Headlights are mandated on each road vehicle sold. They are also the most important safety feature of your vehicle that gets overlooked in favor of seatbelts, airbags, and other safety technology. With that being said, you should want the best possible headlights for your vehicle that you can get.
Nowadays, xenon and LED headlights are becoming standardized, but not every new vehicle has them equipped, and the majority of older vehicles do not have them at all. That being said, halogen headlights are still the most commonly used headlight types in the automotive world.
The Best Halogen Headlight Bulbs
Fortunately, they are easy to replace compared to most other vehicle parts, and upgrading your bulbs is very simple. Because they are so easy to replace or upgrade, many people choose to go ahead and do it even before the factory bulbs burn out. Here are our picks for the best upgrades.
1. PHILIPS White Vision Halogen Xenon Effect Bulbs
Philips is a solid brand when it comes to just about any kind of lighting. Their White Vision 3700K Halogen bulbs prove it, providing the lighting effects of a xenon bulb without the hassle of having to buy HID conversion kits.
They provide forty percent whiter light while also providing sixty percent more light than the standard Philips halogen bulbs. Not only does this upgrade provide better visibility, but it also provides the look of a more technologically advanced xenon setup without the added cost.
The two-pack of White Vision 3700K bulbs produce 1500 lumens and a color temperature of 3700K each. They require 12 volts of power and are rated at 55 watts.
2. Sylvania SilverStar Halogen Headlight Bulb
Sylvania is one of Philips’ top competitors, and they are equally known for their household lighting products. They are easily accessible in almost any automotive retail location, and they are the original equipment manufacturer for several prominent vehicle brands.
The SilverStar Ultra High-Performance bulb set uses special filaments in each bulb with an equally special gas mixture and bulb coating to produce a whiter glowing light. This combination not only produces superior down-road ability but also adds additional side-to-side clarity for extra safety.
SilverStar bulbs are Sylvania’s brightest and most expensive halogen headlight, but the amount of light and safety they provide is nearly unrivaled, especially considering they are widely available in a pinch. They require 12 volts and are rated at 55 watts.
3. HELLA Standard Halogen Bulb
HELLA is most widely known for its off-road lighting with its logo prominently displayed on Jeep and pickup truck roll bar light covers. They are also a family-owned company based in Germany that pride themselves on quality and satisfaction, a great combination for those who buy their products.
Like other headlight bulbs, the HELLA Standard bulb requires 12 volts of power for a 55-watt rating, but unlike others on our list, only a single bulb is included in a box. HELLA still recommends buying and replacing two bulbs at a time, a common practice across the industry. Only costing around six dollars a box, this is still less expensive than many competitors.
All bulbs come with guaranteed fitment and functionality. They are also DOT, ECE, and INMETRO certified so they can provide quality lighting wherever you may be in the world.
4. OSRAM Night Breaker Halogen Headlamp
OSRAM is a lesser-known company in the lighting industry, but they make a great halogen bulb that can hold up to any of its competitors. Their Night Breaker Laser Next Generation bulbs provide 150% of the headlight brightness required by law and 20% whiter light than required by law.
Their laser ablation technology helps create a 150-meter long beam for better visibility and ultimate driving safety. This technology also helps the Night Breaker bulbs – which also come in a two-pack – produce more than 1500 lumens.
With the safety of having a more powerful, whiter headlight, also comes the look of an icy white bulb and the knowledge that each Night Breaker headlamp is ECE compliant.
5. PHILIPS CrystalVision Ultra Headlight Bulb
Philips makes an appearance again with their CrystalVision Ultra Headlight Bulb. They share many similarities to the aforementioned White Vision bulbs including a special blue cap that produces a tint more akin to an HID bulb than a halogen headlamp.
Even though the cap produces an aesthetically pleasing and stylish effect, it also helps produce a superiorly powerful white light for safer daytime and nighttime driving. Their original equipment seal ensures that upgrading does not have to sacrifice quality.
CrystalVision bulbs are DOT compliant, require 12 volts, and are rated at 55 watts.
Halogen, HID, or LED… That is the Question
Headlight bulbs and headlight housings or systems are two separate things. Headlight bulbs come in four main types. Headlight systems or housings are what you see when you say you are looking at a vehicle’s headlights – there are two types of headlight housings or systems.
Reflector headlights are becoming less common on new vehicles, but they have been around for years. They are the typical headlight systems that feature a concave mirror system with a headlight bulb or headlight cap sticking out of the middle. As their name implies, they help reflect the light produced by the actual headlights forward.
