Once a tool seen mainly on police cruisers, dash cams are becoming increasingly common for civilian use and on company vehicles. Whether for insurance, safety, or liability, there are many reasons to add a dash camera to your car.
These devices use local storage on a micro SD card. And the constant record-then-rewrite cycle of a dash cam is surprisingly demanding on the micro SD card itself.
So, because a dash cam is hard on microSD cards, yet requires the internal memory in order to function, it is crucial to find the best micro SD card for your dash cam.
Top MicroSD Card Picks
This card is “specifically designed for video monitoring cameras including dash cams,” so there is no concern about voiding a warranty based on dash cam use.
With 100MB/s read speed and 30MB/s write speed, the card is plenty fast (faster than needed for a dash cam). The listed lifespan of this card is up to 43,800 hours of high definition recording, and the card is shock proof, waterproof, temperature proof, x-ray proof, and magnetic-proof.
The card has a 3 year warranty, and a 5 year warranty if you upgrade to the 128GB size.
Simply put, this is the most reliable, cost-effective, and overall safest choice for a micro SD card for a dash cam.
Similar to the Samsung PRO listed above, the SanDisk High Endurance is built for durability. It is tested in “harsh conditions,” and is temperature-proof, waterproof, shockproof, and x-ray proof. The card is marketed for write-intensive applications (like dash cam use), so there should be no warranty concerns.
The card is rated for up to 5,000 hours of video recording, and has more than enough speed (read speed of 100MB/s, write speed of 40MB/s).
SanDisk provides a 2 year warranty, as well as a 30 day money back guarantee.
This card is specifically designed to be high endurance, and is manufactured to be shockproof, temperature-proof, and protected from x-rays. In addition, the card is designed for write-intensive applications (like dash cams).
The card has read speeds of 95MB/s, and write speeds of 45MB/s, and can last for up to 20,000 hours of video recording.
Kingston is known as a reliable brand, and the product is backed by a 3 year warranty.
Top Budget MicroSD Card Picks
This card has more storage than our “best” picks, but loses points because it is not an endurance card. 128GB should be sufficient for 5+ hours of 4K video, or 15+ hours of 1080p HD video. Although it isn’t an endurance card, Samsung advertises the card as waterproof, temperature-proof, x-ray-proof, and magnet-proof.
It has plenty of speed, with up to 60MB/s write speed and 100MB/s read speed.
Although the card has a 10 year limited warranty, using it in a dash cam immediately voids the warranty. So, for our purposes, the card has no usable warranty.
This card is nearly identical to the Samsung EVO Plus, and is likewise not an endurance card. The “new generation” of this card has read speeds of up to 130MB/s, which is faster than the other cards listed in this guide.
Like the EVO Plus, the card is marketed as waterproof, temperature-proof, x-ray-proof, and magnet-proof, and includes a 10 year limited warranty. But this warranty is also void if used for a dash cam.
Micro SD Card Buying Guide: Which Features Actually Matter?
To begin, be sure to choose a micro SD card rather than a standard SD card. At this time, nearly all commercially available dash cams use micro SD cards (rather than SD cards) for storage. Additionally, most micro SD cards include an adapter that allows them to be used in a regular SD card plug.
As mentioned above, dash cams, just like security cameras, are very demanding on micro SD cards. This is because, after the micro SD card runs out of storage space, the dash camera will overwrite the older videos. This loop repeats over and over, causing small amounts of permanent damage to the card each time. So, all micro SD cards have a limited lifespan. For this reason, it doesn’t make sense to overpay for a memory card with the hopes of it lasting forever.
Due to the unique demands placed on memory cards by dash cams, many manufacturers void the card warranty when used by a dash camera. This is also true when used by other devices with a record-then-rewrite cycle, such as CCTV and security cameras. Cards like the Samsung EVO Plus state that use by a dash cam or security camera will void the warranty.
A final consideration is that you may want to purchase an additional card to use as a backup. Because you can find a decent micro SD card for less than $15, it makes sense to stock a backup. This way, if your memory card stops working, you won’t lose the use of your dash cam. In the event of a collision or incident, you will probably want to remove your memory card and store it somewhere safe.
This is an obvious point, but worth stating nonetheless. For less than $20, you should be able to find a 64GB endurance micro SD card from a reputable brand like Samsung or Sandisk. For less than $30, you should be able to find a quality 128GB endurance card.
At these prices, it doesn’t make sense to purchase a budget memory card to try to save a few dollars. When you factor in the lesser warranty, it might be more expensive to try to “save money” in this way. On the other hand, don’t be tricked by a company trying to bundle an overpriced memory card alongside your dash cam. This is a common method for companies to increase profit, but it doesn’t do much for the consumer. It is fine to purchase a memory card along with the purchase of a dash cam, but remember the price guidelines we have listed above.
Depending on the brand and size of the card, it is possible to find a warranty of 5 years or more. As mentioned above, be sure that dash cam use doesn’t void the manufacturer’s warranty.
Some cards are marketed as “endurance,” and claim to better withstand temperature extremes, water, electricity surges, and x-rays. Some of this is marketing speak, but for the small price difference, it makes sense to purchase an endurance card.
32GB and 64GB micro SD cards probably provide the best value and function for dash camera use. A 32GB card is inexpensive and will store more than 3 hours of 1080p video. The higher resolution video of 4k cameras takes up more space on a micro SD, so 4k dash cam owners may wish to consider a 64GB or 128GB card.
