How Many Lumens Is A Car Headlight: Brightness Limitation And Legality

Lumen is the unit that indicates the total quantity of visible light emitted by a source per unit of time. It’s the brightness of a lightbulb in the vehicle where the higher the number of lumens, the brighter the lightbulb.

So, do you want to find out your car headlight lumens? Can you guess, “How many Lumens is a car headlight?” Generally, three types of headlights are available with different brightness levels and lumens. On average, Halogen headlights have 700-1,200, high-intensity discharge (HID) have 3,000-5,500, and LED headlights have 3,000-6,000 lumens.

Every state has legal approval for headlight lumens which should be compatible. So, whether you have a BMW or Ford, ensure you meet the law about the vehicle lumens level and keep the ideal type of headlight among HID, LED, or Halogen lights.

How Does Lumens Work?

Some car owners are not familiar with the thing called “lumens.” Typically lumens ensure how much light your headlight bulb is producing. Additionally, the amount of light emitted by a bulb into a 360-degree sphere and taking all the directions is done by lumens. More lumens in a car indicate more brightness, whereas fewer lumens suggest dimmed light.

How Many Lumens Is A Car Headlight?

Lumens in a car’s headlight vary depending on the state and jurisdiction. However, based on the car model and manufacturer, headlights should have an average lumen output of 1,000 to 4,000. If we go further, we’ll discover the limit of brightness in the headlight, how we should determine our vehicle’s lumens, and some other crucial facts about the headlight.

Car Lumens And Headlights Beams

how many lumens are car headlights

Depending on what kind of headlight setting you are using, your car’s headlights will have different lumens on different sides. Usually, you’ll discover three headlight settings: side lights, dipped beams, and full beams.

1. Side Lights

Sidelights are small forms of front-mounted bulbs that are always activated while you’re driving. They are frequently referred to as “parking lights.” These lights have a brightness rating between 20 to 50 lumens and help the car to watch in low light situations.

2. Dipped Headlights

Dipped headlights are the primary light source for driving in low-light conditions. And the brightness rating is 500 to 1,000.

3. Full Beam Or High Beam Headlights

These lights are angled higher than dipped headlights. Full-beam headlamps make nighttime driving on a country road or rural areas easier. Lumen ratings for full beam highlights range from 1,000 to 4,000.

Car Headlight Lumens Chart: Based On Types

The lumens amount will vary according to the manufacturer, model, and type of headlight bulb used in the car’s headlight. Based on different brightness levels and lumens, your car may have three options for headlights with lumens. The options are Halogen, HID, and LED.

Headlight Types Lumen Level
Halogen 700-1200
HID (High-Intensity Discharge)or Xenon 2000-4000
LED 4000-12000

1. Halogen Headlights

brightest halogen headlight bulbs

Vehicle manufacturers usually use halogen headlights with low levels. These lights have 1200 lumens for high beams and 700 for low beams. 

Although they have the lowest lumen levels in halogen headlights available on the automobile market, these lights are cost-friendly. Almost 80% of vehicles have halogen lights.

2. High-Intensity Discharge (HID) Or Xenon Headlights

HID or Xenon headlights are next-level headlamps that produce 2,000 to 4,000 lumens. Such HID bulbs lack a filament and are filled with two electrodes and Xenon gas.

When the car has these lights, choose the color temperature during setup. Besides that, you’ll have options from 3000k warm white to intense blue-white daylight colors of up to 10,000k, along with a sharp white light.

For every watt of power, these lights provide about 80 lm. For instance, a 50W HID headlight can offer 4,000 lumens, or any 35-watt will be equivalent to 2,800 to 3,000 lumens. Another plus point is these lights are three times better and brighter than halogen. 

3. LED Headlights

led headlight lumens chart

LED or Light-Emitting Diode headlights are the latest innovation in the automobile industry, They use less power but last longer than halogen or HID Xenon bulbs. You won’t believe the lights have a lumen-to-watt ratio of about 100.

However, the average lumens of car headlights range from 4,000 to 12,000, but it may vary from vehicle to vehicle. For instance, the Audi R8 headlight can have 4,500 lumens of light.

The LED headlamp color temperature can be changed from its initial blue source. And, it won’t make excessive heat since there are no electric arcs.

For instance, Hyundai Iconic incorporates 72 various LEDs to provide a pixel-type look. Also, a 600m light beam may be produced by the BMW i8 headlights system with laser diodes.

Whether it’s HID or LED, they’ll blind passing cars. Even we discovered that the off-road lights offer extra brightness for identifying objects, animals, or any passerby on the road.

RELATED: How to install LED lights in car headlights

High Beams vs. Low Beams: Which One Is Better?

