Speeding tickets can take a serious bite out of your fun fund. Not only do they ding you for a hefty chunk of change, they stick you with traffic school or even worse hassles, like court dates and fighting the law. If you can’t drive 55, AutoAnything has the right radar detector that won’t subtract points from your wallet or add them to your driving record.
Why Buy a Radar Detector?
First things first: a radar detector is not a “cop detector”. It won’t alert you every time there is a police officer in your area. But it will detect stray radar signals, which can help you determine that an officer or a speed trap is nearby. This can save you from costly fines, defensive driving classes and insurance premium hikes, but to get the most benefit, you need to understand how a radar detector works.
A guide to selecting the right radar detector for your vehicle
Radar detectors, while all performing essentially the same functions, come equipped with a variety of unique features that make one unit right for your vehicle. All modern radar detectors will pick up radar in the X, K, Ka bands, along & When searching for the right detector, you should consider:
- The laws regarding radar detectors in your local area and state
- What you need to be alerted to? Is radar & laser enough? Do you also have photo red light or speed cameras in your area?
- If you want integration with your smartphone, like the Apple iPhone (iOS) or Google Android
- Your budget. Radar detectors are available in a wide range of prices, but like most things, you get what you pay for
- Whether a standard dash-mounted radar detector unit or high-tech hidden “stealth” system is right for you
Before you research radar detectors
It’s important to know your local and state laws pertaining to radar detectors before you buy. Many areas have strict enforcement of their anti-detector laws with stiff penalties for their use. Not only is the fine for illegal detector use more costly than a speeding ticket, police can and will confiscate your detector, too – a nasty double whammy.
Radar detectors are illegal for all vehicles in the following areas:
- The Commonwealth of Virginia
- The District of Columbia (Washington D.C.)
- Most provinces in Canada
- U.S. Military bases
Radar detectors are illegal in commercial vehicles in most areas, including:
- The State of New York (over 18,000lbs.)
- The State of Illinois
- The State of Michigan
Be sure to check out your area’s laws before buying. Traffic laws are constantly changing, so stay abreast of any news regarding radar detectors in your state and county.
How does a radar detector keep you out of trouble? With many features that pickup speed traps and traffic cops on the prowl, including:
- Multi-band radar detection for accurate alerts, no matter what the local police use
- Outstanding range that gives you time to slow down
- Sensing of the latest police detection methods including laser
- Alerts to modern police “pop” speed detection
- Smart radar programming that eliminates false alarms
- Immunity to some police detector-detector devices
- The portability to use in any vehicle
A guide to the multi-band detection power of radar detectors
Let’s get down to the real “how it works” of a radar detector. When police use radar to detect speed, they cast a beam across the section of road they want to monitor. These beams are essentially a police broadcast across a band — either X, K, or super wide Ka bands. These radar bands, like AM or FM radio bands, vary in wave shape and frequency.
X band is a short range radar wave. At your local supermarket, the automatic doors likely use X band to detect customers approaching the doors. Unfortunately, this can set off your radar detector, AKA a false positive. K band is a longer range radar wave, and Ka is even longer. Due to their improved accuracy, K and Ka are the most commonly used bands by police radar guns.
As the radar transmission hits a moving object, it returns to the source gun with a different frequency. Based on the difference in frequency, the radar gun can determine your overall speed. If it’s 5mph or more past the speed limit — depending on the officer — you’re toast.
Radar detectors perform a simple function: listening for broadcasts on these bands that are likely police speed-reading signals. They don’t in any way jam or alter radar signals — that’s a different, much more expensive and highly illegal device. Radar detectors simply let the driver know which band they’re receiving and the signal strength, which directly relates to the distance of the police at the other end. In most cases, a radar detector allows you plenty of time to hit the brakes and cruise by the police at the speed limit.
A quick reference to radar detector range
Detecting police radar early is key to avoiding a ticket. If radar gets your speed before you slow down, your detector becomes nothing more than an embarrassing dash ornament for when the officer is at your window.
