By on February 18, 2019

From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. It helps you to make informed decisions when buying gear for your car. Plus, posts like this helps to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works


Before jumping into this episode of The Buyer’s Guide, a heavy dose of caution is warranted. Aftermarket HID headlights can improve nighttime vision and allow you to see farther down the road … if they’re installed correctly. And, for a lot of people, that’s a big if.

The headlamp housings in the vast majority of cars, especially ones at the Mr. Noodles end of the price spectrum, simply weren’t designed to properly reflect and refract the light produced by HID bulbs. It also doesn’t help that most amateur installs tend to end up with one headlight illuminating the Soyuz 2 spacecraft while the other searches for nightcrawlers. 

Full disclosure: your handsome and multi-talented author has installed aftermarket LED lamps in his vehicles but not HIDs. With that in mind, there are plenty of knowledgeable installers who can help a car owner get the most out of their newly purchased HID conversion kit. Seek them out and listen to their advice. Avoid the minefield of dodgy kits with suspect quality, read the instruction manual, and take your time with the install.

ALSO SEE: Buyers Guide: Top 8 Best LED Headlights for Your Car

As always, make absolutely certain the units you’re buying fit the car you own.

(Editor’s note: As noted above, this post is meant to both help you be an informed shopper for automotive products but also to pay for our ‘90s sedan shopping habits operating expenses. Some of you don’t find these posts fun, but they help pay for Junkyard Finds, Rare Rides, Piston Slaps, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)


Editor’s Pick: Philips D2S CrystalVision Ultra

Yup, we’re going there. Our Editor’s Pick is one of the most expensive options selected for this buyer’s guide. With so many counterfeit and low-quality alternatives on the market, there is something to be said for choosing a trusted brand name with thousands of positive reviews.

With a color temperature of up to 4700K, these bulbs are said to illuminate the road ahead with a crisp, pure white beam that cuts through the darkness like a hot knife through butter. Its color hue should provide a great color match to stock or aftermarket LED fog lamps, an infuriating trend that is starting to pollute the roads of our nation.

The company takes great pains to infuse their product with all manner of authenticity and piracy-prevention tools. Philips purports this pair of bulbs to be fully DOT compliant since they are designed to be a direct replacement upgrade.

Pros: Trusted brand name, excellent user reviews, a warranty that works

Cons: Won’t fit all cars, eye-wateringly expensive

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Highly Rated: Sylvania D1S HID Lamp

Selected from an array of options which have an acceptably high sample size of reviews, the Sylvania D1S earns many kudos from actual people who have forked over their hard-earned cash. In this day and age, decision making is becoming increasingly more social, so this metric carries weight.

This bulb carries weight, too. Its lighting is sourced from a plasma discharge rather than a filament, said to provide brighter illumination but consume less energy than bulbs of a different design. Compatible with cars that deploy D1S headlamp optics, the Sylvania unit is purported to arrive in a damage-resistant box that helps prevent issues with ham-fisted delivery drivers. Its well-known brand name doesn’t hurt its standing, either.

Pros: Highly reviewed, fits OEM applications of this type

Cons: Sold in singles, produces 4300K illumination

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Budget Conversion: HID-Warehouse Xenon Replacement Bulbs

Fair warning – the attractive price of these bulbs is offset by the need to purchase extra-cost ballast units. Thanks to the unique properties of HIDs and how they work, a ballast kit is necessary in order for the things to operate correctly. The ballast unit is critical not only to proper illumination but also to converting your vehicle’s power supply to speak the language of HID bulbs.

Its light rating of 8000k will likely produce a medium-blue output color, a shade which may induce road rage in your fellow motorists if these bulbs are not leveled correctly. The wiring pigtails are said to be of the plug-n-play variety, designed to hook up with a compatible ballast kit with ease. The bulb design should snug itself into housings not originally designed to accept an HID bulb but be aware that the light pattern may be off if care is not taken during installation.

