Originally designed for military use, the head-up display (HUD) places important information (such as the current speed, and turn-by-turn navigation directions) right in the driver’s line of sight. It helped fighter jet pilots stay focus at neck-snapping speeds, and it can play a big role in eliminating distractions from your daily commute. Some systems project information onto the windshield, while others show it on a separate screen usually attached a device placed on the dash.
HUDs are becoming increasingly common in all types of new cars, ranging from the Mazda3 to the BMW 7 Series, but you don’t have to trade in your older model just to get one. Several aftermarket solutions let you modernize your current ride, whether you prefer an affordable device or a high-end product with a price tag to match. To make your decision easier, we’ve singled out some of the best on the market.
The team at Hudway developed the Cast to offer an affordable alternative to the tech-packed Drive device. Using the Apple AirPlay and Google Cast features, the Hudway Cast literally “casts” your phone screen to the head-up display. This functionality opens the Cast up to near-limitless possibilities of app-based projection. Our Hudway Cast hands-on review said it “truly looks like a built-in display from a major automotive manufacturer.”
The Cast displays standard information like music, navigation, and phone calls, or additional details like MPG and RPM if you opt for the OBD II cable accessory. The Cast connects in seconds to the included dash mount and holds tight to your dashboard with the adhesive backing. Patching into the Cast Wi-Fi and initiating the Hudway Cast application is a cinch. From here, you can mirror just about anything from your phone. On the road, the brightness and visibility are excellent.
Hudway priced the Cast at $300, though discounts are often available.
Acecar HUD ($30)
Cheap, basic, but feature-rich, the Acecar head-up display is a small, rectangular device you place on your dashboard, right behind your instrument cluster, and that displays information on the windshield. It provides the speed, the engine’s rpm, and the mileage, which is par for the course in the head-up display segment, but it also warns the driver if the engine overheats, or if the charging system drops below the optimal voltage. It gets this information because it’s plugged into the OBD2 port, which is normally used to read fault codes. That means it’s not compatible with older models, but there’s a more basic GPS mode that only shows the speed if you want to use it in your grandpa’s 1987 Oldsmobile.
Acecar claimed its head-up display is glare-free, and it adjusts its brightness automatically. Motorists can return the Acecar HUD within 12 months of taking delivery if they’re not satisfied for any reason.
The Sherox HUD is one of the more basic devices on the market. It plugs into the car’s OBD2 port, meaning it is not compatible with older models, and it displays basic information about the car and its surroundings without going too deep into details. It includes a speedometer and a trip meter, as well as information about the voltage and the coolant temperature. The warning lights could help prevent a costly breakdown.
Once it’s set on the dashboard, the Sherox HUD reflects information directly onto the windshield without requiring a reflection film. The company explains its device relies on nano-technology to eliminate double reflections. It turns on as soon as the driver starts the engine, and it shuts off at the same time as the engine, so there is no need to manually turn it on or worry about it draining the battery. It’s not the most feature-rich HUD on this list, but it earns points for simplicity and affordability.
The Arpenkin X5 is one of the cheapest HUDs you can buy new today. It’s a compact, wallet-sized device that projects information directly onto a car’s windshield. It provides the vehicle’s speed, the engine’s revolutions, and it even shows simple digital gauges for the voltage and the temperature, among other parameters. Arpenkin explains the X5 uses nanotechnology to eliminate glare and reflections.
The Arpenkin X5 sits on top of the dashboard, though it needs to be plugged into the car’s OBD2 port. We suggest you check where yours is located before buying; it’s normally under the dash, on either side of the steering wheel, which should be convenient enough. But sometimes it’s under the carpet. The catch is, the Arpenkin is compatible only with American and European cars built after 2004 and Asian cars manufactured since 2007.