Yes, that's a pretty declarative statement. That said, I've done tests with about 12 different flash drives at this point – each of them in my Tesla Model 3 for a couple weeks each.
While there were a couple contenders that stood out, one combination really sealed the deal for me and that's what I'll be sharing in this post.
The Best USB Drive for TeslaCam
In case you don't care about my tests/rationale/explanation, here is my recommendation:
A microSD card designed for dashcam systems with a USB A/C reader.
In fact, it has worked so well and been so reliable that we made a package on our site that ships with all components and the drive pre-formatted for TeslaCam! You can purchase it from the link below. When it arrives, simply plug it in and drive!
First, here is what I was looking for:
- Reliability – the features for which we use these USB drives are important. Whether it's capturing what happened in an accident using DashCam or determining who broke into your car with Sentry Mode, knowing that your USB drive will not give out on you when you need it most is priority one.
- Flexibility – does it have the capability to be used in various capacities? Does it connect using a standard that is widely accepted?
- Durability – is the drive designed for constant data writing? Does the reader overheat from constant use?
- Cost – is it comparable to the options available on the market? If the drive fails, how does replacement cost compare to initial investment?
This is the most important category of them all (in my opinion) and therefore carried the most weight in my selection.
The majority of the drives that I tested just couldn't keep up with the four-camera recording that was required of TeslaCam. If you are a frequent Sentry Mode user, that burden becomes even greater as the cameras are then always recording.
They would start out strong, but then fizzled out to a point that they would somewhat regularly give me the gray X on the camera icon until I unplugged and re-plugged the drive. Other drives simply failed…permanently. I had some missing footage in situations where I know I either saved DashCam files or had enabled Sentry mode, although that might have been a software issue and not the drive itself.
All that said, the combination of the microSD and the USB card reader was unstoppable. No lost footage, no gray X's.
You want to be able to access your TeslaCam footage as easily as possible. Using a MicroSD card makes it very easy to insert into an SD adapter (which many computers will read) and/or using a USB reader that has both USB A and USB C to connect to both the car and to your computer or mobile device.
I extensively tested both the options I included in my TeslaCam package – both exceeded expectations.
The amount of flexibility you need is really case-by-case. Do you want to connect to a mobile device to view footage? Does your computer have USB A ports or USB C ports? The answers to these questions will help guide your selection of a capable reader.
Both strength/build quality and also effectiveness of the drive were rated here.
The microSD, while small, is extremely durable. It withstands a great amount of heat, which is perfect for in-car environments and also constant recording.
The enclosures/readers I selected as the highest-rated were the ones that tended to stay the coolest, be less likely to break from repeated use, and seemed to have the overall best build quality. Some of the tested enclosures broke by the time I was done testing them for the week – yes…they only made it a week.
There are some CHEAP usb flash drives on Amazon. They were also the ones that died that same week I tested them.
Typically, the cheapest ones are USB 2.0, meaning much slower read/write speeds. The ones that are USB 3.0 and are cheap will break. WILL BREAK. It's only a matter of time.
I think that buying a drive that will last for a long time and will work when I need it to was enough of a rationale to spend a little extra money to get a good one. The one I recommend in this article is not too much more expensive than some of the fancy flash drives out there (in some cases it's much cheaper), but is worlds better for all the reasons mentioned above.
Will any flash drive that is formatted correctly work with TeslaCam? Yes…at least initially.
Why tempt fate though with a cheap drive if the idea is to protect one of your most valuable purchases?
Check out our TeslaCam package if you want a seamless plug-and-play option for getting started with TeslaCam.