No professional ride-for-hire driver wants to draw attention to the contents of their vehicle. When your livelihood involves your car, you really don’t want to be cutting corners on vehicle surveillance.
Dash cams are a great way to increase the overall security (and safety) of your car. But, for the most part, they are designed to view outside the vehicle. It’s also no secret that they can be pretty pricey, (usually more expensive than a regular IP camera designed for home security).
‘Ｍini’ or ‘hidden’ cameras could be a way around this. They make for super subtle surveillance, which can be useful if you don’t like the idea of drawing attention to expensive security devices (or paying out of pocket for pricy setups).
But with battery lives rarely pushing past an hour, are they worth it? Read on to learn more about hidden cameras for cars, including some of our favorite devices and where to put them in your vehicle.
Can you Put a Surveillance Camera in your Car?
As a rule of thumb, there is a reasonable expectation that passengers might be recorded on video inside of an Uber, Taxi, or other vehicle for hire.
Uber explicitly allows its drivers to install and use video cameras. Lyft is less clear on its stance, instead defaulting to whatever state/city regulations say about recording devices. Laws around hidden surveillance differ country-by-country, state-by-state.
Audio recording is a much more sensitive issue, as it can quickly be considered wiretapping in most jurisdictions.
Do You Need Hidden Cameras in Cars?
Dash cams are recommended for professional drivers because they can greatly increase visibility on the road, and are useful as evidence in the event of an emergency or altercation on the road.
Unfortunately, many of these devices only have a single camera that faces outwards, so they don’t always provide video of the interior.
On the other hand, using ordinary security cameras to survey the interior would require removing it every time you weren’t in the vehicle, because it would drain the car’s battery very quickly. Not to mention, it would no doubt draw unwanted attention to your vehicle.
Hidden cameras, which are much smaller, could in theory make for a more convenient solution, especially in the context of ride for hire services.
Owing to their size, their charge is generally minimal. At most, you will get a couple of days out of a hidden camera, at worst not even an hour. Since they’d need to be plugged in all the time much like a dash cam, it’s a solution that would only really benefit those who work in their cars.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of a mixture of different discrete devices, including hidden spy cams, mini dash cams, and even a GPS tracker, that’ll help improve the security and safety of professional drivers.
Best Hidden Car Cameras for Drivers
Arebi 8C Pro 4K
Best quality hidden camera
Available on Amazon. From $59.95.
At 1.2 x 1.2 x 2.1 inches, Arebi’s 8C Pro 4K fits in the palm of the hand and is magnetically mounted, making it ready to go out of the box for many of the surfaces you’ll find in your vehicle. You can easily attach a magnet to your rear view mirror to have it clip onto it.
Despite its tiny size, it can record in up to 4K Ultra HD with a 160-degree viewing field, giving a super wide view of the car. Its battery clocks in at about 3 days per charge when in ‘motion mode’, which records only when the motion sensor is triggered, so even casual drivers may find some uses for this thanks to it only needing intermittent charging.
· MicroSD up to 256GB (not included)
· ‘Motion mode’ helps preserve battery life
· Slightly bulkier and more expensive than the circular A10 Plus
· Battery life not sufficient for 24/7 recording without being kept on charge
Garmin Dash Cam Mini 2
Smallest dash cam
Available on Garmin. From $129.99.
No bigger than a car key, Garmin’s Dash Cam Mini 2 is by far the smallest, and therefore most concealable, of its brilliant dashcams. It attaches easily to the dashboard, windshield, or rear-view mirror (do the latter to conceal it best).
It can record up to 1080p within a 140-degree view. Motion detection push notifications alert you to incidents via a linked device, voice control makes it easy to control hands free and safely, and the mini SD card slot allows you to save footage without using cloud storage.
· Motion detection push notifications
· MicroSD up to 256GB (not included)
· Much smaller than all other dashcams on the market
· Positioning it to film inside the vehicle will be awkward because the sticky mount is on the same side as the lens.