The bright light is called a high beam, whereas the low beam has low or deem-like brightness. Besides, both beams have some dissimilarities that we should know as vehicle headlight beams play a good role while driving.

High Beam Low Beam
High beams mean a greater lumens level to see farther. Low beams have unbalanced beams, reduced intensity, and a 200 feet distance range.
For significantly noticeable brightness, high beams are ideal. Usually, a car’s headlight offers low beams and it’s considered normal light.
We use higher beams as flashlights or a signal to the cars up front. Low beam is used while driving at night or in darkness such as indoor or dark parking lots.

How Many Lumens Is Good For A Car Headlight?

how many lumens are headlights

If you have a halogen, 700 to 1200 lumens will be okay. HID 3000 to 5500, and the LED headlight should have 3000 to 6000 lumens. But having 6000 Lumen is excessively bright.

Any conventional car can have lumen counts of 25 to 1400 and more, where 300 lumens is a daily requirement for drivers each day.

For example, you’re using the halogen lamp H9 which is high beam. You would notice that CCT=2094K, 5.42A, 12V, and 65W will produce 1538 lumens. Also, due to the efficiency of 27.5 lumens or watt at CCT= 2309 K, 5.70, 13.2V, and 75.2W, you’ll see 2067 lumens. However, 60% brightness performance in the headlight will be approximately 1240 lumens.

Car Headlight Lumens Limit: 5 Facts To Know

Every state has a set of rules while you drive. Similarly, they have fixed the car headlight brightness limit.

  1. According to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), headlights must have luminous brightness ranging from 500 to 3000 candelas.
  2. Use headlights with a maximum candlepower of 32 to light up the road in front.
  3. States suggest having a white light for the Registration Number on the back and a red brake light for DOT.
  4. In the United States, certain laws have more restrictions on wattage, while other states have color restrictions, and some of the regions only permit headlights in the front.
  5. Any state can allow the headlight limit in vehicles. For instance, a car must have at least two headlights in NY: White and red. However, if you require more headlamps, get permission from the registration authority.

The driver who plans to have taillights or headlights must stick to state law and shouldn’t exceed 3,000 lumens. Excessive brightness can blind the incoming driver; therefore, states don’t allow high brightness. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has published and given permits for “adaptive beam headlights” on any new car.

Any auxiliary lights such as fog lights, spotlights, or auxiliary lamps have some restrictions of lumens. However, driving with a high lumens level will not be illegal until the police stop you but the rule of thumb is light output shouldn’t cross 3,000 lumens.

RELATED: What Is The Brightest Headlight Bulb That Is Legal

How Do You Measure The Lumen Level Of Your Headlights?

First, to understand the lumen level, check the owner’s manual to get the reading. Lumen is calculated by multiplying the area of the light source by the light’s brightness. For example, a 60-watt conventional bulb emits around 800 lumens. However, we usually determine lumen level with things like

  • Light meter
  • A lux meter
  • A photometer.

We typically use a light meter for measurements. For this, following some steps will be crucial!

  1. The tool calculates how much brightness is being emitted from a particular source.
  2. The light meter can be used by holding it up to the headlight and taking the reading.
  3. The reading will show the lumens level produced in the headlamp.


1. Which headlight has the highest lumens?

LED headlights have the highest lumens, around 4,000 to 12,000. But Xenon headlights are considered the most powerful ones.

2. How many lumens are LED headlights?

You’ll have 5,000-6,000 lumens for each LED light, whereas the pair of headlights will have 10,000-12,000 lumens.

3. Are 3000 lumens too bright for headlights?

Car headlights normally vary in intensity from 1,000 to 4,000 lumens. However, the ideal point of brightness for CFL, LED, or luminous illumination in the headlight is 3,000 lumens.

4. How many lumens for a front light?

Any urban streets should have front lighting with a minimum of 50 lumens and 200 lumens for dimly lit urban roads. Generally, users require 300 lumens for their daily use.

5. Is there a legal limit for the brightness of headlights in the United States?

Yes, there are certain headlight standards in the United States. And regarding the luminous intensity, we generally stick to 500-3000 candelas.

Also Read: How to Remove Moisture from Headlight

Summarizing The Whole Idea

We can determine how many lumens a car headlight is based on the car models, types, and headlight styles. But generally, halogen has 700 to 1200, HID has 2000 to 4000, and LED can have 4000 to 12000 maximum. 

Besides that, you should choose the high beam headlights instead of the low beam. We have also included the ideal level of lumens authorized by the state. Exploring the lumen level with a light meter can help you to read what’s yours, and it’s important to follow the state’s rules as a car owner or driver while using headlights.

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