Aftermarket rearview cameras

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For those who drive an older automobile, equipping it with an aftermarket rearview camera might not provide the same quality or performance that a factory-installed version provides.

Although a perception exists that aftermarket rearview cameras are functionally identical to factory-installed models, Mark Boyadjis, who is the principal automotive-user-experience analyst at market-research company IHS, says more than meets the eye in regard to the two types of devices. For instance, Boyadjis says factory-installed models display images on a screen that’s up to 11 inches; that’s quite the exception rather than the rule for aftermarket models, and that diminishes the device’s value to a driver. Similarly, he points out that a factory-installed rearview camera’s on-screen guides track in conjunction with the movement of the steering wheel, and this feature isn’t guaranteed to exist on aftermarket models.

Older vehicles' receivers typically are incompatible with rearview cameras that display an image on a screen that’s built in to the vehicle’s receiver, so consumers have to settle for a dashboard-mounted display, buy an aftermarket rearview mirror that doubles as a display or buy a rearview camera that connects wirelessly to a smartphone or a tablet computer. Also, the image quality of an aftermarket model's display might be poor in low-light conditions.

You should scrutinize aftermarket models to ensure that they activate when the vehicle is shifted into reverse, as is the case with factory-installed models. If not, you must push a button to activate the camera.

—C. Maynard