Reviews | The Drive

Best Headlight Bulbs: Light the Way With These Top Headlight Bulbs

Keep your car’s critical lights shining brightly with a reliable set of efficient bulbs.

With decades of combined experience covering the latest news, reviewing the greatest gear, and advising you on your next car purchase, The Drive is the leading authority on all things automotive.

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BYHeather Fishel/ LAST UPDATED ON September 7, 2022

Your headlights are only as good — and as brilliantly bright — as the bulbs powering them. While headlight bulbs are a tiny piece of your car’s tech, they’re pretty critical, giving you the ability to see clearly over distances when night falls, street lights disappear, or visibility is less than ideal. But those bulbs don’t last forever, and they’ll need to be replaced or upgraded every few years. And now, thanks to innovative new bulbs with varying lumen counts and energy efficiency, there are more options than ever. Whether you’re looking for better halogen bulbs or want to make the switch to a new kind of headlight bulb, there are plenty of products to choose from, each with its own perks.

Best Overall

Sylvania H11 XtraVision High Performance Halogen Headlight Bulb

Summary
Sized to fit plenty of makes and models, these headlight bulbs are reliable, perform solidly, and help enhance your line of sight on the road.
Pros
  • Durable filament design
  • No added glare
  • Extended download visibility
Cons
  • No brighter than stock bulbs
Best Value

Vision X Superwhite Headlight Bulbs

Summary
Turn your headlight bulbs into a bright statement on the road with these extra-white, extra-brilliant bulbs with plenty of value.
Pros
  • Xenon and halogen construction
  • Adds extra brilliance and brightness
  • Affordable
Cons
  • Adds brightness, but not distance
Honorable Mention

Philips H7 CrystalVision Ultra Upgraded Headlight Bulb

Summary
Upgrade your average headlight bulbs and make them more durable and more illuminating with these advanced technology bulbs.
Pros
  • UV- and temperature-resistant
  • HID-level results in a halogen bulb
  • Cool blue cap
Cons
  • Slight yellow tint
  • Not as “cool blue” as described

Summary List 

Why Trust Us

Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Our Methodology

In my search for the best headlight bulbs, I started by looking for bulbs from well-known and reputable manufacturers, like Sylvania and Philips. I honed in on bulbs that were specifically manufactured to fit common headlight sizes, like H11 and H7 bulbs, for a wide range of use cases in different vehicles. In my search, I considered details like longevity, brightness (or lumen count), wattage, and expected lifespan. To get a sense of how easy the installation process was for each bulb and how they performed once installed, I looked to user reviews to understand common issues and positive experiences across use cases.

Best Headlight Bulbs Reviews & Recommendations

Specs

  • Bulb Type: Halogen
  • Brightness: 1,345 lumens
  • Wattage: 55 watts

Pros

  • Two bulbs per pack
  • Robust, durable filament design
  • No increased glare
  • Enhanced downroad visibility

Cons

  • No brighter than stock bulbs

Go with a classic — a classic made better — and opt for the Sylvania H11 XtraVision High Performance Halogen Headlight Bulb. This two-bulb set is designed to replace headlight bulbs as well as high and low beams and fog light bulbs. It’s a traditional halogen set of bulbs, with a total of 1,345 lumens and 55 watts. And its H11 size works in plenty of different makes and models. But it shines better than your average halogen bulb thanks to its XtraVision design, which features robust filament construction and a proprietary gas mixture that improves performance and longevity. These bulbs are also designed to prevent increased glare, allowing you to enhance your visibility over longer distances without adding extra challenges.

However, if it’s extra illumination and brightness you’re looking for, this standout all-around pick may not deliver. It’s about as bright as your vehicle’s stock bulbs, so it won’t give you much more in the way of brightness.

Specs

  • Bulb Type: HID
  • Brightness: Not specified
  • Wattage: 100 watts

Pros

  • Uses xenon and halogen gasses
  • Creates pure, bright white light
  • Direct factory plug and play replacement
  • Mimics luxury car headlight bulbs, but affordable

Cons

  • Adds brightness, but not increased distance

With a pair of Vision X Superwhite Headlight Bulbs installed in your car’s headlight housing, you’ll get a whole lot of value. These uniquely designed bulbs are affordably priced, but they go above and beyond your typical halogen version. Made with an innovative combination of xenon and halogen gasses, they deliver more brightness than your typical halogen-only bulb and make your lights appear extra-white and wonderfully crisp. It’s a budget-friendly way to mimic the bright, clean white lights of luxury vehicles without needing specialized bulbs. And these bulbs draw the same amperage as your factory ones. Plus, they’re backed by a lifetime warranty so you can have years of peace of mind.

While these headlight bulbs are undeniably brilliant in their brightness, they do fall a little short in one area: distance. Some users note that these bulbs won’t extend your headlights’ visibility downroad, so they’re really a good pick for those seeing extra illumination.

