Car Bulbs: The Motor Guru's Car Bulbs Buyer's Guide

Car bulbs are a huge category of different products, but if you're in the market which should you be looking at and what are their features? Luckily the motoring guru showed up to share his expertise with us:

Halogen bulbs – These are the granddaddy of modern car bulbs, taking the form of a tungsten filament surrounded by halogen gas to increase the performance of the lamp. They still use far more energy than more modern bulbs for less light produced as they are more similar to old-style light bulbs that you'd find at home.

They are still in production however and if you're on a serious budget then they are a good choice as they are cheaper than newer, more advanced types of bulb. They also offer a decent life-span as they are made with very tough, thick glass (which they need as they burn at a very high temperature) and offer respectable brightness of up to no more than around 2000 lumens.

They are commonly around just 10 to 20 pounds each.

HIR bulbs – After halogen came HIR, which stands for 'halogen infra red.' This bulb is similar to halogen, but it has an infra red coating which reflects heat back to the filament. Heat is one of the main by-products of creating light with a tungsten filament, and by reflecting waste heat back on to the filament and further heating it we can create even brighter light for the same or less energy!

Of course these are a little more expensive, but they are brighter at somewhere around 2500 lumens. 75% of the light of HID bulbs is not bad, and they are available at around 30 pounds each. Due to their small size and common shape (pretty much the same as halogen bulbs) it is easy to fit them to most cars, making them a hassle free solution if you want to upgrade.

HID bulbs – The modern benchmark. HID lights stand for 'high-intensity discharge' which is referring to an electrical discharge (think mini lightning bolt) that is created and used here to produce light. To avoid confusion these bulbs are often called Xenon headlights, as the gas used inside the bulb is xenon.

They produce far more lumens than halogen and HIR bulbs, up to around 3200, and also use less power, so they're better all round. They also glow with a funky blue tint, which is sure to turn heads!

They are however more expensive, weighing in at around 120 up to even 200 pounds. But for that you get the best performance available on the market today. You have to remember that they are a lot bigger, coming in a contained unit, and so changing these yourself may be difficult if you have no experience.

LED bulbs – Light Emitting Diodes, or LEDs as they're commonly known are a new way of lighting your way at night. These guys do not produce as much light as HID lights because they rely on the electrical current through a metal semiconductor creating light, rather than burning a filament or electrical discharge.

They're very small and instantly go to full brightness and so have been most common in brake lights and indicators up to now. The new headlight versions are not too shabby though, and produce less light than HIDs, but more than halogen bulbs.

Because these are the newest headlight technology they are not always compatible with older cars and can be hard to find, but if you can track them down you could pay somewhere around 20 to 30 pounds each.

If you're wondering what lumens are they are a measurement of light equivalent to candles. 1 lumen equals 1 candle's light. If there is a light source of 1 lumen, for instance an ordinary candle, standing on a certain point, then we estimate that all the area with 1 metre squared will receive 1 lumen of illumination. Therefore more lumens equals larger area that can be lit up and more brightly.

The guru's final tip? Shop online! Yes, you can find these headlight bulbs in your local garage, motoring store or hardware store, but these places have already added their profit. If you shop with a reputable dealer online then you're cutting out the middle-man and getting the best deal.