What upgrade works better? LED OR HID?

Are you thinking about upgrading your vehicle’s lights? Maybe you’re just browsing to see if it’s difficult or not to upgrade. Let’s answer some of these big questions regarding HID or LED lights for your vehicle. 

What’s the difference? What’s going to give me the brightest output? What’s going to be the easiest to install?

First, let’s just point out what they are and how they work. 

LED stands for light-emitting diode,  and it works through the phenomenon known as electroluminescence. LED operates as power runs through material that has holes in it. The electrons filling the gaps in that material make the light we see. LEDs emit a specific wavelength of light instead of the full spectrum, like a halogen, so the light from most LED headlights is actually a blue LED with a special coating over it to make the appearance that it is white. They are brighter than your original incandescent halogen bulbs but do not produce the same glare that HIDs are known for causing. 

HID stands for high-intensity discharge and works through the result of a chemical process. They are the result of a chemical reaction that occurs with a gas between two electric charges, also known as an arc. When the electricity flows across the gas to the other electrical conductor, the arc evaporates the gas or metallic salt inside the tube. HID headlights require a warming up period to allow the chemical reaction to take place. After this warmup occurs, they are incredibly bright and practical. 

Okay, so what are the main differences between LED headlights and HID headlights?

LED lights are instant, and the technology has rapidly advanced in the last few years to become almost as bright as HIDs and sometimes brighter in many cases. HIDs need to warm up. LED lights use 100% of their output versus HID headlights, wasting about 30% on the IR or infrared spectrum. LED headlights are much smaller but do so at the cost of high levels of heat and required cooling. HIDs are more prominent and require a ballast to stabilize the light. HIDs contain toxic material internally, and LEDs don’t have to worry about any real chemical reactions. Let’s break it down by the bullets. 

  • HIDs require a warm-up / LEDs are instant
  • HIDs use about 70% of the light energy they produce / LEDs use all of the light energy
  • HIDs are larger, Omni-directional, and require a ballast / LEDs are small, focused directional light with no real extras outside of a cooling mechanism
  • HIDs contain toxic materials / LEDs just use electricity

What’s going to give me the brightest output? Highest lumens?

In the last year, LEDs have taken the market by storm as they have become nearly as bright, if not more vivid in some cases, compared to HID headlights. Not to say they are the brightest by any means. Your bulb is going to depend on cost, quality, projector versus reflector, and of course, your vehicle’s model. Generally speaking, HIDs are the brightest and best if you’re looking for high luminosity. It’s best to check your local state or countries laws and regulations about HID and LED bulbs, though. 


What’s going to be the most straightforward install?

Going back to the differences, we remember that one headlight requires a ballast and possibly some moving parts, and the other doesn’t. The LED is going to be pretty much plug-n-play nowadays versus the HID. The average installation time for an HID headlight may take up to 60 minutes versus an LED light at around 30 minutes. 

Let’s look at color comparisons. You’re going to find a wide range of different colors for the HID bulbs compared to the LED headlight technology. HIDs have been around for years; this is just where the market is currently. Don’t let this stop you from getting an LED headlight of your color choice. Manufacturers like us at Underground Lighting continue to break ground on innovating new lights and consistently putting out lighting products that serve our customer’s needs. 

Another aspect of your upgrade to think about is how long your lightbulb is going to last. LED headlights last on average up to 9x longer than HIDs. The technology is growing where LEDs are no longer burning out headlight housings and heating up like crazy. The LEDs we are making here at Underground Lighting are safe, high-quality, and long-lasting. 

To answer the full question of what upgrade works better comes down to those same factors eluded to earlier. Are you looking for something really bright or bright enough to drive safely? Many of your questions are vehicle dependent as the options might not be available yet or are just illegal in your state or country. Looking towards the future, it appears as though LED headlights are going to the better option. Their cost has come down as the quality has increased. They provide long-lasting, instant, energy-efficient light with no moving parts or filaments. LED headlights are shock-proof and require less installation time. 

We will not downplay HID headlights at all. HID headlights are proven technology and have provided drivers with great vision in darkness for years and will continue to do so for years to come. Both HID and LED lights have their advantages and disadvantages. It all comes down to the consumer in determining the type of headlights that fit your lifestyle and vehicle of choice.