The Ultimate Radar Detector Buyers Guide

A Radar detector Is a handy tool used by many drivers to avoid getting speeding tickets, as long as it’s legal in your state, of course. While we strongly advise that you always drive within the specified speed limit, getting a speeding ticket can be a hassle, especially if you were unintentionally speeding.

Radar detectors are designed to detect the use of police radars so that you can slow down beforehand and avoid getting served with a speeding ticket.

What is a radar detector?

Radar detectors are small unit devices that help detect the presence of police radars and speed cameras. To detect speeding vehicles, police officers use radar guns which report the current speed at which a vehicle is moving. If the speed detected is higher than the speed limit, the police officers give chase and then give the driver a speeding ticket.

what is a radar detector for car
The job of a radar detector is to detect when a police radar is being used and then alert the driver so that they can reduce their speed beforehand.

A good radar detector will also detect the presence of laser speed guns, which will prove very useful for drivers that want to avoid speed traps that other older radar detectors might not pick.

How does a radar detector work? 

Radar is an acronym for Radio Detection and Ranging, and the technology is used to determine both the distance and speed of moving objects. It involves detecting how far an object is and how fast it is moving. The principle of operation is quite simple.

how does a radar detector work
A radar device emits radio waves that are propagated at the speed of light or 3.08 x 10⁸ meters per second. When the waves hit an object, they are reflected onto the radar receiver device which then analyses the reflected waves (called pulses) to determine the position and speed of the object.

Common radar systems have several key components that allow them to be used to detect distant objects:

  • A frequency source like a crystal oscillator that generates a low-powered signal at a specific operating frequency of the radar.
  • A radar transmitter to amplify the power level of the signal from the frequency source and raises the frequency as is required. This is done so that the resulting energy signal will be powerful enough to cover a longer range, making it useful for detecting objects.
  • A radar antenna, which will be used to transmit or broadcast the signal from the radar system into the air. There are radar antennas that transmit directionally, that is, in a specific direction, or multi-directionally, which means that the signal is spread out in full 360⁰ without a specific intended direction. The antenna also helps to pass any returned pulses to the radar receiver.
  •  A radar receiver, which detects returning pulse or signal that has been bounced off an object. The pulse is then converted into an electronic signal to be eventually processed and analyzed. 

When a radar detects the rate at which a vehicle is moving, the frequency of the returned radio wave changes because the vehicle is moving. If a vehicle is moving toward the radar device, the return signal will only need to cover a shorter distance, and the frequency of the return wave increases. In this way, radar devices utilize the change in frequency to track the speed at which a vehicle is moving.

radar detector inside

This brings us to how radar detectors work. A radar detector detects devices based on the radio waves emitted. This means that radar detectors basically work as radio transmitters and receivers. To function, a radar detector will collect the frequencies used by radar devices such as the police radar guns to locate and catch over speeding vehicles.

Radar devices such as the guns used by police emit large amounts of radio waves but are only used to track one target. A good radar detector in a moving vehicle will detect that radar before the police get to the vehicle that they were tracking.

Some other models of radar scanners function as anti-radar by releasing radio waves that scramble the results that the cop radars would detect.

How to use a radar detector

radar detector where to place

How you use your radar detector depends on the type of radar detector you have, but the principle is the same. When your radar detector is properly installed, it automatically picks radar signals and will inform you once it detects radio waves.

If you’re using the common dash/window-mounted radar detector, you should see it light up or give a sound once radio waves are detected. Some other radar detectors come with dedicated or free radar detector apps that can be installed on your mobile device. Some other models also have camera detectors to detect when radars with cameras are being used by the police. Once the radar detector detects a high amount of radio waves, it will send the notifications to your phone so that you can slow down and avoid getting a speeding ticket. 

If you’re using a custom-installed or remote radar detector, the parts are usually separately installed in different parts of the car, such that they are hard to detect. However, using it is still as simple as watching out for the notifications that you get once radar signals are detected. 

Where to place the radar detector

Your choice of where to place the radar detector is in no small way, affected by the style and design of a radar detector.

where to mount radar scanner
image from:
The most common types of radar detectors are the dash cam radar detectors or window-mounted radar detectors.

Just like the name sounds, they are mounted on either the dashboard or windshield of your car. This is done with a suction cup radar detector mount, which allows you to quickly remove or replace the radar detector if you need it. With a suction cup radar detector mount, you can easily transfer the radar detector from one vehicle to another as it is essentially compatible with any vehicle that has a windshield and a dashboard.

