Best Car Lights Buying Guide – 2021

The different types of car lights and which ones you should look for. It’s important to be informed when shopping online so you don’t end up buying the wrong product. When it comes to headlights, there are many options with various light color temperatures that will affect a driver’s visibility on the road. Make sure to find out more about these things before making your purchase!

Car headlights are not only a necessary evil to keep your path in front of the car properly lit, but they can also show off the style and personality of a vehicle. In order for you to make an informed decision when buying new headlights for your ride, it is important to understand what kinds of lights are out there and how they differ from one another.

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There are three basic kinds of car lighting:

  • Incandescent,
  • Halogen and
  • LED.

The first two types have actual filaments in them that glow to make light while LED lights contain diodes that emit an invisible light that is then converted into visible light through a lens system.

How to know what kind of headlight filaments you have.

The easiest way to tell what kind of lights are in your car is by looking at the small cap that covers the bulb. If it says Halogen, or has a silver or greyish color to it, then this type of filament is marked on the piece.

Halogen lighting:

Halogen bulbs use a halogen gas that helps to create a more balanced light when compared to older bulbs. While they are not as long lasting as LED or incandescent lights, Halogen headlights have grown in popularity due to their cost-effectiveness and inexpensive maintenance needed. These lights have very low power consumption and produce a lot of heat which is why some parts of the car, such as the grille, have a small perforation in them to prevent damage from melting. Halogen lights can range in color temperatures between 2200k and 3200k, but the most popular bulbs tend to be 2900k or 3400k depending on your preference.

Incandescent lighting:

Incandescent light bulbs use a metal filament to produce light. These filaments, most commonly tungsten, get very hot and give off heat. The drawback of these lights is that they only have one temperature setting; the hotter the light gets, the more energy it uses up. The benefit? They are extremely common since they have been used for so many years. They are easy to install and use, which is a definite bonus for those who don’t like to deal with complicated little parts.

LED lighting:

LED lights use semiconductors in order to produce light. These diodes, or tiny crystals of materials called semiconductor materials, turn electricity into light rather than heat as incandescent lights do. This means that they produce bright light while using very little energy; this is a big plus in the area of safety because when lights on your car behave like they are supposed to, you can see more clearly and react quicker if there is an emergency situation. The only negative thing about them is that although they last longer than halogen or incandescent lights, they are usually more expensive initially. However, since you will save money on maintenance and not have to replace them as often, some believe the cost is worth it.

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Determining which color temperature headlights to purchase.

Color temperature in car lighting refers to the relative brightness of white light that is given off by a filament. When you drive at night and see various types of lights, you can probably tell which ones are brighter. This is due to their color temperatures. The lower the temperature, the less bright white light it produces; this means that 3200k lights appear “warmer” than a 4300k bulb, even though they give off more visible light.

For this reason, you should choose the color temperature of your headlights based on your preference. Typically most people opt for either a 2900k light or a 4300k one; however, if you are not sure what to get we recommend going with 4300k since it illuminates the road more and produces better visibility at night.

Since most of the bulbs offered by dealerships are 4300k, you can ask them to order a 2900k or 5000k headlight if you desire to get one. They may tell you that the 5000k is too bright for use on dimly lit roads; however, it produces more visible light than the lower temperature ones. This is why so many car manufacturers are starting to use 5000k as their standard.

Determining the right bulb size.

For vehicles that you can change the headlights on, you have two options for bulbs depending on whether or not you want to switch to Xenon lighting: Halogen and Xenon. The former requires H11, H1, H3, H4, and 9005 while the latter requires H13.

As for those that you cannot change the headlight bulbs on, such as older cars or trucks, you will have to get them replaced by a professional regardless of type. This is because newer vehicles have computerized headlights that are sometimes hard to switch out, and to do so on your own may be dangerous since it is very easy to cause other lights in the system to malfunction. For instance, if you mess around with the Halogen headlights on an older car, your parking light or signal light might stop working once you are done; these parts of your vehicle are interconnected, so they rely on each other to work correctly.

Determining the right bulb type for your vehicle.

Again, if you are in doubt about what kind of headlights you need, contact a certified mechanic to tell you which one is suitable for your car. He will base his decision on the model and year of your car along with its intended use; this way, he will only recommend the bulb type that is compatible for your vehicle and needed in its specific case.

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As far as halogen or Xenon headlights are concerned, you may research them online to find out what they do to your car because both types have benefits and drawbacks. Halogen lighting systems offer better durability, heat resistance, brightness, and color than Xenon ones do. However, the latter is much more efficient in terms of power consumption and produces less glare for other drivers on the road.

The good thing about both these types is that they both last longer than old-fashioned incandescent headlights; however, they are more expensive to purchase initially. Due to this fact, you may want to contact a certified mechanic to see if they can be installed on your car. For instance, some vehicles cannot accommodate Xenon headlights due to its size or power requirements; this is why he will advise you whether or not the upgrade is possible for your vehicle.

If it is not possible, then you should stick with Halogen or HID headlights since they both offer the best bang for your buck. Also, if you have a car with Halogen lighting, be aware that it does not mean it cannot be upgraded to Xenon; in fact, these systems are compatible with one another and can easily switch from one type to another so long as they share the same features, such as the bulb size and power requirements.

Whether or not you can install Xenon headlights on your vehicle should be in doubt about what kind of headlights you need, contact a certified mechanic to tell you which one is suitable for your car. He will base his decision on the model and year of your car along with its intended use; this way, he will only recommend the bulb type that is compatible for your vehicle and needed in its specific case.

