If you always thought fighter jet technology or Star-Trek was cool, you can have a piece of that in your car. Head-up display (or HUD) – putting needed information on the windshield – was first used in fighter jets to reduce distractions and keep the pilot’s eyes in front of him. Now, vehicles are using that same technology to make cars and trucks safer. Some high-end cars have head-up technology as standard equipment, but most offer it as an extra cost option. If your vehicle doesn’t have head-up display or you don’t want to buy that higher trim level, you can add your own aftermarket head-up display.
A heads-up display may project vehicle information such as GPS maps, speed, temperature and other information to a film on the windshield or directly to the windshield. It keeps your eyes on the road while you are looking at directions or checking the status of your vehicle’s engine fluids. Some HUDs have more information than others and some use a film on the windshield while others are able to project information directly to the windshield.
The head-up display connects to your vehicle’s OBD port and projects real-time data to the windshield. The best displays use a larger screen area – but not too big so as to hinder your vision – and have different colors and multiple symbols to display data so that you can see what you need at only a glance. Most HUDs are “plug and play” and are easy to install.
Heads up displays come in many forms. Power, hookup, information displayed and screen format vary widely. You need to make sure a heads-up display will work with your vehicle. If you don’t have an OBDII hookup for some head-up displays, you won’t be able to use it. Some use one color and have a lot of information on the screen, making it difficult to read.
A head-up display could get its power from a USB port, a cigarette lighter or the OBDII port. Once you choose a display, check the power requirements before you plunk your money down. You’ll want to make sure your vehicle has the appropriate power source. Some newer vehicles don’t have a cigarette lighter, so you’ll want a head-up display that is powered from another supply.
Hookup and Information Displayed
Check to see where the display gets its information. If it hooks to an OBDII port, you’ll get speed, gas usage, temperature and tons more. If it only works through your smartphone, you won’t have the information from your vehicle, but you will be able to use GPS and other smartphone apps.
Screen Format and Size
Be sure to check the screen size on each HUD you are researching. Some are very small while some have a good-sized display. Screen size affects how well you are able to see the information on the head-up display and how much of the windshield the display takes.
Screen format is also a big factor. These small screens provide a driver with tons of information, but he or she must be able to pick out that information at a slight glance. Brands that use one or very few colors to differentiate between different pieces of information may pose a problem with reading difficulty. Brands that use several colors for different information make it easier to find the information you are looking for with a quick glance.
Best Head-Up Displays
Navdy NVD150-EN Quick Review
The Navdy is not an inexpensive unit, but you do get a great product. If you have the money and are looking for the best in head-up units, this is the one. This brand uses a dedicated screen that features full color and LED lights, which means that it’s easy to read during the day. Sync the Navdy with your smartphone through Bluetooth. No proprietary app is needed, but it is available. You are also able to use third-party apps and other apps on your phone with the Navdy. It also responds to voice commands, though that can be spotty sometimes.
GPS is built in. Navdy uses Google Maps to get you where you need to go. This brand reads your messages aloud and allows you to respond via Google Assistant or Siri. Customize your dash with the information you want to see, including miles per gallon, speed, rpm, a compass, range and more. The software that the Navdy uses is more responsive and accurate than others. This brand also has more connectivity and allows for more interactivity. It is also very easy to install.
- No proprietary app required.
- Allows use of many third-party apps.
- Responds to voice commands.
- Dedicated screen.
- Good customer service.
- Uses natural hand gestures to answer phone calls, texts, etc.
- The image goes out of focus if you move slightly, including leaning from side to side.
- The display is not directly on the windshield which causes the driver to have to refocus when looking back and forth between the Navdy and the road.
- This brand may not work flawlessly with hybrid and all-electric vehicles.
Hudaway Cast Quick Review
The Hudway Cast uses Google Cast and Apple AirPlay to “cast” anything that is on your phone’s screen to the windshield of your vehicle. This head-up display looks like a built-in display right from the manufacturer. You’ll be able to see navigation, music and phone calls right in your line of sight. The optional OBDII cable allows the Hudway Cast to project information about your vehicle on the screen, including vehicle rpm and miles per gallon information.
This head-up display comes with a dash mount with an adhesive backing. You patch into Cast Wi-Fi and start the Hudway Cast application to get information from your phone to your windshield. To see navigation, start the app on your phone and then stream it to Hudway Cast. Google Maps, Waze, Hudway, Sygic, Baidu and several other apps work with this product.
This product uses a transparent lens that is mounted to the windshield. It features a full-color display, making information easier to locate with a glance. Additionally, the display will dim and get brighter automatically – it doesn’t matter how bright your smartphone’s screen is.
