
The third and least common type of radar detector is a remote-mount detector. These are permanently mounted to your vehicle, allowing for a clean installation that could be out of sight from potential thieves.
Features to Look For
Along with researching the bands a device can detect, make sure to take a look at any more advanced features a particular radar detector has to offer. These features range from built-in GPS technology, smartphone compatibility, auto mute, safety alerts, and multiple city/highway modes.
Radar detectors with built-in GPS technology have a few benefits. Some can adjust their sensitivity based on how fast the vehicle is traveling, reducing the need for switching between city and highway modes. Another benefit is that some radar detectors will remember certain areas that you drive through frequently, alerting you when you’re approaching something of interest. Some units provide warnings for upcoming speed drops and red light cameras.
Detectors that have smartphone compatibility normally take advantage of an app that works alongside your radar detector. Escort Live for example, warns of upcoming alerts received and reported by other users in the area, in addition to giving access to local speed limit data for over-speed alerts.
Regardless of how expensive or advanced a radar detector is, there’s always a chance it will report a false negative. Devices equipped with an auto mute function will automatically decrease the volume of a warning so that it doesn’t become annoying. This is a feature you may want to look for if you often drive in city or urban areas, where false positives are most common.
Some radar detectors feature a safety warning system, which keeps the driver informed of possible situations that require attention, such as emergency vehicles, road hazards, and road construction delays or detours.
Lastly, multiple city/highway modes help to filter K- and Ka-bands to prevent false detections. Most modern radar detectors come with city/highway modes.
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