Radar detectors have been around for decades. But are they illegal? In 2020 having a radar detector is not illegal in most states.
Radar detector laws are determined by each individual state, not the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Therefore, to learn whether or not they are illegal in your state, you’d need to research state laws.
For example, if you live in New York, you may be wondering, “Are radar detectors legal in NY?” To find out that information you’d normally need to contact the New York Department of Transportation.
However, we’re here to guide you. Below, we cover the entire country to let you know the states where radar detectors are illegal. Plus, we cover a load of additional information about radar detectors.
We’ll leave you with the best information about these devices to keep you safe and confident in using them. We’ll start with a general overview of how they work.
How Do Radar Detectors Work?
If you are unsure how radar detectors work, we’re here to inform you. So, how does a radar detector work? They are used to alert you when you are close to a policeman using a speed gun to catch speeding motorists.
Police use radars to calculate distance and the speed at which a vehicle is traveling. To accomplish this, the radar must determine how far away your car or truck is and the speed at which it is moving. A police radar gun sends out a radio wave that travels at an incredible speed. Once it hits your car, it bounces back to the cop, showing them how fast you’re driving.
Radar detectors are designed to detect these radio waves before you reach their range of detection. They then alert you that a policeman using a speed radar is ahead.
What Is a Radar Jammer?
If you have never heard of a radar jammer, you’re probably asking yourself, “How does a radar jammer work?” Radar jammers essentially interfere with the radio waves sent by a police speed radar, preventing them from measuring your speed.
They are commonly used but are also illegal in some states. At any rate, the bottom line is that jammers confuse the signal sent by a police speed gun, rendering the results unreadable.
Where Are Radar Detectors Illegal?
If you’re curious to know about states where radar detectors are illegal, we have the answers for you below. We’ll start with the states we get asked about the most.
Where Are Radar Detectors Illegal?
If you’re curious to know about states where radar detectors are illegal, we have the answers for you below. We’ll start with the states we get asked about the most.
Are Radar Detectors Illegal in Texas (TX)?
Table of Contents
- 1 Are Radar Detectors Illegal in Texas (TX)?
- 2 Are Radar Detectors Legal in California (CA)?
- 3 Are Radar Detectors Illegal in New York (NY)?
- 4 Are Radar Detectors Legal in Florida (FA)?
- 5 Are Radar Detectors Illegal in Illinois (IL)?
- 6 Are Radar Detectors Illegal in Pennsylvania (PA)?
- 7 Are Radar Detectors Legal in Ohio (OH)?
- 8 Are Radar Detectors Legal in Virginia (VA)?
- 9 Are Radar Detectors Legal in NJ (New Jersey)?
- 10 Are Radar Detectors Legal in Michigan (MI)?
- 11 Are Radar Detectors Legal in Washington State (WA)?
- 12 Are Radar Detectors Legal in Maryland (MD)?
- 13 Are Radar Detectors Legal in North Carolina (NC)?
- 14 Are Radar Detectors Legal in Oklahoma (OK)?
- 15 Are Radar Detectors Legal in Indiana (IN)?
- 16 Are Radar Detectors Legal in Oregon (OR)?
- 17 Are Radar Detectors Legal in Utah (UT)?
- 18 Are Radar Detectors Legal in Nevada (NV)?
- 19 Are Radar Detectors Legal in Tennessee (TN)?
- 20 Are Radar Detectors Legal in Alabama (AL)?
- 21 Are Radar Detectors Legal in West Virginia (WV)?
- 22 Are Radar Detectors Legal in Wisconsin (WI)?
- 23 Are Radar Detectors Legal in Massachusetts (MA)?
- 24 Are Radar Detectors Legal in Iowa (IA)?
- 25 Are Radar Detectors Illegal in Arizona (AZ)?
- 26 Are Radar Detectors Legal in Hawaii (HI)?
- 27 Uniden Radar Detectors
- 28 Escort Radar Detectors
- 29 Valentine Radar Detectors
- 30 Radenso Radar Detectors
- 31 Cobra Radar Detector Models
- 32 Range of Detection
- 33 Radar Sensitivity
- 34 Ease of Use
- 35 Radar Detector Consistency
- 36 GPS features
- 37 Smartphone Integration
You’ve been asking yourself, “Are radar detectors illegal in Texas?” They sure are. However, their usage is only legal in passenger vehicles. Drivers of commercial vehicles in most states, including Texas, are banned from using radar detectors. But what about California, where most are legal?
