Are LED Headlights Better and Brighter?

Take a look at the pros and cons of LED headlights.

What Are LED Headlights? | CarMax

October 2016

Light-emitting diodes, better known as LEDs, have helped light up the dashboard displays and interiors of cars for a number of years. With the arrival of LED headlight technology, LEDs are now playing an important role in your car’s exterior lighting.

LED headlight technology was introduced exclusively in high-end luxury and performance vehicles. Now this technology is featured on a number of new cars, like the 2016 Toyota Corolla.

LED headlights vs. halogen headlights – What’s the difference?

To put it simply, LED headlights are brighter and more energy-efficient than your standard halogen headlight. Because they use less power, LED bulbs have a much longer lifespan than halogen bulbs. Halogen light bulbs are typically rated for about 6,000 hours of life. LED headlights may last more than five times that long.

This energy efficiency comes at a price, though. LED technology is more expensive than halogen, which can add up if you need to replace an LED headlight or if you’re considering converting your existing halogen headlights to LED. Despite the cost, LED technology is growing increasingly popular with both automakers and drivers.

Advantages of LED headlights 

Since LEDs provide better lighting from a smaller headlight, this advantage can then be used toward reducing a car’s curb weight or, in the case of the current Mazda Miata, directly affect a car’s entire design. Other automakers are using LED lights on electric vehicles and hybrids to provide a more efficient battery system. The more energy a car is able to conserve, the more of the battery’s energy can be focused on increasing driving range.

LED technology has opened the door for automakers to rethink the styling of headlights and taillights. Many new vehicles feature LED lights to complement the vehicle’s aesthetics. The 2016 Ford Mustang is an excellent example of signature styling that is recognizable whether the headlights are on or off. 

Disadvantages of LED headlights

One downside of buying a used car equipped with LED lights is the added cost when it comes time to replace the bulbs. Even though LEDs last longer, they are far more expensive to replace than halogen bulbs.

If you’re driving a truck or SUV with LED headlights, keep in mind that heavy loads or suspension lifts may affect the performance of your headlights. This is because LED headlights produce a focused beam of light, so any change in the height of the vehicle may alter the aim of your headlights. 

My car has halogen headlights. Can I install LED headlights?

There are many aftermarket LED lighting kits available. Converting to aftermarket LED headlight inserts can be fairly expensive. Many of these kits are plug-and-play, last far longer than halogen bulbs, and provide brighter, more efficient lighting. Keep in mind that this conversion could affect your vehicle’s warranty and be potentially dangerous if installed incorrectly, so make sure to check with a trusted mechanic. Also, check to make sure that the LED headlights are legal in your area before you decide to upgrade.

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