Your guide to LED and HID headlights

HID headlamps work better in urban settings because there are street lights to beef them up. PHOTO/internet

What you need to know:

If you are debating whether to buy HID or LED headlights, this guide will help you compare your options and select what fits your needs.

Headlights are crucial for a car driver as well as other road users without which accidents are eminent, especially in dark and foggy conditions. However, while humans may have varying eye characteristics and not necessarily different eyes, cars have different head lamp types and each has some differences.

In light of today’s discussion, the spotlight is on Light Emitting Diode (LED) and high-intensity discharge (HID) headlights.

HID headlights contain an HID light bulb that has two electrodes swapped in a glass casing which is filled with xenon gas and metal salts.

“That is why HID headlights are often called xenon lights,” Abel Asaba, a mechanic at Liberty Garage, in Kampala, says.

On the other hand, he says, LED lights work with one-direction flowing power and have a semiconductor that emits light when this power flows through it.

With these options available, one wonders which headlight is better than the other.


Compared to ordinary headlights, both HID and LED headlights are brighter. However, LED headlights produce 10,000 lumens of light while HID headlamps give only 8,000 lumens.

“This makes LED headlights a better option even on roads that are poorly lit as well as days that are foggy,” Asaba says.

However, it is also important to factor in the type of headlamp one’s car has. For instance, a vehicle with reflector headlamps will do better with LED light while that with projector lamps works better with HID lights


HID headlights produce bright blue-white light which is intense and thus produces a glare that is so bright, it can make one’s eyes hurt.

“This can cause accidents, more so if the driver flashes full lights because the other drivers are ‘blinded’ by the brightness, hence unable to clearly see others on the road. On the other hand, LED headlights do not have a glare, hence making driving safe for other road users,” Asaba says.


Owing to the amount of light they produce, Asaba says, LED headlights grant the user ability to see way past their car front.

“When using these lights, a car driver can see over long distances. It also means that other road users are aware of the car long before they get close to it,” he says.

Energy efficiency

LED headlights draw less from the car battery to provide light compared to xenon lights.

“LED headlights do not need a lot of power to get them working thus less strain on the battery,” Innocent Nkambwe, a mechanic at Kisekka Motors, says.


In regards to price, LED lights seem more costly than HID headlights.

“As manufacturers are always looking for ways to lower energy consumption, thus becoming environment friendly, a lot of innovation is done which obviously drives up the cost. Therefore, this affects the cost of LED headlights,” Nkambwe says.

Intuitive technology

Some LED headlights work with a matrix which incorporates LEDs and mirrors alongside cameras and sensors. This makes it an adaptive LED light.

“While not all adaptive headlights are LED, adaptive LED lights work with this matrix, which enables them to scan the road ahead, thanks to the cameras, hence change brightness. This helps the driver know the traffic density as well as the features ahead to make better driving decisions,” Asaba says.


While both HID and LED headlights can last long, LED lights seem to take the trophy owing to their simplicity.

“Their simple makeup not only makes them easy to install but also means that very little will go wrong during installation. Additionally, while it is estimated that HID headlamps will give you 15,000 hours, LED headlamps can go as far as 45,000 hours. This is why some believe they can last for as long as 10 years, especially when they are well taken care of,” Nkambwe says.

Additionally, while LED lights will maintain their light intensity, he says that with time, HID light intensity reduces towards the time when they totally lose their vitality, thus in need of replacement.

Start-up time

Seeing that LED lamps will light up as soon as power flows from the engine to the car and it only takes a one direction flow for them to receive power, they get on fast.

“On the other hand, HID lamps will only go one after the filament, which contains gases and metal minerals has been heated up. It also means that HID lights will need more power from the battery to stay on than LED light will,” Asaba says.

Colour options

Apart from providing light when driving, colour options also come into play when picking your headlight of choice. Nkambwe notes that while LED lights have a wide range of options, HID lamps do not have as much.

“HID headlamps can only be found in yellow, white, blue, and purple shades which is somewhat limited,” he says.

Making the choice

When choosing which headlight to buy for your car, a lot must be put into consideration. It goes beyond looking at the pros and cons of each light.

Nkambwe says one’s driving time is important when choosing a light.

“For instance, if you often drive at night, LED lights may be a better pick because inasmuch as HID lights have a white and bright light, LED lights have a quick start, an attribute that is essential during the night should the area have poor lighting or no lighting at all,” he says.

Moreover, LED lights have a further reach. Therefore, in regards to location, Nkambwe says, LED headlamps are your ideal choice in rural areas or those with poor street lighting as well as foggy conditions.

“HID headlamps work better in urban settings because there are street lights to beef them up,” he says.

Additionally, owing to lifespan, LED lights may take the day. Therefore, Asaba says, HID lights will work for someone looking for a short time solution.