Playing Defense: Dash Cam Edition


Sports are oft a metaphor for all aspects of life, and personal finance is no exception. Making a lot of money is styled as offense, while saving money and being frugal is more akin to defense. Ridiculousness – of course – abounds at both extremes. On the defensive side of the ball, frugalistas will often take it too far and cross the line from frugal to stupid. On offense, many a bro will insist, “There is no limit to how much you can earn”, which is easily disproved by someone with a first grader’s grasp of mathematics.

I’ve always tried to take a balanced view to the sport of personal finance. Combine making good money with somewhat disciplined spending, and you’ve got the foundation for a winning team.

However, “defense” encompasses far more than just frugality and saving money. It includes keeping what you’ve earned and guarding against disaster. Things like insurance and proper home maintenance aren’t very exciting, but they are important to protecting your assets. Life can throw you curves at any time, so anything that mitigates those situations can help your defense. We’ve recently added a tool to our arsenal that does just that.

Defensive Driving

Last year the missus had a co-worker who was in a car accident that was the other driver’s fault. As with every accident in the history of driving, shortly after, the at-fault driver decided to start changing his story aka “lying”. There is obviously a big financial incentive to do so – even if your insurance fully covers the accident, your future insurance premiums can look very different depending on if the accident was your fault, the other person’s fault, or “no one’s fault”.

I’m not sure why lying about fault in an car accident gets a free pass while robbing a bank sends you to jail (maybe the gun?), but I accept that this type of thievery – encouraged, I’m sure, by culpable insurance companies – does occur.

So things were looking grim for my wife’s colleague, but he had an ace in the hole. His dash camera had captured the entire accident and showed it was the other driver’s fault. Boom! Score one for the good guys.

I was happy to hear that truth and justice won this time. At an almost subconscious level, I wondered why he had a dash cam (maybe he’s a secret agent?), but I didn’t give it a lot more thought.

Until Christmas.

Best Gift Ever

If you’ve studied the awesomest guide to gift giving ever written, you know one of the keys to great gifts is to buy things that the person would definitely want but would never buy for themselves.

The missus has an exciting commute, and her colleague’s story made me think she might appreciate a dash cam. While a dash cam wouldn’t actually make the other drivers less crazy (or would it? more on that below…), knowing she’d have a video record of anything that happened might lower her stress level a bit.

I steeled myself and went on Amazon, ready for a price tag in the hundreds or more and all sorts of complex electronic wizardry.

What I found was far more reasonable. While there are some high-end dash cams that broach $100, most are way below that. The technology is really simple: you plug it in your DC outlet and put in a micro SD card to record. It records in a loop, so if there’s ever an accident you just pull the SD card and copy the video to preserve it.

I didn’t want to go nuts with a high-end model because I thought it likely that the missus would smile softly, say, “That’s nice”, and then store it somewhere until we move.

Finding value on Amazon in cheap electronics from unknown Chinese companies is one of my skills. After investigating a number of models and discounting a bunch of fake reviews, I landed on the Byakov Dash Camera (Chinese companies using Russian sounding names is now a thing, I guess). It was about $40, which took off the pressure since I thought this would be poorly received.

I was wrong. Very wrong. The missus thought it was extremely thoughtful. She said it was one of the best gifts I’d ever given her. Wow. I don’t know if that speaks well of Byakov’s fine electronics or poorly of all the other gifts I’ve given her. To be fair, she thought it was well over $100 and assumed Byakov was exotic, high end, and totally not a cheap unknown fly-by-night Chinese company. Let’s notch a win for Byakov’s marketing team.

But Did It Work?

So far the Byakov dash cam has been perfect. I’ve pulled video a couple of times, and it’s fine. It may not be Academy Award winning quality, but it’s certainly good enough and includes audio. The missus is a bit less stressed, which was the goal after all.

However, there is one added benefit. She says that when other drivers see the dash cam, they’re actually more careful. She once turned it around to record a driver who was riding up her tail (her camera only faces forward), and he backed off immediately. I thought we’d just be helping ourselves in the event of an accident, but it could be that the dash cam actually helps avoid them. That was unexpected.

There is a chance that a $40 dashcam won’t last forever, but it’s certainly proving its worth for now. I was so inspired by the missus’ experience that I thought I’d grab one for myself.

The Late Adopter Adopts

However, when I went shopping for another Byakov, it had disappeared from Amazon altogether (rest easy – they’re back now). I can understand selling a bunch of garbage and disappearing, but ol’ Byakov had great ratings that appeared to be from real humans. It had a valuable brand! (ahem)

No matter – I started my search again, and I found the ~$20 Dyzeryk Dash Camera. (Sidebar – nice try on the name, Dyzeryk, but I think you need to poach someone from Byakov’s marketing team.) That’s how much an expensive lunch can cost. Surely this product was going to be a dud, right?

Yes and no. If you are looking for a quality manual in English, Dyzeryk is not for you. Heck, even a digital submenu on the device itself has a choice of “one two tree”. If Byakov is the Mercedes Benz of cut rate Chinese electronics, Dyseryk is the Chevrolet.

But it seems to work fine:

Like the missus, I’ve noticed that people treat me very differently when they see I have a dash cam. At my worst intersection, no one has tried to kill me for over a week, which is a record.

