When choosing a radar detector you should care about the detectors sensitivity which is what will determine how much time you have to react before you reach the threat. Features like a compass, lcd or oled displays, etc. are nice but they are not going to factor into whether or not your detector goes off in time.
The performance of a laser radar detector is based on the sensitivity of the antenna and how quickly the detector can take received information, filter out false alerts and give you an alert leaving you enough time to react.
There are two categories of radar detectors (Custom Installed and Windshield Mounted Units) A custom installed unit will be more money and has to be professionally installed in your vehicle and makes for a stealth installation since you do not have anything sitting in your windshield.
For custom installed units there is a clear winner and the best custom installed radar detector is the Beltronics Sti-R Plus - The Sti-R plus is a serious custom installed remote radar detector for the person who wants the best and can afford it.
For windshield mounted radar detectors here are our top picks. Windshield mounted units are the most common radar detectors since they just plug in the cigarette lighter and you suction the mount to the windshield. They can easily be moved from one car to another.
In 2013 Escort released its first windshield mounted radar detector which was above $500 price point. The PassPort Max which is an excellent city radar detector and with the exception of the Escort Redline the Passport Max Series are the 2nd most sensitive radar detector on the market.
In 2014 Escort Released the Passport Max 2 which offers identical performance to the original max but it added an embedded bluetooth chip making the Max 2 work with Escort Live without needing the separate Escort Live bluetooth cord which is sold separately for the original Max. See this page for more info: Differences in Max vs Max 2
If you can afford it and you will use your radar detector mostly in the city with also some highway use the Passport Max or Max 2 are probably the best the radar detectors to get. If you are mostly a highway driver you are still better off with the Escort Redline which is less expensive but will have overall more sensitivity. Also see our detailed Escort Redline vs Escort Max Comparison.
Under $500 - The best overall unit you can get if you do not live in Virginia or Washington DC and you will also use it for mostly city driving is the Escort 9500ix.
If you do live in areas where detectors are banned (Virginia, Washington DC and some provinces in Canada) or drive mostly on highways the best unit would be the Escort Redline. The Escort Redline is immune to RDD's (Radar Detector Detectors) which can be used to find cars in areas where radar detectors are banned. Also to date the Escort Redline is the most sensitive windshield mounted radar detector on the market.
There are several difference between these two units and we have a more detailed comparison between these two units on our Escort 9500ix vs Escort Redline page.
Under $400 - The best radar detector under $400 clearly goes to the new Beltronics Pro-500.
The PRO-500 shares the same platform as the higher priced Escort 9500ix but lacks only one feature (Auto Learn) and has some accessory differences. We have a more detailed comparison page of these two detectors. Visit the Beltronics PRO 500 vs. Escort 9500ix page for a listing of all the differences. Performance is the virtually the same with both of these radar detectors but there are some feature and packaging differences.
Under $300 - In the past the Beltronics RX65 was our best detector in this price range but since once Beltronics released the Beltronics PRO 300 it took over for our top pick under $300.
The PRO-300 has increased sensitivity over the old model which will give you more time to react. Beltronics PRO-300 is very sensitive and in the city it has very good filtering to reduce many false alerts..
Under $200 -There are a few good units in this price category. Whistler just refreshed their lineup and introduced the new CR Series. Two of these units are excellent detectors for their price range and worthy to be in the best under $200 category. The Whistler CR85 ($149.95) is their new high performance radar detector and the Whistler CR90 ($189.95) is the same as the CR85 but it adds an internal gps antenna, This enables the CR90 to also give you red light camera and fixed speed camera protection. If you want camera protection and your budget is under $200 this is the unit to get.
Under $100 Unfortunately detectors under $100 do not necessarily qualify for the 'BEST' title because they can not complete with the performance of the higher priced units. If you are on a very tight budget but need a radar detector the only one we feel safe in recommending is the Whistler PRO-68SE for $99.95. Its a decent entry level radar detector and it has the best performance for any detector in this price range.
For more information visit our Radar Detector FAQ's or you can contact us and we can help you choose the right detector for your individual needs.