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The Ultimate Car Headlight Buying Guide


You Should Know This About Your Car Headlights

Our eyes are able to see this beautiful world only because of the light. Without light there will be darkness everywhere and our eyes will be rendered useless. While the Sun has been the ultimate source of light and energy during the day, humans have found numerous solutions to solve the issue for a light source at night and for low light conditions. As the methods of commutation evolved, the means to enable travelling at night also gained focus. The most significant development in this direction was the concept of headlights. In the following article we will take you through the wholesome knowledge about your vehicle headlights and headlamps and make sure that you become the ultimate headlights buying expert by the end of it.

Table Of Contents

1. Headlights vs Headlamps


While both the terms are commonly used interchangeably, the headlamp is the actual unit that gets installed on the vehicle, while the headlight is the beam of light produced and projected by the headlamp. But for the ease of understanding and taking the general notion into consideration, we’ll refer to them as headlights for the entire article.

As the headlights are the source of light for the vehicle and your eyes, they are meant to allow the driver to see clearly while driving at night and under low visibility conditions. Thus, they are the most important safety feature of your vehicle. Headlights have evolved a lot in the recent years in both form and functionality, which makes them an easy upgrade for enhancing the vehicle’s looks and safety. Our buyer’s guide will help you clearly understand all these types of headlights available in the market and help you choose the best pair for your ride.

2. Which Top Brand Headlights Should I Choose?

2.1 Philips Headlights

2.1 Philips Headlights


Philips has been a pioneer in lighting solutions for decades and has found its way to provide the best quality automotive lighting solution along the journey. Offering the best brightness, longevity and styling, Philips headlight comes in an extensive range of bulbs. Whether they be Halogen, HID/Xenon or LED, Philips bulbs provide the top most performance in any driving condition.


2.1.1 Vision Halogen 

Part Numbers: 9008PRB1, 9007PRB2, 9006PRB2, and more.

Features

  • Up to 30% more vision 

  • Available in 9003, 9004, 9005, 9006, 9007, 9008/H13, H1, H3, H7, H11

  • Vision upgrade headlight bulbs 

  • Up to 30% more vision* 

  • Excellent light beam performance at a competitive price 

  • Original Equipment Quality 

  • Longer light-beam projection* 

  • DOT compliant

2.1.2 VisionPlus Halogen

Part Numbers: 9008VPB2, 12362VPB2, 9005VPB2, and more.

Features

  • Upto 60% more 

  • Available in 9003, 9004, 9005, 9006, 9007, 9008/H13, H1, H3, H7, H11

  • VisionPlus upgrade headlight bulbs 

  • Up to 60% more vision* 

  • See farther for greater safety and comfort 

  • High performance at an excellent value 

  • Superior quality with enhanced visibility 

  • DOT compliant Features

2.1.3 X-tremeVision Halogen 

Part Numbers: 9004XVB2, 9003XVB2, 9007XVB2, and more.

Features

  • Upto 100 % more vision 

  • Available in 9003, 9004, 9005, 9006, 9007, 9008/H13, H1, H7, H11

  • X-tremeVision upgrade headlight bulbs 

  • Up to 100% more vision* (* Compared to standard minimum legal requirements in low beam headlamp test results.) 

  • Ultimate performance, with more light where it matters most 

  • Up to 115 foot longer beam* 

  • Maximum comfort and safety 

  • DOT compliant Features

2.1.4 CrystalVision Ultra Halogen 

Part Numbers: 12258CVB2, 9007CVB2, 9005CVB2, and more.

Features

  • Bright white light 

  • Available in 9003, 9004, 9005, 9006, 9007, 9008/H13, H1, H3, H7, H11, 9145/H10, 880, 893, H4651, H4656, H4666, H6024, H6054

  • CrystalVision Ultra upgrade headlight bulbs 

  • Bright white light 

  • For drivers seeking to take their vehicle’s look to the next level 

  • Adds style, without compromising on safety 

  • Puts bright white light on the road 

  • DOT compliant Features

2.1.5 Xenon HID

Part Numbers: 85126C1, 42306C1, 85415C1, and more.

