Car Security







2005 Radar-Detector Buyer's Guide


In the endless conflict between law enforcement officers and driving enthusiasts, technology has given an edge to the combatants on both sides. Consumers have been able to purchase more accurate, longer-range detectors with nearly each passing year, while the police have been armed with guns that can minimize the time for detection across a growing spectrum of frequencies.

As with home computers, electronic speed equipment that is just two to three years old won’t measure up to the current gear in this endless battle. Of course, the latest, greatest gizmo won’t ensure freedom to make the Interstate system your own private autobahn, but it may provide the extra moments needed to rein in speed closer to the posted limit should enthusiasm outpace judgment.

Finding the right protection for your budget is more complicated than perusing a local mass-merchandise retailer. Many features have become common across radar detector models, though their performance differs significantly -- just like desktop PCs. With the goal being to avoid tickets, thereby saving on fines, insurance penalties, and public humiliation, it is wise to invest in the right equipment up front. To prepare you for this key decision, Motor Trend again teamed with Speed Measurements Laboratories to prepare an essential guide to radar/laser detector and associated countermeasures, complete with objective testing.

While the vast majority of radar/laser detectors that retail in the $100 category are sold at mass merchants, auto parts stores, and on the Internet, past experience has shown us that with very few exceptions, their performance falls short of what serious drivers expect. This year we have selected step-up models that retail between $100 and $200, knowing that Motor Trend readers will want to know about serious products that provide good protection. To our delight, we found solid products in this affordable range, and even identified one model whose performance was so superior to its competitors that we felt it actually belonged in the premium, $200-plus category.

In the over $200 category, we have again evaluated units from the acknowledged leaders in radar/laser detection technology and found a familiar triumvirate leading the charge: BEL, Escort, and Valentine One. These three manufacturers take their market competition seriously, and it shows in products that consistently respond to new technologies being deployed by municipalities and law enforcement agencies designed to separate your hard-earned dollars from your wallet while applying points to your license. Although all commercially available detectors were tested, we have focused on the top four performers in each category to narrow our editorial focus. (There is one notable company missing from the ranks, K40 Electronics. K40 had a superb performer in our 2004 test with the RD850, scoring 90.25 point out of 100, but their latest product was not available in time for this evaluation. We will revisit K40 and look at cordless detectors in a future article.)

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