the brightest car light bulbs on the market
naturally one of the most common questions we get asked is “what are the brightest headlight bulbs for my car?”
while this is a simple question, the answer is not always so straight forward. this is because it largely depends on which lamps your car lights use.
You're reading: What Are The Brightest Headlight Bulbs Available?
while we have car bulb guides that we’ve written before, this guide focusses purely on the brightest bulbs available for each car light technology.
many car owners want the brightest lights possible.
the first step is to identify which technology your current headlights use; halogen, hid xenon or led. this is your starting point. from there, you can consider the upgrade options for each technology. this table shows the upgrade options depending on what you currently have fitted.
|upgrade option||oe halogen||oe xenon|
|hid kit||✅||✅(d2r/d2s only)|
as you can see, if you have halogen bulbs as standard, you have the option to upgrade to brighter halogens, convert to led or convert to hid xenon.
if you have oe xenon hid bulbs as standard, your only option is to upgrade to brighter oe xenon hid bulbs. you cannot convert the technology without some serious headlight, electrics and ecu updates!
if you have led headlights as standard, unfortunately there are no upgrade options currently available.
the rest of this article breaks down the brightest options in each upgrade category:
- brightest halogen bulbs
- brightest led bulbs (from halogen to led)
- brightest hid conversion kits (from halogen to hid)
- brightest oe xenon hid bulbs
the brightest halogen bulbs
while newer technologies are slowly filtering through, the majority of vehicles on the road still use halogen bulbs for their headlights. if you have halogen car lights, you will first need to know what bulb part number you need. this is likely to be one of the following (there are a few rare alternatives):
h1 | h3 | h4 | h7 | h9 | h11 | h15 | hb3 | hb4 | hir2
most manufacturers produce their flagship bulbs to cover the popular fittings.
currently, there are some top contenders for levels of brightness. osram, philips, ring and twenty20 all claim to produce up to 150% more brightness than a standard bulb.
update september 2020:
philips has now released a new range of headlight bulbs that reach up to 200% more brightness.
here are our comparisons in quality, longevity and value for money.
please keep in mind that prices will vary depending on the bulb application so they have not been included.
philips racingvision gt200
brightness: 200% warranty: 6 months colour: 3500k price range: ££
twenty20 daylight 150
brightness: 150% warranty: 1 year colour: 3500k price range: ££
philips racing vision 150%
brightness: 150% warranty: 6 months colour: 3200k price range: £££
osram night breaker lasers 150%
brightness: 150% warranty: 6 months colour: 3500k price range: ££££
brightness: 150% warranty: 6 months colour: 3700k price range: ££££
road legal upgrades
with up to 150% more light, these are by far the brightest filament bulbs that you can get right now.
they are completely road legal, e marked and come with a warranty.
as you are replacing halogen with halogen, these are the easiest to fit.
the downside to having upgraded halogen bulbs is their lifespan. unfortunately the brighter you go, the shorter the bulbs actually last. this is due to the filament inside the bulb burning out at a faster rate.
if you’re looking for something that lasts longer then keep scrolling to read more about led bulbs!
the brightest led bulbs
led bulbs are usually brighter than halogen upgrades.
they last much longer, use less power and can be easily installed (most of the time).
many drivers now choose led upgrade bulbs as their preferred bulb of choice over halogens and hid conversion kits.
aftermarket led bulbs are often a perfect upgrade choice for those looking for a clean, bright, white light.
led bulbs last much longer than filament bulbs and are now a plug-and-play option.
the technology is advancing so much now that there are even options for fanless led headlight bulbs.
unfortunately, whilst the technology adapts and improves the uk regulations do not. some regulations date back to the late 1970’s meaning newer technological advances will not conform to their standards.
manufacturers understand this fact and now offer fully road legal oe led headlights. however this option can cost you a small fortune when just one bulb needs to be replaced. we’ve come across reports of people paying up to £1,000 to repair their headlights.
if paying an arm and a leg isn’t something you’re looking to do then aftermarket led bulbs might be the best solution.
brightness: 200% warranty: 3 years colour: 6000k price range: £££
brightness: 150% warranty: 3 years colour: 6000k price range: ££
twenty20 projector led
brightness: 300% warranty: 3 years colour: 6000k price range: £££
available for h7 projector headlights.
philips x-treme ultinon
brightness: 250% warranty: 1 year colour: 6000k price range: £££££
available for h4, h7, h8, h11 and h16
these are by far the brightest led bulbs available on the market.
not all of these bulbs are available for every type of fitting.
for example, the philips x-treme ultinon are only available for h4, h7, h8, h11 and h16.
keep in mind that all aftermarket led upgrade bulbs are not road legal and these bulbs are designed for to be sold for off-road purposes only.
led upgrade bulbs are significantly brighter than filament bulbs.
there are also led upgrade options available for sidelights, indicators, foglights and many other applications that surpass even the best filament bulbs available.
the brightest hid kits
hid conversion kits are by far the brightest options available on the market.
others may claim to be brighter however these are often unsafe for you and other road users.
stealth hid kits have been around for years and they have built a credible brand name throughout the industry.
hid conversions kits work in the same way as oe hid headlights, but are simply designed to fit into a halogen headlight unit.
these kits contain ballast units and bulbs that plug together for a simple installation process.
