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How To Use A GoPro As A Dash Cam [Setup & Tips For Use]

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Key Takeaways

  • GoPros can serve as dash cams with high-quality video but lack specific dash cam features.
  • Essential accessories for GoPro dash cam usage include a car mount and large memory card.
  • Configure GoPro settings for loop recording and low light for optimal dash cam functionality.
  • While versatile, GoPros miss dash cam-specific features like parking mode and automatic collision detection.

Can You Use a GoPro as a Dash Cam?

Yes, you can use a GoPro as a dash cam. It offers high-quality video and image stabilization.

However, it lacks specific dash cam features like 2-channel functionality and motion detectors, and has limited battery life.

image showing a person use a gopro as a dash cam - attached to windshield of a car

A dashboard camera allows you to continuously record the road ahead while you drive. It captures footage that can be useful in the case of accidents, insurance claims, and other incidents.

While there are dedicated cameras for that purpose, you can also mount a GoPro on your dashboard to do the same job.

In fact, GoPros are highly versatile and have some key features that make them a decent alternative. These include:

  • Compact Size and Mountability: GoPros are lightweight and small, so you can easily mount them on a dashboard without obstructing your view.
  • Image Quality and High Resolution: Despite their size, GoPros can capture highly detailed footage that surpasses the average quality of regular dashcams.

Despite that, you should note that GoPros may lack some dash cam basics like continuous recording like dedicated dash cams.

For instance, they require manual activation and lack some special dash cam features and functionalities. So, you’ll need to configure the GoPro to fulfill these features.

Brett’s Take: Thoughts From an Expert

While it is possible to use a GoPro as a dash cam, especially since they offer great video quality and flexibility, doing so does come at a cost.

GoPros don’t really work well as dash cams for safety purposes. If that is the intended use, I would instead suggest getting a regular dash cam.

There are tons of affordable options, from dash cams with parking mode to dash cams with cloud storage.

However, if you’re using a GoPro as a way to simply document high-quality footage, I highly suggest this option.

These cameras are incredibly versatile, and do a great job of capturing video for road trips, off-road adventures, or even content for social media.

Equipment and Accessories Needed

To properly use GoPro as a dash cam, you’ll need to use the right tools and equipment for the job. In this section, you’ll find all the items necessary to get started.

1. A Suitable GoPro Hero Series

Technically, you can convert any recent GoPro model into a dash cam as long as it has the proper functions to do the job.

The ideal GoPro model would be Hero 10 or newer. However, any model newer than GoPro Hero 3 should do the trick, as it’ll offer the necessary resolution and features to function as a dash cam, such as looping, parking mode, etc.

2. GoPro Car Mount

There are different types of GoPro mounts that you can use while turning them into a dashboard camera.

The ideal option here is suction cup mounts. You can use GoPro’s official suction cup mounts or alternative options with a GoPro holder attachment.

These mounts are ideal because they attach directly to the windshield anywhere you want without needing any adhesives.

They’re also quite secure and keep a low profile, so they won’t obstruct your view of the road. A good tip here is to get a ball-joint option that allows you to adjust the GoPro angle however you prefer.

You can also use an adhesive mount, which offers a stronger attachment for bumpy rides. The downside here is that they’re not as versatile as suction cup ones.

Avoid using magnetic mounts here because they’re not as secure as the other options.

3. Memory Card

While using a GoPro as a dashcam, you’ll capture a lot of footage as you drive around. That’s why you’ll need a large memory card to save that footage.

In most cases, the footage that you capture would be uneventful, and in that case, you can simply record over the existing one.

However, if you want to keep a record of your captured footage, you’ll need extra memory cards.

GoPros uses regular SD cards as memory cards, with the memory card slot supporting up to 512 GB.

Mounting Your GoPro in the Vehicle

Mounting your GoPro to your car should be a simple process, as the camera is light and compatible with many holders.

Before mounting the camera to your windshield or dashboard, you need to clean the surface of any debris.

This makes the mount more secure, whether it works by suction or adhesion . You can simply do this by wiping the surface with some alcohol and letting it dry.

Every mount will have its unique installation method, so follow the instructions carefully to secure the GoPro.

