Whether your car came from the factory with LEDs or halogens, there are dozens of options when it’s time to replace them or upgrade to a new set of the best LED headlight bulbs. Unlike the market for conventional halogen headlight bulbs, which is dominated by famous names such as Philips and Sylvania, when you’re buying LED headlights you may be getting a new brand that you never heard of.
The brightness of an LED bulb is measured in lumens, so that’s an important factor you to which to pay attention when picking a replacement. You will also want to compare their advertised operating life if you’re doing a lot of night driving. LED headlights last much longer than halogen and HID bulbs, and most advertise at least 30,000 hours of life, which is over 20 years of using them for four hours a night.
Most importantly, many LED headlight bulbs can be used to replace halogen headlights if you’re looking for a brighter, longer-lasting light. Many of the manufacturers include plug-and-play kits with their products, so you don’t need to do any modifications to your vehicle. Brightness can depend both on the specific bulbs available for your car; and the different model lines that manufacturers offer, but range from 6,000lm (lumens) up to 12,000lm. However, even 6,000lm is brighter than almost any halogen headlights.
Can You Upgrade Your Headlights?
It might not make sense at first, but it can be easier to upgrade older vehicles to LEDs than newer ones, because of the CAN bus (Controller Area Network) that connects the many computerized components to each other. LED headlights often include their own CAN bus and should be plug-and-play, but it’s worth looking at reviews for your specific model, and as you’ll see in our instructions, you should to do a simple test before final installation. When in doubt, check our forums for first-person experiences with your car.
See our Table of Contents for more information including choosing the right bulbs, and the installation and review of our Editor’s Pick.
Table of contents
- 1. Editor's Pick: SEALIGHT Scoparc S1 LED Bulbs Combo, Super Bright Cool White
- Promoted Product: XenonPro LED Headlights
- 2. Cougar Motor LED Headlight Bulbs
- 3: AUXITO LED Headlights
- 4. Beamtech LED Headlight Bulbs
- 5. Fahren LED Headlight Bulbs
- 6. Hikari Cree XHP50
- 7. Auxbeam F-16
- 8. LASFIT LED Headlight Bulbs
- 9. Nilight LED Headlight Bulbs
- What Are The Differences Between Halogen and LED Headlight Bulbs?
- Can I Upgrade to LED Headlights From Halogen Headlights?
- Is An LED Headlight Upgrade Legal?
- Do I Need to Replace Both Headlight Bulbs at the Same Time?
- Upgrading to LEDs Part 1: Choosing the right bulb
- Upgrading to LED Headlights Part 2: Removing Your Old Halogen Bulbs
- Upgrading to LEDs Part 3: Installing new LED headlight bulbs
1. Editor's Pick: SEALIGHT Scoparc S1 LED Bulbs Combo, Super Bright Cool White
After considerable research, we chose the four-light high-low S1 kit from SEALIGHT when we wanted to upgrade from the factory halogen projector bulbs in a 2014 Mazda Mazda5. We were convinced by 90% four- or -five star ratings from over 10,000 people; a great feature set; and light quality.
Our size was the common 9005/HB3 H11/H9/H8 form factor, and required both high- and low-beam modules. We’ll need a similar 9005/HB3 9006/HB4 bulb when we do the same to the AutoGuide Dodge Magnum RT later this winter. The Scoparc S1 is their entry-level direct fit bulb, making 6,500 lumens of light per bulb at a bright white 6,000k color temperature. While you can go all the way up to a supernova 15,000lm in their Scoparc S2, 6,500lm is still an enormous upgrade from the 1,350lm Sylvania Silverstars they’re replacing, which were considered bright for halogens.
The fanless design with an aluminum heatsink and fins runs much cooler than a halogen, and an inline CAN bus module makes sure they work properly with modern vehicles. As you’ll read in our how-to, installation was easy in out test vehicle. SEALIGHT says their Scoparc S1 LED headlights are ip67 water-and dust-proof, have a 30,000 hour lifespan, and come with a three-year warranty.
