GoPros and dash cams are both reliable cameras, and you may be wondering which one you should choose. Before taking the plunge, it’s good to understand the differences that actually matter.

GoPros differ from Dash Cams in that they are used for travel purposes or physical activities, such as swimming in the ocean or mountain biking. Dash cams are made specifically for cars, and they monitor your car automatically by turning on and off through sensors, while GoPros are manual.

There are more differences between them, and this article will go into much greater detail on each one. Please read on if you want to learn about the most critical differences between GoPros and dash cams.

What Is the Difference Between a GoPro and a Dash Cam?

The difference between a GoPro and a Dash cam is the purpose of each. GoPros are small, durable cameras that are made for high-energy activities. It’s difficult for GoPros to break because of how durable they are. On the other hand, dash cams are only made to be used in cars and aren’t as portable.

Now, let’s take a closer look at all the differences between a GoPro and a dash cam:

1. GoPros and Dash Cams Have Different Uses

We’ve briefly mentioned that dash cams and GoPros have different uses.

Since GoPros are so durable, they’re perfect for many different activities and weather conditions, such as:

  • Extreme rain and winds
  • Mountain climbing
  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Skydiving
  • Cycling

Luckily, all newer models of GoPros are now waterproof, so you can bring them with you when you’re snorkeling in the ocean or in a heavy rainstorm.

Dash cams are made explicitly for vehicles, so you can’t use them as regular cameras. They’re supposed to be installed and left unmoved in the cars. Although most dash cams are made for cars and vans, there are also ones suitable for motorcycles.

If you’re choosing between a GoPro and dash cam, your decision should be based on the intent of use. How exactly are you planning on using the camera?

If you’re using it to monitor your car, you should buy a dash cam. It’s the best camera you can use for vehicle protection because that is its primary purpose.

But if you aren’t looking for something to monitor your car, a dash cam isn’t what you need. GoPros are your best friend for capturing fun moments that a regular camera wouldn’t be able to handle, so you should buy one of them if that’s your intention.

GoPro 1

2. GoPros and Dash Cams Turn On and off Differently

Another big difference between GoPros and dash cams is how they turn on and off.

When it comes to GoPros, you have to turn them on and off manually. So, if you want to record something, you have to press the power button. There’s no timer or other way around this.

For dash cams, they’re generally installed in your car and connected to it via the cigarette port, so they turn on automatically once the engine turns on. This automation means that you never have to worry about forgetting to turn it on.

The whole point of protecting your car with a camera is to capture accidents or wrongdoings by other people. Since a dash cam turns on automatically, you’re sure to always have the footage you need.

Technically, you could use a GoPro as a dash cam, but you may run into issues. Let’s say you’re running late for work, so you don’t remember to turn on your dash cam before driving away. Then, on your way to work, another car crashes into yours.

At first, you think to yourself, “at least I have a recording!”

But then, you realize you never turned the GoPro on. This situation wouldn’t happen with a dash cam, and now you have no solid proof that the other person crashed into you rather than the other way around.

Because of this, it’s always best to use a dash cam for your vehicle.

3. GoPros Are More Expensive and Higher Quality

Generally, GoPros are more expensive than dash cams because they’re of higher quality. You can find dash cams for as little as $40. On the other hand, GoPros can cost you $300 or more.

You may be wondering why GoPros are so expensive. Well, the biggest reason is that they’re a household name. Most people know or have heard the name GoPro, making the brand well-known.

Since the brand is highly established and well-known, people trust it to make quality cameras. But it isn’t just the brand name that makes GoPros so expensive. They’re good cameras, after all.

All new models are waterproof, which means you can dive deep into the ocean and record to your heart’s content. With most regular cameras, you can’t do this, so many people believe it’s worth the price.

But that isn’t to say dash cams aren’t waterproof. Many dash cams are also waterproof, but they wouldn’t be of much use in the ocean because of their vehicle design. And there are expensive dash cams out there that give GoPros a run for their money.

But generally speaking, GoPros are a lot more expensive than dash cams.

GoPro 2

4. Most GoPros Have GPS Tracking

All newer models of GoPros have built-in GPS tracking, meaning you can upload map imagery.

It also means you can place GPS data on your photos and videos. So, if a few years have passed and you’re looking through your photos, you’ll be able to see exactly where they were taken.

The GPS tracking on a GoPro can also give you information on your speed, altitude, g-force, and elevation gain, which some users may find helpful.

These measurements aren’t possible for dash cams. Most cheap dash cams don’t have built-in GPS tracking, while many expensive ones do. For some people, this is important, but for others, it might not be.

In most cases, GPS tracking isn’t necessary for dash cams. Since the primary purpose of a dash cam is to record any potential accidents, having added GPS data wouldn’t serve many purposes.

