Pros and Cons of HID Headlights

| December 21, 2012

brightness of HID headlightsHave you ever noticed how some cars have headlights so bright they seem almost blue? Those are HID lights, and the best place to check them out is at an auto dealership specializing in premium vehicles. You can find those on, and you can keep reading to learn more.

What they are

HID stands for high-intensity discharge. They’re a new type of headlight that started appearing on luxury models in the 1990s. Regular halogen headlights use a filament just like the the old Edison-style bulbs we’ve used in our homes for decades, and give off a slightly yellowish light. In contrast, HID headlights work like fluorescent lights: Electricity is passed through a gas, typically xenon, and creates an intense blue-white light.


HID headlights have one big advantage: Because their bluer light is closer to natural daylight than the light from halogen bulbs, they provide better nighttime visibility. If you often drive on unlit roads, that can mean a big improvement in safety. And let’s not forget, they look rather cool, too!


If you’ve been on the receiving end of these bright beams, you may have found the intense blue-white light quite irritating. But, as reported in USA Today back in 2001, although the glare might be a nuisance, it’s not disabling.

A bigger issue for many drivers is how HID headlights perform in fog. Blue light tends to be scattered more by water droplets, so with HID headlights, more light is reflected back to the driver, making it harder to see when you most need good visibility.

Another point to consider – and perhaps this means arranging a nighttime test drive – is that HID headlights feature a beam that sharply cuts off rather than fading out gradually. Some drivers say this can take some getting used to.

And finally, HID headlights are expensive. Should one be damaged, it will cost far more than a conventional halogen light to replace; and that’s likely to be reflected in insurance premiums.

How to get them

It is possible to buy aftermarket HID headlight kits, although they are pricey. The best way to get HID headlights is to buy a new vehicle, which ensures they’re properly integrated into the vehicle’s electrical systems. Some luxury vehicles come with them as standard, but many others, such as the BMW 3 Series or C-Class Mercedes, offer them as part of a lighting package. If you check out this option, brace yourself for some sticker shock!


If you want improved nighttime visibility, several auto bulb manufacturers make superior halogen bulbs. Look for PhilipsWagner or Sylvania products in your local auto parts store. But if you are just hankering after the cool blue look, it is possible to buy blue tints for your headlights. If you take this route, make sure they are permitted where you live; many states have made them illegal.

There’s no doubt HID headlights provide better illumination of the road ahead. If you’re interested in upgrading, find a premium car dealership or a good auto parts store on DexKnows and see what they can offer.

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Category: Auto Parts, Autos

About the Author ()

After twenty years in the automobile industry the craft of wordsmith called. Putting down the wrench, Nigel picked up a keyboard on which to express his passion for all things automotive.