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HID Vs. LED Headlights

close-up of a car's headlight

What They Are, How They Work and Which Option is Best for You

Considering how important your headlights are for driving – especially at night – it’s shocking how some people wait for the light to go out before they decide to upgrade their headlights. In reality, it’s important to make headlight inspections a regular part of your routine vehicle maintenance.

If you’re looking to upgrade your car’s headlights, you’re probably looking at two different options: HID and LED. But which one is the better option and how do you decide between the two? This article will compare HID and LED headlights, explaining the pros and cons of each, and which one will best suit your needs.


What Are HID Headlights?

HID headlights, also known as Xenon headlights, use gas and rare metals that emit a bright white-blue glow when the filament is heated. They were first used by BMW in the 1990s and have since been dubbed as one of the most premium headlight choices among many car manufacturers. In fact, the brightness is now mandated by updated safety regulations.

HID lights can be up to three times brighter than halogen lights and are also slightly more energy efficient. Although they are still one of the pricier options, prices have become more reasonable as HID lights become an increasingly popular choice.


What are LED Headlights?

Unlike HID bulbs, light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs do not operate with a filament. Instead, they transfer current through a semi-conductor. This emits photons, and boom – let there be light. LED headlights have also overcome halogen in popularity in recent years.

LED headlights need extra heat sinks and fans to stay cooler, which can add to the price tag and make it difficult to fit an LED headlight into a traditional halogen headlight housing during installation. But their cooler operating temperature makes them more eco-friendly and gives LED headlights the ability to run almost indefinitely.

The Key Differences Between LED and HID:


HID headlights are the brightest on the market, and the light they emit covers a larger area than halogen and LED bulbs. In fact, the area covered by HID headlights is nearly an entire third larger than the area covered by LED headlights. HIDs are also more effective at lighting up the sides of the road. However, if not properly installed, HID headlights can reflect an intense amount of glare back onto oncoming drivers. This is why it’s so important to have your new headlights installed safely, by experienced professionals!


Whether you choose HIDs or LEDs, you will need a conversion kit to get you started if you’re switching from a halogen. Neither option will fit properly into the headlight housing unit for a traditional bulb. As far as the size of the actual bulb is concerned, LEDs tend to be more compact while HIDs tend to be a little bit bulkier.

Lifespan and Durability

One of the biggest draws for consumers when it comes to LED headlights is the fact that they can run for more than 20,000 hours. This means they will almost never need to be replaced. LEDs also have no small or moving parts that are breakable, making them a little more durable than HIDs. However, HID bulbs can still work for up to 5,000 hours – which is far longer than a traditional halogen bulb.


LED headlights usually only come in four colours: white, yellow, blue and purple. Many retailers only offer LED headlight (or fog light) conversion kits in white. On the other hand, most retailers on the market offer HIDs in up to seven colours. These range from golden yellow (which mimics the look of halogen lights and works well in fog) to pure white, blue, and even purple. For both HID and LED headlights, white is the brightest. But how cool would it be to roll up to your first party of the summer with purple-tinted headlights?


When considering the cost of your new headlights, it’s important to consider the long-term investment benefits you’ll receive with your upgrade. LED headlights operate at a low temperature and use very little energy, which means they can run pretty much indefinitely. This means it will cost you less in the long run to fork over a little more cash during the initial switch. While HID lights are slightly less expensive at the onset, they will require more maintenance in the future – more akin to traditional halogen bulbs.

Which One Should You Choose?

Many customers continue to choose HIDs when they decide to upgrade their headlights. They are brighter and more efficient than LEDs, and are the optimal choice if you’re on a tight budget. However, many HID users eventually decide to switch to LEDs because they last longer and cost less over time. In short, HIDs are a great short-term solution. But if you’re a more future-oriented person, it may be worth the extra money to invest in a pair of LEDs.

The Bottom Line

Whether you choose HID or LED headlights, after your upgrade you will be confident enough to kiss your nervousness about driving at night goodbye. After all, you should feel comfortable driving at any time of day, no matter the conditions. This is why it’s so important to inspect your headlights regularly and know when it’s time to get a new set. 

If you want brighter, more durable and energy-efficient headlights for clearer visibility while driving, it may be time to consider one of the many headlights and conversion kits available at AudioMotive. Still have questions or concerns? Stop by the shop and we’d be happy to discuss your options!