As soon as you start talking about car bulbs in a store the salesman is sure to start telling you the virtues of LED lights, xenon headlights and will no doubt be spewing all kinds of other acronyms that mean nothing to you!
Here we’re going to cut through the techno-babble and get down to the basics concerning the two car bulb heavyweights, HID and LED bulbs. These two types of bulbs have become the hottest property thanks to their advanced technology and excellent performance in comparison to other older halogen bulbs (which are more similar to the older-style light bulbs that you used to have at home).
But if both are so good then which should you choose? Let’s look at them both in more detail:
HID bulbs – These are also known as xenon headlights or by their full name, high intensity charge bulbs. The charge refers to the arc of electricity that is created by firing electricity between two tungsten electrodes in a bulb filled with xenon gas. This basically produces far more light when compared with simply heating up a tungsten element to create light. In fact you can expect around 3000 lumens covering an area of around 90 square metres, as opposed to just 1400 lumens and 30 square metres from older halogen bulbs.
More light equals more safety as you can see further ahead while driving at night or in bad weather and you will also benefit from the ability for other motorists to see you much earlier on the twisty stuff.
They operate on a much lower power than halogen bulbs which need a lot to heat up their tungsten element. This is great as it will actually save energy and therefore fuel, as cars will create electrical power from their engine which is of course burning fuel. They also last a long time, up to 2000 hours, because they don’t burn away their element like halogen bulbs which can have a low life-span of around just 450 hours. So HID lights are not only bright, but also green!
There are some drawbacks though because HID lights are rather expensive in comparison to other types of light and because they aren’t ‘bulb shaped’ it’s difficult or impossible to fit them into older cars.
If you’ve ever been confronted by an HID-equipped car at night you may also be able to testify that they are so bright that you can be temporarily blinded! Not great for night time drivers!
You’re likely to pay 150 pounds or more per HID bulb, so they aren’t a cheap option, but they are very safe, will last a long time and you will get back some money from fuel saved.
LED car bulbs – LED bulbs are the new kid on the block, but they have already become rather popular. LEDs are electrical conductors that when switched on emit light. They are a simple electrical circuit that is either off or on and require no ‘heating up.’
They have few components and so are really good for cars as they can be made very small and are able to handle any bumps and vibration which might happen on less than perfect road surfaces.
They also consume less power than halogen bulbs and last much longer, some reports suggesting that they could last for 35,000 hours or more!
One other cool advantage of LED bulbs is their ability to give you many different colours, including white, UV, red, infrared, blue, purple, green, yellow and orange! Ideal if you’re tricking out your ride in a certain colour scheme.
LED bulbs are pretty cheap, at somewhere around 30 to 50 pounds per unit, so they’re not bad for budget conscious buyers.
They may however not be backwards compatible with older cars, so this is a disadvantage if you’re looking to upgrade. They also don’t put out as much light as HID bulbs, so the safety conscious may prefer to avoid them, although in fairness they are brighter than halogen bulbs.
So HID or LED? If safety is a greater concern than budget then HID lights are the bulb for you as they are the brightest, but for a great all-round solution the LED bulbs are an option, as long as they will fit your car.