HID vs LED Headlights – Difference And Compare
Going to replace your OEM stock halogen lightbulbs with something better? You have two options: HID vs LED. Which one to choose?
The bulb you are going to pick should depend on what kind of headlight housing you have, how much brightness you want, and the efficiency you are looking for. We can just say that LED is better and which is true in some factors, some users can still be benefitted more from HID.
Here is a detailed explanation and comparison between the two that will help you pick the right one:
HID vs LED: What's the Difference and Which One Is Brighter
Table of Contents
- HID vs LED: What's the Difference and Which One Is Brighter
- HID vs LED Headlights – Compared side by side
- What Are HID Headlights?
- What Are LED Headlights?
- Types of HID and LED Headlights
- How to Choose HID or LED Headlights for Your Vehicle
- Where is HID Commonly Used:
- Where is LED Commonly Used
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final Note
The key differences between HID and LED bulbs are –
Method of Producing Light
In the most simple terms, HID bulbs produce light by heating xenon gas, which is also the reason why they are called xenon headlights. On the contrary, LED bulbs have a chip that produces light with electrical power.
To know the lifespan of HID and LED headlight bulbs, we have to understand what causes them to stop working. For HIDs, the xenon gas inside the bulb slowly runs out. As a result, the bulb gets dimmer over time and eventually stops working.
LEDs do not work when they are damaged due to heat, corrosion, and other factors. They do not usually get dimmer over time like HID.
The lifespan of HID bulbs can range around 15,000 hours while LEDs can last up to 50,000 hours. So, in comparison, LEDs are way more long-lasting than HID bulbs and you do not need frequent replacement.
One point to note is that both HID and LED bulbs have much more lifespan than stock halogen headlights. Therefore, getting any of them is an upgrade!
HID bulbs are pretty similar to halogen as they feature electrodes inside a quartz chamber. At the bottom of the base of the bulb, you can see locking tabs that keep the bulb in place. What’s unique about HIDs is that you have to use ignitor and ballasts for them to work. Those are not attached to the bulb but connected with cable.
Unlike HID bulbs that have locking tabs at the bottom, LEDs feature a heat sink made of aluminum that also features a turbofan for cooling. On top of the heat sink, you will be able to see the locking tabs holding the stem that features diodes.
Instead of turning heat into light, LED's power source is electricity itself. For a better understanding:
HID: Electricity > Heat > Light
LED: Electricity > Light
As a result, the heat production on LED is pretty low. On top of that, LED bulbs usually have a cooling system of an aluminum heat sink and turbofan.
HID bulbs’ heat emission is greater as heat is required for the bulb to produce light.
The efficiency of a headlight bulb depends on the conversion rate from power to light compared to heat. The more leftover heat a bulb produces the lesser efficiency it has.
LED bulbs convert up to 90% of the electric power into light. The design of LEDs along with the cooling system allows them to have such results. As a result, LEDs are undoubtedly the most efficient option in the market.
HIDs' power to light conversion rate is around 75%. As a result, they are not as efficient as LEDs. However, both LED and HID lights are significantly more efficient than halogen bulbs as stock lights only convert 20% of the power to light.
Which One’s Brighter?
Even though some HID bulbs have a lower lumen rating than LEDs, they are still significantly brighter than both LEDs and halogens. However, HIDs do dim over time and lose their brightness.
Proper installation is necessary for HID bulbs as they can blind upcoming drivers due to high brightness. So, make sure you take your time while installing it.
HID vs LED Headlights – Compared side by side
Here is a detailed comparison table to give you a good set of data for the HID vs LED debate:
Very Bright (Up to 8,000LM)
Very Bright (Up to 9,000LM)
$20 to $50
$20 to $80
High (75% more efficient than Halogen)
Excellent (85% more efficient than Halogen)
What Are HID Headlights?
First arrived in BMW’s 1990s models, HID bulbs are the brightest headlight bulbs in the market. HID bulbs are also called Xenon since the bulb uses xenon gas inside a quartz tube. When heated, this tube can produce bright white-blue light.