Pros: Cheap as chips, should fit the vast majority of modern headlamp housings

Cons: Ballast not included, improper install may cause visibility problems for oncoming traffic

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OSRAM XENARC D1S HID/XENON Headlight bulb

The names OSRAM and Sylvania can be used interchangeably even though the two rarely seem to appear side-by-each on bulb packaging. Established 25 years ago after acquiring GTE’s Sylvania lighting division, the company knows a thing or two about headlight bulbs. These units shown here fit cars with D1S-style bulbs and, in this example, are sold in pairs.

ALSO SEE: Buyers Guide: The 8 Best Windshield Wipers You Can Buy

Its 4300K light rating is an OEM standard, meaning they should cast a white illumination hue, not blue. The company touts the long life of this bulb, a good thing since they are sold at the upper end of the price spectrum for this type of product. Watch for counterfeit versions of this bulb. As with tires, brakes, and denim jeans, it is a good idea to replace them in pairs.

Pros: All-in-one installation, direct replacement fit in vehicles with this type of bulb

Cons: Do your homework as fakes abound labeled with this well-known brand

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(No Name) HID Xenon Headlight Replacement Bulbs

We’re including these in our roundup because they are the cheapest we could find. These replacement bulbs cost less than most people spend on a fast-food lunch. No brand name appears on the all-black box. Reviews are all over the map, ranging from complaint-laden epitaphs to high praise.

According to the specs, these bulbs are rated at 70w for the pair and purport to heave out 7600 lumens at a bulb temperature of 8000K. This temp will assure a blue color, for better or worse. The description makes no mention of ballast but does promise each bulb was aligned with a laser (emphasis mine) during production. No one likes to throw away money but at less than the price of a good burger, it’s hard to go wrong.

Pros: Low energy consumption, sold in pairs, cheaper than dirt

Cons: Wild array of reviews, manufacturer of unknown provenance

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HYB 8000K 35W Auto Xenon HID

Stock 55W halogen lamps can only produce about 1000 lumens of light while a 35W xenon lamp, such as this one, produces 3200 lumens of light. Basic math teaches is that’s a 300% increase. These bulbs satisfy both claims, along with being offered in all seven varieties of popular factory HID connector types.

Your author is not convinced of the seller’s argument that halogen bulbs last only 500 hours, since that translates to less than a year’s use if one is driving in the dark for two hours per day. Personal experience shows halogens last much longer than that amount of time.

Pros: Available in popular HID bulb types

Cons: Questionable claims about competitors

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Car Rover 10000K 35W HID Xenon Headlight

Venturing into brands whose names are seemingly assembled from random words, these HID replacements are rated at an illumination of 10000K, meaning they will cast an outrageously blue light color; it’ll be almost violet in fact, bordering on purple. Take this into consideration before unholstering your debit card for these bulbs. Fitting a variety of OEM housings originally designed for HIDs, these bulbs are compatible with an array of factory fittings.

Except for the 10000K color temperature, the rest of the seller’s claims line up with the myriad of other choices in the HID replacement market. Power consumption is 35w per bulb, brightness is around 4500 lumens, and they hold an IP67 waterproof rating. In a unique addition, the product description goes on to describe the company’s production and testing process.

Pros: Very affordable, plenty of connector options, unique color hue

Cons: Outdated review page, unique color hue

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Philips Standard Authentic Xenon HID Headlight Bulb

If it says ‘authentic’ right in the title, it must be the real deal, right? Well, we hope so. The Philips name is widely copied and counterfeited in the HID black market, a seedy underbelly of the automotive aftermarket that your author chooses to believe is populated with people clandestinely selling HID bulbs out of unmarked cases and long trenchcoats.

This seems to be the Real McCoy, with the seller stating that every genuine Philips HID bulb features a Certificate of Authentication on its packaging which can be verified through a QR code or Philip’s website. It would be more reassuring to be able to carry out this confirmation in person rather than after you’ve paid for it online.

As for the bulb, it is allegedly DOT compliant and available in no fewer than eleven different manufacturer standards, the most we’ve seen on a single product offering. Positive reviews are plentiful, many of which were posted just days before the writing of this post.

