Last updated: August 17, 2021

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If the Fast and the Furious movie series has taught us anything, it's that speed matters when driving. Of course, not all of us are racing drivers, but we should always be aware of how fast our car is going to avoid traffic accidents and problems with the law. There is a tool that will let us know in advance how fast we are driving, the speedometer.

It doesn't matter if you are replacing a damaged speedometer, or if you simply want to improve the one you already have installed, here we will show you how to buy the best ones on the market. We pay close attention to buyer reviews, so we know what they are, their buying factors and how much you should pay for one.




Summary

  • A speedometer is a measuring tool that instantly gives the speed of a moving vehicle. They are installed in all current cars, and are used to keep track of how fast you are driving at all times. This prevents accidents by providing better control over vehicles.
  • There are three types of speedometers, the only difference being in the way they provide information. There are those that work without the need for screens and use hands (the analogue or mechanical ones), those that use an LCD screen to do their job and those that are reflected on the driver's windscreen.
  • The first thing to keep in mind when buying speedometers is the space you have in your car, as not all speedometers are the same size. Then you should choose a model that you can read easily, and finally choose the additional features you would like to have.

The Best Speedometer: Our Picks

Buying Guide

Don't know much about cars? No problem! Speedometers are not that complicated to understand, as they only have one single function: to inform. In this section we will instruct you on the first things to consider when buying them, such as what they are, what their types are, where to buy them and the prices you should expect for them.

A quick glance at the speedometer will keep you on the road safely. (Photo: Martin Novak / 123rf.com)

What is a speedometer and what are its advantages?

A speedometer is an instrument that measures the current speed of a vehicle. It is present in all modern car and motorbike panels, and is even installed in high-end or racing bicycles. The speed is measured in Kmh or Mph, and it goes up or down depending on how fast the vehicle is moving.

They are the easiest way to know how fast a vehicle is moving, as they do not distract the eye with unnecessary information. They also allow the driver to be aware of the time it will take to get to a location, as well as to ensure that the speed at which they are moving is within legal or safety limits.

Advantages
  • Allows awareness of travel speed
  • Keeps track of vehicle status
  • Easy to read
  • Does not include unnecessary information
  • Brings personalisation to the vehicle
  • Knowledge to use
Disadvantages
  • An inaccurate speedometer can be dangerous
  • May need professional installation
  • May need calibration over time

Digital, HUD and analogue speedometers - What should you look out for?

Although there are many methods by which speedometers read the speed of the car, here we will focus on the ways in which they present that information. This will allow you to choose how you want to see how fast you are going in your car.

Digital

These display the speed on an LCD screen. They have the advantage that their numbers are easy to read accurately, so you don't need to give an approximation by looking at the hands of the analogue ones.

Not only do they present the numbers large and easy on the eye, their displays are backlit to provide better readability in low light conditions. They're preferable if you're a driver who needs to know precisely how your vehicle is performing.

HUD

These are digital speedometers which are mounted on the dashboard in a position where they can be reflected in the windscreen. The driver can keep his eyes on the road and still know his speed at all times.

They usually have photocells so that they can keep their image constant on the glass, regardless of light conditions. They are ideal if you don't like the idea of taking your eyes off the road for a second, although they may not reflect on the windscreen sufficiently under certain circumstances.

Analogues

These are hand and scale gauges, which can come in circular or semi-circular shapes. They do not provide the speed as accurately as digital ones, as it is up to the driver to approximate the current speed based on the position of the hand.

Often the hand, scale and numbers have some form of phosphorescent illumination, or an internal light that illuminates the speedometer so that it can be read in the dark. Their greatest advantage is that they are less distracting, as they do not hinder the speed reading as much.

Digital Analogue HUD
Interface Digital display Hand on scales Numbers reflected on windscreen
Speed reading Exact numbers Approximate numbers by scales Exact numbers
Possible distractions Data on display may be distracting Simple interface prevents distractions Data on display may be distracting
Form of illumination Light incorporated in display Phosphorescent or illuminated scale Internal light

Remember to take care not only of your car, but also of those in it. (Photo: Martin Novak / 123rf.com)

Buying Criteria: Factors that allow you to compare and rate different Speedometers

Well, now you know what and where to buy speedometers, you just need to know the most important purchasing factors when buying them. Buying good quality models will allow you to keep your eyes on the road for longer, as they will let you know how fast you are going easily and comfortably.

Ease of reading

This refers to how well you can see the speedometer information, and it is important that it is comfortable to look at without strain. Try not to take your eyes off the road for too long as this can be life-threatening. There are a few ways to make it easier to read, so pay attention.

  • Position: Try to install your speedometer where you can see it comfortably, preferably not too far from your steering wheel or near the windscreen. If you prefer to keep your eyes on the road, you can purchase a HUD speedometer, as these display information in a way that will keep your eyes on the road.
  • Information offered: Many speedometers offer much more than just how fast the car is travelling, others offer data such as distance travelled and water or voltage gauges. In the case of digital ones, many can change how much information they display, helping to reduce the number of distractions.
  • Size: The ideal size of speedometers depends on several factors. If you are buying analogue models to replace the factory-installed ones in your car, make sure they are the same size as the factory-installed ones. If you want to install it on the side of the dashboard, make sure you can read it easily, the same for HUDs and digital speedometers.

Information

As mentioned above, most speedometers offer additional information that you may find useful. This can help you know the status of your car at a glance in one place. Having such additional information will not affect the speedometer measurements.

Gauges

These can be found in analogue, digital and HUD speedometers. They will give you a quick driver diagnostic to let you know the status of your car. They will let you know how much water or fuel is left, the current voltage of your car, the current altitude or the revolutions per minute.

Clock

This is found in digital speedometers and HUDs. In addition to providing the current time, it can work in conjunction with the GPS in the speedometer to perform trip calculations. You can consider it as very optional.

GPS

Unique to digital speedometers and HUDs, they will not be used to track your route or location, but they will collect data. This could be distance travelled from a starting point, time travelled for a given time, number of nearby GPS satellites, compass direction or altitude.

Distance travelled Altitude Time travelled Number of satellites Compass
How far the car has travelled The altitude based on sea level The time travelled from a specific starting point How many satellites are nearby The direction (N, S, E, W)

Installation

Installing speedometers can be as easy as connecting a cable or as difficult as connecting a pile.

Installing speedometers can be as easy as connecting a cable or as difficult as connecting a pile. Digital speedometers are often much easier to install than analogue ones. This is because they get their information from internal sensors or GPS, whereas analogue speedometers get their information from components in the car.

  • USB installation: USB installation is the easiest, just make sure your car has a compatible plug to make the connection. If not, you can buy a cigarette lighter to USB adapter to power your speedometer.
  • Analogue installation: This is much more complicated to do as you must have some knowledge of your car and its components. It is best to follow the instructions on the speedometer so you know which wires to use. If you are worried about making a mistake, it is best to contact a professional to install it.

Additional features

We've already covered most of the really important buying factors, so it's time to get to know the ones that might catch your attention but aren't really that definitive. You can take it as an extra that some speedometers come with, but they shouldn't define a purchase.

GPS performance tests

Some GPS devices allow you to perform performance tests, such as how long it takes the car to brake, or how fast it takes to get from 0 to 100 km/h. You can take such tests as a point of purchase. You can take such tests as a benchmark, as actual results may differ somewhat.

Solar charging

Some digital speedometers and HUDs have a small solar panel on top. This can allow them to run longer without being connected to your car's panel. If for some emergency you need to plug in your phone to charge it, and you don't want to stop using your speedometer, look for this feature.

(Featured image photo: cla78 / 123rf.com)

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