After 12 hours of research evaluating 30 products, we picked Escort Max 360 as our top choice.
Speed traps are the worst! You can be cruising down the road at a safe highway speed, then suddenly get pulled over by a cop for unknowingly entering a low-speed zone.
But we have a solution:
The best Radar detector is a driver's best friend in helping to determine if you're approaching a speed trap or your car is being scanned by a cop. They're fully legal in 40 of 50 states, and they can save you from an annoying traffic ticket.
The best part is:
We've done the research to find the best radar detector products on the market. If you're looking for a road travel gadget that makes your trips around the country safer and less of a hassle, you'll want to check out our list of the best radar detector reviews below.
Long-range warning on radar bands as well as lasers. Compatible with ESCORT Live, a real-time ticket-protection network.
Picks up cruise control and blind spot warnings, even with the false alarm filters.
Most users have no major complaints about this Escort radar detector, though some drivers gripe that it picks up every signal - including Walmart doors, blind spot warnings, and cruise control settings.
However, it also picks up the things you actually need, including K and Ka bands as well as lasers. It even detects POP mode signals.
This radar detector comes with standard features found on many units. There's a mute button and a screen brightness adjustment option, plus volume control and a filter that's supposed to block out false alarms (sometimes it doesn't).
This is a solid purchase that's priced somewhere in the middle when compared to similar radar detectors on our list.
Effectively captures common bands, including K, Ka, and X. Easy to install and use.
Lots of false alarms, even with the Traffic Flow Signal Rejection feature.
The Whistler CR75 works surprisingly well for a budget radar detector. It captures signals from every direction, offering 360-degree protection.
You can use this radar detector to track K, Ka, X, and laser signals. The total laser detection function identifies Laser Atlanta Stealth mode, Laser Ally, and LTI Truspeed S signals. It even captures quick radar bursts via POP Mode.
False alerts are an issue, but the device uses Traffic Flow Signal Rejection to limit this minor irritation. Choose from quiet mode, dark mode, and city mode. There is also a volume control on the side.
For less than $100, you can detect signals from bands and lasers as you speed through town. You even get a 12V power cord and windshield bracket kit.
Dark mode helps conceal your radar detector during drives, and you can easily detach the device from its mount if an issue arises. Easy to program, attach, and use.
It's expensive, especially when compared to our other faves.
Dependable and fast. This radar detector captures signals up to a fews miles away, so you can slow down way before you end up with a ticket. The 360-degree digital signal processor detects X, K, and Ka bands from every direction so you're prepared no matter where the road takes you.
Just make sure you keep some extra batteries on hand for this reliable radar detector.
As with most radar detectors, this one lets you customize your settings. Many drivers appreciate the dim option, and they also like the auto mute function. It makes each ride more peaceful.
A built-in GPS system with helpful red light camera alerts helps you plan beyond speed traps.
Priced at around $360, this radar detector costs hundreds more than some of our picks. However, it's worth the price if you're looking for a long-range radar detector.
Switch between City and Highway mode to prevent false alarms. Hides you from Spectre I radar detector-detectors and VG-2 radar detectors and picks up signals from miles away.
Overly sensitive at times; picks up sliding doors and other unimportant signals. Some users bypass this issue by deactivating the X and K bands since they're usually false alarms.
This Cobra radar detector is reliable, but it's a bit slow at times. You can pick up many bands from miles away, but some drivers complain they don't see cops until they fly by them on the highway.
This radar detector captures X, K, Ka, and L bands. You may find you need all of these notifications, but keep in mind most cops don't use X and K bands. L bands pick up laser guns used to clock your mph, and highway patrol officers usually use Ka bands.
Don't stick the included strap and suction cups on leather. It may damage the material, and it won't stay put anyway. You'll get better results mounting this radar detector to your dash or windshield.
This is a basic device with the usual features found on radar detectors: cloaking options, customizable controls, and mute and volume buttons. There's also LaserEye 360-degree detection, though drivers warn that it detects activity better from the front than the back and sides.
A VG-2 alert notifies you when VG-2 radar detectors are watching you, and a safety alert helps you prepare for railroad tracks, road hazards, and emergency vehicles. Switch between Highway mode and City mode for accurate readings -- or better yet, turn off your X and K bands. Police usually don't use those bands, so readings may come from sliding glass doors or other radar detectors.
Priced at just $70, this Cobra device is easily one of the most affordable radar detectors you'll find. It doesn't have the perks many higher-priced detectors have, but it still gets the job done.
