LED Headlights - Everything You Wanted To Know

March 02, 2021 11 min read

Over the past few years, LED headlights have become more and more popular. These bulbs look different than traditional bulbs, and more and more drivers find them superior.

Daytime running lights, fog lights, headlamps, and other automotive lights are important, but they lack the popularity of LED headlights. Just as many drivers update their cars for off-road use, many drivers also modify their lights, for better looks and performance.

Most vehicles come stocked with halogen bulbs, but if you replace them with LED headlight brands, you will notice a huge difference in visibility at night. While switching to top-rated LED headlights may cost more, you won't regret the decision.

What Are The Benefits of LED Headlights?

  • 80 percent more efficient. The best LED headlights for trucks and cars will protect and preserve your vehicle's battery, which will make it last longer.
  • Last five times longer than halogens. The best LED replacement headlight bulbs last 30,000 hours or more. In comparison, you would need to change five or more halogen bulbs for a single LED bulb.
  • Cheaper over time. While the best LED headlights may cost more straight out of the box, you will save money in the long run because you won’t need to change the LEDs as often.
  • Brighter than halogens. The best LED headlight conversion kit offers superior performance compared to halogen lights, which may have light beams that look foggy or contain dark spots.
  • Illuminate the road better. When you drive at night, LED headlights enable you to see the road over greater distances than halogen bulbs. They also have anti-glare features.
  • Easy to install. In general, it takes 20 minutes or less to install LED headlights on most cars, SUVs and trucks. (This excludes older models, which may take more time.)

Types of LED Headlights

Dual Beam

All trucks, cars, and SUV headlights have high and low beams. A dual-beam bulb is a single bulb that performs both functions. With dual-beam headlights, there is only one bulb per headlight housing. For example, the best h13 LED headlight bulbs can be used on vehicles with dual beams.

Single Beam

A single-beam headlight bulb has one single function. One bulb creates one beam, either the high or low beam. If you want to replace both the high beam and low beam with LED bulbs, you will need two bulbs for single-beam headlights. The best h11 LED headlight bulbs are commonly used for the low beams. Due to wiring differences, single-beam and dual-beam headlights can’t be interchanged. 

LED Headlight Pricing

  • Under $50: LED lights in this price range may be bright or super bright but may have lower lumens and shorter lifespans than pricier brands. Still, there are many good-quality LED headlights available for under $50.
  • $50-$100: These LED headlights typically have higher lumens and are capable of lighting up the road far and wide, but they will cost a little more.
  • Over $100: These LED headlights are generally better in quality than less-expensive versions and can have up to 10,000 lumens and really long lifespans, but you will pay the most for these features.

LED headlights also last longer and are more energy efficient than standard halogen headlights.

Key Features Of LED Headlights


A light's intensity and strength is measured in lumens. Lights with 6,000-6,400 lumens (small intensity) illuminate the road over 500 meters in a straight line and are adequate for most drivers. Lights with 8,000 lumens (medium intensity) illuminate the road 600-700 meters in a straight line. If used with bright and super bright colors, they create an intense light beam. Lights with 10,000 lumens (high intensity) brighten the road almost as much as daylight.


Most LED headlights last between 30,000 and 50,000 hours compared to halogen lights, which typically last 6,000 hours. Top-rated LED headlights that last 30,000 hours work for about three years, due to a cooling fan or chip in the assembly. Lights that promise 50,000 working hours typically last at least six years, but they may be harder to find.

Other Considerations For LED Headlights

  • Compatibility: It's crucial that you check your owner's manual to determine which LED bulb plug types and models will fit correctly in your vehicle. You may need to replace the entire headlight or use a conversion kit to make the change. Don't purchase a product until you are certain it will be compatible with your car or truck.
  • Colors: LED colors are measured in nanometers (nM), while white LEDs are measured in Kelvin. The higher the number, the cooler the color. Most headlights are bright colors and between 3,500 and 5,000 Kelvin. They let you see a good distance down the road and nicely illuminate the surrounding area. Super bright colors (above 5,000 Kelvin) are also known as Cool or Daylight White. They provide the widest and furthest views but may strain the eyes.
  • Warranty: Most LED headlight brands have two-year warranties for their customers. This is reasonable considering that the best LED headlight bulbs last at least three years. Some manufacturers will even offer three-year warranties, demonstrating that they stand behind their products. Also, check to see if the company offers technical support.

LED Headlight Tips And Tricks

  • Installation is easy in most models; however, you may need professional assistance. In some vehicles, the area in the headlight housing may be small or there may be a dust cover in the way, which may prevent you from mounting the LEDs yourself.
  • LED bulbs can get hot at the bottom and require cooling systems such as fans or heatsinks to prevent them from melting.
  • When aligning your LED headlights, make sure they point slightly downwards and away from oncoming traffic so they don't blind other drivers.
  • Some LED headlights get hotter than others, which means they are more likely to overheat, break, or fail completely. Make sure you avoid products that tend to run hotter than other headlights.