Features

  • 200% more light on the road compared to standard halogen bulb 

  • Available in D1S, D1R, D2R, D2S, D3R, D3S, D4R, D4S, D5S

  • High Intensity Discharge

2.1.6 CrystalVision Ultra HID          

Features

  • Up to 5000K brighter and whiter light compared to standard Halogen Bulb

  • Available in D2R, D2S

2.1.7 X-tremeUltinon LED BULBS

Features

  • LED integral beam headlights 

  • Powerful cool white light 

  • Universal LED replacement upgrade for vehicles with H6024, H6054, H4651, H4656 applications 

  • More durable than a conventional sealed beam, with increased lifetime 

  • Easy installation – plug and play replacement for halogen and incandescent sealed beams 

  • Wider versatility – compatible with 12V and 24V systems 

  • High tech look – brighter and whiter than conventional halogen lighting 

  • DOT compliant

For more information and detailed product lines, visit our Philips Headlights Section.

2.2 Transit Warehouse Headlights

2.2 Transit Warehouse Headlights


Transit Warehouse is known to offer one of the best automobile parts in the industry and makes some of the best lighting solutions in the market.


2.2.1 Bright Knights Headlights

Part Numbers: 22-H11, 22-H46055, and more.

Features

  • Durability – Last about 50 times longer than halogen lights

  • Bulb Robustness – LEDs lights are embedded with sensors that make them resistant to shocks and vibrations

  • Light Intensity – Extremely high intensity and consumes less power

  • Weather Resistant – Can handle temperature ranges from -40°C to 80°C

  • Easy Installation – Doesn’t require any conversion kit to install

For more information and detailed product lines, visit our Transit Warehouse Headlights Section.


Along with Philips and Transit Warehouse, PartsAvatar also offers an extensive collection of automotive headlights and bulbs from other famous brands like Blue Streak, Wagner, Hella and many more. Explore Now!

3. Which Type Of Headlight Should I Choose?

While all headlights are identified by the type of light source used in them today, the basic difference pertains in their functionality as a complete unit. Thus, following are the four basic types of headlights that can be present in any vehicle:

3.1 Composite Headlights

In composite headlights, the lens, filament and the reflector, all are housed in separate units. This enables to replace each defective component very easily, without the need to replace the complete headlight.


3.2 Sealed Beam Headlights

In these headlights, the bulb and lens form a single unit. Due to this, if any component malfunctions, the entire headlight assembly needs to be replaced.


3.3 Reflector Headlights

The reflector headlight houses a chrome-plated surface and a light source that projects a very high intensity beam. This chrome-plated surface surrounds the bulb and helps control the beam pattern, thus protecting the oncoming drivers from the direct glare of the light.


  • These light and cheaper to manufacture

  • They are smaller and deeper in size

  • They require more space to fit in vehicle


3.4 Projector Headlights

In the projector headlights the bulb is located inside a projector bowl which reflects the lights towards the projector lens. This lens is positioned in a chrome-plated metal housing. The light hits the metal surface and creates a beam of light that then gets projected on the road. This enables to create a more concentrated beam of light as compared to reflector headlights.

  • Brighter than reflector headlights

  • Produce less glare

  • Brighter than reflector lights

  • Can be used only with HID bulbs

4. Which Type Of Headlight Bulbs Should I Choose?

Since the bulb is the ultimate source of light in a headlight assembly, modern headlights are usually identified by their application in different vehicles. Thus, it is necessary to understand the working of each, before making the final decision to buy any.


4.1 Halogen Bulbs

This is the most common type of bulb used in vehicles and is still a popular choice for many economic vehicles in the market. The halogen bulb contains a filament inside a glass element that burns in halogen gas to produce light. This bulb has been the first choice for many manufacturers over decades due to its low cost and maintenance.


