You’ve seen them on TV, they are being offered on many new cars, and you can buy them for your existing vehicle. They’re called backup cameras, rear-view cameras, or reverse cameras and they are the latest safety-related automotive accessory craze. As of 2012, as many as half of all new cars produced were equipped with backup cameras. We have one on our new Chevy Cruze that came installed from the factory, but you can install an aftermarket backup camera for your vehicle if it didn’t come equipped with one.
So what’s the big deal? Why are they so popular now? One reason is that it won’t be too long before some sort of backup collision
safety device will be mandated by the Federal Government on all new cars. New video technology, advances in wireless technology, and miniaturization have all contributed to better cameras and monitors for your vehicle. Beyond that though, they are just a good idea whose time has come and consumers are recognizing the safety benefits.
More than likely, your current vehicle didn’t come with a backup camera and so you’re considering adding an aftermarket backup camera. There are so many camera systems in so many configurations with varying capabilities and prices that it can be difficult to determine which one is best for you. This article attempts to help you navigate the complicated aftermarket backup camera landscape by providing you with some important buying tips. Don’t buy a backup camera without reading these tips!
Aftermarket Backup Camera Buying Guide
There are so many factors that go into choosing the right backup camera that you might be tempted to just flip a coin to choose your aftermarket backup camera. Don’t worry, we have done the research for you and have compiled a great list of backup camera buying tips that will give you the information you need to make the best buying decision.
Aftermarket Backup Camera System Types
First of all, calling them backup cameras is a little bit of a misnomer. In truth what you need is a backup camera system that includes as a minimum, a camera, a monitor to view the image, power for the monitor, a connection to your electrical system or the camera, and wiring or a wireless connection from the camera to the monitor. This means that the system is probably more expensive than you were thinking and that it’s not as easy to install for the average vehicle owner as it sounds.
Wired Aftermarket Backup Camera Systems
Wired systems have been around the longest and require a long set of wires that run from the backup camera mounted on the back of your vehicle to the monitor which is usually positioned on your dashboard. The advantage of these systems is that you don’t have to worry about interference with a wireless signal between the camera and the monitor and the hardwired systems usually produce a better signal to the monitor and provide better picture quality.
- Better picture quality
- No interference
- Difficult installation
- May need professional help
Wireless Backup Camera Systems
These are newer systems that take advantage of advances in wireless technology. It is more likely that you will be able to install a wireless system yourself although the installation is not completely without wires. Wireless systems still require an electrical connection between the camera and your backup light wiring to provide power to the camera and ensure the camera only turns on when you’re backing up. This is a safety feature that is required of all backup camera systems to avoid driver distraction while driving. This connection may or may not be easy depending on how easy it is to access the wiring and your experience with automotive electrical systems.
- No long wires required between the camera and monitor
- Easier to install for the do-it-yourselfer
- Still requires electrical connection to backup light wiring
- Electrical interference is common between the camera and monitor
- For larger vehicles, wireless signal may be too weak to reach monitor
Camera Mounting Methods
There a two main methods of mounting aftermarket backup cameras; Surface mounting and license plate mounting.
Aftermarket Backup Camera Surface Mount
Surface mounted cameras require that you drill holes both to mount the camera and to route the wires connecting the camera to the electrical system.
- Cameras can be larger and more effective
- You choose where to mount the camera
- Avoids possibility that camera mount won’t fit your license plate configuration
- More difficult to install
- Drilling may affect the look of your car
License Plate Mount
License plate mounted cameras do not require you to drill holes to mount the camera to the vehicle and you may be able to run the electrical wires through existing license plate light holes. They are built-in to a custom license plate frame or may use the existing license plate mount.
- Minimal to no drilling required for installation
- May be able to use nearby backup light holes to route electrical wires
- Risk that license plate mount will not properly fit your license plate configuration
- Camera size affected by smaller license plate mount configuration
- Risk that camera’s view can be negatively affected by location of license plate
- May expose camera to more moisture than custom surface mount
Key Backup Camera System Features
Camera Video Quality
Video quality used to be closely related to the image sensor selected for the camera. Currently, there are two main types of image sensors used in backup cameras; Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) and Charge Coupled Device (CCD). CMOS sensors are less expensive and require less power, but may be vulnerable to signal interference. CCD sensors produce higher quality images in a wider variety of light situations and are less subject to interference. In the last few years, the quality of CMOS sensors has improved to the point that it may no longer be a distinguishing factor in video quality.
Infrared (IR) or night vision-capable cameras operate on a different wavelength that provides better low-light performance. Most newer aftermarket backup cameras come with infrared capability, but you should check to make sure the camera you’re considering has it.
Of course, you need something to view the camera image on and that’s where the system’s monitor comes in. When it comes to monitors; size matters! A larger monitor will allow you to see camera images more clearly just because they will be larger. The best camera in the world is not going to do you any good if you’re watching the image on a small, hard-to-see video monitor.
Besides picture size, mounting is also an important consideration. If you’re planning to mount a standalone monitor on your dash or windshield, you have to take into consideration location and make sure that the monitor doesn’t interfere with your vision out of the vehicle.
Some aftermarket rearview mirrors have a built-in LCD screen that is designed specifically to display backup camera images. This can be a nice option if you’re trying to avoid mounting the monitor on your dashboard, but typically the screens are smaller with lower resolution.
With the advent of wireless backup camera systems, it has become easier for the average vehicle owner to consider a DIY installation, but you should consider the following:
- Wireless does not mean NO wires
- All camera systems require you to connect the camera to your electrical system
- Wired systems may require access to your vehicle’s interior panels
- Special electrical tools may be required for installation
- Pay attention to the location of your license plate when considering license plate mounts
- Professional installation may cost more money, but could save your sanity
Considering professional installation? It doesn’t get any easier than InstallerNet on Amazon.
Aftermarket Backup Camera
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Thanks for reading! I hope this aftermarket backup camera buying guide has given you valuable information that you can use when choosing your backup camera system.