HID vs LED Headlights: Which Is Brighter, Powerful, Long Lasting, Etc.


If you have a vehicle with the OEM headlights still installed, you have most likely noticed that your headlights are not as bright as many of the vehicles on the road. This is because most vehicles are designed with halogen lights, which are the cheaper option for mass production of the vehicles, but they are not really as efficient as they need to be.

That being said, many individuals who own a vehicle often opt to change the type of bulb that is used in their headlights.

Since LED and HID headlights are the most common and efficient aftermarket options to choose from as replacements, this guide is designed to give you a head to head comparison of HID vs LED. Before we start with the comparison, let’s take a look at each type of bulb to help you fully understand each.

What is LED Lighting?

LED, which stands for light emitting diode, is a type of lighting that is designed without a filament like a traditional halogen or incandescent bulb. Instead, this type of lighting is designed to create light by exciting the electrons in the bulb.

Negative electrons bump up against the semiconductor inside the bulb, which creates a positive layer and a burst of light.This process, which is known as electroluminescence takes place thousands of times each second, which creates the bright LED light that is known as LED lighting.

Related: Top 5: Best Replacement Headlight Bulbs

What is HID Lighting?

HID, which stands for high intensity discharge, is a type of lighting that utilizes gas discharges to form light. For this to work, the gas and the electrodes inside of the bulb will connect with a beam of electricity, and as the electrons interact with the gas, the surge of energy will create the light.

This type of headlight is known for its brightness on the road, which is why it began gaining popularity during the 1990s.

LED Headlights vs HID Headlights: Brightness

The brightness of your headlights is very important when you are driving at night. When you don’t have headlights that provide you with the amount of lighting that you need, you can easily miss things that you need to see as you are driving.

This can include signs that help you find where you are going and keep you safe on the road, sharp turns in the road that you may not know are there, and animals that are crossing the road that could be difficult to see.

HID headlights are going to provide you with the best illumination that you can get from a headlight, but the light is a pure white light that is going to resemble actual sunlight, which means that it can glare if you approach the lights from a specific angle. In fact, this type of bulb can easily put out 3,000 lumens, which is more than double that of a halogen light.

LED headlights are designed to be one of the brighter options on the market; they are much brighter than a halogen bulb would be, but they do not quite create the same amount of brightness that you can get from HID headlights.

These lights create a warmer glow that illuminates the area in front of your vehicle without creating a glare and blinding oncoming traffic. LED headlights are a perfect middle ground between the dim halogen lights that come with most vehicles and the bright HID option that can be blinding to some drivers.

LED vs HID Headlights: Energy Efficiency

Not many people associate the headlights on their vehicle with energy efficiency, but if you choose a bulb type that requires a lot of energy to be used while they are illuminated, you will find that the energy is being taken from other sources.

That means that parts like your alternator will need to work harder to keep the lights burning brightly throughout the night, which can mean that you will need to replace it sooner than you would with more energy efficient headlights.

HID lights are designed to use much less power to illuminate the area in front of your vehicle than traditional halogen lights. HID headlights do take a bit more energy when they first turn on, but as you drive with your lights on, these bulbs will use less overall energy than most other types of bulbs.

When the bulb that is in your vehicle uses less energy, the load on the alternator is going to be less as well; this can also add longevity to the life of the alternator. In addition, since HID lights require less energy, you will save a bit on fuel, but it will be very slight (one fluid ounce per hour at the most).

LED lights require very little power to function, and since LED technology is always improving, it is easy to improve the energy consumption that will be required to use these lights over time. This low energy consumption is also going to help extend the life of your alternator, your engine, and other parts of your vehicle.

It will also help you save a bit on fuel, though it most likely will not be noticeable when you compare your mileage per tank of gas.

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

LED Headlights vs HID Headlights: Performance

When you talk about the performance of your vehicle’s headlights, you are referring to more than the brightness that it provides for you as you are driving. You will want to take the spread of the lighting that each type of lighting can create, whether or not there is a warm-up period for the bulb, and whether the bulb can be dimmed in your vehicle or not.

If the bulb that you choose has a lower performance level, you will not be able to see as well in darker driving conditions.HID headlights take a few minutes to warm up and reach their full potential brightness, so this type of bulb is often only an option for low beam lights because high beams may be needed right away when you are driving.

That being said, the light that is created from these bulbs often travels further from the vehicle in a wider beam, which means that a low beam intensity could suffice for most driving situations.

