CCFL vs LED: Everything You Need To Know

Two of the major technologies found in vehicle headlights are the CCFL and LED. While people often use both nowadays, CCFL is the older one. In fact, CCFL has been here for a really long time. On the other hand, LED is the latest addition and slowly becoming widespread worldwide.

However, for many vehicle owners, the difference between these two headlight methods remains unbeknownst.

Aside from their origin, they have lots of dissimilarities. Each has its pros and cons and reasons why one should consider choosing them. If you are in a quest for the perfect headlight for your vehicle or simply want to broaden your knowledge regarding the matter, this is the proper place. Let’s discuss CCFL vs LED in detail.

The Main Difference Between CCFL and LED

When you observe a CCFL and LED, one difference appears crystal clear in front of you. And that is the pattern of the bulbs. In a CCFL headlight, you will notice that the bulbs are placed in a circular form one by one.

The main goal of the manufacturers here is to let the headlight shoot out a single beam of light by utilizing all the bulbs.

Meanwhile, a LED headlight will have an array of tiny lightbulbs. They are patterned closely to each other so that the end result turns out to be a single solid light beam too. However, this time, it is nothing but an illusory beam.

Another thing to note here is that not all LED lights will fit a housing designed for a CCFL light and vice versa. Hence, you should account for your vehicle model and make sure that the headlight is compatible with the type you are want to get.

In regards to that, most vehicle models from 2000 or earlier are suitable for CCFL. Meanwhile, the ones after 2000 (especially from 2005) are designed for LED. However, even now, you can still find many of the latest vehicles that support CCFL.

Also, it is possible to modify a housing that is for CCFL to fit a LED headlight. You may contact a vehicle mechanic if that is what you want.

What Is CCFL?

CCFL is the short form of Cold Cathode Fluorescent Light. It was not as popular upon its introduction. However, thanks to the help of BMW, the technology has gotten so much popularity in the automobile manufacturing markets.

Its name almost defines itself. CCFL uses cathodes that use fluorescent and generate light by discharging electrons. It is not to be confused with another term, CFL, which is a compact fluorescent light.

The internal wall of the cathodes is covered with a layer of phosphor. The brightness and color temperature are controllable by regulating the type and width of this layer.

The same is also possible by increasing or decreasing the amount/pressure or changing the kind of substances infused inside. As a result, CCFL lights can have a wide range of lumen and color ratings.

Not to mention, it is pretty easy for vehicle manufacturers to produce and sell different types of CCFL. It is so because the vital elements used on these lights are easy to get, and it doesn’t require as advanced machinery as LED.

Also, the usage of fluorescent makes them ideal for backlight too. Compared to regular fluorescent lamps, CCFL bulbs are smaller and highly long-lasting.

Pros of CCFL Lights

Below, we added some points that focus on the upsides of a CCFL light.

  • A CCFL uses a lesser amount of mercury compared to CFL. Mercury is a harmful material that results in the ban of many products in different countries.
  • A CCFL has a longer lifespan than CFL and many other light types.
  • A CCFL turns on immediately. This factor is unlike CFL that takes a bit of time to illuminate. That is definitely a good factor when you need to light them on while driving your vehicle.
  • Since they work similarly to a traditional light-emitting heated light, you can use them together or replace each with other.
  • A CCFL is highly cheaper in contrast to LED.

Cons of CCFL Lights

Obviously, there are some downsides to these lights. The drawbacks we mentioned below will help you get a clearer idea of CCFL.

  • CCFL has a lower lifespan compared to a LED.
  • You need an inverter to install a CCFL on your vehicle. It may cost you some extra money every time you want to buy or repair your lamps.
  • CCFL often requires a higher voltage than traditional light-emitting heated bulbs.
  • Since CCFL uses mercury as one of its materials, many countries forbid using them.
  • They have lower brightness and color compared to LED.

What is LED?

LED is a short form of Light Emitting Diode. Their applications range from remote control to vehicle headlights and digital clocks. Here, the light emits with the use of charged electrons that jumps between two arc points.

So, they don’t use any filament like halogen or incandescent lightbulbs. Since there is no heating process here, LED lights tend to stay cooler for much longer. This factor is the main reason for the longevity of LED headlights that starts from over 20,000h.

LED is a technology that is still not mature in the automobile world. Hence, most of the latest vehicles after the mid-2000s are designed to support them. Another excellent aspect of LED lights is that they use lesser electricity than other light types.

