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LED vs Xenon HID Headlights - Which Are Better?


LED vs Xenon HID Headlights

LEDs and HIDs are the go-to technologies for newer vehicles, luxury vehicles, and for those looking to upgrade from their dull stock halogens to a brighter bulb. One of the most common questions we get from customers is What is the difference between these two types of bulbs?

In this guide, we’ll dive into the differences between LED and Xenon HID headlight bulb technology, how each works and which is the better technology for automotive lighting.

Technology/Light Source Electricity (Diode) Xenon Gas
Brightness Very Bright (9,000 lumens) Very Bright (8,000 lumens)
Lifespan Up to 45,000 hours Up to 15,000 hours
Best for Reflector headlights Projector headlights
Light Distance Up to 300 meters Up to 300 meters
Price $ - $$$ $ - $$
Power Draw Very low Low
Heat Emission Low Medium
Energy Efficiency High (uses 85% less energy than halogen) High  (uses 75% less energy than halogen)
Fading No Yes
Fast Warm-Up Time Yes (instant) Yes (short lag)
Available Colors All colors All colors
Color Temperature All color temp. All color temp.
Installation Time About 20 mins About 30 mins
Installation Difficulty Easy Easy-Medium

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Are LEDs better than Xenon HID Headlights?

For most drivers like you, the million-dollar question is which is better, LED or HID headlight bulbs and which is brighter?

The answer is it depends on your vehicle. Both LEDs and HIDs are great technologies and a big upgrade over halogens - especially with regards to brightness and durability but their individual performance will depend on the type of headlight found in your car.

LED headlight bulbs are better and brighter for reflector lenses, while HIDs are better and brighter for vehicles with projector lenses.

Although the science behind this is quite complex, the important thing to remember is that you get the appropriate technology for your type of headlight for the best results. This topic is covered in great detail in our guide about Projector vs Reflector Headlights.

Many vehicles have projector-reflector hybrid headlight assemblies, for which mixing and matching the two technologies will yield the highest total light output.

LED vs HID Headlights Demo

LED Advantages over HID

  • Durability: LEDs can last up to 2 times longer than HIDs
  • Total potential light output: LEDs can put out up to 15% more light than HIDs
  • Warm-up time: LEDs instantly turn on while HIDs need about 2 seconds to warm up

HID Advantages over LED

  • Light Density: HIDs produce a more focused and dense light compared to LEDs
  • Headlight Type: HIDs work well in both projectors and reflectors while LEDs only work well in reflectors
  • Cost: HIDs are at least 30% cheaper than LEDs

What is the difference between LEDs and Xenon HIDs?

The main difference between LED bulbs and Xenon HID bulbs is the technology used to produce the light the bulbs emit.

Light Production

Without getting too technical, LED bulbs produce light through a chip that glows when powered with electricity while Xenon HIDs create light by heating a gas (xenon) that creates light. We explore how LEDs and HIDs work in greater detail in the next sections.

LED vs. HID Bulb Design

Another key difference between the two types of headlight bulbs is their design.

LED vs Xenon HID Headlight Bulb Design

An LED bulb is typically composed of a heat sink or fan at the base, the locking tabs in the middle, and a long narrow stem at the top, where you'll find the diodes as shown below.

LEDs have a simple design compared to HIDs and halogens but are typically longer and wider than the latter because of the heat sink or fan.

HIDs on the other hand, have a similar design to halogens. An HID bulb has an inner quartz chamber with electrodes (this is where the magic happens) and locking tabs at the base.

Unlike LEDs, however, HIDs need a ballast and an ignitor to function, which is a separate component that connects to the bulb.

LED vs. HID Lifespan

When compared to halogen bulbs, LEDs and HIDs are in a completely different league when it comes to durability.

LEDs, due to their design, are the longest-lasting automotive headlight and fog light bulbs on the market with a lifespan of up to 45,000 hours. LEDs will stop working when the power stops flowing to the diodes, which can be caused by old age, corrosion, heat, damage, etc.

HIDs are very durable as well but due to their technological design, the xenon gas that creates the light will run out at some point. HIDs can last up to 15,000 hours, which is still exponentially longer than halogen bulbs. Unlike LEDs, however, HIDs won’t abruptly stop working but rather slowly fade away and get progressively dimmer as the xenon gas runs out.

LED vs Xenon HID Headlight Bulb Lifespan

LED vs. HID Heat Emission

Another difference between these two automotive lighting technologies is the amount of heat they create.

LEDs run cooler than HIDs because the source of light is based on power and because the bulb itself is cooled using a fan. On the other hand, HIDs run warmer because the source of light is based on heat (burning the xenon gas).

Many drivers that live in cold and snowy regions prefer HIDs for this specific reason as it helps to melt the snow off the headlights.

