HID vs LED Headlights: Which Is Better? Pros and Cons of Each

When you’re thinking about upgrading your car, you’re likely thinking about all the bigger upgrades you can do. However, it doesn’t always have to be something major to be worthwhile.

There’s one simple, easy, effective and relatively inexpensive upgrade that you can do immediately – one that the future you is very likely going to be happy about.

When it comes to headlights, the industry standard used to be halogen lights, but that’s no longer the case these days. Headlight technologies have evolved a whole lot, and continue to do so as the years go by.

Luxury black car with beautiful headlights

Recently, there’s been an increase in different options for car headlights – options that have been making waves and are arguably a lot better than standard halogen headlights.

The two most popular of these options, and most widely known replacements, are HID headlights or LED headlights.

For starters, both choices greatly improve visibility when compared to halogen lights, which means that they effectively lower the risks of an accident happening at night. It’s super important to have brighter automotive lighting if you often drive at night, or in locations without street lighting.

That’s not all there is to them, though. Each has their own benefits and drawbacks that you should know about before choosing which of the two types to go with.

So, in this article, we’re going to be breaking down the key differences between these two types of car headlights, the advantages and disadvantages associated with each headlight type, and which ones you should be getting for what reasons.

What Is a Halogen Headlight?

Let’s start out with the basic headlights that most cars have.

Most modern vehicles use halogen headlights, as these are usually a factory default. If you aren’t familiar with what these are, they’re similar to incandescent light bulbs that you may have at home.

The advantage here is that this tends to be the cheapest option among all the different types of headlights for your car you could get, as well as the lowest in brightness.

They have a wire filament that heats up to produce light emitted when there’s electricity passing through it. The wire is surrounded by a halogen gas, which makes it a bit brighter.

However, the main disadvantage when it comes to halogen headlights is that they don’t last very long. This means that you’ll have to reinstall them often.

When doing so, you need to be careful, because they’re very sensitive to the oils that are produced by your hands.

What Are HID Headlights?

The term HID stands for “high-intensity discharge.” HID headlights can also be labeled as xenon headlights because, instead of halogen, they’re filled with xenon gas.

Although they’ve been on the market for almost 20 years, they were first made popular thanks to the “Fast and Furious” movies.

A halogen headlight bulb is able to produce light with 1,400 lumens. However, with HIDs, you’re able to get 3,000 lumens. This means that HIDs are over twice as powerful than the factory default.

They work by making a current pass between two electrodes, sealed inside the bulb that’s filled with xenon.

Advantages of Using HID Headlights

When comparing LED vs HID headlights, keep in mind the following list of the most notable benefits you’ll get if you choose to use HID headlights on your car:

Affordable Upgrade

If you upgrade your car from halogen to these headlights, you won’t be spending too much money.

But, if you keep waiting to make a decision, this won’t be an advantage for long because of the gradual decrease in LED pricing.

Increased Brightness

You can be sure that your car is equipped with the most bright, intense and white light if you choose an HID bulb.

This gives you a natural increase in visibility while driving at night.

Greater Distance

Since they emit such bright light, you can see much further while driving. This reduces the risk factor of driving at night, especially if your eyesight isn’t as good in the dark.

This also makes HID lights ideal for driving in foggy conditions.

Reduced Energy Consumption

Finally, the energy they use is minimal.

They have a low running consumption, and the only time they need a lot of energy is when you’re starting them up.

Disadvantages of Using HID Headlights

When comparing LED vs Halogen headlights ,keep in mind the following potential shortcomings associated with using HID headlights:

Glare Potential

These headlights are very bright.

They are so bright that they can cause strong glare, which in turn may cause problems for any oncoming traffic.

This can also be a problem when you’re driving behind another vehicle, although they can alter their rear view mirror to compensate.

Slow to Start

There is a delay in the maximum amount of brightness that they produce. Depending on the type of HID headlight bulbs you get, they can take up to 30 seconds to heat up and reach their brightness peak.

They’re brighter when compared to LEDs, but they are less energy-efficient due to this slow start time.

Limited Choice

You’re very limited when it comes to colors. This is due to the way HID headlights are made, which is why it’s difficult to even make lights that come in different colors.

Despite this, color choice shouldn’t be a major factor when deciding on which lights to buy. Improved visibility should be much further up on your priority list.

Should You Get HID Headlights?

If you’re in the market for some long-lasting and very bright headlights, you might want to look into various HID headlights…though there are some people who voraciously think otherwise!

All in all, they’re an affordable and energy-efficient option for increasing driving visibility.

Make sure that you replace them every couple of years, though. This is due to the nature of their design, as they tend to start dimming after long-term use.

Be sure to double-check that they are installed correctly before driving during the night, to avoid causing unnecessary problems for other drivers around you at the time.