Voice alerts help you keep your eyes on the road while the device detects X, K, Ka, and POP bands. High-resolution display lets passengers quickly and easily view notifications.
The device is somewhat bulky, and the batteries don't last long if you drive often. Drivers report getting lots of false alarms on the K and laser bands, so you may want to focus on other bands instead.
The Escort Solo S4 works well, but some drivers complain it picks up every little thing. While it's true this device picks up collision prevention devices, sliding doors, and other signals most drivers don't need, it also identifies bands from highway patrol and local police with laser guns. Turn off the K and L bands if you need a break from the false alarms.
Many drivers love the convenience of this device's cordless design, but the batteries die quickly. Keep some backup batteries on hand if you're driving a far distance.
There are 9 customizable features, and your settings are stored - even when the batteries die. You're undetectable to VG-2 systems, but other systems can still pick up your radar detector.
A bright OLED display makes it easy to identify each band the detector captures. There are also convenient voice alerts for times when you need to focus on the road instead of the easy-to-see screen.
$200 may seem a bit high, but this device pays for itself after you avoid one or two speeding tickets.
Detects all frequencies, highly sensitive to any and all radar systems, shows location of threats, displays radar/lidar band, scans for miles ahead, directional arrows make it easy to locate signals, durable, and features a sturdy metal housing.
May be too sensitive; triggered by automatic doors and car radar systems.
If you're looking for a radar detector that will pick up anything and everything, you'll love the V1! Some users complain that it's TOO sensitive, as it detects car radar systems, automatic sliding doors, and motion sensors. However, if you want to know of everything in your surroundings, this is the radar detector for you.
Not only does it detect all radar/lidar bands—including K, Ka, X, and Super Wideband Ka—but it will help you to locate the source's origin. The "bogey counter" will display the locations of all "threats" in the area, keeping you updated on everything happening around you. It delivers the fastest response time of any radar detector, and you'll be able to scan miles ahead of you to catch speed traps and hidden cops before they catch you.
The V1 is heavy, with a solid metal housing that makes it highly durable. The suction cup doesn't quite work effectively, so you may end up installing it on the dashboard instead of the windshield.
The V1 is fairly low on features: it doesn't have convenient features like auto-mute or alternative settings. There's no way to turn down the sensitivity, so you may become easily frustrated with how many unimportant signals are picked up. However, if you're driving on the highway, you'll appreciate its excellent range and sensitivity to help you locate hidden cops and speed traps.
The multi-directional arrows let you know which direction the radar signal is coming from, and the screen will display what frequency is being detected.
At just under $490, this is a fairly pricey radar detector. It's NOT intended to be used in the city, but it's an excellent device to have on the open road for cross-country/trans-state driving.
Dual antennas, excellent range, highly accurate, reliable, real-time detection, offers the ability to manually lock out unwanted signals, multi-directional locating, and easily paired with the user-friendly Live app.
You must subscribe after 60 days for access to Defender database.
If you're looking for a reliable radar detector that will alert you of police monitoring well ahead of time, you'll want to give the Escort Max 360 a try. Thanks to its omni-directional scanning, it will let you know if you're being clocked from ahead, behind, or to either side. A directional arrow will pop up to alert you to the direction.
Escort offers the Live app, which allows you to control and monitor the radar detector via your smartphone. The app has a few design flaws, but it's mostly user-friendly and simple to use. Compatible with iOS and Android and connected via Bluetooth, the app makes it easy to keep an eye on your surroundings for hidden police cars or speed traps.
The pre-installed Defender Database alerts you ahead of time of any speed traps, cameras, or approaching red lights. You'll have to pay to continue the Defender database subscription after 60 days, but it's worth it to have continued access to this information in real time. With these alerts, you'll always be able to avoid speed traps.
The dual antennas are highly effective at scanning in every direction, and the OLED screen will display the direction from which you are being scanned—not just ahead and behind, but to the right and left as well.
The Auto setting adjusts the sensitivity according to your vehicle's speed, and the Auto No X setting will block out X-band devices (garage openers, motion detectors, etc.). The Highway setting monitors the highway around you for any speed traps or radar scanners.
The radar detector can pick up all the typical police scanner frequency bands, including X, Ka, and K. It will even pick up the light used by laser guns. Thanks to the built-in GPS, you can always stay on top of traps or cops in your area no matter where you travel.
At $500, this is one of the pricier radar detectors on our list. The omni-directional scanning definitely makes it worth the cost, and you'll find it's the best radar detector to locate and identify threats.
To understand police radar, you need to understand a little bit of basic physics. Specifically, the Doppler Effect.
