Using a GoPro as a Dash Cam: The Ultimate Guide

I was intrigued when I first saw drivers using their GoPro action cameras as dash cams. Like any GoPro enthusiast, who loves capturing crisp, and stabilized videos of my adventures – whether biking down a mountain trail or snorkeling with sea turtles, I couldnt help but ask could a tiny GoPro really match up to a purpose-built dash cam for keeping watch over my daily commute? I had to find out for myself.

In this guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about turning your GoPro into a dash cam for your vehicle:

  • Key differences between GoPro capabilities and dash cam features
  • The advantages and significant drawbacks of using a GoPro camera as a car dash camera
  • Steps for mounting and properly configuring your GoPro for dash cam operation
  • My recommendation if GoPro vs dash cam for in-car video

Let’s start with the basics

gopro as a dash cam

Overview: Key Features of GoPro Cameras

Since their introduction in 2004, GoPro cameras have become the gold standard for capturing thrilling and meaningful moments outside the realm of traditional photography.

Thanks to their signature mix of compact size, rugged durability, and top-of-the-line video components, GoPro cameras can be mounted to bike helmets, surfboards, race cars – even spacecraft! – to record fast-paced action from unique first-person perspectives.

While smartphone cameras continue to improve, GoPro still leads the pack when it comes to shooting immersive, high-resolution footage in challenging environments – including underwater thanks to their waterproof housing cases.

Here’s a quick look at some of the key strengths of popular GoPro models starting from the 360-degree GoPro Max down to the flagship Hero11 Black:

  • Image stabilization – Built-in HyperSmooth tech delivers gimbal-smooth videos without the gimbal!
  • Premium video modes – Up to 5.3K resolution, 60fps, with tweaks like slo-mo and time lapse
  • Rugged, portable construction – Lightweight and durable to withstand dust, bumps, humidity, and water submersion
  • Intuitive touch controls – Easy access to settings without leaving your shot frame
  • WiFi + Bluetooth connectivity – For wireless remote control and instant sharing to smartphones
  • Cloud storage + live streaming – Auto-upload media to the cloud for anywhere access

It’s easy to see why GoPro dominates the action camera scene. But how do they stack up against devices actually designed for the role of an in-car video recorder?

Next, let’s look at the key differences between GoPro capabilities and purpose-built dash cam functionality.

Dash Cam Features: What to Look for in an In-Car Recorder

While GoPros excel at capturing sports and events from a helmet or vehicle’s exterior, dash cams have a more focused function – recording video internally to document drives.

Dash cams function as an extra pair of eyes on the road from a fixed position attached to your car or truck’s windshield. They continuously record all activity in front of your vehicle, automatically recording over old footage in a loop while saving event clips triggered by impacts.

This not only gives you video evidence in the event of an accident, near miss, or road rage incident – it also protects you against false claims. Dash cam video provides concrete proof of what transpired by showing precise date, time, speed, and GPS data embedded in the video file.

Because dash cams need to operate reliably in extreme temperatures and off your car’s battery, the top devices feature ruggedized hardware designed specifically for in-vehicle use:

  • Automatic loop recording – Seamlessly records driving footage in 5-20 minute segments
  • Collision sensors – Automatically locks video files after sudden impacts
  • Parking modes – Continues limited recording if vehicle is bumped when stopped
  • Emergency recording – Allows manual saving of important video clips
  • WiFi connectivity – For quick access to footage directly on your phone
  • Low profile, discreet design – Made specifically for discrete windshield mounting

In addition to protecting drivers, dash cams are becoming increasingly popular for commercial fleets and parents of teen drivers thanks to:**

  • GPS tracking + speed alerts – Keep new drivers safe and identify joyrides
  • Driver monitoring – Record passengers and cabins to protect fleet staff
  • Vehicle diagnostics – Integrate mechanical and fault data with video files

Many insurers now offer discounted rates for drivers willing to install a dashcam in order to incentivize safer driving habits.

