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Don't Use a GoPro as a Dash Cam. Here's Why.

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Updated on 3/12/2018

graphic: Don't use a GoPro as a dash cam. Here's Why / The Dashcam Store Blog

We know it’s happening. There are drivers out there that want to put the GoPro they invested in to good use and record their driving with it. We've come to terms with the fact that GoPro owners concerned about protecting their vehicle have more than likely Googled “GoPro dash cam hack.”

But just because people are doing it doesn’t mean that it’s the best solution to record your drives and protect yourself and your car in case of an accident.

We want to take some time to explain why, even though it may be tempting, we don’t recommend that you use your GoPro as your dash cam.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is a GoPro, exactly?

A GoPro is a specific brand of an action camera. Action cameras are best for capturing extreme sports and extreme weather conditions. Common characteristics of action cams are that they are compact, durable, lightweight, waterproof, and have a high rate of frames per second (FPS) in order to be able to catch all of the action. These specs make action cams, like a GoPro, the perfect camera to take on a backpacking trip through Southeast Asia, an off-roading adventure, surfing, or snowboarding.

Okay, so then what is a dash cam and what is it used for?

infographic: Dashcam 101 by The Dashcam Store

A dash cam is a small video camera that is mounted inside your vehicle to your car or truck’s windshield and continuously records video as you drive. What’s with the dash part? Dash cams got their name and exposure from the dashboard cameras used in police vehicles. If you’d like to take some time to learn the basics of dashcams, check out our Dashcam 101 infographic!

What are the main characteristics of a dash cam?

We’d say there are four fundamental features that really make a dash cam a dash cam:

  • Dash cams are designed to remain in your vehicle at all times.
  • Dash cams power on automatically when your car powers on (either hardwired or powered through the cigarette outlet in your car).
  • Dash cams start recording automatically as soon as they power on.
  • Dash cams record continuously (loop recording).

The GoPro packs some impressive specs, don’t get us wrong! Our point is that GoPro’s features aren’t relevant to the needs of a driver.

To help us explain, for the rest of this blog post we’re going to compare the capabilities of a GoPro HERO5 Black with the capabilities of a BlackVue DR750S-1CH cloud-capable dash cam.

graphic: GoPro HERO5 Black in water

If you use a GoPro as your dash cam, here’s what you’ll soon find out:

You need to turn your GoPro on.

Alright, it may sound obvious, but if you use a GoPro to record what’s happening outside or inside your vehicle, you need to remember to turn it on and press record before every single drive! Imagine how frustrated you’d be if you were in an accident or saw a meteor and you missed everything because you forgot to hit the record button.

Since dashcams are designed to be kept in your car 24/7 and get their power from your car’s battery, a dash cam will turn on and start recording right when you turn the key in your ignition. This leads perfectly into our next point, which is…

A GoPro’s Battery life is short.

GoPro estimates that the battery life of a HERO5 Black will range from 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes depending on the video mode as well as what kind of settings you’re using. Here’s a helpful chart to help answer the question: how long does the HERO5 Black battery last? from GoPro’s website to help illustrate.

If you don’t want to purchase multiple back up batteries or remember to take your GoPro battery inside to charge up and then back into your car on a daily basis before you hit the road, then a dash cam would be a better option for you.

graphic: BlackVue DR750S-1CH dash cam installed in car

Powering on a BlackVue DR750S-1CH dashboard cam is effortless: plug it into the 12v cigarette lighter outlet in your car and it’ll turn on automatically and begin recording on its own every time you turn on your engine. If you use a dash cam to record your driving, you won’t need to worry about missing a crucial moment because your dash cam will always be charged up and recording. As we mentioned, the automatic "on" feature is one of the standard features that makes a dash cam a dash cam!

GoPros can’t withstand extreme temperatures like a dashcam can.

The GoPro HERO5 Black community seems to be having some issues with powering on their GoPros in cold weather. High-quality dash cams, like the BlackVue DR750S-1CH, are built to withstand the extreme temperature fluctuations that your car experiences year-round.

