Can I use my GoPro as a dash cam? Yes, it is actually well suited for that setup. In this post, you’ll learn how to configure your GoPro dash cam, including settings and mounting kit. And I’ll make a recommendation of a better way. Let’s get started!
How to Use GoPro as Dash Cam
Before we get started, I need to get something off my chest.
I don’t think using GoPro as a dash cam is the best idea.
Sure, for a single trip (or in a pinch) it can work well. But I recommend using tech for the reason it was created.
- GoPro cameras work best outside and underwater – they are for adventures.
- Dash cams work best permanently installed in your car. They record accidents and other bizarre activity. Boring, but it serves a purpose.
So while your GoPro can serve as a dash cam, I don’t think it’s a good long-term solution.
See more below on why GoPro isn’t well suited to this job.
Settings and Gear for Dash Cam Setup
Okay, so you’re determined to set this up. That’s okay. GoPro will capture tons of detail and tell a great story of your trip.
Here’s what you need to know.
GoPro Dash Cam Settings
The settings are surprisingly simple for this setup.
- Resolution: 1080P Superview If you want to use the footage for accident proof only, you don’t need super high resolution. The higher the resolution, the more space it’ll take up on your card. Most dash cams shoot at this resolution.
- Looping: 20 minutes. You can set a number of looping intervals. I recommend setting long enough to capture all of an incident (like a fender bender). Any shorter and you might not get it all. And longer might not be necessary. You decide.
By setting up a loop, you’ll be sure to always have the last set number of minutes of your journey. Be sure to adjust loop period depending on the type of trip you’re taking and how much you want to capture.
Dash Cam Gear Kit for GoPro: 3 Things
There are just three things you’ll need to set this up. You’ll need a way to mount it (mount and housing) and power it (12V adapter).
I’m a fan of a simple adapter like this one. It will charge the camera and another device at the same time. Also, because it sets flush against the car body, it won’t be easily knocked or bumped.
Here’s an inexpensive option for skeleton housing that will fit the Hero7, Hero6, and Hero5.
I filmed a full series of driving videos in Ecuador – with a GoPro on this mount. The roads can be bumpy and I was driving a big old truck. And yet the mount didn’t flex at all. See Fat Gecko price on Amazon
Interested in other options? Here’s a piece I wrote about the best GoPro car mounts. One of them should work.
I have used my GoPro cameras as dash cameras. Here’s one of the videos I shot with the Fat Gecko, with the camera on the inside of the windshield.
Watch on YouTube
Here are a few more things to know as you get setup:
- Turn your GoPro on every time you want to record. This isn’t a big deal. But I know that I would forget often if I had to manually hit the record button.
- GoPro battery life is notoriously short: You’ll want to either take short trips (1.5 – 2 hours max) or direct power it via USB from the 12V cigarette lighter or USB port in your car. Here’s more about GoPro battery life and how to make them last longer.
- High temperatures can harm your camera: Remember to remove your camera if you’re going to leave your car for any amount of time on a hot day. Or if you are going to leave your car somewhere a thief might notice your fancy action camera in the window display.
Using the correct GoPro accessories will make your dash cam work correctly and give you the quality footage you’re looking for.
3 Reasons Not to Use GoPro as a Dash Cam
So while your GoPro can do the job, there are some valid reasons not to use it as a dash cam. Here are a few to consider:
1. Theft target: Vehicle break ins are usually opportunistic. A shiny new GoPro camera (worth hundreds) will definitely catch the eye of any walk by thief. And your broken window will likely cost more to replace than your camera.
Contrast that with a $50 dash cam and you can see the difference.
2. Heat damage: High heat is like kryptonite to a GoPro camera. The last thing your new camera needs is to be mounted in a windshield on a hot summer day.
- How hot can GoPro withstand? According to GoPro tech support, Hero cameras will shut off if temperatures exceed 125F (52C).
- How hot can a car get? According to Live Science, your car’s dashboard can reach temperatures of 157 degrees F (69 degrees C), on a hot day (95 degrees Fahrenheit, 35 degrees Celsius) within 1 hour. That’s 32F degrees hotter than it will even function!
3. Miss out on actual dash cam features: GoPro wasn’t designed as a dash cam so it just doesn’t have the best features for this application.
Here are some standard dash cam features that GoPro doesn’t have:
- Hard wired into car’s electrical system: you’ll never worry about batteries or USB wires with an actual dash cam. Just start your car and it will automatically start recording.
- Built in GPS and shock sensor: If you have an accident, your dash cam will auto record the location, speeds, and footage of the incident. The shock sensor will tag the footage so it won’t get overwritten.
- Designed to be permanently installed, so it will always be ready to film. You know, it won’t accidentally end up in the bottom of your hiking pack … like might happen to someone else.
- Monitor your parked car in “Parking Mode”. A dash cam can actively watch your car while it’s parked for the night or while you’re shopping.
5 Reasons to Use a Dash Cam
- Captures evidence of a car accident: This is probably the most common reason for setting up a dash cam. With a crisp video of traffic lights, car positions, etc, it is no longer his word against mine.
- Monitor your car while parked: Many dash cams will monitor activity around your car while it’s parked. And help catch thieves and vandals. It won’t stop the crime but it might help with claims and charges.
- Prevent insurance fraud: Avoid being a victim of extortion by showing how an accident actually occurred.
- Report bad drivers: With video footage as proof, you can report dangerous and bad drivers.
- Record your road trip: This is my favorite reason. When we lived in Cuenca Ecuador, we filmed much of the city. Here are 12 Cuenca tour videos. This can capture memories from a special trip or give great content for a blog or vlog.
How do I turn off my GoPro? Check out our guide to all models
What’s the Best Dash Cam?
So as you have probably noticed, I don’t think that GoPro makes the best dash cam. In a pinch, it’ll do fine. Or for a special trip, it will capture some amazing footage.
But if you want a dash cam that’ll do dash cam stuff, I recommend that you buy a dash cam. Here are a few to consider.
1. Apeman Dash Cam
Has motion detection, parking monitor, and seamless loop recording. Comes with suction and adhesive mounting option. Its F1.8 aperture works great at night.
And this all costs less than the mounts needed to turn a GoPro into a dash cam.
If you prefer a more incognito option, you’ll love this 1080P mirror dash cam. It mounts on your rearview mirror and includes two cameras (front and back).
It has the same features as above (parking, G-sensor, GPS, etc) but with dual cameras and less visible tech.
Both dash cams take micro SD cards – allowing you to capture many hours of driving footage.
More reading: 13 GoPro Driving Tips
Have you used your GoPro as a dash camera? What setup/settings did you use? What do you want to capture on your dash cam? Let me know below!