Are Radar Detectors Legal in California (CA)?
You bet they are—for passenger vehicles only. California is one of the most liberal states in the country. It sees banning radar detectors as enabling the police to place innocent citizens under surveillance. There is one caveat, while you can freely use radar detectors in California as long as they are not hanging from your windshield—that will result in a fine. The same goes for a few other states.
Are Radar Detectors Illegal in New York (NY)?
Are radar detectors legal in NY? As it turns out, no, The Empire State allows passenger vehicles only to freely use radar detectors. Passenger vehicles over 18,000 pounds and commercial vehicles are not legally allowed to use radar detectors.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in Florida (FA)?
Florida’s long, straight highways through the wetlands and other parts of the mostly-flat state are easy to speed on. Luckily, Floridians can freely use radar detectors to detect speed traps and face no consequences.
Are Radar Detectors Illegal in Illinois (IL)?
Home of Chicago—Illinois does not ban radar detectors in passenger vehicles. But a lot of cargo comes into Illinois by train and is then distributed and sent out on cargo trucks. That’s why the state took measures to ban the use of radar detectors in commercial vehicles.
Are Radar Detectors Illegal in Pennsylvania (PA)?
A lot of people us: are radar detectors legal in “PA?” They are all delighted to learn that, no, radar detectors are not illegal in PA. That goes for passenger vehicles, not commercial vehicles. Just be sure to watch out for horse-drawn wagons on blind curves.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in Ohio (OH)?
Ohioans—members of the Buckeye State—can legally use radar detectors with no fear of being pulled over. But just like Illinois, lots of cargo passes through Ohio by truck. So commercial vehicles can’t use radar detectors there.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in Virginia (VA)?
Wait for it… No, they are not. Using a radar detector in either passenger or commercial vehicle are both banned in Virginia. People often wonder why. Below, we’ll shed some insight into why Virginia’s radar laws differ from the majority of other states.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in NJ (New Jersey)?
Indeed, they are. The Garden State allows passenger vehicle drivers to free and legally use radar detectors. So, you can speed right through the small state in just a few hours. Just be careful, roads there can get curvy.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in Michigan (MI)?
How cold Michigan, home of the “Motor City” ban radar detectors. You can legally use them in Michigan, but only in passenger vehicles. Like other states, radar detectors are illegal in Michigan in commercial vehicles.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in Washington State (WA)?
Don’t confuse Washington state with Washington D.C. As we move closer to the Canadian border and find ourselves in Washington state, we can continue to use radar detectors legally. However, similar to every other state we’ve covered, they are not allowed to be used in commercial vehicles. However, they are not legal in Washington DC.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in Maryland (MD)?
Although they are illegal in Washington DC, once you cross the border into Maryland, you can legally use radar detectors. That is, as long as you are driving a passenger vehicle. Use in commercial vehicles in Maryland is illegal.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in North Carolina (NC)?
As we head down south, we see the same state laws applying to the use of radar detectors. Radar detectors are legal in North Carolina, but not in commercials vehicles. Anyone driving a passenger vehicle can legally use one.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in Oklahoma (OK)?
Oklahoma with its flat, long highways is prone to speeding. You can be driving and suddenly realize you’re driving 95 miles per hour. It’s easy to do there. Luckily, radar detectors are legal in passenger vehicles in Oklahoma.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in Indiana (IN)?
The Hoosier State does not ban the use of radar detectors in passenger vehicles. They are fully legal to use there, unless, of course, you’re driving a commercial vehicle. Doing so in a commercial vehicle will result in a fine.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in Oregon (OR)?
Yes, radar detectors are legal to use in Oregon in passenger vehicles. The western portion of the state is fairly liberal and that’s where the state government is. It is considered a violation of personal rights to ban radar detectors for regular state residents. Commercial vehicle use is another story—that is not allowed.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in Utah (UT)?
Following a common trend in state laws, Utah does not restrict the use of radar detectors in private, passenger vehicles. If you drive a commercial vehicle, be careful because the state outlawed use in commercial vehicles years ago.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in Nevada (NV)?
