GoPro vs. Dash Camera

Can a GoPro do double duty? And is that a good idea?

A GoPro camera is great for capturing extreme sports and activities. It isn't an ideal alternative to a dedicated dash camera. A dashcam sits in your car and continuously records your drives, serving as a witness in a traffic accident. There are other purposes, but the continuous, always-on functionality of a dashcam presents technological demands that GoPro cameras don't meet.

Person adjusting a camera in their car
Lifewire

Overall Findings

GoPro
  • Not as convenient as a dashcam, but will do the job.

  • Generally more expensive than dashcams.

  • Must be brought with you and turned on every time you drive.

Dashcam
  • Ideal for monitoring traffic for security and insurance purposes.

  • Generally cheaper than GoPro cameras.

  • Turns on and records automatically. Don't need to bring it with you or turn it on before drives.

GoPro cameras are generally more expensive than dashcams and aren't designed to sit indefinitely in a vehicle. These devices can't be set to turn on and start recording when the car is started, and lack hardware to protect against extreme cold or extreme heat. If you use a GoPro as a dashcam, you must mount it on the dash, plug it in, and turn it on every time you drive.

Convenience: With Dashcams, You Can Set It and Forget It

GoPro
  • Must be brought with you and turned on every time you drive.

  • Not as durable or resistant to extreme temperatures.

Dashcam
  • Turns on and records automatically. Don't need to bring it with you or turn it on before drives.

Because dashcams turn on and record automatically, you won't worry about forgetting to bring it with you or neglecting to turn it on, as you would with a GoPro.

Unlike a smartphone app or a GoPro, which you would presumably take with you, dashcams are dedicated devices. Dashcams sit on the dashboard at all times. This affords a set it and forget it appeal. Once a dashcam is installed, it begins recording as soon as you start the car.

Features: Both Offer a Suite of Useful Tools

GoPro
  • No intelligent parking mode to record while you're away from the vehicle.

  • Looped recording allows you to maintain storage space, as new recordings replace older ones.

  • Some models include GPS and shock sensors.

Dashcam
  • Many include built-in GPS and shock sensors.

  • Some have intelligent parking mode, for continued recording while away from the vehicle.

  • Looped recording allows you to maintain storage space, as new recordings replace older ones.

Dash cameras are designed for vehicles and often come with designs and features that make driving easier. Some come with built-in GPS and shock sensors. With GPS, a dashcam records exactly where you were and how you were moving when an accident occurs. Shock sensors allow dashcams to activate or mark a looped recording when the vehicle experiences a sudden change in acceleration.

You can find many of these features on many GoPros and some dashcam apps, as most have accelerometers, GPS navigation, and waterproof housing. Carrying your phone around with you is likely more intuitive and easier to remember than a GoPro.

While dashcams may be more convenient due to the automated functionality, both dashcams and GoPros offer looped recording. The camera automatically replaces old video files when there isn't any storage space left. This functionality is a prerequisite for any dashboard surveillance solution. Without it, you would fill up memory and storage space in a short time.

If you use a GoPro as a dashcam, you'll need to turn on the looped recording feature and place the GoPro in a skeleton housing or mount. Unlike the waterproof housing, a skeleton housing allows you to power the camera while it's in use. You'll need a 12 volt USB adapter or a 12-volt charger with a micro USB connector to plug the GoPro into a cigarette lighter or accessory socket.

After you activate looped recording and put your GoPro in a skeleton housing, you can mount it to a dash or windshield. The main drawback is that you must turn it on every time you drive.

Value: Dashcams Are Cheaper — Unless You Own a GoPro

GoPro
  • Must be brought with you and turned on every time you drive.

  • Generally more expensive than dashcams.

  • Not as durable or resistant to extreme temperatures.

Dashcam
  • Generally cheaper than GoPro cameras.

  • Losing a dashcam isn't as troublesome as losing a GoPro.

GoPro cameras are recognizable consumer gadgets. Vehicles with an expensive GoPro on the dashboard likely face a greater risk of theft than a generic dashcam.

Dashcams are usually, but not always, built to be more resilient than GoPros, because dashcams must endure the extreme hot and cold temperature swings of a car.

While most dashcams record automatically, dashcam apps have many of the same problems that GoPro cameras do. You need to carry a device with you and turn it on before each drive. The convenience of automated functionality adds value.

Final Verdict: For Driving Purposes, Stick With a Dashcam

If you rely on a GoPro for outdoor hobbies and other activities, and want a cheap way to monitor your driving, use your GoPro as a dashcam. If you don't own a GoPro and only want to record your driving, a dashcam is the way to go.

The value and convenience of a dedicated dashcam make it more suited for vehicle and traffic monitoring than a GoPro. The automated functionality is an argument in its favor. However, with a full range of prices and feature sets, there's really no competition.