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Choosing The Best Headlights

As motorists, we all have a choice about what we drive. While many may not realise it, it doesn’t take a new car to take advantage of new headlights. In fact, there are now a number of different kits available to those interested in souping up their motors, and a range of options present to those investigating a switch in headlights. The headlights in your car obviously have a primary safety function, providing illumination as you drive in the dark and in low visibility conditions. But aside from safety, there are a number of other reasons people make the decision to upgrade to new headlights.

Whether your current headlights are broken, or you’re simply looking to get more from your car lighting, there are three common types of headlights you will likely be choosing from - the standard, halogen headlights (similar to those likely fitted on your car as new), HID lights (high intensity discharge lighting, often using xenon gas filtered through an electrical charge), and LED headlights (light-emitting diodes, the most efficient type of headlights available on the market). So which should you choose, and what are the reasons so many motorists are already making these decisions, whether it’s new halogens, HIDs or LEDs?

Halogens

Halogen headlights have long since been the standard for most vehicles rolling off production lines worldwide. They heat a filament until it glows, which reacts with gasses in the bulb to produce that distinctive off-white light we have all become familiar with. Halogens do the job, but they are by no means an efficient lighting option. Indeed, halogen technology has even been integrated into space heaters and radiators, specifically because they are so inefficient at generating light as opposed to heat. These are still the first port of call for anyone switching their headlights, and will likely still be used in some applications in 20-30 years time, in spite of a growing trend towards more efficient lighting solutions.

Pros

Cost: The primary advantage of halogen lights, and the reason they have been used by car manufacturers for so long, is their low cost relative to other lighting technologies. As with any established technology, the longer it is commercially available, the cheaper it tends to become. When you compare this against other types of headlights, halogens are still much cheaper.

Safe: Car safety standards have been designed around halogen bulbs, and they remain a safe way to light up the road in front of you. However, it is clear they are far from optimum for driving in dark and low-level lighting situations, an especially prevalent concern as more efficient technologies become available.

Cons

Weak Lighting: The off-white light that is generated by halogen headlights is one of the main reasons people choose to upgrade to something brighter and more efficient. It helps to see as much of the road as possible when you are driving in the dark, and LEDs for example produce much stronger lighting to illuminate a much broader field of vision.

Energy Inefficient: Halogens use only 20% of their total energy for producing light, with the remainder generating excessive, useless heat as a by-product of its function. This inefficiency, coupled with a lack of durability compared to other options, can actually make the costs of running halogens much more significant than other, competing options.

HID Xenons

HID xenon bulbs are much more efficient than halogens, producing less heat but more light for the same energy. Instead of heating a filament, xenon bulbs pass a stream of xenon gas over an electrical charge, resulting in a much stronger light than that available from halogen bulbs. This allows road users to vary brightness and color based on the temperature of the bulb, providing a range of aesthetic advantages over and above the practical. Xenon headlights are more efficient, but because they are so fragile, they cannot be handled without gloves, and are much more prone to failure than LEDs. Many motorists choose to switch to HIDs, where a percentage will then go on to upgrade to LEDs, after finding themselves unsatisfied with the HIDs they have bought.

Pros

Brighter lighting: Xenon HIDs produce a brilliant light, across a broad spectrum of colors. These are all much stronger and more illuminating than halogen lights, opening up much more of the road ahead in low level driving conditions.

Strong aesthetic: HIDs can be chosen according to their color and lighting quality much more easily, and a wide range of products are available. These strong aesthetic properties make them a popular option among mod fans, although this market is graduating to LEDs as a superior option, as the technology becomes more affordable.

Cons

Very fragile: Xenon bulbs are incredibly fragile, and prone to breakages and cracking much more readily than halogen or LED headlights. For this reason, it is even advised to handle HIDs with gloves, to prevent moisture or grease from the skin coming into contact with the bulb (which can cause cracking and subsequent damage to the bulbs).

More expensive: Because xenon HIDs are so fragile in comparison to other lighting options, it is more expensive to keep replacing bulbs when they have blown for new ones. This leaves many motorists feeling unsatisfied they have chosen HIDs and in search of a better alternative.

LED Headlights

This is where LED headlights come in, as the undisputed best option for your motoring needs. Hardwearing, durable and incredibly energy efficient, these headlights can last for decades in your car, and require very little maintenance or special protection. With 100% use during your driving, you can expect LED bulbs to last for up to 11 years, thanks to their solid-state design which minimises the number of individual components. Compared to 20% light efficiency in halogens, LEDs produce 80% light efficiency from the same amount of power - a significant gain.

Pros

Brightest, purest lights: LEDs produce the clearest lights of all the different bulb types available, leaving you with more of the road ahead to work with. The lights are also less blinding, or warmer, than HIDs, so they are more sympathetic to other road users than HIDs.

Very durable and efficient: LED lights are incredibly durable and energy efficient. This means you will save money overall on your fuel load, and on the costs of maintaining and replacing your headlights over the years.

Cons

More costly technology: LEDs are more costly than halogens, but they are now more affordable than ever, and are continuing to trend towards a more practical price point.

Not always available as standard: LEDs aren’t always a standard option on new cars. However, you can now take full advantage of these headlights for your own car, thanks to our easy-to-install LED headlights kits.