Headlight Buying Guide: How to Find the Right Headlight Bulbs

On every roadworthy vehicle, you’ll find a set of headlights. There could be a pair of bulbs for low beams and a second pair for high beams, or one set of headlight bulbs might do the combined job. They shine ahead of your vehicle to illuminate the road at night so you can see anything in your way with enough time to react, and they also serve to show other motorists where you are on the road.

When it comes time to replace your headlights, a car light bulb guide will list a handful of options that can fit your car. Depending on the type of bulb and the style, individual headlights can range from around $10 each to more than $100 per bulb. Which headlights are right for your car, and how do you choose between the different available styles?

This automotive bulb guide can help you understand the differences between the types of bulbs, the advantages of each, and popular choices from AutoZone.

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What headlights should you buy?

Every headlight is designated with a bulb size. For a bulb installed in your car, you can find the number stamped or printed on the side of the bulb. It’s also listed in the service manual and in an auto bulb guide. Only the correct bulb size will fit in the headlamp housing and connect to the factory wiring. And any bulb that fits but isn’t the right type could cause wiring damage or melt the headlamp housing, or it might not focus the light correctly to see properly.

Within the bulb size, there are different styles to choose from: halogen, LED, and HID headlights. Here’s what each type brings to the table and popular options.

Halogen Lights

Most cars are equipped with halogen headlights from the factory. These bulbs contain halogen gas that glows brightly when the thin tungsten filament in the bulb has a current passing through it and heats up. The color is usually warm with a slightly yellow tinge that mimics the sun’s light. Virtually every bulb size has a halogen bulb option – usually several options – that differ by brightness or color.

Halogen bulbs are the least expensive option with plenty of selection. They produce more heat than other styles and consume more energy to produce the light they give off. They’re also the shortest-lived option, typically lasting around 2,500 hours before they need to be replaced.

Least expensive: Sylvania Basic Headlight Bulb

An excellent choice for an OEM replacement bulb, Sylvania Basic halogen bulbs are economical and meet DOT requirements. They’ll restore your factory headlight performance, whether you have a burnt-out bulb or dimmer than normal lights.

Best Halogen Performance: Sylvania Silverstar ULTRA

If you’re looking for better lighting performance than your vehicle originally had but without any modifications, Sylvania Silverstar ULTRA halogen bulbs could be right for you. They’re brighter than other halogen bulbs and shine further down the road with a whiter light, and for only a modest cost increase.

LED Lights

Light emitting diode, or LED headlights, produce light by passing an electric current through a microchip. Unlike halogen bulbs, there isn’t a filament that glows red-hot, nor is there a gas-filled glass tube to worry about. LED headlights operate cooler and last much longer while consuming less energy. They produce a wide range of light colors, but they typically have bright white light.

LED bulbs are more expensive, to be certain, but the look is so popular that manufacturers are switching to LED factory headlights for many new models. There are fewer aftermarket options available than halogen, but the choices are expanding.

Best choice: Sylvania OFF Road LED Headlight

Available in common sizes like 9003, 9006, and H7, Sylvania OFF Road LED headlight bulbs are warrantied to last five years. They have a cool white light that’s extremely bright and are a direct replacement for bulbs of the same size.

HID Headlights

High-intensity discharge, or HID headlights are another option for bright, cool white or blue lighting. They are similar to halogen bulbs in that they have a glass tube that’s filled with gas – in this case, Xenon. These bulbs send high voltage between electrodes through the tube for it to glow, much like a neon sign.

HID bulbs require a lot of power especially to start, and they might require a separate ballast for aftermarket solutions. They’re more expensive than other options but also last as long as 10,000 hours. Vehicles equipped with HID headlights from the factory cannot use any other type of bulb.

Least expensive: Sylvania Basic HID Headlight Bulb

For factory-equipped HID headlights, the Sylvania Basic HID headlight is a direct replacement. It warms up quickly and is energy efficient for a long life with a 12-month warranty.

Best performance: Sylvania HID Silverstar zXe Headlight

Also a direct replacement for factory HID lighting, the Sylvania HID Silverstar zXe bulb uses one-third less energy than comparable halogen lights while producing twice the lumens. They produce brilliant white light with excellent downroad coverage.

What to consider when choosing a headlight bulb

Getting the right headlight bulbs is more than just plucking one off the shelf. You need to consider:

  1. Size – First and foremost, make sure the bulb fits in your car’s headlight housing by matching the bulb size
  1. Brightness – Look for a bulb that is bright enough for your needs. Keep in mind that brighter bulbs may be more expensive and may draw more power from your car’s electrical system.
  1. Color temperature – Headlight bulbs come in different color temperatures, ranging from warm white to cool white. Warmer colors in the 3000K to 4000K range may be easier on the eyes, while cooler colors in the 5000K to 6000K spectrum may provide better visibility.
  1. Beam pattern – Some bulbs have a wider or more focused beam pattern, which can affect visibility and light distribution.
  1. Longevity – Consider the expected lifespan of the bulb. Some bulbs may last longer than others.
  1. Cost – Headlight bulbs can range in price, so consider your budget when choosing a bulb.

Shop at AutoZone for headlights to fit your car. Use our headlights bulbs guide to narrow down options that fit your car exactly using the year, make, and model, or ask an associate to help.

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FAQ/People Also Ask

How do I know which headlight to buy for my car?

Match the bulb size with the same one your vehicle was originally equipped with. Then, decide if you’d like the same performance or upgrade to brighter, whiter bulbs in halogen, LED, or HID styles.

What is the best headlight to buy? 

Sylvania offers several bulb options for each size, and it’s a matter of preference which is best. You’ll need to decide on the type of bulb, the brightness, and the color you’d prefer.

What are the 3 types of headlights?

Headlights can be categorized as halogen, LED, and HID, and each brings its own set of characteristics to the table.

How many lumens should I get for headlights?

Common headlights produce 700 lumens on low beams and 1,200 lumens with high beams. Excessive light output can disrupt other traffic while lesser outputs can reduce your ability to see.

Which type of headlight is the brightest?

Generally, Xenon headlights, also known as HID headlights, are the brightest bulbs on the market.

What are the 4 types of headlights?

The four headlight bulb styles are incandescent, halogen, LED, and HID bulbs.

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