Headlight Bulb Colors & Lumens Levels

Choosing the right headlight bulb color, and lumen output is one of the most critical decisions you can make for your vehicle. The wrong light bulbs will affect not only the look of your vehicle, but also how it drives at night. Our Tech Tip explains what to be aware of…

The human eye can detect only 7 shades of color and must combine them to see thousands. The eyes sensitivity to light is measured in Lumens – a scientific unit that tells us how much power light bulbs emit at different wavelengths, expressed as “Brightness” (in lumens).

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So what do all the numbers mean? Just be aware that they are there…

At first look, the numbers and letters on the side of your headlight bulbs seem a little confusing. The reason for this is that there are different light bulb standards in use today which can cause additional confusion (and cost) if you need to buy replacement bulbs for your car or truck.

The most common bulb types in use today are:

Halogen ( H4,H7,H8,H9 )

Xenon Gas filled ( XENON, XML ,ZS)

LEDs ( D2S, D2R, D3S )

Fluorescent Hybrid ( PLCC or TLE-5G6.35 )

Bulbs whose numbers end with an “A” are for 12 Volt systems, those ending in a “B” are for 24Volt systems.

When looking at the bulb itself you will see that it is usually printed with letters and numbers like this (H7):

H = High Performance Halogen Bulb -type H8, H9 have an “H” or no prefix at all.

7 = The filament is 7mm in diameter (a regular size for headlight bulbs)

The part after the slash (/) indicates that this bulb operates at 12 volts.

If your vehicle was manufactured before 1994 the bulb may have a different number such as H4 and operate at 24 Volts.

So what does the rest of it mean? The numbers after that tell you:

W = Wattage (the amount of power used by the bulb) in this case 35 Watts.  Bulbs marked with “W” and no other digits are usually low wattage , for use as turn signal bulbs or back-up lights.

X = The wavelength in nanometers (see chart above) of the color emitted, measured at the bulb surface.

So a 35W/9006 H7 Bulb would produce 9006 lumens with a color temperature or ~3100K. At this point you are probably thinking “what the heck is he talking about?” All you need to know is that the lower the number, the warmer (redder) and dimmer your light will be. The higher the number, the brighter and whiter your lights will be.

FAQ

What bulb color is best for foggy weather?

In general, you want to choose the higher color temperature bulbs when it is very foggy outside. These usually have a Kelvin (K) rating of about 6000 or above.

What color of car lights should I have in my jeep wrangler?

For Jeeps, the most popular ones are usually equipped with a “blue-white halo” light. If you’re looking for an alternative, you could also go for Tomar’s Infinity Line of LED Lights which has an amazing amber turn signal and bulb strobe option.

How do LED headlights work?

Modern LED headlights used in cars are based on a chip that is encased in a dimmer-diluter package. This type of package contains a lens which focus the light out through the front and back sides of the lens rather than only through one side like incandescent bulbs do.

Most of these packages emit their light through an aluminum coated optical grade diffuser, so they are not as directional as halogen and HID/XENON lights. As such, they illuminate more area with less power consumption but do not project quite as far down the road or provide sufficiently focused beams for highway driving.

The reasons LEDs are now favored over Halogen bulbs are:

1) LED’s last considerably longer (about 50,000-80,000 hours).

2) They produce much less heat.

3) They consume considerably less power.

4) The color temperature is closer to that of daylight.

5) LED’s do not have filament to burn out like halogen bulbs and last longer when they are used as turn signals or parking lights.

6) LED’s can be constructed in a variety of ‘looks’ ranging from clear or smoke colored lenses to projectors and lightings.

Since the color temperature is not as high as HID/XENON bulbs, they do not throw “hot spots” on the road so they are less likely to cause glare for other drivers.

Are LEDs more expensive than Halogen headlights?

The current cost of LED headlights is more expensive than the price of halogen lamps, due to pricier technology.

The LEDs used in our headlights come from Cree, a major LED manufacturer that also constructs chips and components for leading HID/XENON lights.

Cree’s 36-watt low power TIR3 SMD bulbs come at the “introductory” rate of $65 per pair with discounts available for bulk purchases.  Hid Xenon Super White H4ZS or equivalent (at 50 watts) set you back about $115 as a comparison.  But the price differential can be much greater for auto repairs shops on high volume sales where Cree LED units are priced at $130, while customers may fork out $200 for HID Xenon bulbs.

Overall, LED’s will last much longer than Halogen bulbs without the need to replace them, so over the course of 10 years you can expect to spend a lot less on lamp replacements alone.  But for most people, the upfront cost may be prohibitive and neither is really cheaper in the long term.

What is TIR?

TIR stands for Total Internal Reflection, a characteristic of light propagation in which all the incident light rays are totally reflected back into the source (LED chip) rather than refracted outwards – meaning no light diffusion and thus a sharper beam with less glare to stray away from the direction you want.

Does LED lighting shine brighter than HID/XENON headlamps?

One of the biggest advantages of LEDs is their ability to produce a very sharp and clear light, which means reduced glare for oncoming traffic and other drivers.  HID Xenon “White” lights are slightly more intense and brighter but also less clear, with a distinct “hot spot”.  They also require ballasts and are less durable than LEDs which last longer and can be mounted closer to the front of the vehicle.

Can I add LED lights to my older car?

Yes you can.  LEDs have long been used in lighting for cars (and even homes) due to their energy efficiency, but many auto experts complain that they are not quite bright enough for drivers who commute long distances during evening hours.  You can install a package of LED bulbs in your headlight assembly (which is what the professionals do) and reap the same benefits as new car owners.  Or you can also go aftermarket.

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