Luxury cars often come equipped with HIDs or High-Intensity Discharge lights. HIDs are expensive, but the light they produce is brighter than typical OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) halogen bulbs. 

Are HID bulbs the correct choice for your vehicle? Many people make the switch to HID bulbs for their vehicles because of the enticing colors or superior brightness to halogens, but is the change always correct? If you’ve considered custom automotive lighting in the past, read through this guide and learn how color temperature and spectrum can affect your visibility while driving, and which bulbs handle them better.

HIDs, LEDs, and halogens can come in many different colors, and the colors themselves serve very different purposes for your vehicle. When choosing your bulb and color you should consider your vehicle, your needs, and your location—as well as the traffic laws that govern appropriate brightness.

What Is An HID Bulb?

HIDs contain a gas called Xenon and do not have a filament like typical halogen bulbs. Xenon gas lights up when an electrical current is passed through it, which creates a much brighter glow and circumvents the burnout of a filament. HIDs also cover a much larger area than halogen bulbs, giving you increased visibility in low-light conditions.

The filaments in regular bulbs wear out quickly because of travel. Filaments can burn out or get damaged during regular driving conditions, and you will have to replace them often. Since HIDs don’t have this filament, they have increased longevity. HIDs produce a strong visible light as the electric current passes through the Xenon gas, they have less wear and tear over time. 

Still, there are advantages and disadvantages to HID bulbs, and it’s important to know how their light, color, and use compares to LEDs and halogens overall.

HIDs, LEDs, or Halogen Bulbs

Most vehicles come equipped with halogen bulbs, the economical default. While halogens aren’t particularly bright compared to LEDs or HIDs, they do produce the white or yellow light you need to see safely while driving in low-light conditions.

LED bulbs are brighter, they use less energy than halogens, and last for quite a long time. LEDs have become more popular in recent years and are fairly simple to install. They also run they same spectrum of bulb color as HIDs.

HIDs, as discussed, while producing the brightest beams for their colors are only slightly brighter than LEDs and do not last as long. HIDs are not meant to be a long-term solution, and their color and brightness can distract other drivers. There are many significant disadvantages to HID bulbs in non-HID housings, such as oncoming traffic glare and increased heat. Unless your vehicle came equipped with HID bulbs straight from the factory, it’s generally a good idea to avoid using these bulbs.

Bulb Color Spectrum

The spectrum of energy that’s released in your headlight bulbs is measured in Kelvins. Correlated color temperature—the bulb color—is the actual physical temperature of the light, and the spectral description is equivalent across both LED and HID bulbs.

Our eyes react differently to different colors of light. Blue light is harder on the eyes, as it has a shorter wavelength than yellow light. Since light color and temperature are both related to visibility and distance, it’s important to choose the safest option for you and your driving conditions, based on laws in your area. 

Yellow: 3000 Kelvin, Akin to halogens, soft yellow light

Off-White: 4300 Kelvin, White, and Yellow combination

Pure White: 5000 Kelvin, Sunlight-colored

Crystal White: 6000 Kelvin, Blue-tinted white color

It’s important to make your bulb choice based on what color is best for you, and the higher Kelvin in your bulb the more blue the bulb will look. Lower Kelvin temperatures produce a soft yellow light, and each temperature indicates Kelvin strength. The higher the Kelvin, the less efficient the bulb actually is as it strays from the yellow light spectrum.

Ideally—in terms of safety and visibility—you want an HID bulb whose temperature is somewhere between 4300 and 6000 Kelvin. This range gives you the best “sunlight” look at night, making low-light driving safe. Increasing the color beyond 6000 will produce pleasant blue light but might make driving more of a challenge. 

The Purpose Of Color Temperature

Yellow HID

Color temperatures of around 3000 Kelvin will produce yellow light, and you typically see these headlights in older cars. Yellow headlights are the staple, and halogens emit yellow light. Yellow light producing bulbs work well in most weather conditions, though they have trouble with distance and area. Regardless, yellow lights are the best for fog and snow.


OEM HIDs are white with a yellow tint. This is your “sunlight” look, and they work great as an all-around headlight. OEMs can be dim, but most will not want to install a dim-looking HID in their vehicle. 

Pure White

At 5000 Kelvin, your vehicle will produce pure white light. These are a popular market choice because of their evenness in both daytime and nighttime driving. This is the brightest HID bulb available and is recommended. 

Crystal White

At 6000 Kelvin, your headlights produce white light with a tint of blue—it’s around 95 perfect white and 5 percent blue total. This is a clean, attractive color that increases night visibility and remains a popular choice.

Pale Blue

At your 8000 Kelvin range, the HID bulbs will produce a pale blue. This is a very modern look, but not great on the eyes. Pale blue causes noticeable eye strain during night driving and is not recommended for inclement weather. In heavy rain, snow, or fog, you will not be able to see very well.

Deep Blue or Darker Blue

As stated above, a 10,000 Kelvin bulb will cause some problems. This will attract unwanted attention from police, won’t let you see on the road, and will decrease safety. Regardless of whether or not you think it looks cool in your vehicle, you should not buy HID bulbs in this range.

Are HIDs or LEDs right for you?

HID bulbs have their advantages and disadvantages, all based on their Kelvin color spectrum. When choosing the HID bulb that’s right for you, consider the color range, the lighting, the conditions of your area, the roads, and how often you travel. LEDs are often the safer and more economical investment, but still remember to stay in the visible color range for the safety of yourself and other drivers.