In Nevada, almost everything really is legal and the same goes for the use of radar detectors in passenger vehicles. If gambling, recreational marijuana, and prostitution are legal, why would radar detectors be illegal? Feel confident using them in Nevada.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in Tennessee (TN)?
We’re closing in on Elvis and Dolly Parton territory and the home of the Grand Ole Opry. Tennessee is another state that allows you to legally use radar detectors in passenger vehicles. Commercial vehicles, again, are banned from using them. That’s probably a good thing—lots of commercial vehicles circle in and out of the Music City every day.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in Alabama (AL)?
Now we’re hitting the deep south. But don’t worry, you can still legally use your radar detector in Alabama as long as you are driving a passenger vehicle. If you drive a commercial vehicle, take caution because that isn’t permitted.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in West Virginia (WV)?
Also knows as “West-by-God-Virginia,” The state allows the use of radar detectors for anyone behind the wheel of a private passenger car or truck. They don’t allow use in commercial vehicles. Again, be careful in “West-by God,” because the interstates in most of the state are very curvy with lots of acute inclines.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in Wisconsin (WI)?
Wisconsin is famous for two things I enjoy: beer and cheese. If you feel the same and drive through Wisconsin, you can feel comfortable freely using your radar detector. Their use is fully legal there, except in commercial vehicles. If you drive a cheese truck, use caution if you need to use a radar detector.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in Massachusetts (MA)?
Regardless of whether you live in “Bah-stan” or any other city or town in Massachusetts, you can legally use a radar detector in any passenger vehicle. Massachusetts is a lovely state to drive through, especially if you hit the Berkshires area. So, enjoy the drive confidently knowing your radar detector won’t cause you any trouble.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in Iowa (IA)?
Indeed, radar detectors are legal to use in passenger vehicles in Iowa. The police won’t bat an eye if they see you with one. However, it’s a major transit state with lots of cargo passing through. So commercial vehicle drivers should practice caution as radar detector use is are not permitted in Iowa.
Are Radar Detectors Illegal in Arizona (AZ)?
No, radar detectors are not illegal in Arizona. This is another state with long, straight highways on which you can see 50 miles ahead on a clear day. It’s easy to speed there. Luckily, with a radar detector, you’ll avoid any run-ins with the law because they are legal to use in passenger vehicles.
Are Radar Detectors Legal in Hawaii (HI)?
If you live in Hawaii or rent a car while there, you can feel safe using a radar detector while driving. Radar detectors are legal in Hawaii. Tourists can race through that tropical paradise at the speed they wish if they have a high-powered radar detector.
Why Are Radar Detectors Illegal in Virginia?
The state of Virginia does not specifically state anywhere why it remains the only state where use is illegal. However, with a little common sense, we can explain why. Virginia lawmakers must think: why legalize something that makes it easier to break the law? Because of that, some might consider Virginia to be the most logical state in the Union. However, we prefer not to assume, but rather just present the facts.
What we can say is that hidden police speed traps amount to undercover surveillance. Many lawmakers would say that Americans deserve and have the right to know when they are under surveillance. Particularly when they have done nothing to solicit a probable cause claim by police. At the end of the day, there is no officially validated answer to this question. For what it’s worth, if you tend to speed a lot, be careful in Virginia.
Can Radar Detectors Detect Police Cars?
In short, no they can’t. They are built to detect the laser radio wave sent from a policeman’s speed gun. They can’t tell you whether or not a police car is ahead of you unless the policeman is using a radar gun.
It would be great if we had access to technology that alerted us of the presence of police cars so we could act appropriately. Luckily, some form of that technology already exists and is being improved. Driving apps like Waze rely on user inputs to alert other drivers about various driving variables. These include wrecks ahead, delays of other types, and, yes, you guessed it: police cars ahead.
How to Use Installed Radar Detectors
Laser and radar detectors are installed in a certain spot in your vehicle by a radar detector mount. As you near a cop with a radar laser, your device alarms you so you can slow down.
Policemen in the United States are notorious for setting up speed traps to catch vehicles driving above the speed limit. They sit in a hidden spot waiting for the next speeding vehicle to pass by. Is this the best way for police to spend their time? Is a policeman sitting in wait to catch someone speeding the best use of our tax dollars? I’ll let you decide.