  • Produced warm light at around 1400 lumens

  • Installed in about 80% of the cars

  • Turn on quicker than Xenon bulbs

  • Dimmer than other lighting options

  • Lower lifespan


Advantages: Low Cost, Simple to Replace, Universal, Dimmable

Disadvantages: Heat Prone, Energy Intensive, Extra Sensitive


4.2 HID/Xenon Bulbs

This first choice of upgrade from halogen lights has been the HID (High Intensity Discharge) lights for many owners. The HID was first implemented on high-end segment models from manufacturers like BMW, Audi and Mercedes, in the mid-1990’s. HID bulbs require different current input from halogen bulbs and have to be installed with conversion kits for the same. This is because the HID bulbs don’t work on the same principle as halogen bulbs, as they don’t have any filament and emit light by burning Xenon gas inside the glass chamber, thus also being called Xenon bulbs. HID bulbs project stronger and brighter light than halogen and have a longer life, and requires less wattage to run. These bulbs project cool radiance as opposed to warm colors projected from halogen bulbs.


  • Produces white light with blue hue

  • Aesthetically appealing

  • 3 times brighter than halogens (about 3000 lumens)

  • Draws around 35 to 40 watts of power

  • Infra-red spectrum light which assists in melting snow and ice 

  • Significant deterioration after about 10,000 hours of usage

  • Emits UV radiations

  • HID lights are omnidirectional

  • Has a warm-up period for full intensity (About 5 seconds)


Advantages: Brighter Light, Longer Lifespan, Greater Efficiency, Farther Reach, Broader Coverage, Less Power Consumption than Halogen

Disadvantages: High Costs Relative to Halogen, Strong Glare That Can Blind Oncoming Traffic

4.3 LED Bulbs

Though being in application since the 1900's, the Light Emitting Diode or LED bulbs gained popularity only after the 2000's as a primary source of projection lighting. LED's are the simplest form of bulbs in terms of functionality that have very easy installation as don’t require any special wiring. These bulbs require a conversion kit for upgrade and are more expensive than other lighting solutions. LED bulbs are brighter, have lower operating temperatures, consume minimal power and last longer than any bulb type.  


  • 80% more efficient than other lights

  • Lasts 5 times longer than halogens (30,000 to 40,000 hours)

  • Draws around 15 to 18 watts of power

  • Cheaper option over time

  • Brighter than halogens

  • Better illumination and easy to install

  • Two Types – Dual Beam & Single Beam

  • Dual Beam – Single bulb per housing; Performs both low and high beam function

  • Single Beam – One bulb performs one function; Need individual bulbs for high beam and low beam


Advantages: Small Size, Energy Efficient, Brighter than Halogen, Doesn’t Glare Like HID

Disadvantages: Expensive, Heats Up Neighboring Assemblies, Difficult to Fit, Needs Cooling.

4.4 Laser Bulbs

The latest offering in the market and the most versatile form of projection lighting is the laser headlight. Working on the same principle of producing light photons by using a gas in a chamber, these lights are capable of producing thousand times more lights than LEDs and at a fraction of energy. These lights are finding their way into the market and will be a big leap towards the future of the automobile lighting industry.


  • 1000 times brighter than LEDs

  • Uses half the power of LEDs

  • Better aerodynamic design due to smaller unit size

  • Increased aesthetic appeal

  • Illuminate longer distances due to more focused beam

  • Highly expensive than LEDs and HIDs

Advantages: Optimal Brightness, Far Range of Coverage, Energy Efficient, Small Packaging

Disadvantages: Extremely Expensive, Not Available as Dual Beam, Generates Heat


5. What Are The Factors I Should Consider When Buying Headlights?

By now you are already familiar with the types of headlight and bulbs available in the market. But which headlight assembly is perfect for your car? Well, we are here to answer that question for you. There are many factors and inspections that can be done to have a clear view of the best choice of headlights for your ride, all of which are explained below:

5.1 Compatibility

The first step to any upgrade is to verify what’s already installed on your vehicle. Your vehicle manual can be a descriptive guide to all types of bulbs used in the vehicle and the application is taken. The information is usually present under the ‘Lighting Section’ of the manual.

