EVERYTHING you need to know about car headlamps: Halogen vs Projector vs Xenon vs LED

It wasn’t very long ago that a car’s headlamps used to be rather simple components that didn’t require much thought on the buyer’s part, before they made purchase decisions. Even the pricier cars came with simple, reflector-type headlamps that didn’t feature any hi-tech, expensive technology. Now, however, there are at least four types of headlamps that are commonly found on modern-day cars. Here, in this post, we have tried to differentiate between these four headlamp technologies.

Halogen Reflector

The Tata Tiago runs the good old halogen-reflector set-up.

EVERYTHING you need to know about car headlamps: Halogen vs Projector vs Xenon vs LED

Reflector headlamps are your standard units that are available even in the most basic cars. Basically, a reflector headlamp has a bulb in a steel enclosure. This enclosure also has mirrors that act as reflectors. Today, most reflector headlamps feature halogen bulbs. Halogen bulbs combine low cost along with a work life of up to 1000 hours and a stronger beam than regular tungsten bulbs. Halogen bulbs typically consume approximately 55 watts of power. However, the efficiency is pretty low. Much of this is wasted as it’s converted to heat rather than light. Advantages of halogen reflector headlights include the following:

  • They are inexpensive. A major reason most manufacturers use reflector-type headlamps is their low cost of production.
  • They are smaller than projector units as the latter are deeper and, hence, take more space.
  • Halogen bulbs offer sufficiently bright light. Hence, in most conditions, there’s sufficient illumination without spending a lot of money.


The Maruti Suzuki S-Cross runs projector headlamps, with LEDs!

EVERYTHING you need to know about car headlamps: Halogen vs Projector vs Xenon vs LED

These headlamps were launched in luxury cars back in the 1980s and have now trickled down to cheaper cars. In most ways, projector headlights are similar to reflector headlights. Even these headlamps carry a bulb in a steel enclosure with mirrors that act as reflectors. However, there’s also a lens that acts like a magnifying glass. This increases the brightness of the headlight. There is also a cutoff shield to make sure the beam is directed towards the road. Advantages of projector headlights are:

  • They are much less likely to blind oncoming drivers. This is because projector headlamps are directed towards the road and don’t shine in the eyes of the drivers in front.
  • They have a more even spread of the headlight beam.
  • One can use Xenon HID bulbs with projector headlights.


The Maruti Suzuki Baleno has these headlamps.

EVERYTHING you need to know about car headlamps: Halogen vs Projector vs Xenon vs LED

Xenon headlamps are usually three times brighter than halogens. These headlamps are mostly offered in high-end cars. However, in spite of being brighter, these lamps consume less power. Generally, they consume approximately 35 watts of power. The Xenon gas in these headlights, which are commonly known as High-Intensity Discharge (HID) lights, prevents the beam from flickering when they are switched on. The gas also ensures there’s enough illumination before the headlights reach their maximum brightness. They have a cool white glow along with a slightly blue tinge. Advantages of Xenon headlights are:

  • Improved brightness
  • Better visibility in poorly lit conditions


The current Honda City has these headlamps.

EVERYTHING you need to know about car headlamps: Halogen vs Projector vs Xenon vs LED

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) have finally made it to car headlights. LEDs are not only efficient and effective but also add to the aesthetics as car designers seem to love their small size. Their diminutive size helps designers give them thin and distinctive shapes. While LEDs aren’t as bright as Xenon HIDs, they reach their peak brightness level many times faster. Also, they have a much higher life than other headlights. Generally, they have a lifespan of 15,000 hours. They have very high efficiency levels as they convert most of their power intake into light energy. Hence, they don’t heat up. LED headlights are mostly restricted to very expensive cars. However, this technology is expected to trickle down to more mainstream cars in coming times. Advantages of LED headlights are:

  • They have a long lifespan of 15,000 hours. Hence, they don’t need to be replaced often.
  • They are very efficient. While halogen bulbs waste 80% of their energy, LED lights convert most of the energy they use directly into light.
  • LEDs produce a much more penetrating, illuminating white light.