Best LED Headlights 2020
Switching to LED headlights might seem like an expensive choice, but it pays for itself in the long run. If you calculate their lifespan compared to a halogen headlight bulb, the choice is easy – but if you add to it the labor cost and time saved for replacing them, not to mention the battery power that LED headlight bulbs can save (they are up to 80% more efficient!) then there are no two questions about it.
Headlight bulbs are the often overlooked part of car safety – after all, they don’t make weird noises when they’re broken, and if they’re “good enough” why worry – your car will still start, won’t it? We often get headlight bulbs once they burn out – which is too late! We’re often forced to drive without them for a while, risking our safety and the safety of others.
It’s best to have a backup bulb for each of your car’s headlights, tail lights, turn signals and brake lights as well. Aside from keeping you and others safe on the road, it will save you stress and chance of getting a fix-it ticket. This is why the time to think about your next headlight replacement now, and not when it happens. If you’re still using halogen bulbs, you should do your research into replacement kits – it’s easier than you think.
We’d love to explain why led headlights are your best choice when choosing a replacement or when shopping for a spare. If you still run on halogens, listen up – we hope to change your mind!
Different Types of Headlights
Back in the olden times, when cars were only getting started, it was required that a person with a flag would walk in front of the car and wave a safety flag. Thankfully, those days are long over – but cars are much faster and they can go a lot further – a lot further in the dark, too! First types of lights were not nearly as good as any type of modern headlight bulb – the light beam would only cast light for a few feet around, and drivers of the time would be happy if the dim light would warn oncoming drivers that they’re on the road.
Halogen lights are the cheapest option on the market right now, and as proven with many things – cheapest doesn’t necessarily mean “better”. We can think of many examples, but when it comes to bulbs and lighting, a good example is that incandescent lamps like halogens won’t be sold for the purpose of home lighting anymore. They are so energy-guzzling, that a ban on halogen bulbs made sense. But what about halogen bulbs in cars?
Your car is a separate entity when it comes to lighting – it doesn’t have to share the power grid with a growing number of people, and if halogen bulbs continue to drain your battery, it’s nobody’s problem but yours. The low prices of halogens keep most people buying them when faced with a light-emergency.
HID headlight bulbs are a bit different than the halogen bulbs. In fact, they’re a LOT different – there is xenon gas in the bulb, and the electrical charge is run straight through it. This means that the light beam can be incredibly bright. This is great for visibility, and it’s also why they were a bit of a breakthrough when introduced and remain popular to this day.
One thing to watch out for- the HID lights are so bright that they cast deep dark shadows outside of the light beam – this happens by contrast and creates dark spots across the driver’s field of vision. These dark spots can be dangerous as you can miss small moving objects – like an animal, or a pedestrian who is walking outside of the light beam.
On the upside, they do last longer than halogens, although they are more expensive.
LED headlights are just as bright as HID headlights but consume a lot less power. They also have a very quick response time and don’t take time to “fire up” when you turn them on. They also don’t create as much heat as halogen lights and don’t damage the headlight housing. They shine a lot brighter than halogens and have a significantly longer lifespan. The quality of light is also better, and you will find it easier to focus when driving. Not to mention they’re easier to install – if you like doing that kind of thing yourself.
Another important difference between LEDs and HIDs is that HIDs are infamous for blinding oncoming traffic. This was a huge annoyance when they were first introduced.
Are you a visual person? Here is a great side-by-side comparison of Halogen, HID and LED done by a real person – Eric the Car Guy.
Buying LED Headlights
In short, the time to act is now, before your headlight goes out. It’s best to have a spare in your trunk or glovebox – you’re more likely to make a better choice when you give yourself the time to access all the competing headlight kits, instead of rushing in and getting the first available one so you don’t get a ticket.
An LED or a Xenon HID headlight kit will be perfect. Take a chance on our advice and don’t go with the cheaper halogen – it will burn out faster, cost you more battery power, damage your housing faster by creating a lot of heat, and not even get as much light out of it. In this guide, we’re going to cover the LED route and why taking it may be better than standard halogen, high-intensity halogens, and xenon HIDs.
LED headlights are still the least used types of headlight bulbs, primarily because they are relatively new to the market – people are simply more used to buying halogen bulbs when they go to a store. There’s no legal push for you to buy them like there is when you buy lightbulbs for your house, so not many people even think about it.
