Looking for a good radar detector? Good radar detectors can be the difference between you and a $500 speeding ticket. For many chronic speeders, it’s a smart investment.
Fortunately, thanks to the ever-shrinking costs of technology, good radar detectors are cheaper than ever. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a decent radar detector.
There are even some radar detector manufacturers that will pay for your speeding ticket if you’re caught while using their device – that’s how confident they are in the effectiveness of their radar detectors.
On the ultra-cheap end of radar detectors, you can find devices priced under $50. On the higher end of the market, you can expect to spend well over $600.
Looking for the best affordable radar detectors? Want an option that’s cheap – but still uses high-quality parts and gets the job done? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here are the most affordable radar detectors by their cost/value ratio.
How to Pick a Cheap Radar Detector
Before we talk about specific radar detectors, there are certain common traits between all radar detectors. Whether you’re buying a cheap or expensive radar detector, you’ll want to pay attention to all of the following qualities:
-Type of Detection:
Cops know people own radar detectors. That’s why they’re using more sophisticated technology. In days gone by, radar detectors would only detect stray X, K, and Ka signals from a cop’s radar gun. Today, however, cops are increasingly using a fourth radar band called Ku. Some police forces across America also use LIDAR detection. The important thing to remember when shopping for radar detectors is that all detectors, regardless of price, cover the same radar bands. A cheap $40 radar detector will promise “9 band” detection, for example, but it won’t work in a large enough radius. That’s the main difference between cheap and expensive radar detectors. Don’t be lured in by a cheap radar detector just because it can detect a lot of bands.
As we just mentioned, most radar detectors can detect the same types of radar. The main difference between radar detectors is their range. Range varies widely between radar detectors. The more you pay, the longer your range will be.
Another hassle with cheap radar detectors is the number of false positives. Some radar detectors will give out false positives when you drive past a grocery store’s automatic doors, for example. The more you pay, the less chance you have of experiencing false positives (in general).
-Control and UI:
Higher-end radar detectors have large, easy-to-use buttons. That’s important. You don’t want to mess around with tiny controls and small buttons when you’re driving. An easy UI is very important. More modern radar detector brands often come with paired apps.
-Front and Rear-Facing Antennas:
Cheap radar detectors will only point forward. More expensive options will often have both front and rear-facing antennas. That’s important, as it lets you capture radar from all directions.
-Radar Detection Detection:
No, that’s not a typo. Some radar detectors now have a feature called radar detection detection. Cops have devices that can sniff out radar detectors. More expensive radar detectors use stealth technology to mask their signals. Many of these higher-end models are also able to sniff out the “quick-action” radar used by some police forces, which scans radar quickly to avoid detection.
As mentioned above, some radar detectors have their own apps. Today, many modern radar detectors use Bluetooth or other audio routing features. That means alerts are sent to your stereo, phone, Bluetooth headset, or wherever else you want them to go. If you’re worried about hearing the radar detector over your loud music, then these features are important.
How Much Should You Expect to Spend on a Radar Detector?
As mentioned above, you can spend anywhere from $50 to $600 on a radar detector. Generally speaking, these radar detectors are separated in quality by the characteristics we mentioned above – like range, UI, false positive rate, and antennas.
Most research points towards a sweet spot for affordable radar detectors of $200 to $500.
At this price range, you’re avoiding the sub-$200 models that offer limited range and functionality. You’re also avoiding the high-end models that offer more functionality than the average user needs. You’re in the “sweet spot”.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best models on the market today.
Top 5 Best Affordable Radar Detectors on the Market Today
Just like with most product comparisons online, your best bet is to go with reputable, big-name brands. Yes, you’re probably paying more than you would with lesser-known brands, but there’s a reason you’re paying those high prices. In the radar detector market, the best big-name brands are Escort, Cobra, Valentine One, and Beltronics. That being said, there’s always room for new competitors, and we’ve picked one off-the-board option in the list below.
Cobra DSP 9200 BT ($150 USD)
As the cheapest option on our list, the Cobra DSP 9200 BT is better than the ultra-budget radar detectors, but it offers functionality similar to the higher-priced options on our list. In addition to excellent radar detection capabilities, the DSP 9200 BT has features like advanced audio routing, letting you direct alerts through your car stereo or to a Bluetooth headset.
The 9200 BT is also very small for a radar detector. It has a basic digital display that’s easy to read – but won’t give you much info beyond the obvious alerts.
Overall, radar detection in the 9200 BT is very good. The two main downsides to the DSP 9200 BT are the false positives and Bluetooth pairing issues. If you look at customer reviews online, you’ll see many customers complaining about these two problems.
Another downside to the 9200 BT is that it relies heavily on your phone. If you have an old phone – or if you’d just prefer not to connect your phone to anything in your car – then the 9200 BT may not be the right option for you.
As with other Cobra products, the 9200 BT links up with the popular Cobra iRadar app, where 1 million users post an average of 40,000 traffic reports per day, giving you an extra edge against the police forces of the world.
