Best Headlight Bulbs – Buyer’s Guide and Reviews 2017
Best Headlight Bulbs – MaintainYourRide Recommends:
Introduction – Best Headlight Bulbs – Halogen
Headlights go out? Not quite as bright as they used to be? Looking to beef up your light output for better visibility? In this article, we will give a quick overview of halogen bulbs, a comparison of the top brands available, an installation guide, some common questions, and a conclusion. If you’re not interested in reading through, scroll down to our quick comparison table for a recommendation-at-a-glance
Halogen headlight bulbs are the most common type of headlights on the roads today. Instead of using electrodes to charge gas inside the bulb or LED technology, they employ the old fashioned tungsten filament heating technique to produce light. They are far cheaper than the LED and Xenon HID Headlight options, however, there are some reasons for this. First, halogens do no produce nearly as much light as the high end LED and Xenon HID Headlight Bulbs. Second, they generally don’t last nearly as long as a quality LED bulb (500-1000 hours vs up to 50,000 hours) and run much hotter than both HID and LED bulbs (they convert most of the energy they consume into heat rather than light).
Xenon HID and LED Headlight Bulbs have significantly more control over the color temperatures that they are able to produce. You may have noticed certain cars on the road have a bluish/whitish tint while the majority of other cars have a dull yellow light. While there have been some recent advancements in halogen technology that can simulate the white tint (SilverStar zXe), they cannot match the color flexibility of the standard Xenon HID kits. All of the bulbs we have reviewed are DOT-Compliant (Street-legal).
Choosing the Best Halogen Headlight Bulbs
There are a few different tiers of Halogen Headlight Bulbs that most major brands offer. Their price points range from about $15 to about $35 per pair and generally provide a small step up in performance for each tier. Here is a comparison chart from Sylvania that fits the general tier structure of most major Halogen brands:
The main competitors in the Halogen Headlight market are Sylvania and Philips. Many people will be familiar with Sylvania’s SilverStar brand. We have reviewed the top 5 headlight bulbs and included our favorites below. Be sure the check the conclusion for the MaintainYourRide recommendations for Value, Performance, and Overall.
Halogen Headlight Bulbs Comparison
Sylvania XtraVision bulbs are the MYR Recommended choice for value. These bulbs are a great factory replacement to your standard halogen bulbs. They are manufactured to OEM specs to provide the same level of durability while providing slightly increased visibility.
A proprietary filament design allows more downroad visibility without added glare meaning that it is safer for you and the other drivers on the road.
With over four stars across thousands of reviews from around the web, this is actually the highest rated bulb on the list by reviewers. We attribute that to the fact that they are such a great value it is hard to be disappointed. With a price tag under $15, if you just need some stock replacement bulbs and aren’t concerned with all of the frills of the upper tiers, the XtraVision Headlight Bulbs are our choice for the Best Headlight Bulbs from a value perspective.
Philips X-tremeVision ranks number four on our list even though it is a top-tier bulb at a reasonable price. It is a 5-star bulb on the Philips rating scale which is another way of saying that it is in the top tier of the Philip Headlight Bulbs. Although these bulbs are rated to double your light output, they are still fully DOT-Compliant (Street-legal).
Philips Headlight Bulbs are designed with the OEM Quality Seal meeting all of the standards necessary for reliable performance. They are a direct plug-and-play application and come in a pair so that you can replace both sides together for optimum lighting.
A rating of just under four stars isn’t quite as good as the previous Sylvania’s, but we have to factor in the tier and price points to get a fair comparison. These are our go to choice if you want to enter the top tier of Halogen bulbs without breaking the bank. With a price right under $30 for the pair, its easy to see why they are one of the top selections.
The Sylvania SilverStar zXe is a performance offering from Sylvania designed specifically to simulate the effects of HID Headlight Bulbs. They produce a crisp white light and employ a proprietary Xenon halogen gas technology. They are advertised as the best alternative and value compared to investing in an actual HID Conversion Kit.
The bulbs come with a cobalt blue coating which provides optimal light transmission while giving it that white tint that HID’s and LED’s are known for. Sylvania is dedicated to the performance and value of their bulbs and have manufactured them to OEM specifications for direct plug-and-play fitment.
These bulbs do carry a heftier price tag, but they are as close as you’re going to get to the HID look without spending the money. In the $30-40 range with just under four stars and two and a half thousand reviews, the SilverStar zXe is our choice for best Halogen HID alternative.
Philips CrystalVision is another 5-star Philips-rated bulb. This one, however, features the blue-coating for the HID look similar to the Sylvania zXe bulbs. Compared to the zXe, these are a slightly milder color shift towards the blue/white tint of an HID kit. Rated at 4000 Kelvin, they will just be slightly more white than your standard halogen bulb (3000-3400K).
They are manufactured to the same OEM standards and are DOT-Compliant. They are basically the same as the X-tremeVision bulbs but engineered to provide that whiter Xenon look and feel.
We rated these bulbs number two due to the great price, the higher reviewer rating and the sheer number of reviewers that are out there. Over three thousand reviews from around the web prove that this product is tried and true as a top tier OEM replacement halogen bulb. The link below will provide additional information, pricing, and reviews so be sure to take a look.
Sylvania’s SilverStar Ultra Headlight bulbs come in as our #1 overall and performance recommendations. They are advertised as Sylvania’s brightest downroad halogen headlight bulb and even include a slightly whiter light for enhanced clarity.