You will not be able to dim an HID headlight as you drive, which means that you could make it difficult for other drivers to see as they pass you on the road. There are also HID headlights that are designed for both high and low beams, but these tend to be a bit more expensive, which is why they are not as popular.

LED headlights are designed to turn on instantly to their full illumination without flickering or the need to warm up at all.

These lights are used for both high beams and low beams because they are able to produce both omnidirectional lighting as well as a more focused beam of light that is great for areas with fewer street lights and ambient light at night.

In addition, most of the LED lights bulbs on the market can be dimmed, so that you can lower the intensity as you pass other vehicles.Another reason the LED lights are great for the headlights of your vehicle is that these small lights can be customized to fit in each car so that they can illuminate the area in front of the car more fully.

A truck, a hybrid, and a sports car are not going to have the same headlight angle, but with the ability to adjust the light, you will be able to improve your car’s headlight performance.

LED Headlights vs HID Headlights: Durability

Another aspect that you will want to consider when you are considering which headlights to use in your car is the durability of the light bulb itself.

When you are driving, you will encounter bumps and potholes in the road that will bounce and jolt your vehicle, so you need a light bulb that is not going to shatter the first time you hit a bump in the road harder than you intended.

HID bulbs are made out of glass, which automatically makes them a bit more fragile. In fact, even though there is not a traditional filament inside of these types of bulbs, they can still easily shatter when they are jolted. If you drive on roads that are always paved and maintained, then HID bulbs will be durable enough for your vehicle.

LED bulbs are the more durable option because there is not a filament or other moving parts in the bulb itself. The small bulb features a heavy duty design that is designed to be resistant to shocks and vibrations that you may experience while you are on the road.

This design helps protect the bulb, which means that LED bulbs will last much longer than other bulbs.

Related: Sylvania ZXE Review

LED vs HID Headlights: Longevity

Headlights need to be replaced from time to time, but let’s face it, the longer a headlight lasts, the less you need to do in order to see while you are driving at night. HID headlights are designed to last through approximately 3,000 hours of use, which is actually more than two times the lifespan that you would get out of a halogen bulb.

That being said, some HID bulbs can even last for up to 8,000 hours of use, which will ensure that the bulb lasts for several years in your vehicle.The amount of light with these bulbs will depreciate over time, but to help preserve the brightness of the bulb, an HID headlight will undergo a color shift after about 500 hours of usage.

At this point, the bulb will change from a yellow illumination to a brighter blue light that looks crisper at night. That being said, you need to change your HID light bulbs at the same time in your vehicle so that the color change does not occur at different times.

LED light bulbs are designed to be long lasting so that you do not need to change them or maintain them for years in your vehicle. Typically, this type of bulb is rated to last for at least 25,000 hours of use, but they often can be used for at least twice that amount of time.

The only concern is that the amount of light that these bulbs produce will decrease over time, and when the bulb loses 30 percent of its original illumination, it should be replaced.

HID vs LED Headlights: Limitations

No matter what type of bulb you purchase for your vehicle’s headlights, you are going to find that there are a few drawbacks or limitations for each. The biggest drawback of HID headlights is the fact that they will cost you a bit more to purchase than other bulbs.

If you only drive at night on occasion, HID lighting may not be the best option for you from a financial point of view, but if you need to see for hours at a time in the darkness of night, then they may be worth considering.

HID headlights can also create a glare that makes it difficult for oncoming vehicles to see, and the glare can also be reflected back at you in the mirrors of vehicles in front of you. Be aware that some states do not allow aftermarket HID kits to be installed in vehicles.

LED headlights run hot, which means that you will need to have a cooling system installed if you choose this option. That being said, if you have a small car, you may have issues finding a location to install the cooling system under your hood.

Because of this requirement, you will find that running LED lights in your car can be a bit more expensive as well, though, with the life expectancy of this type of headlight, you will save money on replacement and maintenance costs.

Related: Best Headlight Restoration

Final Thoughts

HID vs LED, which comes out on top? Well, if you are looking for a brighter headlight, then you may want HID headlights. If you want headlights that you can install and forget about, then LED lights may be best for you.Consider the positives and negatives of both options to find out which works best for you.

Remember, someone who drives often at night will not have the same headlight needs as someone who drives more frequently during the day. Hopefully, you like our comparison guide; if you have any questions or comments, leave them below, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

(1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)


The newest gear, techniques, & advice delivered to your inbox.

Latest in Tech