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Should you get a dashcam for peace of mind and lower car insurance premiums?

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

More and more drivers are installing car dashcams to ensure they have evidence should they be involved in an incident. But what are the main benefits and disadvantages of the devices?

From mobile phones to bike helmets to home security, cameras and recording devices are becoming more prevalent as Brits attempt to capture the weird, wonderful and downright illegal actions on our streets.

There’s a growing trend for Brits to install dashcams in their cars to use as evidence in case of theft or accidents.

In fact, research from retail analytics company GfK found that sales of dashcams increased by 671% over the past two years. According to leading dashcam manufacturer, Nextbase, there are currently 2.6 million dash cams on UK roads and this figure is predicted to double in the next two years.

Given the fact that car insurance has been heading north over the past few years and a number of insurers offer discounts on premiums for having one installed, a £20-£50 investment could be worthwhile.

Simon McCulloch, director at Comparethemarket.com says while some dashcams can be quite expensive – a top of the range Nextbase 4K, HD recording, GPS and Wi-Fi model retails at £249 – there are a number of very reasonable models on offer.

“Equally, the savings that a customer could receive on their car insurance may ultimately mean that the costs will be repaid relatively quickly, particularly for younger drivers and those with high premiums,” he says.

He explains that a number of companies have specific policies in place to provide a discount to motorists who install a dashcam in their car – for example, Axa and Swiftcover announced in 2014 that these customers could see premiums cut by 10% while Sure Thing! offers a 20% discount for those who own a Nextbase dashcam.

McCulloch says: “Discounts are offered because insurers have significantly more evidence with which to analyse claims and make a correct ruling on a claim, as well as taking the view that customers who are willing to have their driving filmed are likely to pose a lower risk. However, for the more expensive models, dashcams can entail a large upfront cost and any evidence from the dashcam could also be used against the owner of the dashcam, if they are at fault for the claim.”

Nextbase says even pre-incident, motorists with a dashcam installed have been proven to be 33% safer behind the wheel. It tallies 41 insurers which offer a discount to dashcam drivers, including big names such as Admiral, Hastings and Direct Line.

Car owners also need to consider whether to get one or two dashcams to film both the front and rear, though not all insurers require you to have two. But the more information that is being taken, the more likely a driver can prove they’re not at fault.

If cost is an issue, you shouldn’t be tempted to use your mobile phone to record while you’re driving, McCulloch warns: “Phones should not be operated in any circumstance whilst driving a car. Use of a mobile phone when driving carries a significant fine and six points on your licence.”

Another point to note is that some dashcams require professional installation so they can’t be removed on a regular basis, while others are simply plugged into the car cigarette lighter. With some dashcams, you may need to remove them in order to obtain footage, but mostly, motorists can leave them in their car when the motor’s not in use.

When it comes to being involved in an accident and the legality of uploading content onto social media, for instance, Nextbase urges motorists to contact the authorities first and their insurers second.

Dashcams vs telematics (black box devices)

Andrew Lee, head of market intelligence and analysis at Octo Telematics, says if people are really interested in reducing premiums and increasing safety, there are other ways.

“The underlying point is that when we talk about dashcams, it’s an investment that needs to be made by the consumer so if they want a discount off their insurance, they typically need to choose a dashcam approved by the insurer.

“You can pick up a dashcam for £20 but in reality, the ones that are approved by the insurer are likely to start around £50 all the way up to £200+.

“Telematics by contrast has no outlay cost to the consumer – you agree to subscribe to the type of policy and you’ll receive a quick 10% discount followed by discounts throughout the course of the policy which average around 30%.”

According to the latest research conducted by The British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA), there were 975,000 telematics policies in 2017, showing the growth in popularity of the devices.

Lee adds that while dashcam equipment can be a good complement to telematics, these black box devices act as “guardian angels”.

He says that unlike dashcams which only record footage, telematics devices can contact emergency services if for instance the driver or passengers are unresponsive to phone calls; in the case of breakdown, they can notify a recovery truck and if the vehicle’s stolen, it can be located quickly.

“Dashcams don’t come with these additional value propositions,” he says. He added that dashcams can also be a major distraction, sitting in your eyeline and can attract people to steal them if they’re left in vehicles overnight.

Telematics devices are roughly half the size of a smart phone and they sit on your car battery, away from sight and away from temptation by potential thieves.

While dashcams are seen as fun and leisurely devices, telematics allow users to have forensic analysis done which can trigger and quote a claim within half the time.

When it comes to accidents, Lee says severe crash statistics show 40% are frontal while 60% are non-frontal (rear or sides). Given that most dashcam users tend to have them fitted to capture footage from the front, that means that 60% of crashes (if it occurs by a dashcam driver) won’t be recorded properly. “The dashcam is only capturing 40% of crashes. You need to take into account how useful a frontal dashcam is to you if you as the driver are at fault,” he says.

One last point is that telematics has evolved from being purely focused on young drivers. Lee says: “Telematics in the early days was focused on more at risk drivers so by its very nature, young drivers are more at risk so the incentive to have telematics to receive a percentage saving on car insurance was fundamental. Now, a lot of the telematics programmes are less on the risk profile but more about promoting good drivers of any age.”