Car Headlight Buying Guide

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Car Headlight Buying Guide

Headlights are an essential safety feature for cars, illuminating roads in dim and night-time conditions. The first headlights appeared on vehicles in 1898, but they became an integral part of cars in 1912, when Cadillac introduced an electrical ignition and lighting system. Headlights are now standard on every car and buyers may need to replace them from time to time. This may be to upgrade the quality of the headlights, replace a broken headlight, or for purely aesthetic reasons.

There are many factors to consider when choosing headlights for a car. Buyers need to understand the components of headlights, the difference between projector and reflector models, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of bulb. Buyers also need to ensure that the new headlights are compatible with their car and adhere to the law. Finally, buyers should consider which lights they can add to complement their headlights to create optimum driving conditions. When buying car headlights, visiting an online marketplace, such as eBay, is a convenient way to shop thanks to the large selection of products and the great deals available.

Types of Headlights

Headlights can be divided into two main categories: composite and sealed beam. The difference between each type is effectively whether buyers have to replace an entire headlight or just a bulb.

Composite vs. Sealed Beam Headlights

For composite beam headlights, the individual bulbs can be removed and replaced as needed. By contrast, for sealed beam headlights, the entire unit needs to be replaced when a bulb burns out.

Projector vs. Reflector Headlights

Car headlights can have reflector or projector technology. A reflector headlight uses a small light source surrounded by a curved, reflective housing to magnify the intensity of the light as it leaves the lens and illuminates the road. Although effective, a reflector headlight inevitably scatters some of the light, resulting in a loss of intensity in terms of brightness. A projector headlight refocuses the reflected light and directs it through a lens, which results in a more concentrated stream of light that is brighter than a reflector can offer. As an added benefit, projector headlights have a distinctive, stylish look.

Types of Bulbs for Car Headlights

All car headlights must have both high and low, or dipped, beams. Some achieve this by using a single H4 bulb with two filaments. Other designs have two separate bulbs with single filaments, typically an H1 bulb for the high beam and an H7 bulb for the dipped beam. There are three types of bulb available to buyers in the United Kingdom: halogen, high intensity discharge, and light emitting diode.

Halogen Bulbs for Car Headlights

Headlights with halogen bulbs rely on a traditional glass bulb and filament. However, they are also filled with a mixture of halogen gases, such as nitrogen and argon, or iodine and bromine. Buyers should note that halogen bulbs should never come into contact with human skin because the salt and oils on the skin can damage the glass and make it less able to withstand the high temperatures generated inside the bulb, which can reach 2,500 degrees Celsius. Therefore, the motorist should always wear gloves when installing halogen bulbs.

High Intensity Discharge Bulbs for Car Headlights

High intensity discharge (HID) headlights are also known as xenon headlights because they contain the gas xenon, which gives the light a distinctive blue sheen. They eliminate the need for the traditional filament found in most bulbs. Instead, they contain a capsule of xenon, two electrodes, and ballast that holds a circuit board. The electricity generated by the electrodes excites the xenon and causes it to emit photons, resulting in light. HID bulbs create light with more efficiency, resulting in a much brighter beam.

Light Emitting Diode Bulbs for Car Headlights

Light emitting diode (LED) headlights are made up of several small light sources arranged together. They generate light when electrons pass through a superconductor material contained in the LEDs. LED bulbs are small enough that within the headlight they can be arranged to create a variety of patterns for a more striking appearance. Although not common for headlights, LEDs are being adapted for use in a variety of other car lights, including indicators and brake lights.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Headlight Bulbs

Each type of headlight bulb has benefits and drawbacks that result from how it is manufactured. The table below lists some of the key advantages and disadvantages of the different bulb types.

Bulb Type




Long life: approximately 1,000 hours

Available in many sizes

Requires special handling

Wasted energy from heat


Extended life: approximately 2,000 hours

More energy efficient

Expensive to buy and replace

Potentially troublesome to other drivers


Small size for creative freedom

Low energy consumption

High production costs

Low power generation

When buying car headlights it is important to consider the bulbs used. One concern for LED headlights is that rather than heat being emitted by the bulb, it is channelled downward, which poses a potential threat to any wires or other components in the area.

Factors to Consider when Buying Car Headlights

One of the most basic factors to consider when buying car headlights is whether the model fits the vehicle. Buyers also need to ensure that the headlights are permitted by law, safe, and appropriate if they wish to travel.

Compatibility of Car and Headlights

To identify the right headlights for a car, buyers can use the make, model, and year or manufacture, or a specific part number. Using the part number means that the car headlights will fit the vehicle properly, making them easy to install.

Legality of Car Headlights

In addition, buyers should to verify that the headlights are legal for use on the road, and not meant to for display only. For example, buyers cannot simply replace the bulbs in a halogen headlight with HID bulbs. Instead, they must upgrade the entire headlight and ensure that it carries an e-mark certifying its compliance with European standards.

Adaptive Front Lighting Systems

Some cars may be equipped with adaptive front lighting systems (AFS), which have safety benefits. AFS is an intelligent lighting system offered in some car models. For traditional systems, the motorist adjusts the brightness of the lights manually, but for an AFS, a computer handles all of the adjustments automatically. A car with an AFS can both manage the brightness of the headlights and angle them to illuminate curved roads and junctions to boost visibility for motorists. Any new headlights should be compatible with the car's AFS system, if it is present.

Self-Levelling Car Headlights

Both HID and LED headlights may require self-levelling features for safety reasons. When a car goes over a bump, the headlights point upward briefly and create a blinking effect for other motorists. Cars with self-levelling lights have sensors to detect this movement and keep the car's lights trained on the road. This feature may or may not be integrated into an AFS feature.

Headlight Converter Kits for Travel

Buyers who plan to take their car on holiday in another European country may need to purchase a few accessories. In the United Kingdom, headlights are designed to optimise lighting for driving on the left side of the road. As a result, the lights may affect oncoming motorists when driving abroad. This can be mitigated by purchasing a headlight converter kit, which refocuses the beam pattern to eliminate the problem.

Buying Car Headlights on eBay

eBay is an excellent marketplace to visit for your car headlights. To start searching for products, you only need to enter keywords, such as "halogen headlight s", and then apply filters to narrow your product down by the car's features. Alternatively, you can try searching for headlights by make and model, with keywords such as, "Ford Focus headlights". For the most relevant results, filter products by price range and condition.

Tips for Shopping on eBay

eBay is made up of a network of independent sellers who rely on the feedback system to establish themselves. Before making a purchase, check the seller's feedback history, which is information left by previous buyers, to gauge the seller's reliability. In addition, visit the eBay Help Centre to learn more about how feedback works. Before committing to a product, do some independent research to learn what other buyers have said and whether the car headlights meet the legal requirements. If you have any questions, you can contact the seller directly by using the "Ask a question" feature.


Buying car headlights is a great way to improve safety and even enhance the look of the car. There are many choices when it comes to headlights. In terms of design, car headlights may be either composite or sealed beam, which affects whether the entire unit or just a bulb needs to be replaced. Car headlights may use one bulb for high and low beams or two separate bulbs. In addition, the headlights may use projector or reflector technology, where projector technology produces a brighter and more focused beam.

Other factors to consider are the types of bulb used for the headlights. Car headlights may use halogen, HID, or LED bulbs, each of which has advantages. Buyers need to consider the legal requirements for any headlights that they purchase and the systems used in the car, such as an AFS. Finally, when travelling abroad buyers may choose to invest in converter kits that adapt the headlights' pattern for driving in other countries. Whatever kind of headlights buyers choose for their cars, eBay is a great place to shop.

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