Regardless, speed traps are prevalent throughout the country. That’s why so many drivers use radar detectors to avoid speed traps and a speeding ticket.
Can a Cop Tell if You Have a Radar Detector?
Radar detectors are passive instruments in that they do not send out any detectable signal or radio wave. There is no technology that the police can use to know whether or not you are using one. But, police can use their senses to suspect whether you are using one based on your actions while driving.
If you near a speed trap and the police see you slowing down, they’re likely to suspect you’re using one. However, that is based on their own subjective reaction to you slowing down.
Luckily, drivers can tell when a policeman is ahead. Many motorists driving in the opposite direction alert other drivers that they are nearing a speed trap.
Typically, when this happens, you will see passing drivers flash their bright lights at you. This indicates that there is some sort of danger ahead. That danger is normally a speed trap and they are trying to warn you to slow down.
How Effective Are Radar Detectors?
The answer to this question depends on the quality of the device you purchase. Radar detectors range in price from under $100 to $500 or more. As they say, you get what you pay for. If you are going to invest in a radar detector, you might as well shell out some cash form a top tier model. And top tier models are indeed effective and worth the investment.
Buying a detector is still way cheaper than paying a speeding ticket or two. That’s because, in some states, tickets can cost you as much as $1,000 or more. Ask yourself which you’d rather experience: points deducted from your license and a costly ticket or spending a few hundred dollars on a high-end detector. That leads us to our next point: are radar detectors worth it?
Are Radar Detectors Worth It?
If you have a tendency to speed or just generally have a heavy foot while driving, then yes, they are very much worth it. Using a radar detector can save you lots of money in speeding tickets if you fall into one of those categories. Plus, they can save you the hassle of going to court to pay your fine and having points deducted from your driver’s license.
Now, are radar detectors worth it if you always drive the speed limit and are generally a cautious driver? Obviously not, you have no need for them. The target market for detectors is drivers who consistently break the speed limit. If you don’t drive over the speed limit, there’s no need for you to purchase a detector. That would be like someone who lives in Kansas purchasing a surfboard.
Looking to Purchase a Radar Detector?
Which radar detector is the best? If you are in a shopping mood and are looking for the best radar detectors on the market, we can help you. There are various brands and models of detectors available. The one you purchase depends on your budget. Are you looking for the best radar detector for the money? Or the most effective model?
In order to make an informed purchase, you’ll need to make a list of requirements. That list may be a one-requirement list: to avoid speeding tickets. Regardless, consider your budget and needs before you purchase one. Then look closely at the best radar detector brands.
The Best Radar Detector Brands
As you shop around and evaluate your options, you’ll see many brands and models available. The best way to shop for a radar detector is online because most brick and mortar stores don’t carry them. Below are a few of the top radar detector brands to consider.
Uniden Radar Detectors
It is hard to go wrong with a Uniden radar detector, particularly the Uniden R3 Radar Detector. It is widely considered to be the best device available today.
Another top model from this brand is the Uniden R1 Radar Detector. Uniden radar detectors are known for their high quality. We’re sure you’ll be satisfied with your purchase if you take the Uniden route.
Escort Radar Detectors
Escort is another top brand to consider. If you purchase an Escort radar detector, you can be sure it will work effectively and give you peace of mind while on the road. Escort detectors are among the best you can purchase. If you decide that this is the brand for you, check out some Escort radar detector reviews.
There are various models and each, while being high-quality, offers different features at a different price. Two that we like the best are the Escort Passport 9500IX Radar Detector and the Escort Passport 8500X50 Radar Detector.
Valentine Radar Detectors
Valentine radar detectors are also among the best you can purchase. The Valentine brand is known or its ease of use, reliability, and excellent sensitivity when it comes to detecting radar guns. If you are looking for a solid device, check out the Valentine One Radar Detector. It’s arguably their best model on sale today.
Radenso Radar Detectors
Radenso radar detectors are popular with radar detector enthusiasts because of their sensitivity and range detection. These devices are also easy to use and reliable, making Radenso a brand worth mentioning.
Their top model is the Radenso XP Radar Detector. It is quite popular with consumers and worth a glance if you’re looking for a solid road companion.
