Finding the best headlight bulbs is no easy task today, especially considering how many choices there are. Most cars still use halogen bulbs, but HID and LED bulbs are also increasing in popularity.
It’s tough to gauge the pros and cons of halogen vs. HID vs. LED bulbs if you don’t know what to look for, but in any event they are not compatible – so if your car uses halogen bulbs, you need a conversion kit to use xenon HID bulbs, or you can have your car modified at a garage. LED bulbs, on the other hand, are designed as straight-swap kits for cars that use halogen bulbs.
To help you make the best possible decision concerning your safety on the road, and also with an eye toward your car’s appearance, we’ve prepared five reviews of some of the best headlight bulbs on the market today.
We’ve also included a buyer’s guide and answered some of the most important questions concerning headlight bulbs and assemblies so that you don’t have to waste any more time before buying your next aftermarket replacement bulbs.
Best Headlight Bulbs Reviews
1. Sylvania SilverStar Ultra Halogen Bulb - Best Performance Headlight Bulb
Sylvania headlight bulbs are some of the most popular and reliable on the market. The SilverStar Ultra is the company’s flagship series of halogen headlight bulbs. It offers amazing visibility and comes in a variety of sizes.
The SilverStar Ultra halogen bulbs are premium bulbs. They make use of Sylvania’s patented Tri-Band Technology to generate a light that’s whiter than that of most competitors. This also helps improve the clarity, making it easier for drivers to differentiate road signs and potential hazards.
The SilverStar Ultra also has something called Ultra Night Vision. Because of the power output and increased down-road vision, these halogen bulbs make it a lot safer and more comfortable to drive at night.
Although these are some of the brightest halogen bulbs on the market, they’re completely street legal. The bulb design is unique and carefully put together to eliminate glare and avoid disturbing incoming drivers during day or night.
What's to like about the Sylvania SilverStar Ultra Halogen Bulb - Best Performance Headlight Bulb
The brand’s reliability is what attracts most customers to the SilverStar Ultra headlights.
Sure, the performance is impressive, but the durability and longevity of these headlight bulbs are why so many people don’t mind spending the extra bucks.
What's not to like about the Sylvania SilverStar Ultra Halogen Bulb - Best Performance Headlight Bulb
Although the SilverStar Ultra has amazing performance, the price tag is considerably higher compared to standard halogen headlight bulbs.
2. Philips LongLife EcoVision Halogen Bulb - Best Long Life Headlight Bulb
Philips may not be number one in domestic sales of headlight bulbs, but it has the biggest global presence. The company makes a wide range of headlight bulbs from standard replacements to premium bulbs with amazing performance.
The LongLife EcoVision is a unique line of headlight bulbs. Although they don’t come in too many fittings, they feature an eco-friendly design which better protects the bulb from wear and tear and increases its lifespan far beyond the standard expectations of a halogen bulb.
In terms of quality, we’ll be honest – the Philips EcoVision range is not among the brightest halogen bulbs on the market. Still, it’s better than any factory bulb and the standard replacements, but overall it has an average output.
The 3100K color temperature is in the warm white range. This isn’t for you if you want a super bright light, but it’s rather awesome if you want something soft and bright that won’t cause glare in other drivers’ mirrors.
Moreover, what really sets this model apart from even some of the best headlight bulbs is the use of strong UV-Quartz glass.This offers more protection from vibrations and extreme temperatures.
What's to like about the Philips LongLife EcoVision Halogen Bulb - Best Long Life Headlight Bulb
The double layer of protection offered by the Quartz glass and the UV protective coating extends the lifespan and makes the Philips EcoVision our best long life headlight bulb. These bulbs are supposed to last up to four times longer than standard halogen bulbs.
What's not to like about the Philips LongLife EcoVision Halogen Bulb - Best Long Life Headlight Bulb
For some drivers, the compromise of durability over brightness may not be worth it. This depends on your personal preferences, as there are those who prefer warmer halogen bulbs and then there are those who have to signal their arrival with the most piercing cool white xenon bulbs.
3. Sylvania SilverStar zXe Halogen Bulb - Best HID Alternative Headlight Bulb
The zXe line is as close as you can get to the brightness and performance of Xenon HID headlight bulbs while being absolutely sure you’re not getting something illegal.
These bulbs use a mixture of halogen and xenon to provide a whiter and brighter light. The design features a cobalt blue coating to help with the light transition and to modify the color temperature towards the mid-range levels.
The design is also a bit stylish due to its mirror alloy coating. However, this doesn’t help much with glare. Compared to the SilverStar Ultra line, the SilverStar zXe is less versatile in this regard.
What's to like about the Sylvania SilverStar zXe Halogen Bulb - Best HID Alternative Headlight Bulb
If you’re attracted to the brightness and white light of HID bulbs, this is the best alternative. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea to have their car modified for xenon bulbs.
What's not to like about the Sylvania SilverStar zXe Halogen Bulb - Best HID Alternative Headlight Bulb
All this performance does come at a cost. A considerably higher cost than what most of the competition has to offer.
