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Rear-view cameras buying guide

Tips to help you choose a backup camera

Back up camera

We're not the only ones who think equipping your car with a rear-view video system is a great idea. Beginning in 2018, the US Department of Transportation will require them in all new vehicles. Why the big push for rear-view video systems now? It comes down to one word: safety.

With a rear-view video system in your car, you'll gain a well-lit, low, wide-angle view of what’s behind you – a view that a rear-view mirror just can't deliver. If you have pets or small children, you know how crucial clearing up those blind spots can be. Whether you're safety-conscious, want to keep an eye on something you're towing, or just have a bad habit of crunching bumpers, installing a rear-view video system in your car is a no-brainer. The big question becomes: what's the right system for you?

Step 1: Assess your dash

A rear-view camera won't do you much good without a screen to plug it into, and what you'll need in a rear-view system will depend on what's already in your dash. If you have an aftermarket touchscreen receiver with a rear-view video input, you're in great shape to shop for rear-view cameras. If not, you'll need to figure out which of the following three categories you fall into.

1) Happy with your factory touchscreen receiver?

Brands like Crux offer vehicle-specific rear-view cameras with harnesses that match select factory-installed entertainment systems. These backup cameras are often specifically designed to blend in with the exterior of your vehicle.

Crux RVCCH-75CC

Crux's RVCCH-75RC rear-view camera is compatible with the factory radios in select Dodge and Ram vehicles.

2) In the market for a new touchscreen receiver?

There's no better time to install a rear-view camera than when you're already installing a new receiver in your dash. We carry a wide variety of DVD and GPS receivers that are equipped with touchscreen monitors and rear-view video inputs. When you shift your vehicle into reverse, you'll see an expansive view on your new stereo's display.

Certain cameras have advanced functions like multiple angles when paired with compatible receivers.

Alpine camera trailer hookup

Alpine's X009-GM In-Dash Restyle System gives you advanced rear-view features when paired with certain Alpine cameras.

3) No room in your dash for a touchscreen?

No problem. If your dash doesn't accommodate a radio with a video screen or if you don't like the idea of altering your factory dash, you still have options:

App-Tronics SmartVision Mirror

Replacement rear-view mirrors seamlessly integrate with your car's interior while giving you a monitor where you're already accustomed to looking.

Rear-view camera mirrors are a little more challenging to install, but they create a seamless and frankly, pretty cool backup system. 

Garmin image

Dash-mounted monitors can vary from wired screens to portable navigation devices like those from Garmin that work with a wireless rear-view camera.

Step 2: Choose a rear-view camera

You can count on rear-view cameras to be tiny and weatherproof across the board, but there are some variables to consider:

The sensor

Most rear-view cameras either use CCD or CMOS sensors. The sensors convert light to signal in two different ways: CCD is essentially analog, and CMOS is digital. Generally speaking, a CMOS sensor draws less power and is better in low light than a CCD sensor, but a CCD sensor is slightly better adapted to handle fluctuating lighting scenarios than a CMOS sensor. Depending on the types of environments where you typically drive, the difference may be incidental. In the good ol' tradition of iPhone® vs. Android™, the argument as to which sensor is "better" is ever-evolving and has devotees on either side. In most cases, it won't likely be a deciding factor in which camera you choose.

Parking lines

Many backup cameras provide onscreen guidelines to help you when backing out of precarious positions or when squeezing into a tight spot. They help you gauge distance from objects in your path. If you want to opt out of parking lines, pay close attention to the details of the camera. Some may not allow it. Some give you the opportunity to remove them during installation, so that you can use the selectable parking lines feature built into certain touchscreen receivers.

hooking up trailer

Mirror image

This is just what it sounds like. The view in your monitor is reversed to mimic that of a rear-view mirror. With some cameras, this is a selectable feature.

Viewing angle

Generally, rear-view cameras provide a healthy horizontal viewing angle, with some as expansive as 190-degrees. Naturally, the wider you go, the more you'll see behind you at a glance.

Low light

On some cameras, you may see a minimum Lux rating. This tells you the least amount of light required for an acceptable picture. For your reference, a night with a full moon is rated at around 0.1 Lux while a sunny day rates at around 10,000 Lux. We've seen cameras that can deliver a clear picture in an environment rated as low as a 0.1 Lux. Many cameras enhance their low light capability with an additional LED or infrared light that powers on when your vehicle is in reverse.

Mounting

This is the defining feature for most rear-view cameras. It can be done is several ways, so take at look at the rear of your vehicle before you select a camera. Here are the mounting styles to consider:

License plate mount

License plate mounting

Some cameras fit into a matching license plate frame while others take the more universal approach with a strap mount. This strap-mounted rear-view cam fastens over your license plate using the existing screws.

Lip mount

Lip mounting

If you have an inset area on the rear of your car, chances are you can use an angled lip-mount camera which is a little more subtle than the license plate mount.

Bracket mount

Bracket mounting

This style takes the most universal approach, providing an adjustable bracket that lets you mount your camera wherever you see fit.

Vehicle-specific mount

Vehicle-specific mounting

Some brands offer brackets that replace or fit into factory parts for a near-perfect match to your vehicle. These are specialized products. Most mounting options will be license plate or lip mounts.

