Best LED Off Road Light Bars: Shine Some New Light from Your Off-Roading Setup
The best light bars to enhance visibility in low-light, off-road driving conditions
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Sometimes, standard factory headlights just don't cut it when it comes to being able to see at night in off-road conditions. When the terrain is challenging, it is important you have enough illumination to see well in front of you, especially if wildlife is present. This is why many people mount heavy-duty LED bars onto their off-roading vehicles for extra illumination in these challenging conditions. If you fancy finding the right lighting accessories for your setup, read on for our guide to learn all you need to know about the best-LED light bars to light up your driving experience.
- Best OverallKC HiLiTES C-Series C10SummarySummaryWith 50,000 hours of LED life, this light bar is perfectly balanced between budget-friendly models and higher-end options that can quickly break the bank with multi-light setups.ProsProsHigh-quality, consistent light pattern across the entire series of bar options. Mounting tends to be very flexible; the smaller widths can even fit onto smaller vehicles like ATVs.ConsConsThe inconsistent quality of multiple lights in the same series. Missing mounting brackets and dead individual LED lights are common.
- Best ValueNilight 32-Inch Spot/Flood Combo LightSummarySummaryThe best budget-friendly LED light bar that actually has a good amount of light and works well in multi-light setups. The individual LED bulbs are reliable and replaceable.ProsProsThe LED illumination is bright enough to actually be useable in challenging nighttime conditions. Given the price, it's easy and economical to buy multiple light bars for a beginner's off-roading setup or as additional upgrades.ConsConsMounting and installation are difficult for certain vehicles. Some drilling may be required. Weather sealing is not as solid as more expensive models, especially for moisture.
- Honorable MentionKC HiLiTES 276 Flex BarSummarySummaryOne of the most flexible, modular light bar options available for almost any vehicle going on or off of the road.ProsProsThe expandable design makes it easy to cater to specific vehicle off-roading setups. Each individual light bar comes with everything needed for installation.ConsConsThe cost is prohibitive for large light setups. The high price tag firmly sets this light bar in the committed, not-beginner category.
Why Buy a LED Light Bar
- See better at night. Adding extra lights to your setup is about more than just increasing the illumination. In fact, the more important thing is the type of light you add. The illuminated surface area, for example, depends on the shape and size of the light. Light bars are extremely popular since they offer broad coverage and different sizes that work for different vehicles and driving conditions.
- Energy efficiency. A great benefit with any LED light is longevity. LED lights use less energy and tend to last longer, upwards of 50,000 hours than traditional bulbs. If you want a light bar that you can easily forget about after installing it, an LED light is the way to go. Lights with aluminum housing will also help with heat and energy efficiency.
- Versatility. Good setup with off-road lights is a versatile one. This is why many people turn to modular solutions that allow them to set up different accessories in different locations on the vehicle. Light bars fit into this category since they can mount onto a number of different attachments like front grille guards and roof racks, as well as smaller off-road vehicles like ATVs and UTVs. Beyond off-roading, you can also use these as LED work lights if necessary.
Types of LED Light Bars
The main difference between most light bars, besides the size and bulbs, is the shape. Straight bars are just that: straight and flat in design. They offer the greatest amount of light shining straight forward and work as decent spotlights in most off-roading setups.
When you add the gentle bend into the design, you get a curved light bar. Casting a greater angle of illumination, this type of bar is better suited when you want to illuminate a larger area in front of you while sacrificing some distance. Typically, most off-roading setups can have at least one curved bar for general illumination.
Top Brands of LED Light Bars
Started by Peter Kim and Carol Brown, KC HiLites was born out of the desire to make high-quality off-roading products that would make the adventures safe, especially at night. KC specializes in off-road lighting, having created a variety of bar, spot, and floodlights that have all become a standard to off-roading enthusiasts. The company's modern lineup includes several light bar options, including the C-Series C10 Lights.
Rigid Industries sports one of the largest catalogs of off-road lighting in the industry. Ranging from small 10-inch lights all the way to 50 inches in width, the company's LED light bars offer a lot of flexibility in terms of mounting and use. Many loyal customers choose the D2 Driving Light Set as a great introduction purchase into the brand's lineup.
Owned by ZINDER Inc, Nilight is a new kid on the block of off-roading light accessories. Starting in 2014, the brand has quickly made a name for itself by creating a budget-friendly range of light bars that have all been well-received and reviewed by experienced off-roaders. Check out the 22-inch Light Bar or the 32-inch Spot/Flood Combo Light for a taste of what the company has to offer.
LED Light Bar Pricing
- $100 and under: You will find a lot of different LED light bar options in the budget range. While there are a few standout options that can survive some seriously harsh conditions, most fall short in terms of longevity and durability. As a result, you should do your research or test a few out when shopping in this range.
- $100-$500: This price range features more established lighting options that tend to be small or simple but offer the durability necessary for most off-road conditions. Many top-quality brands price their lower-end models in this range as well.
- $500 and above: If you really want the most out of a single LED light bar, this is the range to check out. Options tend to be large, powerful, and reliable. While the price tags are higher, this range presents a good investment if you intend to use the lights a lot.
Since LED light bars are made up of individual lights, the size tends to influence how bright the light actually is and how much surface area it covers. Larger sizes can illuminate more area in front. Since most bars are rectangular, you should consider the height and width of the light bar you need to mount.