Specs

  • Bulb Type: Halogen
  • Brightness: 1,140 lumens
  • Wattage: 55 watts

Pros

  • Delivers HID appearance with halogen technology
  • Blue cap on the bulb for cooler color temperature
  • Constructed with UV quartz glass
  • Highly resistant to temperature extremes and vibrations

Cons

  • Slight yellow color temperature

The Philips H7 CrystalVision Ultra Upgraded Headlight Bulb is a perfect choice if you need a durable, trustworthy product that’ll survive almost anything. These bulbs are constructed differently from your average halogen bulb — they deliver your standard 55 watts, but provide a color temperature of up to 4,000K. Made with high-quality UV quartz glass, each bulb is stronger than basic glass and highly resistant to temperature extremes and road vibrations, minimizing your risk of issues. They’re also resistant to UV light thanks to their anti-UV coating, which keeps your bulbs safe from constant harsh sunlight. Additionally, a blue cap at the end of each bulb is designed to create cool light that’s brighter in darkness.

If you’re looking for pure white light from your headlight bulbs, however, these may not deliver flawlessly. They do have a slight yellowish tint, which makes them pretty similar to many standard halogen lights with a color temperature that maxes out around 4,000K. The cool blue hue advertised by the product description isn’t entirely accurate.

Specs

  • Bulb Type: Halogen
  • Brightness: Varies, depending on size
  • Wattage: 55 to 110 watts

Pros

  • Halogen bulbs with HID brightness
  • Cool white light temperature
  • Long-lasting lifespan
  • Durable, heat-resistant quartz glass construction

Cons

  • Installation is complex
  • Not plug and play

Just because you opt for halogen bulbs doesn’t mean all headlight bulbs are the same – and a set of PIAA Xtreme White Bulbs makes basic halogens look dull. These premium bulbs are designed to simulate the look of more costly HID light bulbs, but using the longer-lasting halogen technology you're already familiar with. Each bulb is constructed out of heat-resistant quartz glass and aerospace alloy filaments for longevity, with PIAA’s XTRA technology for increased light output. You can use the bulbs for low and high beams as well as dual-beam headlights and fog lights, depending on the size you choose. Plus, all of the bulbs are SAE-approved and DOT compliant, in addition to being supported by a one-year warranty.

When it comes time to install these headlight bulbs, however, the process can be complicated. The bulbs aren’t designed in plug-and-play style, so you’ll need to remove some components (like grille and headlight housing) to get them properly in place.

Specs

  • Bulb Type: Halogen
  • Brightness: 1,350 lumens
  • Wattage: 55 watts

Pros

  • Made with high-quality materials
  • Matches performance of factory bulbs
  • DOT and SAE compliant
  • Suitable for a wide range of makes and models

Cons

  • No enhanced features or durabilit

When you’re looking for simple yet effective headlight bulbs that you don’t have to worry about, choosing a Sylvania H11 Basic Headlight Bulb is a smart move. These basic performance bulbs are designed to meet DOT regulations and SAE standards, and they’re almost identical replacements for your car’s factory bulbs. They offer a 3,200K color temperature and perform at a standard wattage, delivering just the specs you need to match your original headlight brightness and output levels. Plus, these bulbs are also designed to prevent glare — when installed properly, of course — by focusing your headlight beams and limiting potential interference.

The only real drawback of these basic halogen headlight bulbs is their simple nature. If you’re searching for bulbs that can do more, these aren’t the right pick; they’re basic bulbs with no special features. You won’t find increased brightness, distance, or other perks in a pack of these bulbs.

Specs

  • Bulb Type: Halogen
  • Brightness: 1,400 lumens
  • Wattage: 55 watts

Pros

  • OEM quality and design
  • Brighter, crisper white color temperature
  • Available in multiple bulb sizes
  • Works with many different makes and models

Cons

  • Not as bright as OEM bulbs for most vehicles

If you want to make absolutely sure you’re swapping out your old headlight bulbs for a set that’s equal in quality and performance to your OEM bulbs, choosing the Philips H11 Standard Halogen Replacement Headlight Bulb is a great move. These bulbs may work with a versatile range of vehicles, but no matter where they’re installed, they deliver OEM construction and performance. And Philips is a reputable choice for quality automotive bulbs. Each halogen bulb is designed to deliver crisp white color temperature, along with glare-free and symmetrical beams (when you use two identical bulbs, of course) to reduce glare and keep you seeing clearly and safely on the road.

There’s just one area in which these OEM-quality headlight bulbs don’t quite measure up, and it’s in brightness. You’ll likely notice that these halogen bulbs aren’t extra-bright, and they may be equal to your previous bulbs or less vibrant. They’re a good set of basics, but they can’t take your headlights to new brightness heights, if that’s what you’re hoping for.

