How Many Lumens is a Car Headlight

It may not be a burning question in your mind, but have you ever wondered how many lumens are in a car headlight? While it varies by both bulb type and make and model of the vehicle, there are a few universal elements that apply to this useful vehicle component. But first, let’s discuss what exactly lumens are and the different types of bulbs that are used in a car headlight. 

What Are Lumens?

Lumens can be categorized as the light output of a bulb or lamp. Think of it as a fancy way of saying how bright a light bulb is. Lumens is the measure of the brightness or the amount of light emitted by a bulb or light source.

If you are looking to purchase a new set of bulbs for the headlights for your vehicle, you should observe the light output, or lumens rating, of your headlamps.

Lumens Versus Kelvin: What’s The Difference?

While lumens reference the light output of a bulb, it should not be confused with Kelvin or K. Whereas lumens relate to the overall brightness or light output of a bulb, the Kelvin or K is a reference to the color temperature of a bulb. In most cases, a bulb with a lower K rating, or color temperature, will produce a more yellowish colored light output. On the other hand, a bulb that is rated with a higher temperature will produce a light color that more closely resembles natural sunlight.

For instance, most stock or factory halogen headlight bulbs are rated at 3200K. With this rating in mind, bulbs with a 4000K to 5000K color temperature will then be whiter and brighter than that of a 3200K bulb. But as the color temperature continues to rise, the light color changes from more of a white to a bluish white. The majority of headlight bulbs with a higher color temperature will often be HID (high-intensity discharge) bulbs. Common halogen bulbs that promise a color temperature of 6000k or above are often just for marketing purposes.

How Many Lumens Are In A Halogen Bulb?

In most cases, stock halogen bulbs emit around 700 Lumens in low beam, and emit around 1,200 lumens when in high beam. This is of course dependent upon what kind of halogen bulb it is. For example, certain halogen bulbs are designed for high-beam only purposes, such as those on vehicles with quad-headlight configurations will be far brighter at around 1,600 to 1,700 lumens depending on the brand and model.

Halogen lumens are usually going to be the lowest in terms of output in comparison to LEDs and HIDs. However, they are typically very affordable, last for a decent amount of time, and are usually bright enough for the average driver and driving conditions. 

How Many Lumens Are In A HID Bulb?

There’s a good reason that HID headlamps, or Xenon headlights, are extremely popular amongst car enthusiasts. Aside from the fact HID systems consume less power, Xenon bulbs are also many times brighter than a halogen bulb. In fact, the average HID or Xenon bulb is rated around 3000 Lumens, which is about three times brighter than the average halogen.

Most HID kits are rated at around 80 Lumens per watt. So for example, if you have a 30-watt HID kit, this will equate to roughly 2,400 lumens. HID kits that are rated at 40-watts will be rated at 3,200 lumens. There are bulbs for 50-watt systems that rate at 5,000 Lumens, which make them some of the brightest you can purchase.

How Many Lumens Can An LED Headlight Produce?

When trying to answer the question of how many lumens an LED headlight can produce, it can be a little complicated. On average, 2,000 – 4,000 Lumens is common range for many headlights. However, the output of an LED headlight kit is dependent upon many factors. One of the primary factors is the number or LEDs contained in each bulb.

While they are very effective and efficient, you have to be careful when buying aftermarket LED headlights. If you see bulbs that are rated at absurd amounts, like 10,000 and above, you shouldn’t necessarily take it at face value. The brightness of LED headlights will also depend on the wattage of the bulbs. For example, a 1-watt diode is capable of emitting around 130 Lumens. If the bulb is fitted with 16 diodes, this means each bulb is rated at 16-watts and around 2,080 Lumens.

Which Is Better: Halogen, HID, Or LED Headlights?

There are pros and cons to each system. Halogen, for example, is the cheapest in comparison to HID and LED. They are also the most common and are the easiest to replace without additional parts needed. On the down side, they use much more power, and they are not as bright as HID or LED bulbs. 

HID and Xenon are very bright, so much so that top-quality versions can make a pitch black road look like a bright day. They also last a lot longer than halogens (most should last longer than your car likely will!). And the icing on the cake is, they look very stylish. But their drawbacks are that high-quality kits are expensive. They also require modification to the reflector housing in order to distribute and ‘throw’ the light effectively. Other extra parts are also required, making them quite a financial investment. 

LEDs present very similar benefits to those of HID and Xenon lights. In all honesty, when you compare a set of LEDs and HIDs that are of comparable price from a reputable manufacturer, you likely wouldn’t even notice a difference between the two. And while the benefits are nearly identical to those of HIDs, so are the drawbacks. 

Final Words

While we have highlighted the various features and key differences between the many types of halogen, HID, and LED bulbs, it’s clear to see that a variety of factors determine how many lumens are in a car headlight. But one thing that is for certain is that with the multitude of options available to drivers today, there’s a headlamp out there that is all but certain to fulfill your wants and needs.