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Fog Lamps and HID Headlights

I’m starting to think about buying a new car and one feature I’m looking for in a new vehicle is excellent headlights. My night vision is not as good as I would like, and If I’m going to get a new car, I would like a car with top notch headlights that have a nice, wide flood. Most car reviews don’t say much about the headlights or provide any specs with which to compare them.

I was thinking of a Camry with fog lights, with the idea that the fog lights would provide added width and flood. Does anybody have experience with fog lights who can say if they do that? I realize the name implies they are for fog, but fog is not a concern where I live. I want to give a boost to the regular headlights on a nightly basis.

Alternatively, I was thinking of narrowing my search to cars with HID headlights. Does anyone have those, and are you impressed by them?

If money is no object to you, then HID headlights are worth considering. I have not driven with them, but they are supposedly brighter and better than most conventional headlights (I believe they are based on what it’s like to have a car equipped with them coming at me on the highway at night). They are also much more expensive to replace, as in, when one stops working it will run you several hundred dollars to replace. A better alternative might be to get a car with conventional headlights and install brighter aftermarket capsules such as Sylvania SilverStars. A set of top of the line aftermarket capsules will set you back less than a hundred bucks. The only caveat with those is that, since they run hotter, they burn out more frequently than the cheap ones, so you might have to replace one every year or two. Fog lights do help a lot if you need the road directly in front of the car flooded with extra light.

If you are not necessarily needing a new car, but want brighter headlights, a headlight upgrade might get you the desired effect. There are also products on the market to remove the cloudy oxidation that builds up over time on your car’s headlights. That can help a lot. Another option is to get on Amazon and buy replacement headlight assemblies for your car. New headlight assemblies in conjunction with brighter aftermarket headlight capsules might give you what you want. Amazon vendors have nice quality headlight assemblies for most common cars for less than a hundred bucks a pair, and they are usually easy to replace yourself. These suggestions might be good if keeping your current car is an option and are certainly cheaper than buying a new car.

“Most car reviews don’t say much about the headlights…”

I suggest that you get yourself a copy of the Consumer Reports New Car Buyers Guide.
The brightness and overall effectiveness of the headlights is something that CR discusses in every one of their car reviews. I have found it interesting to see how many currrent car models have a problem with…an abrupt cut-off at the top of the beam…or insufficient light to the sides…or spotty coverage…or in the case of some Hyundais, headlights that are just not very bright.

This publication–essentially a very thick magazine–can be found at Barnes & Noble and other stores that have a very large selection of magazines.

My daily driver, purchased a year or so ago has HID lamps, and I will never go back to standard halogens.

One of my peeves about my older car is how dim and lousy the headlights have always been. The HID lamps make it a joy to drive at nighttime instead of a chore. I also think that when executed properly, that HID lamps are actually less uncomfortable to oncoming drivers. My car also has fogs, but I rarely use them, as they don’t add much overall light and aren’t needed with the main HID lamps.

I would definitely get them–you won’t be disappointed.

My experience has been a bit different than oblivion’s, maybe due to the height of my car. You have a Mazda 6, correct @oblivion ?
With just the headlights on, I feel the need to have my fog lights on to help me see the road in front of me better. But I have a small SUV that sits up higher so the beam goes further down the road, meaning I need better lighting directly in front of my car.

To further VDC’s statement about the abrupt cutoff; projector lenses will have that, since they have a limited area they can project down the road. With my old car, a Civic, there wasn’t really a cutoff, more like dispersal, into the night.
With HIDs it’s probably best to have the projectors as it’ll limit how much light will be thrown at oncoming traffic.

Note that the highbeams of HID equipped vehicles will still be halogen bulbs; the HIDs need a few seconds to “charge up” if you will.
Halogen reflector:

HID projector:

Depending on why your night vision is poor,

Fog lights are a great addition when adjusted right.
The regular beams light up ‘‘out there’’ and fog lights illuminate the space between the regular beams and up close to the car. Producing a completely illuminated field all the way from your car to out there.
– Sometimes, this is the answer to poor visibility. —

An additional gain for night vision is to DIM you dashboard and gauge cluster illumination.
Start with it all the way dark.
Give yourself a few seconds to acclimate to the night darkness,
then bring the dash illumination up ONLY till you can see your speedometer good enough.