5.2 Manual Bulb Inspection

If you can't find your manual, the next immediate solution can be to inspect the bulb and it’s base yourself. The marking will usually indicate the type of bulb, it’s application, wattage, and sometimes the color too. The bulb is usually detailed with the application number in alphanumeric format, like H1, D2S, 9005, HIR2, etc.


5.3 Wattage

Whatever be the type of bulb, it needs electricity to operate, hence will have a value of wattage associated with it. In terms of lighting, more wattage input means more intensity of light.

If your vehicle uses a standard 55 watts bulb, it must be replaced with the bulb of the same wattage. However, if you want to upgrade to a higher intensity bulb, say 120-150 watts, you will require a power module to supply such high power, as more input demand can overheat and damage various electrical components in the car. For HID bulbs, it is advised not to go overboard with wattage as it would increase the intensity of light to levels where they can easily blind oncoming drivers.


SPECHalogenHIDLEDLaser
Power55W35W30W15W
Lumen1200LM3000LM3000LM12000LM
Current4.2A3.2A2.7A1.3A
Start-up1S5S0.1S0.001S
Lighting Distance100 Meters300 Meters300 Meters600 Meters
Lifespan500Hrs3000Hrs30000Hrs50000Hrs
AdvantageCost-effective, plug and play, standard bulb design, standard beam patternHigh brightness, longer lighting distance, more color choiceEnergy saving, electricity saving, Longer lifespan





Highest brightness, longest lighting distance, energy efficient
DisadvantageToo much heat, Energy wasting, Short lifespan, low brightnessHigher cost than halogen, glare light, canbus problem in some carsNo standard yet in the market, need fan for cooling, canbus problem in some carsExtremely expensive, not universal, generates heat.

5.4 Kelvin Rating

The color of the light your bulb emits depends on the Kelvin rating. While many don’t give due consideration to this factor, it is important for vehicle safety, as many regions have legal limits to the color and intensity as per the designated motor laws of the country.


  • 2500K to 3500K - Yellow light

  • 3800 to 4000K - White light

  • 6000K to 10000K - Blue light  

  • 10000k to 12000k - Purple light

5.5 Lumens

The strength and intensity of light is measured in Lumens. Although it is important to note that the intensity of light will vary according to the type of bulb and its color.

  • 6000-6400 Lumens – Small Intensity; Illuminates over 500 meters; Adequate for most drivers

  • 8000 Lumens – Medium Intensity; Illuminates 600-700 meters

  • 10,000 Lumens – High Intensity; Brightens the road close to daylight

5.6 Lifespan

The lifespan of bulbs actually describes their usefulness, durability and long-term expense.

  • Halogen Lights – 1000 Hours

  • HID Headlights – 2500 - 3000 Hours

  • LED Headlights – 30,000 to 50,000 Hours (Modern LED's can go up to 100,000 Hours)

5.7 Alignment

Many individuals are unaware of the fact that the headlights are aligned to suit the countries that drive on the right side or left side. For left lane countries, the headlights have low-beam headlamps that dip to the left, with light distributed downward/left-hand bias to illuminate the roads and signs ahead, without blinding the traffic.

Similarly, the right lane drive vehicles have lights directed downward/right-hand bias. However, some vehicles can adjust this direction using a switch, to suit the right-hand drive or left-hand drive.

5.8 Auto Leveling/Load Adjustment

Some vehicles have auto adjustable headlights,  in case the vehicle becomes lower or higher depending on the weight fluctuations on acceleration and deceleration. Such headlights are common on heavy-duty trucks and carriers.

