The method in which you light your way as you drive your car is one of the most important considerations that you’ll face as a modern driver. Headlights save lives, and it’s common sense that traveling at night without a form of illumination would make little sense.
Back in the 1962s, halogen was developed as a system to provide light for the early cars in Europe. These early headlamps provided much more light than the sealed-beam headlamps that served as their predecessors. Since that time, halogen headlights have saved millions of lives, but they are also known for their relative inefficiency versus newer methods of providing illumination like LEDs and HID headlights.
How the Halogen Headlight Works
The halogen headlight is a feat of engineering that uses the natural properties of several elements to provide a luminous white light that you can use to guide yourself in the dark. The core of the halogen bulb is made of tungsten. Tungsten has an exceptionally high melting point so that means that while an electrical current is passed through this lighting element, the tungsten doesn’t burn up or degrade; rather, light is generated.
The tungsten does have a habit of losing atoms when it has been heated, which is where the halogen comes in. The tungsten filament’s material loss is actually inhibited by a halogen covering so that the life of the bulb is greatly increased. As a result of this amazing chemical reaction, halogen bulbs last much longer than many of the other headlight technologies on the market. They also provide a much higher lumen rating than many of the competitive technologies as well.
Your Headlight Options: How Halogen Stacks Up Against Your Other Options
Tried, true, and reliable, halogen headlights provide great light and are the most well-known of the headlight options. Let’s take a look at some pros and cons.
Pros – These emit white light that really does helps illuminate absolute dark environments. Halogen is the cheapest lighting option for vehicles today and with such a low cost, replacing the light bulbs is a cinch. Halogen also lasts longer than most other forms of headlamp illumination.
Cons – Halogen’s biggest weakness is its ambient heat. If you’ve ever touched a headlight after you’ve powered down your car, you know that halogen lights tend to burn high. This is a natural aftereffect of the tungsten heating process, which means hot halogen headlights aren’t going anywhere. Additionally, halogen isn’t the most efficient; there’s a lot of energy waste.
Much more efficient than halogen headlights, LED headlights use light-emitting diodes to provide you the illumination that you need. We have had a lot of opportunities to test these out for ourselves, and LED bulbs are starting to replace many of the halogen ones throughout the vehicle industry. Here are the pros and cons of LED headlights:
Pros – Led headlights last for a very long time; as a matter of fact, they last much longer than traditional halogen lights. In addition to this, LED as a technology is a lot more environmentally sound when compared to halogen headlights. Finally, these headlights also use much less power than the halogen type.
Cons – The brightness of LED headlights also serves as their greatest weakness. LED headlights have a tendency to cause a high level of glare for other drivers, which can present a hazard. Additionally, these cost a lot more than any other type of headlight and also can be a bit harder to install.
HID or Xenon headlights are designed to provide a lot of lumens during operation; and as a result, are the brightest options on the market today. These use less power than halogen and are very efficient options for vehicle illumination.
Pros – HID lights have the longest life spans of any of the current crop of headlights. In addition, these don’t burn as hot as LED or Halogen; and as a result, Xenon bulbs need less cooling.
Cons – Despite the reduced need for cooling, HID bulbs are very expensive. These also can generate a harsh glare like the LED lights as well.
So Who’s the Winner?
Based on our research, if you need a standard, customizable lighting system that’s reliable and won’t cause a glare then halogen works best for your vehicle. Additionally, the fact that halogen is inexpensive a great trait that we couldn’t ignore.
Best Design Feature
Philips H11 Vision Upgrade Headlight Bulb
These bulbs are 30 percent brighter than the standard halogen bulb.
Philips X-treme Vision H7 12 V, 55 W Headlight Bulbs
The beam on this bulb can travel 147 more feet than a standard halogen bulb.
SYLVANIA 9006 XtraVision Halogen Headlight Bulb
The tungsten filament on this bulb utilizes a unique design that increases its overall durability.
SYLVANIA H11 SilverStar zXe High-Performance Halogen Headlight Bulb
This bulb is something of a hybrid as it utilizes HID technology.
SYLVANIA 9004 SilverStar Ultra High-Performance Halogen Headlight Bulb
These produce a startlingly white light that’s perfect for providing enhanced visibility.
GE NIGHTHAWK PLATINUM 9006 Halogen Replacement Bulb
These bulbs provide 90 percent more light than GE’s standard halogens
SYLVANIA 9007 XtraVision Halogen Headlight Bulb
These bulbs provide enhanced down road visibility with minimum glare.
1) Philips H11 Vision Upgrade Headlight Bulb
Our first product, the Phillips H11 Vision Upgrade is a great headlight bulb for your road visibility. While halogen almost always provides a top-notch illumination experience, when we tested these bulbs, we found that they perform much better than the baseline products. As a matter of fact, they produce about 30 percent more overall illumination than traditional halogen headlight bulbs.
Additionally, we also found that these provide a more distant illumination, which is perfect for those situations where you want to avoid deer and other road hazards. As a general rule, the sweet spot that many people look for in their headlights is 5000k. While these headlight bulbs only have a halogen system that generates about 3200k, these are still excellent bulbs that you should consider. This is because their range is really great and even at the furthest distance, we found that the bulbs really provided some great white light.
