HID vs LED Headlights: What’s The Difference?


Ever wondered which headlight is better: HID or LED? Well, this is a question that many customers have been asking. As you replace your car headlights, isn’t better if you upgrade to something that is considerably more efficient?

With exception of few high-end cars, the majority of the new cars come fitted with halogens headlights despite the advancement in lighting technology. To put to rest the ongoing fight of hid vs led, we have put together a guide to help you understand the difference and decide what is best for your car.

Difference: HID vs LED

No one doubts that both of these two headlights are superior to halogen headlights. However, they have differences on many aspects as you will discover in the subsequent sections.

1. Understanding HID Lighting

HID (High-Intensity Discharge) headlights, also referred to as xenon headlights, are enclosed tubes filled with a capsule of gas. Despite consuming less power, HID light is bright, close to natural light.

How It Works 

Once lit the electrical charge or arch start to evaporate the metal salt found in the bulb which then increases the luminous power and boosts lighting efficiency of the bulb.

According to Halcyon Dive Systems, HID lights require some warm up period, usually 15 – 20 seconds, to allow the material inside the bulb to move into the plasma and increase the light intensity. For gas to ignite, it requires about 23,000 volt charge but will need only 12v (35 watts) to keep light running.

In addition to this, the voltage passing through the capsule of gas has to be regulated by the electrical ballast. So, as the HID Headlight ages, it will consume more voltage in order to emit the same amount of light as long as it does not exceed the resistance limit provided by the ballast. When it exceeds this lit, the light will fail.


● Produce more light at higher lumens. The Newer version of HID lights produces brighter light per unit of energy. Generally, LED lights will produce up to a similar level of illumination, but HIDs win on this aspect.

● HIDs have a wider color range, usually 3,000k to 30,000k, unlike LEDs which have slightly narrower color range. Most LED lights are available from 3,000k to 10,000k.


● Significant portion (30%) of the energy produced by HIDs is infrared, so it is basically wasted energy. Moreover, HIDs illuminate light in 360 degrees, so a bigger portion might be directed to areas that weren’t intended.

● HID lights deteriorate over time. Some bulbs produce less bright light after 10,000 hours of use.

● Unlike LEDs which are instant, HID lights need warm up time to get to full brightness. Furthermore, most HIDs require a higher voltage to light up and this amount increases as the bulb ages.

Related: Sylvania ZXE Review

Ideal User and Product Recommendation

While HIDs are more expensive than halogens, they are more affordable than LEDs. So, they are ideal for anyone who wants efficient and high-intensity lighting on a moderate budget.

Also, they offer the best solution if you want a short-term but reliable fix since most HIDs are prone to failure over time.

Currently, the best HID headlight kit is Kensun HID Xenon Conversion Kit. They are easy to install and has a shorter warm up time (6 seconds). Besides this, they are also available in a wider color range from 3,000k to 30,000k.

Related: What Are The Best Headlight Bulbs? and Headlight Bulb Finder

2. Understanding LED lights

LED (Light Emitting Diode) headlights are the latest innovation in the headlight technology.

Unlike halogens and HIDs which use filaments and gas, LEDs rely on small diodes that interact with electrons. It is projected that by 2030, about 75% of the headlights in the market will be LED.

How They Work

Generally, LEDs are small size so they can be designed into any shape. Since they are housed in a plastic bulb, they tend to concentrate the light source. The functional part of an LED is the semiconductor chip at the middle of the light source.

The semiconductor chip comprises of two regions: n and p regions. The n region is predominantly negatively charged while the p region has a lot of positive electric charges. Electrons from either region are controls by a junction such that when a voltage is applied to the chip, the electrons in the n region will cross into the p region.

When the electrons move to the p region and combine with a positive charge, electromagnetic energy is produced. This energy produces the light.


● LED lights have a long lifespan more than any other lighting technology. New models of LEDs can last for over 100,000 hours.

● Unlike HIDs, LED lights are energy efficient. They waste very small amount of energy through infrared radiation and emit light at 180 degrees, so more light is directed to where it is needed thus suitable for headlights.

● Although they are slightly expensive than HID, LEDs have low maintenance costs, require fewer accessories and replacements.

● LEDs are also “instant on”, so they are suitable in places where there is frequent on-off power.


● The major drawback of using LED over other lights is the higher upfront costs.

● LEDs are also available in only few color temperatures and have a low amount of lumens.

Ideal user and product recommendation

While LED headlights might cost more to acquire, they are cost effective in the long run because they last longer and have lower maintenance cost. These headlights are, therefore, suitable for motorists who need more efficient headlights with minimal hassle.

According to Researchcore, the best LED headlights kit in the market today is OPT7 LED Headlight. It is rated plug and play, so its installation is hassle free. Moreover, it comes with an industry leading 2-year warranty.

Visual Comparison: HID vs LED Headlights

The two technologies use entirely different technologies producing light. This video provides a more clear comparison of how they function and other difference based on their features.

Are LED or HID headlights Better and Which One Should I Choose?

Generally, HIDs are still more popular among motorist than LEDs. However, the current improvement in the LED technology might see it become the new standard for headlights. Your choice will most likely depend on the cost, installation, and personal preference.

In the meantime, you can stick with HID for a couple of years because of the current price difference. The good thing is that you can replace the bulb instead of the whole kit if you are already using HID headlights. However, the ultimate goal of every motorist should be to upgrade to LED headlights.

Related: Best Headlight Restoration


As we conclude, it is clear that HID headlights are mature while LED lighting is developing quickly. Please comment below on your view on this subject and if you have any question regarding hid vs led we will be glad to help out.

As you upgrade your headlights, please consider the following when choosing the right kit.

● Waterproof resistant

● Ease of installation

● Shockproof and resistance to road vibration

● Warranty

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