Ever wondered how many how many lumens is a car headlight? Most vehicles use Halogen bulbs which are 700 Lumens on Low Beam and 1,200 on High Beam. This will of course change depending on the year and make of your vehicle. If you just purchased a new luxury Cadillac Escalade, you’re going to get brighter lights than you would with a cheaper Ford Focus. (nothing against the Focus of course! I love those cars!)
What are Lumens?
Simply put, Lumens or lm is the light output of a bulb or lamp. It’s how bright the bulb is. Lumens is the measure of the brightness or the amount of light emitted by a bulb or light source.
If you are buying a new set of bulbs for the headlights in your vehicle, you should take a look at the light output or lumens rating of the bulb.
Lumens versus Kelvin: What’s the difference?
However, Lumens should not be confused with Kelvin or K. Whereas Lumens is the overall brightness or light output of a particular bulb, the Kelvin or K is the color temperature. Typically speaking, a bulb with a lower K or color temperature will have a yellowish light output. But if the bulb is rated with a higher color temperature, it represents a light color that is closer to the color of natural sunlight.
For example, a stock or factory halogen headlight bulb is rated at 3200K. Bulbs with a 4000K to 5000K color temperature will be whiter and brighter than a 3200K bulb.
But as the color temperature rises, the light will turn from white to bluish white. Most headlight bulbs with a higher color temperature will be HID or high-intensity discharge bulbs. Typical halogen bulbs that promise a color temperature of 6000k or higher is just the result of plain old marketing hype.
How many Lumens is a halogen bulb?
Stock or replacement halogen bulbs will emit around 700 Lumens in low beam. The Lumens rating of the high beam will be around 1,200 Lumens.
Of course, this will also depend on the kind of halogen bulb. Halogen bulbs that are designed for high-beam only purposes (such as on vehicles equipped with quad-headlight configurations) will be brighter at around 1,600 to 1,700 Lumens depending on the brand.
So, if your vehicle is equipped with simple halogen headlights, the Lumens rating of the bulbs will be anywhere from 700 to 1,200 Lumens.
Halogen lumens are going to be the lowest when compared to HIDs and LEDs. But they are very affordable, last long enough, and are typically bright enough for the average driver. There’s a good reason they’ve been used since the 1960s.
How many Lumens is an HID bulb?
HID headlamps or Xenon headlights are popular due to many reasons. Besides the fact HID or high-intensity discharge lighting systems will consume less power, there are two main factors why you should consider upgrading to HID from halogen bulbs, and these are:
- Color temperature. With a set of HID lights, you can configure the color temperature of the kit. HID kits can be rated at 3000K all the way to around 12000K. This basically means you can select the color of the light depending on the style or theme of your ride.
- Brightness or Lumens output. Xenon bulbs are many times brighter than halogen. In fact, a typical HID or Xenon bulb is rated at around 3000 Lumens, which is up to three times brighter than the Halogen Lumens.
Most HID or metal halide HID kits will be rated at 80 Lumens per watt. If you have a 35-watt HID kit, this will equate to roughly 2,800 to 3,000 Lumens. HID kits that are rated at 50-watts will be rated at 4,000 to 5,000 Lumens, which is one of the brightest you can buy today.
How many Lumens can an LED headlight produce?
This can get tricky. 2,000 – 4,000 Lumens is common but the output of an LED headlight kit will depend on a ton of factors. One of these is the amount or number or LEDs in each bulb.
However, you need to be careful when purchasing aftermarket LED headlight bulbs. If you see the bulbs to be rated at ridiculous amounts such as 10000 or 13600 Lumens, you better take this with a grain of salt.
Similar to computing the Lumens output of HID bulbs, the brightness of LED headlights will also depend on the wattage of the bulbs. For example, a 1-watt diode is capable of emitting around 130 Lumens. If the bulb is fitted with 16 diodes, this means each bulb is rated at 16-watts and around 2,080 Lumens.
All in all, installing two of these LED bulbs in your car will produce a maximum light output of around 4,000 Lumens. This is almost the same value as an HID light kit.
Which is better: Halogen, HID, or LED headlights?
There are pros and cons to each system.
- Cheapest compared to HID and LED
- Commonly found at the store
- Easier to replaced and no extra parts to worry about
- Draws more power – This comes into effect when using them as floodlights; like those old KC truck lights!
- Not as bright as LED or HID
HID / Xenon
- Bright! These brighten up the night to look like day
- Last longer than halogens – good HID kits should last as long as your car
- Looks cool – all your friends will be jealous and think your Honda is a Lexus or BMW
- Expensive – You can buy cheap kits for likte $50 bucks, but they won’t last and will flicker
- Requires reflector housing modification to “throw” the light correctly
- Need to buy Projector Headlight housing or modify your stock housing (not recommended)
- Extra parts to mess with – HIDs have ballasts and starters that are a pain to fit behind the headlight housing and tend to malfunction
- Ballasts can go bad – even though the bulb lasts for years, the ballasts can fail sooner
- Pros are very similar to HIDs… In fact, if you buy a set of HIDs and LEDs that are the same price from a reputable supplier, you shouldn’t notice any difference
- See HID cons.
Halogen bulbs are simple, cheap, and easy to maintain or replace. However, halogen bulbs will suck more power from the electrical system in your vehicle and will produce tons of heat as wasted energy.
HID lights are brighter and more energy efficient than a typical halogen bulb. However, HID is more expensive to buy and maintain. The installation is also a bit more complicated since HID kits will come with a pair of ballasts and starters, which will need to be strategically mounted in the engine bay. But even though HID is more expensive and complex, they are designed to last longer than halogen lights. In some cases, the factory HIDs are engineered to last the life of the vehicle itself.
But if you’re thinking about upgrading to LED headlights, there are things you need to consider as well. The diodes themselves will not emit too much heat despite the intense light output, but the same can’t be said for the electrical assemblies under the bulb. It can heat up significantly enough to melt the electrical cables and adjacent assemblies under the hood.
This is the reason why LED bulbs need fans, heat sinks, or both to vent out the heat produced by the electrical chips. This also makes it harder to implement a proper set of LED headlights in your vehicle.
One last piece of advice
Halogen headlights will produce an average of 700 Lumens per bulb in low beam configuration and 1,200 Lumens in high beam. If you think your vehicle deserves brighter and more powerful lighting, you should focus your attention on HID or LED bulbs instead.
After you’ve upgraded your headlights, why not upgrade your car map lights too?
Hopefully this has answered your questions about how many lumens is a headlight. If have any questions please contact us!
-Image by Khusen Rustamov from Pixabay