Best LED work lights and inspection lamps 2021

We test the latest, brightest LED inspection lamps to help you work on your car

NO matter how well lit your workshop is, or how bright the day, at some point you will need more light when you’re working on cars. Fortunately getting light where you want it has never been easier, because advances in LED and battery technology have seen the output of inspection lamps increase, and run times lengthen.

Cordless is the way to go, with the best lasting well over two hours, and no leads trailing across the floor or drive to trip over. Makers have also exploited the new tech to come up with innovative designs that make it easier than ever to put light where it’s needed. So which of the latest designs is the shining star? We charged eight to find out.

How we tested them

As designs have improved and converged, we have refined our test to find a worthy winner. We measured light output and beam spread, as well as assessing torches and the run time at maximum power. We also looked for power-saving modes, plus battery-charge and state indicators before heading under a wheelarch and bonnet for practical tests to see how easy it is to get light where it’s needed. The final factor was the price, which we obtained from online sources.

Reviews 

Ring MAGflex RIL3900HP

When you see how similar the MAGflex Pivot is to the MAGflex Utility it’s no surprise the two were closely matched. The RIL3900HP is a smaller package, but the COB (chip on board) strip still manages to push out 400 lumens. With a 2.6Ah Li-ion battery, it performed well in the run time test, at almost four hours. Add in its keen price, a thumbwheel dimmer, plus charge and battery state indicator, and you have a winner.

Buy now from Amazon

Ring MAGflex Utility RIL3700HP

The RIL3700HP has a 20cm-long COB (chip on board) light source, resulting in a 1,000-lumen beam with a massive spread. It lacks the ultimate intensity of some rivals, but it is close. 

Despite measuring 50cm long, it can still be used in the engine bay by hanging or sticking to the bonnet, thanks to the twin hooks and magnets in the ends, which are hinged and rotate through 360 degrees. There’s a four-LED display showing battery state and charge level, plus it’s good to see a mains plug and a 12V charge lead. For lighting a bench or an area it’s hard to beat, and all at a cracking price.

Buy now from Amazon

Philips Portable LED Light PJH10

The Philips PJH10 is a design that’s aimed at both the professional and DIY markets, and is useful both as a work light and for investigating a breakdown, so it’s a handy piece of kit if you can afford it.

Its size allows it to be placed under the bonnet or wheelarch to light repairs or bigger areas. Key to this is the strong magnet in the hinged stand, which makes it easier to place and angle.

It is also light, but still packs a punch, offering an impressive 1,000 lumens. The difference compared to some rivals can be seen, but the beam is wide and well up to the job.

You also have plenty of control over that output, thanks to the PJH10’s dimmer function, which helpfully remembers the previous setting between uses. It’s tough too, with an IK09 shock rating.

Charging is mains only, but you get all that you need, unlike many rivals which supply just a USB lead. Top quality, but at a price.

Buy now from Philips

NightSearcher Pocket Pro

One look tells you NightSearcher is bucking the trend for work lights with the Pocket Pro, and this can also be seen by the inclusion of a mains adaptor for the USB charge lead. Most rivals just supply a cable. The Pocket Pro punches out 600 lumens, giving it a clear advantage over the Ring’s 400, but its beam was narrower. It had a similar advantage with its torch. 

Less good were the single-LED charge and battery state indicator, and just two power modes. It also ducked out 60 or so minutes before its rival, although it still lasted close to three hours in the run-time test. Getting light where needed via the hinged magnetic base is not as easy as it is with the Ring offering, but if output is key then this is the one to go for. 

Buy now from NightSearcher

Philips RCH25

There’s no doubt this is aimed more at the pro than the DIY market, but it’s still within the reach of amateurs. It dwarfs our top two with a more conventional design that has a hinged bottom section combined with powerful magnets in the back and base. The Philips’ LEDs deliver 500 lumens, but in a relatively narrow spread. Although the light’s output can be adjusted by holding the power button, even at maximum it lasted more than three hours. A great, but not cheap, package.

Buy now from Philips

Draper 11767

Pick this for maximum light. The COB LEDs punch out 1,000 lumens – the most powerful we tested, and delivered across a decent width. The battery ducked out after 90 minutes but would last a lot longer on the 500-lumen setting. There are charge and battery-state LEDs and a hinged base, but it lacks the Philips’ handy charging dock. Power at a decent price. 

Buy now from Draper Tools

NightSearcher HazStar

This is more focused on breakdowns than workshops, as three LED strips can flash red in a triangle shape. They also have solid red and white modes, plus can be removed and placed on bodywork, thanks to magnets. There’s also a USB outlet, a battery-state indicator and a charge lead supplied.

It’s quite expensive for something you may never use, and in the workshop the HazStar starts to give best to other products tested here. It needs to sit on something since there’s no magnetic mount and, while the beam is bright, there are only two power levels. At maximum output we saw just under 300 minutes’ run time.

Super-effective in an emergency, but a bit limited in the workshop, where it would need to be used to justify that price.

Buy now from NightSearcher

Draper 90187

Draper’s folding-blade light is almost twice the length of the Ring when closed, and nearly three times as heavy. It also has a rotary dimmer for the 7W LEDs, which is useful because their 700 lumens will flatten the battery in two hours on full power. Less good is the inability to fold completely with the LEDs on the outside, and the lack of magnets in the back.

Buy now from Draper Tools

Laser 7056

There’s lots to like about this. It’s similar to the Draper and Philips, but adds a hinged base that also rotates. It’s smaller, too, at 18cm tall with a 260-lumen output. The light is okay in small spaces but relatively narrow. It has a basic charge indicator but the options include a dock, UK and European mains USB adaptors and one for in-car charging. It’s decent, but others have an edge.

Buy now from Amazon

NightSearcher Tri-Spector

The Tri-Spector has a tough job here, up against pure worklights while delivering a fair bit more. As a worklight it compares well with a 600-lumens and has a useful two hours-plus run time. Where it differs is the battery also powers a decent flexible light and effective spot-to-flood torch. If you can use these, then this is well worth investigating.

Buy now from NightSearcher

Clarke RWL-55

There’s something very old-school about this light. It has a bank of 55 LEDs, with 33 giving a white work light and the rest a red emergency or flashing light. Output was nowhere near the latest designs’, nor was the run time. There’s also just one magnet on the back, and while there is a charging dock plus an adaptor for in-car charging, these are not enough to rescue this light.

Buy now from Amazon

Now you can see what you are doing, why not see which is the best socket set on sale to get the job done?

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