With the increase in the number of speed traps, red-light cameras and even plane-mounted radar guns, a good radar detector is more valuable than ever. Thankfully, the noisy and unreliable devices from the '90s have evolved into much smarter and sleeker tools.
Modern radar detectors have track lasers, auto-learning capabilities and full-on scanner systems that can monitor multiple radar bands (X, K, Ka, and Ku are the most used frequencies). They also include GPS integration to alert you of the many speed traps and safety cameras.
Our sister site Top Ten Reviews has looked at a wide range of radar detectors and selected the best devices to make sure you never get a ticket again.
Research and action
Before buying a radar detector, it is important to check local laws and regulations. There are no federal laws banning their use. However, state laws in Virginia and Washington, D.C., outlaw the devices. Other states prohibit the use of radar detectors in commercial vehicles. Those states are Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.
For Canadians, radar detectors are only legal in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. It is also important to consider the penalties if you get caught using one illegally, from confiscation all the way up to 100-dollar fines and possible jail time.
But the devices also come with upsides, of course. Aside from the simple benefit of preventing a traffic ticket, radar detectors can help you drive more safely, too.
As far back as 1964, studies have shown that max speed is not the only culprit behind accidents. Instead, a failure to drive at the median speed of traffic, both too fast and too slow causes many crashes. With a good detector, you can go with the flow but still react to predatory police tactics before they nab you.
These devices also have speed alerts that will trigger at a set speed, ensuring you won't stray above your own driving rules. This is especially helpful on long, cross-country drives or when going down hills.
All three of these top picks will alert you to the presence of nearby emergency vehicles, making sure that you won't endanger safety workers already in the process of cleaning up an accident.
Each of these three top-ranked picks offers the benefits you would want from a radar detector. You can choose to fit your budget, driving area or common use cases. The Escort Passport Max has the most features and the longest-range detection, but will cost you.
The Escort Passport Max has the most features and the longest-range detection, but will cost you. The Escort Passport 9500ix retains that same feature set while stepping down on detection range, better for urban and suburban drivers. Finally the, Whistler C90 is the best value-priced option.
With the average speeding ticket costing you $150 dollars, your detector could quickly pay for itself. And with certain states like Georgia and Nevada giving out maximum fines of $2,000, you might be crazy not to buy one.