Difference between halogen, LED and HID headlights

If you’ve ever wondered about the differences between the original halogen bulbs that come in your stock headlights, and an upgraded HID or LED bulb, then keep reading!

Most cars and trucks built today come with halogen headlight and fog light bulbs, also called incandescent, and there are 3 ways to increase the brightness:
1. Install a different halogen bulb that runs at a higher wattage.
2. Install an HID Conversion Kit.
3. Install LED Headlight Bulbs.

Stock Halogen bulbs

In this picture (above) you can see the light output of a typical modern headlight. It uses a 55w halogen headlight bulb and creates around 900 – 1,000 Lumen of light with a typical yellow-ish hue. If you want to see more at night for safety (increased lumen), or just change the color of the light for a different style, see the below options:

GTR Lighting 35w HID Conversion Kit

Traditionally an aftermarket plug and play HID conversion kit uses a 35w ballast as shown above. This is less power consumption than the original halogen bulb, but produces 3 times the light output at a whopping 3,500 Lumen per light bulb! This is possible due to it being a more efficient and modern technology. The other benefit is when purchasing your HID kit you get to choose the color, anywhere from a 3,000K color that looks golden yellow, all the way up to a bluish color labeled 10,000K. This diversity allows you to really customize your driving experience and the way your vehicle looks to others. Some people upgrade for style, others for safety. In the picture above you can see a 35w HID kit in 5,000K Pure White color from GTR Lighting.

GTR Lighting 55w HID Conversion Kit

The other option (and the brightest available today!) for HID upgrades is to use a 55w ballast! 55w HID conversion kits use the same amount of energy as your original halogen headlight bulbs but produce 5 TIMES THE LIGHT OUTPUT! These heavy hitters produce 5,000 Lumen of light output per bulb which is easily the brightest headlight bulb option out there by a long shot. The 55w style HID kit is ideal in a projector housing but can be used in any automobile headlight housing. Some people even install these in fog lights, but it’s common to see a melted foglight due to the intense heat produced by this product.

GTR Lighting LED Headlight Bulbs

The newest, latest and greatest product to hit the market to upgrade your headlights with are high powered LED Headlight Bulbs. This entire product technology is relatively new, the first ones being introduced around 2014, today they are brighter than your original halogen headlight bulbs, and give you a more modern light output color. With LED headlight bulbs you get a simple install that’s easier to put in than HID, with a similar light output level and quality of HID. The GTR Lighting GEN 2 LED Headlight Bulbs produce 3,600 – 4,500 Lumen per light bulb depending on the options you choose.

We are optimistic that in the coming months as this technology becomes more refined you’ll see more and more high quality LED headlight bulbs on the market that will work better than HID conversion kits, and their original halogen predecessors. If you have any doubt about what product you should use to upgrade your headlights with, contact us and we’ll help you figure it out!

Happy lighting!




6 thoughts on “Difference between halogen, LED and HID headlights

  1. Hi, I’m building a motorcycle and I’m going to use a pair of headlights with D2S type “bulbs” my question is: can I put led “bulbs” and do I need a ballast to run them?
    Thank you for your time.

    1. Hey Paulo, there are a couple products out there with the same D2S base as the HID bulb, so yes there is an option but I warn against it. I can guarantee you that any D2S or D2C HID bulb will perform 2 to 3 times better than any D2S-based LED bulb will. So yes, you can do it but my question is why? You will lose brightness. The reason is that the projector housing and lens are so precise and so accurate that if you change the light source inside the housing at all the beam pattern won’t be lined up correctly anymore and it will be a bad light output. You will spend all the money, and do the install and just take it out again. Trust me on that. Maybe in a little while a better LED bulb will come out that works in a D2S socket properly, but so far they are no good in that application.

    2. The way that it would even work at all is you would have to cut the wiring going to the ballast, then remove the internal wiring going from the ballast to the D2S bulb, then figure out a new way to mount the LED bulb, and then do some custom wiring without the ballast, to power up the LED bulb. It’s not a great idea.

  2. Thank you for your reply.
    I posed this question because I don’t have a ballast yet, the headlights will probably be the BMW E60 projector inside a fairing so if a COB LED “bulb” would fit straight it would be an easier solution

  3. I have a black 2013 Hyundai Sonata Limited I want to know which light should I get for my headlights and fog lights. I was thinking of getting LEDs for both or should I get hid which is brighter.

  4. Hello Team,
    I have VW Ameo diesel whose headlight is same as that of VW Polo-double barrel headlight so that low & high beams are in different reflector. Both uses 55W H7 halogen. I’ve changed low beam to 55W HID. They are extremely great. My question what should I use for high beams? Because Led output is not great as compared to 55w hid. Please let me know your thoughts on this & also options with specifications of bulb.
    Thanks in advance.

Leave a Reply