Photo credit: David Traver Adolphus / AutoGuide
Promoted Product: XenonPro LED Headlights
The most premium option on this list, XenonPro LED headlight kits are the priciest option to make the cut, but they’re well worth the extra outlay for the lifetime warranty that covers the bulbs, drivers, accessories—we’re talking everything. If a part fails, XenonPro will replace it for just the cost of postage.
Not that we figure you’ll be making much use of that warranty; XenonPro’s LED headlight kits are well-built with solid aluminum bulb casings that soak up plenty of waste heat, and equipped with a quiet, built-in micro-fan for active cooling. They’re made to withstand the harsh demands of automotive use, being 100% water, shock, dust, and rumble-proof, and rated for 45,000 hours of reliable use.
As an upgrade over standard halogen bulbs, XenonPro’s LEDs boast up to 300% more brightness, putting out a max of 9,000 lumens per pair, with advanced anti-glare technology to avoid blinding other drivers. They install easily in less than half-an-hour. Four distinct colors are available—3,000K (yellow), 6,000K (bright white), 8,000K (blue), and 12,000K (purple)—and there’s even a CAN bus-ready option to make sure the bulbs can communicate properly with your vehicle’s computer system.
*This is a sponsored placement.
2. Cougar Motor LED Headlight Bulbs
A good balance of price, performance, and longevity, Cougar Motor’s LED headlight bulbs offer as much as 12,000 lumens per pair (depending on the specific bulbs for your car) which is 200 percent brighter than stock halogen headlights. They run at a cool white 6,000K temperature and offer a great beam pattern without any dark spots or foggy light.
Cougar Motor opts to use an aluminum housing with a 10,000 RPM TurboCool fan to ensure the LED headlight bulbs can operate for over 50,000 hours. The company says its bulbs are plug-and-play and are CAN bus ready with most vehicles. They are also IP67 waterproof and each bulb comes with a three-year warranty and lifetime support. Each bulb is rated at 30 watts, is available in the most common H11 style, and uses Cree LED chips. Installation is easy thanks to the bulbs being CAN bus ready, working with most vehicles without issues. If you have any questions about fit, we recommended contacting the manufacturer to verify they will be compatible with your vehicle.
There are brighter options available than Cougar Motor’s LED bulbs, so if you often drive at night or on dimly lit roads, you may want something brighter. But if you’re looking for an all-around performer that is competitively priced, these bulbs should be at the top of your list. Cougar Motor also offers a three-year warranty on its products.
3: AUXITO LED Headlights
AUXITO makes a wide variety of vehicle lighting products, including five different series of LED headlights, which come in 9005/HB3, 9006/HB4,9007/HB5, 9008/H13, 9012/HIR,H11B, H4/9003/HB2,and H9/H8/H11 sizes. There are lots of options for brightness, and we found that among their many models with over 100 reviews, they were almost uniformly rated between 89% and 92% positive, an excellent score for any product.
AUXITO claims outputs up to 100 watts and 24,000 lumens per bulb, among the brightest on the market (and we think too bright for everyday use). Their higher end versions include 12,000 RPM cooling fans to cope with the heat, and all models are rated for between 30,000 and 50,000 hours (30 years) of life.
AUXITO also says the company models its LED bulbs to mimic halogen output patterns with a sharp cutoff, meaning you should get the same beam spread from your headlamp enclosures. This addresses a common problem with poorly engineered LED bulbs, which can actually put less light on the road where you need it than dimmer conventional bulbs.
Where needed, a CANbus module is included, but you should always hook up and check your bulbs before final installation—see our instructions below. AUXITO offers a two-year warranty on their headlights bulbs, and there is a local Kentucky phone number, email, and contact form on the auxito.com site.
4. Beamtech LED Headlight Bulbs
Beamtech’s replacement LED bulbs are more affordable than Cougar Motor’s products, but they won’t last as long. That’s because they are a bit brighter at 8,000 lumens per pair with a 6,500K color temperature. Their advertised lifespan is over 30,000 hours, or almost 3.5 years of continuous use, but other brands advertise up to 50,000 hours.
What makes Beamtech’s bulbs different from many of its competitors is the lack of a fan, making them quieter than other products. In lieu of a fan, they feature passive cooling with an aluminum body for improved heat dissipation. Beamtech also says the bulbs are close to the same length as a halogen lamp filament, resulting in a beam pattern that you would expect from a halogen bulb. These bulbs are IP65 water and dust resistant.