Wikipedia defines the Doppler Effect as “the change in frequency or wavelength of a wave in relation to an observer who is moving relative to the wave source.”
Basically, “when the source of the waves is moving towards the observer, each successive wave crest is emitted from a position closer to the observer than the previous wave. Therefore, each wave takes slightly less time to reach the observer than the previous wave. Hence, the time between the arrival of successive wave crests at the observer is reduced, causing an increase in the frequency. While they are traveling, the distance between successive wave fronts is reduced, so the waves "bunch together".
Conversely, if the source of waves is moving away from the observer, each wave is emitted from a position farther from the observer than the previous wave, so the arrival time between successive waves is increased, reducing the frequency. The distance between successive wave fronts is then increased, so the waves "spread out".”
RADAR stands for Radio Detection And Ranging. Basically, it’s designed to detect the speed-induced changes in the transmitted frequency of the sound waves of your car as it passes. The faster you’re going, the faster the soundwaves compact as you approach and expand as you drive away.
Most police radar devices work in one of two ways:
Continuously Transmitted/Constant-On (CO) – Essentially, the radar is always on, so it’s always detecting the approach of speeding vehicles. These tend to be stationary devices (speed readers) or police vehicles parked with a speed gun pointed at the road. These are harder for radar detectors to detect, and they tend to be located in concealed places.
RF-hold – Also known as instant radar, these are devices that are not permanently on, but are triggered to detect your speed. Many police radar guns are handheld devices that are RF-hold devices, that will only turn on when the police officer presses the trigger. These can only be detected when they are activated—usually, by the time your radar detector picks up the signal, the radar gun is already scanning you.
Most police scanners operate on one of three radio wave frequency bands:
X-band is the oldest of the radar bands used, but it’s being phased out in most parts of the country in favor of either K or Ka-band. The dispersion patterns tend to be very wide, and are typically reflected in many directions, giving the police a chance to cast a wide net for speeding cars. The good news for you is that the wide reflection means your radar detector has a better chance of picking up the radar transmission in time to warn you to slow down.
You know that police scanners work by measuring the Doppler distortion of sound in relation to your speed. They use the above-mentioned frequency bands to scan for any cars going too fast.
Radar detectors, however, are designed to scan for those frequency bands. Any time the radar detector picks up radio waves being fired at your car, it will warn you that you are being scanned. The warning light on the radar detector should, in theory, give you enough time to slow down before the officer scanning has a visual confirmation (or LIDAR confirmation) that you are speeding.
It’s important to understand that not all radar detectors are fully accurate. There are things that can cause false positives, including adaptive radar cruise control (common on newer vehicles) and automatic supermarket doors. These things use similar radio frequencies, which your radar detector will pick up and set off a false alarm.
Note: Many police officers will use both radar and LIDAR, also known as laser scanners. Laser scanners are much harder to detect, as they use a narrow beam of light to point directly at your vehicle to measure your speed.
Most laser and radar detectors are designed to warn you when a LIDAR or RADAR gun is being pointed at your vehicle. They pick up on the frequency of radio transmissions and light beams in order to alert you to the presence of police scanning.
GPS detectors, however, are slightly different. They offer access to a database of recorded locations of fixed cameras and speed monitors. When your vehicle’s GPS signal approaches the GPS location of these fixed cameras, they will alert you to the presence of the cameras so you have time to slow down before you get a ticket. (Bonus: they may also be able to alert you to school locations and accident blackspots).
The beauty of GPS detectors is that they help you to stay on top of all the fixed locations where you could get a ticket. You may find there are a surprising number of hidden camera locations around your city, and you could end up with many tickets every year simply because you didn’t know about the camera.
However, GPS detectors won’t be able to tell you if a police car is posted up under the next overpass or tucked around a corner.
In the United States, it is illegal to use radar detectors within Washington D.C. and Virginia. Philadelphia, New Jersey, Florida, and California all have laws that prevent you from hanging anything from your windshield, meaning you have to mount the radar detector on your dashboard or console. In the rest of the United States, there are no laws that prevent you from using radar detectors in personal vehicles.
Radar jammers, on the other hand, are illegal. It is a federal offense to use a radar jammer, and the consequences can be severe.
Laser jammers are illegal in many of the 50 states, though some states have not outlawed them.
Outside the U.S., the laws are equally varied. Most Canadian provinces outlaw radar detectors, with only British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Alberta permitting them. They’re fully legal within the UK, Italy, Russia, Ireland, and Norway, but they are fully prohibited in France, Switzerland, Austria, Portugal, Sweden, and Finland. In Germany, Poland, Denmark, and Spain, you are allowed to own a radar detector, but their use is prohibited.
