Best Radar Detector Reviews – Top Picks for 2017

How to Buy to the Best Radar Detector

The best radar detector keeps you safe from radar guns. Learn the best radar detectors in our reviews.

A radar detector is going to notify you if the police try to keep track of your speed, so with this device you’ll be able to slow down and avoid a speeding ticket. If you’re tired of getting speeding violations or want to avoid getting one, having the best radar detector will be a worthy investment.

There are a lot of these devices available, and if it’s your first time to buy it will be difficult and even confusing. However, you can make things easier by learning as much about these devices as possible.

Best Radar Detector - Our Top Picks

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Reviews of the Best Radar Detectors

Escort Passport 9500ix Radar/Laser Detector (Blue Display)

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The Passport 9500ix is capable of detecting all types of frequencies used by law enforcers such as Ku, Ka, K and X. Its circuitry can be programmed, and with its GPS capability means you will be alerted of the presence of speed cameras. 

The 9500ix has also been deigned to prevent false alarms.The Passport uses a powerful GPS system to determine your location, and this is compared to the system’s speed camera and red light database. When you are abutting to pass one of these, a visual and audio alert goes off, so everything is automatic.

Cobra XRS9370 High-Performance Radar/Laser Detector with 360-Degree Protection

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The XRS9370 is equipped with a fast sweep circuitry system, allowing it to detect radar guns, and when a VG-2 or other radar guns are sensed you’ll be alerted. The XRS9370 lets you choose from highway and city modes, cutting down the possibility of false alarms high population areas.

Aside from helping you detect VG-2, this radar detector is capable of detecting Ku band radar frequencies, and with its 360 degree protection will alert you to any laser signals. The XRS9370 also warns you of road hazards, railroads and the presence of emergency vehicles in the vicinity.

Escort Max II HD Radar Detector

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The Max II is equipped with Bluetooth technology and this allows you to take advantage of its Escort Live app. The combination of this app and the detector will alert you to speed traps as well as the speed limit in wherever you’re driving. In addition the unit comes with North America speed camera and red light locations.

The display has also been updated from the previous edition. It is clearer, and the design makes it easy to read the information being displayed. The range is very good for its class and it learns to distinguish false alarms, and it is quicker to alert than other units.

Cobra Electronics ESD 777 12-Band Radar Detector

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The ESD detector detects all the laser and radar guns used by law enforcers, and with its 360 degree laser signal detection, you’ll receive alerts and warnings whenever there is a radar gun, road hazard or emergency vehicles in the area. Also, the display is clear and bright for easy reading.

The device works as advertised, and once it’s in your car will emit a beeping sound if a radar gun is nearby. The unit runs without a hitch, and it is light enough to put in a bag or briefcase if you want to carry it with you.

Whistler CR90 Laser Radar Detector

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The Cr90 is a feature packed laser radar detector. It comes with city / highway modes, a sophisticated alert system and a GPS which will notify you of red light and speed camera locations in the United States and Canada. It is sensitive to Ka and its filter and TFSR modes reduce false alarm incidents.

Designed to warn you of the newest laser guns used by law enforcers, its false alarm detection capability has also been improved from the previous versions. The display is a light blue color so it’s easy to read, and the audio alert is clear. Finally the GPS provides excellent directions and information about time as well.

Escort Max 360 Radar Detector (Black)

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Escort makes another entry into our list with the Max 360, and deservedly so as it provides wide range, alerts and quick response. Among its best features are the rear and front antennas, which use Digital Signal Processing (DSP) to find speed traps and other possible threats in the area.

The Max 360 comes with 5 filtering levels so your riding experience doesn’t have to be affected by loud noises, and together with the Escort Live app and Cruise Alert, ensures smooth operation. The unit also comes with a smart GPS system that learns your habits and gets rid of false alarms where you go.

Cobra XRS9570 Voice Alert 14 Band Radar/Laser Detector

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The Cobra XRS9570 can sense all the 14 laser and radar bands, including Spectre I, Ku Band, ProLaser and more. The XRS9570 also performs a comprehensive self-test to ensure optimum performance, and it’s going to alert you if there is a threat, and there is a speed sensing auto shutdown, making you invisible from these detectors.

The XRS9570 comes with a DigiView easy to view display, and you can quickly access features like highway/city mode, dim, etc. The unit also comes with 360 degree laser signal detection, and whenever there is a threat, an audio warning is triggered. Aside from speed and red alerts, you will also be notified if there are hazards up ahead.

Types of Radar Detectors

Ease of installation is one of the concerns of buyers, so it’s important you know the various types and how they are installed.

Laser / Radar Detectors

There was a time when radar and laser detectors were separate products, but all the popular ones are a laser / radar combo. By combining laser and radar detection technology, you’ll be able be warned of laser and radar guns, the two devices used to catch speeding cars.

