HID vs LED Headlight Bulbs

HIDs have been the norm in the automotive industry for decades but the alternative LED headlights are rising in popularity.

Both type of headlights perform well and offer enough light to keep you driving safely on the roads. But what are the differences between these two technologies and which one is better?

Read on to learn how each of these lighting technologies work and what the disadvantages and advantages are of these alternatives.

This quick comparison between LED and HID headlights provides you with the information that you need to buy the right choice for your car.

What Are HID Headlights?

HID, or High Intensity Discharge, is a xenon light and functions similarly to neon lighting. Inside the gas-filled bulb are opposite electrodes which ionizes the gas when an electrical current passes through and this then creates light.

The reaction inside the bulb has an optimum temperature which takes a few seconds to reach, usually around 5 seconds.

Ultimate brightness is reached at this optimum temperature which is why these headlights take longer to reach full brightness compared to LEDs or even halogens.

For this technology to work in your car, the headlights need a ballast. The ballast converts the car’s DC power into AC power, pushes a high voltage pulse to kickstart the reaction inside the bulb and then maintains the current at the optimum level.

How Do LED Headlights Work?

LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, act like small semi-conductors with moving electrons as its light source. The frequency at which the electrons move changes the color that we see which is why LED lights can be color-changing.

There is some energy released as heat so type of headlight must have a cooling mechanism – in most cases this is a heatsink but there might also be a fan as an extra precaution. Heatsinks are located on each bulb which can potentially cause fit issues.

Another compulsory component is the driver which transforms the 12 volts provided by the car into a smaller voltage that is safe for the LEDs.

However, this can create an electronic error between the car’s computer and the headlights so the driver also makes sure that the computer can still read and monitor the headlights.

A Comparison

Now, let’s look into the most important aspects of headlights to give you a direct comparison of these two technologies. This information is the deciding factor for which type is most suitable for your vehicle.


It is already known that HIDs are brighter than halogen headlights but the battle for brightness between these alternatives does not have a clear winner. Simply put, this depends on the lumen of each product.

One thing to note however, is that HIDs are known for creating glare which is dangerous on the road. A glare can blind oncoming traffic so the brightness of an LED is the safer option.

Remember that there are laws for how bright headlights should be so make sure you check the regulations in your area.


HIDs have a wider range in color temperature with 3,000 – 30,000 kelvin compared to LED that have a range of 3,000 – 10,000 kelvin. For driving, the most appropriate color is a bright white or daylight which lies between 4,000 – 6,000 kelvin.

Again, there might be rules and regulation concerning the color of your headlights so always conform to these.


LEDs are known for having the longest lifespan and can be 4 – 10 times longer lasting than HIDs. This could mean that you never have to replace them during your use of the vehicle.

On the other hand, both types can grow dimmer over time which is when to replace them.

Ease of Installing

HIDs are still the standard used by car manufacturers so replacing them with LEDs may require more time and effort. As mentioned, the alternative requires a driver and the heatsink might not let the LED fit properly.

However, there are several LED headlight replacement kits available which are easier to work with. These are designed to have the same shape as HIDs so that fitting the bulbs is much easier.

Energy Efficiency

LEDs are more energy-efficient because they have low power requirements and stay at a steady brightness. In comparison, HIDs require more energy from the car to keep the optimum temperature inside the bulb and they also need more surge power.


Despite being the older technology, HID headlights are generally still more expensive than LEDs. However, there might be some variation between brands and design type.


Since HIDs cause glare, many manufacturers opt for a combination with halogen lights; high beam halogen and low beam HID. The alternaive is a bi-xenon version which switches between high and low brightness.

Some may argue that these features mean that HID headlights gives the driver more control but this does not say anything about safety. In LED headlights there is only one light source which fortunately performs as needed without causing glare.


Colder climates and snow can affect the effectiveness of light. LEDs can tolerate a bigger range of outdoor temperatures and so are the better choice for areas with extreme weather conditions.

The VerdictAlthough both types are approved for motorized vehicles it is difficult to pinpoint the better choice.

LEDs are better for colder climates where it likely also gets dark earlier. This is because the performance is less affected by outside temperatures and it is more energy efficient so you’ll be using less of your car’s power.

It is also the smarter investment because they are generally more affordable and have a longer lifespan.

On the other hand, HIDs are easier to install and have a wider range of colors available. These are less important advantages but they do speak to personal preference.

As for brightness, make sure that your headlights always meet the required level, no matter its type but remember that HIDs do cause glare. For frequent high beam use, LED headlights are better.

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