Many people look for a radar detector to avoid getting speeding tickets, but trying to figure out which one is the best can be confusing and in some states they are even illegal. You also have manufacturers that make all sorts of claims and use high-tech terminology to try to make the case that their detector is the best. The two most important capabilities users should look for include the detection ability on all bands and range. Other features you might want include GPS, red light camera warnings, easy-to-use controls, stealth technology to avoid radar detector detectors, and the ability to limit false alarms. If you need more help see our radar detector buying guide
For these devices you truly get what you paid for. So, if you want the absolute best performance you will need to pay between $400-$600. While there are options below $100, many of them perform quite poorly and might only be worth it in very specific situations.
When comparing and rating different models we tried to gather real-world user reviews and test cases in which each model is tested under the exact same circumstances. We compiled all this data to come up with our list of the best radar detectors and review each below.
Our choice for the best overall radar detector is the Escort Passport Max which costs about $535. Escorts latest and greatest model offers total protection including super long range detection and great reduction in false alarms. It is very sensitive and can detect far away radar guns, but even more impressive is its ability to detect sneaky instant-on radar signal bursts. It also uses digital signal processing to block out false positives. Equipped with GPS it also alerts you to red light cameras and can learn where false signals exist, thus blocking them out. It also uses speed sensitivity meaning it increases sensitivity at higher speeds where false signals are less frequent and decreasing sensitivity at slower speeds that are normal in city driving.
There are several different modes for users from Novice to Expert and four meter modes which allow you to set up how you want the detector to work. It uses an OLED display to show the band and signal strength when detected and can use tones or voice alerts.
Users should be aware that this dash mounted detector is not invisible and should not be used to beat radar detector detectors.
The Escort RedLine is our choice for the best invisible radar detector with a price of about $500. It offers the best range of any model except perhaps the Passport Max while also being invisible to radar detector detectors. Using dual radar antennae, it can detect radar, especially in the Ka band, even in the most difficult environments. The controls are very basic with alerts shown on a red LED screen, in addition to spoken warnings and beeps. It also has a Dark Mode to remain invisible at night.
The main drawback of this unit is that it does not have GPS built in. However, you can use Escort Live, a smart phone app that works with the RedLine allows it to function as if it had GPS thus reducing false positives.
We highly recommend this model if you need an undetectable radar detector. However, if you don’t need to remain invisible then we would recommend the Escort Passport Max for its features or the Valentine One for its more affordable price.
However, the one negative seems to be the number of false alarms. It is not GPS capable so it does not have a database or learning capabilities to block out false signals. So it can get a bit annoying at times, but users can still figure out which signals are not from police based on the directional arrows along with the type of signal displays.
On the downside, in addition to no GPS, there are no voice alerts on this unit.
We recommend this model for users who want great performance, but can’t spend over $300 for this type of device.
We chose the Beltronics Vector V955, $185, as our best budget radar detector. It is much cheaper than the pricier models on this list, but make no mistake this thing still performs. While it does not provide the same range as other top units, it still functions adequately for detecting most signals including X, K, Ka, and laser. The internal computer constantly analyzes signals to filter out false alarms, but they still show up more than the more expensive models. It does provide spoken alerts, along with beeps and readouts on a red text display.
There is no GPS on the V955 or smart phone compatibility so it will not be able to remember false alarms or red light camera locations.
The Cobra XRS9370 is our choice for best radar detector under $100. Once you get into this price range, the quality of the device makes it really questionable if it is even worth it. This model is one of the best sellers on Amazon, while still getting decent reviews including a 3.9 rating out of 5. It does detect all bands including laser, but it is inferior to the detection of the top models on this list. The range is also really lacking, although it is OK for flat highway driving. There is also no special features like GPS, text display, or false signal rejections systems.
This is about the only model we would recommend in this price range, and only recommend it if your budget is limited.
Radar Detector Buying Guide
The first thing everyone has to understand when looking for a new detector is how do police radar guns work. They send a beam of high frequency radio waves in the microwave range at a vehicle to determine the speed. The bands used in the US are X (8 to 12 GHz), K (18 to 27 GHz), and Ka (27 to 40 GHz). However, the X band is becoming much less common and it is also the same band that is used in shopping markets’ automatic door openers which can set off false positives on your detector. The newest and fastest growing form of detecting speed is laser, also known as LIDAR. LIDAR uses a narrower beam which works better at longer range and only has to be on for less than a second to work.
Radar detectors work by listening for radio waves on the most common bands and many now include LIDAR sensors to detect laser. If they detect a signal they alert the driver with noise and many display which band and the signal strength so you can slow down if needed. It is important to get one sensitive enough that it excels at detecting all bands, especially the Ka band which is the hardest to detect.
Long-range radar detection is extremely important or else what good are they to you? The range will be affected by the environment such as being in the city, on a straight stetch of freeway, and on a hill or curve. The best units can detect signals from 2000 to up to 4000 feet away even in terrain that makes it more difficult like hills or an urban environment.
False alarms or false positives are when your detector goes off, but it is not caused by police radar. This can be frustrating if you are constantly getting false alarms and it can be hard to distinguish when you actually are getting police radar. The best units limit these false positives, or at least have different settings that can be used in the city when false alarms are more likely.
In some states using a radar detector is illegal. Police use radar detector detectors (RDD) to catch people using them. A few models now inlude stealth technology which makes them nearly impossible to detect.
GPS enabled units offer additional features that many people find useful. They use a database (which can be updated with a subscription) to alert you to red light and speed cameras. Some are also smart – they can learn where non-police signals are and lock those signals out to give you less false alarms.
If you want the best protection then we recommend spending the most money you can afford to get a model that will easily detect the all bands including LIDAR from as far away as possible. We also recommend getting a radar detector with GPS capabilities to reduce false alarms and alert you to red light cameras.