Whistler CR90 ($180 USD)
The Whistler CR90 comes with a built-in GPS – something you typically only find on higher-end radar detectors. Affordability is the key benefit on the CR90, as customers enjoy a lower price than some of the better-known brands while still getting all of the powerful radar detection features.
One of the few downsides with the Whistler CR90 is that you don’t get the social experience of the Cobra iRadar app or any similar apps. To many people, that’s a non-issue.
The Whistler CR90 makes up for it by offering comprehensive alert tracking through its internal GPS. The GPS will alert you of non-radar hazards in your area – like red light cameras and speed cameras in known locations.
Most importantly, the CR90 has also performed well at tracking radar. It tracks all radar and laser frequency bands used by police. The LED display also lets you know how strong that signal is, while a voice signal is emitted from the box telling you what kind of signal was detected.
Other nifty features include a Stay Alert tool, designed to help you stay awake when driving on long road trips. This feature will play two quiet beeps every minute. You need to press the button after you hear those two beeps. If you don’t, a loud alarm will go off. It’s an emergency measure for emergency situations – but it’s one that could save your life.
If you’re looking to go away from the “big 4” of radar detectors, then the Whistler CR90 is a very functional and popular option – especially at this competitive price range.
Beltronics Pro 500 ($300 USD)
Moving up in price, the Beltronics Pro 500 is a popular option among those willing to spend a little more money. It comes with the features you would expect on a higher-end model, including built-in GPS and a preloaded database of red-light and speed-camera locations.
This is the flagship Beltronics radar detector. It’s their most popular model. You get an easy UI, excellent radar detection, and few false complaints.
One of the best parts of the Pro 500 is the 360 degree laser detection – so you’ll receive an alert whether an office is in front, behind, or to the sides.
The only minor downside to the Beltronics Pro 500 is the lack of auto-learning. That means the Pro 500 won’t automatically learn to ignore known false positives. However, you can tap the buttons three times to tell the radar detector that it just detected a false positive, so it will ignore it the next time you’re in the area.
Like other Beltronics products (Beltronics is owned by Escort), you get access to the Escort Live app, a community-based app similar to Cobra’s iRadar.
Overall, the Beltronics Pro 500 radar detector is the flagship member of the Beltronics lineup for good reason. It has few downsides and all of the features you would expect on a higher-end radar detector.
Escort Passport 9500ix ($330 USD)
A small bump up in price from the Pro 500, the Passport 9500ix is one of Escort’s most popular models. It’s significantly cheaper than higher-end options like the Passport Max2 and Max 360 (the Max 360 isn’t on this list). However, it still uses the famous Escort radar detection system, offering the most technologically advanced radar detection on the road.
Users enjoy features like excellent range and accuracy and one of the lowest false positive rates in the industry. You also get an internal GPS with comprehensive alerts.
Another feature we appreciate in the 9500ix is the fact that it can detect using instant-on or POP modes, both of which are quick action modes on radar guns designed to beat radar detectors. So even if local law enforcement gets sneaky, you’re not going to get caught.
Overall, the Passport 9500ix has some of the best reviews in the radar detector industry – not just among affordable radar detectors. Some users have had trouble with the Passport 9500ix actually being too aggressive at filtering out false alerts, causing them to miss legitimate speed traps. However, these reviews are rare.
Escort Passport Max2 ($430 USD)
If you’re looking for a flashy digital display, highly-accurate radar detection, and a built-in GPS with a pre-installed database, then the Passport Max2 may be your next radar detector.
Priced at around $430 USD, the Escort Passport Max 2 is pushing the limits of “affordable” radar detectors. Still, if you have a little extra money (or if you live in an area with really expensive speeding tickets), then the Passport Max 2 may be a smart investment.
Some of the key features on the Passport Max 2 include the built-in GPS with an enormous database of speed and red-light camera locations. Everything integrates well with the Escort Live app, which has an active community of members who share data in real-time, keeping you up-to-date on alerts.
Out of all the radar detectors on our list, the Max2 has the best range and accuracy. It also has a surprisingly low false alert rate. That’s due to the fact that the radar detector uses intelligent GPS data, then combines it with digital signal processing. If you’re sick and tired of hearing pings when you drive by a grocery store, the Max2 may be your new best friend.
One of the coolest parts of the Max2 is how quickly it learns your activity. You might hear a few false alerts the first time you drive around your neighborhood. But it doesn’t take long for the Max2 to catch on and filter out false alerts.
Overall, the Max2 has excellent 360 degree detection, a powerful built-in GPS, and surprisingly low false positive rates. You can expand its functionality even further if you subscribe to the premium “Defender Database” program – although it’s certainly not required.
Affordable radar detectors are easier to find than ever before! The technology has come down significantly in price. That’s good news for consumers like you – as it means excellent affordable radar detectors can be found for less than $200.