Best Car HUDs: Display More Information Safely While Driving
Enhance your driving experience with these top HUD options
Data information display is an important part of any driving experience. If you can't read important information like speed and engine RPMs, it can be more difficult to drive safely. Most cars use a basic dial setup inside the dashboard, but many drivers (and some manufacturers) are enhancing this setup with a car head-up display (HUD). This type of display places this information above the dashboard or onto the windshield where it's easier to read. Read on for our guide on the best HUDs to see if one is right for you.
Why Buy a Car HUD
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- Read information safely. Keeping an eye on the gauges in a vehicle isn't the most dangerous thing you can do while driving, but it does create increased risk. Anytime you deviate from watching the road, you may miss something important or dangerous to react towards. Car HUDs try to minimize this risk by displaying the information more in line with the road itself; some even project the information right in front of you with a transparent display so the readouts look like they float about the hood.
- Display more information. Modern cars tend to have more advanced, customizable displays in the dashboard, but customization can be limited depending on the manufacturer. If you want to see the information that's most important to you, it's helpful to have a HUD that is designed to give you more flexibility or to show more information in a single screen.
- Upgrade an old car's display. With older cars, information is all analog with basic gauges and dials. A true dashboard replacement can be costly if you want to go digital with the readouts, making a car HUD a better investment for older vehicles. Since most are mounted on top of the dashboard, there's no part swaps or replacements.
Types of Car HUDs
Car HUDs that connect to a car's OBD2/OBD-II port read information straight from a vehicle's onboard computer. This makes information access quicker and more reliable than GPS-based devices. These units also tend to offer more information you can use while driving or maintaining the vehicle.
Since smart devices can acquire and present a lot of important vehicular information with just the onboard GPS, many car HUDs use a basic smartphone connection to display this information to the drive. This type tends to fall into two subtypes: HUDs with a dedicated display and basic bases with an integrated phone holder. Dedicated displays can present the vehicle information on its own screen, while basic mounts hold the smartphone and reflect its screen with the information presented from a native app. Both options tend to support Android and iOS phones, with some offering built-in Apple or Google Maps support.
Car HUD Pricing
- $50 and under: Budget car HUDs in this range tend to be simple in design and function. Most have a basic display, either projected or dedicated, that can show limited vehicle information like speed. Smartphone-based devices are also common in this range.
- $50 and above: Higher-end car HUDs can quickly skyrocket in price above the $50 mark, many landing around $200 or $300. These options tend to offer advanced features like GPS navigation.
The most important thing with any heads up display is the display itself. How the HUD presents information will influence the overall driving experience and the safety factor. Traditional HUDs project the screen onto a piece of glass so the information appears to float above the hood. This setup is best for safely reading the screen, but it can be difficult to align and use, especially in bright daylight. Dedicated displays have better daytime results but are often more limited in usability.
A car HUD needs someway to access or collect different data points like speed. Since all modern vehicles have an onboard computer that does this automatically, many HUDs simply access this data via an OBD-II port. Many smartphone-based HUDs, however, use the phone's GPS or a built-in GPS module to calculate speed and location. These HUDs lack more advanced information like engine performance and status readouts. For power, HUDs draw juice from the OBD-II port or the cigarette lighter.
Attaching a car HUD to the dashboard can be tricky if the device doesn't come with the right mount. Many use a simple suction mount that is similar to the type of many GPS navigation devices use. These are good for lightweight HUDs but can fail with heavier devices or on hot days. Higher-end HUDs tend to come with a dedicated mounting base that sticks onto the dashboard with an adhesive, offering a more stable base.
- Extra Features: Modern car HUDs are like many other smart electronic devices in terms of offering different feature sets. Budget models tend to stick with the basic vehicle information, while more advanced options can feature higher-end capabilities like GPS navigation, automatic speed limit/over speed alarm detection, battery voltage monitoring, voice-activated/hand-gesture control, hands-free phone calls with the ability to see incoming calls, and more. Before you buy a car HUD, it's important to see what options are available that may add some additional, useful perks to your driving experience.
Best Car HUDs Reviews & Recommendations 2020
Best OverallTIMPROVE T600
The T600 is a car HUD that bucks the trend of projecting the display onto the windshield or a separate piece of glass in favor of a more traditional LCD display. At 2.2 inches, the TFT LCD screen strikes the right balance in size to be easy to read without taking up too much of the driver's view. The dedicated display also takes away the lengthy setup and alignment projected HUDS require to view.
Vehicle compatibility is another highlight with the T600. Most other car HUDS require an OBD-II port to connect with the car's computer for information like vehicle speed. The T600, on the other hand, uses a built-in GPS to collect and present information. This makes the device compatible with older vehicles (pre-1996 vehicles and imports) that may lack the required OBD-II port.