The ideal location to mount your GoPro dash cam would be at the top center of the windshield, right below your rear-view mirror.

Make sure that you adjust the GoPro at a slightly lower angle to reduce sky glare and make license plates easier to capture. The frame should include the front portion of your car as well.

Configuring Your GoPro Settings

To effectively use GoPros as dash cams, you’ll need to configure their settings to mimic the cam’s functions.

Here are some of the essential settings to set up your dash cam GoPro.

1. Loop Recording

With the loop recording function enabled, the camera will overwrite the oldest footage, ensuring continuous capture within card capacity. Here’s how to activate it:

  1. Start the GoPro and tap the “mode selector” at the bottom of the main screen.
  2. Scroll all the way down, then press the (+).
  3. Tap the “looping mode”.
  4. Press the “tick” in the upper right corner to activate it.
  5. Save the preset to the looping mode at the bottom of the preset options.

2. Recording Interval

Select the “interval” tab in the looping mode settings to adjust it. This one dictates the amount of storage that the looping footage can use.

Ranging from five minutes” to “Max”, which allows the loop recording to use the entire available storage for capturing footage and deleting the oldest ones as it goes.

You want to leave some space for important events and saved footage. That’s why having a looping interval of 20 to 60 minutes is good enough.

3. Resolution, Frame Rate, and Lens

The video file size will vary depending on the camera model, video resolution, and frames. For dashcam footage, you don’t need extra high quality, as it’ll use up a lot of space.

Instead, a good setting here would be 1080p at 30 to 50 FPS . You can also save extra space here by capturing at 720p or 960p.

While you’re at the menu, make sure that you also choose the widest lens available for the GoPro.

The Superview option is perfect because it offers 170 degrees. This one is ideal for capturing blind spots, although it can distort the angles a bit.

4. Low-Light Adjustments

Since you’d also be driving at night, you should adjust the GoPro for low light as well.

Luckily, you can easily set this one automatically by activating Auto Low Light from the settings menu.

This saves you the hassle of adjusting the ISO and Shutter while giving you the best results at night.

5. Can you Enable Date and Time Stamps?

GoPro cameras don’t currently offer an on-screen timestamp. However, you can display them during post-processing using GoPro Labs > Overlay.

Powering Your GoPro for Long Drives

The average GoPro battery can record for around 50 to 90 minutes on a full charge. This may work for short trips but it won’t last you for extended rides.

Unfortunately, some GoPro models can’t record and charge simultaneously, so you need to charge them separately.

Hardwiring GoPros

A good way to bypass this battery power limitation is to use a different power source to keep the GoPro continuously running.

Luckily, there are battery eliminators on the market for some GoPro models, especially older ones. These cables allow you to hardwire the GoPro by directly connecting it to the car through a USB cable.

The advantage here is that this GoPro will start and stop working in sync with your car , just like a regular dash cam.

The drawback, however, is that it’s not available for all models and their installation will vary depending on the instructions manual.

Spare Batteries with a USB Car Charger

The alternative solution is to have spare battery packs and a USB charger in your car. This way, you can swap the dead battery for a fresh one instantly.

This option maintains the GoPro’s portability and reliability . However, you’ll need to manually swap the batteries and continuously charge the battery packs.

The least favorable option here is to use a high-capacity power bank to charge the batteries for the following reasons:

  • They can bulk up the system, making the GoPro too heavy for the mount.
  • The GoPro is designed to only charge when it’s not recording, so it’s not suitable for long rides.

Managing and Storing Video Footage

You can use an SD card anywhere from 64 GB to 512 GB for the GoPro. The choice here depends on whether you want to save the footage for later use or overwrite it.

A good average would be a 256GB card, which gives you around 8 hours of footage at such a video setting.

This guide from the official GoPro website shows you the average capacity at different footage settings for a 128GB SD card. You can use it as a reference to get the one that suits you.

You can also use cloud service to directly upload the footage to online storage. However, this will use bandwidth and require extra monthly fees .

If you want to prevent the camera from overwriting certain footage or sections, you should tag it on the GoPro with the HiLight feature.