Our Verdict

With the Sylvania H11 XtraVision High Performance Halogen Headlight Bulb, you’ll be able to extend your visibility and the lifespan of your vehicle’s headlight bulbs. These all-around reliable and solidly performing bulbs deliver, and they’re sized to fit a wide range of different makes and models. If you want extra bang for your buck, a pair of Vision X Superwhite Headlight Bulbs will deliver extra brightness in a small, affordable package.

Things to Consider Before Buying Headlight Bulbs

Swapping out your current headlight bulbs for a new set isn’t difficult, but as you start to shop for replacement bulbs, you’ll notice you have a ton of options. Here’s what you need to know in order to find the right type, fit, and brightness level for both your vehicle and your visibility needs on the road. 

Types of Headlight Bulbs

Halogen Bulbs

Halogen headlight bulbs have long been the standard. These simple, affordable light bulbs light up with a combination of halogen gasses and a heated filament inside the bulb. They’re bright enough, but they typically produce the lowest lumens in comparison to other headlight bulb varieties. Halogen bulbs also tend to have the lowest temperature color, reaching no more than 4,000K in total. 

High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Bulbs

A brighter, more vibrant choice over halogen bulbs, high-intensity discharge (or HID) bulbs are an upgrade with a slight blue tint to their coloring. They’re not as common as halogen bulbs, or even as common as LED, but they do offer anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 lumens of light and a color temperature of as much as 8,000K, depending on the bulb you pick. HID headlight bulbs can also go by the names ARC or xenon lights; regardless of what they’re called, they use electrodes, xenon gas, and vaporized metals to generate light. However, HID bulbs aren’t as long-lasting or efficient as other picks. 

LED Bulbs

The most energy-efficient and long-lasting choice, LED headlight bulbs are quickly becoming a new standard. These bulbs can last years beyond your typical halogen or HID bulb, giving you as much as 50,000 hours of life. LED bulbs work with diodes or semiconductors, which produce photons. Typically rated at a color temperature of 6,000K, they’re also nicely bright and can enhance your visibility and sight distance. Just note that in order to use LED bulbs, you’ll need to upgrade to LED-suitable headlight housing; otherwise, your lights may not be street legal. 

Key Features of Headlight Bulbs

Plug and Play Installation

Who wants to crouch down in front of their headlights and fuss with housing removal, wiring and fuses, and reassembling everything all to swap out one little lightbulb? Fortunately, most of today’s headlight bulbs are easy to install and are “plug and play” by design. Plug and play is as simple as it sounds: All you have to do is plug in one connection point to your vehicle’s headlight housing, and you’ll be up and running with a new bulb. If you come across bulbs that are not plug and play, you should expect a slightly more complicated installation process. 

Appropriate Lumen and Wattage 

Check your owner’s manual before you buy new headlight bulbs — you’re going to want to make sure you’re choosing a pair that features the right level of power and the right brightness. The wattage rating tells you the level of power, or how brightly and strongly the bulb’s light will shine. However, for a true reading on just how illuminating the bulb will be, you should also look at the lumen count. In general, car headlight bulbs won’t go beyond 3,000 lumens or 55 watts. 

Weatherproof

Even when you’re not thinking about them, your headlights are exposed to all kinds of outdoor elements, from everyday dirt and dust to harsh rain to snow. And while your headlight housing can protect the bulb and its wiring pretty well, leaks can happen. That’s why it’s important to choose a bulb that’s properly weatherproof and able to perform whether it’s foggy and muggy, dusty, or raining hard when you hit the road. 

Headlight Bulbs Pricing 

No matter what kind of headlight bulbs you’re looking for, pricing is pretty affordable. Bulbs are typically sold individually or in sets of two to four bulbs. For basic single bulbs, you can expect to spend about $4 to $6. For a more high-tech bulb, your cost can run anywhere from $6 to $10. Most premium headlight bulbs can run $10 or more, but these are generally specialized products meant for certain makes or models, or luxury vehicles. 

FAQs 

You’ve got questions. The Drive has answers.

Q: Which headlight bulbs are the brightest?

A: It depends on the amount of lumens you choose for your bulbs. The higher the lumen count, the brighter the bulbs will be. Typically, xenon and LED bulbs shine noticeably brighter than halogen ones. 

Q: Which are brighter: HID or LED bulbs?

A: LED headlight bulbs are usually available in higher lumen counts than HID bulbs.

Q: How many lumens are legal for headlight bulbs?

A: Generally, you don’t want to exceed 3,000 lumens for your headlights or taillights. Aiming for a lower lumen count should keep your headlights street legal. 

Q: Can I put LED bulbs in my stock headlights?

A: No, you can’t! If you’re planning to switch to LED headlight bulbs, you’ll actually need to upgrade your entire headlight housing so all of its components are LED-friendly and compatible.

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