The other type of radar scanner, which is not very common and also expensive is the custom or remote radar detector. While a regular radar detector has all the parts (antenna, transmitter, etc.) inside a single unit, a custom or remote radar detector has all its parts integrated into the vehicle. For instance, the radar detector antenna might be hidden in either the front or rear bumper, while the display is fitted into the dashboard of the car. 

How to read a radar detector

It’s one thing to have the best radar detector mounted in your car and another thing to understand how to read it. Most police officers used LIDAR radar guns which operate on three bands of radar signals. If your radar scanner comes with a radar detector app, then it might be easier to interpret the results. These include the X band, the K band, and the Ka band. There is a fourth band called the Ku band, but that is used primarily in Europe. This could refer to the frequencies that are coming from a cop radar gun. Most radar detectors would give results according to these codes. Let’s take a look at each code in detail.

how to use radar detector

X band

The X band is a common code found on several radar scanners and can detect objects from 2 to 4 miles in the distance. It is an old frequency that is not used too much these days. However, you are still likely to find it in States like North Carolina, New Jersey or Ohio. This code is also used for automatic doors and other devices, so the radar detector will sometimes alert you even if there are no police radars around.

K Band

This is a relatively new code that was released a couple of years ago, and the most commonly used caught by the police. This band has a small wavelength and operates in the 24.05 – 24.25 GHz range. With the K band, police radars can detect objects accurately from 0.25 to 2 miles in the distance. This makes it somewhat difficult for radar scanners to pick up the signal before they come in sight of the police. The Ka band is actually a multi-band unit that includes the Ka band, the Ka wide-band, and the Ka super-wide band. This band parades in the 34.2 – 35.2 GHz region.

The Ku band

This band is more commonly used in Europe, and speed guns based on this band operate at 13.45 GHz

How to test radar detector

After getting the best radar detector you need to test it to ensure that it’s working properly. A good way to do this to affix it to your car, and the speed traps where the police are stationed.  If your radar detector is working properly, it should detect the presence of the police radars by sending you an alert or a beeping sound.

What does laser mean on a radar detector?

Some police officers use laser speed guns, also known as LIDAR. This type of radar pulses out ways of invisible light instead of radio waves. The light energy that is emitted by a LIDAR gun is usually in the form of 30 ns pulses of laser light on the order of 905 nm. Unfortunately, standard radar detectors cannot pick up the signals. If the police are using a LIDAR gun, then you might need to use a laser detector as opposed to an ordinary radar detector.

Who makes the best radar detector?

When selecting your radar detector, you want to go for the best radar detector in the market. While there are many choices to choose from, in terms of functionality as well as price, some of the most popular and best radar detector manufacturers are Escort radars and Radenso radars. These radar detector manufacturers produce some of the best radar detectors, such as the Escort Max 360 radar detector that can detect radar guns at the longer range, provide more accurate readings, and avoid providing false alerts. 

Granted, some of their products might be on the high end of the spectrum, price-wise, but you can be sure that you are getting your money’s worth.

What is the best police radar detector?

escort. max 360 radar detector

We’ve already established that some of the best radar detectors are made by manufacturers such as Escort and Radsenso. Choosing the best police radar detector is somewhat subjective because some products work better for some people than others. However, from our research, and reviews from other users, we recommend the Escort Max 360 radar detector. It’s one of the best police radar detectors on the market, and you do a good job of detecting police radar guns as you drive around the city.

Where can I buy a radar detector?

You can easily buy a radar detector online on Amazon or visit your local car store. It is however important that you do your research and make sure that you select the best type of radar detector for your vehicle. A good step is to check the radar detector reviews to ensure that it meets your requirements. 

Is radar detector illegal and in which states?

Each North American state and province have different laws that govern the use of radar detectors for both commercial and non-commercial vehicles. The use of radar detectors is legal in many areas, especially in the United States.

At the federal level, there are no specific laws that restrict owning radar detectors as well as their usage of sales by non-commercial vehicles.

At the state level, however, there are only two areas where it is illegal to use radar detectors –  Washington DC and Virginia.

Even at this, the laws for radar detectors in Virginia are written such that, even though the usage of radar detectors are illegal, it is legal to own a radar detector that is powered off and stored. No demerit points are applied to your driver’s license if you are caught using a radar detector. In fact, the fine for using a radar detector in Virginia is less than the cost of a good radar detector.

Therefore drivers that leave or are passing through Virginia simply hide their radar detectors in their glove compartment or trunk when they are police radar guns around them so that they can still avoid speeding tickets.  In Canada, however, the case is quite different, as radar detectors are only legal in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. In all other Canadian provinces, radar detectors are illegal. 

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

      Leave a reply

      Page Garage | Automotive Product Reviews & Guides
      Enable registration in settings - general