Sir Gawain Mini Spy Camera
Cheapest hidden camera
Available from Amazon. $29.99.
Hidden cameras have acquired a reputation for being gimmicky, and in all fairness, it’s a reputation they have earned deservedly. Sir Gawain sets itself apart with a line of ‘spy’ products that are actually quite capable cameras in their own right, particularly their flagship Mini Camera.
It’s a tiny device capable of up to 1080p quality, decent night vision, and even motion detection. It comes with a nifty clip mount which you can use to attach to the rear-view mirror. Thankfully, you can record while charging, because battery life is dreadful—60 minutes max, with some reviewers suggesting they couldn’t push past 25 minutes.
· Quality is strong for a ‘spy cam’
· Easy to conceal with a clip mount
· Very poor battery life, meaning it’ll need to be on charge constantly via USB.
· No audio
Best hidden dash cam with screen
Available from Street Guardian. $179.95 – $274.95.
It wouldn’t be hard for an alien to guess what ‘Street Guardian’ makes. This particularly robust dash cam definitely pushes the budget out a bit, but of the more technically impressive dash cams, it maintains an impressively small size.
Your eyes don’t deceive you: that is a LCD screen display, but don’t be fooled by the pictures. It measures just 72 x 45 x 35mm in total, and weighs 76g. Expect top-notch full 1080p HD at 60 frames per second. A built-in microphone can be used to capture audio. Add a rear cam if you want to view either outside the back of the vehicle or the interior.
· Excellent quality at up to 60FPS
· Microphone can record audio
· Rearview camera not included (costs significantly more as an add-on)
QBIT Micro GPS
This is the wildcard suggestion, because it isn’t actually a camera at all. Hear us out: this GPS tracker is by far the most subtle thing on the list, to the point where you might even lose it down the back of a car seat.
Its purpose is tracking, which is extremely important for older vehicles that don’t natively support GPS, but it also features an unnoticeable microphone. This makes it perfectly capable of audio surveillance, while hidden cameras and the majority of dashcams don’t support audio.
You can configure SOS numbers that the unit will dial after three seconds of pressing it, helping to protect drivers picking up violent or unstable passengers and allowing you to listen into audio and track your vehicle in the event of a theft.
· GPS tracking in the event of a vehicle theft
· SOS calls can be easily and subtly made
How and Where to Hide Spy Cameras in Your Car?
Although the term ‘dash cam’ implies that the best place to mount cameras in your car is on the dashboard itself, we’d recommend mounting to the very top of the windshield. A lot of windshields are tinted at the top, which makes both hidden cameras and dash cams alike blend in more seamlessly.
Similarly, attaching the camera to the rear view mirror is also recommended, guaranteeing an optimum vantage point for both interior and exterior views of the car.
Although white is a popular color for security devices in homes, it would stick out like a sore thumb in most vehicles. For cars, we’d strongly recommend only opting for black colored devices.
You can snake the camera’s wire along the roof of the car, simply taping them to the sides if the camera doesn’t come with adequate mounting tools. Feed the wire so that it runs down the very side of the windshield, not obstructing your view or getting in your way.
If 24/7 surveillance is going to be an issue because of charging, you could try purchasing a portable USB charger. These are discreet, small and portable, and can provide dozens of hours of charge. This might allow you to leave the camera on overnight without your vehicle being on.
Even though how easy a camera is to hide is probably a big pull for many consumers (particularly for drivers looking to make their journeys safer and more secure for themselves and their customers), a large part of the ‘hidden camera’ market remains littered with gimmicky spy cams.
Make no mistake: some of these will be useful devices to use for subtle surveillance, and even the dash cams we mentioned in our list are small enough to not draw a heap of attention to the vehicle.
True hidden cameras can also provide a much more financially viable option for drivers to keep an eye on things, and, thankfully, most places have pretty flexible laws on video recording in cabs. As early as 2010, the NY Post suggested about 70% of New York for-hire vehicles have cameras in them.
This content was originally published here.