There are a couple different classes of radar detectors that can fit nearly any vehicle. The two main options are an aftermarket, full installation of radar detectors into your car or truck – or a more DIY method where you buy and set up a detector yourself (usually with a dashboard mount, etc.). It's common for customers to wonder which is best, so let's talk about some of the most important points.
One of the first questions that people have about radar detectors is if they really are legal. Laws vary a bit by state and even city, but in general passive detectors – which detect a variety of different speed-measuring techniques – are legal with only a couple exceptions. Active detectors – which jam signals – are illegal. Commercial detectors sold on the market are always passive, so there's not much to worry about here. There's no difference between full installations and dashboard detectors here.
Typically, a full installation will put radar detector control and information alongside your other vehicle controls and readouts, which saves on space. You'll need to find room for those that are mounted in other ways.
Generally speaking there's not much different between the two radar detector options here. However, full installations tend to be an option limited to more advanced detectors, which means they may have more features per model but fewer models that are compatible with your vehicle (based on manufacturer decisions). However, there's no significant difference in how either detector performs. In fact, the same manufacturers tend to make models for both full installations and quick DIYs.
Radar detectors with a full aftermarket installation will blend in with the rest of your vehicle equipment. Colors are matched so everything flows together. DIY must always be perched or mounted, which looks a little more awkward. This is obviously more important to some buyers than others.
Aftermarket installations are generally more expensive than dashboard mounts. We're seeing prices fall as full installation possibilities grow, but you'll probably still have to pay more. How much depends on the model of the detector and your vehicle.
If the radar detector you have your eye on has extensive app abilities, you may not need a full dashboard installation. After all, when you're going to be looking at your phone anyway, incorporated dashboard readout doesn't have much of a point.
Full installations can't usually be removed, which is problematic for older vehicles or people who plan on switching vehicles within the next few years.
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