Since the GPS has to acquire a signal with satellites above, it doesn't necessarily display the correct vehicle information from the start, unlike most OBD-II car HUDs. This can make it difficult to get an accurate reading on your vehicle's speed or trip information and leaves the T600 susceptible to issues with GPS signal disruptions, much like GPS navigation.
Best ValueAUTOOL OBD2 HUD
The AUTOOL OBD2 HUD scanner is a budget-item that’s compatible with vehicles that comply with EU OBD or OBD II standards. You will find it easy to install with an OBD cable once you locate your vehicle’s 16-pin diagnostic socket. As for the design, it has an elaborate display that lets you keep a finger on the pulse of your driving speed, battery voltage, mileage, and instantaneous fuel consumption.
A notable feature is its reminder settings that will give you alerts when you need to change your driving habits. For instance, the supportFatigue feature reminds the driver to rest when they have been driving for more than four hours. The Support Shift reminder lets you know when to gear up for fuel economy, and the Overspeed reminder will flicker and beep when you go over the speed limit. Other useful alerts include high temperature and low voltage alarms.
Unfortunately, this HUD’s speed reading may be off by two to three miles per hour, and may show a different reading from your OEM speed gauge. It may also max out at speeds of about 120 miles per hour and not show anything higher. Moreover, the tool comes with poorly written instructions that are barely legible.
Honorable MentionArestech 5.5 inches A8 OBD2 Windshield HUD Head Up Display
This HUD unit is 5.5 inches and features a variety of colors, making it simple to read. It works with vehicles that are OBDII- or EUOBD-compatible. The device provides information such as speed, water temperature, battery voltage, fuel consumption, and mileage. It also has a low voltage alarm, high temperature alarm, speed alarm, engine fault alarm, etc. The device alerts you when you drive over the speed limit.
One great feature about this unit is it will let you know when to gear up or gear down to save fuel. The brightness of the display can be adjusted manually or automatically to avoid reflections and for greater visibility. It also turns on and off with the ignition to save battery life. Overall, it's easy to set up and calibrate.
One common complaint is that it can be very hard to read in direct sunlight. The user manual is also not very good, and the font is so small that it's difficult to read.
Honorable MentionPyle Universal Vehicle Smart HUD Display
Pyle's Universal Vehicle Smart HUD Display can be mounted near the dashboard using plug-and-play installation. The mini HUD display turns on and off with the engine ignition and is powered by a USB cable. The 2.6-inch LCD screen is user-friendly and easy to read both during the day and at night. It features information such as speed, distance, time, and voltage.
The unit also comes with a GPS navigation direction compass. The dual-core processor provides real-time data, and the device alerts you when you're speeding. Even better, you can adjust the brightness using eight different levels, depending on your needs. It's also compatible with a wide range of vehicles, from passenger cars to trucks and trailers.
However, there have been some complaints that the display is hard to read in bright sunlight. The instructions can also be a little hard to follow, and it may display speeds that are slightly higher than you're actually going.
Honorable MentionVJOYCAR C60s Universal Digital GPS Speedometer Car HUD
This HUD from VJOYCAR is a GPS speedometer that reads a vehicle's speed from GPS satellites. It works with cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, and more. The device displays speed, driving time, and mileage, which are generated in kilometers per hour and miles per hour. It also alerts you when you're driving over the speed limit.
This is a good little device for the price. It's a nice size, and the display is easy to read. The numbers are big, green, and visible in bright sunlight. It's fairly accurate, and you can use a portable phone charger for the power if your vehicle doesn't have a working cigarette lighter. Users love how easy it is to install and operate.
One downside is the device is 2-5 miles off of your vehicle's actual speed. However, you can calibrate this by hand to account for this discrepancy. It may also take a while before it registers your vehicle's speed.
Honorable MentionACECAR Head up Display Car Universal Dual System 3.5’’ HUD
This unit from ACECAR displays driving data such as speed, RPM, voltage, mileage, and water temperature on your front windshield. The colors, interface, and brightness can be adjusted to suit your needs. It features plug-and-play installation and projects information in a sharp, clear way without reflection.
One of the best things about this device is the variety of functions. It has everything from a fatigue driving alarm to ambient decorative lighting. The display can also be programmed to adjust its brightness based on the environmental conditions. The OBDII version works with vehicles that are 2008 and newer. The GPS version works with all vehicles. Overall, it has a good default view, so you don't need to change the settings unless you want a custom look. It's also easy to adjust the angle, so you can see it properly.
Unfortunately, the OBDll model is not compatible with hybrid electric vehicles and some other vehicles. It can be hard to read on bright days, and the instructions are not very good. In addition, if you don't install the included reflective sheet you will see a double image.