My wife’s night vision, quite frankly, sucks .
She had radial keratotomy ( the predecessor to lasik ) to both eyes years ago resulting in a star effect glare. Vehicle, street, and sign lighting all star out and become confused with each other.
— then a couple years ago she had an accident which left her with no vision in the right eye !
Add to all that a rainy night when all those lights have reflections too…!!!
NOW she needs all the light she can get from her car at night and these two adjustments help her greatly. ( yes, there are times when she say’s to give her a ride 'cuz she just can’t drive tonight. )

I have never driven an HID equipped vehicle but I tried some of those wannabe blue bulbs, hated them and went back to o.e.
My two Fords have great o.e. headlamps coupled with o.e. fogs.
The 79 Chevy pickup with halogen sealed beams is still very poor.

I believe HID lights all imply Xenon bulbs.
These are 3x as bright.
They became commonplace on BMW’s by 2001…

So, you don’t need a brand new car to have HID/Xenon headlights.

You don’t need fog lights, you need Xenon/HID lights.

If headlights are very important to you, I’d suggest you do your car shopping in Nov, Dec. or January. That way you can take test drives with the headlights on. If you buy now most dealerships are closing or closed by the time it is dark enough to turn on the headlights.

Effective headlights really differ significantly vehicle to vehicle and you are right in that this is not often covered in any reviews or ratings of cars on the market.

HID headlights and Xenon bulbs are not the same thing. HID headlights use a completely different power supply. Xenon bulbs are brighter than standard bulbs and are available to replace standard bulbs in the aftermarket.

HID headlights are excellent, but they can be expensive to maintain and might be subject to theft.

I thought all HID’s use Xenon bulbs.

Are you saving you can have HID headlights that use a high voltage ballast converter, yet they use Halogen bulbs?

No. They are two different animals entirely.

I strongly recommend you do a night time test drive under the conditions that you will be driving.  

My personal experience may well be different than yours will be even if the lights are exactly the same.  Differences between my eye sight and the cars etc, would make getting real data important.
Ken wrote: Fog lights are a great addition when adjusted right. The regular beams light up ''out there'' and fog lights illuminate the space between the regular beams and up close to the car. Producing a completely illuminated field all the way from your car to out there.

That space is really the space I’m most interested in illuminating.

Thank you all for you input. I am going to get a copy of Consumer Reports New Car Buyers Guide. And test driving a car at night is a good idea too.

Regarding HID: Two under 30k vehicles that I’m aware of that have factory HID headlight options are Mazda 6 and Subaru Forrester. Do you all know of other vehicles under 30k (new) with factory HID?

I’m thinking factory installed is the way to go and aftermarket kits are kind of iffy, if not technically illegal. I could be wrong. I’d like to hear other opinions.

My current car is a 2001 Chevy Lumina, which does not have projector beam fixtures, and I’m not really looking to invest money in it. I’m not thinking of retiring it just to get new headlights. There are other benefits to a new car that I’m pretty sure I would like.

PS: The lens covers on the Lumina headlights are still completely clear–no cloudiness or yellowing.

@bscar2: I have a Chrysler 300C.

I don’t think aftermarket lights are anything close to factory HID lights. Mostly aftermarket setups are standard lights or Xenon bulbs with blue tints. Test driving at night is the way to go. HID lights are better, but are they worth the extra cost initially and for the upkeep? Remember to ask about replacement cost for an HID headlight that goes out, it might surprise you to hear the replacement costs.

I have to reiterate that I think HID lights are definitely worth it. I didn’t seek them out when I bought my car; I bought it used and the HID lamps were just a nice extra that I had no prior experience with. But man, what a difference! Bright, precise, and kind of classy looking I think.

Try to test drive a car with HID lamps at dusk and see what you think.

I have to reiterate that I think HID lights are definitely worth it.

I feel confident they would be worth to me too, if HID lights were available as say a $1000 option on a regular middling sedan like a Nissan Altima. I would order that option. But, what I’m finding in my research so far, is HID lights are either standard on some, premium (30k+) cars, or bundled into premium option packages on the premium version of regular cars. So for example, to get HID on a Nissan Altima requires the V6 version with a Sport Package and ends being close to 29k, where as a perfectly nice 4 cyl Altima with fog lamps could be had for around 24k.

So the question I’m asking myself is, is it worth it to me to spend 30k on a car to get HID, when I would otherwise be looking in the 25k price range. I realize that’s a question I have to answer for myself.

Why should people with impaired vision be allowed to blind the rest of us?? The DOT puts a limit on headlight wattage (I think it’s 55 watts) or in the case of arc lamps (HID) the number of lumins is limited in an attempt to protect oncoming drivers from being blinded by too powerful headlights…It’s pretty obvious that these regulations are frequently ignored…

Caddyman - I doubt that factory installed headlights would be non compliant.