I’ve also thought about some other ways that a dash camera could help. While I’m not a demographic that needs to worry much about police stops, I am glad that I’ll have an audio record (and video, if I’m brave / stupid enough to point it left) of any interaction. I’ve even envisioned using the video record, a measurement, and some math to prove I wasn’t speeding. When my sons start driving, you can bet I’ll be pulling that video often. The opportunities are endless.

My only head-scratching moment is why more people don’t have dash cams. I don’t see them on many cars (other than Ubers), and our friends have commented on ours with wonder. Maybe the ubiquity of smartphones makes people comfortable that a camera is on hand, but an after-the-fact video is far less valuable than a live-action one.

I’m definitely sold on the dash cam. I’ll hopefully have a video record if I’m ever in a serious accident or accused of some wrongdoing. When you think of how an inexpensive dash cam could swing a worst-case scenario in your (or your estate’s…) favor, the financial implications could be enormous. And that is a huge boost for the defense!

One thing I learned while shopping dash cams: some cars leave their DC output “hot” when the car is off which would leave the dash cam on all the time and drain the battery – be sure to check your car.

Do you already have a dash cam? Have you ever been in an accident and wished you had dash cam footage? Let me know in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Playing Defense: Dash Cam Edition”

  1. Hi Paul,

    Interesting topic. The first time I heard about the use of dash cams was a couple years ago in Russia. The history that came to me is that people there were “jumping” in front of the car and suing the driver to get some money. To avoid this they started the installation of dash cam. If it is true or just a urban tale I do not know.

    I have not observed it in the cars around the places I have been here in Europe. I guess it is not so common. I’ll pay more attention from now on.

    To be honesty I was thinking about during the reading of the post and would not be a bad idea to have one dash cam installed on my car. Being a foreign in the country and do not speak their languages, sometimes, can be difficult in the case of an accident. In such situation have the accident recorded would close the door for “alternative interpretations”.

    Fortunately in almost 20 years I was involved in car accident just once. One car with 4 drunk guys did not stop at the intersection and hit the side of the car I was driving. I do not know how much the dash cam could have helped me in this situation.

    Have a nice week,


    1. Hi Odysseus

      I didn’t know dash cams has such an exciting history in Russia – that would definitely drive a huge need for video evidence of what actually happened. I don’t like that cameras are everywhere nowadays, but if it does help cut down some of the lying and thievery I guess that is of some benefit. I tell my boys to always observe the “sunshine test” and pretend the entire world is watching them when deciding what to do. Soon they won’t have to pretend…

      I would think a dash cam would be particularly desirable in your situation – if there were an accident and the police were involved, the language barrier could give the narrative a very anti-Odysseus flavor before you were able to present your side. The dash cam would not only retain what happened, but it would also perhaps lessen the local “spin”.

      I’m glad it’s been a long time since you’ve had to deal with an accident. Keep it up!

      Thanks and have a great week!

  2. Yeah, I’ve definitely considered getting a dash-cam for the wife’s car. She has a fender-bender about once a year. The problem is, insurance companies don’t seem to care about who’s at fault. They’ll jack up our insurance even if it isn’t her fault.

    That’s our experience at any rate. Maybe it depends upon your insurance company, but in my experience *any* kind of accident is quite costly.

    I’ll probably buy a dashcam at some point though. Never hurts to have a little extra evidence around.

    1. I can see the insurance company raising rates even if it weren’t her fault – they’re just soulless number crunchers, so they may defend an increase by deeming her commute risky and projecting there will be some accidents where the other driver avoids culpability. Perhaps they raise it some for any accident and a lot for one you caused – I definitely don’t want to gather enough data to know for certain!

      I do think a dash cam is a great investment. They’re so cheap that even a low chance of them doing good (and a close to zero chance of them doing harm, assuming you’re a good driver) makes them worth it. When you’re ready to pull the trigger feel free to ask about Byakov and Dyzeryk and I can tell you if their rubber bands have broken yet 🙂

  3. Hi Paul,

    For me, the Dash Cam is basically “don’t leave home without it”!! Cheap and good insurance. I have had this misfortune of being hit twice now in the last few years by a distracted driver. Luckily, the dash dam recorded everything and was powerful evidence for the insurance companies — especially in the absence of witnesses. I, like you, tend to search Amazon for cheaper versions……one of my favorites at the moment is the Toguard camera ($60-70.00) which clips over your rear view mirror and also has a back up cam that records. You can hardwire it by running wires under the headliner and down the side pillar — keeps the dash clean and free of wires. Works well, clear pics and can be a powerful witness. Great post.

    1. Thanks Lee!

      That is exactly the information I was hoping to hear. It’s great to know that the video evidence can be valuable – and it’s much appreciated to learn it second rather than firsthand!. I’m sure there are some cases that are still ambiguous, but many are perfectly captured by a dash cam.

      My brother was in a serious accident long ago – a driver turned left in front of him and his green light and he didn’t even have time to brake. The other driver eventually lied that she had a left turn arrow (implying he ran a red light) but thankfully the police report already faulted her. If it hadn’t been an injury accident and required a police report, he might have had both a totaled car AND blame for the accident. A dash cam would have perfectly captured his green light and her demolition derby audition. It wouldn’t have made him feel better in the hospital, but it would have made the claim process far easier.

      I struggled with buying a single or dual cam, but went simple for round 1. If either of our devices ever fail (haha) I’ll check out the Toguard.

      I was slow getting to your level of wisdom, but I’m quickly becoming a believer. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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