The 18-Year-Old Auto Upgrade: Head-up Display - Garmin HUD+

Jim Travers
by Jim Travers
the 18 year old auto upgrade head up display 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+.

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.

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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7 of 31 comments
  • LS1Fan LS1Fan on Mar 21, 2017

    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.

    • See 2 previous
    • JimC2 JimC2 on Mar 21, 2017

      @LS1Fan 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.

  • Arach Arach on Mar 21, 2017

    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?

    • See 1 previous
    • Arach Arach on Mar 21, 2017

      @LS1Fan 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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