Best car headlight bulbs 2022

We shine a light on the best halogen headlight bulbs to fit to your car

Bulb tech moves quickly. Our last test in 2020 saw the debut of the first headlamp claiming 200 per cent extra light. This time around, all but one of our double-filament H4 bulbs claimed the same extra light at some point within the beam.

But which maker has pushed the envelope furthest when we look at overall performance, and not just at one spot within the beam? We grabbed a box full of samples and headed to Ring Automotive’s innovative test facility in Leeds to find which bulbs you should fit in your car.

How we tested them

Instead of sensors in a 25-metre tube, Ring uses a camera developed to spot dead cells in tablets. This takes a picture of the beam on a wall, then evaluates light levels.

After burning in our samples to stabilise their output, we measured light levels at 50 and 75 metres to calculate our figure of merit (FOM), the brightest point, the area lit at above 30 lux, and reach using a three-lux cut off. We also ensured bulbs complied with E-mark rules. 

The results, based on an average of two samples, were converted to percentages and combined for an overall ranking. Prices are for a pair of bulbs.

Verdict

One result of the constant push for greater output is the drop in the number of companies that can develop and produce these top performers. 

Here we essentially have just three makers, with Osram, Ring and Halfords (from the same company) going against Philips and Tungsram, which supplies Twenty20. So, it’s no surprise that the results were close, with Ring taking a narrow win from Philips and Osram.

  1. Ring Xenon200
  2. Philips RacingVision GT200
  3. Osram Night Breaker 200

Reviews

Ring Xenon200

Ring takes the battle of the Osram Group bulbs, which all use the same technology, with only minor production criteria to separate the replacement and original-equipment products. 

The Xenon200 sealed victory by taking podiums in all four tests, which is so often key to success. But it won just one – our original figure of merit rating, which combines two measurements at 50 metres with double the light at 75m. A good all-rounder, and our H4 pick.

Buy now from eBay

Philips RacingVision GT200

  • Price: around £26
  • Rating: 4.5 stars
  • Score: 98%
  • Contact: philips.com

As we’ve seen so often with headlamp bulbs, Philips pioneers technological advances, but its rivals soon catch up. And it is just pipped to the top spot here, despite securing two wins. It delivered the brightest spot and had the widest spread of light, which could be seen on the test wall.

But it lacked the consistency of our winner, with one bulb requiring a big headlamp adjustment. It was fifth in the FOM assessment and reach, where it was around 15 metres behind the best.

Buy now from Amazon

Osram Night Breaker 200

  • Price: around £26
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Score: 95%
  • Contact: osram.com

The margins were close, but the Night Breaker 200 was just a touch behind our top two throughout the tests. It was strongest in the spread of light by more than 30 lux, where it was equal third with our winner. 

This was followed by a joint fourth with the Pro +200%, at 149 metres in the distance test. Elsewhere, it was a point behind the Pro (right) and ended up on the same score overall, but a significant price difference – which has increased further since we bought our samples – saw it secure third spot.

Buy now from Amazon

Ring Pro +200%

Created for Halfords, Ring’s Pro brand boasts original-equipment quality, and our tests proved that is no hype. We couldn’t separate this from the OE Osram through the tests. In the light tests they were impossible to tell apart by eye and there were just small differences in the results. 

Bulbs are key safety items, so we don’t usually factor in price, but we can’t ignore the difference here, which means Osram takes the final podium spot.

Buy now from Halfords

Twenty20 daylight 200

Twenty20 was a surprise winner in 2020 with its plus-150-per-cent H7 bulb, but it found the going tougher this time. As rivals have upped the game to 200 per cent, the Autobulbs Direct own brand has switched supplier to Hungarian producer Tungsram, but it could only manage fifth spot.

If beam length is key, this is the one to go for because it topped the results on 158 metres – three more than the next best. It was also runner-up in the FOM rating, but a poor sixth place for the spread over 30 lux saw it tumble down the results in this close-fought test. 

Buy now from Auto Bulbs Direct

Tungsram Megalight Ultra +200

  • Price: around £30
  • Rating: 3.5 stars
  • Score: 90%
  • Contact: tungsram.com

These are brand-new to the Tungsram range in the UK and we had to select the pair we tested from multiple samples because we were unable to buy them. The price is also a recommended one. 

These results suggest the firm might have a bit more work to do on its plus-200-per-cent offering because it was no match for its original-equipment rivals Osram and Philips. It fared best in the distance test, where it was third, on 151 metres. The consistency between the two bulbs was impressive, but they lacked the output of the best.

Halfords Advanced +200% Brighter Headlight Bulb

Halfords brings up the rear of the Osram quartet, thanks to one bulb that exceeded the maximum output by a fair margin in our photometry test, so the duo is not rated here. The second bulb was mid-pack, but its results were some way off its stablemates’. 

It finished last for distance, FOM and brightest spot (equal with the Tungsram). These bulbs are cheaper than the Ring Pro, but have also gone up since we bought the samples late last year.

Buy now from Halfords

Lucas Lightbooster +150%

  • Price: around £34
  • Rating: N/A
  • Score: N/A
  • Contact: ebay.co.uk

This was the only plus-150-per-cent bulb in the test, and it was sourced from eBay, hence the out-of-step price. It was also the only pair where both bulbs broke the output limit in the photometry assessment. 

They were significantly over, too, by more than 40 lumens. Despite this, results were only mid-pack for these Korean-made bulbs, although the pair were very evenly matched across all four tests.

Buy now from eBay

LED alternatives

Search for replacement headlamp bulbs online, and you will see pages of retrofit LEDs to replace the standard halogen bulbs tested here.

Currently, LEDs are illegal to use on UK roads and will fail a MoT, unless they were in use before 1986. This is due to the law not keeping up with technology and the desire to ensure replacements meet the same performance criteria as current halogen lamps. The same is true throughout most of Europe, but in Germany, Austria and Croatia, fitting LEDs is allowed on some models.

Osram’s range concentrates on the most popular H7 type, and is growing all the time. The Skoda Superb Mk3, Alfa Romeo Giulia and Audi A1 are among the latest fitments to be added.

To see how LEDs compare, we tried the Osram 64210DWNB LED against the Ring Xenon 200 H7. The halogen bulb had the edge in the test lab, but the LED beam was well controlled, with low glare and a similar pattern. Compared with our test winner here, the H4 9726CW LED had a longer, wider beam, but the halogen’s FOM was slightly better. 

Light output isn’t the only reason for using LEDs, though, because their lower power draw improves fuel economy, lifetime is increased, and heat generation is cut.

Most Popular

Tipo 184: on the road in the Mazda MX-5 based kit car
Tipo 184 kit car front
Features

Tipo 184: on the road in the Mazda MX-5 based kit car

Inspired by classic Grand Prix racing cars, Darren Collins has created a model that faithfully recreates the originals, but with a twist - it’s actual…
11 May 2022
Best electric cars to buy 2022
Best electric cars
Electric cars

Best electric cars to buy 2022

There are more electric cars than ever to choose from, so we've picked some of the best you can buy in the UK now
28 Apr 2022
New Lucid Air 2022 review
Lucid Air - front tracking
Lucid Air

New Lucid Air 2022 review

Lucid's first model intends to make a lasting mark on the luxury EV market
13 May 2022