When a bulb goes out on your vehicle, all you typically need is a quick stop at the store to get everything back on track and lighting up again. But when you get to the store, you’re likely going to face a few different questions about what you want for your vehicle.
Unlike in years past where you only had one option, there are a few different bulb options on the market today. If you don’t know what the difference is or what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the three most common bulb types on the market and have you back on the road in no time!
There’s a reason the halogen bulb has been the go-to option for most vehicles – they’re extraordinarily cheap and easy to replace. That makes them a huge hit as the automotive manufacturer doesn’t have to spend a ton of money making them and installing them in your vehicle.
The downside to these bulbs is that they don’t last nearly as long and they generate a ton of heat. These bulbs are almost identical to the light bulbs Thomas Edison invented – at least they work off the same principle.
They use a filament made out of tungsten and gas, which electricity passes through and heats up. As the tungsten heats, it begins to glow – generating light. Of course, this generates tons of heat, and over time this filament breaks down and eventually shatters.
That’s why halogen bulbs have the shortest lifespan of any bulb, with an average life of only 1,000-hours. Still, these bulbs are extremely easy to replace, and you can typically find them for only a few bucks.
- Very cheap to produce
- Easy to replace
- Don’t last as long as xenon or LED lights
- Generates a lot of heat
While halogen bulbs still dominate the market today, there’s little doubt that LEDs are the way of the future. The reason for this is simple, they’re more energy-efficient and extremely long-lasting. In fact, while a halogen bulb typically only lasts 1,000-hours, an LED will last about 50,000-hours on average!
Not only that, but they’re brighter than halogen bulbs, but still not as bright as xenon bulbs. Moreover, they’re extremely small, which means they’re easier to work into various designs. However, the big tradeoff of LED bulbs is the price.
When it’s time to replace an LED bulb, you usually can’t replace just the bulb. Instead, you typically need to replace the entire headlight assembly. So, despite their longer-lasting life, the user doesn’t usually see any cost savings.
An owner with a halogen bulb would spend $3 every 1,000-hours, or about $150 every 50,000-hours. Considering this is similar to the cost of a new headlight, it’s pretty much a wash when it comes to savings. But as the price of LED bulbs works its way down in the future, these bulbs might become more cost-effective.
LED lights work by passing current through a semiconductor or diode, and this produces light. It’s far more efficient than halogen bulbs and generates far less heat.
- Very long-lasting
- Brighter than halogen lights
- Smaller size
- Don’t generate much heat
- Energy-efficient and environmentally friendly
- More expensive upfront cost
- Not as bright as xenon lights
- More complicated to replace
Of all the bulbs your vehicle can use, the most controversial is the xenon. These bulbs, also known as xenon HID or HID lights, are incredibly bright. In fact, they’re so bright that low-beam HID bulbs are awfully similar to high-beam halogen bulbs!
While this gives you a great view of the road, it also can blind incoming traffic. It’s a common expression to hear some mechanics and other drivers say they make everything so bright you can clearly see the driver you just blinded veering off the road or right at you!
While some modern vehicles use automatic leveling systems to help with this, no matter what they do, they can make it difficult for other drivers to see.
Xenon bulbs use electrodes to charge gas inside the bulb – so unlike LED or halogen bulbs, the entire bulb will fill up with light when you turn it on! Because these bulbs are heating up gas to generate light, it might take a few seconds for them to reach maximum brightness.
- Extremely bright
- Last longer than halogen lights
- Can be too bright and blind oncoming traffic
- Don’t last as long as LED lights
After reading a little more about each one, hopefully, you have a better idea of what’s best for you and your vehicle!
But, in the end, the correct bulb for your vehicle is the one you feel comfortable with and the one that fits. Because while you might love LED bulbs, if they don’t make them fit your vehicle, you’re out of luck!
Still, xenon HID bulbs, and halogen bulbs are often interchangeable, so you’ll at least have that choice to make!