HID Versus LED: What To Choose

Having a suitable light source is essential for any vehicle, especially when you’re off-roading. From headlights to taillights, they should help you drive safely at all times. Even when you’re driving through your local town or neighborhood, having good headlights is essential for road safety.

You’ll often find yourself with stock bulbs in your car or truck, which are rarely suited for special conditions such as off-roading. Thankfully, upgrading your truck for such situations is fairly easy once you find the right bulb type.

HID and LED lights are starting to be a prominent choice for car manufacturers, including in newer vehicles and luxury vehicles, but halogen bulbs still take over the stock options. Halogen bulbs are a nice light source for trucks and cars, but if you want to upgrade your ride’s headlight performance, upgrade to either HID or LED light bulbs. Both are good upgrades, offering better performance than an average halogen light. So, you’ll have to learn some of the details for each bulb to determine whether you should choose HID or LED. What to choose for your specific application will become clearer after reading through this comprehensive guide.


HID stands for high-intensity discharge, but you might hear these lights go by the moniker Xenon headlights, as well. It might sound like a strange nickname, but it’ll make sense as you learn more. Xenon refers to the gas inside HID lights that causes their distinct blue-white glow. HIDs have a filament inside, but the Xenon gas, when passed over an electrical charge with high voltage, provides HIDs with brighter light emission.

HID headlights broke into the industry back in the ‘90s and haven’t gone away. HID lights are popular because of the bright light visibility they provide. These bulbs can light up the road impressively, covering a lot of ground with full brightness. For this reason, HIDs previously had a reputation for being the brightest bulb on the market. However, LEDs have come a long way over the years with their light output, providing some of the best brightness around currently. Yes, more illumination is better for off roading and inclement weather, but HID lights can have a strong glare for oncoming traffic.

What HIDs really excel at is how much space they can illuminate—when you flip them on during a drive along a dark road, they’ll get the job done. As a result, they’re a bulkier bulb, but for a good reason. Plus, they’re also longer lasting and have better energy efficiency than your typical halogen headlights. That said, HIDs don’t have as long of an average lifespan as a good LED light.


LED stands for light-emitting diode. Aside from being a catchy name, it’s a great descriptor of what’s occurring inside the bulb. After an electric current travels through the semiconductor, a photon generates and, as a result, an effective light source for drivers comes to life. Unlike halogen and HID bulbs, LEDs don’t use any filament for generating light.

High-quality LED bulbs will last far longer than HID or halogen bulbs. Although the initial cost of LED lights is more expensive than HID, LED lights are the more cost-effective choice due to lower maintenance costs. They also emit a different color than HIDs, showcasing an intense, white beam of light instead of a blue-white glow. Compared to HID lights, LED usually has better color temperatures. If you want a wider range of colors, consider opting for switchback LEDs. A switchback LED alternates between two separate light colors—white and amber.

As you can see from our selection of Ford Raptor light bar behind grill setups, we go for LEDs because of their power and reliability. HID bulbs are nice, but if you want to boost your brightness on the road, swap out stock HIDs with a good LED light bar instead. Another attribute of LEDs is their power consumption—they’ll pull far less energy from your car than HIDs, generating less heat in the process. There’s another fact about LEDs that makes them perfect for upgrades, and that’s their compact size. LEDs aren’t as bulky as HIDs, making their installation relatively simple.

What To Choose

So, let’s wrap back around to the original issue—determining whether you should choose HID vs. LED. What to choose for your ride relies on a few different factors. First off, after reading the pros and cons of both bulbs above, consider which one appeals more to your driving lifestyle. Thanks to the longevity and reliability of a good set of LEDs, they’re perfect for off-roading purposes. LEDs are also better for handling the vibrations your truck will endure during off-roading sessions. The secret to the durability of LEDs is simple: they require fewer parts to operate than other options on the market. HIDs are fine if you have to make a cheap and quick decision, especially if you’re not going to be doing too much night driving. On the other hand, for drivers looking to invest in a long-term solution for their illumination issues, High-quality LEDs are the way to go.

Additional Considerations

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to new headlights or floodlights for your cars and trucks. Now that you’ve read this, you should have a better understanding of the basics regarding LED and HID lights bulbs. However, before buying your new lights, there are some additional factors to consider. For instance, you have to think about where you’re getting the lights from in the first place.


Always be sure you’re buying from reputable suppliers and manufacturers. If you’re buying LEDs from unreliable sellers, there’s no guarantee you’ll get all the benefits mentioned above. Likewise, stick with reliable brands to ensure you’re making the most out of your investment. For example, Baja Designs and Rigid are popular, reliable brands for LED lights. Although this tip might sound obvious to some, in addition to focusing on the price, you should pay attention to the brand as well.


Another aspect you must pay attention to are laws and regulations. Before buying LED lights for your truck, make sure you know the local laws in your area regarding these lights. LED light bars are so bright that states across the country have varying regulations regarding their use. Don’t let this scare you away from choosing an LED light bar, though. Learning local laws regarding light bars is fairly easy, and given the quality of LEDs, they’re worth the effort.


As mentioned above, thanks to options such as switchback LEDs, you can find bulbs with the capability of displaying multiple colors, such as white and amber. If you want a truck upgrade that will look great and become a functional part of your ride, think about the various LED light color options before buying the first set you find. Upgrading is a great way for drivers to give their truck some personality. Different headlight or floodlight colors are an easy and creative way of doing that.

HID vs LED infographic