If you want to read more about LED headlights and take a look at the types of products available out there, here is our countdown of 6 best LED headlight kits for 2020. It’s a great place to start if you’re thinking about making the conversion from halogen lights.
What are decoders and what does CanBUS mean?
When you buy LED lights, there’s some technology involved – all cars have complicated onboard computers that have to recognize the hardware you’re installing – just like any piece of modern technology. Every LED lightbulb will have drivers to help it talk to your car. Most LED headlight bulbs are CANBus ready – in fact, most of them will work with as much as 98% of cars on the market right now. This means that the built-in drivers will talk with your onboard CANBus system.
CanBUS is an abbreviation for “Controlled Area Network Bus”. Sometimes, when your car and your new LED headlight kit don’t get along, you’ll have to get a decoder.
What are the most common signs you need a decoder?
- There are error messages that keep popping up in your car computer system
- The LED headlight bulbs are not bright – in fact, they look pretty dim
- The LED headlight bulbs stay on after you turned them off like they have a mind of their own
- The LED headlight bulbs flicker when you turn them on
The good news is that you can usually get a decoder from the same manufacturer where you got your LED headlights. They don’t come standard with your headlight purchase simply because most people don’t need them.
Some of the most common vehicles that seem to always need decoders are:
- Toyota models that have a high beam signal light
- Some German cars
- Cars that use pulse power in order to reduce halogen power usage
This excludes most cars – check before ordering if your car needs a decoder, and you can order together.
Do I need LED Anti-flicker?
An unsteady current is usually the culprit behind most LED light flickering – this can be solved by getting an antiflicker harness that helps to steady this troublesome current. Most anti-flicker harnesses are plug and play and are compatible with CanBUS systems. These are usually the last resort if your drivers can’t do the job of adjusting your LED headlights.
What size of LED headlights should I get, and where do I check for this info?
We can’t just walk into a store and get the first headlight bulbs we see on the shelf. Why? Like all other car parts, headlights are no different and come in different sizes. To find this information, look in your vehicle handbook and see what types of fittings fit each light on your vehicle. They will be different depending on which light you’re looking for, from brake lights to headlights.
If you don’t have a handbook and can’t seem to find it online, take a look at the base of your bulb. When you unscrew it, there will be printed text on the base, stating where it was made, the serial number, the manufacturer and size. The headlight size will usually begin with an “H” – some common sizes are H4, H7, H8, H9 and so on.
If you don’t want to unscrew a headlight by yourself, you can google the model, make and year of your car. Headlight sizing information is widely available on the web.
How is brightness measured in LED headlight bulbs?
Brightness is measured by lumens. Your old halogens probably shine as much as 2,000 or even up to 3,000 lumens. A candle shines at 12.57 lumens – this might make your stock halogens seem pretty bright in comparison. A pair of LED headlights will produce around 10,000 lumens (lm). This gives you a glimpse into how profound the difference in visibility you will see.
There are things that will harness these lumens to make them work in your favor – like projector housing that makes the light output more focused and not scattered. This improves visibility and prevents the creation of dark spots that can be dangerous in a scattered light beam.
How is color measured in lightbulbs?
And why is it so important? Everybody mentions this cool white light – but why does it matter? Color has always been a factor in how we see things. The sun produces white light and LED lights reproduce this natural light – this way, the things that LED headlights illuminate will look more familiar and be recognized faster and easier by our brains. This accounts for less confusion, faster response time and more awareness.
As far as measurement is concerned, the “color” of light produced by bulbs – whether headlights or houselights, is measured in Kelvins (K), The higher on the Kelvin scale a bulb is, the whiter the light. In comparison, a candle is measured at 1,900K, while the blue sky is measured at 10,000K. Remember that this isn’t about intensity, but the hue of the color. A candle is intensely yellow and warm, while the sky is blue and cold.
6 Best LED Headlight Kits For Cars and Trucks (LIST)
6. LED Headlight Bulbs All-in-One Conversion Kit
These LED headlight bulbs come in sizes H4, H7, H11/H/8/H9.
They shine bright at 10800LM-6000K of cool white illumination.
We love them because they have a better beam pattern, and are designed to be kind to oncoming drivers – remember that it’s not only about your safety, but the safety of others. This system also greatly helps with any heat dissipation, providing a tough and durable cooling fan that’s engineered with aviation-grade materials. In short:
- 6000K cool white light
- Adjustable 360-degree buckle
- No dark spots
- 30,000 hours of operating time
- Built-in driver
- Wide light pattern
- All weather conditions
What makes these ones of the best LED headlights is the lifespan – over 30,000 hours of use. They are relatively new on the market and first came out in December 2019.
