October 23, 2017
PLEASE NOTE: Results and recommendations on this page are based on our version 1.0 test bench. For the latest results, please see our test chart and recommendations pages which are results from our version 2.0 testing.
Welcome lighting enthusiasts! Because you are like me, you too are confused by all of the marketing jargon and just want to know one in for all what the best and brightest headlight truly are, and this is why we developed Bulb Facts!
In this article, you’ll find out what the brightest halogen or incandescent headlight bulbs are, so you can see better while driving at night. Over 20 different bulb upgrade kits were tested to find out exactly which ones were among the very brightest.
In 3rd place, we have the GE Nighthawk Platinum’s.
UPDATE March 2018: The new 3rd place winner are the Philips Racing Vision's!
We tested these at 2030 peak lumens (or lux). They’re going to be about 17% brighter than your original stock bulbs. Average price for these on Amazon are around $35, vs about $15 for your basic/original replacement bulbs. These beat out their bigger brother the Nighthawk Xenon’s in their very fancy packaging, which run over $50 on average, and 20 lumens dimmer than the Platinum’s. GE claims “up-to” 90% more light on the road. Pretty far off from our tests, but don’t be fooled by only 17% as there will be more overall light on the road with these.
Coming in 2nd place are the Sylvania Silverstar Ultra’s. Yes, these are not #1 surprisingly, as they are the most popular upgrade bulbs in the US. Rated at 2210 peak lumens, they’re 27% brighter than your original bulbs, giving you a significant upgrade over OEM, and are 10% brighter than the GE Nighhawk Platinum’s. The Silverstar Ultra’s are their flagship headlight product, and certainly don’t disappoint with an average cost on Amazon of about $30. Sylvania doesn’t make any bold percentage claims, but does advertise more “downward”, more clarity, and “ultra night vision” so you can now apparently see when little Bambi decides to pop out at the worst time possible.
In 1st place, are the OSRAM Night Breaker Unlimited’s. If you live in Europe, you’re probably more familiar with the OSRAM brand, but they can be found in the US online very easily. Osram is the same company as Sylvania, however they are in fact different products. Sylvania is very well known and used in the US. The Night Breaker Unlimited’s were tested at 2240 peak lumens, which is going to be 29% brighter over stock bulbs, and only 2% brighter over the Silverstar’s, so it was a very close win indeed. Osram’s claim is “up-to” 110% more brightness compared to standard bulbs, and although it’s not quite that high in our testing, they did prove themselves to be the #1 rated upgrade if you are looking for the best of the best. Average cost for these on Amazon is only $25, proving to be truly the best halogen upgrade out there. As you can see, the higher cost doesn’t always reflect a better headlight bulb.
Because the Silverstar Ultra’s and the Nightbreaker Unlimited’s were so close in our testing, I would personally recommend either set.
So you may be asking yourself why don’t the auto makers just include these bulbs in their cars when new? Why give us these dim bulbs where we can barely see anything? The answer is that while these improved replacement bulb packs give us much better lighting, unfortunately they don’t last quite as long due to running hotter. The average lifespan, depending on if you have daytime running bulbs (where they stay on all the time) is about 1-2 years, with most people claiming closer to 2 years. OEMs or ‘Long-Life’ bulbs will give you closer to 5-6 years. This will of course depend on your own use, but don’t let this get you distraught and cancel your order for those Night Breaker Unlimited’s, as the tradeoff is truly worth the improvement of more light on the road, keeping you safer on the road at night.
One thing to remember is as headlight bulbs get used over time they do degrade and dim, so even if they aren’t fully burnt out, they may be on their way out. If it’s been a few years, it may be a good idea to change them out.
If you are interested to see the dimmest bulbs we tested, be sure to either check out the video above, or see our testing charts and simply sort any way you like.
Be safe out there, and until next time!