These detectors can also warn you of hazards ahead, intersections as well as red light cameras. The more advanced models have extra features such the ability to learn false alarms in your route and avoid them the next time.

Laser radar detectors come in three forms, remote mount, cordless and corded.

Corded Detectors

These devices are set on windshields by way of suction cups and offer very good detection range.

Cordless Detectors 

These are similar to the corded models except there are no cords. They are easier to install and you can move them from one vehicle to another easily.

Remote Mount Detectors 

remote mount radar detectors are permanently installed on your car.

The Advantages of Radar Detectors

The most obvious benefit is it will notify you of the presence of radar and laser guns. Oftentimes we are so focused on driving that we lose track of how fast we’re going or the speed limit in the area we’re entering. Speeding will land you a ticket and if you’re in a hurry to go somewhere it’s a real hassle. With a radar detector you can avoid these problems. But the advantages don’t end there.

  • Road Aid: radar detectors also keep you updated on road obstructions ahead, and those with smartphone compatibility have apps that provide additional info. These devices are not just about avoiding speeding tickets as they’ll keep you safe on the road.
  • Save Money: speeding tickets and other traffic violations cost money and time, and it’s not going to look good in your car insurance application either. By getting a radar detector you’ll be able to protect yourself and learn to be a more responsible driver.
  • Efficient: radar guns and laser guns are sophisticated, but today’s radar detectors are very effective when it comes to alerting you of their presence. Older radar detectors are not capable of protecting you from speed traps.
  • Easy to Use: even if you haven’t used any of these devices before, it’ll only take a few minutes to set one up. As explained in the radar detector types section, it is simply a matter of finding the right type and placing it in your vehicle. If you’re an advanced user however, you can tweak the settings.
  • Portability: the most popular radar detectors are portable so if you own multiple vehicles you can relocate it.

How Police Radar Guns Work

Radar guns produce a radar pulse which bounces off the environment, and objects in motion reflect it to the radar gun. The Doppler shift is then used on the signal to evaluate its speed.

The Doppler Effect is evident when there’s a police siren, with the frequency strength gaining as it gets near you. When the siren goes by you, the frequency goes down. A radar gun is able to calculate its effect on vehicles to determine if it is speeding or not. When a law enforcer uses one of these devices, the frequencies are going to bounce until they dissipate. A useful analogy would be the ripping effect on water if you throw a stone in it, as the radar gun detects the ripples.

United States radar guns function on 3 frequencies, Ka-band (33.4 to 36 GHz), K-band (24.05 to 24.26 GHz) and X-band (10.5 to 10.55 GHz). All radar laser detectors in the market can sense these frequencies.

A laser gun or Lidar is different from the standard radar gun. A radar gun transmits radar waves which bounce on cars, but a laser gun utilizes an invisible light beam. With a laser gun a police officer can get an accurate reading of your speed. While this is more advanced than a regular radar gun, there are radar detectors that can protect you from it.

The information here is meant to give you a general idea of how police speed detection technology works. Bear in mind the technology is always evolving and their methods can change. However the same thing can be said for radar detectors.

How Radar Detectors Work

Contrary to what some may believe, radar detectors don’t actually look for radar guns. Instead these devices listen, and its hearing depends on the detection range. To give you an idea, listen to the sounds around you. What sounds do you hear? The nearest could be the radio, vehicles passing by outside, and the wind rustling.

That is what radar detectors do. Apart from range, their efficiency also hinges on the type of radar gun used by the police and how it reflects off the environment. A radar detector is sensitive enough to detect radar even if it’s miles away, but sensitivity varies.

If you’re going to buy a radar detector it should have false alarm sensitivity built in. Motion detectors, garage door openers and other devices use similar frequencies. If you’re driving in a highly urbanized area your radar detector could go off every few minutes thinking it’s a radar gun.

This is the reason why radar detectors have multiple sensitivity settings, with the most sensitive – the highway mode – providing the widest range. You should use the highway mode only if you’re on the highway as there is little chance you will encounter false alarms. City mode is less sensitive, but it also reduces the possibility of raising false alarms.

To further reduce false alerts, radar detectors have digital signal processing so it learns to distinguish between genuine alerts and the false ones in the routes you go to.

Features to Look for When Buying the Best Radar Detector

City and Highway Modes 

As we mentioned earlier, this gives you the opportunity to adjust the sensitivity settings as befits the landscape.

Laser Detection

Standard laser protection can sense laser beams in front of your vehicle, but not the sides or the back. A 360 degree laser protection can sense laser pulses on your sides as well as the rear.

Audio Alerts

A voice alert notifies you if the detector has sensed something. This is necessary so you can keep your eyes on the road.