4. LASFIT LED Headlight Kit - Best LED Headlight Kit
LEDs are becoming more and more popular with car owners. What was once an interior lighting solution is quickly becoming an appealing alternative to halogen and HID bulbs.
Naturally, LED lights run hot and require constant voltage, so you need a conversion kit that takes care of these issues. And here you have exactly that.
The LASFIT LED headlight kit comes in just four fittings: H11, H8, H9, and H16. These are halogen bulb fittings, and this kit is designed such that you can just plug and play.
The 6000K color temperature does push the light slightly towards the blue spectrum. However, this doesn’t take anything away from the fact that this kit has amazing down-road performance and delivers a lot of clarity for nighttime driving.
What's to like about the LASFIT LED Headlight Kit - Best LED Headlight Kit
The kit takes care of proper cooling (heat sinks) and voltage stabilization (ballast). It’s a direct swap. If your car uses H11 halogen bulbs, get the H11 LASFIT and you’ll be able swap them right in.
What's not to like about the LASFIT LED Headlight Kit - Best LED Headlight Kit
The LASFIT only has kits in four sizes. This is because these bulky kits won’t fit in all headlight configurations.
5. Sylvania SilverStar zXe Gold Halogen Bulb - Best Headlight Bulb in Performance and Style
Last but not least, yet another premium product from top manufacturer Sylvania. The zXe Gold improves on the performance of the standard zXe and adds a bit of flair to the design, making this one of the most coveted headlight bulbs for high-end vehicles.
The zXe Gold uses the same cobalt blue coating for better light transmission and color temperature. However, it does make a slight design change by using laser-ablation technology to apply the coating and to give it a minor performance boost over the standard zXe.
The combination of xenon and halogen makes the zXe Gold not only as bright as some of the best HID headlight bulbs but also ensures that this model is street legal.
The top alloy has a gold mirror coating which gives the headlights a unique and stylish look. Combine that with the bright white light that approaches HID bulbs, and not needing to use an HID conversion kit, and you can understand why this is a premium model with a premium price tag.
What's to like about the Sylvania SilverStar zXe Gold Halogen Bulb - Best Headlight Bulb in Performance and Style
The “Gold Mirror” top coating makes the bright white light of the zXe bulbs crisper and even closer to Xenon HID.
What's not to like about the Sylvania SilverStar zXe Gold Halogen Bulb - Best Headlight Bulb in Performance and Style
As great as the zXe Gold is, it’s perhaps too expensive for some people.
Types of Headlight Bulbs
The three important types of headlight bulbs on the market are as follows.
Halogen bulbs have been used since forever. Even so, this old design is still very popular today, especially since great strides have been made by manufacturers to improve the design.
Halogen bulbs use a tungsten filament which can get really hot. In order to prevent the bulb from turning black as a result of the intense heat, halogen gas is encased in the bulb, hence the name.
These bulbs have a decent brightness. They’re not as bright as LED bulbs but they’re easy to replace and thus still very popular.
Another thing worth noting is that halogen bulbs can have a very short lifespan due to the filament’s high heat. In general, the brighter the bulbs – the faster they’ll burn out, but this also depends on how often you drive at night.
HID or Xenon HID bulbs are superior to halogen bulbs for the most part. For one, they have a whiter and brighter light. However, if your car comes with stock halogen headlights (different voltage and wattage), you’ll need an HID conversion kit to use HID bulbs.
This can get quite expensive at times. In some cases, it may not even be street legal. When shopping for HID bulbs, you need to take extra time and check the legality of the bulbs. This can take a lot of time, at least compared to sorting through specs.
HID bulbs use xenon gas instead of halogen, hence the name and the whiter light. Instead of filaments, these are arc lamps that generate light when electric arcs dance between two electrons in the bulb.
Like LED, HID bulbs also need a ballast to step up the voltage and create the potential difference that’s necessary for the arcs to happen.
LED bulbs have one huge advantage over the others. Their lifespan is insanely higher. If you were to use an LED conversion kit on your car, you probably won’t have to change the bulbs for many years to come.
Although primarily used for interior lights, LED headlight bulbs are becoming more and more appealing to the general public. They’re a bit less power hungry because of their design.
These bulbs feature light-emitting diodes which act as semiconductors. When the electrons pass through them, the semiconductors convert them into light at a very power-efficient rate.
The color temperature is measured in Kelvin (K). You will notice that the color temperature ratings are usually listed on the packaging of headlight bulbs. The higher the color temperature, the whiter the light will be.
To get a sense of how the scale works, the dimmest rating is considered equivalent to a match flame rated at 1700k. At the other end of the spectrum, we have dusk light rated at 3200k. In the middle, you’ll see daylight balanced lightning rated anywhere between 5000K and 5400K.
Halogen bulbs usually have a warm color temperature of between 2000K and 4000K. However, they can exceed the rating and have an even higher color temperature if the light goes through tinted glass. Often times this is achieved by using a blue coating.
For most people, the 5000K to 5400K color temperature range is most desirable. That’s because that color best matches what we see during the day. It’s clean, white, and of the optimal color temperature to our eyes.
