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Cheap Radar Detectors Buying Guide

Radar detectors are designed to pick up police radar signals that may lie ahead on the road where you're driving. Ideally, you get enough advance warning to adjust your speed to the legal limit before the radar gun picks up your vehicle.

The benefits of this device are obvious: you save the time and hassle of getting a speeding ticket while keeping your driving record clean. The major manufacturers of radar detectors are Whistler, Cobra, and Beltronics.

While a handful of detectors have proven their mettle, the majority of radar detectors exceed most frugal consumers' budgets. High-end models, which start at around $400, are usually packed with lots of features like GPS support, false-alarm prevention, and alerting you to red-light cameras. These costly models generally pick up fewer false alarms and tend to be more accurate. Indeed, many experts and users claim that in this product category at least, you get what you pay for. In other words, cheap radar detectors are more cut and dried and just not as reliable. Still, we found several detectors costing less than $200 that are rated highly by consumers and experts.

The features to look for in a top rated radar detector are range, alert control, false alarm prevention, mounts, and band support. Range is the most important because it relates to how far away the detector can pick up a signal. False-alarm control enables the detector to distinguish between a false alarm and a reliable radar signal. The mount is essential because an improperly placed detector won't pick up a radar signal as quickly. Alert control indicates how the detector alerts the driver to an upcoming radar gun; if a detector has no audio alert, you could miss the notification altogether. Finally, the band support for each product is different, and each state uses different types of radar. It's important to identify which bands (i.e., the type of signal emitted by the radar gun directed at a vehicle) your state uses and then make sure the radar detector supports them before hitting the road.

A detector is only as good as its reliability. The top rated radar detectors that we found are the Beltronics Vector 955 (starting at $139) and the Whistler XTR-695SE (starting at $152). Users and experts generally say that the Vector 955 is one of the best values in the radar detection field; it scores high in field tests and remains an amazing deal for its price point. The Whistler XTR-695SE also tests very well with users and experts, and boasts a feature that lets you plug the unit into an audio system for better alert notice.

Other good cheap radar detectors we added to our list are the Cobra XRS 9955 (starting at $163) and the Cobra XRS 9945 (starting at $122). Both Cobras sport similar features, as they're siblings in build; the XRS 9945, however, includes optional support for GPS features, such as red-light camera detection.

We also came across a model you might want to speed by: the Rocky Mountain Radar RMR-C435 (starting at $125). Users and experts agree that claims attesting to the RMR-C435's ability to scramble a laser radar signal are not backed by evidence. It frequently has failed field tests, making it one of the least useful detectors in the low-price range.

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