HID VS LED Headlights - Which Are Best For Your Vehicle

July 19, 2019 4 min read

HID Headlights VS LED Headlights

hid vs led headlights

TLDR: LED headlights win the HID vs LED headlights battle hands down. 

The single most frequently asked question we get here at LED Light Street is this:

What’s better, HID or LED headlights?”

Today, we’ll answer this for you by explaining each type of headlight in turn.

HEADLIGHT OPTIONS

You have 3 broad choices of headlight type:

  • Halogen
  • HID (high-intensity discharge)
  • LED (light-emitting diode)

Halogen bulbs have been standard since the invention of the car.

There’s been a gradual shift over the past 20 years toward HID bulbs.

As LED technology has improved, so LED headlights have become the most effective option at your disposal.

With HID vs LED, it’s LED bulbs that edge slightly ahead if you’re looking for the most effective overall headlight solution.

Why is this?

Well, while HIDs are pretty long-lasting – bulbs are rated for 5000 hours – you can expect even longer lifespan from LEDs. LED bulbs can last for up to 50,000 hours.

LED lights illuminate instantly while with HIDs, you’ll need a few seconds before they hit maximum brightness and proper color. 

So, we’ve mentioned LED lights and HID lights as superior options to halogen bulbs. We’ll now explore each of these improved headlights so you can assess which makes the best fit for your ride.

WHAT ARE LED LIGHTS?


led headlights

We’re exposed to light-emitting diode (LED) lights every day. From laptop screens to smartphone screens, computer monitors to headlights, LED technology has many use cases.

With an LED, the current is transferred through a semiconductor. As the electrons move, so light is generated. Halogen bulbs, by contrast, have current passed through a filament.

LED headlights are bright, don’t generate much heat or drawdown much power, and can be easily manipulated. By changing the semiconductor, you can change color, intensity, and brightness.

Lexus introduced LED headlights to their cars back in 2006, but not across the whole line. Audi also rolled out full-LED headlights for its R8 in the V10 iteration.

AFTERMARKET LEDS

The most popular aftermarket LED solution is a replacement LED headlight kit. These bulbs are simple drop-in replacements for your regular halogen bulbs.

Alternatively, you can invest in a replacement headlight fixture. This is much more expensive and calls for some modification to your car.

Whichever route you take, you’ll need extra electronics in the form of a driver. This helps mitigate the voltage drop that can confuse your engine management system into triggering error messages.

LEDs generate less heat than halogen bulbs, but they do generate some heat. High-powered LEDs need cooling mechanisms like a heatsink or fan.

Lifespan is dictated largely by operating temperature. The cooler you run your bulb, the longer it will last. Most LED headlights should last the lifetime of your vehicle.

OK, that’s a snapshot of LED headlights in place.

Now, if you’re still uncertain about the LED vs HID conversion kit, we’ll explore HIDs in more depth so you can better compare the two.

WHAT ARE HIDS?

high intensity discharge lights

High-intensity discharge (HID) lights are sometimes called xenon lights since bulbs contain xenon gas.

Unlike halogen or LED bulbs, the source of light is an arc of electricity between tungsten electrodes.

Where LEDs kits call for extra electronics, you need a ballast with HIDs. This helps to create enough voltage pulse to start the arc, and also helps with the regulation of current.

The most common applications for HID bulbs include street lamps and stadium floodlights. 

Twice as efficient as halogen lighting and producing much whiter light, HIDs are often used in areas where super-bright, always-on lighting is a must. 

HIDs, like LEDs, are significantly brighter than halogen bulbs, and they’re also more efficient. 

First used for car headlights back in the early 1990s, HIDs have a trademark blue tinge that adds a cool edge to your ride. You can buy full headlamp replacements or plug-in HID kits. 

You can expect HID headlights to last anywhere from 3000 to 5000 hours, substantially longer than halogen bulbs. These tend to pop after 1000 hours or so. Lifespan is associated with the number of times the lights go on and off more than the total running time.

When it comes to HID headlights vs halogen headlights, it’s a no-brainer. HIDs win every single time.

How about HID vs LED headlights, though?

HID VS LED HEADLIGHTS

  • Lighting power: You’ll get bright light from both HIDs and LEDs. In terms of brightness and crispness, HIDs have the edge
  • Color: LED light is easy to manipulate. Light can be produced in 7 colors. HID is more complex and produces light in 4 colors
  • Color temperature: HID offers more choice here with color temperatures all the way from 3000 kelvin to 30,000 kelvin. Most LEDs occupy the range of 3000 kelvin to 10,000 kelvin. For headlights, 4000 kelvin to 6000 kelvin is optimal. This mimics daylight and offers the best performance when driving at night
  • Efficiency and durability: Since LEDs have no filament, they are shock-proof and extremely durable. HID have breakable and moving parts so they’re less rugged
  • Longevity: LEDs last 10 times as long as HIDs. HID headlights are rated at a maximum of 5000 hours while LEDs are rated at up to 50,000 hours
  • Output: HIDs need 5 seconds to warm up. LEDs illuminate instantly. This is academic as you’ll be stationary when you turn on your lights and you won’t need to pull away instantly in most cases
  • Power draw and heat emission: LEDs have a lower power draw and low heat emission. HIDs have an average power draw while giving off quite a lot of heat
  • IR light: HIDs emit light in the infrared spectrum as well as visible light. This can help in cold climates by melting the snow and ice that otherwise block headlights. LEDs don’t emit IR light
  • Installation: You’ll need roughly 30 minutes to install an LED headlight kit. An HID kit takes an hour or so to set up

Now you can see how these different types of headlights perform across the categories that count, it’s time to go shopping…

If you’re looking for the best-LED headlights kit, go here. Enter the year, make, and model of your car in the search boxes and get the best LEDs fuss-free

If you want HID conversion kits, go here

LED LightStreet
LED LightStreet