2018 Kia Stinger shown from front with HID projector beam headlights

Headlights: Standard VS Projector Beam VS Halo VS HID VS LED VS Xenon VS Laser

What Are the Different Types of Headlights?

When it comes to selecting a new or used vehicle, most drivers think about things like space, powertrain, safety features, infotainment, style, fuel efficiency and more. Those items are generally considered make-or-break features for drivers who have a definite idea of what they want going into the hunt.

[READ MORE: Which 2018 Kia Models Feature Apple CarPlay?]

Other features might be less sought after, but can still wind up being important down the road as their inclusion or exclusion becomes either automotive serendipity, or remorse over what could have been. One of these features is the headlights! Good headlights after all are the difference between seeing and not seeing. They can wind up being the difference between knowing what’s around the dark corner and being surprised by something.

Ironically, there isn’t a ton of clarity surrounding the different types of headlights available on the market, and their distinct advantages over one another, so we’re going to try to help. Since these words are usually used to bill extra features and amenities, it’s important to know what they mean after all.

front end and fascia and grille and headlights of 2017 kia k900 shown to illustrate combined headlight technologyStandard Headlights

Standard headlights have been in play since the first automobiles rolled out of their production line into some monocled aristocrats garage over 100 years ago. Standard headlights feature a forward facing bulb in a reflective box or case. Early models that continued through the late 20th century were incandescent, featuring similar build to home light bulbs.

These incandescent bulbs wore hot, didn’t last long and cast a sticky, muted light which wasn’t especially useful. Halogen bulbs improved the technology by using halogen gas instead of a filament. This provided a much more uniform forward-facing light. Still in use today, halogen standard headlights are the most common headlights on the road.

Projector Beam Headlights

Projection beam headlights work similarly to standard headlights, but feature a special rear-facing bulb. This bulb illuminates the reflective case of the headlight to cast a brighter, more focused and more uniformly lit spot. Projector beam headlights are standard on many 2018 Kia models including the 2018 Kia Sorento, 2018 Kia Sportage, and more!

Halo Headlights

Halo headlights are some of the most aesthetically-appealing options out there. Very rarely standard, halo headlights surround a projector beam with a halo of light to make a vehicle’s headlights appear like eyes. In practice, they add very little light to the total projection, and are primarily valued for their stylish and sporty appearance.

HID Headlights

Let’s be honest, we’ve all had that moment of late night panic when we see somebody in our rear-view mirror with bright white/blue lights pointed forward. HID (high-intensity dishcarge) lights not only provide some of the furthest available visibility in a headlight, but they feature a distinctly “cool” radiance, as opposed to the warm colors exuded by standard and projector beam halogen headlights.

HID Headlights are also called Xenon headlights, as Xenon is one of the gases inside the bulb that allows it to glow, and sounds like a futuristic spaceship feature.

LED Headlights

LED Headlights are some of the most energy efficient bulbs available. They’re also some of the most recent to appear, and some of the most attractive. Featuring a more concentrated and uniform appearance than other types of headlights, LEDs can be utilized in shapes beside a bulb. This versatility has allowed some of the coolest headlight and taillight design to pop up over the last 5 – 10 years.

LEDs also run cooler than pretty much any other headlight technology, meaning they last longer. Different Kia models like the 2018 Kia Soul feature optional LED exterior lighting for added style and functionality.

Laser Headlights

Perhaps the most insanely cool combination of two words we can think to include on an automobile description, laser headlights are a brand new technology on the market. Before you start worrying about your cat chasing cars, however, it’s important to note that a laser isn’t actually emitted from the vehicle’s headlight casing. Instead a laser is used in place of electricity to excite a gas that produces photons (like HID lights).

The difference is that laser headlights are more versatile, allowing different shapes and designs than LED headlights, but with over 1000 times the energy output at a fraction of the energy cost. They’re undoubtedly the next big leap in headlight technology, and we couldn’t be more excited to see Kia begin releasing models featuring this cutting-edge (and very marketable) technology.

As you can see, you have plenty of choices for headlight technology on your next Kia vehicle. If you’re interested in seeing a demonstration of a specific type, or would like to schedule a sundown test-drive to see them in action, contact us today to schedule a test-drive!


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