That’s why you need a radar detector which boasts an incredible range. In a straight line with wide-open areas around you, a cool 1-mile advanced warning of police radar is possible. Urban areas can provide less warning, though a 1/4 mile heads-up is common for high-end detectors. With that much time to hit the brakes and look innocent, avoiding hefty traffic fines gets easier.
Radar detectors versus the latest police radar and laser technology
It’s a classic game of cat and mouse. Each time new speed-detecting technology is developed for law enforcement, radar detector companies are right behind with the latest way to avoid getting caught.
When detecting speed with radar, police were once limited to X band. Now rarely used in the U.S., X band has been replaced in popularity by the more-effective K and Ka bands. Every detector we offer provides alerts for police radar across all known radar detection bands.
When effective radar detection hit the market, police upped the ante with laser speed detection, also known as “LIDAR”. Each of the radar detectors AutoAnything offers provide alerts for laser, including the latest police gun models. As technology evolves on both the detection and prevention sides, law enforcement agencies are acquiring and using more laser detection gun models.
A quick guide: laser speed detection-The fastest-growing speed-detecting technology is laser (LIDAR)
The fastest-growing speed-detecting technology is laser (LIDAR). Why? A few reasons. Laser is much harder to detect than radar. While radar sweeps across traffic, hitting multiple vehicles and causing sometimes inaccurate readings, LIDAR guns feature a narrow beam that can target specific parts of your vehicle. At 1000 feet, most LIDAR guns can reach their target in 2 microseconds and have a beam spread of just 3 feet (square). By comparison, a Ka-band radar gun measuring a target 300 feet away would have a beam spread around 300 feet wide and 75 feet tall! LIDAR is all about long-distance accuracy.
Police frequently target the front or rear license plate with a laser beam. With a dash-mounted radar detector at a short distance from the officer, it’s possible for your speed can be detected by laser without sounding any alarms.
To detect and slow down in time against police laser, you need distance and other vehicles around. Your best chance at advanced warning against laser are other cars being targeted ahead of you, because the beam is a little easier to sense from longer distances.
Or, you can prevent the police from seeing your speed by using a Laser Shifter unit. This device sends an error message to the police gun, giving you time to slow down. See the AutoAnything quick guide on laser shifting for more about these “shifty” devices.
The basics on police “pop detection” methods
Pop detection is a tricky trap to avoid. Also known as “instant on radar”, pop detection method leaves the police radar gun on hold until a specific car is targeted. This differs from standard always-on radar, which is easier to detect.
Because pop detection cannot be sensed by your unit until the police gun is taken off hold, you get significantly reduced advanced warning to its presence. And, if you’re the first car targeted by a pop detection speed trap, it’s time to put your blinker on, dig for your registration and practice your best innocent face.
Fortunately, pop radar is easier to detect than police laser guns. These beams have the same wide properties as standard radar units, which can be detected from greater distances. Beating pop radar requires paying attention to your visual/audio alerts, a few more speedy drivers ahead of you, and a touch of luck. Manufacturers arm your detector to combat pop detection by increasing range and sensitivity on the K and Ka bands.
The basics of police “detector detectors” and detector unit immunity
In states and areas where radar detector use is illegal, law enforcement is looking to see if you’re operating a detector unit. That’s why they’re using technology known as a Radar Detector Detector (RDD), identified by brand name as VG-2 or Spectre I/II/III/IV.
These units scan for the small frequencies emitted by your radar detector’s tuning oscillator. VG-2 Detector-Detectors, the first ones introduced, looked for a specific tuning frequency. Most all radar detectors have since moved their tuners outside the VG-2 detection range making them immune to these units.
Continuing the cat & mouse game, the “Spectre I” was born, scanning a wider range and picking-up many radar detectors. As detector makers have upgraded their technology, Spectres II, III & IV have been developed for police. In turn, radar detector manufacturers have updated their devices to counter these efforts. If you own an old detector, you might want to check which RDD’s it can thwart.