BlackVue dash cams do not have lithium batteries, which are known to overheat and cause problems in dash cams. Keeping the driver’s needs in mind, all BlackVue dash cams use temperature-tolerant capacitors. Let us tell you: we keep our BlackVue dashcams installed in our vehicles year-round, including hot Austin, Texas summers. Imagine the internal temperature of your parked car in a sunny Austin parking lot when it’s 105 degrees outside! We’ve never had any issues with a BlackVue dashcam not working as it should in extreme cold or extreme heat.

GoPros don’t have parking mode.

Things can happen to your car when you’re not actually driving it, right? BlackVue DR750S series owners are able to monitor their vehicle and its surroundings 24/7, even when the car is turned off, thanks to parking mode. As long as your dash cam has a constant power source (a Power Magic Pro makes the most sense for the majority of our customers) the DR650S is able to “watch” its surroundings constantly. Thanks to features like a G-sensor and motion detection, the DR750S-1CH dash cam will begin recording an event triggered by any sort of impact or motion. If someone lets a runaway shopping cart crash into your car in a parking lot or a late-night lurker gets a little too close to your car, the event will be recorded, saved to the memory card, and you’ll be notified right away.

Here's a video from one of our customers to show you how powerful parking mode can be!

"I attached one of my favorite dash videos... This WAS my mechanic ... He was fired shortly after I received this impact alert."

Everyone knows what a GoPro looks like... and they know how much it's worth.

GoPro has poised itself as the go-to trusted brand in the action cam world. Like Bandaid, Sharpie, and Kleenex became household names for bandages, permanent markers, and tissues, GoPro has virtually erased the word “action camera” from our vocabulary. There is one downside to that level of fame: everyone recognizes the boxy design of a GoPro and knows that it’s not cheap.

Although hacking your GoPro to use it as your dash cam may seem like a great way to get more bang for your buck, would you want to have it in plain sight in your car at all times? Keeping a GoPro mounted on your windshield may cause passerby to do a double take, and may be asking for the curious to check to see if your door is unlocked so they can snag themselves the new GoPro HERO5 Black.

We’d argue that, unfortunately, dash cams still aren’t a household name in 2017. While we wish that more drivers took advantage of the protection and accountability that comes with a dash cam, the good news for our small but mighty dash cam community is that dash cams aren’t as recognizable as a GoPro. That’s a major factor in what makes a dash cam a dash cam: it’s designed to stay in your car at all times so you don’t have to struggle with remembering to take it down and put it back up all the time.

The BlackVue brand’s sleek, cylindrical shape and black finish make them super discreet. The DR750S-1CH is designed to be low profile and will hide nicely behind your rearview mirror, keeping it out of your view while you drive and making it hard for onlookers to spot. You don’t need to worry about taking it down and hiding it in your glove box every time you park your car.

BlackVue 600 Series dashcam discreet in-car photo

GoPro HERO5 Black Action Cam vs BlackVue DR750S-1CH Dash Cam: Side-by-Side Specs Chart

GoPro HERO5 Black BlackVue DR750S-1CH
Powers on Automatically Yes Yes
Starts Recording Automatically No Yes
Designed to Stay in Your Vehicle No Yes
Automatically Enters Parking Mode When Stationary No Yes
Motion-Based Recording in Parking Mode No Yes
Battery life Up to 2.5 hours Unlimited
Battery Technology Lithium-Ion Super-Capacitor
Aesthetics (how obvious is the camera?) Noticeable (everyone recognizes GoPro) Discreet (cylindrical shape, not widely-known brand)
Voice Control Yes No, but voice announcements
Operating Temperature Range Unpublished, but shuts off over 125°F* -20°C to 70°C (-4°F to 158°F )

*Source: GoPro Support

The bottom line

GoPros are great, don’t get us wrong! Our point here is they’re not great for drivers. Would you hire a professional surfer to be your mechanic? Probably not! It’s the same thing with a GoPro vs a dash cam: dash cams are designed with a driver’s needs in mind, so why would you want to use anything else?

What now?

Have we ruined your weekend plans to teach yourself how to hack your GoPro to do double duty?

If you want to explore your dash cam options from the beginning, our Dash Cam Buyer's Guide is the best place to start. It will walk you through a few of the top features to consider when researching what the best dashcam for you will be.


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