Instant On / K Band Protection

If an Instant On radar is on your car it means your speed has already been detected. However if the radar was on a vehicle ahead of yours, you will be notified so you can take proper action. For this to work your radar detector must have a sensitive K-band sensor.

Smartphone Compatibility

Just like most electronic devices today, radar detectors can be integrated with an iPhone or Android phone. These apps provide alerts which other users have provided. There are also apps which note areas where other drivers have encountered speed traps so you can prepare.

False Alerts

Even the best radar detector can send out false alerts, and this usually happens when a non-speed detector device is on a similar frequency as your detector. False alerts can be very irritating and it often happens with detectors that offer sensitive coverage. This is the reason why smart and learning systems are preferable.

Warning System

Some radar detectors notify you if the signal comes from the back or front of your car, and also how powerful the signal is. Others can even tell you which radar band the signal is from and what type of detector gun is used.

Emergency Vehicle Notification

This feature sends out a visual and audio warning if there is a medical, police or fire emergency vehicle approaching.

Safety Warning System

 A safety warning system notifies you if there is an accident, railroad crossing, highway construction and other dangerous road conditions ahead. This is a standard feature in advanced radar detectors.

RDD Blocking

Radar detector detectors will be blocked with this feature.

Safety Camera Database

Also called a red light camera database, this is common in GPS radar detectors as it can track red light camera locations in the US (and in some models Canada too). With this feature you will be notified immediately if you’re headed to an area where these cameras are present.

Some radar detectors have this database built in while others require you to download them off the Internet. Even if the database is preinstalled in the device, you need an Internet connection to keep the content up to date.

Accelerometer Logic

An accelerometer disables the radar detector when you’re driving slowly or your vehicle is not moving since you don’t have to worry about radar guns.

Volume Automation

cheap radar detectors require you to manually adjust the volume. The better models have an automatic adjustment feature so it will make up for other noises like the radio.

Spectre and VG2 Protection

These notify you when the cops have radar detector detectors (RDD). Spectre in particular is very effective in detecting speeding vehicles, but with Spectre protection you’ll be shielded. The more advanced radar detectors also protect you from VG2 with what is called Invisible Protection.

A word about RDDs: these radar detector detectors were developed by the police specifically to work against these devices. They work by sensing the oscillations generated by these detectors and notify the authorities they are being used. However there are now radar detectors that can evade these.

VG-2 is a widely used RDD technology and what it does is detect oscillations in one frequency band. The majority of radar detectors can protect you from VG-2. Spectre is a more powerful RDD as it works on multiple frequency bands. There are some radar detectors that offer Spectre protection but not all do, so make sure yours does if you need it.

GPS and Radar Detectors

GPS enhanced radar detectors determine where your vehicle is and how fast you’re driving, all the while using the GPS network. Ordinary radar detectors do not know how fast you’re going but GPS enabled units can, which is why they’re more effective. You can also adjust GPS sensitivity, cutting back the need to constantly switch between high and city modes.

Some GPS radar detectors notify you if you’re over the speed limit, and they also remember areas where you tend to speed up and inform you. If you’re headed to a place where there is a sudden speed limit drop, the GPS detector can inform you so you can take proper action.

You can also program the device so it will remind you of areas where there are speed cameras and red lights. Some of these devices also have downloadable content so the database is always up to date.

Are Radar Detectors Legal?

As per the Communications Act law, radar detectors are legal to use in private vehicles in the US except in the District of Columbia, Virginia and all military bases. In every other state however, you can use radar detectors as long as the vehicle is yours.

Radar detectors should not be confused with radar jammers. While radar detectors are used to alert a driver of speed limits and road hazards, a radar jammer deliberately releases a signal which hampers the ability of a radar gun to determine your speed. Radar jammers are illegal everywhere in the US.

Radar Detector Myths and Facts

  • Myth: Radar Detectors Encourage Speeding

It may in a few cases, but most of the time it actually discourages a driver from speeding. Because these devices will alert you of the areas where speed cameras and taps are installed, your instinct is to slow down when you approach those areas, effectively making the job of police officers easier.

  • Myth: Radar Detectors Make Drivers More Dangerous

Again the opposite is true. Radar detectors make drivers more conscious of how fast they are driving as they will be notified instantly. Second, these devices also alert drivers of road construction, accidents and if there are emergency vehicles nearby. If anything, these devices will make a driver more careful.

  • Myth: Radar Detectors Do Not Function in Poor Weather Conditions

Well-designed radar detectors are not affected by the weather. Low quality models may suffer some sensitivity loss, but the high quality ones won’t have that kind of problem.

Conclusion

Having the best radar detector is not an excuse to drive recklessly. In fact it serves to do the opposite as it’s going to make you more conscious of how fast you’re going. When you have one of these, chances are it’s going to turn you into a more responsible driver, and save you speeding tickets and violations.

  • Updated April 2, 2017
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