Overall when comparing specs, it’s clear why dedicated dash cams boast features tailored specifically to the requirements of recording drives and securing vehicles.

Now let’s look at the unique advantages – and significant limitations – of trying to use a GoPro action camera in place of a proper dash cam.

Benefits: Using GoPro as a Car Dash Cam

At first glance, having an action-ready GoPro already in your gear bag seems like the perfect dash cam solution. Before you race to mount your Hero11 to your windshield though, let’s analyze the key advantages and major pitfalls.

Compact Size

One clear edge of a GoPro camera is its ultra-compact form factor. Measuring just 33mm high x 49mm wide without its protective housing, even the Hero11 Black is dwarfed by many dash cams.

Thanks to their light weight (152g / 5.4oz for the Hero11 body), GoPros can tuck discreetly behind your rearview mirror or towards the top of the windshield without becoming a distraction.

Key Takeaway

Small dimensions allow covert, out-of-sight mounting that avoids obstructing your view out the windshield.

Great Image Quality

It’s no secret GoPro cameras are renowned for capturing stunning, cinema-quality footage. Between the leading video modes and imaging sensors plus stabilization, even older models like the Hero5 Black shoot smooth 4K video ideal for vlogging mountain bike descents or tracking shots aboard a catamaran.

Key Takeaway

Advanced lenses, top-shelf imaging sensors, HyperSmooth stabilization, and 4K60 resolution provide professional-grade video quality.

Rugged, Waterproof Build

Durability defines the GoPro design ethos. Forged from robust polycarbonate plastic and interior rubber gaskets, GoPro camera bodies easily withstand submersion, being dropped on concrete, and all but the gnarliest crashes.

While dash cam housings try to emulate discreet dimensions, most pale in ruggedness compared to a GoPro. For drivers operating on muddy backroads or in extreme climates, having an all-conditions camera could prove handy.

Key Takeaway

Rugged construction allows GoPro cameras to endure harsh environments including off-road driving terrain and extreme underhood temperatures.

On paper, those compelling attributes make for a tempting dash cam alternative – especially if you already own a GoPro. But before mounting your action cam to record rides, it’s critical to understand the functional limitations baked into its adventure DNA.

Significant Drawbacks of Using a GoPro as a Dash Cam

While handy in a pinch, GoPro cameras lack many of the set-it-and-forget dash cam features required for reliable, daily driving. Compared to dedicated models, key weaknesses quickly become apparent:

Lack of Automatic Dash Cam Capture Functions

Unlike dash cams engineered specifically to monitor road activity, GoPros rely on manual user input to start recording.

That means remembering to power up and hit record every time you start driving – not ideal for those groggy morning commutes! It also keeps the camera inactive while parked, unable to record suspicious activity or bumps.

And without a loop recording function, GoPros stop recording when their SD card fills up instead of seamlessly overwriting old clips.

Key Takeaway

Absence of programmed auto recording, loop capture, and parking monitoring modes require constant user interaction and limits unattended use.

Subpar Battery Life When Used as a Continuous Recorder

While stellar for short bursts of adrenaline-fueled action, GoPro battery performance lags when used as a persistent all-day recording device. For comparison:

  • GoPro Hero11 battery lifespan: 80 minute max
  • Dash cam battery lifespan: 24+ hours of continuous recording

The reason rests in output demands. Drawing maximum power to support 5K video, WiFi streaming, and a bright LCD non-stop, GoPro batteries quickly drain. Dash cams utilize optimized components fine-tuned for their sole purpose – recording drives without depleting car batteries.

And without convenient cigarette lighter plugs found on most dash cams, keeping a GoPro powered requires repeated battery swaps or inconvenient USB rigs.

Key Takeaway

Battery technology optimized for short duration burst capture falls short during prolonged usage scenarios common in dash cam applications.

