HID vs Halogen Headlights

August 04, 2019 4 min read

The majority of vehicles in the market today are made with built-in halogen headlights. You may be familiar with the golden hue of these lights. However, you may have noticed a different kind of headlight unit going around.

It is a different light, with a much brighter glow, a crisper white color, and a much longer range of coverage in the dark. This kind of headlight is now considered a super competitor of LEDs, and especially of traditional halogen headlights.

Meet the High-Intensity Discharge, or HID, lamp. You may hear them being commonly referred to as “xenon” lights. Xenon is a gas, and the pivotal agent in the production of light.

Now, you may ask: What exactly is an HID headlight? How does it work? Why should I switch to HID? How much money will I have to spend? How hard is it to switch? Is it worth it? Here is all you need to know to make an informed decision.

What is an HID Xenon headlight?

An HID headlight is one of the frontrunner competitors in the vehicular headlight market. Like its other leading competitor, the LED headlight, it provides a clearer, crisper, and longer lasting glow than traditional halogen lights. Over and over, HID headlights have proven to be a better buy in the long run, because of their longer durability, higher quality, and better light production.

If you are thinking about switching your traditional halogen lights to HID headlights, here is an opportunity to learn the key differences between the two.

Key differences: Light color and projection

The light emitted by HID headlights range from natural white to a very pale yellow. Sometimes they emit a slight blue hue. The process by which light is produced in an HID lamp, and the intense heat created, allow for a whiter, crisper, more natural light to emerge.

As far as projection goes, HID lights also reach a broader range of coverage, making it easier for drivers to see all their surroundings even if they drive in total darkness.

Foggy weather, and dark rainy nights, may not seem as frightening when driving with these kinds of lights leading the way. HIDs are a great option for new drivers, young drivers, and elderly drivers alike. This safety benefit alone makes HID worth their price.

Halogen lights are your traditional 1970s mustard yellowish glow. These lights work very well for all of your basic needs. They have an average projection range, color, and brightness, but they fall behind in durability.

Due to the way in which light is produced in these headlights, it highly likely that, as your vehicle ages, your halogen headlights will also age.

Therefore, expect to do a headlight swap at least twice throughout the entire time you own your vehicle. Another thing is that, because they are not highly durable, they may not be totally reliable. Hence, consider this if you have doubts about swapping. You want something to stay on for good, and not just flicker away one day when you least expect it.

How do HID Headlights Work?

HID lights operate thanks to xenon gas. This gas passes over an electric current. It creates a light that turns out very bright and intense, producing an output of 3000 lumens. This intensity is what brings about that blue hue that reminds us of futuristic cars. HID lights have a notoriety of “blinding” oncoming drivers on the road. However, if you do your research, you will find that there are legal limitations as to how to properly use HIDs. Following the rules, and understanding what are your actual needs in terms of brightness and color, will help you find the right headlights with no issue.

Halogen lights operate the way a candle would, except without fire. A filament (think of is as a candle’s wick) is ignited by an electric current, creating light. Because it is just like lightning up a candle, it will inevitably produce heat. This excess heat is what makes halogens less durable than HIDs and LED headlights. It is also the reason why halogens feel hot to the touch when they are on.

Additionally, this extra waste of heat and energy weighs heavily on your gas consumption. By the way, halogen lights only produce half as many lumens as HIDs. They reach up to 1400 in lumen production.


HID lights are more complex and sophisticated than halogen lights, therefore, a special bulb would be needed to hold the heat production, light intensity, and sustainability of brightness that is required for it to function to perfection. As such, an HID light has a potential durability of up to 2,000 hours. It is not as long as the lasting durability of an LED, but it is definitely more than twice as much as traditional halogens.

Halogen lights are not as intense, but still produce too much heat. Percentage wise, a halogen light would produce 20% energy and 80% heat. Just to give you an idea, any other light bulb that is durable and efficient would do the opposite: burn more energy than heat.

This energy burning is what, ultimately, burns out the halogen bulb, prompting you to replace. Also, since these headlights have no expiration date that you can prepare or, be ready for the possibility of them going out on you at any given moment. This is a very scary situation that can be prevented easily by just switching your headlights on time.

So, what’s your verdict?

There is no doubt that, out of all the headlight products in the car buying market, halogen lights rank at the bottom in durability. They are unpredictable and, as such, unreliable. They perform at an average level and, overall, do the job that you need them to do.

On the other hand, HID lights provide you almost twice the durability, sophistication, and light production compared to halogen lights. The price of swapping halogens for HID may end up paying for itself in the long run. You won’t need to worry about swapping or fixing headlights for a long time, and you do not run the risk of your lights going bad when you need them the most.

What is your experience? Which kind of headlight is your favorite? Be sure to shout out in the comments section!

LED LightStreet
LED LightStreet