HID bulbs can be so bright that mandates have become necessary so that people do not use super bright xenon lights that can blind other drivers. Not only HID is significantly brighter than halogen lights, but also they are a lot more energy efficient since HID uses 75% less energy than halogen.
Although HID bulbs are a little more expensive than halogens, the price range is still affordable for all kinds of customers. Moreover, cheap options are becoming more and more available due to the popularity and use of such bulbs.
HID Advantages over LED
HIDs are better than LEDs in the following subjects:
- Brightness: HID is significantly brighter than LED bulbs. Xenon bulbs are better at lighting up the side of the roads properly as well as covering more area with the light.
- Colors: While LED mostly comes in white and a few other colors such as yellow, purple, or blue, HID bulbs are available in more colors. From golden yellow to purple, white, and blue, there are usually seven different colors available for HID.
- Melting Snow: HID produces more heat compared to LED. As a result, they are better at melting snow on the headlights so that you can drive through snowy areas without getting your headlights blocked.
- Cost of Buying: HID bulbs are slightly cheaper than LEDs in the market. LED bulbs are more sophisticated in their design and as a result, have a higher price than halogen and HIDs.
What Are LED Headlights?
LED stands for Light-Emitting Diode. Instead of using a filament like a halogen or HID bulb, LED converts electricity into light using a semiconductor chip. LEDs are currently more popular than halogen because of how many advantages they offer.
LED Advantages over HID
LEDs are better than HID in the following subjects:
- Efficiency: LEDs are more energy-efficient than HID and halogen lights. They can use up to 90% of the power leaving only 10% waste. As a result, they require less maintenance.
- Lifespan: Due to increased efficiency and proper cooling mechanism, the lifespan of LEDs is greatly higher than xenon bulbs. Some LEDs can last up to 50,000 hours while the most lifetime an HID can offer is 15,000 hours.
- Easier Installation: HIDs need ballast and ignitor to function. So, the installation of HID can be somewhat difficult. On the other hand, LEDs can be installed swiftly in ten minutes or less.
- Startup Time: LEDs usually start instantly and produce light without any delay. On the other hand, it may take a little time for the filament of HIDs to heat up and as a result, there could be a little delay between you turning the light on and the light actually turning on!
Types of HID and LED Headlights
There are many different types of HIDs available. However, the following three are the most popular options:
D1S bulbs have the ignitor build-in with a xenon pressure of 7 and they are made for projector housing. D1S bulbs require 35W of power and have a luminous efficiency of 91 lm/W. For example:
Torchbeam D1S HID Headlight Bulbs
6000K Cool White, 150% Lighting Distance, Xenon Replacement Bulb, IP67 Design with Metal Stents Base, 5 Years Lifespan
Our experience with most Torchbeam bulbs has been decent and this was no different. We love the base of these bulbs as they have proper shockproof aluminum instead of using plastic like other HID manufacturers.
Moreover, we were also impressed by the excellent light pattern at a cooler color temperature. These bulbs make the street as bright as day.
- Up to 500ft of lighting; almost twice as farther as halogen options.
- 6000K color temperature; produces and brighter and whiter light than halogen bulbs.
- The base is made of aluminum with a shockproof feature as well as a waterproof rating of IP67.
- Prevent dimming over time due to UV-resistance quart tube.
- Compared to other halogen lights that consume up to 65W to produce poor light, this HID requires only 35W for three times brighter light.
- For some users, it only lasted about a year.
- Installing them into BMW vehicles seems a bit harder.
D2S are also made for projector housing and have similar specifications as D1S bulbs. The only difference is the ignitor is situated externally. For example:
Nilight D2S HID Bulbs
Fit with 2013-2015 ILX 2007-2013 MDX 2007-2015 RDX 2005-2012 RL 2004-2014 TL 2004-2014 TSX
Firstly, the Nilight pair was very easy to install and they worked excellently! The light pattern, the distance, and the cutoff of the beam are similar to the Torchbeam D2S option. However, similar to Torchbeam, we have some issues with longevity.