Priced as a mid-range option, Beamtech’s bulbs are an interesting option since they don’t have a cooling fan. For most drivers, the noise from the fan isn’t very noticeable, but sensitive ears could find it annoying. You are however, trading longevity since these bulbs are rated at 20,000 fewer hours than some of their competitors.
If a bulb’s lifespan isn’t a concern, then Beamtech’s bulbs are ideal for you since they offer above average brightness with quiet operation.
5. Fahren LED Headlight Bulbs
Another popular option, these LED headlight bulbs boast a bright 10,000 lumens per pair at a 6,500K cool white temperature. Fahren’s option delivers a focused beam pattern that provides a wider and farther lighting range, while being three times brighter than a standard halogen bulb. Sporting an aluminum body with a unique hollow-carved heatsink design, the company claims these bulbs will last up to 50,000 hours. Contributing to their durability are 12,000 RPM turbo cooling fans and these bulbs are IP68 waterproof.
Designed to be closely similar in size to factory halogen headlight bulbs, these LED upgrades should fit nicely into your headlight housing without any modification. To ensure you get the best beam pattern, these bulbs use a 360-degree adjustable locker ring. They’ll work with about 98 percent of vehicles without any error, although some models will require an additional CAN bus decoder.
6. Hikari Cree XHP50
A more expensive option comes from Hikari. These LEDs offer 9,600 lumens per pair at a 6,000K temperature and can be used as headlights, fog lights, and daytime running lights. Hikari offers a two-year warranty with their products, which is less than Cougar Motor but more than some others.
Each bulb is equipped with 9,000 RPM TurboCool fans and are plug-and-play like most other LED bulbs on the market. Hikari advertises that its bulbs last around 50,000 hours thanks to a newly designed dual driver system that is used to safely power the LED bulb. The Hikari Cree XHP50 bulbs are also IP68 waterproof.
Overall, the Hikari Cree XHP50 is a great option if you’re willing to spend a bit more for a brighter headlight with long-lasting life. These are highly recommended for drivers who commute often at night and travel on dimly lit roads. Since it is one of the brightest set of LED bulbs available, they’ll offer more visibility than other competitors.
7. Auxbeam F-16
A nice mid-range option comes from Auxbeam, priced competitively while offering 6,000 lumens per pair. The color temperature is 6,000K, just like the Sealight, Hikari Cree and Cougar Motor replacement bulbs. The LED bulbs feature aircraft-grade luxury gold aluminum anodizing, and Cree LED chips, along with built-in CAN bus to avoid error codes. They are also IP68 waterproof and dustproof, for those that plan on going off-roading.
Each bulb has a built-in turbo fan and since it uses aerospace aluminum alloy, the heatsink stays 30 percent cooler than a standard bulb. Auxbeam bulbs come with a one-year warranty, which isn’t as competitive as other manufacturers.
Auxbeam’s bulbs are the least bright of all the bulbs on the list, which may be preferred by some drivers. They are rated at 30 watts per bulb and comes with a plug-and-play built-in control driver to avoid error codes. They are available in a variety of bulb fitments so there’s likely an application that fits your vehicle.
If you’re purchasing Auxbeam F-16 LED bulbs, make sure you are getting a product that is sold and shipped by Auxbeam. The company says it is the only authorized dealer of its products, so keep your eye out for counterfeits.
8. LASFIT LED Headlight Bulbs
The most affordable product on our list comes from U.S.-based LASFIT. The company’s most popular LED bulbs offer 7,600 lumens as a pair at a cool 6,000K color temperature, while rated at 30 watts per bulb. Like other LED bulbs, they are plug-and-play with a built-in ballast to save space. Each bulb also features a 9,000 RPM Hydroid Pressure Fan with AirFlux Dual Cooling Technology to dissipate heat. There are brighter products from LASFIT, some offering as much as 15,200 lumens, but they’re more expensive, and we consider 15,000 lumens to be too bright for highway use.
Outfitted with LASFIT’s new COB Flip Chip technology, the bulbs provide a perfect beam pattern without any dark spots and foggy light. The Flip Chips also claim to exhibit less thermal resistance and reduce power dissipation better so they run cooler.