Generally speaking, there is no risk in purchasing “too big” of a micro SD card. While some dash cams may have a limit on the size of card used, this is not usually the case. (Certainly, if your dash cam manufacturer recommends not to exceed a certain card size, follow the recommendations).
The main downside of purchasing a larger micro SD card is the added expense, combined with the fact that it is unnecessary to exceed 128GB for most uses. Choosing a 512GB card from an unreliable manufacturer makes no sense. It would be smarter to find a 64GB card from a legitimate manufacturer.
Also keep in mind that multi-camera systems require more storage. So, if you have both a front-facing and rear-facing camera, a larger card is worthwhile.
There is no way to guarantee that the card you purchase will last for years without issue. But there are some ways to increase your chances of choosing a reliable product.
First, choose a memory card from a reliable brand, and sold by a reliable manufacturer. As a customer, you really can’t tell if the card you buy is properly built. So the safest way to be sure is to stick with a name brand product. Samsung, SanDisk, and Kingston are quality brands with a track record of reliability. If you find a “good deal” on a brand you have never heard of, you can assume that the components are low-quality and/or poorly built.
Believe it or not, counterfeit micro SD cards are quite common. Because knockoff products are so hard to identify, be cautious when buying micro SD cards through 3rd party resellers.
Generally, it is better to purchase a basic (non-endurance) micro SD card from a reputable brand, rather than an endurance card from an unknown brand. Likewise, it is better to get a reliable memory card with less storage space rather than an unknown card with more storage space (for example, choose a 64GB Samsung card rather than a 128GB card from an unreliable brand).
You really don’t need to worry about the read/write speed of your micro SD card. This is the case because almost all micro SD cards have read and write speeds that are faster than needed, even for a 4K dash cam. None of this means that micro SD card speeds are unimportant, but rather that all the cards available for purchase are pretty darn fast already.
If you upload your dash cam video files to a computer, having a fast micro SD card will speed up the process. But most of us just leave our SD card in place (within the dash cam) and allow it to be overwritten, in which case the speed is largely irrelevant.
Understanding Dash Cam Recording Modes and Their Impact on MicroSD Card Lifespan
In the world of dash cams, there are several recording modes that determine when and how your device records footage. The choice of recording mode significantly affects how much data your microSD card processes, hence its lifespan.
First, we have the Continuous Recording mode, which, as the name implies, records footage non-stop whenever the vehicle is in motion. This mode uses the maximum storage capacity of the microSD card and overwrites the oldest files when the card is full. Because of the constant write-and-delete cycle, this mode can shorten the lifespan of your memory card.
The second mode is the Event Recording mode. Here, the dash cam records only when triggered by a G-sensor due to abrupt changes in direction or impact. Since these events don’t occur often, the microSD card’s write-and-delete cycle is less frequent, making it last longer.
Lastly, we have the Parking mode, where the dash cam records when it detects motion or impact in your vehicle’s vicinity while parked. This mode also puts less strain on the microSD card since it’s not always in operation.
By understanding these recording modes, you can better manage your dash cam’s microSD card usage, thereby prolonging its lifespan and optimizing its functionality.
Do dash cams use micro SD?
Almost all commercially available dash cameras use micro SD cards, rather than standard size SD cards, for internal storage. One benefit of micro SD cards is that they almost always include a standard SD adapter, so they should work with either system.
Will a dash cam work without an SD card?
It is hard, if not impossible, to find a dash camera that has dedicated internal storage. Unless you have one of these unicorn products, you will need a microSD card in order to store your dash cam video.
How many hours can a dash cam record?
This depends on the storage capacity of the memory card. A 32GB micro SD can store around 4 hours of high definition video, and significantly more at lower video qualities. A 512GB card, then, could store multiple days of video at standard definition. Multiple cameras (front-facing and rear-facing) will require more storage space, as will 4k cameras.
Is 64gb enough for dash cam?
A 64GB micro SD card will store more than 8 hours of 1080p, high-definition video. For almost any civilian driver, this should be plenty of storage.
Are dash cams worth it?
Hopefully your dash cam is never needed. But in the event of a collision or a crime being captured, it is worth many multiples of what you paid for it.
Think of a dash camera like an insurance policy. In a perfect world, it is “wasted money.” But if something goes wrong, it could be a lifesaver.
How often should I replace my dash cam’s microSD card?
Even the best microSD cards have a limited lifespan due to the nature of dash cams. Generally, a good quality, high endurance microSD card should last anywhere from 6 months to 2 years, depending on the frequency of use and recording mode. To maintain optimal performance, consider replacing your card at least once a year.
What is a high endurance microSD card?
High endurance microSD cards are designed for devices with continuous write and erase cycles, like dash cams. They are engineered to withstand this intensive usage, making them more durable and reliable than standard microSD cards for dash cam applications.
Do dash cams delete old footage?
Yes, the footage will be deleted on a loop whenever the camera runs out of available storage space. This cycle is the reason that all dash cam microSD cards eventually fail, and also why we recommend purchasing a card of 32GB or higher.
As dash cams become mainstream, it is important to choose dash cam accessories that improve the function of your device. Finding the best microSD card for a dash cam isn’t challenging, and it doesn’t need to be expensive.
Remember to prioritize a high capacity, endurance microSD. And don’t overpay for unnecessary features like ultra-fast speed or a proprietary card brand that is bundled into the purchase of a dash cam.
As a vehicle safety device, a dash cam is a wise (and relatively inexpensive) investment.