- Full-color display.
- Automatic dimming and brightening.
- Compatible with all vehicles even without OBDII.
- Uses several GPS apps.
- OBDII cable is optional and has to be purchased separately.
- Does not work with older vehicles without an OBDII port for vehicle information.
- Relies on a good phone signal to stream app information from your phone.
Kivic Quick Review
The Kivic also works with a smartphone to display information in your line of sight. It comes with an OBDII cable, so you will be able to see vehicle speed, GPS information, incoming calls, the time of day and more. It features a 10-inch dedicated screen. The Kivic will work with vehicles older than 1996, which is the year that OBDII was required for vehicles, though you won’t be able to see vehicle information – you’ll see only information available on your phone.
Installation is easy enough. It uses a cigarette lighter for power. It features a power USB port and a light sensor. A locking lever allows different drivers to adjust the display so that it is easy to see for those who are of different heights. After you install it, just download the app to your phone. It is also Bluetooth compatible.
Functions include notifications for calls, texts, Facebook notifications, full-screen mode and screencasting, which allows you to see what your phone is displaying. It’s larger dedicated screen makes it easier to use GPS with a head-up display. The Kivic uses a glass display. You are able to see the road through the display, which is bright enough to see it without a problem during the day.
- A 10-inch display screen.
- Good picture quality.
- A solid design.
- Doesn’t require OBDII to use GPS and some other features.
- It doesn’t have an extra USB port to charge a phone.
- The user interface isn’t the easiest to figure out.
- If the vehicles doesn’t have OBDII, you won’t be able to see vehicle information.
Sherox A900 Quick Review
The Sherox A900 is an affordable option that is quite basic. The clean display features LED indicators that are in several different colors, making it easier to find information at a glance. Information about your vehicle including fuel consumption, speed and water temperature shows up on the screen. This brand also has an alert to tell you when something is wrong with your vehicle. It will also notify you if you are speeding.
The Sherox A900 turns itself on when you start the vehicle and shuts itself off when you shut the vehicle off, so you don’t have to worry about shutting it off or a dead battery. This unit’s high-quality display and tons of information make it one of the top head-up displays on our list.
- Warns you when something is wrong, including if you are speeding.
- Has speeding alerts and alerts for problems with the vehicle.
- Power is wired through the ignition to it turns off when you shut the vehicle off and comes back on when you start the vehicle.
- Some may find this unit difficult to mount.
- Some may find that this brand is hard to adjust once it’s set up.
Autolover A8 Quick Review
The Autolover HUD uses an OBDII cable to send information to a 5.5-inch display on the windshield. You’ll see real-time data including fuel economy, your current speed, shift reminding, mileage measurement and battery voltage. The Autolover HUD also has a speed alarm, displays fault codes and much more. A light sensor automatically adjusts the brightness of the display so that you can see it no matter how bright it is outside.
The Autolover HUD uses several different symbols and colors, which makes it easier for the driver to check information at a glance. The Autolover HUD is easy to install. If your vehicle’s OBDII port has a cover over it, remove the cover to install.
- Easy to see during the day.
- Easy to install.
- Uses multiple colors and symbols.
- Sounds an alarm for low voltage.
- Sounds an alarm for high temperature.
- Does not interface with smartphones.
- Cannot see the display through polarized glasses.
- Gas usage is in liters, not gallons.
Head-up displays are easy enough to install. Place the display in place, if applicable, whether it’s on the windshield or in front of the windshield. Some head-up display units project directly onto the windshield and this step is moot if that is the case.
Make sure you put the display where it is comfortable for you to glance at it. Once that is done, put the projector in place on the dash. It is usually held into place with a sticker. If it does use a sticker, make sure it’s in the correct place before installing it permanently. Make sure the projector lines up with the display if applicable.
Plug the power cord into the correct receptacle – a cigarette lighter or USB port. Then, plug the OBDII cable into the OBDII port. When plugging the OBDII cable in, be sure the cable is right-side up and you push it straight in so you do not bend any of the pins. Make any fine adjustments needed so that you are able to see the information without having to move in your seat.
Once you have the unit installed and powered up, set up the software. You may have to download a third-party app or you may need to adjust the settings directly from the unit itself.
- OBD: Onboard diagnostics. Vehicles prior to 1996 may have an OBD port or an OBDII port.
- OBDII: In 1996, vehicles were required to have an OBDII port for onboard vehicle diagnostics.
- HUD: Head-up display. Technology that displays vehicle information and other information on the windshield in your line of sight.
- Head-up display: See HUD.
- USB: Universal serial bus port. Used to charge and/or power many types of technology or to connect one form of technology to another, such as a smartphone to a computer.