Headlight Showdown: LED vs. Halogen vs. Xenon – Which Is Best?

Last updated on August 25th, 2018 at 04:34 pm

There have been a lot of advances in headlight technology since their origins as acetylene lamps back in the 1880’s. While halogen bulbs are still the most popular and commonly used today, Xenon HIDs are increasingly growing in popularity. That being said, the newest car models are more and more beginning to implement LED headlight technology. Some manufacturers, such as Audi and BMW, are even starting to experiment with laser headlights. Today, we will compare LED vs. Halogen vs. Xenon headlights and we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each technology.

Halogen Headlights

halogen headlightsAs we mentioned earlier, halogen headlamps are currently the most widely used in the automotive world. This is primarily due to two factors. First, their primary advantage is that they have a very long lifespan. Under normal conditions, a halogen light bulb has a lifespan of approximately 1,000 hours. Halogen’s second advantage is that they are relatively inexpensive to produce, thus making replacement costs relatively very low. While halogen is still the most commonly used headlight, that fact is slowly starting to change as manufacturers shift towards other technologies. Reason being that halogen bulbs are less efficient than their new counterparts. In order to help us understand why, let’s examine how halogen light bulbs work.

Halogen lights contain a gas, usually a combination of nitrogen and argon, and a tungsten filament, that are encased in a glass tube. The glass is made to resist extremely high temperatures. When the light bulb receives the electrical current from the car, this heats the tungsten filament. Temperature of the filament can reach up to 2,500 degrees Celsius. Heating the filament to this high temperature starts the incandescence process, thus creating light.

This is where the inefficiency of the light exposes itself. In order to generate the bright light, the halogen bulb also produces a large amount of heat. This heat represents wasted energy.

Let’s review halogen headlights:


  • not very energy efficient
  • light cannot be easily focused
  • extra precautions required when installing


  • long lifespan
  • low cost
  • varying size and dimensions
  • decent quality illumination

Best Halogen Headlight Bulbs For Cars

SylvaniaSilverStar4.0ReviewsCheck Price
PhilipsH74.3ReviewsCheck Price
GENightHawk3.7ReviewsCheck Price
PhilipsDiamond Vision H74.3ReviewsCheck Price
HellaHLA4.5ReviewsCheck Price
SylvaniaXtraVision4.3ReviewsCheck Price
SylvaniaSilverStar zXe3.9ReviewsCheck Price

Xenon Headlights

High intensity discharge headlights, otherwise known as xenon or HID, contain a combination of gases and rare metals that are heated to generate a bright white (or blue) glow. Xenons are roughly two to three times brighter than traditional halogen bulbs and some people feel that their glare can be distracting for other drivers on the road.

LED vs. Halogen vs. Xenon headlights

LED vs. Halogen vs. Xenon headlights

HID lamps, which require less power to operate, actually output a brighter light. Drawing only about 35 watts of power, they generally are good for about 2000 hours of life. This makes xenon lights more efficient than halogen.

HID headlights get their nickname, xenon headlights, due to the fact that they contain a trace amount xenon gas. The xenon gas not only prevents the car’s HID lights from flickering when the driver turns them on, it also ensures that an ample amount of light is provided before the headlamps reach their maximum brightness. This typically happens within a couple of minutes.

One can easily spot xenon headlights by their cool white glow, which is usually accompanied by a distinctive blue tinge. On some car models, they implement HID lighting only for their low beams, while the high beam light is provided by a separate set of halogen lights. For vehicles with bi-xenon headlights, the HIDs provide both the low and the high beam from the same enclosure of xenon lights.

Now mainstream and available as an option from most automobile manufacturers, HID xenon headlights were first available in the mid-1990s. Prices for xenon bulbs have remained slightly high, due to their use of rare elements. This has lead car makers to seek out and invest in other technologies.

Just to note, some bi xenon headlight bulbs could have a negative impact to our health. It may not be widely known, but some versions could contain hazardous substances, for instance the metal mercury. Of course, some countries have imposed strict rules and regulations that prohibit the use of these materials. However, banning such materials will only increase the cost of production.

To recap, the pros and cons of xenon headlights are:


  • a longer lifespan than traditional halogen headlamps
  • because they require less power to operate, they are more efficient than halogen bulbs
  • xenon offer better visibility for drivers


  • potentially distracting to oncoming traffic, due to too much glare
  • higher production costs than halogen
  • possibility of harmful or hazardous materials used in their production

Best Xenon Headlight Bulbs For Cars

PhilipsD2R4.5ReviewsCheck Price
SylvaniaSilverStar4.0ReviewsCheck Price
PhilipsD4R4.7ReviewsCheck Price
KensunD2S 6000K4.3ReviewsCheck Price
InnovitedD2-8000K4.5ReviewsCheck Price

Led Headlights

As the automotive industry continues to evolve, headlights in particular are advancing rapidly.  In a very short period of time, headlight technology has reached a whole new level. After HIDs had been on the market for a couple of years, car manufacturers began to analyze a new, even more energy efficient option called LEDs. LED headlight bulbs on cars first appeared in 2004, and the first car that offered full LED headlights was the Audi R8. Many would argue that LEDs seem to be the most ideal solution for mass-produced automobiles. However, there are also several drawbacks with the technology that could change their perception about this type of lighting technology.

LED Headlights

The greatest advantage to LED headlights is the fact that they need very little power to operate. This is a huge advantage as we see more and more of a shift towards hybrid and full electric vehicles. LEDs are already being used on the Toyota Prius and on several other hybrids on which electrical power plays a key role – for more than the horn and headlights.

Let’s take a closer look at some disadvantages. Unlike halogen lights, LED headlight do not emit heat while creating light. However, what they do is they create a small amount of heat towards the bottom of the emitter. This creates creating a potential risk for nearby parts, connective cables, and assemblies. While, for this reason, car makers may be generally avoiding utilizing LEDs for headlamps, they are instead adopting the LED technology for day time running lights, brake lights, and turn signal bulbs.

Because light-emitting diodes are so small in size, they can be manipulated into a great many configurations. The shapes can be custom fit to nearly any conceivable design that the manufacturer can come up with.

The amount of energy consumed by LEDs is believed to be in between the energy consumed by xenon and halogen lamps. Producers are making efforts to improve in this area in the future.

Production costs remain a major obstacle for LED headlights. Significantly improvement in this area is needed, if they are going to be used more widely. Currently, LEDs are still fairly expensive and are usually only offered on luxury, premium vehicles.

To summarize, these are the pro’s and con’s of LED headlights:


  • smaller size enables greater flexibility for more varied shapes
  • turn on instantly, no warm up period
  • extremely energy efficient
  • easy to install a LED headlight conversion kit


  • costs more to produce
  • lower amount of light generated
  • higher temperatures are possible around adjacent parts or assemblies

Best LED Headlight Conversion Kits For Sale Online

OPT7FLUXBEAM4.6ReviewsCheck Price
New BrightsNB-80W-90074.2ReviewsCheck Price
Sirius4G LED3.9ReviewsCheck Price
KensunKensun-LED4.2ReviewsCheck Price
Genssi5K-LEDKIT3.4ReviewsCheck Price

Perhaps our favorite of the bunch are the OPT7 LED headlight bulbs.

So, Which Is Best?

So, now that we have compared LED vs. Halogen vs. Xenon headlights, which one is best? All in all, this question can not be answered directly. Different applications will require different forms of lighting. That being said, it will certainly be interesting to see how car headlights continue to evolve. We will be sure to keep you updated on new technologies.

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