What Are LED Headlights?

LED stands for “light-emitting diode,” which also briefly describes the way that these headlights work.

With LED headlights, the current is transferred with a semiconductor, and when the electrons inside the bulb start moving, they produce light.

A great thing about using LED headlights is that you can adjust the material properties of the semiconductor that’s used for the light bulb. When you do this, you can change the color of the light that’s being produced by changing the light frequency.

LED headlight bulbs have been on the market for a really long time now, but the first time they were used in cars was recent (in 2006) by Lexus.

Audi has gone on to produce headlights that have 25 different LED bulbs in each headlight. This allows the driver to be able to lower the light in some sections of the bulbs, while the others remain at full brightness.

Therefore, you can make the road right in front of you completely visible, without creating an issue for any nearby traffic.

Since they can be made in different sizes and don’t use much power, they are used widely across many industries. As a matter of fact, you might find them in your laptop or your phone, as examples.

Although LED light bulbs don’t produce a lot of heat, they still need cooling mechanisms in place, to prevent them from overheating. It’s for this very reason that they come with a fan to keep them cool.

Advantages of Using LED Headlights

The following is a list of the most notable benefits you’ll get if you choose to use LED headlights on your car:

Energy Efficient

LED headlights don’t use up as much energy as HID and halogen headlights, since they don’t need a lot of electricity to work.

And when compared specifically to HID headlights, they don’t need the extra energy boost when you’re starting them up.

Option to Reduce Output

Thanks to the nature of semiconductors, drivers are able to dim LED headlights.

Just by lowering the flow of the electric current, you’re able to get a lower light output in traffic.

Reduced Glare

Compared to HIDs, there’s no need to worry about the surrounding traffic and how you could be causing danger to other drivers through glare, since LED lights don’t cause glare.

Flexibility in Design

LED bulbs are also very flexible when it comes to size, so you can tailor the design of your headlights to suit your style.

Reduced Heat Output

Compared to halogen bulbs, they are a lot colder when in use. This reduces the danger of burning your fingers if you ever need to touch the light bulbs.

They still do produce heat, though, so you will still need to be careful around them.

Increased Lifespan

LED bulbs are much more durable than halogen and HID headlights.

In fact, according to some manufacturers, longevity is rated between 5,000 and 25,000 hours of use.

Disadvantages of Using LED headlights

Before you make a purchasing decision, take note of the following potential shortcomings associated with using LED headlights:

Initial Cost

LED headlights are a lot more costly upfront, but an LED replacement bulb isn’t all that frequently required.

So, the cost of LEDs isn’t all that high after all, if you take into consideration how long they’ll last. If you use them long-term, you don’t have to replace them very often, and you will definitely see savings there.

These can arguably prove to be low cost options for some car owners.

Additional Cooling

LED lights can really heat up their surrounding areas, so you’ll also need a heatsink or a cooling fan.

These almost always come at an additional cost.

Should You Get LED Headlights?

If you’re in the market for a set of high-efficiency headlights that are going to last you a long time, then a set of LED headlights can definitely be the right choice for you.

You can even get the bulbs in different colors if you want to, thanks to the build of the semiconductors.

Also, they are very durable, which is a priority for many car owners.

If you’d like to learn more about how LED headlights are superior to halogen headlights, check out the following video:

Get the Right Headlights for You

If you’re looking for a relatively easy way to upgrade your car, you should definitely think about getting a new set of headlights.

This is one of the cheapest upgrades that you can do to your car, and it can very well turn out to be one of the best decisions you’ve made since you purchased it.

However, don’t forget to do your research before making a purchase – or else, you may end up getting something you don’t really need.

Also, and in case you’re not aware of the latest automative products available on the market these days, you can also get and make use of LED conversion kits in case you don’t want to get and install entirely new headlights.

Whether you’ve decided to go with the brightest HID headlights out there to see better when driving down a dark road ahead, or efficient LED headlights that don’t create glare, the choice is entirely up to you.

Making the right choice is important, so make sure you pick one that works well for both you and your car.

Have you upgraded to LED or HID headlights, or do you have any experience with either of these? If you do or have any interesting stories to share with us and other readers, then please make your voice heard in the comments section down below!

Kyle Palmer

From childhood go karting and motocross, to collecting and obsessing over scalextric, matchbox and radio controlled cars, I've always had an obsession with cars.Learning through manuals, books, trial and error, and more knowledgeable family members, I've also enjoyed tinkering with the mechanics and electronics of any vehicles I've owned.Now, over 3 decades later, I've started this site as a place for me to share my knowledge, to teach others how to care for and maintain their vehicles themselves, at home, so they can get the most of their vehicles and save a pretty penny compared to always seeking out professional help.

Leave a Comment