Manufactured to OEM standards, these bulbs will be the most noticeable upgrade you can get without upgrading to LED or HID headlights. Even with the increased light output, they are still 100% street legal and produce no additional glare. These bulbs are guaranteed by a 1 year warranty from Sylvania.
These are the most expensive bulbs on our list, but not by much. The top of the line bulbs will only set you back less than $40 for the pair and have over four stars across over five thousand reviews from around the web, its pretty easy to see why we chose them as the best of the best headlight bulbs. Unless you’re on a strict budget or really looking for that HID look and feel, these bulbs are the MaintainYourRide recommendation for the Best Headlight Bulbs (Halogen-type) on the market. Check out the link below for additional information, up-to-date pricing, and more reviews.
Installing Headlight Bulbs
The first step to a successful headlight bulb install is ensuring that you have the proper parts and equipment. Make sure to double-check the bulb type that fits your car’s headlights or foglights before disconnecting or starting anything. This job typically requires no special tools, however, some applications require usage of a basic socket set and a set screwdrivers.
There should be YouTube videos or guides that can be found by searching Google that lead you to an installation guide specific to your car, truck, or SUV. This guide is just a generic collection of steps that you’ll perform in all install jobs.
A lot of auto parts stores will try to sell you “bulb grease” when you buy a set of headlights. There is some debate as to whether or not it is worth using. It is essentially dielectric grease that helps prevent corrosion on your electrical components. Headlights may not be the best use case for it, but if you’ve ever worked on cars 20+ years old, you know how corroded some of the connectors can get. Consider buying a large tube of dielectric grease to have on hand any time you are unplugging electrical components in your engine bay, including your headlight bulbs. It should be significantly cheaper to buy a large tube than one of those single use cash register packets.
Common Halogen Headlight Bulb Questions
What are Halogen Headlights?
Halogen Headlight Bulbs are the most common type of automotive bulb on the market. They employ the old fashioned tungsten filament heating technique inside of a glass vacuum to produce light. They are the cheapest option for automotive lighting but you sacrifice some brightness and longevity.
How Long are Headlights Supposed to Last?
Typically, halogen headlight bulbs aren’t guaranteed to last for a specific amount of time. This is due to the high variation of conditions that exist between applications. However, the SilverStar Ultra bulbs have a 1 year warranty/guarantee so they expect these bulbs to last at least a year.
What are the Brightest Headlight Bulbs?
The brightest halogen bulbs that we tested were the Philips Xtreme-Vision followed closely by the Sylvania SilverStar Ultra Headlight Bulbs. The difference in brightness between the two is negligible and will likely not be noticeable to the naked eye. However, if brightness is your primary concern, be sure to take a look at some of the LED and HID options that we have reviewed. The links can be found below.
What is HIDs Lights?
HID Headlights are similar to halogen headlight bulbs in that they utilize a glass enclosure filled with gas. They differ in that HID’s don’t utilize a filament. Instead they produce an arc that illuminates the gases to produce light. They are rated to be up to 3x brighter than standard halogen headlights.
Are LED Headlights Better?
The short answer is yes. However, you will have to pay a higher price. LED Headlight Bulbs are rated to last longer, produce more light and less heat than halogens or HID bulbs. The only issue is that the technology isn’t as mature as the HID and halogen offerings. More and more automotive manufacturers are beginning to utilize LED headlights from the factory.
What are the Best Foglight Bulbs?
Halogens can work great for fog light bulbs. The majority of manufacturer and aftermarket fog lights have halogen bulbs standard. All of the halogen bulbs on our list should be compatible with most factory and aftermarket fog lights. Some folks prefer their headlights and foglights match. Buying two pairs of bulbs can help ensure that you get the unified look.
LED Fog Lights and HID Fog Lights are also gaining popularity. The same bulbs that go in headlights typically have a bulb size that will fit most fog lights. You can utilize these types of bulbs for additional color control, brightness, and lifespan but they come at a slightly higher price. Basically, the best fog light bulbs are dependent upon what your primary reasoning and goals are for replacing. If budget is a concern, halogen fog lights are the easy choice.
MYR Recommended Best Headlight Bulbs – Overall – Sylvania SilverStar Ultra Headlight Bulbs
MYR Recommended Best Headlight Bulbs – Performance – Sylvania SilverStar Ultra Headlight Bulbs
MYR Recommended Best Headlight Bulbs – Value – Sylvania XtraVision Headlight Bulbs
Sometimes, lack of output from your headlights can be attributed to dirty, cloudy, foggy, or yellowed headlamp lenses. This is actually an easy DIY fix that you can do in your garage in as little as 15 or 20 minutes. Check out our Buyer’s Guide for the Best Headlight Restoration Kits for some recommendations on the top products as well as a guide of how to actually use them to restore clarity to your headlights!
Before picking the best headlight bulb for your application, be sure to read up on our Buyer’s Guides for the Best LED Headlights and Best HID Headlights before deciding to purchase. You may be surprised with how much the prices have come down in recent months to better compete with the Halogen bulbs. With LED Bulbs rated to last up to 50,000 hours, you may be better off paying a slight premium to reduce the frequency of changing your bulbs.
LED Light Bars are another great lighting accessory to add. They can provide a ton of extra visibility in situations where even the best headlight bulbs might not cut it.
If night-time visibility is an issue for you, especially in adverse weather conditions, check out our Windshield Wiper Buyer’s Guide with reviews of the top brands as well as installation and diagnosis guides.