The company includes a no hassle, 45-day refund policy and one-year replacement warranty, which isn’t as competitive as some manufacturers, but LASFIT’s products are more affordable. These bulbs are ideal for owners that don’t often drive at night and are looking for a cost-effective way to either upgrade their halogen bulbs or replace their LED bulbs.
Since LASFIT is based in the U.S, the company offers pickup for customers in Ontario, California, and even has installation services.
9. Nilight LED Headlight Bulbs
Nilight offers LED bulbs in a wide range of sizes at friendly price points. Most put out a bright 10,000 lumens as a pair with a cool 6,000K color temperature and are rated at 25 watts per bulb. Their aluminum heat sink and 10,000 RPM cooling fans dissipate heat efficiently. The bulbs are designed for easy plug-and-play installation helped by a compact 2.95-inch length and built-in driver.
The manufacturer claims their bulbs have an enhanced beam pattern without dark spots or shadows. These bulbs should work right out of the box in 99% of vehicles, but are CAN bus ready for those that require it.
Nilight provides a two-year replacement warranty for LED bulbs and hardware, but you have to visit nilight.com for the details. Nilight bulbs offer another highly-rated yet affordable LED option if you’re ready to ditch those old halogen headlights for something brighter.
What Are The Differences Between Halogen and LED Headlight Bulbs?
The vast majority of vehicles leave dealership lots these days with one of three headlight bulbs: halogen, HID, or LED. Halogen bulbs are the oldest of the three and are still very common. They’re extremely affordable and typically have a life of around 800 hours. When compared to HID or LED bulbs however, halogen bulbs are the worst performing of the three. They also require more energy than LED bulbs and run hot. You can upgrade to brighter halogen bulbs, but the brighter they are, the shorter their lifespan. At the end of the day, halogen bulbs offer enough lighting for safe driving, but upgrading to LEDs will make a noticeable difference to your experience.
LED headlight bulbs are becoming more commonly used by luxury automakers such as Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. You may be using LED bulbs at home, which deliver equal or better lighting with lower power consumption and longer life. LED headlight bulbs are similar, offering better performance and longevity at a greater cost. Fortunately they’ve become so popular and common these days that they don’t cost significantly more than halogen bulbs. With claimed lifespans extending into decades, they’ll easily pay for themselves.
Some will argue that LED headlight bulbs aren’t as bright as HIDs, but they are definitely brighter than halogen bulbs. They also don’t produce as much glare as HID headlights, and they don’t need a small period of time to charge up. Just as important, LED bulbs don’t use a filament that burns out or breaks, which allows them to last much longer than halogen bulbs. They may also be more resistant to vibration than bulbs with a conventional filament, which can be helpful if you drive on rough roads.
Can I Upgrade to LED Headlights From Halogen Headlights?
Each vehicle is different, so we can’t say for sure that there’s a set for your Lamborghini Countach, but if your car was built in the last quarter-century, you can almost certainly upgrade to LEDs. The aftermarket and the products in this list are designed to be retrofit kits for vehicles with halogen headlights.
Acura, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, GMC, Honda, Infiniti, Jeep, Lexus, Mercedes, Mini, Mitsubishi, RAM, Volkswagen, and Volvo models need an anti-flicker module as part of the LED circuitry to prevent flickering and dash warning lights. Many bulbs include this in the CAN bus, but you may have to buy it separately for some.
Is An LED Headlight Upgrade Legal?
Technically, yes. Potentially. Probably not. It’s complicated.
The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) prohibits any modification from stock unless the replacement meets a complicated suite of testing SAE standards, and receives DOT approval. If your make, model, and year was offered from the factory with an LED option, even swapping that in would be illegal if it doesn’t have the correct SAE and DOT markings. In practice, we doubt any manufacturer is spending the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to receive regulatory approval, and we’ve never seen an LED with the markings that are required to certify it’s legal.
At the same time, all kinds of modifications are illegal, including engine swaps, and that hasn’t stopped people from putting Chevy LSs into everything. Individual states may have additional regulations and fines (such as Nebraska, where your low beams can’t be brighter than needed to illuminate a pedestrian at 200 feet; $100 misdemeanor), but they can’t supersede Federal law and make it legal.
