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If you do a lot of traveling by car, especially in unfamiliar areas, you might be considering a radar detector to avoid costly speeding mistakes. These car accessories can cost a good chunk of money, up to $500 in some cases. But are they legal in your state? Find out now.

What are radar detectors, and how do they work?

A radar gun, used by police, is a unit that bounces electromagnetic waves to objects. The information it collects tells the officer how fast a vehicle is traveling. If your car’s speed is over the posted limit, you could get stopped and might get a speeding ticket. 

A radar detector is an electronic device you can place in your vehicle to receive alerts when cops are nearby clocking speeds. You can then slow to the posted speed limit to prevent getting pulled over. 

These detectors can also pick up on the waves emitted from traffic light cameras. They sound a warning for you to slow down if you’re traveling over the speed limit. 

Are radar detectors legal?

Some car modifications are illegal, but radar detectors usually aren’t one of them. However, a few factors determine whether radar detectors are legal. According to AAA, Virginia is the only U.S. state that outright bans them. Also, Washington, D.C., and military bases don’t allow them. 

But all other states allow radar detectors’ use in passenger vehicles and light trucks. However, they’re not permitted in commercial vehicles, per a U.S. Department of Transportation rule. 

Though radar detectors are legal in most states, a few don’t allow radar- or laser-jamming equipment. Jammers emit signals to interfere with police radar or laser guns. States that don’t allow these devices include Minnesota, Oklahoma, California, Colorado, Texas, and others.

Interestingly, at least 28 states ban suction cups for hanging items on the interior windshield. That includes any device, even radar detectors. Seven other states go by the size of the object to determine whether the suction cups are banned. The main reason for this law is to prevent distractions and anything interfering from your line of sight while driving. 

What are the best detectors?


3 Best Radar Detectors Money Can Buy

You’ll find plenty of radar detectors out there, but not all offer the best bang for your buck. Spending a bit more will get you a better-performing device, while spending less could give you problems, including speeding tickets after failing to detect a nearby trooper. 

Uniden makes one of the higher-quality detectors. The R7 model has an extremely long range, the longest available. It even comes preloaded with sets to pick up on speed camera locations and red lights to alert you well advance when police are ahead. 

Another good radar detector is the Escort Max 360C. It offers Wi-Fi and Bluetooth integration, along with protection in all directions, whether it’s in front of or behind you. It also blocks false alerts from coming through and uses built-in GPS to remember those locations. 

Radar detectors are legal in most states but only in passenger vehicles, not commercial ones. Though older devices were a pain to deal with because they picked up on many false signals, modern ones have improved. So you can travel knowing that when you get a warning, it’s the real deal.