Let’s face it, speeding tickets are the worst. There you are, happily minding your own business with the music blaring and the wind rushing through your hair, and then it happens. You know, those familiar red and blue strobe lights advancing on your position as you suddenly realize you’re driving nearly 15 miles over the speed limit. No matter what excuses you offer up, however, the mustachioed police officer stares back at you, emotionless, while writing you a ticket before wishing you a good day. A speeding ticket makes the best days turn sour with the snap of a finger.
However, what if you knew the exact location of a speed trap miles before you reached it? Not only could you avoid tarnishing your driving record, but you could also save yourself hundreds of dollars in speeding tickets. Luckily, there’s an extensive selection of radar detectors on the market, many of which tap into the latest speed camera databases or learn the location of potential traps on the fly. What follows are our picks for the best radar detectors available to any and all drivers.
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The Escort Max 360 is the spendiest detector on our list, and for good reason. This windshield-mounted lookout is packed with nearly every feature available on a radar detector today, including dual antennas, directional arrows that point out threats, and smartphone compatibility to help you network with other speedsters in your area. At the heart of the device lies a powerful digital signal processor (DSP), which uses a microchip to automatically recognize and prioritize radar bands typically used by law enforcement, ensuring that random signals from automatic doors and blind spot detection systems don’t interrupt your commute. In addition, the 360 boasts a GPS-powered AutoLearn feature that cuts down on false alerts by logging frivolous emissions and ignoring them the next time you drive by. If cost is no issue, the Escort Max 360 is the radar detector you need.
There is one downside to the device though, and we’re not talking about price. Ironically, the directional arrows that set the 360 apart from the pack can be slow to respond if you or the radar source moves, meaning the 5-0 could actually be behind you while the 360 is still pointing to the left. If you don’t want to bother with that, consider the cheaper Escort Passport Max2, which features essentially the same DSP chip as the Max 360 and offers nearly all of its features and overall responsiveness. In the end, though, the 360 is still the quickest, most accurate, and most feature-packed radar detector we’ve ever tried at DT. For more information and full specs, check out our full review here.
Though the interface and display on Valentine One’s Radar Locator looks like it’s from the ’90s (Because, well, it is), the product is one of the best radar detectors on the market. Packed with two radar antennas, impressive range, and laser detection, the Valentine helps keep your driving record clean as a whistle. Perhaps the device’s greatest feature is its directional notifications of upcoming radar signals. While nearly every other radar detector on the market merely alerts the driver of radar signals in the local area, Valentine One’s model informs the driver of the exact direction the radar signal is coming from. Utilizing a front and rear radar antenna, drivers cam see exactly where a speed reading is coming from and what kind of band is in use. If the arrow on the top activates and the Ka category lights up, then it’s assumed a police speed trap lies ahead. You’ll know you’ve passed the speed trap once the arrow pointing down lights up. No other radar detector features this kind of accuracy, and as you might expect, it’s what sets Valentine One’s model apart from the crowd.
Even a radar detector as impressive and helpful as the Valentine One Radar Locator comes with a few annoyances. While not completely damning of the product as a whole, it does tend to overachieve when it comes to searching for radar signals — even non-police radars have the tendency to set off the device. However, such a hiccup on an otherwise great product shouldn’t steer you away from making it your go-to radar detector. In fact, most people would rather have a radar that overcompensated at its job than one which fails to alert you of even the most obvious of speed traps. The device also gives you the ability to turn off the X or K band detectors, though proceed with caution as some police officers still use the lesser-utilized K band from time to time. With reliable, straightforward alerts and its unique arrow display system, the Valentine One Radar Locator is at the top of its class.
The GT-7 is arguably the best-looking radar detector on the market right now, but Beltronics’ flagship is much more than an attractive windshield ornament. Bolstered by a powerful digital processor, the GT-7 acts like a bouncer for radio signals, kicking false alerts to the curb to make sure every chime and whistle you hear comes from a legitimate law enforcement source. The most common bands used by the 5-0 are generally X, K, Ka, and laser, by the way.
Beltronics is owned by Escort, and consequentially many of the features showcased on the Passport Max2 and Max 360 are available on the GT-7. For example, the device is compatible with the Escort Live ticket protection app — which tracks speed trap and other high-risk locations in your area — while also granting access to a red light and speed camera directory called the Defender Database.