If you had halogen headlights before the conversion, be prepared to see a huge difference in night driving quality.
5. Fahren 9005/HB3/H10 LED Headlight Kit
It’s not often that any product will get 4.5 stars from thousands of users but if it does it’s well deserved – in this case, the Fahren Super Bright LED Headlights Conversion Kit really delivers. A little bit about the specs:
- Top Automotive-Grade LED chips. 60W, 10,000LM (per pair).
- 300% brighter than halogen
- Plug and play installation
- 98% do not require additional decoders to be installed
- Adjustable beam
- Waterproof and built tough
- Street legal
- Silent turbo cooling fan
- 6000K white light
This is the perfect kit for people who like to do it themselves – it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to install, even if you don’t usually spend a lot of time in the garage. The upside of the beam pattern in these LED headlight bulbs is that it creates no dark spots and doesn’t impair your vision in high-contrast areas.
Tip: When purchasing these, make sure to get both high beams and low beams, as they are always sold separately.
4. SNGL Super Bright LED Headlight Kit 6000K
If you’re looking for a posh everything-in-one conversion kit that includes high and low beams, this is it. The price isn’t low – and you can see why when you install this set of headlights. Most LED headlight conversion kits are great – but this one is the big daddy in terms of longevity, performance, and output. Here are some specs:
- Over 50,000 hours of use
- The brightest LED headlight on the market
- SNGL Intelligent Constant Cooling System
- Exclusive Adjustable-Beam Technology
- Adjustable to a variety of housings
- Overheat and Fan Failure Protection
- Crystal Clear 6000K Bright White
This kit has features other LED headlights simply do not have, starting with its extreme lifespan. There is no light decay thanks to the SNGL Intelligent Constant Cooling System that keeps performing even in the toughest conditions and keeps the road well lit when you need it most.
One of the favorite options for this product is definitely the ability to adjust the output pattern depending on your circumstances, giving you full control of your driving conditions. On top of this, they are easy to install, making it a superior product to replace any halogen or HID system.
3. Cougar Motor LED Headlight Bulbs All-in-One Conversion Kit
We love all-in-one conversion kits because they’re uniquely user-friendly and usually very easy to install, even compared to other LED bulbs. This makes it The Cougar Motor LED Headlight one of our top favorite contenders on this list. It’s one of the most long-lasting LED headlights out on the market, with generous light output and an effective heat dissipation system. The specs include:
- Over 50,000 hours of use
- 7,000 RPM TurboCool fan
- Plug and play installation
- 6500K cool white light
This item comes with High-Speed Cougar Heat Dissipation System placed in a rugged housing that will take a beating and keep working even in the toughest conditions. These are not delicate, and you will take you far. Their working temperature is as little as -40F, and up to 176F, meaning that they’re the right kinds of headlights if you live in extreme conditions whether it’s the desert, the frozen tundra, or anywhere in between.
2. BEAMTECH H11 LED Headlight Bulb
This is a great item for LED converts and beginners – if you’re “just wondering” before you decide to invest in a more expensive kit.
Beamtech’s passive cooling system doesn’t create the usual fan noise (let’s face it – you’re going to hear an LED headlight fan a little even if they’re “silent”, and for those of us with quiet engines and a distaste for music that might become an annoyance after a while. Talk about “not letting the sound of your own cooling fans drive you crazy”. BEAMTECH lets you take it easy. Take a look at the specs in this down-to-earth conversion kit:
- H11 LED headlight bulb
- Low heat, no fan
- Few outside components that make it easy to plug and play
- Smaller drivers
- 30,000 working hours of light output
- 6500K cool white light
- All weather conditions
If you’re looking for a quick and easy, no-nonsense product with a reasonable price tag, BEAMTECH has you covered.
1. Fahren H11/H9/H8 Headlight Conversion Kit
We end our countdown with Fahren and their SuperBright LED Waterproof Headlights Conversion Kit. This is a top seller, and there are a lot of reasons for it.
