By on March 20, 2017

Garmin HUD+

A windshield head-up display, or HUD, is a beautiful thing. Capable of displaying navigational guidance, vehicle speed, and other information on the lower part of the windshield and in the driver’s line of sight, HUD systems have become increasingly common on new cars since their first appearance a couple of decades ago.

More recently, a handful of aftermarket suppliers and startups have gotten on the bandwagon, offering devices that pair with a smartphone via Bluetooth to provide similar functionality, even if these devices lack the seamless integration of a factory system.

This series details some technological features you can add to your old ride to make it on par with new OEM offerings. We’ll take you through what products are available, how they work, and what they cost. We’re starting with nine products available from the automotive aftermarket provided by our sponsor eBay, who has also graciously offered up three $500 gift cards. We’ve independently made our product choices based on ease of DIY installation, popularity, favorable reviews from other sources and users, brand recognition with websites, and readily available customer support.

Oh, and we’re installing all these upgrades on a 1999 Acura TL with 152,000 miles.

After covering phone mounts with the iOttie Easy One Touch 2, Bluetooth speakerphone kits by digging into the Motorola Sonic Rider, and power inverters with the Energizer EN180, it’s now time to look up — waaay up — to just above your steering wheel with the Garmin HUD+.

Garmin HUD+

For openers, aftermarket HUDs use a small unit that sits on top of your dash that either projects information on the windshield or onto a small, built-in screen. While having to look at what’s obviously an added accessory on the dash is not necessarily a big deal, some drivers might not care to have an expensive and easily removed unit out in the open. Others many not enjoy the homebrew aesthetics of a power cord snaking over the dash to a power outlet.

For this report, we looked at the Garmin HUD+. Neither the most full featured, expensive unit available nor the cheapest, it is — at least — made by an established company known for some of the better aftermarket navigation systems on the market.

Available from eBay for just under $100, the Garmin HUD+ is yet another example of why it’s important to shop around when buying electronic devices. Prices vary, and by a lot. Whatever you pay, you’ll get the dash top unit/projector, a 12V power cord, a 4”X4” self-adhesive clear projection patch for the windshield, and a smaller, 3 3/4” X 2 1/2” screen that clips to the unit if you prefer not to permanently attach anything to your windshield. The latter option can be advantageous if you plan to use the unit in more than one vehicle.

To use the HUD+ , you first must download the companion app from either the Apple or Android app store, and then set yourself up with some maps. The process took a while on my iPhone 6, mostly because I had to clear out a bunch of old photos to make room for the 1.32 GB of storage space needed for North American maps. That’s a fair chunk of real estate, at least for my 12 GB phone.

Garmin HUD+

Next, you must pair the phone with the HUD+ , which is a straightforward and quick process. That’s a good thing, because the instructions say this is necessary once a month in order to have access to maps.

Because the 18-year-old Acura that inspired this series is currently under the weather and in the shop, I installed the HUD+ in a friend’s 10-year-old Prius. And by installed, I mean I put it on the dash, plugged it in, and used the smaller snap-on screen rather that sticking anything to the windshield of a borrowed car. I also avoided peeling the protective cover off the self-adhesive, flexible pad that attaches the unit to the dash top to avoid any potential damage or sticky residue that might preclude further car loans if needed.

Once installed, it’s a simple matter of firing up the Garmin app on your phone, and entering an address or point of interest as you would with any navigation device. The screen and controls will look familiar to anyone who has used Garmin navigation, and is just as straightforward and easy to use. The full map display remains visible on your phone as you travel, while the HUD provides just the basics — distance to the next turn and whether it is to the right or left, estimated time of arrival, vehicle speed, and the posted speed limit where such data is available.

Other aftermarket HUDs, such as one from startup NAVDY, provide more features such as hands-free phone calls, caller ID, and text messaging, but cost twice as much as the Garmin or more. It’s just a question of figuring out the right balance of features and price for your needs.

What would you do with a $500 eBay Gift Card? We’re giving away three of them. Here’s how to enter to win.

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31 Comments on “The 18-Year-Old Auto Upgrade: Head-up Display – Garmin HUD+...”

  • avatar

    I wonder if this can tie into Waze. That way I can see where Smokey is hiding without having to look down at my phone.

  • avatar

    Serious question though- where is the image focused? Is it hanging out about where the windshield is or somewhere over the hood, or is it focused at optical infinity (approximately 20-40′, depending on the textbook/cite/source) like a proper HUD?

    • 0 avatar

      With no optics, I would surmise that the info would be the same distance behind the screen as the display is from the screen, i.e using the attached screen to the display would be about 2″ back from the unit, the windscreen mounted surface depending on how far away the unit is from that. You can get the same effect by using a mirror on your phone, to judge what the view would be like.

  • avatar

    Ever get the feeling nowadays that it’s more expensive to produce the nice box with its nice graphics than the commodity-chip-with-plastic-housing inside?