LED Brightness and the Law
There is also a Federal standard for maximum brightness…which is complicated to translate into the real world, because you need luminous intensity (brightness) and apex angle (how the light spreads), and then a bunch of calculus (Φv = 2πIv (1−cos α/2), if you’re playing along at home). If you had an LED with the same spread and intensity as an equivalent halogen, it might be around 6,000 lumens per bulb. Because LEDs have a broader and more even pattern than halogen bulbs, though, it could be much higher, because the total amount of light falling over the area is much greater, and the difference between a hot spot and the falloff is better (if you had a 40% apex angle, it would be 28,000 lumens!).
However, section 24212 of the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R.3684) directs the Secretary of Transportation to issue a new rule regarding headlights before the end of 2024, and many people expect replacement LEDs to be permitted*.
How To Stay Out Of Trouble When You Upgrade To LEDs
In the meantime, there are some things you can do to make sure you stay within the spirit of the law and out of trouble:
Make sure your headlights are aimed properly. Especially if you’ve gone to bigger tires or a lift, you’re no longer going to be pointing down at the road. This is hazardous to everyone on the road, including yourself. It’s also a great way to get pulled over and ticketed for your illegal equipment.
Don’t use the nuclear fusion 10,000 lumen or brighter LED headlamps. That’s another great way to get a ticket, blind a pedestrian, or confuse a passing Boeing.
A new rule was published on February 15, 2022, which allows for adaptive headlights. There’s no word on LED upgrades yet, but we expect a wave of aftermarket adaptive headlights to be coming.
Do I Need to Replace Both Headlight Bulbs at the Same Time?
There is actually no definitive answer to this question, but we recommend replacing both your headlight bulbs at the same time, even if only one goes out. That’s because swapping out just one headlight bulb could result in a difference in brightness between the two. Also, depending on your vehicle, changing out your headlight bulbs could be a cumbersome task—you’re better off doing it once and saving yourself time down the road. And if your bulbs are the same age, they’re likely to die at the same time. We’ve had them burn out within a week of each other.
If you’re trying to be frugal or more practical—if it’s not broken, why fix it—then make sure you keep a spare bulb handy for when the other one does eventually burn out.
Upgrading to LEDs Part 1: Choosing the right bulb
There are many bulb types out there, and their part numbers can be confusing. Our SEALIGHT Scoparc S1 LED Bulbs are available in H13/9008, HB5/9007, HB2/H4/9003, HB3/9005, HB4/9006, HB3/H11/H9/H8/9005, and HB3/HB4/9005/9006 sizes. Fortunately, you don’t have to memorize dozens of sizes, just enter your make, model, and year into an online configurator, and let it choose the right part for you. Just to be safe, check your owner’s manual or Google it. Some cars have one high-low bulb, while many others have one for each. Then there are very similar foglamp bulbs, so always double check that you’re getting the right ones.
Which Cars Need an Anti-Flicker Module?
As we mentioned before, Acura, Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, GMC, Honda, Infiniti, Jeep, Lexus, Mercedes, Mini, Mitsubishi, RAM, Volkswagen, and Volvo vehicles usually require an anti-flicker module. It should be included in the CAN bus circuitry in most headlights, but you should make sure. That leaves you to choose the type, color, and brightness of your LEDs.
Cooling and LED Lifespan
Older LED headlight bulbs almost all had cooling fans, but technology now lets them run just fine with heatsinks. We did notice that all the LEDs that advertise a 50,000 hour lifespan are still fan-cooled, but 5.7 years is a long time to expect a fan to run. Fans can make a little noise, but mostly, it’s moving parts and complexity than can fail. Thirty thousand hours is still 20 years of average use.
LED Headlight Color And Brightness
We like the white 6,000K range for visibility, but you can get LEDs from a yellow 3,000K up to 12,000K purple. Some of these may be illegal in your area, or at least attract unwanted attention, so we’d stay in the 5,000-7,000K range.
The 6,500lm LED headlamps we’ll be installing here are as bright as anyone would want. Perceived brightness and usefulness will depend a little on how the beam spreads. LEDs generally have much a smoother and broader pattern than halogens.