Tips and Tricks for Enhanced Dash Cam Usage

Here are some simple yet highly effective tips to make your GoPro a better dashcam:

  • Turn off unnecessary features like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to conserve battery.
  • Avoid overheating the camera by covering it with a sunproof reflective blanket or attaching a USB-powered fan to it.
  • Lower the camera’s frames to generate less heat and reduce battery use
  • Activate the built-in HyperSmooth camera stabilization to reduce vibrations while driving.
  • Adjust the camera to stay working while you’re parked to mimic the parking mode. (make sure to keep the looping interval at the highest setting.

GoPro vs. Traditional Dash Cams: An Analysis

Having a dash cam is an excellent way to document your driving and can be a remarkable asset while claiming insurance and challenging traffic tickets.

While they come at an affordable price, they can sometimes be underwhelming in terms of visual resolution. However, high-end dash cams with decent image quality can be remarkably expensive, and that’s where GoPros come in handy.

Here’s a quick overview of the advantages using GoPros as a dash cam over traditional options:

  • Higher video quality and resolution
  • Wider field of view
  • Enhanced user experience and features, such as voice control and remote control
  • Versatile and reliable option that you can use for multiple purposes.

Yet, this setup also has its drawbacks when compared to traditional dashcams, including

  • Lacks parking mode
  • Doesn’t have a collision detection mode to save the footage automatically
  • You need to start the camera manually
  • Can easily overheat in extreme temperatures
  • Comes at a higher price than a traditional dashcam

That’s why if you already own a GoPro and only need basic dash cam functionality for occasional use, it could be a suitable option.

However, if dashcam-specific features are essential for you, a dedicated dashcam might be a better investment for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Can a GoPro Run Continuously?

An average GoPro would typically last anywhere between 120 to 180 minutes while running continuously on a single full charge.

However, several factors can impact the battery life of a GoPro, including the model, video resolution, capture mode, and even external temperature.

What Else Can You Use as a Dash Cam?

Besides action cameras, you can use a wide range of cameras and systems as a dash cam alternative.

The most common alternatives include old smartphones with secure mounts, digital cameras, and surveillance cameras.

Keep in mind that most of these alternatives are better used as temporary solutions, as they can’t provide the level of reliability of standard dash cams.

The Best Dash Cams to Use Instead of a GoPro

We’ve researched for you! Here are three of the best choices you can make while shopping for a dash cam.

vector graphic showing an illustration of dash cams with cloud storage

The Best Dash Cams to Use Instead of a GoPro (Overview)

We’ve included an overview of our top picks below. For detailed information on each pick, scroll down.

  1. Nextbase 622GW
  2. Garmin Dash Cams
  3. Nexar Pro

1. Nextbase 622GW

This camera just became your new best friend on a road trip!

Nextbase offers 4K video quality, emergency service notifications, and a technology called what3words, which shares your precise coordinates with anyone you choose.

The camera also enables the use of Amazon Alexa, which gives you voice control to make calls, check the weather, get directions, or anything else you need while keeping your hands on the steering wheel.

The 622GW is compatible with your smartphone and will work synchronously with other Nextbase cameras, meaning you can have a front and rear-facing camera.

2. Garmin Dash Cams

Garmin is a long-trusted name in the video camera industry. Their dash cams have proven themselves worthy of your purchase.

The Garmin Dash Cam 57 is their latest product to keep drivers happy.

An array of features such as GPS incident detecting, voice control, and automatic recording make this an easy choice. The device also features Vault Storage, which automatically saves each video clip it captures for 24 hours.

3. Nexar Pro

Nexar Pro is the camera aimed at drivers who dedicate hours of their day to being on the road. The Nexar Pro GPS Dash Cam system features an internal memory, which holds extra hours of loop recording.

Nexar’s camera is the first on this list to include a dual-camera system, one for the road and one for your vehicle interior.

It also notifies loved ones if your camera detected an accident involving your vehicle (along with the video footage).

You can also use their app to submit a video to insurance claims. This feature keeps you protected from any potential insurance fraud.

In our opinion, this is the best dash cam on this list! (Upgraded cameras from Nexar offer live streaming of your driving if that’s a feature you seek!)

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