Overheating Issues in Extreme Vehicle Environments

Ruggedness meets its match trying to record inside sun-baked or frost-covered vehicles. Unlike dash cams built explicitly for survival inside temperature extremes reaching -76° to 158°F in some vehicles, GoPro engineering instead prioritizes performance when wet and cold during outdoor sports.

Social media and forums brim with reports of GoPro camera issues like:

  • Failure to power on in cold winter temperatures
  • Overheating and automatic shutdown filming inside hot cars in summer
  • Moisture ingress over time in dashboards
  • Permanent lens fogging due to repeated temperature shifts

Without custom casing materials and seals designed for the unique rigors of the automotive dash cam environment, GoPro weatherproofing falls short.

Key Takeaway

Lacking specialized materials and components for operation across extreme in-vehicle environments, GoPro cameras struggle with freezing, overheating, and long-term moisture exposure.

High Risk of Theft

Thanks to iconic status in the action sports world, even glancing sight of a GoPro camera provokes attention. Their $300 – $500 price tag and easy portability also make them prime targets for theft.

Yet discreetness is paramount for effective dash cams intended to operate continuously while left unattended in parked vehicles for hours or days.

Key Takeaway

Widely recognized brand and high value make GoPro theft extremely likely compared to purpose-built low profile dash cams designed expressly for covert permanent installation.

While the benefits seem promising for creative drivers, GoPro cameras fall painfully short as improvised dash cams once you dig deeper.

Recommended GoPro Dash Cam Settings

This section covers the necessary settings I recommend configuring to optimize your GoPro camera if you still intend to use it as an in-car camera.

While suboptimal compared to an off-the-shelf dash cam, turning your GoPro into a DIY dash cam remains alluring. Before mounting one on your windshield, dialing the following key settings helps compensate for some inherent capability gaps:

Enable Video Looping

With continuous driving footage bound to rapidly fill SD card storage, enabling GoPro’s looping function is critical to maximize recording time.

Here’s how to turn on looping mode:

  1. Tap the “Modes” icon on your GoPro’s touch display
  2. Swipe and select the “Looping” video mode icon
  3. Choose desired interval – I suggest maximum possible of 2 hours
  4. Check icon has switched to looping “recycle” symbol

Now your GoPro will continuously record over the oldest footage in a seamless loop – just like a dash cam!

Key Takeaway

Selecting the Looping mode replaces standard video recording with a circular capture buffer to maximize drive logging until storage fills.

Adjust Video Resolution + Field of View

Recording modes determine video fidelity, while field of view controls perspective – both key imaging aspects to tweak.

I suggest the following settings:

  • Resolution: 4K60
    Better clarity to read license plates at distance or street signs in case of incidents
  • Field of View: Wide
    Ensures best view of all surrounding activity without distorting video
  • Bit rate: High
    Reduces video compression and detail loss

On a Hero 7 through 10:

  1. Swipe down to access settings drawer
  2. Tap “Preferences”
  3. Select desired video parameters

To save preferences as a customizable preset on a Hero 11:

  1. Tap top menu bar
  2. Choose “Preferences”
  3. Tap “Presets” to create custom preset
  4. Name it then set desired settings

Key Takeaway

Customizing resolution, field of view, and compression parameters helps ensure highest quality video capture – just like an advanced dash cam.

The above tweaks help a GoPro dash cam perform closer to a dedicated recorder in key areas. Keep reading for guidance on accessorizing and positioning your DIYdesign.

Mounting & Accessorizing Your GoPro Dash Cam

Physical setup is vital when installing any dash cam – and it takes some finesse getting a boxy GoPro camera positioned just right.

While homebrew mounting falls short of an integrated recorder design, these tips help optimize stability and perspective:

Use a Windshield Suction Mount

For best road visibility just like built-in dash cams, I strongly advise attaching your GoPro to the inside lower center of your windshield using a suction cup mount.

