How many lumens are in a car headlight? This question will come to your mind when shopping for a new car headlight or if you want an upgrade. You have probably seen other drivers with very bright headlights, some blinding the oncoming traffic, while others driving with dim lights.
A car’s headlight number of lumens varies depending on the type of headlights. It can be a halogen, LED, and Xenon, also known as high-intensity discharge (HID) light. Each type has its lumen rating, which also differs from one model to the next.
- What Are the Different Types of Car Headlights?
- How Many Lumens Is Legal for Halogen/Xenon/LED Headlights?
- How Many Lumens Is a Car Headlight High Beam?
- In Summary
A halogen headlight typically has a lumen rating of about 700 on the low beam and 1,200 on the high beam. On the other hand, an LED headlight has a lumen within the range of 2,000 to 4,000, and xenon or HID averages about 3,500 lumens.
Continue reading for detailed information about car headlight lumens, including the legal limit for all headlight types.
What Are the Different Types of Car Headlights?
The three types of car headlights are halogen, LED, and HID or Xenon. Each of these has a different lumen rating. But before we get into each, let’s define a lumen.
Some car headlights are brighter than others because of the different lumen ratings. So, what is a lumen? Lumen is the measurement of the brightness of a light source. It is a unit of light that describes the amount of light the source emits to the surrounding. One lumen is equivalent to a light produced by one candle. The higher the number of lumens, the brighter the light source will be.
Let’s describe different car headlight types and specify what their lumens are now that we understand the meaning of a lumen.
Halogen Car Headlights
Halogen car headlights are the most popular in the market. They are also the most affordable and easiest to install than any bulbs. You can identify halogen car headlights with their yellowish appearance.
Halogen bulbs use the traditional filament, which converts electricity to light and heat. They are either bromine-filled or iodine-filled to prevent the filament from burning out. Other gasses are used for the same purpose, but these two are the most common.
Because of the heat generated by the filament, their lifespan is relatively short. These headlights typically last 5,000 to 1,000 hours, depending on the brand and usage. The cheaper halogen car headlights are likely to burn out faster than high-end brands of the same type.
Regarding the lumen, halogen car headlights have the fewest lumens of the three headlight types. They emit about 700 lumens in the low beam and 1,200 lumens in the high beam, but you can find some high-end halogen bulbs with up to 1,500 lumens, which consume more energy. These are often fitted on high-end cars.
Xenon or HID Car Headlights
Xenon car headlights use different technology to generate light. They don’t use traditional filaments. Instead, they create an electric arc of high voltages between electrodes. You can imagine this as lightning confined within a small space.
Once the arc is produced, the HID bulb combines noble gases and vaporized metals to emit a bright chemical light. You can identify a xenon car headlight with its bluish-white color.
Xenon car headlights do not use filaments. That means they emit lower heat than halogen bulbs. As a result, they can last much longer and use less energy. The average life expectancy of a xenon car headlight is between 2,000 and 10,000 hours.
Xenon lights also have more brightness or luminance than halogen lights. The average is 3,500 luminance, but you pay more for this increased lumen and lifespan. These car headlight types are not as popular as halogen ones, but you can find them in some high-end cars.
However, xenon or HID car headlights also have their downsides. They are more complex to install and require sturdier housing to withstand the high heat they generate at high lumens, especially those that clocks at over 5,000 lumens.
The high light intensity from some of these xenon lights can blind the drivers of oncoming vehicles. And since the light is intensely focused, seeing anything outside its illumination is nearly impossible.
LED Car Headlights
The last type of car headlight that is also increasingly becoming popular is LED car headlights. As the name suggests, they use diodes to convert electrical energy into light, a process called electroluminescence.
LED car headlights are becoming the best choice among the three because they are more durable and energy efficient. They are also brighter than halogens and some xenon lights, depending on the brand and model.
LED headlights produce the least amount of heat among the three. That means it will also be the longest-lasting headlight type. They are typically rated between 5,000 to 10,000 hours.
