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Pros and Cons of the Different Headlights on the Market

A car headlight

With such a large array of headlights on the market, it can be difficult to determine the best headlights for your car. Headlight technology is constantly evolving as manufacturers strive to literally outshine the competition, leaving consumers scratching their heads over which type offers a worthwhile investment.

What Are the Best Headlights for Your Car?

Finding the best headlights for your car will depend on several factors, not the least of which is the type your car is equipped with from the factory. (Hint: If you don’t know, check your owner’s manual.)

  • Halogen
    Working similarly to those old incandescent bulbs in your home, halogen headlights produce light through a tungsten and glass filament within a glass bulb filled with halogen gas. Also like the incandescent bulb, halogens aren’t very efficient, producing bright white light through heating filaments and generating large amounts of heat as wasted energy. They are, however, quite versatile and cost-effective, as well as dimmable, making them the headlight of choice in the vast majority of automobiles produced – though this may shift as other headlight technology advances and becomes more affordable. Expect your halogen bulbs to last about 1,000 hours – if you install them correctly – which involves NOT touching the glass on the bulbs. Extremely reactive, expect to shell out about another $30 for a replacement set if you do, as uneven heating of the glass (a result of your greasy fingerprints), can drastically cut bulb life. If you’ve left your fingerprints behind, try an alcohol-based cleaner.
  • HID (Xenon) Headlights
    Unlike halogen bulbs, the xenon gas in HID headlights is highly unreactive. Think of these lights like the fluorescent lights in your basement: HID headlights do not have a filament, instead utilizing xenon gas in the sealed bulb to send an arc of energy between two electrodes to create light. Though much more efficient than halogen headlights courtesy of lower operating temperatures, the main drawback of these lights from a functionality standpoint is they take a long time to reach operating temperature and provide strong light. Because they take so long to achieve full brightness, they do not work well as separate high beams, resulting in many manufacturers utilizing a xenon/halogen combination. From a budget standpoint, repairs and/or replacement can also be costly – in the hundreds, with the need to replace a ballast/transformer around an additional $500. On a side-note, these lights are also well-known for making other drivers on the road miserable, especially oncoming traffic, due to their notoriously blinding glare which is worse when misaligned.
  • LED
    LED headlights, in the simplest terms, employ a semiconductor diode to move electrons, giving off light when voltage is applied via a process dubbed electroluminescence. Their distinctive looks and long life make them popular today in a wide array of products from simple in-home lamp use to electronics. LED headlights produce a light brighter than halogens and with a warmer color than HIDs. Though not as bright as HIDs, they provide more focused illumination. Due to their small shape they can be arranged in a wide variety of shapes and configurations (goodbye dome reflectors!). Compared to halogens and even HIDs, they require very little power to operate, and are commonly used in hybrid and electric vehicles. The emitter/chips used to operate them do create some heat, and since the engine bay is a warm environment, LED headlight systems typically require a cooling system to preserve proper operation, making them harder to design and implement, and thus more costly than HIDs.

Upgrading Your Old Car

Despite the availability of conversion kits and the possibility of better lighting, many states have made HID and LED upgrades illegal due to their propensity to increase nighttime driving accidents and fatalities. If you are considering an upgrade, check to ensure they are legal in your area, being certain to purchase a reputable brand that is fitted, installed, and properly angled with the help of a specialist to protect fellow drivers.

Still struggling to see at night, even with those new-and-improved headlights? Even the best headlights on the market can’t help you see through a fog of scratched, worn windshield glass. Take advantage of a brighter future. Contact Glass Doctor today.