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LED vs HID Headlights - Which Are Better?

A complete comparison between HID and LED automotive headlight technology. Which is better, brighter, and why.

Last updated: August 1, 2023

LED (Light Emitting Diode) and HID (High-Intensity Discharge) are two different types of headlights used in automotive lighting.

LED vs HID Headlights Demo

They are the new go-to technologies for newer vehicles, luxury cars, and drivers looking to upgrade their dull stock halogens to brighter bulbs.

Both technologies offer advantages over traditional halogen bulbs, but they have distinct differences in terms of how they produce light and their characteristics.

The main differences between LED and HID headlights is that LEDs are brighter, have a longer lifespan, don't fade over time, have no warm-up period, and are more energy efficient compared to HIDs.

⭐ Brightness: LED lights produce up to 10,000 lumens whereas HIDs produce up to 8,000

🕣 Lifespan: LED headlights can last up to 45,000 hours while HIDs up to 15,000

💰 Price: Prices vary for both products but HIDs are always less expensive

🛠 Technology: LED using electricity (diodes) and HID uses xenon gas

🍭 Colors: LED come in every color but HIDs are limited to shades of yellow, white, blue, and purple

✨ Fade: LEDs do not fade over time but HIDs do

🔥 Warm-up: LEDs turn on instantly while HIDs take a few seconds to reach full brightness

⚡ Efficiency: LEDs are more energy efficient than HIDs

HID vs. LED Headlights Comparison Chart

Brightness Very Bright (10,000 lumens) Very Bright (8,000 lumens)
Lifespan Up to 45,000 hours Up to 15,000 hours
Light Distance Up to 300 meters Up to 300 meters
Price $50 - $350 $40 - $250
Power Draw Very low Low
Heat Emission Low Medium
Available Colors All colors Shades of Yellow, White, Blue, and Purple
Best for Reflector assembly Projector assembly
Installation Time 5-20 mins 20-60 mins
Installation Difficulty Easy Easy-Medium
Fast Warm-Up Time Yes (instant) Yes (short lag)
Fading No Yes
Energy Efficiency High (85% less energy vs. halogen) High  (75% less energy vs. halogen)
Bulb Size Small-Medium Small
Light Source Electricity (Diode) Xenon Gas
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In this guide, we dive deep into and analyze the differences between LED headlights and HID (Xenon) headlight bulbs so you can choose the best option for your needs and that of your car, truck, motorcycle, ATV, or snowmobile.

Are you satisfied with your headlights? Take our short survey and enter the chance to win $500!

Are LEDs better than HID Headlights?

As one of the oldest sellers of HID and LED bulbs online, we frequently get asked What is the difference between HID and LED headlight bulbs? Are HIDs brighter than LEDs?

We summarized the differences in the first sections but we think it's best you see both in action to better decide.

LED Headlights Performance Test (Video)

HID Headlights Performance Test (Video)

Choosing Between HID and LED Headlights

So, which is better and brighter? While it may seem at first glance that LED headlights are far superior to HID lights, it is not exactly the case, especially when looking at headlight conversion kits. The devil is in the details.

The answer is it depends on your vehicle.

Both LEDs and HIDs are great technologies and big upgrades over halogens with regard to brightness and durability but their individual performance will depend on your headlight type.

LED headlight bulbs are better and brighter in reflector headlamps, while HIDs are better and brighter in projector lenses.

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

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LED Advantages Over HID

  • Durability: LEDs can last up to 3 times longer than HIDs
  • Total potential light output: LEDs can put out up to 25% more light than HIDs
  • Warm-up time: LEDs instantly turn on while HIDs need about 2-5 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

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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.

LED bulbs use a semiconductor diode that emits light when an electric current passes through it. The light is produced by the movement of electrons in the semiconductor material.

LEDs are small and can be arranged in clusters to provide different beam patterns and light outputs.

Upgrading Your Headlights to LEDs

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

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 need.

The process of upgrading your headlights is just as easy as replacing your halogen bulbs, even for the non-technical driver.

XenonPro - Upgrading to LED Headlights

LEDs cost more upfront than halogens but pay for themselves over time in lower maintenance costs, greater safety, and more peace of mind.

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 how you can upgrade your headlights to LED.

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HID Headlights Explained

Xenon HID headlights, or High-Intensity Discharge (HID), produce light by using a high-voltage electrical arc to generate light.

The arc is created between two electrodes in a gas-filled quartz capsule and produces an intense white light.

HIDs are found primarily in high-end vehicles and other industrial applications.

Upgrading Your Headlights to Xenon HIDs

HID headlight bulbs are ideal for daily drivers looking to upgrade to brighter bulbs in vehicles with projector-style headlights.

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 benefits from brighter lights to cost-saving. Read more on how you can upgrade your headlights to HID.

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Technical Differences Between HID and LED Headlights

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

This core difference leads to many technical differences, which ultimately impact factors that are important to drivers such as brightness, durability, and energy efficiency. We discuss the major factors below.

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.

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.

LED vs Xenon HID Headlight Bulb Lifespan

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.

HID vs. LED 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.

HID vs. LED 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.

LED vs Xenon HID Headlight Bulb Energy Efficiency

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 which can convert around 70-80%. Both are huge improvements 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. HID Fog Lights

Unlike headlights which are designed to help us see in normal weather conditions, fog lamps exist to help improve visibility in foggy weather, heavy rain, and heavy snow.

It's been proven scientifically that to achieve this goal, the best light color is yellow or amber.

This is the exact opposite of headlights, which achieve their goal of maximum visibility through a bright white light.

Since fog, snow, and the reflection from rain are white (white-ish), going with bright white light would actually reduce visibility as a result of the increased glare.

Now that we know that yellow/amber fogs are optimal, let's answer whether HID or LED fog lights are better.

In short, LED fog lights are better simply because they produce a more powerful light and last longer than HID fog lamps.

However, it can be difficult to find yellow LEDs whereas HIDs commonly come in a yellow/amber color known as the 3000K temperature. You can learn more about HID colors here.

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Frequently Asked Questions:

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

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

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

LED headlights are generally more expensive than HIDs headlights.

Yes, LEDs are more expensive.

No, HIDs are cheaper than LEDs.

LED headlights can produce up to 10,000 lumens of total light output.

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

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.

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.


Disclaimer: The information contained on this page is provided free of charge to our visitors. It was prepared to the best of our abilities and with all the information available to us at the time of writing. We reserve the right to change, remove or update any information contained on this page at any time and without notice to improve its accuracy. The most reliable method to determine the bulb size is by pulling your actual bulb(s) and reading the part number indicated directly on the bulb. The information compiled on this page comes with no guarantees or warranties.