LED Headlights FAQs

Q: Are LED headlights legal? 

A: Every state has its own laws about LED headlights, but they are usually legal if they project a light beam that illuminates the road ahead between 50 and 100 meters. This allows you to see the street and surrounding areas without blinding or distracting other drivers with your lights.

Q: LED headlights are ideal for what types of driving conditions? 

A: Compared to halogen bulbs, LED headlights are better-equipped to handle extreme weather conditions, i.e., very hot or very cold temperatures. They're also ideal in rainy and foggy weather as well as at night in dark areas.

Q: What’s the difference between LED headlights and HID headlights? 

A: Both types are superior to halogen lights. HID lights tend to be brighter, but they can reflect light back at you in foggy conditions and blind other drivers. In addition, HID lights experience a delay before they turn on. The best LED headlights typically do not affect your vision and are less likely to blind other motorists as long as they are correctly aligned.

Q: How do I fix a flickering LED headlight? 

A: Some LED headlights are not compatible with vehicles such as BMW, Audi, and Mercedes. To fix a flickering headlight, use an anti-flicker or warning canceler, a.k.a. a capacitor, between the plug of the LED bulb and the socket. Many of the best aftermarket LED headlights to include these capacitors in their products.

Q: How much power do LED headlights consume? 

A: LED lights are relatively new technology, and they are incredibly energy efficient. Most models use between 30 and 60 watts.

Q: Do LED lenses turn yellow over time? 

A: No. Most high-quality LED lenses are designed with a polycarbonate material that features an ultraviolet additive, which is not affected by sunlight. They also generally have a hard coat for extra protection.

What About Xenon Headlights?

Xenon is a gas – it’s used in HID (high intensity discharge) lights. These headlights are very different from conventional halogen bulbs, and will not work in a standard headlight socket. 

You can find bulbs on the market that attempt to mimic the color of the light produced, but these are not xenon bulbs.

HID lights offer up to 90% better light emission than halogen bulbs, allowing you to see the road ahead much better. However, they differ a great deal from what most drivers are used to with their cars.

There are three stages to lighting such a bulb. The first stage, ignition, is where xenon actually comes into play. A massive electrical charge is sent into the bulb from the ballast (another component not found with halogen bulbs).

This supercharges the gas and increases the temperature significantly. Next, metallic salts in the bulb vaporize, helping to connect the two electrodes in the bulb.

Finally, the ballast begins supplying constant voltage to create a stable arc between the electrodes. 

There are several advantages to using xenon bulbs. We’ve touched on the better light emission, but you’ll also find that they require less power overall to operate.

They also last longer than halogen bulbs, meaning that you’ll replace your bulbs less frequently. Of course, there are trade-offs here.

If you have halogen bulbs currently, you’ll need to buy a full retrofit kit to use xenon bulbs. You’ll also find that direction is imperative – the brightness can literally blind other drivers, so you must have the lights angled correctly.

What About Halogen Headlights?

Halogen lights are a form of incandescent light bulb making use of a tungsten filament with a small amount of halogen gas. Most conventional light bulbs just make use of argon.

The added halogen gas allows for evaporated tungsten to be redeposited onto the filament, allowing for longer lasting bulbs. Alternatively, the bulbs’ brightness can be increased for the same lifespan.

When a current is passed through the filament, it heats up, and because it gets white hot, it starts to emit light. This is why halogen light bulbs are so hot to the touch.

One problem with this is that a lot of the energy they emit is as heat.

A bulb’s ability to emit light relative to its power draw is referred to as its luminous efficiency. That looks at the amount of power emitted as light, compared to the amount of electrical power drawn.

Halogen light bulbs have a luminous efficiency of only 2% – 4%. For many countries, the power of their headlamps is limited from a legal perspective. Usually in the 50W – 60W range.

This rating is based on the amount of power the light draws. As such any improvements to a light bulb’s luminous efficiency allows for a brighter light.

This is one of the reasons LED and HID bulbs can be much brighter than halogens as they are more than 10 times more efficient than halogens.

Halogen’s redeeming features are its simplicity and its cost. Unlike HID and LED setups, there’s no fancy electronics required to keep the bulbs happy, it’s just straight wires connecting everything.

If the bulb stops working, it’s because the filament is damaged. This simplicity helps keep its cost low.

Are LED Headlights Any Good?

LED headlights offer an improvement over their halogen counterparts. The most important of these is greater visibility. LED headlights are much brighter, revealing more of the road and your surroundings. This benefit also goes two ways, as oncoming traffic will have an easier time seeing your vehicle.

