What are the different types of headlights?

As motoring has advanced over time and become a larger part of our lives, the technology behind car features has advanced too, arguably making cars the safest they have ever been. Headlights are a crucial element in creating a safe vehicle that are required by law. Drivers should be aware of the types of headlights that are available so that they can factor it into their car choice.

There are three main types of headlamps: halogen, HID and LED. Each type has distinct advantages, so if you’re buying a car consider all the types that are available before making your decision.


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The three main types of headlights

  • Halogen headlights

    Halogen headlights are common stock headlights, even for cars in production today. They produce quite a bit of heat, as they work by electricity flowing through the filament to light up the bulb. They are cheap and easy use but in recent years have started to fall out of favour as more energy efficient options emerge.

  • Xenon or HID headlights

    Xenon headlights are also known as high intensity discharge (HID) headlights. They don’t use a metal filament to create the light – instead, the HID bulb is filled with Xenon gas which, as it ignites, produces a bright white light.

  • LED headlights

    LED headlights produce light through electroluminescence, which is more energy efficient than halogen. This process also means that LED lights will generally last longer than their counterparts, although they can be more expensive. They’re most commonly found in newer cars and it seems likely that they’ll continue to grow in popularity into the future.


What type of headlights are best?

cars in traffic

There’s no definitive answer to this question as a lot depends on what car you have and what you use it for. However, the fact that LED headlights are increasingly being used in newer car models might indicate that they’re preferable, at least in the opinion of manufacturers. Although they’re a little more expensive than halogen headlights, they are also significantly more energy-efficient and create a brighter light than halogen. LED headlights are usually a cheaper alternative than Xenon headlights which create the most bright, intense light.


Using your headlights correctly

It’s important to understand how your lights work and when they might need replacing. If you know that you will be driving in the dark, check your lights before the journey to ensure that all the bulbs are working. If they are not, you will need to replace the bulb before your journey. You can be stopped and fined by the police if your lights are not working.

  • Dipped headlights

    These are the most commonly used headlights. They are angled downwards, towards the road, meaning that there is little risk of dazzling oncoming drivers. To turn them on, twist the indicator stalk or use a dial on your dashboard. In newer cars, the lights may come on automatically.

  • Full beam headlights

    These are the brightest type of headlight on normal vehicles. They are angled higher, which allows you, the driver, to see more of the road. They may use a different set of bulbs than the dipped headlights. You should only use full beams on unlit stretches of road and you should switch to dipped headlights to avoid dazzling other drivers, when you meet oncoming traffic.

  • Sidelights

    Sidelights, also known as parking lights, aren’t as bright as headlights, so can be used when it’s not dark enough to use dipped lights but when visibility may be lower than what is ideal. You can also use sidelights for prolonged amounts of time - if you are legally parked on a high-speed limit road overnight, for example.

  • Fog lights

    Fog lights can improve visibility when poor weather makes it difficult to see the road ahead.

    The rear fog lights are designed to cut through adverse weather conditions to make other drivers aware of your presence on the road.


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