Hitting the Open Road: HUDs for Your RV

As someone who’s spent more weekends than I can count rambling around in a succession of RVs, let me tell you—having a good navigational display is crucial. Back in the day, we relied on paper maps and a Jonas Brothers greatest hits CD in the stereo for entertainment. Nowadays, most RVs have built-in GPS systems with 5-7 inch screens. They get the job done, but there’s a way better option that more RV owners are switching to: heads-up displays, or HUDs.

What is a HUD?

A heads-up display projects information directly onto your windshield so you can see key data without taking your eyes off the road. Fighter jet pilots have used them for decades, but the technology has gotten cheap enough that we can have HUDs in our family trucks and minivans these days.

Rather than making you look down and over at a screen stuck on the dash, a HUD displays route guidance, vehicle info, and entertainment options right in your line of sight. It’s like having a virtual copilot to help you navigate without distraction. Pretty nifty, eh?

HUD Benefits for RV Drivers

Having critical info within your field of vision while barreling down the highway at 65 mph is a huge plus for safety and convenience. Here are some specific benefits HUDs offer RV drivers:

Safer Driving

Taking your eyes off the road for even a few seconds can lead to tragedy on the highway. A HUD allows you to monitor directions, speed, fuel level, and more without losing focus on the road ahead. This helps prevent distraction-related accidents.

Greater Visibility in Sun Glare

Trying to peer at a small GPS screen when driving towards the sunset can be nearly impossible with all the glare. HUD displays are designed to remain clearly visible even in harsh lighting conditions. You’ll never have to squint and struggle to see route guidance on those westward treks again.

Works with Prescription Glasses

Many older drivers wear progressive lenses or bifocals. This can make glancing down at a dashboard-mounted GPS inconvenient or difficult to focus on. HUDs display information within your normal field of vision, eliminating this problem. Think of them as GPS displays for grandma and grandpa!

Display Info You Care About

Typical built-in GPS units only show route maps, next turn, and maybe current street name. With a HUD, you can configure the display to show whatever data you find most useful like speed, temperature, fuel range, song titles, and arrival time. Customization makes for an optimal driving experience.

Entertainment Options

HUDs aren’t just about navigation. Many systems let you project movies, TV shows, and video games right onto the windshield. Passengers can enjoy big-screen entertainment without any bulky extra monitors mounted inside the RV. Just make sure the driver keeps their eyes on the road!

Works with Smartphone Apps

Modern HUD units sync with smartphone apps over Bluetooth. Any app on your phone that provides alerts or information can integrate with the HUD. Get voice-to-text messages from friends hands-free and stay on top of notifications while you drive.

HUD Options for RVs

If you’re sold on wanting a HUD for your RV, you have several options from a range of manufacturers with different feature sets and price points:

Aftermarket HUD Systems

There are complete aftermarket HUD solutions made specifically for RV installation like the Luminit LIV AR HUD. You mount a projector under the dash or visor. It takes a video feed from a small control box and shoots imagery onto a tiny transparent reflective screen on the windshield.

Expect to pay $900 – $2500 for a decent aftermarket system, not including professional installation. The higher end options have the largest projected images and highest brightness. Some even include built-in cameras for augmented reality features.

OEM Navigation Upgrades

Many auto and RV manufacturers offer built-in navigation systems with HUD options. For example, the Rand McNally RVND7720 7″ GPS for RVs has an attachable HUD unit that projects turn-by-turn directions right onto your windshield.

OEM upgrades run $600 – $1200 plus labor costs. The projections aren’t as large or bright as aftermarket systems, but they integrate seamlessly into the dashboard. You’ll also have a traditional GPS screen as a backup.

DIY Solutions

If your budget is tight, you can rig up a basic HUD with affordable standalone units. For example, mount a projector like the Anker Nebula Capsule II under the visor aimed at the windshield. Connect it to a navigation app running on a smartphone or tablet.

DIY HUDs require some handywork to install and may not fit or function as cleanly as complete aftermarket systems. But you can build one for under $500 in parts and some elbow grease. Not too shabby if you’re budget-minded.

Key Considerations

While HUDs have some clear advantages over dashboard GPS screens, they aren’t perfect solutions. Here are some key factors to weigh:

Added Cost

HUD systems involve a significant added expense over built-in GPS. Even DIY options will run you $400+ in parts. Make sure to factor in cost versus benefit for your needs.

Viewing Angle Requirements

HUD projection only works within a certain optimal viewing angle. Your head position needs to be relatively fixed. The projection also needs a consistent flat surface (i.e. the windshield) at the proper orientation to hit.

This limits usable seating positions to the main driver and front passenger seats in most installations. People in the back won’t get a clear HUD view.

Nighttime Visibility Challenges

While HUDs are designed to remain visible in sun glare, they may appear dim at night since they aren’t true emitters like an LED screen. Some systems have settings to compensate for this, but it can still be an issue. Just something to consider based on when you primarily drive.

Added Windshield Clutter

Having a translucent combiner screen mounted on your windshield can be annoying for some. When the HUD is powered off, it adds a minor degree of distracting clutter to your view. There are some ultra-thin combiners that minimize this, but it’s not completely eliminated.

DIY Install Challenges

If you’re technically handy, building your own HUD can be a fun project. But getting perfect positioning and alignment to work right takes patience and trial-and-error. Be ready to spend significant time tuning and tweaking your setup. And the end result still won’t be as polished as commercial products.

For serious road-trippers and frequent RV pilots, investing in a heads-up display system makes a ton of sense. The safety and convenience benefits of having critical driving data easily accessible in your line of sight are hard to overstate. Less distraction means less accidents. Maybe someday I’ll get my act together and upgrade..

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