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What is a Radar Detector and Why Do I Need One?

Let's start with the basics to get you informed

What is a Radar Detector?

If you have a car, like to drive or just want to save money, then a radar detector is a must-have device for you. A radar detector can go hand-in-hand with a dash camera. While each of them serve different purposes, both of them work hand-in-hand to protect you and your vehicle.

The purpose of a radar detector is to save you from speeding tickets by detecting police radar waves that police use with radar guns to measure the speed of travel for your vehicle. A radar detector is able to warn you, both audibly and visually, when it detects these radar waves so that you are aware and can slow down within the speed limit in time. The idea is that just a single speeding ticket can and should be able to pay for the cost of the radar detector.

How do Radar Detectors work?

Whether it's for a personal vehicle or a commercial vehicle, a radar detector works for all scenarios. When a police officer or other law enforcement wants to catch a speeding vehicle, they would use a radar gun. A lidar radar gun emits invisible waves that operates on three bands of radar signals, including X band, K band and Ka band. There is also a fourth band called the Ku band, but that's primarily used in Europe. These waves will detect the vehicle, then bounce back to the police radar, thereby detecting the speed of travel of a vehicle. A radar detector is able to detect these waves and emit audio and visual alerts to indicate that you may be in trouble, allowing you to avoid speed traps with enough time to spare.

Premium radar detectors from Escort and Radenso offer even longer range detection of radar guns and can provide more accurate readings, as well as less false alerts. One common issue that older radar detectors had was that certain vehicle models have historically interfered with the signals emitted and produce a series of false alarms that affect the accuracy of the radar. This issue is no longer the case with modern radars from Escort and Radenso as the technology continues to evolve.

Are Radar Detectors Legal in the United States?

While each state and province in North America have different governing laws regarding radar detector usage for commercial and non-commercial vehicles, radar detectors are legal in many areas, especially for the United States.

At the federal law level, there are no laws that prohibit radar detector ownership, usage or sales by non-commercial vehicles. At the state law level, there are only two areas where radar detector usage is illegal - Virginia and Washington D.C. Radar detector usage in anywhere else in the United States. To summarize, it is perfectly legal to use radar detectors in states such as California, New York, Utah, Illinois, Texas, Minnesota, Colorado, New Jersey, Tennessee South Carolina and Oklahoma.

Even with this said, the radar detector laws in Virginia is written in a way so that, while it is illegal to use a radar detector in Virginia:

  1. It is legal to own a radar detector that is powered off and stored away (IE. in the glove box or trunk)
  2. There are no demerit points applied to the driver’s license if you are caught with a radar detector in use

Further, the fine for using a radar detector in Virginia is less than the cost of a premium radar detector. For these reasons above, drivers who live in or are passing through Virginia simply hide their radar detectors when there is police radar/radar guns presence so that they can still avoid speeding tickets.

What about Canada for Radar Detectors?

In Canada, radar detectors are only legal in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. They are illegal in all other provinces.

Do Police Officers know I am using a Radar Detector?

Police officers have a device that is essentially a radar detector-detector. These devices can detect the small amount of radio waves that emits from your radar detector, thereby alerting the police officer that a radar detector is in use. Lower end radar detectors are easily detectable by these detectors while premium radar detectors are much less affected due to better construction and materials used.

Types of Radar Detectors

Radar detectors, in general, can be divided into two categories: dash/window-mounted radar detectors and custom-installed/remote radar detectors. Dash/window-mounted radar detectors are more common and are attached to the vehicle’s windshield or dashboard with suction cup mounts. The benefits for these radar detectors include the ease of quickly taking off the radar detector at any time and being able to easily transfer it to another vehicle. These radar detectors are essentially universally compatible with any vehicle that has a windshield.

The other type of radar detectors, which are far less common, are custom installed/remote radar detectors. While a regular radar detector has all parts inside one unit (antenna, control circuitry, speakers, etc.), a custom or remote radar detector has these parts integrated into the vehicle. For example, the antenna may be hidden in the front and rear bumpers while the display can be fitted into the center console of the vehicle, providing a much more hidden and OEM look to the setup.

Find Your Radar Detector

Ka, K, and X Bands

Find the differences between Ka, K, and X Bands

False Alerts

The solution to false alerts on radar detectors

Traffic Cameras

Differences between traffic, red light, and cameras

Mounting Tips

The best way to mount your radar detector


What is a Radar Detector and why do I need one?

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