Cars with LED headlights

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

BuyaCar team
Sep 27, 2021

Are you in the market for a new car and wondering whether LED headlights ought to be on your radar? We've got all the details you need to know right here.

We’re probably all familiar with LEDs by now (it stands for Light Emitting Diode). They're widely used in a number of day-to-day functions including TV remote controls and even the lights in your house. So the fact they've crossed over into car headlights is not a huge surprise.

You might not pay too much attention to your car’s headlights, but LED ones are an improvement on old-style yellow-ish halogen bulbs. They provide a much brighter (and in some cases longer) beam of light, making it easier for you to see and be seen. LED headlights are also more efficient, and last much longer than halogen lights.

Car manufacturers have been slowly introducing these new headlights across their ranges, and we've got to the stage now where cars with LED headlights are becoming more common than those without. Once the preserve of high-end luxury cars, even the cheapest superminis are now being fitted with LED technology.

So should you buy a car that's equipped with LED headlights? Read on to find out more.

What is LED headlight technology?

Amazingly, it doesn't rely on light bulbs. It relies on long-established electronics called semiconductors that emit light when a current is passed through them.

The LED is controlled by an integrated microprocessor and because both get very hot, are 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. You can think of them as providing full-beam brightness without blinding other drivers. Another term for them is matrix LED headlights.

Pros

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

Cons

Some argue that they are too bright
Much more expensive to fix (an 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 24622 cars with LED headlights available on BuyaCar, priced from £4,900. Most are just LED foglights and daytime running lights. LED headlights were generally found on premium models, but now it’ll be unusual for a car to be revealed without LED lights. 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.

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 now fitted as standard, having only been fitted to the top-spec Vignale before 2020.

Now, some latest-generation superminis like the Vauxhall Corsa, Renault Clio and Dacia Sandero all feature LED headlights as standard.

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. Other bulbs, such as sidelights and reverse lights, can be changed to LEDs without too much fuss.

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

If a car has daytime running lights, they’ll be on all the time when you’re driving. They became a legal requirement for all new cars a few years ago, and make it easier to see approaching cars in bright sunlight. LED daytime running lights are bright white, often in a slim strip, and are brighter to make visibility easier.

LED headlights are your main ‘dipped beam’ lights, the ones you should use at night-time or in heavy rain. With your headlights on, your tail-lights will also be on, while the rear of your car won’t be illuminated with just daytime running lights on. LED headlights are more powerful than LED daytime running lights, so the beam is much further.

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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