HID vs LED Headlights | Full Comparison

HID vs LED bulbs, which is better?
One of the most exciting upgrades you can do to your car, is upgrading the front headlight bulbs. If you are coming from standard halogens, going towards LED or HID will be a significant upgrade.
 
Most cars (even today) come with halogen bulbs which at best, have “okay” light output.
 
Only 5 years ago, upgrading to a pair of HID bulbs meant spending a few hundred dollars.
 
Today, its only a fraction of the price.
 
During that time, LED’s have become very popular in many different areas. From home lighting, street lighting, utility lighting, and even automobiles.
 
Today, both HID’s and LED’s are priced identically and provide impressive results. With that being said, there are major differences worth mentioning.
 
In this post, we will break down the HID vs LED comparison. You’ll know exactly what Xenon HID and LED’s are, what their pro’s and con’s are, a what we recommend.
comparing HID's to LED's

Understanding Xenon HID's

You probably know that HID stands for “High Intensity Discharge”, but what you may NOT know is that HID technology has been in the works since 1705.
It was introduced by Francis Hauksbee.
 
Sometimes, people may refer to HID bulbs as “Xenon” bulbs. Xenon is an element found inside many incandescent lamps. Its a gas that is known for creating extremely bright light. Its often used in photographic flashers, motion picture projections, and high pressure arc lamps.
 
When it comes to automotive applications, you already know HID bulbs can get extremely bright. They range from 4000K to over 10000K. The brighter Xenon bulbs get, the more blue their hue becomes.
 
Now that you know a little about these type of headlight bulbs, what are the pro’s and con’s?

Pro's

  • Xenon HID bulbs can be very bright. Compare to LED’s, you’ll get a much greater light output when it comes to forward distance.
  • They are quite affordable today. A good set of HID’s will cost you just under $100. Compare to a few hundred dollars a few years ago, they area cheaper than ever before!
  • They are easy to install. With some cars, getting into the headlight housing can be difficult. Once you’re there, replacing your old bulbs with HID’s should be a easy.

Con's

  • Lifespan of HID bulbs are nowhere near that of LED’s. Since HID’s their discharge rate is very intense, they are likely to burn out much sooner. The average lifespan of an HID bulb is about 2,000 hours.
  • HID bulbs are fragile. Like most bulbs with gases or filaments, they need cautious handling. Not only can they break with little effort, but they also can burn-out much sooner if oily skin touches them.
  • It takes a few seconds for them to turn on. Xenon bulbs need a few seconds to heat-up to get their full brightness.
comparing LED's to HID's

Understanding LED's

LED’s have been around nowhere near as long as Xenon HID’s have. While the original concept was first introduced in 1962, the application in the automotive industry didn’t start until just recently.
 
LED (just like HID) is abbreviated for a longer phrase, “Light Emitting Diode” (s). Because there’s no filaments and no gasses, the durability/longevity of LED bulbs is FAR greater!
 
If one was to look at the automotive industry from above, they would see less frequent use of Xenon HID’s with mid to high-end automobiles.
 
Technology has advance quite far with LED bulb diodes. Their ability to be durable and create great light outputs given HID’s a run for their money.
 
Scroll through almost any online market place and you’ll find dozens upon dozens of LED kits for sale. While most are “OK” at best, there’s at least a few which are not only reasonably priced… but also ULTRA bright!
 
Let’s analyze the pro’s and con’s and see how they stack-up against HID’s.

Pro's

  • LED’s are very durable. Unlike HID’s which are made of glass and filled with a xenon gas, LED’s are usually made of plastic and have no air pockets. This makes them very durable and less prone to breaking. You can touch LED’s with your fingers and the oil from your skin will not affect their longevity.
  • Life span of LED bulbs is 10-30X longer. Taking the 2,000 hour lifespan of an average HID kit, LED’s can go 30,000-50,000 hours.
  • LED’s turn on INSTANTLY. That’s right, the moment you flip the switch for your headlights, LED bulbs turn on in matter of milliseconds. Unlike HID’s which take a few seconds to get bright.
  • Price’s are very reasonable. A good kit might cost you $100, but you’ll usually be looking at $50-$75 on average.
  • LED’s provide great coverage. Especially in projector housings, the light goes wide and provides better field of view (compared to HID’s).

Con's

  • LED lights won’t give you the best front-facing light output. HID’s are preferred if you want to see the furthest.
  • Brightness levels are limited with LED’s. On average, HID’s can be much brighter.

HID vs LED, what's RECOMMENDED?

Now that you’ve seen the Pro’s and Con’s of both, there comes a choice to make. No matter which choice you go with, you’ll be pleased with the results.
 
Here’s a few hypothetical scenarios and what your choice should be according to them.
 
If you want the brightest headlights on the road, but don’t mind the short life-span of the bulbs, go with HID.
 
If you want something that lasts much longer, is bright enough, and gives excellent wide area coverage, consider going with LED.
 
*From a personal preference, LED headlight bulbs are the way to go. Not only do they have a beautiful white color, but they are also very reliable (as mentioned earlier). Matter of fact, I’ve put together a guide on the best led headlight bulbs you can buy. There, I’ve outlined only the ones you should REALLY get. 

Conclusion?

LED’s, those are the way to go. Whether its for your sports car, or your mini-van. For best results, make sure your headlights have projector housings. The light won’t blind people ahead of you and you’ll get more even coverage.
 
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