Keep in mind that before making a purchase, even if it’s not a top-shelf product, people do a lot of research in order to pick the very best LED headlights that they can find. Fahren has produced an item that has proven to be best again and again. The specs for this headlight bulb are as follows:
- CanBUS ready for 98% of all vehicles
- 10-minute installation
- 50,000 hours or more of working light output
- 300% times brighter than halogen
- 6500K cool white light
- Aviation-grade aluminum body
- Adjustable beam led bulbs
- Superior heat dissipation with hollow-carved heat sink and turbofan
- These LED bulbs can be used as both high and low beam lights, unlike most LED bulbs
We love these for their versatility, price, and performance. The installation is very easily handled by anyone in a short amount of time. This is probably the best LED bulb kit that you will get for the price. This type of LED headlight bulb will outlast most competitors in this price range, leaving them in the dark.
Features you must consider when buying LED headlights
If you’re thinking about buying a conversion kit, there are a few things to consider. Let’s talk a bit about DOT compliance. DOT (Department of Transportation) rates LED lights based on the same criteria they rate any other headlight bulbs.
This means that led headlights are tested for how intense they are – this is crucial because while it’s great to see everything around you in brilliant and super intense light, but it’s not so great for the other drivers on the road. The Department of Transportation tests headlights, the light beam they produce, the beam pattern and how it affects other cars on the road. While it’s obvious that the high beam can’t be used with oncoming cars, the low beam has to be safe to use in any situation. Fog lights also have to be DOT approved. Keep in mind that this includes the kinds of fog lights that can be installed on a truck rig – there are amazing choices of LED bulbs made with truckers and 4 wheelers in mind. The general rule is that a low beam light should not blind from as far as 500 feet, or 152 meters away.
Here, the Department of Transportation refers to the output of your beam pattern and if it’s bright enough to make you see clearly. The law states that your headlights should be turned on if your visibility is impaired – if you can’t see at least 1000 feet away, you have to have them on. Of course, these rules differ from state to state.
There are different advantages to different “colors and temperatures” of headlight bulbs – for example, for nighttime visibility the most effective ones are cool white illumination headlights. For fog lights, the yellow color works best, and if you’ve ever wondered what those lights with a purple tint are doing – well, they’re just being “cool”, and they don’t bring a lot of actual value to visibility on the road. But we do think they look “cool”. Of course, what we’re looking for in normal night driving LED headlight bulbs is the white color, which will be 6000K for a normal LED headlight. This is because this type of light looks more natural to the eye, and objects will be more visible and recognizable. This is very important when you’re driving out of the city, and the only source of light is your headlights. You have to be prepared to see any sudden changes in road conditions, animals or people crossing the street or something as simple and easy to miss as roadside debris.
These specifications have to be met for headlight bulbs to be DOT compliant. Other features you should consider when browsing through a selection of LED headlights are these:
Easy to install
Are the LED headlights easy to install? Even the best headlight bulbs won’t require rocket science to install, especially since most of these conversion kits are plug and play. It’s a good idea to check if your new LED headlight bulbs will require additional hardware like anti-flicker or decoders.
Dual or single beam
Is the kit you’re buying an all-in-one or is it only a set of low beams? They usually come separately, but it is a good idea to buy both at the same time! Remember to read the product description carefully!
There are a number of reasons why your LED lights might not work as promised, and the seller should address these issues promptly. Most good quality sellers will list common problems with installing an LED headlight kit and explain the best ways to remedy those problems. They should offer solutions like extra hardware, tips and trick and most of all, replacement and warranty. It’s not worth your time and money to get any car part, including headlight bulbs from someone who isn’t 100% committed to their customer.
Advantages of LED headlights
There are a lot of advantages to having the best LED headlights you can find, and we have already listed some of them. We all know that getting a higher quality item that will last several cheaper versions is better in the long run – you won’t spend that much money although the initial investment in LED headlight bulbs will be higher than buying halogen headlights.
It’s also an investment in your safety – LED headlights will light your way a lot better and you’ll be able to see more than with halogen lights. the cool white beam pattern will also be better for night driving in terms of visibility and won’t blind oncoming cars.
With the right housing, LEDs won’t cause dark spots caused by contrasting shadows and are more versatile than HID headlights because they can be mounted on both reflector and deflector type headlight housing.
Types of LED headlights
There are different types of LED headlights available on the market – it all depends on the car you drive. Different types of LED headlights also depend on your price range – and you have a choice of a wide variety of prices. As with anything, the higher the price the more options and power you get.
