Car Headlight Performance Found to Be Not So Bright
Published:2012-11-27 14:09:56    Text Size:【BIG】【MEDIUM】【SMALL

A new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety finds that among 31 vehicles tested for car headlight performance, only one earned IIHS`s top Good rating: the Toyota Prius V with LED lamps. Mirroring Consumer Reports test results, this first-ever car headlight ratings evaluation by IIHS shines light on how lamps are underperforming.

In fact, 19 vehicles received Poor or Marginal scores for their disappointing performance. The worst performer in the IIHS tests was the BMW 3 Series equipped with halogen headlamps.

If those results are surprising to you, they weren`t to us. Although we would agree that headlights have improved over the past decade, we still feel there is room for more advancement, especially for straight-ahead low-beam seeing distances that matter most. And the 3 Series also scored poorly in our tests.

Since 2004, Consumer Reports has evaluated car headlight performance as part of our comprehensive battery of tests. Our ratings have provided insight not only into which cars help you see better at night but also how the lighting industry is faring overall and which technologies offer better potential for seeing at night. (Learn more about how Consumer Reports tests cars.)
Although IIHS conducts its car headlight test a bit differently than we do, the concepts behind it are much the same. Both tests assess how far ahead the headlights illuminate, and both are conducted on dark nights. Further, both ratings evaluate both low and high beams, and they give the greatest emphasis to low- beam seeing distances, reflecting how lights are most often used.

IIHS notes that spending more money doesn`t necessarily buy improved visibility, as many of the Poor-rated headlights came on luxury vehicles. Our own ratings have found that while newer technologies such as high-intensity discharge (HID) and now LED headlights typically provide brighter and often more visibility to the sides of the road, they don`t necessarily provide added visibility straight ahead. As those higher-tech lights often come on high-end vehicles, our test findings seem to be in alignment.


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