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Expensive Optional LED Headlights Not All They're Cracked Up To Be

Automakers want you to think that their optional expensive headlights work better, but IIHS testing proves that is not always the case.


Automakers want you to think that the expensive optional headlights on top trims are better than the standard ones, but is it really true? The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has discovered in laboratory testing that the pricey ones are often not as good at lighting the road ahead as the less expensive base trim lights.

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Headlight Test Results
A recent test of the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan proves the point. In its exhaustive testing, IIHS found that the LED headlights on the SEL Premium trim were not as effective as the less expensive halogen headlights found on the base S trim. Testing conducted in the new state of the art indoor facility at IIHS revealed that the base headlights scored Marginal, while the optional LED lights scored Poor (image shows part of the detailed report by IIHS.) The Tiguan missed the "Plus" designation in the Top Safety Pick ranking due to its overall low headlight score.

LED Lighting - Mixed Results
This test is not an indictment of LED lighting. In the case of the Prius V, tested in 2017, the more expensive LED lights did score Good and the base trim's scored Poor.

IIHS Testing of Headlights
IIHS now conducts the most rigorous, and scientific headlight testing in the industry. It's facility measures the effective distance of high and low beans on straightaways and in both left and right turns. IIHS factors in whether lights are adaptive in turns, the ones that swivel to the car's intended path score higher. Automatic high beams are also awarded a bonus. Those with excessive glare are marked down. The coolest part of the IIHS testing is that they used a pool of volunteers to calibrate their equipment to be sure it had a real-world link.

Expensive Cars With Poor Headlights
Incredibly, some pricey cars offer nothing but Poor-rated headlights. Mercedes Benz's C Class IIHS tested recently offered only Poor-rated headlights.