The GT-7 is essentially a plug and play product, but the user experience can be tailored to the individual driver’s needs. Three different modes of operations are available — Highway, Auto, and No X — each of which adjusts sensitivity and range based on a variety of parameters. The Auto setting is quite clever though, as it logs the types of signals it’s detected most recently and instinctively adjusts sensitivity in response. Furthermore, the quick and accurate GT-7 offers “Over-Speed” alerts to let the driver know when he or she has passed a pre-set velocity, assuring that you slow yourself down before the flashing lights appear in your rearview. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say.
More info about the GT-7 can be found at our full review right here.
Until the Max 360 came out, the Passport Max2 was the range-topping radar detector in the Escort catalog. It lacks the directional arrows of its more expensive sibling, but its innards are effectively the same as the Max2, making it a fantastic representation of essential radar detector capability.
The Max2 has your back so long as the police use X-band, K-band, Ka-band, or laser frequencies (the last two are commonly utilized at speed traps), and its DSP technology allows it to locate the signals quickly without being overly sensitive. Furthermore, the Escort uses a built-in GPS chip to keep track of red-light and speed cameras in your area, and the device will alert you if you approach one whether your have your smartphone paired to the device or not.
However, if you do want to use your phone to avoid tickets, you can. The Max2 uses Bluetooth to pair with Escort Live, a free application available for both iOS and Android devices. Escort Live displays a map of your location with markers for red light and speed cameras, user-submitted speed traps, and other high-risk areas, also allowing you to submit your own. Check out our full review of the Max2 and all of its features here.
The Escort radar detectors on this list come in as the most expensive of the bunch, but they back up the premium price with a set of high-performance and impressive features. First off, the Escort RedLine Radar Detector supposedly boasts the ability to alert you of X, K, and Ka frequencies from nearly 15 miles away. In a more realistic driving setting, with natural weather and changing road conditions, the RedLine consistently alerts users of the same frequencies from more than five miles away. Very few radar detectors come standard with better range, and most run substantially more expensive than the RedLine — which also isn’t the cheapest at $500. In an effort to reduce false alarms, Escort outfitted the RedLine with its exclusive AutoMode, giving it the ability to recognize when a false alarm might be triggered. The company additionally equipped the radar detector with its Total Shield technology, helping shield the RedLine from any radar detector detectors, including top-of-the-line offerings such as the VG-2 and Spectre.
Escort also makes the RedLine’s alert less annoying with the ability to turn on its AutoMute function. With AutoMute on, the RedLine device automatically reduces its alert volume after initially sending out an alert at your desired volume. The feature helps keep you in the know of nearby speed traps without piercing your ears every few seconds. The RedLine package also includes a patented SmartPlug power cord, a welcome component which gives you the ability to control the device without having to reach for it on your dash. The SmartPlug cord allows for up to eight programmed features, including the Mute and AutoMute modes. In addition to the device’s simplicity while operating a vehicle, the RedLine radar detector is also a breeze to mount. It easily attaches to your windshield with the bundled quick-release mount and suction cups, and moreover, comes off just as quick. With all of its bells and whistles, the RedLine Radar Detector is more than capable at helping you avoid unwanted speeding tickets.
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Whistler’s CR90 Laser Radar Detector is the lone budget detector featured on this list, though it still packs a competent punch. Like the RedLine, the CR90 mounts to your windshield with ease and doesn’t take up much space once mounted. The clear, blue LED display makes reading the detector easy even if the detector is several feet away or you’re driving in sunny or bright conditions. Whistler installed the device’s GPS antenna within the body of the device, allowing users to avoid using a plug-in USB attachment. GPS is especially useful in modern radar detectors as it allows devices to more accurately read a vehicle’s speed, travel direction, and location. It also allows for the device to recognize red light and speed cameras, though you would need to keep the device updated with the latest red light camera databases.