GoPro’s own Suction Cup Mount works great. Alternative camera mounts for vehicles abound too – just ensure it positions your GoPro close to the dash pointing dead center.

Key Takeaway

Suction mounting to the lower windshield provides a dash cam-like perspective of the road ahead – just avoid blocking wiper or steering wheel.

Hardwire It for Continuous Power

While easier than charging a smartphone, expecting to regularly pull over and swap GoPro batteries proves unrealistic.

Like dash cams, tapping your car’s electrical system makes more sense over frantically swapping multiple GoPro batteries. Trust me, I’ve tried it!

I power my GoPro dash cam using a dual USB adapter for the cigarette lighter wired to an extra-long 10 foot USB cable. It keeps my GoPro Hero5 constantly charged without cables draped hazardously across my dashboard.

Professional installations could tap straight into your car’s battery or ignition circuit too. Just take care not to accidentally drain your car battery!

Pitfalls of Using a GoPro as a Dash Cam

Before wrapping up my GoPro dash cam guide, I want to emphasize a few core disadvantages that ultimately make action cameras subpar dash cam substitutes:

  • Absence of programmed captions modes
  • Mediocre battery efficiency over hours of continuous driving
  • Lack of extreme temperature survival compared to purpose-built dash cams
  • High theft appeal due to brand recognition

While GoPro cameras like the stellar Hero11 Black shine capturing outdoor adventures, their limitations become quickly apparent on daily commute duty.

Ultimately lesser image quality, reliability, and security make even premium GoPro models third-rate stand-ins as dash cams.

For mere mortals lacking hours to configure settings every trip while constantly managing batteries and storage, I strongly advise investing in an integrated dash cam instead.

Keep reading for my top alternatives ideal for ride recording duty.

Top GoPro Alternatives: Dash Cams Worth Buying

Searching for a premium dash cam offering automatic functionality tailormade for full-time ride recording?

Look no further than these top-rated dashboard camera systems:

BlackVue DR900X dash cam

BlackVue DR900x Cloud Dash Cam

As the pioneer of next-generation cloud connectivity in dash cams, Korean powerhouse BlackVue leads the industry.

Their flagship DR900x dash cam delivers sharp native 4K recordings augmented by cloud syncing and WiFi smartphone monitoring from anywhere.

Standout capabilities protecting family or commercial drivers include:

  • 162° wide-angle video coverage
  • Built-in GPS and WiFi
  • Cloud storage via optional LTE CM100 module upgrade
  • Dual-band WiFi for quick footage review
  • Over-the-air firmware updates

Paired with the Power Magic Pro hardwiring kit, the DR900x operates free of battery woes drawing ignition power while adding intelligent parking modes and motion detection.

Overall the polished prosumer BlackVue DR900x Cloud represents my top choice for a fully-featured GoPro dash cam alternative.

See Best Price on BlackVue DR900X Cloud Dash Cam

Thinkware Q800PRO Dash Cam

Thinkware built an automotive fleet technology juggernaut tailoring high-capability cameras explicitly for commercial vehicles.

The Thinkware Q800PRO dash cam provides premium performance plus all fleet-critical tools like driver monitoring, diagnostic report integration, LTE connectivity, and live GPS tracking.

Vital capabilities making it the ultimate GoPro alternative fleet cam:

  • Quad HD + Full HD dual recording
  • Intelligent Parking Mode
  • Built-in WiFi for easy offloads
  • Driver distraction and drowsiness alerts
  • CANBUS integration displaying vehicle telemetry data overlays

While overkill for family cars, the Thinkware Q800PRO dash cam extends monitoring capabilities far beyond GoPro action sports DNA.

Thinkware Q800PRO dash cam

See Best Price on Thinkware Q800PRO Fleet Dash Cam

Vantrue N4 Three Channel Uber Dash Cam

For rideshare or passenger transport, Vantrue’s tailor-made N4 dash cam gets the nod.