2) Philips X-treme Vision H7 12 V, 55 W Headlight Bulbs
The second set of Phillips headlight bulbs that we tested out really performed favorably; even when compared to the H11 models. Firstly, the range of these lights is pretty excellent. At maximum illumination, we found that these bulbs had the power to shine more than 40 yards in front of our test vehicles. This is a huge amount of illumination that is very useful when you are traveling down those dark roads at night.
They don’t fit every car, but for those that they are compatible with, it’s a fairly easy install process. We also really liked the fact that these had a really centered beam, which helps overall visibility. We also really liked the fact that the light shone at a very high degree of whiteness. According to Phillips, these can provide 20 percent whiter light than other halogen products.
3) SYLVANIA 9006 XtraVision Halogen Headlight Bulb
These bulbs are a great value at $13.21. Outside of this very competitive price point, these bulbs also have a lot of inherent oomph that will help you easily see when you are traveling through poorly-lit areas.
It uses a proprietary tungsten filament design that tends to add a lot of life to the overall bulb. As you know, just about any headlight bulb degrades over time. This degradation is one of the reasons that longer-lasting LED bulbs are beginning to show up on the market more frequently. The unique tungsten core in these bulbs adds so much life to these headlights that it adds a lot of value to an already inexpensive purchase.
4) SYLVANIA H11 SilverStar zXe High-Performance Halogen Headlight Bulb
Typically, when you hybridize something, you gain the strengths of both of the original products,but you also gain the inherent weaknesses. The SYLVANIA H11 SilverStar zXe actually uses a proprietary xenon gas technology that brings these bulbs close to the brightness range of HID bulbs. As a matter of fact, these can generate an impressive 5000k level of brightness that will drastically illuminate nearly any environment.
At first glance, you may notice that these bulbs are actually tinted white. Many of us have seen those cars on the road with HID bulbs that shine a bluish white, but amazingly, these bulbs actually shine a very bright white. During our tests, we noticed that these bulbs were the whitest out of all of the tested products.
These bulbs are a little more expensive than the majority of the halogen bulbs on the market, but that being said, at $39.97, they are far less expensive than some of the alternatives like LED and HID systems.
5) SYLVANIA 9004 SilverStar Ultra High-Performance Halogen Headlight Bulb
Our next product, which also comes from Sylvania is a slight step down from the zXe, but still provides some of the best lighting available from a halogen bulb. You won’t get 5000k illumination with these, but they definitely come very close according to our tests. Some halogen bulbs that are this bright tend to give off a yellow tinged light; these, on the other hand, have a very bright light that places them at the number two spot for whiteness out of the products in this guide.
What we really liked about these bulbs is the fact that they have a long lasting construction. The filament just seems to last longer than other halogens, even when exposed to harsher conditions. In addition to this, at $34.98, they provide a very affordable experience for those looking for some of the best vehicular lighting available.
6) GE NIGHTHAWK PLATINUM 9006 Halogen Replacement Bulb
The light output of the GE NIGHTHAWK PLATINUM 9006 really impressed us. This light is very bright, but GE was able to provide this high degree of light without overdoing it when it comes to glare. Glare is one of the biggest complaints about LED and HID, so when GE is able to create a competitive halogen light without creating huge glare, it’s something of a home run for the company.
Another great aspect of these bulbs is their ability to expose any colors that it comes in contact with so that they are more visible to the driver. This makes for a more three-dimensional visibility experience that will allow the driver to better react to street lights, potholes, and negative road conditions. On top of these features, these won’t cost an arm and a leg; they go for about $36.19.
7) SYLVANIA 9007 XtraVision Halogen Headlight Bulb
Our final product is another Sylvania headlight bulb that performed excellently in our tests. When it comes to overall compatibility, these bulbs matched up easily with all of our test vehicles and were incredibly easy to install.
During our tests, we noticed that these bulbs had a wider field of view than many of the other products that we tested. In addition to this, the objects that came in contact with the light also appeared to have more depth, which is perfect for helping a driver avoid road hazards when driving on a dark road.
While they aren’t the brightest in our guide, these lights do have a very respectable brightness output that appears almost pure white. Of all the features of the SYLVANIA 9007 XtraVision, the greatest in our opinion is the fact that these bulbs only cost $14.72.
If you’ve ever traveled through a heavily forested road that had winds and sharp corners, you know how important it is to be able to see as far in front of you as possible. Each of the products that we’ve showcased in this guide is exceptional for providing enhanced visibility and illumination for those low-light trips. They all use technologies that help them provide a little more function than the baseline halogen unit and they all are very reasonably priced.
During our research, we found that the best pick of the bunch is the SYLVANIA H11 SilverStar zXe High-Performance Halogen Headlight Bulb. Xenon headlights are quickly becoming some of the brightest headlights on the road, and it’s their prohibitive price that makes upgrading to a HID lighting system so difficult. The SYLVANIA H11 SilverStar manages to incorporate some Xenon functionality into a halogen lamp; and as a result, these bulbs really deliver a great lighting experience.
As a general rule, halogen bulbs like the ones we’ve featured here really provide the best overall bang for your buck, but of the products we’ve featured here, we think the best value is the SYLVANIA 9006 XtraVision Halogen Headlight Bulb. This is because of its unique tungsten filament. This core will last longer than most halogen filaments, meaning that this bulb has an almost LED level of lastingness.