Top 8 Best Taillight Bulbs
By | Last updated: May 20, 2022

Scattered amongst all the commerce posts you’ve read on this and other sites about ZOMG PRIME DAY DEALS featuring a wide array of products are lists like this one, focused on a single type of car part that you’re not likely to think about until its actually needed.

Taillight bulbs certainly aren’t the sexiest topic but it is an eminently practical one. Having a few of these suckers on hand, especially if one dailies a clapped-out hoopty like most of us do around here, is never a bad idea. Your author has a Maxwell House coffee can full of the things, harvested from years of prepping cars for demolition derbies.

To keep an apples-to-apples comparison, we’ve selected a sample vehicle for which all these bulbs should fit: A 2015 F-150. It’s also worth noting that some cars require a load resistor or some other electrical add-on when converting to an LED bulb. As with all products of this type, make sure you’ve selected the right thing before hitting that ‘buy’ button.

1. Editor's Choice: Alla Lighting LED Strobe Brake Light Bulbs

These pure red LED bulbs come in a pair and have the proper seat to fit the wiring sockets on our fictional F-150. A series of LEDs all around the bulb surface should provide much better illumination characteristics than one with peepers just on the end.

The twist with these things? They will briefly strobe at during their initial illumination, a feature that will – in theory – more quickly grab the attention of that texter behind you and make for a safer emergency stop situation compared to a solid brake light. The seller asserts the flashing has “legal blinking times” so while it will draw the attention of Becky who’s on the phone, it shouldn’t draw negative attention from the gendarmes.

Pros/Blinky brightness
Cons/Are they legal in your jurisdiction?
Bottom Line/Check before installing them

2. Phinlion Red LED Brake Light Bulb

The rise (and subsequent cost reduction) of LEDs has been a boon for all things automotive, particularly in terms of styling choices. Manufacturers can now assemble much more interesting headlight designs that still shine brightly and do not mimic simple fireflies in jam jars.

It’s a similar story outback with these red LED bulbs. Finding red incandescents back in the day was a chore. Now, they’re everywhere – including these options here. Phinlion seems to be a popular brand of LED bulbs and this variant has one of the best ratings on Amazon.

Pros/Bright red light, 4.5 star rating
Cons/Slightly more expensive than equivalent clears
Bottom Line/A handy two-pack with great reviews

3. Bosch Long Life Minature Bulb

If all one needs is a bulb to pass state inspection or to sell a knackered old car fine second-hand automobile on Facebook Marketplace, a simple 5 dollar set of traditional bulbs is likely all that’s required. Keep the snazzy LEDs for yourself.

These are the same type of bulbs that fill your author’s coffee can mentioned in the preamble of this post. They are clear in color, sold by Bosch, and fit the flat terminal style outlets found in the wiring loom of our fictional F-150 pickup.

Pros/Exactly what you need, uncomplicated
Cons/Booooooring
Bottom Line/A good and cheap quick fix

4. JDM ASTAR PX Chipset LED Bulbs

The seller of these bulbs makes the claim they are of a waterproof and dustproof design, an assertion that may seem needless since most taillights should be watertight and do their own job of keeping out those types of debris.

But let’s be real – if you’re replacing bulbs, there’s a good chance your rig is getting old. And older cars sometimes have cracks or sealing problems on their light housings. One could also argue these might be handy for off-road gearheads (*raises hand*) who routinely dunk their vehicles in the nearest river or shove them into a sand dune with wild abandon.

Pros/Water- and dustproof
Cons/Not an all-around LED design
Bottom Line/Customer reviews are largely positive

5. LUYED Non-Polarity Super Bright

These bulbs are clear, making them a decent choice not just for tail- and brake lights but also for backup and turn signal duty. This is handy for cars that have amber blinkers (yes, I just used that word) in the rear as nature and European/Japanese manufacturers intended.

Spotting amber turn signals on a 2015 F-150 is like spotting a non-sedentary teenager: very rare. Recall, however, that a particular Sport Package on the previous-gen Ranger used the box and taillights from its Mazda B-Series equivalent, marking one of the few occasions in which a Ford pickup had amber turn signals bookending a tailgate. And, oh yeah, these bulbs are highly recommended.

Pros/All-around LED design, fits several duty applications
Cons/What's that brand name again?
Bottom Line/Very affordable LEDs

6. Syneticusa Red LED Brake Bulbs

These bulbs are also of the strobe-when-activated variety, so be sure that type of illumination is kosher with your local constabulary before installing these things. The ad copy starts off with troubleshooting tips that either denote a lack of confidence in the product or a wise attempt to get ahead of customer complaints from dough heads who install the bulbs upside down.