Photo credit: David Traver Adolphus / AutoGuide.com
Upgrading to LED Headlights Part 2: Removing Your Old Halogen Bulbs
While some high-end cars might require removing the entire headlamp assembly, one of the most common methods is a simple twist lock. While you shouldn’t touch halogen bulbs with your bare hands (the oils from your fingers will make hotspots on the quartz glass), it should be fine to handle both HID and LED headlights. But we always wear nitrile gloves just in case. Plus, it’s greasy in there.
If you have a twist-lock style headlamp cluster, like most Japanese and Korean cars, the back of it will look something like it does in this 2014 Mazda.
The hardest part is usually detaching the socket. The base of most LED headlights has the same clip as this halogen bulb, which you have to press in. Firmly hold the base of the bulb with one hand while you press down on the clip, then just pull it straight off. It might help to press down on it with something hard, like the flat of a small screwdriver, and you may have to wiggle it gently free. Make sure you don’t get any dust or moisture in the socket, as LEDs can be very sensitive. A piece of tape over the top is a good idea, and if you have a compressor, give the whole area a blast of air before you do anything.
- The arrow on the retaining lock ring has an arrow for the direction to tighten. You probably have to push in slightly against a tension spring, then turn in the opposite direction.
- Pressed-in tabs help lock the bulb in place. Don’t twist too hard.
- The base of the bulb has tabs that match the notches in the ring. When they meet up, just pull it gently out.
And here’s our old 9005 halogen headlamp bulb, and you can see right into the headlamp assembly.
Installation photos credit: David Traver Adolphus / AutoGuide.com
Upgrading to LEDs Part 3: Installing new LED headlight bulbs
If you have high-low combination bulbs, you don’t have to worry about which one is which, but most cars have four, so you’ll need to get out your old bulbs and match them up to the new ones. Remember to wear gloves through the whole process.
Before you install the new LED bulbs, it’s important to test them. All you need to do is clip them into the harness, set them somewhere safe (making sure nothing touches the LED cob), and turn on your headlights. Don’t start your car, though. If they’re working, you’ll know it.
Next, you just need to put the LED bulbs back into the socket. They have the same tabs as the halogen bulbs, above, so you’ll need to align them with the slots. The red gaskets in our new bulbs were thicker and stiffer than the Sylvania Silverstar bulbs we replaced, so they needed a very firm push on the aluminum heat sink. Our bulbs came with additional wiring that held the CAN bus. We used the provided cable ties so it didn’t rattle or accidentally vibrate loose.
Once we had all four tested and installed, it was out on the road to see if it made a difference. It was almost night and day.
In contrast to our halogens, the SEALIGHT Scoparc S1 LED headlight bulbs threw light evenly and broadly, lighting up the sides of the road with both high and low beams. We were particularly impressed with the razor sharp cutoff, which is vital to protect oncoming drivers from glare.
Our only complaint is that the included instructions both came in a tiny booklet, and were not very detailed. The difference between the high and low beam bulbs was not clearly called out, and should be obviously marked on the bulbs, or better, the CAN bus has plenty of room for big High and Low text. If you’ve changed your own headlight bulbs before, it’s not going to be an issue, but if it was your first time, you could make an expensive mistake.
SEALIGHT isn’t very clear on their warranty, either, but we believe it’s three years.
Overall, we’re thrilled, and wouldn’t hesitate to use these in any car that needs years of great nighttime visibility.
Photo credit: David Traver Adolphus / AutoGuide.com
May 17, 2022: Added Nihlight LED Headlights to recommendations as #9 pick based on price and ratings.
May 13, 2022: Added Auxito LED Headlights to recommendations as #3 pick based on ratings.
February 16, 2022: Updated FAQ section with information on new regulations.
January 6, 2022: Added SEALIGHT S1 as Editor’s Pick. Expanded FAQs. Added how-to and review.
October 13, 2021: Added additional product links.
August 31, 2021: Updated several models which offer greater brightness. Added “Tips” section.
October 23, 2020: Updated with a promoted product recommendation.
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Photo credit: Jodi Lai / AutoGuide.com