How to Pick a Radar Detector

by William Lynch

    If you do a lot of driving, investing in a radar detector can provide peace of mind, allowing you to relax without constantly worrying about potential speed traps and lurking law enforcement. Radar detectors come in a wide range of models and styles. Laws governing radar detector use vary by state. Before making a purchase, check to make sure owning and operating a radar detector is legal in the state or states where you drive.


    Radar detectors come in three basic models: corded, cordless and remote mount. Corded detectors use suction cups to stick to your car's windshield and usually plug into the cigarette lighter. Corded detectors are the least expensive devices, starting at around $100, and are easy to install. Cordless models are slightly more expensive but allow you to move the detector between vehicles with little effort. Remote-mount detectors are typically the most expensive, with some costing more than $1000. They install directly in the vehicle, making them less noticeable to police officers or thieves.


    A radar detector's sensitivity determines how much radar activity must be present for the detector to initiate an alert. Less sensitive detectors may not be able to locate all speed traps. Highly sensitive detectors may return false hits, particularly when near residential areas with common forms of interference like automatic door openers and microwaves. Some detectors feature special city modes that reduce sensitivity when driving in urban surroundings so fewer false alerts sound.


    Even the most sensitive radar detector will be of little use if it has limited range. When used on open roads and highways, some of the top radar detectors can locate speed traps as far as 10 miles away. Weak detectors may have a range of 500 feet or less. The higher a radar detector's range, the more warning you'll have to slow down and avoid a costly ticket.

    Laser Detection

    Law enforcement agencies are now employing laser-based detection -- inaccurately named "laser radar" and known as LIDAR -- to crack down on speeders. While traditional radar beams can be several hundred feet wide, a LIDAR beam may be just a few feet wide, making it difficult for standard radar detectors to notice. If you're concerned with LIDAR, make certain to purchase a detector with laser-detection sensors. Models that include 360-degree laser detection search for laser pulses in all directions to enhance reliability.

    Other Features

    Other worthwhile radar detector features include digital voice alerts, instant-on protection, shielding technologies and social media integration. Digital voice alerts inform you what your detector has picked up, so you never have to take your eyes from the road. Instant-on protection identifies if authorities have targeted any surrounding cars with instant-on radar, which can otherwise be impossible to evade. Shielding technologies, such as VG-2 and Spectre, alert you if authorities are using RDD, or radar detector detectors. Finally, some radar detectors offer a social media component that shares radar alerts across an entire social network.

    About the Author

    William Lynch has been a freelance writer for the past fifteen years, working for various web sites and publications. He is currently enrolled in a Master of Arts program in writing popular fiction at Seton Hill University. He hopes to one day become a mystery novelist.

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