Head-up display devices helps drivers, quality varies

Michael James

Aftermarket head-up display products vary great in price and quality.

The list of cool automotive features is expansive — head-up display, vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity, self-parking, backup cameras and energy-converting brakes.

Much of the technology in the newer vehicles is designed around data sensing and processing. Drivers get a complete view of the road and their surroundings as well as safer and less-distracted driving.

Head-up display (HUD) is among increasingly popular technology options. Drivers get a new perspective on the road, and it could change how we interface with our cars and our surroundings while we drive.

Aftermarket head-up display products vary great in price and quality.
Aftermarket head-up display products vary great in price and quality.

Instead of a traditional dashboard, HUD enables more intelligent displays by featuring the information a driver needs at the right time and place.

This could be speed, navigation, warnings and backup camera displays or collision warnings and lane detection. With HUD, drivers can keep their eyes on the road. Information appears on the windshield.

Prices for HUD systems largely vary. The least expensive aftermarket HUDs show car data on the windshield without any additional features. More expensive systems feature navigation information or voice controls and other driver assistance system (ADAS) features.

These HUDs are likely to gain interest among buyers who like the flexibility and adaptability of active head-up devices that mirror the smartphone activity. It equates to safe, non-distracted driving while a driver can stay connected other responsibilities.

Here’s a list of available aftermarket head-up display options for consideration:

There are two types of aftermarket HUDs for cars: projections and screens. The HUDs that utilize their own screen are generally superior.

The best HUDs connect to your smartphone and allow you to use 3rd-party driving apps.

Different vehicles have different readout systems, which measure the vehicle’s performance. These readouts are OBD, OBD II, EOBD (for European standards), and JOBD (for Japanese standards). Your HUD and your vehicle readout have to be compatible.

Category “Budget”: $10-50

Cheap head-up displays are often made China and not patented. They’re available online and include such brands as Red Shield Universal HUD, BZseed, HaloVA, Frerush, Techstick and Dewhel.

You can easily buy one for $9.99 on Amazon. They’re either sold as a clear film attaching to your windshield or as a passive device with a reflective panel and a friction pad, where you place your smartphone.

Most manufacturers in this category claim their HUDs are superior and the displays reflect image very clearly even in poor lighting condition or bright sunlight. But it’s not true. Most modern windshields use a polarized glass that makes the image split into two. In the daytime, the image would seem dim, fuzzy and; In direct sun, it may disappear. Another obvious limitation of these HUDs is the preset display, which means the visual gauges are grossly simplified. You are only able to view the information in the form of numbers or arrows.

Though some of these brands came to the aftermarket a while ago, like Techstick, for example, most come to the market and soon disappear (think of an interrupted customer service or warranty problems).

We don’t recommend buying a device from the budget category. You might be better off placing your smartphone on the dashboard and using a mirroring app instead of spending money on a plastic case with a low-quality film. For those who like value and quality, we recommend the second or third category.

Category “Mid-Tier”: $50-150

Patented HUDs in this category have more features than the budget devices, use a dedicated screen (either a transparent film or a glass), have better reflection visibility, and a higher-quality hardware. They usually provide turn-by-turn navigation directions, posted speed limit, location of speed cameras and many other informational perks. The units are often paired with a compatible smartphone (Bluetooth or Wi-Fi).

Notable head-up display winners in this category, even though polar in their pricing, are Garmin HUD ($149) and HUDWAY Glass ($49). Garmin can projects the information from a smartphone onto a transparent film on your windshield or an attached reflector lens. Glass is a head-up mount that uses your smartphone for all driving data.

The constraints of mid-tier HUDs usually are a limited 3rd-party app compatibility and a use of proprietary apps. Also the navigation app often remains at the foreground of your phone while in use, so if you receive a phone call or check a text message, you will lose your driving directions. Also, in Garmin’s case, its preset display offers somewhat limited (unlike HUDs in the next category) virtual gauges.

Even though HUDWAY Glass costs a fraction of Garmin HUD’s price, it offers more flexibility for the driver. It works with several other non-proprietary navigation apps (such as HUD Widgets, Speedometer, Sygic or Navmii GPS) and has significantly better looking virtual gauges. For an almost “budget”-priced HUD, Glass has our thumbs-up!

Category “Best In The Aftermarket”: $150-500

Head-up displays in this category are all unmatched regarding connectivity and interactivity, have an incredibly well-done hardware, and present a greater accuracy and responsiveness than the products in the other categories.

The pricing among HUDs in this category, however, differs greatly, especially when it come to the features offered for that price.

Carloudy, for example, costs (in pre-orders) $259 and is a wireless head up display that connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth, features transparent display and voice control, and supposedly works perfectly under bright light and in evenings. Carloudy’s patent-pending design uses the reflective nature of its 6” electronic paper display (EPD) to harvest energy. However, as good as it all sounds, the company hasn’t manufactured or shipping the devices.

Exploride ($299) ($200 off in pre-orders), streams music, allows for gesture controls, stock market updates, email notifications and news. But it only supports applications approved by Exploride.

What could they be? We don’t know yet and say — pretty pricey given its limitations. Incidentally, Exploride, too, doesn’t seem to exist or be active. Updates are posted sporadically.

Regardless of media reviews and solid marketing, we do not recommend pre-ordering devices from the companies that don’t have a fall-back fulfillment history or have stopped communicating with its backers and potential customers.

Hudly operates with similar features, as the aforementioned HUDs; the only difference is that it mounts to your windshield (not your dashboard). In our opinion, it’s more distracting if the HUD is not located in line with your eyesight. We like that Hudly doesn’t require the use of a proprietary app. You can navigate with Google Maps, Waze, etc. It costs $299 on the company’s website.

HUDWAY Cast our “win-win” device. Its price and performance are unmatched. It is the least expensive HUD in this category. Cast doesn’t require the use of a proprietary app, thus, allows navigation with an app (WAZE, Google Maps, etc.).

While your smartphone works as a control panel, all of the information from your phone is displayed in line with your eyesight. Its display offers a better focus length which allows you to refocus easier and faster.

The mounting kit is included in the HUDWAY Cast’s price (currently $199). Cast users can answer their calls, respond to texts, listen to their music library or favorite music apps and get directions in real time.

HUDWAY just completed its second Kickstarter campaign, begun production, and is planning to ship the product to its September backers for the holidays. Starting next year, we will see HUDWAY Cast on Amazon (with eligible free shipping). It’s now only available on the company’s website.

So which head-up display is for you? Aftermarket head-up display devices are becoming a vital technology due to their safety features, smartness, and possibility of frequent content updates (that the built-in systems cannot offer).

Given that HUDs are an everyday-use technology, hardware should be solid and well-built. We recommend investing into a HUD from a reputable company and offers the smartest driving features and best value.

Commentary by Svetlana Stepanova

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Products mentioned in this post:




Garmin HUD



Red Shield

Universal HUD







Article Last Updated: July 28, 2023.

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