Some customers advise these are good for brakes only, not turn signals, which would normally DQ these from consideration for our sample F-150. However, an equal number of respondents said they had no problems. An electrical add-on (as mentioned above) might help.

Pros/Super bright, has USA in the name
Cons/Doesn't seem to actually be manufactured in the USA
Bottom Line/8 fast strobes and a non-polarity design

7. Auxito LED Tail Lights

Part of the brigade that tosses white light from their LEDs instead of red, these bulbs would be fine for applications where the taillight lens itself is red, not clear. A 360-degree lighting design will probably emulate a collapsed sun for brightness.

This is also one of the few sellers that mention anything about heat dissipation. While not as big of a deal as incandescent bulbs which can heat up to the point one can light a cigarette off its surface (ask me how I know), thermal management is usually an issue for any bulb.

 

Pros/Nearly a 5 star rating from over 1700 customers
Cons/More expensive than others on this list
Bottom Line/You likely get what you pay for (as with most items)

8. Yorkim LED Bright White Bulbs

Like others here, these bulbs cast a white light and are non-polarity in design so it should be easy enough to plug-n-play these things into your beater. Keep in mind some cars will need an electrical add-on

The seller says these bulbs are designed as low temperature and low power consumption items. Claiming to be more than 400% brighter than the original halogen bulb, one can expect a life span of up to 50,000 hrs (or one week in L.A. freeway traffic).

 

Pros/Dirt cheap
Cons/Not red
Bottom Line/But red is available for $1 more (ie - the same price as seats in a Demon)

FAQs

Are LED tail lights better?

Yes, LED taillights are way better than the traditional Halogen or Xenon lights due to the following reasons:

  • LEDs are cheaper compared to traditional bulbs
  • LEDs are comparatively brighter
  • LEDs last longer (somewhere around 30,000 to 50,000 hours)
  • LEDs consume much less energy

Another noteworthy point here is that not only in tail lights but many people prefer using LEDs for the headlights of their vehicles as well.

Now, if you are planning to replace your tail lights, you are advised to consider the above advantages before deciding upon which bulbs you want to go for.

What kind of bulb goes in a tail light?

Although Halogen or Xenon bulbs are used as stock tail lights of a vehicle, LEDs being more popular these days, many owners get the factory-fitted bulbs replaced with them. This is because the LED lights come cheap, are brighter than the stock lights, draw comparatively less power when turned on, and have a life of around 30,000 to 50,000 hours.

Can I put LED bulbs in my tail lights?

Yes, you can. As mentioned earlier, LEDs offer several advantages over traditional bulbs that your vehicle initially comes with. However, things are not as simple as they seem. Because most car manufacturers install Halogen or Xenon bulbs for tail lights, many old vehicles don’t have a circuit to accommodate LEDs.

If your car didn’t come with any LED-oriented circuit and you plan to replace the stock tail lights with LEDs, there are a few things that may raise a false-positive concern. To overcome this, you may have to go for an additional component or CANBus-compatible (Controller Area Network Bus compatible) LEDs to get them up and running.

The following are the details:

Because LEDs consume significantly less power, when using them for brake lights, the Controller Area Network Bus or CANBus that is responsible for detecting any problem in the vehicle and flashing it on the display screen fails to sense their presence due to higher resistance in the circuit. As a result, the CANBus shows an error telling the driver that the brake lights are missing.

To resolve this issue, you can either install a CANBus decoder if you’re planning to buy standard LED lights or you can go with a comparatively easier option which is CANBus-compatible LED bulbs that have a built-in decoder. As a matter of fact, it is advisable to always prefer the latter over the former. This is because the CANBus-compatible lights can work flawlessly even if CANBus is already present in your vehicle.

Are LED tail lights brighter?

Yes, they are much brighter than the traditional tail lights. In addition, they are comparatively instantaneous. Simply put, when a Halogen bulb gets turned on, it takes a while to warm up and glow at its fullest luminance. On the other hand, an LED bulb takes merely around 0.2 seconds to fully illuminate.

Furthermore, because LED bulbs are brighter, when turned on, they are visible from a comparatively longer distance. As a result, your vehicle becomes less prone to accidents that could otherwise happen if you have bulbs with reduced luminance installed as tail lights in your vehicle.


From time to time, TTAC will highlight automotive products we think may be of interest to our community. Plus, posts like this help to keep the lights on around here. Learn more about how this works.

(Editor’s note: 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, Rental Reviews, and whatever else. Thanks for reading.)

