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A common question we frequently get from our customers, fans and readers alike is How long should headlights last?
Although this seems like a straightforward question with what should be a straightforward answer, there are many factors that impact the longevity of headlight bulbs, which we will explore below.
As a general rule of thumb, original factory headlight bulbs could last 3 to 20 years (1,000 to 45,000 hours) depending on whether they are LED, HID or halogen while aftermarket replacement bulbs and conversion kits should last 1-10 years (500 to 20,000 hours).
|OEM Bulbs||Aftermarket Bulbs|
|Halogen||1,000 - 5,000 hours||500 - 1,000 hours|
|Xenon HID||10,000 - 20,000 hours||5,000 - 10,000 hours|
|LED||30,000 - 45,000 hours||5,000 - 20,000 hours|
Keep in mind that while these ranges hold true for the most part, there are several factors that can extend or shorten the lifespan of headlight and fog light bulbs.
Below, we’ll dive into how long headlights should last based on the bulb type/technology and we’ll conclude with important factors that impact the longevity of all bulbs and some frequently asked questions.
Halogen bulbs are the most common factory bulb although the type of bulb that lasts the least amount of time amongst its peers.
OEM halogen bulbs can last up to 5,000 hours or 5 years on high quality cars such as Toyota and Honda.
Aftermarket halogen bulbs can last anywhere from 500 hours to 1,000 hours (approximately 1 to 2 years), depending on the quality of the bulb and the condition of the vehicle.
Xenon HID bulbs are popular amongst American luxury vehicles such as Cadillac, Buick and higher end GMC, Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler models.
OEM xenon HID bulbs can last up to 20,000 hours or 10 years while aftermarket replacement xenon HID bulbs and HID conversion kits can last anywhere from 5,000 hours to 10,000 hours (approximately 2 to 5 years), depending on the quality of the bulb and condition of the vehicle amongst other factors.
LED bulbs are gaining popularity at an incredible pace given their incredible light output, low power consumption and impressive longevity.OEM LED bulbs can last up to 45,000 hours or 20+ years while aftermarket LED headlights can last anywhere from 5,000 hours to 20,000 hours (approximately 2 to 10 years), depending on the quality of the bulb and condition of the vehicle amongst other factors.
The first and arguably most important factor is the technology of the bulb. In general, LEDs last longer than HIDs, which last longer than halogens. This hold true for both original factory bulbs and aftermarket bulbs.
The second and most unspoken factor is whether or not the headlights are the original factory ones, replacement bulbs or aftermarket conversion kits such as LED headlights and Xenon HID kits.
For whatever reason, the original factory bulbs will always last a lot longer than any replacement or aftermarket conversion kit. Some say it’s because of superior products that are purposely not sold in the aftermarket for the sake of profit while some argue that it’s related to the overall condition of the lighting system in a new car versus a used car.
Whatever the real reason, you will unfortunately never get the same longevity on replacement aftermarket bulbs as the original OEM factory bulbs.
The third factor that affects the longevity of a bulb is the condition of the car and how well it’s maintained.
A vehicle that is in poor condition will be subject to air gaps, leaks and cracks that will slowly corrode the inside of the vehicle, including the wiring and electricals of the lighting systems. Such conditions can lead to a number of different problems that can damage the bulbs directly or indirectly, leading to a shortened lifespan.
A vehicle living in harsh weather conditions will see their bulbs last significantly less time than bulbs living in more mild or favourable conditions. The same holds true for car batteries and other similar electrical components.
Harsh and cold weather unquestionably puts a strain on any vehicle, especially from an electrical perspective. It can also affect the condition of the vehicle, which was discussed in the previous section.
This electrical strain causes the vehicle to operate abnormally and doing so on a consistent basis will negatively impact the vehicle and electrical components.
And finally, the last factor is road and driving conditions. Bad roads, off roading, potholes, etc. all create vibrations and abrupt shock to a vehicle and that includes the electrical and lighting systems.
Consistent shocks and heavy vibrations damage bulbs. Sometimes in one go, sometimes in a slow and steady manner. All bulbs are composed of many little parts and the vibrations will cause them to break or fall apart, which can lead to a shortened lifespan.
No. Original factory bulbs always last a lot longer than aftermarket replacement bulbs and conversion kits.
If your headlights are burning out in under a year, you may have an issue with your electrical and/or lighting systems, which you may want to have checked out. If your lights are lasting on the lower end of the normal lifespan range, you may just have bad bulbs and/or a damaged lighting system.
Yes. Getting better quality bulbs or a better technology bulb such as LED or HID will increase the lifespan of your headlights. You may always want to make sure your lighting systems are clean and free of corrosion, dust and other grime that may be impacting your bulbs.
Yes. Most vehicles with factory halogen systems are compatible with LED or HID bulbs in their stock headlights. Learn more here.
LED bulbs last the longest compared to HIDs and halogen bulbs.
No. Headlights typically burn out individually. If both of your headlights go out at the same time you may have an electrical issue or some problem with your lighting system.
Yes. If you have one light that is out, the second is likely to follow very shortly. We always recommend changing both at the same time to avoid doing the work again soon.
No. Both your headlights must be functioning to comply with the law.
Headlight bulbs vary in cost depending on the quality and technology. Halogen bulbs can cost anywhere between $15 and $75 a set. HID replacement bulbs cost $30-$80 a set and HID and LED conversion kits can go up to $300 per set.