Projector headlights are becoming the norm on new vehicles. They have a rounded convex lens through which the actual headlight shines and they look like movie projector lenses. Just about any type of headlight bulb can go with either of the headlight systems, but HID, LED, and laser headlight bulbs are commonly used with projector systems. Halogen headlights are used with both.
Halogen headlight bulbs are the most common type of headlight bulbs. They utilize a filament inside of a bulb that contains a gas mixture. The filament heats up when the light is turned on, which produces light. The gas mixture helps the filament burn brighter and longer than a typical household light. When the filament breaks, the light bulb burns out.
These types of bulbs are the cheapest of the four, but they tend to be dimmer and do not last as long as other types. One of the main reasons for their continued popularity is their ease of replacement.
Xenon or high-intensity discharge (HID) lights are like halogen lights, but they contain an arc rather than a filament. The gases inside the bulb consist of xenon, argon, and others that heat up to produce a much bluer and brighter light than halogens can produce. These types of lights often dim slightly for a brief time immediately after being turned on before the gases heat to the appropriate temperature.
Along with the two remaining types of headlight bulbs, xenon headlights are often accused of blinding other drivers because of their light output. Also like halogens, HID headlights can dim over time. They do last much longer than halogen lights but should be replaced if they become unsafely dim.
LED headlights are the next step up from xenons. They produce the same type of bright blue-white light, but they do so with less energy. They also use a diode instead of an arc or filament to produce the light they emit. These are becoming increasingly common on new vehicles because of their output, long lifespan, energy savings potential, and stylistic potential.
Light-emitting-diode headlights are the king of the headlight world right now. They are still much more expensive to buy and equip than halogen bulbs, but they are becoming more accessible as more vehicles utilize them. Upgrading from halogen to LED often requires the purchase of a special kit to make up for the different power requirements of each bulb type.
Laser headlights are the newest type of headlight, and they produce light via a chemical reaction rather than the burning of a filament or the semi-conduction of a diode. The emitted light is produced by the laser traveling through a chamber filled with phosphorous gas.
Even though laser headlights are even more efficient than LED bulbs, they are still somewhat rare, only being used on a handful of high-end luxury vehicles. They are incredibly expensive to manufacture and buy, but they usually never need to be replaced since their lifespan is incredibly long.
Basic Headlight Terminology
Headlights have to have a power source to light up, and when they do, there are certain normal parameters in which they function. The more technical terms and measurements used to designate lighting power, brightness, and power necessities are as follows:
Voltage is the measure of the flow of electrical current. Most halogen headlights require 12 volts of electricity.
Wattage is a measure of the energy used to power the headlight. It is found by taking voltage times amperage – the measure of available electricity. Amperage is not often talked about when discussing headlights, but most halogen headlights are rated at 55 watts. HID headlights, because they require less energy to power, are often rated at 35 watts.
The brightness a headlight produces is measured in lumens. Halogen headlights usually produce fewer lumens than HID, xenon, or LED lights. This is why the latter headlight types are known for blinding oncoming drivers. A typical high and low beam halogen headlight setup produces around an average of 1000 lumens.
Color is not actually a light bulb measurement. Rather, color is measured in Kelvin. The color of a lightbulb correlates with how high its Kelvin temperature rating can climb. The higher the K, the bluer and crisper the light appears. The lower the K, the more yellow and warm a light will appear. Most stock halogen bulbs are rated at around 3000K while most HID bulbs are rated at around 6000K or more.
Headlight fitment is not a unit measurement of a headlight like lumens and watts, but it is important to buy a headlight that fits your vehicle, much like tire size. If the headlight does not fit, it will be unusable. Most online sites have a headlight fitment guide where you can select the make and model of your vehicle, and a confirmation will show whether a particular headlight will fit your specific vehicle.
Most automotive retail locations can also look up this information for you. You simply have to let the employees know what kind of vehicle you are looking for, and they can often confirm whether or not a certain bulb fits. Many locations will even come out and install the replacement bulb for you if you want.
Headlights are incredibly important because they double as a passive safety feature for you and your vehicle. Without them, you could have a difficult time seeing other drivers, and you would certainly have a near-impossible time driving at night.
Not only are they an important safety feature, but they can also add a stylish look to your vehicle by purchasing upgraded headlights. Even though halogen headlights may not be as cool to look at as HIDs or LEDs, they are still the most common headlight on the market, upgrading your stock bulbs could get you the cool look you want, and having a good working pair could save your life.