6. What Is Halo Lighting?


While different types or headlight and bulbs already add a lot to the right choice for your vehicle, you may come across another term during your extensive research, i.e., Halo Lighting.

Halo lights are simply the illuminated rings present around the perimeter of the low and high beam lights, inside the headlight housing. These gained popularity when they were first introduced by BMW and took the industry by storm by their visual appeal. These lights come in two styles, LED and CCFL, both of which are explained below:

6.1 LED Halos

  • Energy Saving

  • Tough and Durable

  • Long-Lasting

  • Increased Visibility and Safety

  • Simple Installation and Replacement

  • Two Types - Plasma & SMD

  • Plasma – Brighter than older LED rings; Appears as a single ring than individual LEDs

  • SMD – Composed of 6-layer circuit board; Can be seen even in direct sunlight; Expected life of 100,000 hours.

6.2 CCFL Halos

  • Full Form – Cold Cathode Fluorescent Light

  • Provides premium look due to smooth ambient blow

  • Great lighting at night

  • Manufactured into the housing; Uses external power supply ballast

  • Must replace entire housing if malfunctioned

7. What Is The Function Of Headlights?

Car headlights are used to illuminate the road under low visibility conditions. They are located at the front of the vehicle, usually on both sides of the front grille. These lights are operated using a switch inside the car cabin, commonly present by the steering wheel, on a lever. While older models have a switch to operate the headlights, many modern vehicles have photoelectric sensors that measure the amount of ambient light and automatically turn the headlight on or off, depending on the lighting conditions. There are generally two modes of light beam projection offered by every headlight. There are:

7.1 Low Beam – The low beam projection is usually meant for city driving, where the ambient light or street lights or lights from other vehicle headlights is enough to support the visibility. This beam of light is shorter in length and angled downwards to illuminate the immediate front of the vehicle to counter any close quarter collision scenarios.

7.2 High Beam – The high beam projection illuminates longer distances and usually projects upwards and outwards to maximize the field of view for the driver. This is usually helpful when driving on highways, countryside roads, or where the ambient lighting like the street lights are not available.

8. Why Should I Replace My Headlights?

Now that you know every detail about the headlights, it's time to consider if u really need to replace your headlights or not! While the prompt replacement may be necessary because of their malfunction, some may be considering an upgrade for both aesthetics and improved visibility.


A. Bulb & Headlight Assembly Issues - The obvious reason for replacing your old headlights is the fact that the bulbs are dimming or have burned out. Also, the front covering or lens of the headlight assembly which is usually made from a polymer material deteriorates with time due to a lot of physical abuse from external sources like sunlight, heat, snow, ice, dirt, debris, gravel, etc. This heavily impacts the projection of light and ultimately impacts the visibility. Thus, a quick replacement is necessary to avoid this recipe of disaster.


B. Upgrade For Better Performance - While changing to another type of headlight bulb, like from halogen to HID or LED can be a difficult task, as one has to adhere to strict government regulations and vehicle compatibility, it is advised to upgrade to a better intensity bulb within the same type for improved performance.


C. Improved Aesthetics - Apart from the operation, upgrading to a new set of headlights can immensely improve the appearance of your ride. The headlights are like the eyes of your car, and eyes are the mirrors to the personality of an entity. Many DIYers and car enthusiasts take this upgrade very seriously and opt for high quality LED's, Halo lights, and HID's. Many aftermarket brands offer unique styling and customization for the headlights and provide thousands of options to choose from, to suit the best appearance for your vehicle.  

9. When Should I Replace My Headlights?

Always notice the small signs that may indicate that your headlights are going to malfunction or one of the components may be faulty. The early signs include reduced illumination, dimming of light bulbs, flickering, carbon deposits on bulbs, headlight cover fading, and scattered light beams.