Pros: Recognizable brand name, promises of authenticity, many varieties of connectors

Cons: Expensive, sold in singles

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RCP 6000K Xenon HID Diamond White

A color rating of 6000K sits squarely in the middle of the headlamp spectrum, emitting neither a stock-looking yellow nor bystander-enraging blue. With a bright white beam, drivers should be able to see farther down the road and avoid Bullwinkle before he pops out of the bush and onto the pavement. Wattage and the estimated lifespan of this lamp are all said to be well within the industry standards.

The company appears to have copy and pasted large swaths of narrative from its LED offerings, a decision which does not evoke confidence in the item shown here. A product description assembled from mildly mangled English may also give some shoppers pause.

Pros: Very agreeable pricing, video reviews from customers, quick shipping

Cons: Questionable marketing materials, reports of different than advertised illumination color

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HID Headlight Bulbs: Installation Tips and Thoughts

Gas-discharge bulbs, of which High Intensity Discharge xenons are a type, originally appeared on high-zoot machines like the Mercedes S-Class. HID lamps do not have a filament like halogen and other older-type lamps, a feature which allows them to last longer than standard bulbs.

Instead of supplying current to a filament to make it glow, an electrical arc is created between two electrodes within a xenon gas filled bulb. The lamp can only ignite when high voltage is applied. Igniting, heating, and stabilizing the arc of an HID lamp requires electronic controls, consisting of an electronic igniter and ballast.

This helps to explain why some low-quality el-cheapo conversion kits (of which there are a couple listed above) simply produce a light which dances and vibrates more than a possessed washing machine. Plunking an HID bulb into a headlamp housing originally designed for a halogen bulb can cause unexpected light patterns as well. It can certainly be done … it just needs to be done correctly and with care.

Good HID conversion kits come with a ballast, an important piece of kit that allows your new bulb to operate in a steady and consistent manner that won’t blind oncoming traffic. Cars with existing HID bulbs are designed to accept bulbs with a built-in unit of this type. Like any other automotive lighting source, it is a bad idea to handle the bulb glass with your hands, even if you’re wearing gloves.

After replacing this or any headlamp on your car, plug the connector back onto the bulb’s base and ensuring that the whole assembly is pushed fully home and locked in place. Don’t force the issue; if the bulb doesn’t snug itself into its seat by hand after a couple of attempts, carefully realign the unit for another try. Be sure to leave your hammer out of the equation and don’t forget to replace whatever factory cover was present over the rear of the HID bulb to ensure foul weather stays outside.

Unlike LED bulbs, it is a poor idea to test HIDs outside the headlight housing. Always replace the things in pairs and know that, after a couple of hundred hours of use, they will likely go through a slight color shift.

[Main Image: Oleksiy Mark/Shutterstock. Body images provided by the manufacturers.]

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21 Comments on “Buyers Guide: Top 9 Best HID Headlight Bulbs for Your Car’s Next Upgrade...”


  • avatar
    conundrum

    At it again: The Amateur’s Home Guide and Companion for Headlight “Upgrades”.

    So, I’ll say it again. Go to Daniel Stern’s website, he used to write for TTAC in his usual forthright manner, and learn the real deal on what to do if the headlight upgrade bug hits you. If you think an advertorial is great info, you’re on your own.

  • avatar
    IBx1

    You *clap* can’t *clap* aim *clap* HIDs *clap* in *clap* a *clap* reflector *clap* housing *clap*

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Speaking from experience, if your car already has projectors for your halogens, and you use only a 35 watt xenon from reputable supplier – like TRS, you’ll be satisfied with headlight upgrade without endangering your fellow neighbor.
    I read Sterns pieces, they’re quite lengthy,and make a good point, but today’s lifted trucks with standard LEDs are more annoying than most aftermarket systems installed on passenger sedans.

    • 0 avatar
      TwoBelugas

      my understanding is that the optics used for halogen bulbs are very different from those intended for HID bulbs due to their vastly different light source dimension and profile. Halogen bulbs have a relative large filament with lower surface brightness and more cylindrical light emission pattern while HIDs have a much smaller light source since it’s basically a gap betweeen two ends of a ballast, so the light pattern from the “bulb” is more spherical.

