Halogens, HID or LED: discover what’s right for your 4WD

Auxiliary lights are essential when you do a lot of night driving in the bush, but can you simply use halogen or should you invest in HID or LED?

A bright field of vision helps make night driving easier, reduces driver fatigue and latent reaction times. There are three types of lights on the market, each with differing performance, price and longevity.


Halogen lights are generally standard manufacturer’s equipment and have been used longer than any other type of driving light. The technology is based around generating heat inside a filament to create light. They are easy and cheap to produce, but there is a trade-off for efficiency and durability. Halogens only produce light from around five percent of the electrical input to the bulb, with the other 95 percent lost through heat. This is a symptom of incandescent light technology.

Halogens are susceptible to degradation from intense vibrations (which can lead to breakages in some cases), which mean that off-road corrugations and rough terrain can reduce the life of your bulbs.

HID (High Intensity Discharge)

HID lights are more efficient light generators than halogen. This is due to their high output and low current draw. They consume minimal power compared to halogen, while also having a longer lifespan and a higher light output. HID lights are approximately 20 percent more efficient when it comes to producing light and can last well over 2000 hours, whilst lighting up much greater distances than halogen.

HID lights are the best light for longer distance illumination, though the intense beam path can cause reflective glare from objects in your path, which can cause problems when driving at speed. HID spot lights are also more expensive than their halogen counterparts. You need to decide if their superior performance and lifespan is worth the investment.

LED (Light Emitting Diode)

The newest entry into the vehicle spotlight industry is LED. The lights come in the form of light bars and also as mounted lights. The distinctive advantage of LEDs is their lifespan, with many reported to last for over 50,000 hours. LEDs are also more efficient than either halogen or HID lights, so over time they are the most cost effective purchase over time.

However, both LED light bars and spotlights cost more than the equivalent halogen or HID lights. Depending on your circumstances, upgrading your driving lights from standard halogens may be a worthwhile investment. Talk with your local 4WD accessories supplier, as many drivers invest in both forms to gain the unique benefits of each.

Here’s an earlier review we published about LEDs, while RACQ has more information on fog lights and regulations.