The top five brands are Spyder, Hella, Sylvania, Philips, and KC HiLiTES.
US customers are perhaps more accustomed to seeing Sylvania headlight bulbs. Philips is close in performance at least when it comes to halogen bulbs. However, the Philips brand has a more global presence which gives them a bigger chunk of the global market share.
Hella also has interesting high-quality bulbs to offer, including cheap standard replacement bulbs as well as premium bright bulbs that offer extra visibility and contrast.
While Spyder doesn’t quite have the range of Sylvania or Philips, the brand is a crowd favorite due to its consistently high-performing products.
Headlight Bulb Size
You may have seen fittings such as H11, H7, 9006, and more when you were looking at headlight bulb packages or online reviews.
You should know by now that not all cars use the same size bulbs or connectors. Not only that, but there are plenty of cars which need more than the standard pair. Some vehicles need four bulbs in order to provide the optimum light output.
In order to make sure you’re getting the best headlight bulbs for your car, you need to look at the owner’s manual and find out the type of your headlight bulbs. As long as you have the make, model, and year of your car, you can also look up the chart at auto parts store or online.
How can you judge the output? It’s quite simple. You do this by looking at the wattage. Standard halogen bulbs are 55W while Xenon HID bulbs are 35W and LED bulbs are 30-32W.
The power alone doesn’t tell the full story. You also have to factor in the efficiency of the conversion from electric energy to light energy. LED lamps are of course more efficient than the incandescent halogen lamps, which is why they are almost equal in brightness at half the power.
In comparison, HID bulbs are even more efficient, so a 35W HID bulb is usually much brighter than a 55W halogen bulb or a 30W LED bulb.
There are also halogen headlight bulbs that come with a dual wattage rating such as 65/55W. This means that the high beam has a power draw of 65W while the low beam only draws 55W.
Headlight Bulbs FAQ
What are the brightest halogen headlight bulbs?
The Osram Night Breaker Unlimited is considered the brightest halogen headlight bulb. This bulb manages to offer up to 100% more light than standard halogen bulbs, including a 20% whiter light.
How to install headlights
Headlights are installed differently depending on the type and size. Halogen bulbs are the easiest to work with, as once you know how to remove them, installing new ones is just a matter of having the right fitting and reversing the process. It’s all plug and play.
HID and LED headlights are trickier to install because they’re not standard for most vehicles. When trying to put LED or HID headlight bulbs into your car, you’ll have to use a conversion kit which comes with its own set of instructions. These may differ from one manufacturer to another.
How to replace headlight assembly
Replacing the headlight assembly in modern cars is a time-consuming task. Not only does it differ slightly from one car to another, but it also involves taking down a lot of stuff before you get to the actual headlight assembly.
For example, on some car models you may have to remove the upper and the bottom cover, the ones leading to the front bumper. Then you may have to take out the turn signal lights before you can access the headlight assembly.
It’s best that you follow your owner’s manual if you want to take this on as a DIY project. If not, ask a professional for assistance.
How to change a car headlight bulb
Replacing your burnt-out headlight bulbs may or may not be a challenge. Although the steps involved can change from one car model to another, here are the basics that should apply in every situation, at least for halogen headlight bulbs.
Finding the headlight holder
The bulb is usually accessed through the engine compartment and not from the front of the car. Once you pop the hood, you should see a bulb holder and a couple of wires from its power connector.
Removing the wires differs depending on the attachment. It could be a metal clip, a screw cap, or even a plastic catch. Plastic catches usually come with a small lever, and the metal clip should be easy enough to pull up and then away from the bulbs.
Removing the bulbs
Once you disconnect the wires, the bulb is easy to remove. You may need to twist it a bit on some cars.
Installing the new bulb
Use gloves or a tissue to handle new bulbs. You may even want to use rubbing alcohol on them before the installation, but for the most part try to stick to the instructions on the packaging.
The correct order of installation is:
- Put the bulb in the base of the plug
- Then check the rubber gasket and make sure it’s not showing
- Attach the headlight holder and plug the wires back in
You may also want to test the bulbs at this point by turning your headlights on.
How long do HID bulbs last?
The life of HID bulbs differs from one brand to another. However, these bulbs are right in the middle between halogen and LED bulbs in terms of longevity. Because they don’t feature a filament that can burn out from overheating, some HID bulbs may have three times the lifespan of halogen bulbs.
On the low end of the spectrum, you can expect most HID bulbs to last an average of 2,000 hours. Premium models may be able to exceed 3,000 hours, but sometimes the ballast may go before the bulb.
Sylvania’s SilverStar Ultra is the best headlight bulbs in terms of value for money. They strike a good balance between performance and longevity, and they’re quite versatile as they offer optimum support for daytime and nighttime driving as well as good visibility in fog.
The replacement process is very simple and the anti-glare design will help you stay safe on the road by not disturbing other drivers with blinding high beam lights.
Don't forget to also read our article on the "Best Halogen Headlight Bulbs of 2018: Complete Reviews with Comparison".