Illuminated automotive headlights.

Choosing to upgrade your headlights to either HID or LED lights can enhance visibility and better illuminate the dark roads in front of you. The question remains: Which aftermarket headlights do I choose? Before buying new headlights, you’ll want to know the difference between HID and LED bulbs to figure out which is best for your car.

Our team has put together this informational guide to help you understand what HID and LED headlights are and their differences. We’ll also share how to choose the right headlights to enhance visibility and safety while driving.

What Are HID Headlights?

HID headlights

High-intensity discharge (HID) headlights, sometimes referred to as xenon lights, give off a bright blue and white-tinted light. Traditional headlights are usually made of tungsten or halogen, called filaments, which prevent light bulbs from combusting at high temperatures. HID bulbs, however, are comprised mainly of xenon gas and metals, which create the white-blue hue.

Generally speaking, HID lights have a longer lifespan compared to halogen lights. These lights also have improved energy efficiency, reduce glare toward oncoming traffic, and are about three times brighter than halogen headlights.

What Are LED Headlights?

LED headlights

LED lights, called light-emitting diode bulbs, work differently than HID lights. They emit photons by transferring an electrical current through a semiconductor to release light. LED bulbs are more popular than halogen bulbs because of their reliability and illumination.

In comparison to halogen and HID lights, LED headlights are more eco-friendly and have a longer lifespan. They also emit less heat, are less bulky, and are much more energy efficient compared to incandescent lights.

Differences Between LED and HID Headlights

Now that we have a basic understanding of what HID and LED lights are, it’s time to identify the differences between the two. Knowing the differences between LED and HID lights will help you decide which aftermarket headlights work best for your vehicle when the time comes to buy new bulbs.


HID headlights are the brightest aftermarket lights available. They also cover a broader area of the road in front of and to the sides of you in comparison to both halogen bulbs and LED lights. HID lights cover about one-third more area than LEDs, both outwards and to the sides of your vehicle.

The biggest thing to note with HIDs is if they’re not properly installed, they can reflect heavy glare on nearby drivers. So even if you’ve previously installed new headlights in your vehicle, HIDs should likely be installed by an experienced professional at a local auto shop.


LED headlights have an average running time of over 20,000 hours, making lifespan and longevity a priority. Over the lifetime of your vehicle, LEDs will rarely, if ever need to be replaced. 

HID bulbs have an average lifespan of about 15,000 hours. While this is slightly lower than LED lights, it’s still much greater than traditional halogen bulbs, which only last up to about 2,000 hours.


While LEDs and HIDs are usually more expensive than halogen bulbs, they’re a long-term investment due to their better quality, durability, and longevity. LEDs are more energy efficient and can operate at cooler temperatures while running more reliably over the duration of your car’s lifetime. 

LED lights are more expensive, but the payoff seems to be worth the price. HIDs are less expensive in the initial cost and installation, but they might require more maintenance and have the potential to need replacing if they burn out or are not installed correctly, similar to halogens.


Regardless of the headlight you choose between HID and LED, you’ll need a conversion kit if you’re upgrading from your halogen bulbs. Both upgrade options won’t fit the traditional OEM molds used for halogen headlights. In comparison to halogens, LEDs are generally more compact and HID lights are bulkier.

Color Temperature

LED bulbs give off a brighter white color, while HID lights have a blue-white tint. Most LED headlight conversion kits will have white headlights; the common LED color you’ll see on the road. Some auto shops might have HID bulbs ranging across seven different colors, including blue, purple, and pure white.

Types of Headlights

Both LED lights and HID bulbs have dual-beam and single-beam headlights. There is some variation between the two models, which can influence the type of headlight you choose to purchase when the time comes. 


Dual-beam headlights have both high-beam and low-beam functions in a single headlight. If your vehicle has only one headlight installation spot, you’ll want to narrow down your search to dual-beam HID or LED headlights. This single bulb can switch from low to high with your steering wheel stalks. These lights are generally labeled as H4, H13, 9004, or 9007.


Opposite to dual-beams, single-beam headlights are fit for cars that have two paces for headlight bulbs. You’ll need one set of headlights for low-beam illumination, and a second set of headlights to use high beams. Using your steering wheel stalk, you can turn on either the high-beam or low-beam, which will turn off the bulbs that aren’t actively being used.

How To Choose: HID vs. LED Headlights

An array of headlight bulbs.

To choose between HID and LED bulbs, it’s worth considering the difference in night driving illumination and safety, longevity and cost, and installation. As referenced above, LEDs generally have a longer lifespan and are initially higher in cost. However, HIDs aren’t far off, with a lifespan still far greater than halogens.

Night Driving

We consider nighttime illumination because dark roads can be hard to maneuver, especially when faced with poor weather conditions in the evening. Both HIDs and LEDs offer great driving visibility at night, far better than halogen bulbs. Putting cost and installation aside, both options create a safe and wide field of vision.

That being said, HID headlights are usually more powerful in the dark, being significantly brighter than halogens and reaching a slightly wider range of light over LED bulbs. Many opt for HIDs because they’re generally brighter and more efficient while being a lower initial cost.


With any car project or upgrade, the ease of installation depends on the car you drive and your skill level with completing DIY installation projects on your vehicle. However, it’s highly recommended that you get HID or LED bulbs installed professionally.

Specifically with HIDs, proper installation is essential to prevent vision interference to oncoming and nearby drivers. Even if you can see clearly, an incorrect installation can cause a hazard for yourself and those around you.

HID vs. LED: Bottom Line

There are a handful of differences between HID and LED headlight bulbs, including lifespan, light output illumination, cost, size, and color temperature. Both headlights are a major upgrade from standard halogens, emitting a bright light that covers a wide field of vision, making roads safer for all car owners. Replacement bulbs require a professional installation, which should be done professionally at your local auto shop or service center.


*Data accurate at time of publication.