Most people are more familiar with the measurement of watts to determine bulb brightness. However it’s also important to understand what lumens refers to in your car’s headlights, too. So, how many lumens is a car headlight, and why does it matter?
The lumen rate determines a measured space that a headlight illuminates. Most halogen headlights fall between 700 and 4,000 lumens. While HID headlights will range between 3,500-8,000 lumens. LED headlights produce the most lumens out of all headlight styles – between 5,000-6,000 per light.
If you’re a car owner, chances are you’ve given your headlights some thought. You may have even noticed that the common language for measuring them is “lumens.”
But what does that number mean, and why does it matter when buying a new set of headlights?
Truth is, knowing the lumens of your headlights is important if you ever want to upgrade to an aftermarket part or replace your stock headlights bulbs.
In this guide, we’ll cover why lumens should be at the top of your checklist as you shop around for new car lights.
By the end of this guide, you’ll know everything you need to know about the lumen rate of different headlights. Let’s dive into this!
What Is a Lumen?
A lumen is a measure of how much light is provided over a surrounding area. One lumen is roughly equal to the light source provided by a single candle.
As such, cars with lower lumens provide light to a smaller area. Cars at the higher end of the lumen range provide light over a longer distance.
Simply stated, lumens is the measurement of a headlight bulb’s light brightness and ability to project that light over a certain distance.
How Many Lumens do Car Headlights Have?
The amount of lumens a car headlight has is dependent on what type of headlights are being used.
As an example, Halogen headlights have the lowest level, generally having about 700 lumens on the low beam and 1200 on high beam.
High-intensity discharge (HID) lights are significantly brighter, capable of 2000 to 4000 lumens.
HID lights have the advantage of adjusting the color temperature (within limits) of your vehicle, and they are significantly brighter than stock halogen lights.
LED lights as you might expect, have the highest average lumens at 5,000 to 12,000. Of course, such bright headlights aren’t available in every state, and several have restrictions on the lumens headlights can emit.
Of course, regardless of what type of headlights you’re using, remember to turn off your high beams when a car is oncoming in the other lane. Both HID and LED headlights have the capability to blind oncoming traffic.
How Many Lumens Are Legal For Headlights?
The Code of Federal Regulations stats that the luminous intensity of headlights must be between 500 and 3,000 candelas. It’s worth noting for reference that, 1 candelas = 12.57 lumens.
Whether your vehicle has halogen, HID or LED headlights won’t affect this either way – what sets them apart will come down to their lumen rates.
In short, drivers who want to install upgraded headlights shouldn’t choose lights that measure over 3,000 lumens. Easiest way to ensure a set of headlights are legal, is to look for the label “DOT Approved” or “DOT Compliant”.
It’s best to avoid purchasing any headlights that are not labeled DOT Approved or DOT Compliant. Or, the candela measures beyond the legal 3,000 level.
Final Thoughts: How Many Lumens Is a Car Headlight
The lumens in a car headlight determine, quite simply, how bright the headlights are. Lower lumens indicates that the headlights aren’t as bright, while high lumens will allow you to see farther.
A halogen headlight system is the cheapest and has the lowest lumens – 700 to 1200. HIDs vary greatly from 3,500 to 8,000 lumens – much brighter than a standard halogen headlight.
Lastly, LED lights can be the brightest on the market at upwards of 10,000-12,00 lumens per pair.
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Christopher is an internet technology expert and mechanical engineer. When he’s not at the local autocross event, he can often be found working on one of his cars. He loves nothing more than taking something apart and putting it back together again. Email me direct, or learn more about us