Since most light bars are used in off-road conditions, they need some resistance from the elements, like waterproof and dustproof protection, to function properly. Most light bar manufacturers use the same rating system that virtually all outdoor electronics use: the IP rating. Common rates like IP67 offer a certain amount of water resistance, dust protection, and more. The ultimate resistance level you need will depend on the types of driving conditions you will be in.
In order for a light bar to be useful, you need to actually attach it to the vehicle. This partly depends on the mounting points you have available. Most light bars are easier to attach to other accessories like roof racks. Circular tubes and T-slots make it easy to slide or clamp light bars on and off with the right accessories. Most manufacturers have their own line of mounting accessories you can check out before buying a bar.
- Number of Lights: Most of the time, you will probably want more than one light bar if you are creating a new lighting setup from scratch. Even numbers make it easy to set up light bars on the left and right sides of a vehicle. You may also want to mix up the different types of bars you buy to have different lighting options for various driving conditions.
- Space: Just like any other accessory, you need enough space to comfortably fit several light bars onto your vehicle. The types and sizes of the light bars will influence how much room you have in addition to the space on the vehicle itself. You can expand the available space with other accessories, especially for the roof and front bumper, as well.
Best LED Light Bars Reviews & Recommendations 2019
Best LED Light Bar Overall: KC HiLiTES C-Series C10
The KC HiLiTES C-Series is a group of simple LED light bars that offers a lot of versatility when it comes to picking the light you need for your unique setup. Balanced in price between true budget options and more expensive, more advanced models, the C-Series lights range between 6 to 50 inches in width.
More than anything else, these light bars deliver a lot of value for a small increase in cost. In addition to the high-quality light output, the bar has a good spread that hovers somewhere between a true spot and flood light angle. Built-in heat management also helps to keep everything cool. Lighting quality between the different sizes tends to be consistent.
The only major drawback to this light bar is the consistency between different light bars in the series. This can be problematic with multi-light setups since some LED bulbs can show up dead, and mounting brackets have been reported as missing on rare occasions.
Best Value LED Light Bar: Nilight 32-Inch Spot/Flood Combo Light
Coming in at a fraction of the cost of most LED light bars, the Nilight 32-inch Spot/Floodlight does a good job of retaining value in a crowded budget-friendly market that is filled with poor-quality options. As a result, this light is a good choice to consider if you are looking for something to get you started in creating a new off-roading setup or just want to expand on an existing one.
The most surprising thing about the Nilight bar is the fact that it's actually quite bright. Giving off a slight yellow hue, the lights produce a good amount of illumination from a single bar. In conjunction with multiple bars, it's easy to set up a decent front- or top-mounted light array without breaking the bank or settling for poor budget alternatives.
While the light bar delivers on illumination, installation and mounting are a different story altogether. The mounting hardware that's included fits in some setups, but the build quality is lacking for extreme driving conditions. In some cases, fixed mounting (requiring drilling) is required even with grille guards or top racks. We also found that some weather sealing may be required since moisture tends to get in the cracks and spaces of the bar the first time out.
Best LED Light Bar Honorable Mention: KC HiLiTES 276 Flex Bar
Sometimes, most off-roaders reach the point where their off-roading setup needs to expand to a level budget-friendly options can't reach. When this happens (and if the wallet is deep enough), modular designs like the KC HiLiTES Flex Array are the ticket. If you can afford it, this expandable light bar is one of the best options for giving yourself the lighting setup you really want.
Consisting of individual light cores, the Array is essentially five to 15 lights wired together. The small profile and identical designs of each individual core make it easy to mount and connect multiple Arrays together so you can expand as much as you want. Mounting is also pretty flexible with different accessories. Different cores have different angles, with the inner lights more focused on distance as a spotlight.
The only real drawback to this LED bar option is the most obvious: price. More expensive than most budget-friendly and midpoint options, the Array lights are quite the investment, especially if you want to buy more than one for a more complex setup. With that said, the build quality and light intensity (around 5,000 lumens on average) give a lot of value for the steep cost.
- Pay attention to the type of connectors different light bars have for power.
- Measure the mounting space on your vehicle before purchasing a light bar. If you get an idea of the space you have to work with, you will see which lights will work and how many you can realistically mount. Be sure to account for extra room for wiring harnesses as well.
- Mix up the beam angles you mount onto the vehicle to create a combo LED light bar. Some light bars can switch the beam angle from narrow to wide while others are static. It is a good idea to have a couple of spot beam angles mixed in with more broad flood beams.
- You don't have to buy light bars from the same brand, but it can help with the final look and compatibility with the lights you mount.
Q. How's a light bar powered?
A. In most cases, power comes straight from the vehicle itself. The connector will plug into the vehicle's power supply. Pay attention to the light specifications or product manual to see what the power requirements are for each light.
Q. Can I clean a light bar?
A. Depending on the method, yes. Hand washing is the recommended way of cleaning your car when you have anything mounted to it, light bars included. Car washing can easily damage mounted accessories, so if you want to take your car through a car wash, unmount everything first.
Q. What is the best LED color?
A. White light is always a safe bet when it comes to automotive lighting. Some manufacturers do offer different color temperatures, with a few models even allowing you to change the color yourself, but white gives you the best illumination. Some states also outlaw colors other than white for automotive lighting.
If you want the best in terms of bright light and flexibility, it's hard to beat the KC HiLiTES C-Series C10.
To save some money, however, check out the Nilight 32-Inch Spot/Flood Combo Light instead.
Share your off-roading and lighting setups in the comments below. Whether it’s a single-row, dual-row, or combo light setup, we want to hear about it.
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