Car Buying

Optional Backup Camera: Is It Worth the Cost?

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author photo by Russ Heaps June 2015

When buying a new vehicle, a backup camera will probably be on the options list. It will be available either in a package that costs extra or as part of a more expensive trim level. Even if you aren't purchasing a new vehicle, several aftermarket rearview cameras are available. The big question is: Should you spend the cash for a clearer view of what's behind you?

According to KidsAndCars.org and the federal government: You bet! In fact, by the 2018 model year, you won't have a choice. In response to a government mandate, starting in 2018, every new car and light truck will have to provide drivers with an expanded view of what's behind the vehicle when it's shifted into reverse. To comply, carmakers will have to make backup cameras standard on every model.

What Is the Issue?

According to KidsAndCars.org, backover accidents cause an average of more than 13,000 injuries and 232 deaths annually. Most victims are toddlers between 1 and 2 years of age. The majority of these incidents are in residential driveways and commercial parking lots. The reason: There is a blind spot behind every car and truck that stretches from 15 feet in smaller cars to more than 25 feet in larger pickup trucks and SUVs. For shorter drivers, blind spots are even longer. A pet, a child or even a small adult wandering into that blind zone is at risk.

What Does a Backup Camera Do?

Using a monitor located on the dashboard, center console or rearview mirror, a rearview camera projects a full-color, real-time image of what's behind the vehicle when the car is in reverse. It eliminates that huge blind zone.

What Does a Backup Camera Cost?

Some manufacturers include a rearview camera in the base price of the entry-level trim of several models. For example, Honda includes it on the base Civic LX, Chevrolet includes it on the base Colorado pickup and Ford includes it on the entry-level Focus S.

Because a monitor of some sort is required, rarely does a carmaker offer a rearview camera as a stand-alone option. Usually it's bundled into option packages or trim upgrades that also include a touchscreen monitor. Carmakers almost always include a backup camera in a navigation-system bundle.

Packages and bundles, however, can be pricey. In the Dodge Dart, for example, which doesn't offer a standard rearview camera or even an optional one on its base SE grade, you must first pay an extra $2,505 to step up to the SXT trim. You can then qualify to spend yet another $595 for the Uconnect option, which comes with a touchscreen and backup camera. That totals an extra $3,100 to get a rearview camera. In some models, it costs much more.

What About Older Cars?

The manufacturing of aftermarket rearview cameras is a huge industry. Typing "backup cameras" into an online search engine will result in pages of camera systems for sale. These are rather easy-to-install units beginning around $100, and they usually mount on an older car's rear license plate. If you prefer to do it yourself, there are plenty of sources, such as YouTube, which offers installation videos.

What it means to you: There is no question that the blind zone behind a vehicle that's in reverse is responsible for thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths every year -- not to mention a considerable amount of property damage. The low cost of preventive aftermarket systems makes them a no-brainer. When buying a new car, we recommend shopping around to find a car that offers a backup camera within your budget. It just makes good sense.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Optional Backup Camera: Is It Worth the Cost? - Autotrader