  • avatar

    GM again FTW

  • avatar

    I wonder how well this thing focuses on a windshield, considering that the windshields vary in their angles (and distances) to the dash?

  • avatar

    I’ve got M5 with a HUD. When I shopped around for one, having the HUD didn’t even enter consideration – the one I decided to buy just happened to have it. It is complex polarized-projector onto windshield directly; has parallax and almost looks like a hologram hanging in space over the dial cluster and windshield. Of course, for it to work it needs a ‘special’ coating $800 dollar E60 windshield.

    But a year’s use of the HUD later, it really does integrate into experience of driving the car, and is a feature I would pay attention to if available on whatever-car-next happens to be on the radar.

  • avatar

    I’m already disappointed; this thing is a waste of time when you consider the phone is still the primary data source.

    I was hoping for something that could plug into the OBDII socket and show trip-computer data such as speed, tachometer, fuel economy, etc. I’d be putting it into a 20-year-old Ford Ranger.

  • avatar

    That is the PERFECT font and color for turn-of-the-century Mopars. It would look “period correct” for my EVIC.

  • avatar
    Uncle Mellow

    I want HUD, but I don’t need maps,I want speed and rpm. My car is OBD 1. What options do I have ?

  • avatar

    I love the idea of a heads up display for GPS, but the execution on this is pretty awful.

    I mean something like this could have been done with 20 year old plus technology.

    Really antiquated looking.

  • avatar

    I’ve never understood the point of these. I’d rather just use my phone. If this was my project car, I’d skip this, and skip the bluetooth adapter previously reviewed, and just get a double-din head unit with touch screen, bluetooth integraton, and all kinds of carputer gizmos. They’re pretty inexpensive, and you could probably add-on a rear camera too if thats a desire. For less than a car payment it would completely upgrade the ride, rather than having a bunch of little add-ons laying about the interior.

    This is a good series though. Keep more coming. (and yeah, I know its sponsored but thats ok)

  • avatar

    What is “brand recognition with websites”, and why is it a criterion for what gets reviewed?

    This site is trusted because of its independence, and has routinely ripped print magazines for too-cozy relationships with advertisers. I really hope this doesn’t turn into yet another advertorial site.

  • avatar

    Got one of these as a gift years ago.
    At first I thought “gimmick”. But all it took was a business trip to Minneapolis to sell it.

    Not having to look at your phone or away from the road when GPS directions change lickety-split fast is worth it’s weight in gold. I had to visit one of those business parks where the turns were really short duration-had I had to look up or away from the road I’d have missed a turn and gotten lost. Since it was for work,that would have been bad.

    You also don’t have a big bright ,distracting GPS screen at night when you’re driving. The HUD adapts to the ambient light.

    Would I have spent my own money on it Initially ? Heck no. But after having some experience with it , I would do so again.

    • 0 avatar

      This actual unit? I’m actually considering a HUD+ if I can figure out how to route the wiring and make it look factoryish.

      • 0 avatar

        Its predecessor, the HUD-Not-Plus.

        Forgot to note too- it has speed camera and current speed limit displays ,and shows the drivers GPS speed as well. Having speed trap data available right in front of your eyes is VALUABLE. A smartphone or traditional GPS has that ,but by the time you turn your head to check it The Man’s got ya.

        • 0 avatar

          Funny thing about the current speed limit, you’d think they’d come out with a way to display it using a system of actual, physical signs, outside of the windshield… along the roadside would be perfect.

  • avatar

    OK Legit Question:

    I see how it handles an 18 year old car, but what about like a 4 year old car?

    I want HUD and a lot of this functionality, but does it play nicely if your phone is doing other things like, running android auto, playing music over bluetooth in your car, handling phone calls, or running Waze?

    I’m hesitant to throw down 100 bones and then find out it doesn’t work while bluetooth is running other things…

    And While I know phones are TECHNICALLY capable of running multiple bluetooth items at once, apps often aren’t. I ran into that issue with pandora + smart watch + car bluetooth pandora system.

    has anyone tried that out?

    • 0 avatar

      anecdotal observation- I’m not an Android vs Apple fanboy,but I got my HUD when I used an HTC One android. Half the time I used it , id have to drop and re-connect the Bluetooth for it to recognize the smartphone.

      Then the HTC died and I switched to an iPhone 6. Now I just turn on the Garmin HUD and it’s connected automatically. No BS ,no app re-starts or Bluetooth re-pairing. Say what one will about Apple,but it’s nice to just turn on a smartphone accessory and have it WORK.

      • 0 avatar

        Also not trying to be an Android Fanboy, but I have a Nexus 6, and it works flawlessly with my watch and in my car, with android auto and with the other functions it manages.

        the only issue I had with my watch is if I had Pandora up on my Watch AND on my car. It would still play, but I couldn’t do the “thumbs up/Thumbs down” on my watch. I don’t know if the same thing happens on an Apple device using carplay? who knows.

        I’d love to hear this for Apple and/or Android. Does having 2-3+ devices trying to access the same apps at the same time work? I have no idea.

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