Headlight bulbs burn out. It happens to the best of us. But which headlight bulb do you want in your car? What is the best headlight bulb for the money?
This website is dedicated to answering these questions. Headlights, after all, are what will get you home at night, they help you see in the rain and snow, they allow other drivers to see you, and some even enhance the look of your car as well as your experience behind the wheel.
To help you decide which headlight is best for you, we’ve put together The Ultimate Headlight Bulb Guide and Key.
The Ultimate Headlight Bulb Guide and Key
Included in this table are 5 columns:
1 – Rank
2 – Headlight bulb picture and name
3 – Watts – Headlight bulb wattage
4 – Output Claim – Claims made by the manufacturer regarding light output and performance
5 – Rating – Amazon.com customer rating (by default the table is sorted by this metric). This is an excellent way of identifying how satisfied others are with those particular bulbs.
As you may have noticed, this is not an exhaustive list of headlight bulbs. There are many manufacturers in all parts of the world that make headlight bulbs, however, this list does include most, if not all of the “mainstream” headlight bulbs on the market today. This list includes the major brands and many models within those brands.
I’ve included primarily the flagship models of each brand, meaning that high priced and better performing headlights, as opposed to the very basic, standard bulbs (although there are some in this list as well for comparison purposes. I have not included all bulbs that exist on planet earth for the sake of making the decision process simpler for you, which is why I’ve only included the best of the best, of the most recognizable brands.
This guide includes both halogen and HID type headlight bulbs. LED headlights have been covered in other articles on this site.
How to Choose The Best Headlight Bulb
Choosing the right headlight bulbs can very simple. You first need to decide what is important to you. Her are some things to consider:
- Are you willing to pay more for a brighter/whiter bulb? Headlight bulb manufacturers tend to charge more for bulbs that are brighter and whiter. Brighter bulbs with higher light output, and a higher color temperature cost more, so if this is important to you, be prepared to spend a little more.
- What’s more important, bulb longevity or performance? As a general rule, bulbs with a higher light output tend to have a shorter working life. Higher light output bulbs are running hotter and more intensely. This shortens the life of the bulb. In my personal experience, a high output bulb will last at least one year, as opposed to a standard OEM bulb that will likely last three years or more. However, for me, a brighter, whiter bulb is important to me, I love they way they look and I enjoy the addition light at night, so I don’t mind switching them out more often.
- Are you going for the HID look (bright white to blueish in color)? First of all, if you’re going for the HID (High Intensity Discharge) look, you should look into an HID conversion kit. You will never find a halogen bulb with the same intensity and brightness of a HID. However, you can find halogen bulbs that have the same color temperature as an HID. The way that manufacturers accomplish this is by coating the outside of the bulb glass with a semi-transparent film. In most cases this is a blue film. As the light passes through the glass/film, it changes the color of the light, just as if you were looking through tinted sunglasses. The problem with this is as soon as there is any film or coating on the glass, you lose light output. You may get the color you want, but you might not be able so see very well at night. So as you are shopping around, keep this in mind.
Headlight Bulb Color Temperature Guide
If you dive into the world of headlight bulbs, you’ll start to hear a lot about “color temperature”. This just wouldn’t be a complete guide to selecting the best headlight bulbs without at least a brief introduction on this topic. To get right to it, the color of light is measured by units of K. The color temperature scale is often called the Kelvin Scale. It looks something like this:
You’ll often find color temperatures stated on headlight bulb packaging. Normally, a halogen bulb will fall within the warm colors, somewhere between 2000K and 4000K. For a halogen bulb to achieve a higher color temperature, it will need to pass through tinted glass. That is why you’ll often see headlight bulbs that are blue in color claiming to have a bright white light output. The more dense the tint on the glass is, the bluer the light output becomes, and higher color temperatures are achieved.
Logic tells me that the human eye has adapted itself to seeing the world best under the bright light of the sun. That falls at around 5000K – 5400K. So, for me, that is the color temperature that I’m looking for when I’m in the market for new headlight bulbs. They will have a very clean, white appearance from the outside looking in, and from the driver’s seat, you’ll have the optimal color temperature for your human eyes.
The Best Headlight Bulb for One Is Not Always Best For All
Not all bulbs are created equal. Different vehicles require different types of headlight bulbs. Some vehicles require four to six bulbs (high beam, low beam, and fog), while others only require two (high/low beam combo). The headlight assembly also comes into play here as well. You might find that a particular brand/model of headlight bulbs work great in one vehicle, and perform awfully in another.
Here is an example of that. Several years ago I purchased a set of headlight bulbs that were more towards the blue end of the spectrum. I put them in a Mitsubishi Lancer. They looked fantastic and worked great. The lancer had separate bulbs for high and low beams. I thought since they worked so great I’d but a set for my Toyota Solara, which used a high/low beam in one. They were terrible! I could hardly see a thing at night and they were terrifying to drive at night with.
The moral of the story is, when you’re buying headlight bulbs, read the reviews from others that purchased the exact model of headlight bulbs that fit your vehicle. You’ll get a much more accurate read on what to expect.
Wattage is King
It’s easy to get lost in all of the gimmicks, fancy packaging, and bloated claims. At the end of the day, if you want more light output, you need more watts. Think of a household light bulb. The light output of a 40W light bulb is much less than that of a 100W light bulb. More watts = more light. Pay close attention to the watts on the package as manufacturers will normally print these specs very small.
If you see something like 65/55W, that means the high beam is 65 Watts and the low beam is 55Watts.
A headlight bulb with high wattage, and a color temperature around 5000K will be an excellent performing headlight by my standards.