According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the majority of fatal car crashes occur after dark. Having headlights that are in good working condition is essential to keeping you and your family safe while on the road.
Luckily, replacing your headlights is some of the most affordable vehicle repairs you’ll need to do.
The average cost to have a headlight bulb replaced by a mechanic is between $100 and $130. To do the job yourself, the cost will depend heavily on the make and model of your vehicle and the type of bulb.
Replacing headlight assemblies is much pricier and may cost anywhere from $50 to over $3,000.
- Replacing Headlight Bulbs
- Cost For Professionally Installed Headlight Bulbs
- Bulb Types
- Other Things to Consider When Choosing a Bulb
- Replacing a Headlight Assembly
- Can You Restore a Headlight Assembly?
- The Bottom Line
Replacing Headlight Bulbs
Most of the time, when people say “headlights,” they’re actually referring to the headlight bulbs. These burn out over time, just like the light bulbs in your home.
The only reason you should have to replace an entire headlight assembly is if there’s physical damage from a collision or if there is an electrical problem that caused damage to the wiring or fuses.
Cost to Replace Headlights (Per Bulb)
|Low-End Price ||$10 - $15
|Mid-Range Price ||$26 - $35|
|Average Price||$20 - $30|
The price for headlight bulbs vary significantly based on the make, model, and age of your vehicle as well as the type of bulb.
There are incandescent, halogen, high-intensity discharge (HID) – also known as Xenon, and light-emitting diode (LED) bulb types.
However, any vehicle that’s newer than 20 years old should not use incandescent bulbs, as vehicle manufacturers stopped using them 20-25 years ago. Most vehicles use halogen bulbs.
When one light bulb goes out, it’s a good idea to replace both at the same time. Otherwise, your headlights will be at uneven brightness levels. Also, it’s likely that the other bulb will also need to be replaced soon, so it’s best to just do both.
Most bulbs are sold as individuals or as packs of two. The two packs of bulbs are typically cheaper than buying two separate bulbs, so it’s also a better value to replace both lights at the same time.
Headlight Replacement Bulbs Cost Comparison
|Sylvania SilverStar||Halogen||$30 - $35 (2-pack)|
|Sylvania H7 SilverStar||Halogen||$40 - $50 (2-pack)|
|Hella +50 Performance||Halogen||$8 - $12 (2-pack)|
|Auxito||LED||$50 - $60 (2-pack)|
|Sylvania H11||Halogen||$18 - $25 (2-pack)|
|Fahren H11/H9/H8||LED (conversion)||$40 - $60 (2-pack)|
|Philips D3S||Xenon||$60 - $95 (1-pack)|
Cost For Professionally Installed Headlight Bulbs
If you choose to have your headlights replaced by a professional, you can expect the price to increase significantly, depending on the make and model of your vehicle, the shop’s prices, and your geographic location.
Sometimes it makes sense to have a professional do the work, especially if your car is already in the shop for a different reason or if replacing the headlights requires removing your bumper or lifting the vehicle.
Headlight Bulb Replacement Cost Comparison by Service Provider
|Service Provider ||Price Range|
|Midas||$45 - $160|
|Mr. Tire||$39 - $185|
|NAPA||$40 - $150|
|Your Mechanic||$45 - $175|
Of course, different vehicles will require more time and labor to do even a simple task like replacing a headlight bulb. Source: Autoservicecosts.com
The labor plus the cost for the type of bulb required will determine how much it costs to have the work done by a mechanic.
Let’s take a look at some examples.
|Make & Model||Parts Cost||Labor Cost||Total Cost|
|Chevy Silverado||$90 - $115||$30 - $55||$120 - $170|
|Ford F-Series||$35 - $55||$70 - $95||$105 - $150|
|Honda Accord||$30 - $55||$55 - $75||$85 - $130|
|Ford Fusion||$35 - $55||$70 - $95||$105 - $150|
|Toyota Camry||$15 - $30||$40 - $65||$65 - $95|
|Honda Civic||$30 - $55||$55 - $75||$85 - $130|
|Ford Focus||$35 - $55||$70 - $95||$105 - $150|
|Nissan Altima||$20 - $30||$25 - $40||$55 - $70|
|Honda CR-V||$30 - $55||$55 - $75||$85 - $130|
|Toyota Corolla||$15 - $30||$40 - $65||$65 - $95|
According to Kelley Blue Book, the average price for a halogen bulb that’s the same performance as the original, factory-installed bulb is around $20.
The price for halogen bulbs increases as the brightness increases, with the higher-quality bulbs producing a whiter, brighter light.
Many newer and luxury vehicles are equipped with xenon bulbs or high-intensity discharge (HID) bulbs. Xenon bulbs are more expensive than halogen, and usually last 2,000-3,000 hours.
These bulbs are much brighter than other bulb types and can cost anywhere from $39 – $180.
Replacing HID (xenon) bulbs can be more challenging than replacing other types, so some owners choose to have the bulb switched out by a professional.
LED bulbs are becoming some of the most popular choices for owners because they last longer than any of their competitors – around 30,000 hours.
If your vehicle wasn’t equipped with an LED headlight assembly, this bulb may not be an option for you unless you change the entire assembly.
However, replacement bulbs may not be available even for vehicles equipped with LED headlights.
Oftentimes, the entire assembly must be replaced when the light burns out, which can be expensive. Still, LEDs may be a worthy investment since they last so long and require much less energy for power.
