Are HID Headlights Legal in California?

The high-intensity discharge light, or HID, is a bright option many vehicles opt for nowadays. It enables the car headlights to emit a brighter and whiter output. The issue comes when the bulb is too white that it turns to blue and purple.

Because of some downsides of HID lights, many ask about their legality, and yes, under certain conditions, they are not exactly legal in California. But that doesn’t mean that all HID lights are illegal. To understand the situation better, you should understand the state laws in California in detail. So, let’s get into it.

What Do California Laws Say About the Legality of HID Headlights

So far, the laws in California don’t specifically say anything about HID lights or whether they are legal. However, there can be indirect restrictions if you assess the rules. Of course, we don’t have to review every vehicle lighting code for that. Just have a look at the following-

  • Flashing lights are prohibited unless used as left or right turn signals, to warn others of a hazard, or the vehicle is parked. Before an HID light starts to fail, it begins flashing. While it may not be as intense and can be called simple flickering, it may still be illegal.
  • Having a lamp with over 2,513 lumens of intensity is not legal. That means the limitation on both headlights together is only 5,026 lumens. You can easily find HID lights with lower intensity than that rating. But one with a higher intensity is illegal.
  • Only yellow or white lights are legal from the front of the vehicle. It means that the legal color temperature for a vehicle’s front lights in California is 3,000K to 6,500K. If it goes higher, it can emit a bluer hue. Now, most HID lights on the market come with a blue or even purple color temperature. They are totally illegal. I suggest getting an HID with 6,000K, as it is legal and isn’t too harsh on the eyes.
  • Some areas in California only allow headlight bulbs of the same type as the stock bulb in the vehicle. It means if your car comes with factory halogen bulbs, you cannot move to HID or LED ones. Because of the usage of ballast systems, HID lights are so different than halogens. Interchanging them on the same headlight housing is a no-go. Aftermarket HID lights are also not allowed because of their non-DOT approval. So, only go for OEM HID bulbs if your vehicle has factory HID headlights.

What About the Federal Laws About HID Headlights?

Since federal laws prohibit headlight modification, you cannot install HID lights on reflector housing. But many vehicles with halogen lights may come with this housing type. So, it is not legal to change from halogen to HID directly. Instead, you need to make a complete housing replacement with a DOT-approved OEM projector housing.

Pros and Cons of HID Lights

Below are some of the pros and cons of HID lights that you may need to consider before getting new HID headlights.

Pros of HID Headlights

Cons of HID Headlights

HID headlights are more efficient than halogen.

They cost way higher than halogen to replace.

HID headlights have a long lifespan of over 5,000 hours.

But they start to dim and slightly flicker even before reaching 5,000 hours.

HID headlights are available in 3,000K to even 10,000K color temperature.

Most HID headlights are available with color of 6,500K or higher, making them illegal in many states.

They are so brighter than halogen lights.

They may easily go over the lumen limit in many states.

They don’t overheat as much as halogen lights. It is so because they don’t use a filament.

HID lights may glare more than halogen and are difficult to get used to. You need to aim them properly on the road.

Final Note

HID lights are legal in California. But to use HID lights in your vehicle, they must meet the required conditions. If your car comes with factory HID headlights, know that those are manufactured with all the laws in mind.

So, any OEM HID you buy must also follow the rules. Unfortunately, not all the OEM headlights you find on the market will comply with your state rules. It is so because the laws vary from state to state. It is your duty to find the right one.

Leave a Comment