LED vs. HID Energy Efficiency

One last key difference between these two automotive lighting technologies is energy efficiency. Efficiency in the context of light is measured by how much power is turned into light versus heat.

As you can already guess, LEDs are more energy-efficient than HIDs as a result of their design. LEDs are able to convert up to 90% of their energy into light compared to HIDs that can convert around 70-80%. Both are a huge improvement over halogens, which only convert 20% of the energy into light.

What this means for your vehicle is that it can create up to 5 times the amount of light produced by halogens using the same power draw. That's like getting a 500% raise at work for doing the same job.

LED vs Xenon HID Headlight Bulb Energy Efficiency

LED Headlights Explained

The way LEDs produce light can literally be found directly in the name: LED = Light-Emitting Diodes. Diodes, also known as chips or semiconductors, are the little yellow things you see on LED bulbs. Light-emitting diodes are also commonly used in TVs, street lights, light strips, and many other applications from tiny to huge. For more information, visit our guide on How LED Headlight Bulbs Work.

Upgrading Your Headlights to LEDs

At XenonPro, we manufacture premium-grade, Plug & Play halogen to LED headlight bulb conversion kits, which means you can say goodbye to your dull and yellow halogens and finally get the bright headlights you deserve.

The process of upgrading your headlights is just as easy as replacing your halogen bulbs. With all the benefits of LED headlights available at low cost, the ease of installation even for the non-technical driver, an LED conversion kit is an essential investment in the long-term future of your vehicle and driving.

XenonPro - Upgrading to LED Headlights

Not only will you benefit from better road lighting conditions and increased visibility in all weather conditions, but you will also save on ongoing maintenance costs by upgrading. Read more on this topic on our guide about Upgrading Your Headlight to LEDs.

Who Should Use LEDs

LED headlight bulbs are ideal for daily drivers looking to improve their nighttime driving experience for cars with reflector-style headlights.

XenonPro - Reflector Headlights

If you want low hassle, increased efficiency, strong headlights for your vehicle, you should have no hesitation in opting for LEDs.

Now the headlight of choice for top-end and luxury vehicles, motorists worldwide are now waking up to the advantages of LED headlights. LEDs can cost more in the first instance than HIDs or halogens, but over time this pays for itself in lower maintenance cost, greater safety, and more peace of mind.

Xenon HID Headlights Explained

Xenon HID headlights, or High-Intensity Discharge (HID), produce light by burning xenon gas (Xe on the periodic table).

Passing an electrical charge through the xenon gas in a vacuum-sealed quartz bulb creates substantially more light than the glowing filament design of halogen bulbs. HIDs are found primarily in high-end vehicles and other industrial applications.

For more information, visit our guide on How HID Headlight Bulbs Work.

Upgrading Your Headlights to Xenon HIDs

At XenonPro, we manufacture high-end, Plug & Play halogen to HID headlight bulb conversion kits, which are a great and significantly brighter alternative to stock halogen headlights.

Like LEDs, the process of upgrading your headlights is just as easy as replacing your halogen bulbs but requires some very simple assembly.

XenonPro - Upgrading to Xenon HID Headlights

With all the benefits of HID Kits available at low cost and the simple installation, the bulbs are a great investment for the immediate and long-term benefit from brighter lights to cost-saving. Read more on this topic on our guide about Upgrading Your Headlight to HIDs.

Who Should use Xenon HIDs

HID headlight bulbs are ideal for daily drivers looking to upgrade to brighter bulbs in vehicles with projector-style headlights. HIDs are also more budget-friendly compared to LEDs and offer a greater range of colors, from yellow to white to blue and purple.

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Which is better LED or HID headlights?

As a general rule of thumb, LEDs are better in reflector-style headlights and HIDs are better in projector-style assemblies.

Are HID headlights brighter than LED?

HIDs are brighter than LEDs in projector-style headlight assemblies.

Are LED headlights brighter than HID?

LEDs are brighter than HIDs in reflector-style headlight assemblies.

Which is more expensive LED or HID headlights?

LED headlights are generally more expensive than HIDs headlights.

Are LEDs more expensive than HIDs?

Yes, LEDs are more expensive.

Are HIDs more expensive than LEDs?

No, HIDs are cheaper than LEDs.

How bright are LED headlights?

LED headlights can produce up to 9,000 lumens of total light output.

How bright are HID headlights?

HID headlights can produce up to 8,000 lumens of total light output.

Can I replace my HID headlights with LED?

Yes, but it is not recommended unless you change your entire headlight assembly. HID bulbs are almost always in projector-style headlights for which LEDs do not perform well and can be very dim.

Can I replace my LED headlights with HID?

No. LED headlights cannot be replaced with HID bulbs unless you change your entire headlight assembly. Stock LED lighting is typically integrated within the assembly and cannot be removed individually.

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