One of the most popular and convenient safety features for vehicles are rear view cameras. If you're considering adding a rear view camera system to your car, there are three primary types to consider: wired camera systems, smartphone based systems, and wireless backup cameras. Each system has its pros and cons, and in the end, your choice will come down to factors such as price, quality, and convenience.
Wired backup camera systems are known for their reliability and high picture quality, but they aren't the most convenient type of system on the market due to the installation process. If you're not a seasoned car love or DIYer you'll likely need to hire a professional to wire your car or truck if it's not already setup to accommodate a rear view camera. This can be a bit of a hassle, as well as expensive, particularly if you have a larger, longer vehicle like an RV (Click here for a tutorial on installing a backup camera on an RV). However, many drivers opt to go with a wired system because of its other benefits.
Pros of a Wired Backup Camera System
- More Reliable. Unlike wireless cameras, you don't have to worry about signal interference or the strength of your connection. Your backup camera is permanently connected to the monitor screen, which means you'll always get a crisp, clear picture.
- Better Quality Picture. Because a wired camera has a direct connection to the screen in your car, the picture quality will be considerably better than a camera with a wireless connection. The wiring can handle more data and can receive the image quicker than a wireless camera, resulting in a focused and sharp picture. You will see exactly what's going on behind you for maximum safety.
- Peace of mind. No matter what the weather outside you can always expect a clear signal and uninterrupted video.
- More options. Wired backup camera systems have been around for a while. Although they are intrusive most shops will be familiar with them, and many can integrate directly into your trucks existing systems! (Click here to check out the process for installing a backup camera on an F-150)
Cons of a Wired Backup Camera System
- More Difficult to Install. To install a wired backup camera, you'll have to run the wiring through the entire vehicle, from the back where the camera is to the front of the car where the monitor will be mounted by the dashboard. You can certainly try to tackle this task yourself, as the camera will come with detailed installation instructions, but the installation process can prove to be overwhelming to some consumers. For drivers who aren't handy or don't like "do-it-yourself" projects, it might be better to hire a professional.
- Higher Cost. Because the quality is higher, wired rearview cameras are usually more expensive than their wireless counterparts. The higher cost not only applies to the camera system and wiring itself, but it also carries over into the installation cost as well, should you choose to go that route.
Wireless Rear View Camera Systems
wireless backup cameras don't require any wires to set up or operate. Simply install the camera and keep the monitor by the driver's seat or integrate it with your system to get a good view of what's behind your vehicle. The drawbacks of a wireless system, though, include occasional lapses in signal strength and picture quality.
Pros of Wireless Rear View Camera Systems
- Easy To Install. Installing a wireless rear view camera couldn't be any easier. Installation takes around 5 minutes and can be accomplished by anyone, even drivers who aren't tech savvy. People who drive longer vehicles like trucks or RVs often prefer wireless cameras because of how easy the installation of a wireless system is compared to how complicated a wire installation can be on a longer vehicle or set up. But again, the difficulty really comes down to how handy you are.
- Cheaper. A wireless system almost always will cost less than a wired one. Wireless cameras require less equipment (no wires, for one), which helps keep their cost down.
- Technologically Advanced. A wireless system is more "high tech" than a wired one. If you prefer a technologically advanced gadget for your car, go wireless. Some wireless backup cams can even be integrated into a navigation system.
Cons of Wireless Rear View Camera Systems
- Not a Bulletproof Connection. Many wireless backup cameras use an analog signal, which is prone to static or signal drops. Picture a baby monitor, for example. Sometimes, there is interference that results in a poor picture. Some wireless rear view cameras offer a digital signal, which is more reliable but still subject to issues from time to time. This isn't a deal breaker for most people, but for someone who wants 110% reliability a wired system will be the way to go.
- Poorer Picture Quality. When the backup camera sends image data to the monitor wirelessly, there's always a chance for interference, lag, or a loss of overall picture quality depending on the signal strength. Some days, the picture will seem quite clear, but others, you might find yourself viewing a fuzzy or pixilated image. You'll still be able to get a general idea of what's behind you, but if you're backing into a tight space, you might find yourself wanting a bit more detail or clarity in the picture. Weather can also play a big factor, again, in a middle of a snowstorm, you might not want to be thinking about picture quality.
Smartphone Wireless Backup Cameras
Some wireless backup cameras come with a monitor screen to display by your dashboard, but others come with only a camera and allow you to use your smartphone to display the video feed.
- Easy To Install. A wireless backup camera that works with your phone is easy to install. Just follow the simple instructions that come with the camera to install the app on your phone.
- Better Quality Picture. In addition, your phone likely has an HD screen, so a smartphone backup camera will provide a clear picture as long as the signal is strong.
- Drains Phone Battery. While using your smartphone as a backup camera is extremely convenient, doing so will drain your phone's battery relatively quickly.
- Inconsistent connection. The major trade off we've heard of is that the connection tends to be the worse of the three options. Super easy when it works, but worth a darn when it's not.
- You get what you pay for. Unfortunately a raft of cheap "smartphone" compatible backup cameras have flooded the market. Because manufactures know they're cashing into a lower price point and less technically savvy audience, they cut corners where they can.
- Possible Incompatible Tech. In addition, many drivers like to use their tablets because of the bigger screen, but some brands of backup camera are not supported on tablets.
- Increased risk of theft. Anytime you introduce more harnesses or tech into the cabin, you could probably expect a higher danger of theft. This isn't a big issue if you're out in the country, but can be downright risky in the city. We've heard plenty of stories of people just forgetting their phones in their car only to come back to a broken window as well. (Though that's just plain forgetfulness.)
Weighing Your Options
There are a number of things to consider when shopping for a backup camera, from features to price point. It's helpful if you first decide whether you want a wired or wireless system. If you're looking for proven reliability and a more permanent solution, a wired system is probably the way to go, but a wireless system is also a good option for drivers who are on a tighter budget or are looking for a quicker and easier solution.