Good headlights make all the difference when driving in low light conditions. They can help make sure you see a hazard well ahead of time and respond to it early. There isn’t a lot of information around the different types of headlights available so this Laser vs LED vs Halogen vs HID/ Xenon headlights comparison aims to clear up any confusion and highlights the pros and cons of each.
LED (Light Emitting Diode) headlights are a very popular option as they use less electricity and last longer than halogen and HID lights. LED headlights have a more concentrated and uniform appearance and can be designed in shapes other than the classic bulb. This makes LED a great choice for a combination of style, functionality and efficiency.
Bright – light emitting diodes (LEDs) are brighter than halogen and HID lights. Halogens offer 3200 lumens while LEDs can produce 5000 – 12000 lumens. This makes them better at illuminating the road so you can see clearly.
Anti-glare – LED headlights are easier on the eyes. They produce white light but it has a warmer color temperature than HID lights which means it isn’t glaring for you or for other drivers.
Long-lasting – as an LED headlight uses a small amount of power they last a long time (around 20 times longer than a halogen bulb). This means you might not need to replace LED headlights for several years depending on how much driving you do at night.
Versatile – LEDs are compact so can easily fit into the car bodywork. They are the most attractive option as they don’t need to be in the classic bulb shape.
Efficient – LED lights use less power than most other types of car headlight, this makes them more efficient and easier on the car battery.
More expensive than halogens and Xenon/ HID headlights – LEDs are more of an investment as they cost more to buy but offer a longer lifespan and more efficiency than the cheaper options.
More complicated to replace – unfortunately replacing LEDs can be quite costly as they aren’t as easy to replace as halogens.
Halogen lights have been a popular option since the 1960s. They are the bulb type that most vehicles on the road have as these lights are cheap to manufacture and repair and simple to replace.
Many higher-end vehicles choose to use other types as they offer more benefits than halogen bulbs. Generally, halogen bulbs are being phased out in favour of better alternatives but you may still find them in the more affordable new cars.
Cheap – a halogen headlight is not only cheap to produce it is also very affordable to repair or replace. If you’re looking for low cost then this is the way to go.
Easy to replace – changing halogens can take just a few minutes. Unlike other options, they are simple to replace.
Small in size – these light bulbs are small in size so don’t take up much space in the vehicle.
Adjustable – halogen lights can be adjusted from low to high beams depending on what’s needed. This lets the driver decide the brightness to suit the situation.
Not as bright as other options – a standard halogen headlight is bright enough to light the road ahead but they are better suited when driving in cities or lit streets rather than in areas that aren’t lit at all.
Light has a yellow hue – some people do not like the yellow hue of these lights as it is not as bright or effective as a whiter light.
Not the most energy-efficient option – while this type of headlight is low cost they use a lot of energy. A lot of this energy is lost as heat which is why the bulbs get so hot after they’ve been used.
Not the best technology – halogens are no longer the best option, there has been a lot of advancements in headlight technology that has meant the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. You can actually see the difference when using halogens compared to other headlights.
Shorter life span – one of these bulbs will offer around 1000 hours of light before it needs to be replaced.
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HID (Xenon) Headlights
High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights are also called Xenon headlights. Xenon gas is one of the gases that are inside the bulb which allows it to glow, hence the alternative name. They tend to be offered on high-end cars or are offered as an optional upgrade.
Produce a bright light – HID headlights are around 3 times brighter than halogen lights and provide a good illumination of the road.
Produces a whiter light that is easier to see – this increases the effectiveness of the light in low-light situations. A bright, white light allows a clearer and more defined vision of what’s up ahead.
Offer greater vision across a further distance – the power of the Xenon/ HID lights lets you see further ahead while driving.
Longer life than halogen bulbs – these bulbs don’t use a metal filament which means they offer a longer life and won’t need to be replaced for a while.
Can produce a glare on the road – the glare produced by these bulbs is one of the top disadvantages. They can cause glare on the road ahead of you or on road signs and this can temporarily impact your vision.
Can produce glare for drivers of oncoming vehicles – in addition to causing glare for you, these headlights can cause glare for oncoming traffic (even when they aren’t on high beam).
Are slow to turn on – these headlights take longer to get to full brightness. This also means they can’t flash on and off as quickly as other options.
Expensive – this is an advanced type of vehicle light and as such, it is more expensive.
Costly to replace – hopefully you won’t need to replace the lights any time soon but if you do they are going to be expensive to replace.
Laser is the newest technology in the vehicle headlight market. They represent a leap in headlight technology and are being offered in some high-end cars including BMW and Audi.
Very bright – these headlights are capable of emitting 1000 times the power output of LED lights while using a fraction of the energy.
Produces a broader beam to give you a better field of view – the laser technology offers a brightness that extends up to 600 metres.
Energy-efficient – a laser bulb uses around half the amount of power an LED headlight uses. This is why they may make a good choice for electric vehicles.
Versatile – these bulbs are small in size and shape which makes them versatile and means they can be used in a variety of ways to complement the style of the vehicle.
Expensive – at the moment, these headlights are generally only available as an optional extra that costs a lot. They are still a new technology so for now, they cost a lot to buy and a lot to replace too.
Complications with Switching Headlights
Not all aftermarket headlights are legal in Australia so be sure you check your local regulations before making any changes to your vehicle.
As a general rule, vehicles originally fitted with halogen headlight bulbs will be suitable for a conversion to LED. However, not all switches are compatible and there are many potential issues you can run into when changing the type of headlight on your vehicle. Therefore, it’s best to consult with a mechanic before making any changes.
Choosing the Best Option for Your Vehicle
Now that you know more about the different types of headlights available for vehicles you can decide which is best for you. These four headlight types are all being utilised on the roads but the most popular remains halogen due to its affordability. We wouldn’t say halogen is the best option as they have such a short lifespan and aren’t nearly as effective as HID or LED lights.
When choosing your new headlights consider the cost, replacement cost, longevity and design. Keep in mind that if you’re considering an aftermarket switch, you’ll likely need an expert to do the work for you, although there are conversion kits available.
The best option at the moment is LED as this offers more brightness than HID without any of the glare. This means safer driving for you and for other road users. The downside is the higher cost so if you have a low budget you may want to consider HID instead.
Laser headlights show a lot of promise but at the moment it is still an emerging technology that comes with a high price tag. With that said, this is certainly a headlight technology to keep an eye on as it will likely get more affordable as it becomes a more common option.