Cost to Replace LED Headlights
|Vehicle Make & Model||Year||LED Module Cost|
|Tesla||2019||$800 - $1200|
|Toyota Corolla||2020||$850 - $1125|
|Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate||2019||$975 - $1000|
|Subaru Forester||2020||$600 - $900|
Source: Kelley Blue Book
Other Things to Consider When Choosing a Bulb
First and foremost, you should check your options for bulbs based on the manufacturer’s specifications. You can find this information in your vehicle’s manual, or use a look-up system at the auto parts store.
Even different models from the same line of vehicles may have different headlight specs.
With the rise of online retailers and marketplaces like Amazon, many items are available in off-brand labels at a lower price. Headlight bulbs are no exception.
However, the NHTSA recommends that you avoid purchasing bulbs from a brand that you’re unfamiliar with. You should also avoid bulbs that don’t have the U.S. Department of Transportation inscription (“DOT”) on each bulb.
Purchasing a low-quality headlight bulb may mean that the item doesn’t meet NHTSA standards and guidelines.
The NHTSA considers how the bulb handles things like the extreme heat and cold, corrosion, dust, moisture, humidity, vibration, connector contacts, and aiming adjustment.
Some other things you should consider when choosing the bulbs for your vehicle are:
- Throw distance: This refers to how far the lights will help you to see down the road. A greater throw distance means you’ll be able to see obstacles and road conditions sooner, possibly increasing your time to react.
- Color temperature: Whether the bulbs are a cool, bluish white or a warm, yellowish white will impact how clear the view is. Cool white typically improves visibility, giving you better clarity and contrast on the road.
- Bulb life: Bulbs with a higher life will typically cost more because they’ll last longer. If you don’t want to have to replace the bulbs again anytime soon, you may want to select a higher bulb life.
How to Replace Headlight Bulbs
According to AutoZone, changing your own headlight bulbs is a fairly simple task for most people. Follow these guidelines to install new bulbs:
- Use hand and eye protection for safety.
- Replace both bulbs at the same time for even lighting.
- Check whether your vehicle uses one or separate bulbs for high and low beams. If it uses two, make sure that you put the correct bulb in the right place. Low beams are typically on the outside, while high beams are usually on the inside.
- Check your owner’s manual to determine how you need to gain access to the headlights. Some vehicles have easy access to the lights by just popping the hood. Other vehicles require you to access the lights from behind the wheel well. Sometimes you may have to remove various parts to access the headlights.
- Remove the plug for the bulb by releasing the clip. You may need to use a small screwdriver to help.
- Remove the old bulb. Turn the bulb counterclockwise and pull it straight out.
- Install the new bulb. Line up the tabs and turn the bulb clockwise until you hear a “click.”
- Repeat on the other side.
- Test the headlights. Check your high and low beams to make sure they’re working correctly.
Replacing a Headlight Assembly
There are some cases where you may need to replace the entire headlight assembly rather than just the bulb. This may occur if you are in a collision or something else strikes the headlight to cause physical damage.
In other cases, the headlight assembly just may begin to crack and break due over time from heat and exposure to the elements, as they are typically made from plastic.
The front cover of the assembly is also prone to become cloudy or discolored, which can reduce the effectiveness of your headlights.
Similarly, if moisture gets into the headlight assembly, it can cause condensation on the inside of the light. Moisture inside the headlight can eventually cause damage to the bulb and wiring.
The average cost to replace a headlight assembly is between $200 and $700.
The assembly itself may cost anywhere from $175 to $300+, while the labor may cost $120 up to $250+, depending on how long the work takes.
Headlight Assembly Replacement Cost Comparison
|Vehicle||Headlight Assembly Cost||Labor Cost||Total Cost|
|2007 Audi A6||$215 - $250 (each)||$153 - $235||$368 - $485|
|2005 Honda Accord||$250 - $275 (each)||$128 - $208||$378 - $483|
|2006 GMC Envoy||$175 - $200 (each)||$102 - $156||$277 - $356|
|2000 Toyota Tacoma||$265 - $280 (each)||$127 - $190||$392 - $470|
|2007 Honda CR-V||$85 - $180||$145 - $225||$230 - $405|
Can You Restore a Headlight Assembly?
An alternative to replacing your headlight assembly outright is to restore the headlight with a restoration kit. This can be an option if your headlight isn’t physically damaged but appears cloudy, hazy, or discolored.
However, these kits are not always effective if the discoloration is too severe. The results are also often temporary, so you shouldn’t expect a restoration kit to provide a permanent fix.
The only thing that will make your headlights truly look new again (and stay that way) is to replace them.
You can also have this service done professionally, which typically costs between $75 and $150 to do the work on both headlights.
If you opt to go the DIY route, restoration kits come in a variety of price points, from as low as $9 to $30+.
Consumer Reports tested a few of the different headlight restoration kits and found that they did work well if users took their time and followed the directions. Some of the kits they tested included:
- Sylvania Headlight Restoration Kit ($20 – $27)
- 3M Headlight Lens Restoration System ($12 – $27)
- Turtle Wax Headlight Lens Restorer ($9 – $18)
- Fast Brite Auto Headlight Restorer Kit ($21)
The Bottom Line
Replacing your vehicle’s headlight bulbs is something you will likely have to do at some point during the vehicle’s life. Luckily, it’s usually an easy fix that you can do yourself.
Headlight bulbs come in many different options, so it’s a good idea to check your owner’s manual to make sure you choose the right type.
Brighter bulbs with a longer life will usually cost more than the cheaper alternatives. Even if only one of your lights is out, it’s a good idea to replace both for even lighting coverage.
This may be more costly if you have LED lights, which usually require the entire assembly to be replaced.
However, lighting on the road is not an area where you should cut costs, as most fatal car accidents happen at night.
It’s a good idea to always do what you can to maximize your visibility on the road for the safety of you, your family, and other drivers.