Cars with LED headlights

Learn why they're becoming the norm and search for cars with LED headlights

Nov 28, 2018

We’re probably all familiar with LEDs (it stands for Light Emitting Diode) from their use in TV remote controls, but now they've crossed over into car headlights.

Given how faint a TV remote LED is, some people might find it pretty surprising, but an LED headlight is a lot more powerful than the one you'll find in your remote.

It’s the new must-have technology, but car makers are only slowly rolling out LED headlights across their model ranges to entice buyers into more expensive models.

So what is this new technology and is it worth the premium?

What is LED headlight technology?

Amazingly, it doesn't rely on light bulbs but instead, long established electronics called semi-conductors that emit light when a current is passed through them.

The LED is controlled by an integrated microprocessor and because both get very hot, cooled by a small fan or heat exchanger. They are a lot more sophisticated than a normal bulb and more expensive, too.

What are adaptive LED headlights?

These use an array of LEDs that can be selectively operated in response to sensors and cameras in the headlight that monitor oncoming vehicles or, for example, pedestrians. The direction and intensity of the light beam is changed as a result. Another term for them is matrix LED headlights.

Pros of LED headlights

✔  Bright and crystal clear light.
✔  Last far longer than a conventional halogen bulb.
✔  Require around 25% less energy than a conventional bulb.

Cons of LED headlights

Some argue that they are too bright.
Much more expensive to fix (E.G LED light unit for VW Polo GTI costs £846, compared with around £18 for a bulb for a lower-spec model)

Which cars have LED headlights?

There are currently 27124 cars with LED headlights available on BuyaCar, with prices ranging from £4,150. Most are just LED foglights and daytime running lights. LED headlights are generally found on premium models. Taking Mercedes as an example, LED headlights are standard on the A-Class from Sport trim upwards. On the C-Class they are also standard from Sport trim but multi-beam or matrix LEDs are fitted to Mercedes-AMG versions.

LED headlights are standard on the E-Class and are matrix from All-terrain Edition upwards.

Lower down the price scale, Kia offers what it calls LED Bi-Function Headlights with Adaptive Lighting System on the Sportage, while, on the Ford Focus, LED headlights are standard only with the top-spec Vignale.

Are aftermarket LED headlights available for older cars?

Yes but they are not road legal unless fitted in an appropriate headlight unit. A car with aftermarket LEDs fitted in place of the car’s conventional headlight bulbs, and in the original light unit, will fail an MoT test. For the record, the price of a premium aftermarket LED for a headlight is around £45.

What’s the difference between LED daytime running lights and LED headlights?

The former are pretty much standard on all new cars. They have a lower intensity than LED headlights, as they’re designed to aid daytime driving while the sun is out.

Can I buy a headlight bulb that emits light similar to an LED?

Halfords claims its LED lookalike bulb, the White5000 H7 477, ‘emits a crisp, white light that has the look of LED headlights’. One bulb costs £18.70.


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