No back-up camera on your car? Add one

Car manufacturers and government regulators are continually trying to make vehicles safer. So it may come as no surprise that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced last year that all new cars must come with backing-up technology by May 2018.

The NHTSA estimates that more than 200 people and 15,000 injuries occur annually because of backing-up crashes, with many of the fatalities occurring to children younger than 5.

Backup cameras and video recorders can even be installed as an aftermarket device for an extra layer of safety to prevent backing-up incidents from occurring. A backing-up camera system eliminates blind spots behind vehicles. Backing-up cameras should be used in conjunction with side-view and rearview mirrors, as well as looking over your shoulder.

"A backup camera can be a convenience feature as much as a safety feature," said Dan Ungaro, owner of Soundscape Car Audio in Plano, Texas. "At a glance, it can alert the driver to any obstacles behind the vehicle that are not visible through the rear glass, particularly on sports cars, SUVs, and trucks. If your vehicle doesn't have one, it's a nice peace-of-mind technology that can reduce the risk of unneeded damage or injury."

Many car audio and electronic businesses, as well as some of the big-box electronic stores, sell and install backing-up camera systems.

People can buy backing-up cameras as an aftermarket device by installing a small camera on the back bumper or license-plate holder. A video recorder, meanwhile, can be installed in a replacement rearview mirror or on a screen that mounts to your car's dashboard, or the camera can be integrated into a video screen that exists on the vehicle.

"Typically, a camera will be paired up with an aftermarket in-dash screen or mirror with a small display built in," Ungaro said.

Because installation involves running wires through the car, Ungaro said, it's best to leave the process to a technician.

"Professional technicians are very experienced in wire runs, drilling through the body of the vehicle and sealing up where necessary," he said. "Doing an install yourself is very rewarding if you have the time and patience to learn your particular vehicle. Otherwise, an insured, experienced technician can get the job done quickly and flawlessly with no risk to your property."

Brian West, president of Wires Inc., in Rocky Mount, N.C., said installation costs can range from $350 to $3,000, depending on the type of system and options. The cost of a backing-up camera system can increase by adding technology, such as a backup sensor, which beeps when something is behind the car.

Ungaro, meanwhile, said a modestly priced camera goes for about $150. An average installation takes about two hours and costs $75 per hour. Installing a video monitor and camera can cost between $500 and $1,900, he says.

He said that customers typically get what they pay for when buying a camera system.

"Wireless cameras are never a good idea," Ungaro said. "The picture quality is terrible. There are cameras upwards of $400 that have multiple views to select from. Though the technology is really good, I have found that clients tend to use one view and never change it. The camera we usually use has good picture quality, and the connections are designed so if there is any servicing required, the entire harness doesn't need to be removed."