Detector detecting is an inexact science at best. GPS units and satellite radios can trigger false alerts. Detector detectors also only detect the presence of a unit in the general area, and cannot pinpoint their use to a specific vehicle. If you receive a Spectre alert, your best bet is to slow down to the speed limit and avoid being pulled over and/or searched (in radar-illegal areas).
Using a radar detector and still getting a ticket
A radar detector doesn’t provide full immunity from police speed detection – they only let you know when radar or laser are in use and roughly how far away a speed trap or officer is. There’s a few ways to still get a ticket while using a detector, including:
Not slowing down when a strong signal alarm sounds
A radar detector does not jam police radar guns. If you want to avoid a ticket, you must slow down!
Getting hit with pop radar too close to the trap or patrol unit
Pop radar is instant-on technology. If you’re the only one around, or are the first one hit, you’re probably in for a ticket.
Ignoring alerts or muting your system
In order for your radar detector to truly work to prevent a ticket, you have to hear the radar alarms and react accordingly. Muting your system to hear a song or make a call can be quite costly.
Police traffic enforcement planes
The eye in the sky is out of your radar detector unit’s range. It’s usually not an issue, though – most police planes use mile markers to track your speed and radio waiting officers on the highway ahead.
Driving recklessly and/or breaking other traffic laws
Radar detectors only help you against speeding tickets. When it comes to weaving, crossing double yellows, rolling stops and many other “creative” driving styles, you’re on your own. The best advice is not to get bolder with your driving style at all with the detector in your vehicle.
Getting caught with a detector or other system in an illegal area
If you’re using a radar detector in a state or municipality where they’re illegal, be prepared for a search, hefty ticket and possible confiscation of your detector. Always know the local laws around your travel plans. This rule also applies to laser shifter units.
There’s always one solution to avoiding costly speeding tickets — don’t speed! Yes, speeding is the reason why you want to buy a radar detector, but always remember the rules of safe driving. Accidents are always more costly than a speeding ticket.
Laser shifting units: a quick guide
A laser shifter is one of the most effective means of avoiding police laser speed detection. The actual function of the device is quite complicated, though, and installation is the most difficult of any ticket-avoiding device we carry.
Police laser speed detection employs an incredibly tight beam that’s tough to pick up from long distances. In fact, many cops have specific aiming spots for their laser gun that can get your speed without sounding your detector alarm. That’s where a shifter comes into play: the police laser beam is detected and mixed with a laser pulse signal from the shifter, returning a confusing error message to the gun display. The shifter then sounds a siren in your vehicle, giving you time to hit the brakes.
After getting an error message on their display, an officer likely will attempt to target your vehicle again. And, if an error message returns a second time, you can be sure they’ve figured out the presence of your laser shifter and may pursue. When the system siren sounds once, it’s vital to get down to the speed limit, then mute and disengage the shifter.
With the shifting mode shut down, you can still sense police laser but will not shift their incoming beam. Cops can now read your speed and won’t get suspicious of your laser shifter use.
The laser shifter can be linked with most portable dash-mounted or hidden stealth systems of the same manufacturer brand. The combination of an effective radar detector with a laser shifter forms one of the most complete ticket-avoiding systems available. Legality of the shifter is constantly changing, though. It’s illegal in 3 states: California, Utah and Minnesota. Radar jamming or shifting is illegal nationwide. Be sure to check your local laws before getting any shifter or jammer.
Is a dash-mounted system or high-tech “stealth” hidden system best for my vehicle?
Dash-mounted radar detectors are the most common type of unit used. Most effective when mounted in the low center of your dash, these radar detectors provide excellent 360° sensing of police radar bands.
Stealth radar detectors are virtually invisible to the eye, making for more covert use of your radar detecting system. Police many times look for your detector mounted on the windshield, and target vehicles using dash-mount systems. Stealth systems employ hidden sensors in your grille and rear license plate area for outstanding range and accuracy. The alerts and signal strength are displayed by a discreet under-the-dash monitor.
