How Long Should a Car's Light Bulbs Last?


It stands to reason that the more often you use the various lights on your vehicle, the sooner you will have to replace them. If you always drive with your headlights on, for example, you can expect the bulbs to burn out sooner than if you only occasionally drive at night.

The type of bulb also is a factor. Halogen headlights, for example, aren't supposed to last as long as xenon high-intensity-discharge lights, though the latter are far more expensive. LEDs are said to last longer than either (and use less energy), but depending on the type and number required are more expensive than either halogen or high-intensity-discharge.

Sylvania, a major manufacturer of bulbs for automotive applications, says that the life of any bulb also depends on the amount of voltage a vehicle operates on. Some manufacturers have bumped up the voltage to handle all of the additional electrical loads on modern vehicles. The higher voltage can shorten a bulb's life. Frequently driving over rough, bumpy roads also can shorten halogen bulb life by damaging the filaments.

Though you may not notice, as bulbs age they don't generate as much light as when they were new. That means your headlights may still work after five or six years, but they may not be as bright or illuminate as much of the road as they used to. If you have to replace any bulb (or decide to before they burn out), check your owner's manual to see what bulb is called for. If you're a do-it-yourselfer, you should save money by replacing bulbs yourself. Information should be in your owner's manual on this. Some headlight bulbs are extremely difficult to get at, and you may have to remove a battery or reach the bulb through a wheel well, so check this out as well before you decide to do it yourself. You might be able to find helpful tips online from others who have done it.

When you shop for headlight bulbs, you will probably discover that several are available for your car at different prices based on claims of brighter, whiter, longer, etc. Read the fine print. Sylvania says its Silver Star bulbs are 35% to 50% brighter than standard halogens but "may have a shorter life span." The company says the average life of Silver Star bulbs is "approximately one year."

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By Rick Popely | August 28, 2013 | Comments (12)


Davin Peterson

I drive a 10 year old Camry and none of the lights have burned out yet. However, I've only seen a handful of Toyota Camry's with burned out lights. Therefore, they last a long time


"Some headlight bulbs are extremely difficult to get at, and you may have to remove a battery or reach the bulb through a wheel well..."

Or in the case of GM and their ultimate genius of backwards engineering you will have to remove or loosen the front bumper clip to access the headlight bulb. Ridiculous.

I have over 90,000 miles on my 2004 Tundra and both headlights and daytime running lights still shines bright.


Agree with Skankzilla on GM's overly complicated way of replacing headlight bulbs. I would put in the best you can get if you own a Malibu. I thought it was a joke until I saw a youtube video of one. Why would they design it that way?????????


The US Silverstars are a scam. Avoid them.

If you actually use your headlights, and they have lasted 10 years, that means they are severely under-driven. That means you nighttime driving isn't safe.
That means you will have to build your own wiring harness, so that you can get the full alternator voltage to the light, and have a low resistance ground connection.


My 14 year old Acura has never required a headlight or bulb replacement. Considering I'm the original owner I think that's damn good quality.



You think GM's design is hard?

Try Honda...
The newest Honda has to go through the freaking wheel well!


Try the 2006 Ford Focus. The front bumper has to be removed. Thermostat replacement is much worse; it includes removal of the hood.


A friend of mine asked the guy at Autozone how to replace the headlights on a 2002 Camry and he just said he'd do it for him. It took him all of about 30 seconds each to do. I currently have a ten year old Tundra and a 6 year old bulb replacements of any kind on either vehicle.

@Skankzilla - Great point. I do window tinting and auto repairs for a living and see GM vehicles quite often. Probably the most pointless and ridiculous piece of engineering I've seen. You would think a simple lightbulb change would be easy. I don't get it.

I'd recommend Putco Pure Halogen Headlight Bulbs if anyone's interested. Although a bit expensive they are long-lasting and dependable.


Keep in mind that properly cooled LED headlights should last an extremely long time. Some may have logic that will reduce output if they become too hot to protect themselves.

With OEM HID bulbs, they can last a long time. But with a lot of plug and play HID kits (uses AMP connectors instead of D2S or D2R), especially if you use 55w ballasts instead of the usual 35 ballasts, expect a couple hundred hours realistically. I've gotten at most about 18 months before a
bulb went out on my 55w HID system using cheap bulbs.
Thank goodness for DDM Tuning's lifetime warranty.

But for a quality HID kit I'd guess lifespan is very good.

Jake W.

I have an '03 Subaru Outback (original owner)and keep meticulous service records. Original bulbs lasted about 5 years and they are constantly on. I drive about 15K per year. Since then I get less than two years out of replacement bulbs - doesn't quite add up considering orginal bulbs lasted so long. I buy same OEM bulbs listed in manual from dealer and do install myself - takes 2 minutes - no tools needed. I install properly (i.e. don't touch glass, handle with care, etc.) Not sure why the replacements go out much sooner than original set. Bulbs cost about $20/piece. I never let dealer do it since they bang me for 1/hr labor. AS far as the GM issue I read about on this post- that design is intentional to boost servicing profits. Unethical but seems to be the way American car companies operate these days

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