Even though for more than 90% of the users, these bulbs lasted pretty long, for some they didn’t. Nonetheless, considering the price of the pair, we can confidently recommend them!
- The beat cutoff is sharper and better than other xenon options.
- The brightness is a lot better than stock bulbs and the color temperature is 6000K, providing white light, unlike stock headlights.
- Installation is pretty easy and fast. Only took around 15 minutes to set them up inside the housing.
- They come with white gloves that can be used for handling the bulbs while installation which is a good addition.
- The longevity is questionable as a few users said they did not last long.
D3S bulbs use 15 bars of xenon pressure and require 35W of electric power to operate. They are mercury-free unlike D1S and D2S options and have an internal igniter installed. For example:
Marsauto D3S HID Headlight Bulbs
6000K Cold White, Xenon Replacement Bulb, 5 Years Lifespan, Waterproof Design, Up to 200% Brightness, 5 Minutes Installation
D3S is the best option if you want to go for HID bulbs and Marsauto is an excellent option. The pair is excellent and a great upgrade to your OEM option. The seller markets these for taking only 5 minutes to install however, we had to take 10.
Nonetheless, the installation is easier compared to most HIDs with an external ignitor. These can illuminate up to 400 feet and have a good beam pattern. Overall, the Marsauto D3S is a good option.
- Only took around 10 minutes for the installation of these bulbs; plug and play installation for most vehicles.
- The aluminum base is excellent as it increases the longevity of the bulbs and is resistant to corrosion and extreme temperatures.
- You gain more brake response due to twice the brightness of the bulbs compared to OEM options.
- The cold white 6000K color temperature is pleasant for properly identifying objects at night, unlike halogen’s yellowish light.
- The lifespan is around 3,000 hours only.
- Some users find it to be too blue for nighttime driving.
LEDs' differentiation depends on the type of vehicle you have and the fitment of the bulb. As a result, we will not mention the long list of fitments. However, we recommend the following pair if you want to pick LED over HID:
Fahren H11/H9/H8 LED Headlight Bulbs
60W 10000 Lumens Super Bright LED Headlights Conversion Kit 6500K Cool White IP68 Waterproof
Being a pair from Fahren, we had high expectations from them and they were able to deliver. The pair can provide 10,000 lm brightness together. And with such high brightness, we have to consider the beam pattern and the probability of them blinding other drivers. Fortunately, from our tests, they do not glare and instead provide further lighting.
- Produces 10,000 lumens; the pair is one of the brightest options in the market and even brighter than some HID bulbs.
- The IP68 waterproof rating not only gives the bulbs the ability to work in extreme weather conditions but also increases their longevity.
- The heat sink does not take up a large area being only 0.6-inch. As a result, this pair provides a decent fit for most cars and the installation is also pretty easy.
- Up to 98% efficiency; meaning they are going to last way longer and can provide up to 50,000 hours of illumination.
- Proper cooling with 12,000-RPM fan, excellent aluminum heat sink.
- Flickering is an issue if you have Mercedes-bens, Dodge, BMW cars. You may need to install a decoder to prevent these.
- 6500K cool white may be a bit too blue for some users and cause eye strain.
How to Choose HID or LED Headlights for Your Vehicle
If you have projector headlights, pick HID. On the other hand, reflector housing is more suitable for LEDs.
HID and LED each have their own advantages. Therefore, while choosing the right one for your vehicle, you need to be mindful of the following factors:
LED vs HID Bulb Design
- LED bulbs have a heat sink at the bottom while HIDs' bottom part consists of locking tabs.
- The locking tabs on LEDs are on top of the heat sink and under the diodes.
- LEDs have diodes on the body while halogen bulbs have a filament made of quartz and electrodes inside.