The catch with stealth radar detector systems is installation, which is extremely intricate and should be done by an installation professional. They’re a substantially more expensive unit, too.
- When you want great radar detection capability coupled with portability and easy use, grab a dash-mount radar detector like the Escort 8500 X50 Radar Detector
- When you want a hidden system or you are a serious ticket-dodging pro, go with a stealth radar detector & laser shifting system like the Escort Passport 9500ci Radar Detector. Don’t need laser shifting? Check out the Escort 8500ci or Escort 8500ci Plus radar detectors.
Radar detectors and smart false alarm-preventing software
In the earlier days of radar detectors, false alarms were abundant. Every tall radio antenna or garage door opener could sound your detector alarm. Even a microwave could have you slamming on the brakes! Not only would such alerts shorten your pad life and cause stress, but eventually drivers began ignoring real police radar alerts.
Quick tip: stopping more false alarms
X band is the radar frequency most prone to false alarms. It is the widest band, and used by other devices like the automatic door openers at your local grocery store. Since the vast majority of areas dropped X band long ago (New Jersey is the only all-X band state left), you can actually turn off or turn down alerts for these signals and hear fewer alarms.
Police are wise to this, though. X band has started to reappear in small pockets where it was once extinct, presumably in an effort to catch speeders muting their detectors. And, small law enforcement agencies throughout the country still use X band guns because they’re cheaper to acquire and operate, versus K, Ka or laser.
Your best bet: lower the sensitivity of your X band alerts instead of turning them off. This reduces false alarms and still alerts you if you’re wandering into a speed trap.
Fortunately, today’s detectors come equipped with smart software for stopping frequent false alarms. No longer does it seem as though every lawnmower or metal tooth filling is setting off your detector. In fact, all of the radar detector units AutoAnything offers feature modes for city and highway driving. City mode dampens weaker signals consistent with frequent false alarms. Highway mode, best for open-road driving where fewer false alerts occur, is set for increased sensitivity and maximum advanced warning for higher-speed driving.
What is the best way to power my radar detector?
Depending on how permanent a fixture your radar detector will be in your vehicle, there are 3 basic ways to power the unit: a 12v adapter, AA batteries or hard-wiring to your car’s electrical system. Not all units can be used in all 3 ways.
12v adapter power is ideal for using your detector between multiple vehicles, or hiding all traces of your system when parked. Wireless units accomplish this even better, as they can be mounted or un-mounted in seconds with no cords to fuss with. Hard wiring is excellent for frequently-used units. They can be unhooked from the wire and concealed to prevent theft, or used in another vehicle with the 12v adapter.
- When you want maximum versatility with your radar detector, grab a cordless radar detector
- When standard power and convenient portability work for you, get a 12v adapter-powered unit (see the Escort 9500ix Radar Detector or similar units)
- For a more permanent power source and professional installation, grab a 12v adapter-powered unit with optional hard wiring capability (see the Escort 8500 X50 Radar Detector)
Some tips on radar detector portability
Many of the radar detectors AutoAnything sells are powered by a 12v cigarette lighter/power outlet adapter that’s included with the unit. And, they usually mount to your windshield with suction cups, or to your sun visor with a clip. Thus, you can move your radar detector from vehicle to vehicle in just a couple of seconds.
Also available are cordless radar detector with the option of AA battery power or 12v adapter electricity. These wireless units keep your dash clear, eliminating clumsy cords that can get in your way.
Another option for powering your radar detector, though slightly less portable, is to hard-wire the unit to your vehicle’s power system. While eliminating cord mess, you’ll still need a 12v or battery power to use the detector in another vehicle.
How much will a wireless unit help my vehicle?
Cordless radar detectors eliminate unsightly power cables from your dash. They’re the ultimate in portability, and can also be powered by 12v adapter, if you wish. Cordless radar detectors are equipped with easy mounting equipment (usually a suction cup) and automatic power-saving programming.
- When ultimate portability matters most, grab a cordless radar detector
- When wireless capability isn’t important, get a standard 12v adapter-powered radar detector