Three Things to Consider When Choosing a Headlight Bulb for Your Truck

Like it or not, eventually you’re going to have to change the headlight bulbs on your pickup truck. Luckily, the selection of bulb types is better than ever.

In years past, when your pickup truck needed new headlight bulbs, you headed down to the nearest auto parts store and picked out one of the two or three sets of bulbs they had available—probably the cheapest—and went on your way. Auto light bulb technology has come a long way since then, however, and the choices for lighting your way are enough to confuse the savviest of drivers. When shopping for a truck headlight bulb, consider the three most popular types available—halogen, LED and HID xenon.

No Added Glare

These have more down-road performance than the usual variety of illuminators. SYLVANIA

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Halogen replacement headlight bulbs are much like their older incandescent cousins in that they use a thin tungsten filament within a glass capsule filled with gas—in this case, halogen. They are an improvement over incandescent bulbs in that they provide increased light output on the road and a longer light beam, which can give you advance notice of something in the road that is likely to cause you a serious problem. Because of their low relative cost and reasonably long lifespan (500 to 1,000 hours), they are the most common headlight bulb in use today. The downsides to halogen bulbs are they aren’t as bright as the following two types of bulbs, they generate excess heat and they use a lot of energy compared to other bulbs. For budget-minded drivers, however, halogen bulbs are generally the best bet.

Easy Setup

This one has a distinctive, narrow-strip beam pattern. BEAMTECH

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LED headlight bulbs are widely considered the very best option by many experts. They produce the clearest light of all the different bulb types available today, while also being less blinding than HIDs, which will be discussed next. And compared to the 20% light efficiency in halogens, LEDs produce 80% light efficiency from the same amount of power. On the downside, while more affordable than ever before, LEDs still carry a substantially higher price tag than halogen bulbs. While LEDs aren’t always a standard option on many new cars, drivers who want them can easily utilize them, thanks to the wide availability of easy-to-install LED kits. In the end, LEDs are typically popular with buyers who prioritize long life (about 20,000 hours) and efficient energy consumption.

Fanless Design

This one features smart cooling, so it’s failproof and quiet. SEALIGHT

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HID xenon headlight bulbs are two- to three-times brighter than typical halogen bulbs. While that can be a big advantage to you as a driver, it won’t always be appreciated by those driving in oncoming traffic who might be convinced you are blasting them with your high beams. However, they use less power than halogen bulbs, and often last three to four times longer, easily justifying their higher cost in many drivers’ minds. One main downside to xenon bulbs is they are extremely fragile and tend to break or crack more easily than halogen or LED bulbs. But since xenon bulbs are available in a variety of colors and lighting quality, they are very popular with style-conscience drivers who want their headlights to not only light up the road, but also make somewhat of a fashion statement.