Extreme range… Is it worth it?



Recently, I’ve been driving around with the Cobra XRS 9970G for the review that we just wrote on it and for the most part it provided ample warning of radar signals, it didn’t overwhelm us with its range.  On the other hand, it also didn’t overwhelm us with its false alerts either.

This brings us to a huge question about how to buy the correct radar detector for your lifestyle.  Do you want one that goes off at every little thing and annoys you and your passengers, but picks up the real stuff from miles away?  Do you tend to drive the speed limit, but would like the situational awareness that a radar detector gives you for those times when you may drift above the speed limit?  Are you just a casual speeder who needs ample warning, but doesn’t want the radar detector to go off and disturb others?

We are going to attempt to categorize the different types of the top rated radar detectors for users, and describe the detectors we’d recommend for them.  We are very interested to hear your thoughts, so comment away…

The non-speeder

You may be thinking, why does a non-speeder need to know what best radar detector for the money?  In most situations, they probably won’t, but there are several situations where a radar detector could come in handy and provide situational awareness to help avoid unwanted situations.

  1. When other drivers first spot a police officer, they usually overreact, causing a safety issue by braking or switching lanes too fast.  A person with a radar detector will likely know about the officer long before their car comes into view.  They’ll be able to slow down and put enough distance between them and the next car to be able to react to any other drivers who may slam on their brakes or swerve out of their lane when they first spot the police officer.
  2. A similar scenario presents itself with police cars rushing to the scene of a crime or to help someone in need.  If the police officer has their radar gun turned on as the speed to their destinations (and go through red lights), the driver with the radar detector will know ahead of time and may be able to mitigate a dangerous situation at an intersection.

Extreme range is not a real need for the non-speeder, we’d probably recommend a mid-level detector such as the Beltronics V940, or the Whistler Pro78-SE.  These two detectors will provide sufficient range to help the non-speeder be aware when police are in the area, but will not overload the user with a ton of false alerts.

The casual speeder

The casual speeder is someone who tends to obey the speed limit most of the time, but every once in a while will exceed the limit, but never by more than 5-10 miles per hour.  These people are looking for a detector with excellent range, but also one that will not give excessive false alerts.  These drivers probably do not need an extreme, long range radar detector because they’ll be able to slow down in plenty of time if they are only going +5 or +10 over the posted speed limit.

For a casual speeder, we would recommend the Beltronics GX65 or the Escort Passport 9500ix.  Both of these radar detectors contain GPS and allow the user to lock out false alarms so they will no longer annoy you in the future.  These detectors have respectable range and will give the casual speeder plenty of time to check their speed and slowdown in the event of a real radar alert.

The case can be made that the casual speeder probably doesn’t need a radar detector either, but in addition to the reasons listed above for the non-speeder, the casual speeder also has to take into account the following things:

  1. They actually are speeding, and while many police officers will not stop or write you a ticket for only +5 or +10 miles per hour over the speed limit, there are some out there that will and if you get a ticket, the cost of the ticket + the insurance premium raise will probably cost more than your radar detector.

The excessive speeder

The excessive speeder is someone who is speeding most of the time when they are driving.  And when I say speeding, I mean usually greater than 15-25 over the speed limit.  For these users, performance is king, and they will need the top of the line units to get as much range as they probably can.  When going 100+ miles per hour, you’ll need to be warned about radar as soon as possible since you’ll need much more time to slow down.

For the excessive speeder, there are really only a few options of radar detectors to buy.  They are the Escort RedlineBeltronics STi Driver, Escort Passport 9500ci and the Valentine One.  Most other units will not provide the performance they need.

The radar detector enthusiast

The radar detector enthusiast is a person who is obsessed with radar detectors.  We like to think that we fit into this group.  These are people who know what antennas each manufacturer is putting in each model.  These people likely own more than 3 different radar detectors, and sometimes use more than one at a time (which is not recommended).  These are the people who record their daily driving and post videos of their radar detectors in action.  These are the people who own radar and laser guns just to test their detectors.  Sometimes these enthusiasts don’t even speed, they just like to know where the police are.

For these types of users, we don’t usually make any recommendations, because they likely already know what they want or need.  Likely, they’ll buy the top of the line detectors from each brand and put them head to head against each other.

If you are in the market for a radar detector, these are the guys that you want to become friends with as they’ll help you decide, and they’ll help you test whatever you do buy with their equipment.  Heck, they may even let you borrow one or two of their radar detectors just so you can get a feel for how to use one.