Step 3: Installation – adding the rear-view camera to your vehicle

While we recommend purchasing an InstallCard for professional installation, it's certainly possible to install your new backup camera yourself. As a DIYer, you should anticipate a 3-part installation:

  1. Installing the camera in the rear of the car and wiring it for power.
  2. Running a video connection from the camera to your dash.
  3. Connecting that video cable to the input on the rear of a compatible monitor (which will also require installation) or your stereo (which entails removing the stereo from your dash and then reinstalling it).

A wireless backup camera system will cut down on your installation time, but you'll still have to wire the camera and monitor for power. In many cases, tapping into the feed to your tail lights will suffice for the camera, but some may require a direct connection to your car's fuse panel.


Life in reverse

Like an air bag to a seat belt, a rear-view camera system isn't a replacement for your vehicle's mirrors, it's a complement, a powerful tool for driving safely and parallel parking like a pro. And even if you consider yourself a pro, everybody has their bad days, and a rear-view system cuts down on the risk of a fender-bender (or worse). If you have any questions about picking the right system, just give us a call.

  • biTToe from new york

    Posted on 3/17/2017

    Isn't there a wireless backup camera that can send its signal (BT or WiFi) to my phone? I don't want an extra screen (theft inducement). The digital rearview mirrors are terrible and small, especially for us old guys

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 3/20/2017

    biTToe, an advisor will contact you soon to help, but here's the wireless backup system that you may have had in mind.

  • John from Columbus, IN

    Posted on 4/26/2017

    Are there add-on cameras with guidelines synchronized to the steering - like my 2015 Malibu has?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 4/27/2017

    John, while we do carry cams with adjustable parking lines, we don't carry those that curve "live" to match steering (if I'm thinking of what you mean). However, give us a call, and an advisor may be able to find a match for your needs.

  • Irvin from Houston

    Posted on 5/16/2017

    Is there a system that will automatically activate when you place your car in reverse? Or is there a manual step always required to activate? I am planning to install in a 2006 Hummer H3 that currently does not have a back-up camera.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 5/16/2017

    Irvin, most of our backup cam solutions auto-trigger rear-view video when you shift into reverse. I've passed along your question to our team of advisors and someone will contact you soon to help find a solution that's right for you and your vehicle.

  • Chris from Alexandria

    Posted on 7/11/2017

    Thanks for the article. Are there any camera systems with a separate wireless receiver that can plug into an aftermarket touchscreen receiver? I don't want to have to run a wire all the way through the car, but most wireless camera transmitters only seem to work with a dedicated seperate monitor.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 7/11/2017

    Chris, you can pair this wireless kit with the rear-view camera of your choice. Give us a call if you'd like some recommendations.

  • Johan Tyrsing from Naples

    Posted on 9/5/2017

    Hi Alexander. I have a sports car without a rear window, so I need a rear view system. Prefer a 7" monitor. A camera with as high resolution as possible and as invisible as possible. Since it will be a replacement for the mirror I'm more interested a more longer distance view than just close in (back up) Do You have anything to recommend? Regards Johan Tyrsing

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 9/5/2017

    Johan, your best bet is to check with a European electronics retailer. We don't ship outside the U.S. or Canada, so unfortunately, any recommendations we made wouldn't be very helpful to you.

  • Martin Leibowitz from Teaneck

    Posted on 11/25/2017

    Hi Alexander. I have a 2010 Lexus. No built in monitor. No USB ports. I'm looking for a backup camera with a dash cam as a replacement rear view mirror OR a backup camera that connects to my iPhone 5c. I have a vent mount for my iPhone. Needs to have parking lines and night vision. I checked out the Pearl Rearvision Wireless kit but it isn't for me. Price is not a problem. I will have professional installation.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 11/27/2017

    Martin, I've passed your question along to an Advisor. Someone will contact you soon to help you find a solution more in line with your option #1 since the Pearl system or equivalent doesn't suit your needs.

  • Trent from Winter Springs, FL

    Posted on 11/29/2017

    What measures are taken with backup cameras to ensure they are not susceptible to condensation? Is this universally done on backup cameras or is there a particular feature to be looking for? I've had rental cars where even when every single window on the car is fogged over, the backup camera isn't affected at all.

  • Alan Lewis from Arlington

    Posted on 12/17/2017

    I just installed from Crutchfield a JBL CP100 head unit radio with a reverse camera input. The JBL screen is a 800 x 480 resolution but most cameras I find are 640 x 480. The aspect ratio difference means the image is stretched and very distorted on the radio screen. I have tried this out already. The radio has no adjustments for the video input so I can't change the aspect ratio. What cameras produce a correct 16:9 aspect ratio so I don't have the stretched image?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 12/19/2017

    Alan, cool head unit! I've passed your question along to an Advisor. Someone will contact you shortly to find the best option.

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 12/19/2017

    Trent, "measures" will vary from camera to camera but generally, rear-view cameras are weather-proof rated to ensure that they stand up to the elements.

  • Tom Carberrry from Bailey

    Posted on 1/19/2018

    Can the dash monitor double as a GPS monitor? Can I set up any monitor to also view side cams and a front camera? Do I need some sort of controller to add cameras to the display?

  • Alexander Hrabe from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/31/2018

    Tom, I've passed your question along to an advisor to help you. The quick answer is that we carry dash monitors that use a composite video input, so if you have a source with a composite video output, you'll be able to see it on the monitor. An advisor will be able to expand on your options based on the details of your current system.

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