[Main Photo Credit:Eshma/Shutterstock.com. Product images provided by the manufacturer.]

14 Comments on “Best Tail Light Bulbs: Get the Dim Out...”


  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    So much for the days of the 2 filament, dual pin 1157.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      The best tail light bulbs are the STOCK BULBS that the manufacture designed the car to work with! They work as they should, and have the correct resistance that the system was built to have. Putting any of this Chinese crap in there makes you look like the equivalent of the ’90’s doofus who thought that a fake cell phone antenna and colored wiper arms were just the coolest.

      Shilling for Amazon is a low point. Next article: “The Ten Best LED Colored Valve Stem Caps for your Kia”.
      Vivvek Nayyar, shame on you. This is not journalism. Do not put this “article” on your resume.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    The pulsing brakes CAN be nice.

    But I don’t like the implementation of doing it every time the brake pedal is depressed.

    I maybe be wrong, but I do believe that in Europe/Germany, some of the cars there will rapidly pulse the brake lights a few times during panic stops.

    So I’ve seen it many times on the Autobahn where you’re cruising real quick, car ahead hits brakes hard, you can tell just by the car movement. A couple rapid flashes make it pretty clear you better get on yours as well.

    This I like. You apply 85% or more braking immediately or something, give us the flash.

    Otherwise….I stick to the cheap incandescents. Car is designed for them. Friend has LED on his tail lamps and they’re almost too bright in tail lamp mode. You almost think the brakes are on when they’re not.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      Any time I see a car with the PULSE system installed I always think the driver is morse code braking and keep my distance. As often as not one can tell a car is so equipped because the sticker is a permanent fixture on the back window, similar to the days when the tailgates that had a separate window (the sticker indicating which side of the switch does what were often permanently affixed).

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        It’s a profit center for the F&I departments of dealers. I hit the Web page for one of these companies one time (the one that puts a big octagonal sticker on the back window), and it was advertised this way, noting that installing one of these setups added something like five dollars to the monthly payments. Assuming a 60-month loan, that would be $300.

        These things seem to be most commonly installed on Kias.

        • 0 avatar
          dukeisduke

          Updating my own post, my mother-in-law bought a 2017 Elantra last fall, and it has one of those pulsing third brake lights. When I’m driving the car, I notice a darker octagonal-shaped area in in the tint film (the tint film is less faded) in the rear glass, where the big sticker would have been, advertising the pulsing brake light.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    Unfortunately, these won’t work in the soon-becoming-a-majority of cars with unique LED taillight bulbs that conform to the shape of the taillight–and probably cost something like $1000 to replace.

  • avatar
    notapreppie

    So, how much money do you guys get from these low-effort fake reviews?

    Is it more or less than you’d make brokering fake reviews in Amazon’s internal review system?

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    What’s with all these no-name bulbs (Bosch excepted)?

    There was a time when, if you wanted LED lamps, you had to go to a place like eBay and take your chances with whatever was out there. But now, you can buy name brand stuff like Sylvania at most places. Sylvania even offers two levels of LEDs. Philips and Wagner also sell automotive LEDs.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Hey kids, check it out. 1879 (the year) Edison incandescent bulb takes a little while to come up to full illumination. Call it 0.3 seconds. LED bulb takes less – a lot less. The difference is easily a car length at highway speeds, and even more at the speeds you irresponsible clowns travel at. And since you’re following two car lengths behind me, well, you see that it could make a significant difference in reaction time and general safety – if anyone cared.

    Anyhoo, the Super High Technology Automotive Manufacturers know all this, and yet they still give you old-fashioned incandescent brake lights which are slow to light up and quick to burn out and you love them for it — you even fight with your in-laws at the holidays about whose favorite OEM has the greatest obsolete technology. They could do it correctly but they don’t, and now you want to screw things up further by tossing aftermarket LED’s into a system designed for crappy incandescents. Are you stupid or just ignorant? Don’t answer that.

  • avatar
    Polka King

    TURN SIGNALS !!
    TURN SIGNALS !!
    TURN SIGNALS !!

    You darn well have been bamboozled by an oncoming car whose turn signals are absolutely invisible because the dummyhead “designer” put them right next to the headlights. Gimme the brightest front turn signal LEDs NOW.

    • 0 avatar
      Urlik

      This is why some DRLs turn off the front on the side the blinker is activated. There is a standard concerning size and location of DRLs compared to turn signals that say when they have to be turned off with blinker activation.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Yay, even more crappy no-name LED bulbs. There’s no reason to buy these anymore, now that Tier 1 manufacturers are selling LED bulbs.

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