A good wireless backup camera gives you increased visibility and accident avoidance when reversing without the complications of trying to run cable all through your car, truck, or RV.
There are models to suit all budgets -- but if you're not sure about the details, choosing the best camera for your vehicle can be challenging. Models vary in their screen size, resolution, mounting method, and other features.
We've put together a concise buying guide and have included a few recommendations:
Considerations when choosing wireless backup cameras
Backup cameras have been around for a while, but older systems were wired. The first wireless models used radio frequency (RF) signals, but their images were prone to interference from all kinds of sources. Modern models use WiFi signals which, in theory, shouldn't suffer from interference at all over short distances.
Weatherproofing is crucial, and you should look for independently tested models, most of which have ingress protection (IP) ratings of IP68 or IP69. They will also have an operating range -- the highest and lowest working temperatures.
Most systems come with a monitor. Monitor sizes range from 4.3 inches through 5 inches, though some models for use in rigs measure up to 7 inches. There are three choices of camera position. Some fit through a small hole in the rear of your vehicle, others fit onto or replace the license plate mount (perhaps the most popular). Those designed for large RVs and trailers have brackets for bolting to parts of the chassis or bodywork.
A few don't actually provide monitors but instead link to your smartphone or tablet. The argument against them is that they tie up your phone -- which is true, but only while you're reversing.
Most monitors have a resolution of 720p, which may seem quite low when compared to many devices. However, it's perfectly adequate for a backup camera. A number of 1080p models are available, though these are often more expensive.
Mounting options: You'll want to check how the monitor is mounted. Many offer dash or windshield options. Also, some models that link to your phone don't provide a mount, so you'll need to purchase one separately.
Automatic on/off: Usually the camera comes on when you engage reverse. A few need to be turned on and off manually.
Parking grid: A parking grid is usually provided to make your life easier, and some can be adjusted. Most models allow you to turn off this feature.
LED lighting: Small LEDs surround some cameras, providing extra lighting at night. However, your standard taillights are usually enough. If the price is competitive, it's a useful feature to have, but we wouldn't pay extra for it.
In general, wireless backup cameras are very affordable. The cheapest wireless backup cameras cost between $40 and $50 and offer a good range of features -- though their monitors are restricted to 4.3 inches and signal stability can vary. Systems with higher-quality hardware and 5-inch monitors run from $80 to $130, and multiple camera setups for big rigs start around $200 and can reach up to $500.
Q. Are wireless backup cameras completely cable free?
A. Not quite. The camera needs power, usually taken from your rear light circuit. Monitors -- where provided -- usually plug into your 12V DC socket (cigarette lighter). The signal between the two is wireless, so you don't need to run cable through your vehicle.
Q. Do wireless backup cameras cope well with bad weather?
A. The signal is unlikely to be interrupted (unless the camera is actually underwater). As we mentioned, cameras do have an operating range, so if you live where climate can be extreme, you may want to check.