One area where the CR90 really shines is with its impressive set of intuitive features. Whistler outfitted the CR90 with its Traffic Flow Signal Rejection, a features designed to recognize radars deployed by transportation departments. Once the device recognizes these low-powered radars, it disregards them to avoid triggering a false alarm — which is especially helpful if you do ample city driving and want to avoid hearing your radar detector beep at every turn. Another helpful feature of the CR90 is Whistler’s Ka band Radar Signal Identification feature. With Ka RSID activated, the device actively verifies where Ka band radars come from, and whether they originated from a police radar gun or a non-threatening source. Non-threats show up differently on the CR90’s display than real threats, so you have the ability to quickly distinguish whether you’re advancing on a speed trap or something else entirely. The device also allows you to tinker with its laser detection settings, thus letting you limit the amount of false alarms triggered by non-police radar signals. With the amount of customizable options, and an inexpensive price tag to boot, Whistler’s CR90 is a remarkable radar detecting device.
The Cobra XRS 9970G is a jack-of-all-trades detector featuring a laundry list of benefits and features. For starters, Cobra touts Super-Xtreme Range Superheterodyne Technology, which has the ability to detect all 15 radar and laser bands while using incredibly fast, lock-on detection. What’s more, it even protects against Spectre I and VG-2 radar detector detectors, allowing it to remain invisible while operating in your vehicle. Cobra even outfitted the model with an advanced GPS Locator designed to alert drivers of upcoming speed traps, red light cameras, and dangerous intersections. It also provides lifetime updates to the AURA database, providing others with the locations of speed traps, speed and red light camera locations, and dangerous intersections daily. With this kind of coverage, you’ll never head out for a road trip uninformed.
Different from any other detector on this list, the XRS 9970G features a full-color touchscreen interface. Not only is the screen easy-to-read and navigate, but setting up the radar detector takes just a matter of minutes. You can set up the detector’s display colors to match your dashboard, select which bands you want alerts for, or turn on Auto Mute with just a few swipes of your finger. With more than 20 separate features to tinker with, you have everything at your disposal to completely customize the XRS 9970G to your liking. Want to get alerts for when your car battery starts running low? Turn on the Car Battery Voltage Display and never get surprised by a non-starting car. The XRS 9970G even gives you advanced warnings of when emergency vehicles are nearby or advancing toward your location. With the wealth of information readily available at your fingertips, it’s clear Cobra’s XRS 9970G is more than just a tool to avoid a speeding ticket or two.
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Escort’s Passport 9500ix’s feature list looks strikingly similar to the other radar detectors on this list. It’s capable of detecting each band of speed enforcement radar, it uses a programmable GPS which alerts you of hidden speed traps or cameras, and uses an alert system which won’t become annoying over time. But where the Passport 9500ix distances itself from the pack is with it’s revolutionary AutoLearn function and TrueLock feature. With its AutoLearn function the 9500ix continuously scans for radar signals and records its signal frequency with its GPS location. If the frequency sets off a false alarm three times in a certain area, the device designates it as a false alarm area and only alerts the driver with a single beep during future passes. AutoLearn also unlocks certain areas once it stops picking up specific frequencies from its location. Fewer false alarms allows you to focus more on driving than constantly worrying about tripping a radar signal.
Piggybacking off of its AutoLearn function is the Passport 9500ix’s TrueLock filter. Using its GPS technology, the TrueLock filter allows you to manually designate false alarms on the device itself. If an automatic door opener triggers your radar detector, for instance, simply push the Mute button three times and the device records the false alarm’s exact GPS location and ignores it in the future. What’s more is if an actual radar signal threat occurs in the same location, the device is smart enough to recognize its threat level and quickly alerts the driver of the signal.
Not only can the Passport learn false alarms, but it also lets you program speed traps, speed cameras, and red light cameras. Whenever you pass by a well-hidden speed trap, simply push the Mark button on the device and tell the Passport 9500ix which kind of threat it is. Next time you approach the specific location, the device alerts you of the programmed threat up to a mile before you reach it. To help with the locations of various traps, Escort also includes three free months of updates from its robust database of speed cameras, red light cameras, and speed traps in North America. With its AutoLearn, TrueLock, and Mark functions, the Passport 9500ix proves itself as one of the smartest radar detectors on the market.
Updated on 4/15/2016 by Andrew Hard: Added Escort Max 360, Escort Passport Max2, and Beltronics GT-7.