Selecting The Best Headlight Bulbs: The Definitive Guide

infiniti q50 headlight

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? I think that we’ve all asked ourselves that question at one time or another.

This website is dedicated to answering that question. 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.

We all have different preferences when it comes to headlight bulbs, but all of us want the best possible headlight bulb for our money, so we’re here to help you make the right decision.

The Ultimate Headlight Bulb Guide and Key

Bulbs
Watts
Output Claims
Rating
PIAA Night Tech
Piaa Night Tech Halogen Headlight Bulb
60/55WUp to 90% more light. Up to 30m longer beam. Up to 10% white light4.6
Philips Xenon HID
Philips Xenon HID
35W200% more light4.5
PIAA Style Xtreme White
PIAA Style Xtreme White
60/55WIntense white light, 4105K rating, with a slight blue tint for enhanced curb appeal4.5
Philips X-TremeVision
65/55WUp to 100% more light on the road and 35m longer beam than original bulbs.4.5
Sylvania SilverStar zXe
Sylvania SilverStar zXe
65/55W50% brighter than a standard bulb of equivalent brightness - Provides up to 4200K color4.4
Sylvania Eco Bright
Sylvania Eco Bright
50/60WOffers excellent down-road and side-road visibility4.4
Philips Standard Halogen
Philips Standard Halogen
55W“OEM Quality”4.4
Sylvania Cool Blue
Sylvania Cool Blue
65/45WUp to 25% brighter than standard halogen bulbs4.3
Sylvania SilverStar
Sylvania SilverStar
65/55WUp to 35% brighter than standard halogen bulbs. Increases side road visibility up to 35%.4.3
Hella Halogen Off Road
Hella Halogen Off Road
100/80WPrecision optics for accurate light projection4.1
Sylvania Silverstar Ultra
Sylvania SilverStar
65/55WUp to 40% increased down-road visibility and rated at up to 50% brighter light than standard halogen headlight bulbs. Increases side-road (peripheral) visibility by approximately 50%4.1
PIAA Intense White
PIAA Intense White
51WA Radiant White Beam With Out Any Hint Of Blue.4.1
Philips Vision Plus
Philips Vision Plus
55WUp to 50 ft. Longer Beam. 50% Wider Beam4.1
Philips Crystal Vision Ultra
Philips Crystal Vision Ultra
65/55WColor Temperature of Up to 4,000 Kelvin3.9
Sylvania XtraVision
Sylvania XtraVision
65/55WUp to 30% brighter than standard halogen bulbs.3.9
GE Nighthawk Sport
GE Nighthawk Sport
67WUp to 50 % more light on the road3.8
PIAA XTREME Cool Blue White Plus
PIAA XTREME Cool Blue White Plus
55WIntense white light, 4000K rating, with a slight blue tint for enhanced curb appeal3.5
GE Nighthawk Platinum
GE Nighthawk Platinum
56WUp to 90% more light than standard headlights3.5
PIAA Style Super Plasma GT-X
PIAA Style Super Plasma GT-X
60/55WSuper plasma GT-X creates distinctive 5000K bluish-purple low beam and Xtreme White Plus high beam3.1

Key

Included in this table are 8 columns:

  • Headlight bulb pictures
  • Headlight bulb brand and model
  • Headlight bulb wattage
  • Claims made by the manufacturer regarding light output and performance
  • 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.

For your convenience, click on any of the columns to make your decision easier.

Guide Considerations

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:

Kelvin color temperature scale chart

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.