As the only 3-channel system under $200, it features quad HD 1296P front coverage plus dual HD interior shooting – perfect for protecting Uber, Lyft, taxi, and van drivers against unwarranted claims.

I ride exclusively with the Vantrue N4 watching my back thanks to:

  • Front 170° + interior 140° video coverage
  • Infrared interior imaging for night driving
  • 24 hour parking monitoring
  • Automatic LCD off mode to avoid disturbing passengers

With the ability to justify any incidents and exonerate drivers, rideshare operators gain peace of mind. While less thrilling than surf footage, the Vantrue N4 dash cam delivers uninterrupted protection.

Vantrue Dash Cam

See Best Price on Vantrue N4 3-Channel Rideshare Dash Cam

Final Takeaway: Dash Cams Beat GoPro for In-Car Video

While GoPro cameras excel capturing outdoor adventures, limitations like battery life, distracted driving concerns, harder installation, and vulnerability to extreme temperatures make them less than ideal all-in solutions to record your daily drives.

Integrated dash cams with automatic functionality, crash detection, and parking modes instead represent purpose-built devices for reliable set-and-forget operation. Their discreet mounting and hardwired power supplies also lend well to permanent placement keeping watch over unattended vehicles.

So while handy in a pinch, dedicated dash cams better warrant their small premium in price multiple times over through enhanced recording reliability, flexible monitoring options, tightened security, and specialized automotive engineering.

Ultimately standalone dash cams like the BlackVue DR900X Thinkware Q800PRO fleet model, and rideshare-friendly Vantrue N4 beat even top-of-the-line GoPro alternatives. Each model listed suits a particular usage whether for personal, commercial, or people transport driving environments.

I hope this guide gives clarity navigating between exciting GoPro capabilities and dash cam realities. Let me know if you have any other questions using your action camera as an automotive video recorder down in the comments!

FAQs on Using a GoPro as a Dash Cam

Q1: What is the article about? 
The article provides an SEO-optimized outline for using a GoPro as a dash cam, incorporating content from the top 10 Google ranking sites. It covers the overview of GoPro cameras, dash cams, potential advantages, major drawbacks, tips for configuration, and concludes with recommendations.

Q2: Can you give a brief history of GoPro action cameras? 
The article briefly covers the history and description of GoPro action cameras, highlighting key features such as durability, portability, and video quality.

Q3: Why are dash cams essential for vehicles?
 The article explains the purpose and benefits of dash cams, emphasizing features like continuous recording and accident detection.

Q4: What are the potential advantages of using a GoPro as a dash cam?
The article outlines advantages such as compact size (fits easily on the windshield), great video quality (stabilized 4K video), and a rugged build suitable for vehicle use.

Q5: What are the major drawbacks of using a GoPro as a dash cam? 
The article details drawbacks, including the lack of dash cam-specific features (continuous loop recording, parking monitoring, GPS functionality), battery life issues, overheating problems, and the risk of theft due to the GoPro’s recognizability.

Q6: How can I configure a GoPro as a dash cam?
The article provides tips for configuration, including enabling loop recording and adjusting settings like resolution and field of view (FOV) for optimal video quality.

Q7: What is loop recording, and how can I enable it on a GoPro?
Loop recording ensures continuous recording by overwriting old footage. The article includes steps for turning on video looping on a GoPro.

Q8: What settings should I adjust for the best video quality and field of view (FOV)?
The article advises on adjusting settings like resolution and FOV for optimal video quality when using a GoPro as a dash cam.

Q9: What are the recommended configurations for using a GoPro as a dash cam?
The article concludes with a summary of pros and cons, offering suggestions for dedicated dash cams as a potentially better option.

Q10: Why might a dedicated dash cam be a better choice than a GoPro for vehicle use?
The article recommends dedicated dash cams due to their specific features tailored for vehicle use and addresses the limitations of using a GoPro.