5. Dash Cams Have G Sensors

One of the essential things about dash cams is that they have G sensors. But you may be wondering what precisely a G sensor is. Let’s take a closer look.

In simple terms, a G sensor will sense when the speed of your vehicle has either accelerated at an unusually rapid pace or decelerated at a breakneck pace. So, if there’s a sudden change in direction or speed on your trip, the dash cam will sense this.

If it senses something like this, it’ll document the accident and automatically save the files in a secure folder, where they won’t get damaged or lost. You can use this footage in court as proof that you aren’t at fault if it comes to it.

But when it comes to GoPros, they don’t have this feature. If you’re in a crash and your GoPro gets severely damaged, you could lose all the footage. This result is less likely because of the G sensor with a dash cam.

When choosing a dash cam, you must ensure it has a G sensor. A dash cam without a G sensor isn’t worth it.

That’s another reason why using a dash cam instead of a GoPro in your vehicle is the best option. You don’t want to risk losing any footage that may help you in the future.

Dash Cams With G Sensors 1

6. Dash Cams Have Parking Mode

Another valuable feature of dash cams is the parking mode option. This mode is primarily useful if you park your car somewhere public and want to keep the dash cam recording. If you enable park mode, your dash cam won’t turn off when you turn the engine off.

This mode is handy if you’re worried about someone scratching your car or even breaking in. However, parking mode has a downside: it can drain your vehicle’s battery.

Since your engine won’t be running when parking mode is enabled, your car may eventually cut out. The immediate solution to this is to buy dash cam battery packs. These’ll keep your dash cams working longer without using your car’s battery.

It’s also important to note that most dash cams are plugged into the cigarette port, which automatically loses power when the vehicle is turned off. So if your dash cam is in this port, it won’t drain the car battery and will turn off once the battery dies.

However, if your dash cam is connected directly, you’ll need to be careful about draining the battery. The best course of action is to get some extra battery packs if you want to record while the car is parked.

When it comes to GoPros, there’s no parking mode option. As mentioned earlier in the article, you need to turn GoPros on and off manually. Also, there’s no way to set a timer for a GoPro to turn on and off at certain times. You always have to do it yourself.

Therefore, if you want to keep your GoPro recording while parked, you need to leave it on. Your GoPro battery won’t last very long, so you likely won’t get much footage. If parking mode is essential, you should go with a dash cam rather than a GoPro.

7. Gopros and Dash Cam’s Battery Lives Differ

Dash cams generally have longer battery lives than GoPros, making them more useful for vehicles. Since your dash cam will likely be powered through the cigarette port, you shouldn’t have to worry about it losing battery life.

However, a GoPro’s battery life will only last for a couple of hours. With the unlimited battery life of dash cams, there’s no question that you should use one for your vehicle.

But if you’re planning on using it as a camera to record fun adventures, the battery life may not be as big of a concern for you. In that case, you’d be better off with a GoPro.

GoPro 3

8. GoPros Are Prone to Overheating

If you’ve ever had a GoPro, you may have noticed it often gets hot. This temperature change is normal and nothing to be concerned about, but it isn’t ideal if you want to use it as a dash cam.

GoPros overheat if the temperature’s hot, which can undoubtedly be a problem if you keep it in your car on a hot day.

Generally, dash cams need to be on for long periods. This fact is especially true if you take long journeys. When using a GoPro, it might overheat while you’re driving and subsequently turn off or not function correctly.

This situation could be a big problem if you’re in an accident, so it’s good to be aware of this aspect before using a GoPro as a dash cam.

Dash cams, on the other hand, aren’t prone to overheating. So, you won’t have to worry about it shutting off or not working correctly, even if it’s a hot summer day.

If you plan on using your GoPro for pleasure (like traveling or other activities), the overheating element shouldn’t be too much of an issue. But if you want to use it as a dash cam, this is a real issue you might have to face.

You Can Use a GoPro in Your Vehicle

Now that we’ve discussed all the main differences between dash cams and GoPros, it’s time to discuss other important things.

First, we want to mention that it’s entirely possible to use a GoPro in your vehicle instead of a dash cam. However, it isn’t possible to use a dash cam instead of a GoPro.

For example, you wouldn’t bring a dash cam with you when you’re swimming. Most aren’t entirely waterproof, so they’d end up damaged.

And the only time you should consider using a GoPro as a dash cam is if you’re planning on buying a GoPro for other uses. That way, you can save some money by using it for pleasure and your car.

If you already own a GoPro, you could try it out first. That way, you can see whether it’s worth it or not to buy a dash cam. But if you’re looking for the most useful and secure camera for your car, we recommend getting a dash cam.