If one or more such symptoms occur, it’s time to consider replacement as headlights are an important safety feature of the vehicle. In most modern vehicles, one bulb performs the function of both the high-beam and low-beam. The older models usually had 2 separate bulbs for the same purpose. Always change all the bulbs at the same time to maintain consistent performance and track the lifespan of the bulbs. This will reduce the costs and help you better manage the performance with improved visibility from both headlights.


10.FAQ's

Q. How long do headlights last?

Normally, halogen bulbs can last for about 1 to 3 years depending on the usage. HID bulbs can last for around 8 years and may require a one time replacement. LED bulbs can last up to the entire lifetime of the vehicle and will not need to be replaced.

Q. Do car headlights wear out?

Over time, most headlights will fade. You will get the best lighting performance if you change them regularly. When replacing your headlights, make sure to change them in pairs to prevent uneven lighting as it will limit driving visibility.

Q. What to do if your headlight fails while driving?

Do the following, if the headlight fails all of a sudden:

    1. Initially try your dimmer switch, as it can turn the headlights on. 

    2. Check the headlight fuse and replace with a spare fuse if broken.

    3. Now try your headlight switch. If that doesn’t help, then use your turn signals, parking lights or hazard lights.

    4. Pull off the road as soon as possible and keep your hazard lights on, so that other drivers can see you.

Q. Why do headlights flicker while driving?

There can be several reasons why the headlights flicker while driving. The most common reason can be a weak battery, an alternator that is starting to fail, or even the headlight bulb itself. 

Q. What are the symptoms of a bad headlight switch?

A few signs of a bad or failing headlight switch are:

    1. Issues switching between different modes. A broken headlight switch will work only on certain modes where the headlights may blink intermittently. 

    2. Issues with operating the high-beams.

    3. All of the vehicle lights may not function at all. 

Q. Should I replace both the headlights even if one fails?

Yes you will have to replace both the headlights. Both light headlights have the same amount of operating hours. So, if one headlight has burned then the other headlight is potentially towards the end of its life.

Q. Is it worth upgrading to the headlight bulb?

It actually depends on what you want. If you are a person who drives a lot during the night and if you’re sick of replacing your headlight bulbs more often, then you will have to get headlight bulbs that have longer lifespan than standard bulbs. 

Q. What are daytime headlights?

Daytime headlights stay on while the car is powered, day or night. Daytime headlights will operate at 50 percent of normal luminosity to prolong the bulb life. The purpose of daytime headlight is mainly protection by enabling other drivers and pedestrians to see the car more clearly.

Philips Headlight Bulbs - Part Number Catalog

Sub-Category

Part Numbers

Vision Halogen 

9008PRB1, 9007PRB2, 9006PRB2, 9005PRB2, H11PRB2, 9004PRB1, H1PRB1, 9003PRB1, H7PRB2, 9003PRB2, 12972PRB1

VisionPlus Halogen

9008VPB2, 12362VPB2, 9005VPB2, 9003VPB2, 9006VPB2, H7VPB2

X-tremeVision Halogen 

9004XVB2, 9003XVB2, 9007XVB2, H11XVB2, H7XVB1, 9008XVB2, 9005XVB2


CrystalVision Ultra Halogen 

12258CVB2, 9007CVB2, 9005CVB2, H1CVB2, 9005CVB1, H11CVB2, 9012CVB2, H7CVB2. H11CVB1, 9004CVB1

Xenon HID

85126C1, 42306C1, 85415C1, 9005C1, 9003C1, H6054C1, 9008C1

Transit Warehouse Headlight Bulbs - Part Number Catalog

Sub-Category

Part Numbers

Bright Knights Headlights

22-H11, 22-H9006, 22-H755, 22-H9005, 22-H46055, 22-H13, 24-D1S, 22H11B, 22-H155, 22-H410055XW, 24-D3S, 22-H410080, 22-H11XW, 22-H724V70W

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John Framigllia
Technical Writer
Our technical writer is known for simplifying automotive parts and services. Intuitive with various vehicles and manufacturers, he knows how to simplify complicated problems.