LED car headlights also boast greater visibility and brightness. Many can emit 2,000-4,000 lumens and a visibility range of up to one mile. But you can also find other LED headlights with up to 6,000 lumens, though these may be illegal or too dangerous for oncoming cars.
Many people nowadays go for LED headlights because of color customizations. They can be programmed to emit any color. And due to these advantages, many car manufacturers and owners are switching to LED headlights.
However, LED headlights are still more expensive than halogen bulbs because they cost more to make and distribute.
Related content: 10 Cars with Turning Headlights (With Pictures)
How Many Lumens Is Legal for Halogen/Xenon/LED Headlights?
There is no direct answer to this question because it varies from state to state and jurisdiction to jurisdiction. But there should be no problem if your headlights have between 2,000 and 4,000 lumens.
If you want to upgrade your car headlights, you should find out the allowable or maximum legal lumens they can be. You probably don’t have to worry about this if you are looking for halogen car headlights. Their brightness or luminance is likely within the legal limit. It, however, becomes a concern if you want xenon or LED headlights.
Some states sanction car headlights according to their lumen output. A law enforcement officer may pull you over if you have overly-bright headlights. But in some states, such laws are rarely implemented or enforced. But why should you stick to the safe luminance?
You get an advantage over other drivers or road users when you have the brightest headlight. Without regulations, you can fit 6,000-lumen headlights onto your car, but you risk endangering everyone. These blind the oncoming drivers. And according to the research, people often drive toward the blinding light source. That increases the chance of a head-on collision.
You can use high-luminance bulbs for your fog light and only turn them on in foggy weather. It will enhance your visibility and improve safety, but never use them near other road users on a clear night.
How Many Lumens Is a Car Headlight High Beam?
The lumens of a car headlight high beam vary from one manufacturer to the next. It also depends on the type of headlight. As mentioned, a halogen headlight emits about 7,000 lumens in the low beam setting and 1,200 in the high beam.
The high beam luminance of a halogen car headlight is even lower than that of the low beam from a xenon or LED headlight. The two can have over 5,000 lumens depending on the brand.
Is there a minimum number of lumens for car headlights?
Realistically speaking, there is no minimum luminance for a car headlight. But law-enforcement officers can pull you over if your headlights are overly dim or not turned on at night. You may claim to be seeing the road. But you should also be visible to other drivers for the safety of all road users. Ensure your car headlights are bright enough, and avoid driving with a dead headlight.
How Many Lumens Are Halogen Headlights?
Halogen headlights typically emit 700 lumens in the low beam and 1,200 in the high beam. But you can find other high-end halogen bulbs that can exceed 1,500 lumens. The ideal applications for these should be fog lights to enhance visibility in poor weather.
How Many Lumens Are Xenon Headlights?
Xenon headlights are also becoming dominant for their brightness. The average luminance you get from them is 3,500, but you can find some clocking at over 5,000 lumens. They boast a high lumen, but what you buy should not be a nuisance to other road users. Stay at a safe luminance to avoid blinding other drivers.
How Many Lumens Are LED Headlights?
LED headlights are the brightest, with luminance ranging from 2,000 to 6,000. They are also energy-efficient, but these advantages come at an added cost. LED headlights are more expensive than halogen types.
Which headlight type is best for night driving?
Many drivers prefer bright headlights, which you can only find in LED or HID bulbs. These are more effective in illuminating the road ahead but are much more expensive. They are often fitted in high-end cars, but you can buy them as aftermarket parts to upgrade your headlight.
Regardless of what type of headlights your vehicle is equipped with, it is important to ensure they are functioning correctly at all times. Here is a detailed article providing information regarding headlights use in all 50 states.
Brian is an auto technician who writes DIY repair articles and creates how-to videos for MechanicAsk. He focuses on common repairs like brakes, oil changes, and lighting. Brian draws on his 5 years of dealership experience to explain repairs in an easy-to-follow manner, even for novice do-it-yourselfers. His technical articles always include detailed tool lists, supply checklists, and visual guides.