How much does a backup camera really cost?
Backup cameras (or rear view cameras) are very popular right now because of the increased safety and convenience they provide, so it is natural to wonder how much they cost. A quick Internet search finds cameras selling for as little as $7-$8 and as high as $700-$800 or more. Why is there such a wide price range?
To answer this question, we need to consider kinds of systems, components, and installation.
Not all backup cameras are the same
First, it is important to recognize that the very low-end cameras are simply cameras, not backup camera systems. They do not include monitors, and they include minimal wiring.
The higher end cameras may include much more, including larger (7”-9”) monitors, multiple cameras, GPS navigation, or other features. In fact, for around $1500 you can get a tailgate for your pickup with a backup camera included.
What is included in a backup camera system?
A “basic” backup camera system should include both a camera and monitor (or a way to display the rear image on your in-dash console). If you happen to find a great deal on a camera but it does not include a monitor, you will have to buy a monitor eventually.
You know by looking at your cell phone that cameras and displays are everywhere, so it is not a big surprise that you can find very low cost cameras and monitors. A camera selling for $8 may sound great, but you may be disappointed with image resolution or the narrow field of vision. It may not be suitable for night-time viewing. Or it may have problems with weather such as rain or snow. It is no fun trying to see behind your vehicle with a fogged camera.
Similarly, there are many kinds of monitors. A small, 1.5” or 2” display may be hard to see from the driver’s seat. A black-and-white display may not be what you were hoping for. Of course, a 9” color display in a compact car may be totally unreasonable, too! For most cars, SUVs, minivans, and pickup trucks, a 3.5” or 4.3” color display should be sufficient.
Then of course you will need a way to get the image from the camera to the monitor: wired or wireless. With wired systems, wires are run from the camera to the monitor. With wireless systems, the image is transmitted by radio waves, avoiding the need to route wires the full length of the vehicle.
Note that most wireless systems still require you to run wires from the camera. Usually, these cameras derive power and control from the reverse lights, so they require running wires from the camera to the wire harness for the reverse light. Drilling holes and splicing wires is often required.
The QuickVu™ Wireless Backup Camera is the exception. It is battery powered and does not require any wiring for the camera.
What is not included?
You can buy the components for a backup camera system, but you still need to get it installed in your vehicle. This will involve mounting the camera on the rear of the vehicle (often requires drilling holes for mounting) and mounting the monitor. It will involve making all the electrical connections, such as running wires from the camera to the reverse light and, of course, providing power to the monitor. For wired systems, wires will need to be run from the camera all the way to the monitor – not an easy chore in many vehicles. For most wireless systems, you will need to install transmitter inside the rear of the vehicle and run wires from the camera to it. This transmitter should be secured to avoid damage from vibration. Note that the QuickVu™ system does not require a separate transmitter.
If you are handy, you may wish to do it yourself. Depending on the system you choose, this may take a few minutes to several hours. Or you may wish to have a professional installer do the job. Installer rates vary widely, but $75-$100 an hour is not unexpected.
Which kind of system is better?
There are many factors to consider in evaluating a system. Wired systems are not subject to radio interference, but if the components are cheap, you may suffer with poor picture quality anyway. Wireless systems vary widely with regards to distance and susceptibility to radio interference, but the more expensive systems are generally quite reliable on most vehicles.
Of course, value must also include a consideration for cost. A moderately priced system that works well enough is “better” than a superior system that you cannot afford.
Please note that vehicle warranties differ. If you are going to have holes drilled or electrical connections made to your vehicle, check the implications on your warranty.
So how much should an installed backup camera system cost?
The least expensive components are in wired systems, but these require the most time/cost to install. Wireless systems are a bit more expensive, but the time/cost to install them is less.
You might spend $150 for a good wired system and then spend an additional $200 to have it installed. You might spend $250 for a good wireless system and spend only $100 to have it installed. Some specialty car accessory dealers will charge upwards of $600 for a fully installed backup camera system.
The QuickVu™ Wireless Backup Camera system (currently on sale for $259.99) is so easy to install that you will probably want to do it yourself. Simply mount the camera on your license plate (as you would a license plate frame), mount the receiver and monitor on the dash with Velcro™ or other adhesive strips, and plug the receiver into the auxiliary power outlet (or cigarette lighter receptacle). With no holes to drill or electrical connections to splice, the installation is quick and easy, should not void vehicle warranties, and may save you hundreds of dollars on installation costs.
Make the safe choice, even if you choose someone else’s camera
At Trail Ridge Technologies, our hope is that every driver will benefit from the safety and convenience of a backup camera. There are too many accidents, injuries, and deaths each year for us to be complacent. It is time to step up and protect lives and property, reduce insurance costs, and enjoy driving more.
Please choose a backup camera system that is right for you.