Cobra Radar Detector Models
Cobra is another brand to keep your eye on. It makes reliable radar detectors and is popular among many users. Cobra has been around for a while and most drivers who buy a Cobra radar detector are satisfied with their purchase.
If you decide to take a closer look at Cobra, be sure to check out the Cobra ESD 7075 model. It’s among the more popular and widely used models available. In addition to that, check out the Cobra ESD 7000 model. It is another popular detector produced by the Cobra brand.
What to Look for in Radar Detectors
Are you shopping for a radar detector? You can do so without any concern now that you know they aren’t illegal except for in Virginia. You may think that radar detectors are simple devices that all work the same. However, there are certain features to consider when evaluating your options. Not all radar detectors are made equal, and we’re here to guide you in your purchase decision.
Range of Detection
Range of detection is very important for drivers using radar detectors. Let’s say your detector has a small range of detection. It’s possible that the police speed radar’s radio wave will bounce off your vehicle before your detector detects it.
If that happens, you are pretty much done for. The policeman will have you in their target before your detector even knows they are there laying in wait for you to pass by. You’ll see red lights in your rearview mirror. In short order, you’ll be parked on the shoulder explaining why you were driving seven miles over the speed limit.
One thing you certainly don’t want is an insensitive radar detector. It needs to understand your needs and cater to them, just like any partner.
Radar sensitivity refers to its ability to pick up on weak radio waves. The weaker the wave it detects, the higher sensitivity the device has. If your detector has a high level of sensitivity, you will be more comfortable using it.
Ease of Use
This is an important one. You can have the greatest technology ever invented in the palm of your hand. But if its menu is displayed in Arabic and you don’t speak that language, you won’t be able to use it at all.
Having a radar detector that’s both effective and easy to use is invaluable. The same goes for any technology. You can’t just open the package and start using it. You must read through the user guide or instructions and fully understand each feature, setting, and so on. If not, you’ll never be successful using it.
Radar Detector Consistency
It’s great to have a sensitive radar detector with a broad detection range. But if every time you use your radar detector it starts to short out, there’s no way to rely on it. This puts you at greater risk of being stopped by the police, which is why you purchased the detector in the first place.
So be sure to consider the variables listed above when shopping around for a radar detector. It could mean the difference in avoiding the cops and shelling out hundreds of dollars for going five miles over the speed limit.
GPS features are present in nearly every car on the road these days. A few decades ago, they were standalone devices that plugged into your car’s cigarette lighter outlet. But today most people use their smartphone to help navigate.
However, some radar detectors include GPS capabilities. This is a great feature because it means you don’t have to look back and forth between two screens. Instead, you have all the information you need on one screen. It’s hard to turn that down. I grew up in the 80s when neither GPS (nor smartphones for that matter) existed in commercially available formats. But today, many drivers can easily get lost without GPS at their fingertips.
Above we mentioned Waze, a user-fed GPS app that lets you know when police cars have been spotted ahead. Some newer models of radar detectors come with the ability to integrate with certain smartphone apps. If this is the case with the model you have, you can integrate apps like Waze and your detector will alert you when a notification for that app appears on your smartphone screen.
This is likely to be a feature we see more of as radar detector technology continues to evolve in a never-ending tug of war between police speed scanners and the devices that detect them.
The Final Word on Radar Detectors and their Legality
The truth of the matter is that radar scanners are very much legal in the United States. They are illegal in Virginia and Washington D.C., but aside from that, you can feel comfortable using them in 49 of the 50 states.
You came here to learn about whether radar scanners were illegal. But there was an underlying reason you wanted to know the answer to that question. And that reason is likely that you are considering purchasing one but don’t want any legal trouble at your door.
So, we took the initiative to not only provide you with information about legality, but also to provide you with a comprehensive guide to radar detectors.
You’ve learned about brands, features to look for, and have learned the answers to many questions that typically pop up from consumers looking to purchase a scanner. Assuming you fall into that category, be sure to consider the information above when you start shopping around.
As mentioned above, the best place to compare models and purchase a detector is through an online vendor—Amazon is surely your best bet.
With this information, you’ll be able to make an informed decision and find the right detector for you. Just be sure to use caution while in Virginia and D.C.