The 8 Best Wireless Backup Camera Kits
Look Back By Looking Forward
When asked about potential investigations into — or criminal prosecution against — George W. Bush and various members of his cabinet in the fallout of the 2008 financial collapse, then-President Barack Obama maintained a stance that he would not look backward. Instead, he argued that the proper focus of the nation and his government would be the road ahead.
Regardless of what you think either administration was able to achieve in their 16 combined years of rule, you’d probably agree that reverse engineering that metaphor — implying that, when behind the wheel, it’s best not to look back — could have disastrous consequences for you, other drivers, and pedestrians.
The inability to clearly see what’s going on behind your vehicle is particularly dangerous if you own a van, minivan, SUV, or truck. The heights of these vehicles and their window placement allow children and small animals to effectively disappear behind them. Between 2000 and 2007, more than 600 children were killed by unintentional backovers in the United States alone. The majority of those deaths occurred in children under five years of age.
Even if you somehow have a guaranteed way to keep children from congregating behind your car, you still have to deal with one of the most anxiety-inducing roadway experiences of them all: parallel parking. This is the part of the driver’s license test that gives new drivers and their parents night terrors, and for good reason.
Today’s cars are built to absorb a maximum amount of impact before the energy therefrom can reach any of the vehicle's passengers. Because of this, even slight damage to a car’s bumpers — which used to be nearly indestructible — can now result in hundreds of dollars in cosmetic and practical repairs.
With the added vantage point of a properly installed backup camera, you can keep the neighborhood kids from getting crushed, while also safeguarding your bank account against repair costs and insurance rate hikes if you're a lousy parker.
Most manufacturers of large automobiles now include backup cameras as a standard safety features. If your car doesn’t have such a feature, you can purchase and rather easily install one of the great wireless backup camera kits from our selection.
How Wireless Backup Cameras Work
Your first concern when considering a wireless backup camera may be the fact that your car doesn’t have any kind of dashboard display to show you what your camera sees. If you’ve been inside a vehicle with a dealer-installed backup cam, you probably noticed that it connects to a large monitor that doubles as a control panel for everything from navigation to media management.
You’ll be relieved to hear that you don’t need a car with a built-in television to enjoy the benefits of a wireless backup camera. Wireless backup camera kits all come with some form of monitor, so you can set your system up however you like.
These kits all include cameras that are designed to install almost invisibly on the back of your vehicle. Most mount on or around the area where you hang your license plate, and are small enough that they won’t become easy targets for thieves looking to make a quick buck with a screwdriver. Just be sure that you don’t cover up any important information on your license plate, like registration stickers, as this can get you pulled over and ticketed.
Once installed on the back of your vehicle, a backup camera usually draws its power from the wires leading to your reverse taillights. That way, the action of putting your car in reverse actually turns the camera on, so you don’t have to worry about it draining juice from your battery when it’s not in use.
Running power to the camera itself is probably the most difficult aspect of installation, but a quick peek at your owner’s manual (which you can likely find online if you no longer have a hard copy) should give you all the information you need to know. If you’re having a hard time finding or manipulating your car’s wiring, or you’re really worried that you’ll screw something up, there’s no shame in asking your mechanic for a little assistance.
The camera will wirelessly transmit its image to the monitor, which you can install wherever you see fit. Most monitors mount easily to your dashboard and draw DC power from what was — when I was a kid — a cigarette lighter. There are models that install behind your rear view mirror, as well, giving you a small screen that you can see through its translucent glass.
Choosing Your Wireless Backup Camera
The wireless backup camera kits on our list aren’t all just for standard vehicles. Some are specifically designed to function on the backs of much larger trucks or trailers. After all, backing up a trailer of any kind is insanely difficult, so being able to see your progress on a monitor is a lifesaver.
Knowing the type of car, truck, trailer, or other vehicle on which you plan to install your camera is step one in the decision-making process. That will narrow your options down to a handful or less. For drivers with long trucks or trailers, make sure that the model you choose has a long enough wireless range to reach from the back of your rig all the way to the monitor up front.
That monitor is itself the next most important piece of a backup camera kit for you to consider. Our list consists of monitors that vary somewhat significantly in size. Some can combine with their included cameras to provide you with green, yellow, and red guidelines to help ensure you don’t back into any objects or other vehicles, and some cannot. Larger monitors are likely to allow you to focus more on the task at hand, without unconsciously rolling the car backward while straining to see their image.
Some kits also have options for expansion, allowing you to add extra cameras to the video feed and see more of the space around your vehicle. This can be especially useful on rigs with limited visibility, or in camping situations where dangerous wildlife may be just around the corner of your RV.