the ballast units coupled with the right bulbs can bring some immense light to your vehicle.
brightness: up to 400% warranty: 2 years colour: 5000k | 6000k | 8000k price range: £££
brightness: up to 450% warranty: 2 years colour: 5500k | 6500k price range: £££
luckily, these stealth kits are available for almost every halogen headlight type from h1 to h7 to hir2. the only one we don’t recommend is h15. these are a dual filament bulb with the smaller filament being used for a drl application. you cannot get an h15 hid conversion that will replicated these dual functions in a good way.
these kits are also available for reflector headlights which means you won’t be blinding other road users after installation.
hid conversion kits are a well established upgrade technology and come with some advanced compatibility technology. this makes them canbus compatible so the chances of getting any errors is minimal.
keep in mind that these bulbs are in-fact not road legal and will not pass an mot.
do hid kits blind everyone?
this is a common misconception.
usually the causes for blinding other road users is:
- poor quality bulbs
there are hid kits available right now that are very bright but still poor quality. the bulbs have been manufactured poorly meaning the light bubble is in the wrong place for the headlight. this creates light scatter and glare for other road users.
unfortunately it’s these cheap and poorly manufactured products that caused the technology to be an mot failure when used as an aftermarket upgrade from halogen bulbs.
with 23,000v and up to 450% more light being emitted, it’s always best to go for good quality hid kits if you’re going down this route.
- poorly fitted / misaligned
most car owners will be able to fit these kits without any issue. they are designed to be plug and play and are easy to understand how they fit in.
however with tight access to the headlights, rushed jobs and poor workmanship, sometimes they are not fitted correctly and they will end up misaligned. this again causes light scatter and glare for other road users.
a common sign of this is when you see a car with one headlight brighter than the other. this isn’t one brighter bulb and one dim bulb, it’s one misaligned bulb. think about the apparent brightness of a torch when it’s pointing to the floor versus pointing in your eyes!
- reflector / projector headlights
some people will buy a kit not realising they need anti-glare bulbs.
a reflector type headlight will need anti-glare bulbs and a projector headlight will need normal bulbs.
putting a normal bulb in a reflector headlight can result in glare for other road users to be blinded. if you’ve done this on your car, you may notice people flashing their lights at you quite often.
the brightest oe xenon bulbs
oe xenon hid headlights are fitted as standard to some cars, but are often offered as an option when purchasing the car…at quite a cost!
they are usually referred to as “oe hid xenon”, “factory fitted xenons” or similar and are seen as a better option to halogen headlights.
if you have this technology on your car, your bulb type will be one of the following:
d1s | d1r | d2s | d2r | d3s | d3r | d4s | d4r | d5s | d8s
luckily, we’ve got the brightest oe xenon bulbs on the market.
xenon lights work a bit differently to standard halogen bulbs and actually require two core components to work.
the first component is what’s referred to as a ballast. this is essentially a power converter which takes the normal 12v dc power from your car, and fires out 23,000v to ignite the second component…the bulb.
the bulb has a bubble with two electrodes inside. the high voltage composes an arc of light between these electrodes. the bubble is also filled with xenon gas which amplifies the light making it brighter and whiter.
standard xenon bulbs are brighter than their halogen counterparts and the upgrade bulbs we are listing are even brighter than those!
osram night breaker laser xenarc
warranty: 12 months
price range: £££££
philips x-treme ultinon
warranty: 12 months
price range: £££££
any bulb type that begins with a capital “d” will be xenon.
unfortunately, the two biggest drawbacks with xenon bulbs tends to be the price and the availability.
why are oe xenon bulbs so expensive?
simply put – the technology and time it takes to build these bulbs is a lot more exhaustive than standard halogen bulbs.
some of the bulbs, such as the d1s and d3s, also have an integrated igniter built in making the production even more expensive.
why are the upgrade options limited?
it’s all to do with cost vs demand.
factory fitted xenon headlights are often optional which means many people choose not to have them. this means the demand for these bulb types is lower.
with a lower demand, bulb manufacturers have not dedicated as much resource into developing upgrade options in a big way. philips and osram are the ones leading the innovation in this technology by quite a distance.
aside from the fact that hid kits will cause you to fail an mot, they are the brightest bulbs on the market.
if fitted correctly, they shouldn’t cause any issues.
led bulbs are kind of in the same boat as hid kits except there’s no reason for them to fail an mot.
there’s nothing in the mot guidelines that would cause a failure but they are still not road legal because they can’t be e marked.
with between 150% to 300% more light than standard halogen bulbs, and the longest life of all the technologies, these are a serious upgrade to consider.
upgrade halogen bulbs
these lights are perfect for anyone worried about price or road legalities.
they are a simple, no-hassle upgrade choice and provide you with a high increase in brightness.
like every other option, they still have their drawbacks.
unfortunately these bulbs just don’t last as long as led or hid.
oe xenon bulbs
cars with factory fitted xenons, you only have the option to stick with xenons when upgrading.
aftermarket xenon bulbs are completely road legal unless stated otherwise meaning there’s no worry there and they will of course pass the mot.
despite there being fewer upgrade options, you can still get up to 200% more light than your original fitted xenon bulbs. this is a significant upgrade and well worth the money if you can afford it.
ultimately it’s down to you but we hope this guide helps you make the right decision for your requirements.
let us know your views in the comments.