If you’re looking into buying a radar detector, it’s worth knowing what sort of device works best for your vehicle and your situation.
There are three types of radar detector to choose from:
When shopping for radar detectors, there are a number of features to consider:
Laser Detection – This feature ensures that your radar detector picks up laser signals beamed at your car. It’s important to note that it will ONLY pick up signals in front of you, not from behind or to the sides.
Some radar detectors come with 360-degree laser detection, which is much pricier but far more effective at protecting you from LIDAR signals.
RDD – In places where it’s illegal to use radar detectors, police have special radar detector detectors, devices designed to pick up any traces of radar detection. They pick up on the oscillations emitted by the radar detector receivers.
The good news is that some radar detectors come with special built-in fail-safes that detect when RDD devices are being used and will automatically shut off. VG-2 and Spectre are the two types of RDD technology used to scan for radar detectors, so consider getting a device that has both VG-2 and Spectre shielding.
City and Highway Modes – Most radar detectors are set on “highway mode” by default, as that’s where most people use them. They operate with the widest range of detection possible, thus giving you the best chance of picking up distance radar signals.
However, if you’re going to be driving in the city, you’ll want to find a radar detector that comes with a “city mode” built in. This mode reduces your range of sensitivity, reducing the risk of false alerts from non-police scanner sources of radio frequencies (such as automatic door openers).
Alerts – There are two types of alerts: voice and visual. Visual alerts involve a flashing light that warns you that you’re being scanned. This is ideal for night driving or if you have sleeping passengers. However, it requires you to take your eyes off the road.
Voice alerts, on the other hand, may make noise, but they will let you know that you’re being scanned without your needing to take your eyes off the road. They’re much safer to use, so they’re a good built-in feature to look for.
GPS – As explained above, GPS won’t help you look for police cars or motorcycles set up to scan the roads. However, they’re great for warning you of approaching speed cameras, speed traps, and school zones.
Some GPS-enabled radar detectors are even able to “remember” locations where you were scanned in the past, and they can set up a warning to remind you to slow down in areas where there are likely to be police.
Instant-On Protection – Most police guns use Instant-On or RF-Hold radar, which means there is only a very short window (seconds) when the radar is active and scanning. If the police point it at your car and scan, there’s nothing your radar detector can do to warn you in time.
However, Instant-On Protection is a feature that uses highly sensitive K-band reception to alert you to the presence of Instant-On scans pointed at the cars around you. It may only give you a few seconds of warning, but it may be enough to help you reduce your speed in time to avoid a ticket.
Smartphone Apps – More and more radar detectors are being manufactured with smartphone apps for your iOS and Android devices. These apps allow you to mark law enforcement GPS locations, or receive alerts and warnings. Some are designed to work via Bluetooth, making them smaller and more easily concealable.
If you’ve just bought your first radar detector, here’s how you can use it as effectively as possible:
Using a radar detector is a good way to avoid speeding tickets, but it’s not your only solution! Here are a few tips to help you out:
Follow the crowd – Never be the vehicle out in front of the pack. Go with the flow of traffic, and match your speed to that of the vehicles around you. As long as you aren’t the fastest vehicle or in the front, cops are far less likely to single out your vehicle.
Stick to your lane – Even if you’re going a few miles above the speed limit, you’ll find that sticking to one lane is the best way to avoid drawing the police’s notice. Most of the time, they’re looking for people who are driving recklessly, which means speeding and making crazy lane changes. As long as you’re sticking to one lane and driving no more than 5 or 10 above the posted speed limit, you’re far less likely to get a ticket.
Learn the speed traps – Every city has speed traps, and there are locations where police love to sit and wait for speeding drivers. Do some research to find out these locations, and be wary when you approach them. Learn the speed traps along your daily commute so you can drive carefully.
Slow down – This is the simplest and safest solution of all! There’s no need for you to drive above the posted speed limit on highways, so consider moderating your speed to that safe limit. Yes, it will take you a few more minutes to get where you’re going, but you’ll reach your destination alive and without speeding tickets.
Learn to use your radar detector – If you’re going to invest in a radar detector, it’s worth learning how to use it. That means reading the instructional manual and getting the hang of the various features and functions. Take a few minutes to sit down and read over the manual carefully before using it. You may just find that the instructions will give you insights into the best practices and most effective methods of use to ensure maximum effectiveness.