As a result, you can save some energy, and the battery drains slower even after you get pretty high brightness and color from the headlights or taillights.

You get around 800Lm by using a 60W incandescent bulb. The same is achievable from a LED with a wattage of around 9. Therefore, the efficiency of one such LED light is almost 84.21. Meanwhile, it is less than 15 for an incandescent.

Being said all this, LED lights are much expensive than all other light types. The reason behind that is the semiconductor material used in the lamps. They cost the manufacturers a lot, which also raises the overall price of the product.

Pros of LED

LED lights have a number of advantages that will give you a mind-blowing experience. Check them out-

  • LED provides the brightest and whitest color output among most light types on the market.
  • LED lights are almost always so easy to install. It is so because most LED lights, headlights, or taillights come with a plug-and-play feature. With this feature, you can just plug in the wires correctly, and the installation will be over.
  • LED headlights have an exceptionally long lifespan. Some of them can survive even as long as 60,000h. Meanwhile, LED daytime running lights to last for around 10,000h. It is so much higher than incandescent bulbs that last for 1,000h only.
  • LED lights are 80 to 90% electricity efficient.
  • LED lights tend to stay cool because of their advanced heat dissipation features.
  • LED does not contain harmful materials like mercury, unlike CCFL.

Cons of LED

LED is not all great and has its fair share of drawbacks too. Let’s see below-

  • Most LED headlights come at a high price. Average LED lights can cost around $5-$10. The best products on the market can easily surpass that range.
  • LED lights are often sensitive to high temperatures in the atmosphere. It sometimes needs a heat sunk to function properly in those weathers.
  • The blue light emitted from LED can damage our retina slowly.
  • Not all, but some LED products include lead or arsenic in their materials. While they are not as harmful as mercury, they are still toxic to the body.

CCFL vs LED: How to Choose and Which One You Need?

The following sections of the article will go into detail about the differences between CCFL and LED. There are various factors here. We should tell you first that none of them is objectively better. If you want to get a light for your vehicle, you have to consider your current situation and choose the one that goes according to it.

Customization and Aesthetically

One of the prime features of many LED headlights is how you can customize the color of the bulbs. Well, this feature is not present in all LED products. However, you can find LED headlights with options to change the color of individual bulbs in the housing.

As a result, you can modify them while on your seat and create an eye-pleasing combination of different colors. Someone who loves this sort of thing should definitely check out LED lights with an RGB halo ring.

On the other hand, CCFL gives you a solid light beam, which is absent in LED. Its reason is how the CCFL is a single bulb while LED is a combination of multiple small lamps. So, if you want to have a solid beam instead of a beam that spreads wider, CCFL is ideal for you. Also, some people simply prefer the look of a CCFL.

The fact that LED lights have individual bulbs placed together often deter some people from getting them as it doesn’t look pleasing to their eyes. Keep in mind that not everyone will notice this factor because of the high brightness of an LED.

Regulation and Controlling

Here is where LED takes the cake. LED lights are customizable with simple touches on your smartphone screens. Many LED headlight manufacturers feature their own apps.

The app lets you modulate the headlights, including changing the color of different light bulbs or switching between high and low beams. CCFL lacks this feature. You will need to access the dashboard of your vehicle for any modification or such. It will likely require you to pull over your car.


In terms of longevity, LED and CCFL both show great promise. CCFL has an average lifespan of 50,000h while it is 60,000h in the case of LED. The difference is almost ignorable, and you can use them for a couple of decades with proper care. But LED will also offer better efficiency.

CCFL is less durable in terms of material since they are of glass. On the other hand, LED is from plastic that is not as fragile. So, you must be extra careful while changing or replacing a CCFL bulb.

Although, even if a CCFL light gets faulty, you only need to change the transformer. On the other hand, a LED needs to be totally replaced, had any bulb malfunctions.


While both lights offer an excellent lumen and color rating, LED lights emit a higher brightness. LED lights are also whiter in most cases. LED is ideal for both day and nighttime. CCFL is only suitable for illumination at night.

Final Note

By summarizing the whole thing, we can now get a clear picture. As mentioned, both lights are good in their own ways. So, the overall choice should be a subjective decision.

CCFL is great for those who want a solid beam out of their headlight housing. If you are thinking of replacing your current vehicle lights with an ideal one and have a lower budget, CCFL is your best option. For people, who love color-changing features, higher lumen and color, better efficiency, and longevity, LED is perfect.

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