Every year, there are thousands of accidents in which children and pets are injured (and even killed) because a driver did not see them in the rear-view or side mirrors. The problem is entirely solvable with a backup camera, which provides drivers with an extra set of eyes to see what is directly behind the vehicle.
In fact—given the profound consequences for safety—the US Department of Transportation will require every new vehicle to have a backup camera starting next year. But there’s no reason to wait because there are effective (and affordable) backup camera solutions that can be added to your car right away. eBay has a wide selection.
Whether you’re trying to add a new level of safety, avoid bumping into other cars when parking, or want to keep an eye on what you are towing, a rear-view camera system is a smart addition to your ride.
All aftermarket backup systems use a small video camera that fits on the rear of your vehicle—either on the trunk, back bumper, or on the license plate frame. The image is displayed in a small LCD screen that mounts on the dashboard or is integrated with the rear-view mirror. Some systems also include an ultrasonic proximity sensor that makes a beeping sound when your car gets close to an object.
The most affordable solutions are easy to install and require minimal wiring. although you will need to find space on the dashboard for the monitor.
A sleek solution available to many late-model vehicles is to access the factory-supplied head unit—the main infotainment system that most people refer to as the car’s radio. The current generation of head units has built-in video inputs. So-called integrated backup camera kits take advantage of those inputs—so images from the camera look and work just like the camera kits provided by the automaker.
If it’s difficult to run wires from the rear of a vehicle to the dashboard, don’t worry. Wireless backup camera kits are easy to install, with the monitor either situated on the dashboard or replacing the rear-view mirror. One of the coolest new approaches is to hide the wireless camera in the license plate frame. These units can display the image on an LCD monitor, a head unit with a video input, or rearview mirror displays.
Camera systems designed for RVs, buses, heavy equipment and trucks have weatherproof units that mount high on the rear of the vehicle and give an extra-wide view to safely see what’s behind you.
Things to Consider
- A camera utilizing a CCD image sensor will provide higher-quality images under either very low and very bright lighting conditions. CCD systems can also add overlaid parking lines to guide your direction in tight spaces.
- Cameras with CMOS sensors, while less expensive, will produce images of lower quality. Given the daily use of a back-up camera, most reviewers advice on buying a camera with CCD, because the added cost is relatively modest.
- Rear-view cameras usually provide a field of view of between 140 and 190 degrees. A wider view means you will see more of the field behind you, but objects will appear further away and less distinct.
- The placement of the camera, and how it’s mounted, is also an important consideration. Mounting locations include the license plate frame, trunk lid, and vehicle-specific mounts. Regardless, the key is to confirm that you see the field of vision for maximum safety.
A final warning: Backup cameras can be a huge help, but they are not a replacement for inspecting the area behind the car before you get in, turning around to look behind from the driver’s seat, and carefully checking side and rear-view mirrors before backing out.