The under 50$ LED bulbs will most likely have a slightly shorter lifespan and lower lumens. The upside is that they have been getting better and better Then there’s the under 100$ range, where your beam pattern will be wider and brighter, giving you much better visibility. The most expensive, over 100$ range can get as many as 10,000 lumens and lifespans and can last up to 30,000 hours. Generally speaking, an average LED bulb will last somewhere in the vicinity of 20,000 hours. This can add up to a lot since people spend about 40% of their driving time in the dark!
The future of LED
How is the future of LED looking? It’s looking bright – and unless humans discover an incredible source of efficient and cheap lighting, LED is going to be around for quite some time to come. LED lighting is growing out of strictly headlight bulbs, rear lights, and blinkers – they are becoming an integral part of the new “smart car” as a whole.
We’ll use the leaders in electric technology to illustrate this point – Tesla uses only LED lights – an obvious choice for a car that runs on electricity and has to be conscious of its usage. You can get LED accessories for any type of car, not only the most modern ones – some of the most popular LED lights for cars include exterior lights, tailgate light bars, light strips, interior lights, and truck bed lights. LED lights like truck bed lights or exterior lights can be often manipulated with a simple smartphone app and add to the mood while you’re cruising and wanting to make an impression.
Best LED Headlights FAQs
➡️ What conditions are LEDs ideal for?
LEDs are ideal for night driving - which might seem a bit of an overstatement. Aren't ALL lights made for night driving? Yes - but none do it as well as LED headlights. This is because of the unique cool white tone of the light, which actually makes things more visible - not because of their brightness but because of their color. The cool white tone is closer to the tone of light in daylight hours.
➡️ How do LED headlights compare to HID
HIDs were the hot new expensive thing on the block a while ago - and it's no wonder. They look pretty amazing when compared to halogen lights, and "back in their day", they seemed like the best high tech option out there. Currently, it's widely accepted that LEDs are actually the better choice when it comes to headlight bulbs, for several reasons.
Let's go back to our conversation about color - LED headlight bulbs are actually much closer to natural sunlight, scoring in the 6000K range, while HIDs are much lower - around 5000K, making their light not as white as the LED headlight bulb.
HIgh Intensity Discharge - HID is the acronym for some complicated sounding stuff. HIDs are also referred to as xenon lights. They were first installed in luxury cars as far back as the 1990s. They have "been around the block" and are associates with higher quality, durability and better lighting. The fact is, that while they worked much better than the classic halogen headlights, LED lights make them obsolete in the long run. There seems to be no future for them, because LEDs are so versatile.
Light Emitting DIode - this pretty much describes how an LED works. LEDs transfer the electric current through a semi-conductor. You can adjust the light intensity by adjusting the semi-conductor. What else are LEDs used for? They are used all around you - in your house, your phone, LED displays (instead of neons) and creative lighting installations. The are everywhere - and because of the hardware they use, it's getting easier and easier to control them using applications. We can control and change their temperature and hue, intensity and other factors. They are small and compact and are a designer's dream - no matter if what's being designed is a bike light, light jewelry, architecture, or automotive lighting.
➡️ Are dual beam headlights better?
First, of all what is a single beam and what is a dual-beam when it comes to LEDheadlight bulbs? A dual-beam led headlight has two led bulbs that can shift in intensity and brightness depending on your driving conditions - that is, they shift from low to high headlight beam without shifting the position of the headlight housing. And yes - when you have a single beam headlight, the difference between low and high beams is controlled by physically shifting the housing. It happens automatically, but it does affect how headlight housing can be designed. This means that dual beam light allows for awesome shapes and looks when it comes to headlight housing design - just because you don't have to take movement into consideration.
➡️ Will LED lenses yellow over time?
They will not, but this question may allude to the plastic in the housing getting a yellow hue over time. The best way to avoid this is to treat the plastic around your housing nicely, and not use any rough detergents. Use the right tools for the job, as yellowing can mean chemical damage.
➡️ Do LED headlights blind oncoming drivers?
No - this is a problem most-cited with HID headlights - LED headlights can be adjusted and their light pattern spread out so it's not blinding to oncoming drivers. If you think your headlight bulbs might be blinding others, see if you can get them adjusted.
➡️ How much power do LED headlights use?
LED headlights don't use nearly as much power as other types of headlights. In fact, compared to others, LED headlight bulbs are quite drastic when compared side by side - an average halogen headlight uses about 90 watts of power, while a headlight LED bulb will use 8 watts of power. How's that for a dramatic difference?