- HID bulbs also need an ignitor and a ballast to function while LEDs do not!
LED vs HID Lifespan
- Some LED headlight bulbs offer a lifespan of 50,000 hours while the maximum lifespan of HIDs is 15,000 hours.
- LEDs have a bigger lifespan due to better energy efficiency.
- LEDs also require less maintenance, so the long-term cost is lower.
LED vs HID Heat Emission
- The heat emission is higher in HID compared to LED.
- LEDs produce light directly from electrical power while HIDs produce light from heat.
- LED bulbs have a heat sink and fan for proper cooling while HID lights do not.
- Due to higher heat emission, HID is more suitable for snowy weather as it can melt the snow away from the headlights.
LED vs HID Energy Efficiency
[The graph shows that LED bulbs need only 20 Watts of power to create the same light output that HID bulbs can produce at 100 Watts]
- LED uses up to 90% of the electricity to convert it directly to light while HID uses 75% of the power.
- The heat emission is higher for HID, and therefore, the efficiency is lower.
- Both LED and HID are significantly more energy-efficient than halogen.
High Beam and Low Beam Pattern
- In a projector headlight housing, HID makes a better beam pattern than LED.
- In a reflector housing, LEDs beam patter is superior.
- Some LEDs do work in projector headlights.
- HIDs beam pattern can have more scatters while LEDs are more precise.
Where is HID Commonly Used:
HID is commonly used for the following factors:
In a projector housing, HIDs make a better beat pattern than LEDs. Even though some LED headlights are being made that can be as good as HID in a projector housing, the number is still low. So, going for an HID bulb when you have a projector housing is the best option.
Since HID bulbs can produce a good amount of heat, they are more suitable for melting the snow away from your headlights. LED bulbs do not create a lot of heat and they also have a cooling system that ensures less heat and more efficiency. As a result, LEDs are mostly unable to melt away the snow.
HIDs are the brightest options in the market. The brightness of the bulbs even exceeds LEDs. Some HIDs are so bright that it is illegal to use them in some states as they can blind other drivers.
The cost of HID bulbs is slightly lower than LED bulbs. Due to the more sophisticated design, LEDs tend to have a hefty price tag. However, LEDs are better in the long term.
Where is LED Commonly Used
LED is commonly used for the following factors:
LEDs create a better beat pattern than HIDs in reflector housing. When you have reflector housing, the best alternative is to use a LED bulb. Using an HID bulb inside a reflector housing can blind upcoming drivers and cause accidents.
LED bulbs feature a proper cooling mechanism and they do not produce much leftover heat. As a result, LEDs are more energy-efficient than HIDs as they use less power.
LEDs are suitable if you want your headlight bulb to last the longest. Some LED bulbs offer up to 50,000 hours of service. And the best part is, they do not dull over time, unlike xenon bulbs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why would LEDs put HID lights out of business?
Since LEDs lights are significantly more energy-efficient than HID while providing similar or more brightness, it is best to upgrade to LED bulbs. The energy efficiency of LEDs increases the lifetime of the bulb, puts less strain on the battery as well as the motherboard of your vehicle. As a result, they are better in both the short and long term compared to HIDs.
Is 700 lumens enough for most driving needs?
For most driving needs, stock or OEM halogen headlights have 700 lumens. Usually, it does suffice for nighttime driving but having over a thousand lumens is better. However, you should be careful not to get a bulb that is too bright!
What is the lumens rating of an HID and LED headlight?
On average, the lumens rating of an HID headlight is 3,500. Such a rating makes lumen bulbs three times brighter than stock headlights. On the other hand, LED headlights can be brighter and the lumen rating averages around 6,000.
Usually, if you have reflector housing, we recommend purchasing LED. Compared to HID bulbs, LEDs are better in lifetime and cost factors. However, if you are looking for more brightness, HID is a good choice. HID is also recommended if you have a projector housing.
To make a more thoughtful decision, make sure to check every factor we have mentioned here and compare them to your requirements.