You may also be wondering about the cost. It’s true that LED headlights tend to cost more than standard replacements. However, you should come out ahead in the long term as LEDs are more energy efficient and may last longer than halogens. That means less strain on your vehicle’s battery and less money spent on replacement bulbs.

Looks are subjective, but LED headlights can also help freshen up an older vehicle. LEDs replace the warm, yellow glow of halogens with brighter, cooler light found in modern cars. For maximum effect, be sure to clean and polish your headlights. All you need is toothpaste and a soft cloth for a quick DIY.

How Do I Install LED Headlights?

If you can change a lightbulb at home, you shouldn’t have much trouble changing the headlights in your car. There are a few extra steps and it may take a few minutes, but the process is simple as LED bulbs can be directly swapped. You’ll need your new bulbs and a soft cloth or glove.

The bulbs are accessible from your vehicle’s engine bay, so start by popping open your hood. Remove the cover protecting the headlight assembly. Then, undo the clip holding the bulb. 

Carefully remove the old halogen bulb using a soft cloth or glove. Follow the steps in reverse, then repeat for the other headlight.

After installing both headlights, test them before going for a drive. If your turn signals blink too quickly after installation, your car may not properly detect the bulb, since LEDs draw very little power.

You may need to install an LED bulb resistor, which requires a little wiring know-how. Don’t be afraid to call a professional.

Are LED Headlights Better Than Regular Headlights?

LEDs appeal to automakers and consumers for several reasons: They’re brighter than halogen headlights and often cast a wider pattern, plus they use less energy, last longer and have a much whiter color than halogens, which typically are yellowish.

What’s more, a lot of people think they look cool, which is always important when it comes to cars.

Halogen headlights were the standard for the auto industry for years because they were cheap to manufacture and simple to replace, but now LEDs are outshining them.

Here’s how they’re different: Halogens are incandescent lights that have a tungsten filament inside a bulb. When electric current passes through the filament, it heats up and generates light. They differ from regular incandescent bulbs in that they have a dose of halogen gas instead of argon gas. Halogen bulbs are brighter than regular incandescent bulbs and tend to last longer.

With LEDs, an electric current passes through a semiconductor (or diode) to produce light that is brighter and generates less heat. LEDs operate about 90% more efficiently than incandescent bulbs, and because they generate less heat, that helps them last much longer than other types of lights. LEDs also typically don’t burn out like incandescent bulbs, though they do dim over time.

Because LEDs are smaller than bulb-type lights, they allow more design freedom with headlights and other vehicle lights. The downside is that they are more expensive than halogens or high-intensity-discharge headlights, which typically use xenon gas.

Other Factors To Consider

Lights for cars are actually much more complicated than they would first appear. You need to consider the color temperature, the beam pattern, whether there are reflectors, if diodes are involved, if you are utilizing LED chips, and so much more.

Headlight assembly is also important, as is any high-intensity discharge. LED headlight kits will sometimes allow for easy LED conversion, though it is not possible to convert some types of headlights.

LED lighting is preferred by many drivers, as the light output is definitely different. Light bulbs are all-powerful when it comes to lighting, as internal wiring can vary greatly - but the bulbs are the last link in the chain.

Modifying any OEM parts can be a little hairy, so always opt for a professional to make any modifications to your headlights. Xenon headlights are another alternative to traditional headlights, but they have some drawbacks when compared to LED headlights.

You may also want to modify your tail lights, or even your turn signals. LED headlights are the most common modification, but that doesn't mean you are limited to just that.

Modifying your car to have LED headlights is a hassle-free experience, and it's mostly like the plug-and-play process that computers utilize. LED bulbs are a great way to upgrade your car, yet they are still very affordable.

The Bottom Line On LED Headlights

The vast majority of vehicles leave dealership lots these days with one of three headlight bulbs: halogen, HID, or LED. Halogen bulbs are the oldest of the three and are still very common.

They’re extremely affordable and typically have a life of around 800 hours on average. When compared to HID or LED bulbs however, halogen bulbs are the worst performing of the three.

They also require more energy than LED bulbs and are more prone to heat. At the end of the day however, halogen bulbs offer enough lighting for safe driving, but upgrading to LEDs will make a noticeable difference to your driving experience.

LED headlight bulbs are becoming more commonly used by luxury automakers such as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. You’ve also likely heard of LED bulbs for home use, which deliver equal or better lighting with lower power consumption and longer life.

LED headlight bulbs are similar, offering better performance and longevity at a greater cost. Fortunately they’ve become so popular and common these days that they don’t cost significantly more than halogen bulbs.

Some will argue that LED headlight bulbs aren’t as bright as HIDs, but they are definitely brighter than halogen bulbs. They also don’t produce as much glare as HID headlights, and they don’t need a small period of time to charge up.

Just as important, LED bulbs don’t use a filament that burns out or breaks, which allows them to last much longer than halogen bulbs.

LED LightStreet
LED LightStreet