GoPro 4

The Pros and Cons of Dash Cams

Another great way to know which one is the best option is to compare the pros and cons of both products. Check out the pros and cons of dash cams below to get a better idea of whether you should buy one or not:

Dash Cam Pros

  • There are many affordable options.
  • They have G sensors. These sensors ensure all the critical footage is captured and saved.
  • When plugged into the cigarette port with the engine on, their battery lives are unlimited.
  • They turn on and off automatically, so they’re highly convenient.

Dash Cam Cons

  • Many don’t have GPS tracking.
  • Parking mode requires an additional power supply. Otherwise, it’ll drain the car’s battery.

The Pros and Cons of GoPros

Now that you’ve seen some of the main pros and cons of dash cams, it’s time to look at the pros and cons of GoPros. The specific pros and cons will depend on what you’re planning on using the camera for, so keep that in mind.

Without further ado, let’s get into it:

GoPros Pros

  • Higher quality video than dash cams.
  • Highly durable and sturdy. You can use GoPros in many conditions without them getting damaged.
  • Compact. GoPros are easy to carry around because of how small they are.
  • All new models have GPS tracking.

GoPros Cons

  • GoPros generally only have around 3 or 4 hours of battery life.
  • You have to turn them on manually. This action isn’t very useful if you want to use one as a dash cam.
  • They don’t have a parking mode option.
  • They don’t have G sensors, so you could lose some vital footage.

The G Sensor

If you’re looking for a camera to use as a dash cam, and you’re choosing between a standard dash cam and GoPro, you need to consider the G sensor. The G sensor is arguably the most crucial aspect of a dash cam, and it’s one of the main things a GoPro lacks.

We explained a little bit about G sensors earlier, but we’d like to talk more about them here because they’re highly important.

GoPro 5

Why It’s Important

The whole point of a dash cam is to record any potential accidents. There’s no point in having a camera in your vehicle if there’s a chance it won’t catch a possible accident.

A G sensor will instantly detect a sudden change in movement. This detection could occur if you:

  • Press down on the brakes abruptly.
  • Press on the accelerator abruptly.
  • Turn the wheel sharply and quickly.

The last thing you want to worry about in an accident is whether your camera got the footage or not. Since dash cams have G sensors, you won’t have to think about that. The job’s done for you.

How It Works

A G sensor works by noticing a change in movement and acting accordingly. By acting accordingly, We mean it captures the data you need and moves it to a secure folder where you can’t lose it.

Generally, a dash cam will save even more footage than you need, which is good. But what does this mean? Well, in most cases, a dash cam will save a video at least 10 seconds before the incident occurs. It’ll also save around 10 seconds after the incident stops.

All of This is all thanks to the G sensor. It ensures you don’t miss anything from before, during, or after the incident.

Lack of a G Sensor Is GoPro’s Biggest Downside as a Dash Cam

The fact that GoPros don’t have G sensors is the biggest downside (if you want to use one as a dash cam). Although you may get the precise footage you need in the case of an accident, it isn’t a guarantee.

For most people, it simply isn’t worth the risk to use a GoPro as a dash cam, and it’s in part due to the lack of a G sensor!

A GoPro in Your Car Can Lead to a Break-In

GoPros aren’t as good as dash cams when recording in your vehicle. But on top of that, a GoPro sitting in your car can bring some added inconvenience to your life. And this is something you may not have thought of before.

Since you’ll be leaving the camera in your car at all times, you have to consider the safety of that situation. Many people know what GoPros look like and how expensive they are, so it’s possible that someone would break into your car and steal it while your vehicle is parked.

It’s never a good idea to leave something in your car in plain sight, but it’s an even worse idea to leave something of high value on display! So, if you were to use a GoPro as a dash cam, you’d have to remove it from the vehicle anytime you leave (if you want to prevent it from being stolen).

On the other hand, if you keep a regular dash cam in your vehicle, it’s much less likely to be stolen. This reality is primarily because dash cams are cheaper than GoPros and aren’t of much use to burglars.

They won’t get much money for reselling it, and they likely won’t want to use it for themselves, so they’ve no real reason to steal it.

Of course, it isn’t a guarantee that your GoPro will be stolen if you leave it in your car, but it’s a risk that many people wouldn’t be willing to take.

Final Thoughts

There are many differences between dash cams and GoPros, the main one being how you plan to use them. While GoPros are suited to fun, high-energy activities, dash cams are used solely in vehicles to record potential accidents.

If you’re looking for something in your car that’ll record accidents, your best bet is to buy a dash cam. A dash cam is the most appropriate option with a G sensor and automatic powering.

However, if you’re looking for a camera for regular use, a GoPro is better.