      The consequence is that you may still see a sharp cut off and think it’s safe, but that’s just a physical shield inside the light assembly. Where the light goes is a different story. At freeway speeds you want just enough light to see the sides for walkers, deer, car reflectors coming onto the freeway, etc but most of light up ahead in the distance. It’s not possible to have the same light spread with the same reflector or projector between a halogen bulb and HID.

      TL;DR go check out Daniel Stern lighting page as mentioned above.

  • avatar
    ptschett

    I know you guys gotta pay the bills, but there is no truth to be found in “HID conversions”.

  • avatar
    Pete Kohalmi

    I recently replaced the halogen headlamps in my E46 BMW with Bi-Xenons from Retrofitlab.com. While I’m very happy with the results, it took way, way more work than I thought it would. If I had to do it again, I would bring it to someone who installs these regularly. The cost would be worth the aggravation saved.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    I literally cannot stand retrofitted HIDs. I wish police could easily identify cars with the retrofits and ticket them.

    Congrats, you’ve improved your visibility, but you’re blinding everyone else.

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Kohalmi

      I adjusted mine properly. Actually, they’re aimed a little lower than they should be to make sure they don’t bother anyone.

      • 0 avatar
        Flipper35

        Same here. I went through the retrofit source and taped the drive and garage before hand to make sure they were aimed properly afterwards. The low beams are slightly low, but out here in the middle of nowhere that isn’t that big of a deal.

        Then got told off by Sajeev for doing that since it was the same money as getting new OEM to replace the foggy units and here they are telling people to do worse.

        I doubt anyone knows they are retrofitted. 5700k color and aimed properly and they have the low beam shutter so they look like OEM.

  • avatar
    brn

    TTAC once again promoting an illegal activity, HID retrofits.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      In the Great State of New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, the Land of Entrapment, you will get a ticket if you are unlucky enough to blind a cop on the road with high-beams or misaligned or illegally retrofitted headlights.

      I got a ticket outside of Cuba, NM, one night, towing a race car with my high-beams on, and that’s all it took. Set me back some precious folding money.

  • avatar

    Whatever. My car already has factory installed LED lights. Just buy a new car already and spare us from all this BS with aftermarket LEDs. As if anyone cares.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    Just don’t do it. It’s less evil if there’s a physical low-beam shutter as in the halogen projectors used on the first-gen Volt and previous-gen GM trucks—both notorious for terrible headlights, BTW—but a) there usually isn’t and b) an HID bulb is still the wrong beam shape. Chances are you’re going to blind oncoming drivers and the light won’t go where you need it.

    Get some upgraded halogens instead; PIAA makes a nice pure-white bulb. They’ll be brighter and whiter without blinding anyone, and the light will go where it should; you won’t be disappointed. They’ll also last years less than an OEM bulb, but nothing’s free in life. Oh: and get those suckers professionally aimed. Just because it’s reasonable to think the factory would have done this doesn’t mean they did.

  • avatar
    theoldguard

    In 2001, I was a 40-something military officer in Northern Va. suburb and got a new Ford Focus. All around me were cool Civic Si, and really cool Type R guys half my age. I got a set of Eibach shocks and modest springs. Really cool Type R next door neighbor calls in the whole car club and they are swarming over my Focus installing shocks and springs. They looked like a NASCAR pit crew. Suddenly, I was cool. Then I installed some of those upgrade light bulbs and I went from cool to really cool. Want to regain your coolness? Get some of those bulbs.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Are you guys really this hard up for cash?

    What next? “Spring Cutting Die Grinder Buyers Guide”

    Blegh

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Although I hated to fall for the “click-bait” of this one, I saw your sidebar comment, sportyaccordy, and remind you that AutoGuide advertisers bleed into this site regularly and seem to require additional feeding. TTAC is circling the drain in a tighter diameter and higher speed of rotation.

  • avatar
    incautious

    avoid HID nation bulbs lasted one whole month. They don’t answer emails or the phone.


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