Honorable MentionACECAR Car Universal Dual Mode HUD OBD II/GPS
Here's another good option from ACECAR. It's an updated version featuring a 3.5-inch display screen. The unit displays information such as speed, RPM, mileage, and battery voltage on your vehicle's windshield. It also has two USB ports, so you can conveniently install it on either the right or left side of your steering wheel.
It features an automatic and manual brightness mode, colorful decorative lights, and RPM icons. The unit is designed to prevent unwanted reflections, so it's clear and easy to read. Other features include a fault code alarm and fatigue driving alarm. The OBD2 version is for 2008 and newer vehicles, while the GPS version works with all vehicles. Users love how easy it is to install and how bright it is at night.
However, the directions are a little unclear, and it tends to get a little hot when in use. In addition, the reflective screen is necessary to prevent ghosting.
Honorable MentionACECAR F8 Universal Car HUD Dual System Head Up Display
The ACECAR F8 Universal Car HUD features a high-definition TFL LCD screen that displays a variety of information, such as speed, engine RPM, turbine pressure, and air-fuel ratio. It also has a fault code alarm, low voltage alarm, over speed alarm, and water temperature alarm. Users can adjust the colors and interface modes to customize their experience.
The device also features an OBD diagnostic trouble code to prevent faulty codes as well as a brake performance test. It has both an OBD2 mode for 2008 vehicles and newer, and a GPS mode for all vehicles. One of the best things about this device is it's easy to install and operate—plus, it looks pretty cool on your dashboard. The instructions are very thorough, and it works well for the price.
The biggest complaint about this HUD is there is a little delay with some of the functions. Also, it doesn’t work with all vehicles, so it's important to make sure it's compatible before making a purchase.
Honorable MentionACECAR Upgrade T800 Universal Car HUD Head Up Display
Here is yet another product from ACECAR. Unlike the other options, this one features a 4.3-inch screen, which is a bit larger. The T800 displays data such as speed, driving direction, battery voltage, and mileage. It also has an over speed alarm and low voltage alarm. You can adjust the multi-functional display to suit your needs with modes such as miles and kilometers.
As we already noted, what sets this product apart is the size of its screen, which is high-definition and displays information in a clear and colorful manner. It works on GPS mode, so it's compatible with all vehicles. You can choose to automatically or manually adjust the brightness, and it turns off when the engine turns off, which protects your vehicle's battery. Overall, it's easy to use and to scroll through the various menus.
One downside is that on cloudy days, it may take a few minutes to connect to the GPS satellites. Also, the adhesive that’s included to attach it to the dashboard isn't very substantial.
Honorable MentionTIMPROVE Universal Digital Car HUD Head Up Display
If you're looking for an HUD for your car, bicycle, or motorcycle, this one from TIMPROVE is a good option. It features large, green numbers that are easy on your eyes, particularly if you drive long distances. It uses GPS satellites to display data such as speed, mileage, and time, and can be powered using a cigarette lighter or power bank. It features plug-and-play installation, and no wiring is required.
The device has an over-speed alarm with a default setting of 120 miles per hour. It emits three beeps when it's active. Since it's a GPS device, it works with all vehicles. While its functions are pretty basic, it's accurate and easy to read both during the day and at night. It seems to hold a signal in rural areas, and it does what it claims to do.
However, there's a little delay when you're speeding up or slowing down. There have also been some complaints that the mount is not very good, and it can be a struggle to get it to stay attached to a curved dashboard.
- Be aware that many projected car HUDs can be difficult to see in direct sunlight. HUDs with a dedicated piece of glass tend to perform better in daylight than devices that project directly onto the windshield.
- If you have a car that's older than 1996, you should find a HUD that has a built-in GPS and that doesn't require an OBD-II port. OBD-II ports became standard in 1996, so older vehicles can be hit or miss.
- Be prepared to spend some time aligning the display and HUD for the best viewing results. Projected screens may require some repositioning to get the display to line up with the reflecting surface and your eyesight.
- HUDs with a dedicated screen need to be mounted off the center of the steering wheel so they don't interfere with the driver's view. Typical locations for GPS navigators like the center of the dashboard are the best.
Q. How does a projected HUD work?
A. A screen mounted to the dashboard points up towards a reflective surface like glass. The image of the screen is then bounced off of the surface into the eyes of the driver. This makes it look like the display is floating above since the reflective surface is transparent.
Q. What type of HUD display is the best?
A. If you want a reliable display that is easy to see in daylight, a dedicated display is a way to go. To get the true HUD-like experience, however, a projected screen is better.
Q. What information can a HUD display?
A. Speed tends to be the most universal bit of information all car HUDs show. Other information can include the fuel level, engine and oil data, mileage, temperatures, and more.
Our pick for the best car HUD is the TIMPROVE T600 for its dedicated, easy-to-read display that works day and night.
The AUTOOL OBD2 HUD is the best pick for saving money with a dedicated display that trims the information fat in favor of the most important data drivers want.