How much does it cost to replace a headlight?

    Headlights are the eyes of your car, shining light to increase your visibility and keep you safe behind the wheel. 

    Like all car parts, they have limited lifespans. Driving with a broken or dead headlight isn’t just an inconvenience – it’s dangerous, illegal, and against MOT driving safety regulations. Headlight issues can impact your MOT status and decrease your car valuation, making proper maintenance important.

    Luckily, replacing a headlight is a common car maintenance task to support road safety. Replacement costs vary based on factors like the make and model of your vehicle, type of bulb needed, and labour charges. However, on average, you can expect to spend between £50 to £100 for a professional replacement, or a bit less on DIY.


    Whether you’re simply keeping your vehicle in top shape or preparing to sell, read on for all you need to know about headlight replacement.

    What are headlights?

    outside components of a car
    Your car’s headlights increase visibility in a variety of driving conditions and are a legal requirement.

    Typically positioned at the front of your car’s grill, these forward-facing lights play a pivotal role in safe driving across a variety of conditions. Consisting of high-beams and low-beams, headlights illuminate the road ahead, making it visible to the driver, as well as ensuring that your vehicle is visible to other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians on the road. 

    In addition to aiding navigation in dark or low-visibility conditions, headlights are essential for signalling intentions to other drivers. Many headlights are designed with advanced technologies, such as LED or xenon bulbs, to increase their efficiency and longevity. 

    Given their importance in safe driving, proper functioning headlights are a vehicle safety requirement.

    Headlight bulb lifespans differ. Both halogen and incandescent bulbs usually last between 450 and 1,000 hours, while HID (Xenon) headlight bulbs double that, lasting between 2,000 to 3,000 hours. LED headlight bulbs by far last the longest, holding between 25,000 to 30,000 hours of power.

    Common reasons for headlight bulb failure

    • Vibration and shock – Excessive vibrations, especially on rough roads, can lead to filament breakage in halogen bulbs and decrease their overall lifespan.
    • Overvoltage – Power surges or fluctuations in your car’s electrical system can cause bulbs to receive more voltage than they can handle, leading to premature failure.
    • Moisture and contamination – If found in the headlight housing, can decrease their performance and overall lifespan.
    • Poor bulb quality or incompatibility – Using low-quality bulbs or installing bulbs that are not compatible with the vehicle can result in early failures.
    • Incorrect installation – Improper installation, such as touching the glass envelope with bare hands, can cause oils from skin contact to heat unevenly and lead to bulb failure.
    • Filament wear – Over time, the filament in halogen bulbs can wear out due to the high temperatures they operate at, causing eventual failure.
    • Thermal stress – Rapid temperature changes, such as turning the headlights on and off frequently, can subject the bulb to thermal stress, reducing its lifespan.
    • Age – Bulbs naturally lose brightness over time and eventually fail.
    • Manufacturer defects – Although rare, manufacturing defects in the bulb itself can contribute to premature failure.

    Faulty headlight bulb symptoms

    car with lights on
    Faulty headlights can jeopardise safety on the road.

    Dim or flickering light

    Weakened or inconsistent light can indicate potential filament wear or electrical issues.

    Uneven headlight output

    Variations in brightness between your two headlights can suggest a problem with the bulbs or with your electrical system. Similarly, shifts in the colour of the light emitted, such as a bluish tint, may indicate a failing bulb or an incompatible replacement.

    Failure to turn on

    This points to potential bulb burnout or an electrical issue in the headlight system.

    Intermittent operation

    When your headlights only work sporadically, turning on and off without a clear pattern, you could have potential electrical or bulb connection issues.

    Burning smell or smoke

    A burnt smell or visible smoke around the headlight area can be a sign of an overheated or damaged bulb.

    Visible damage

    Cracks, blackened areas, or visible damage on the bulb’s surface indicate a need for replacement due to physical deterioration.

    How much do damaged headlights devalue a car?

    The devaluation of a car due to damaged or broken headlights can vary. As a rough estimate, damage to headlights might reduce your car’s value between 2% and 5%, assuming the damage is minor (such as a cracked lens or other superficial issues impacting the lens or casing) and does not affect functionality or safety. 

    However, if headlight damage is severe and impacts the headlight’s performance or safety features, the depreciation could be steeper, potentially reaching up to 10%. This sort of damage could include impairment to the bulb, reflector, or other electrical components of the headlight.  

    Newer cars might see a more noticeable depreciation due to damaged headlights as they’re expected to be in better condition. Older cars with wear and tear might see a smaller impact.

    To get the best price for your vehicle, it’s essential to consider repairs or replacements to restore the headlights to their optimal condition before selling the car.

    Headlight replacement cost factors

    Type of bulb (halogen, xenon, LED)

    There are three primary types of headlight bulbs on the market: halogen, xenon (HID), and LED. Each offers unique features and comes at slightly different prices.

    Bulb typeFeaturesEstimated cost range
    Halogen bulbsLighting: standard and reliableValue: cost-effective, often found in older vehicles £5 to £30
    Xenon bulbs (HID)Lighting: bright, whiteValue: higher upfront cost, but offer enhanced visibility£20 to £100
    LED bulbsLighting: crisp, whiteValue: energy-efficient, durable, but come at a higher upfront cost. LEDs outlast other headlight options, making them cost-effective in the long run
    Most advanced on the market
    £10 to £150

    But how do you know what type of bulb is best for your vehicle? Refer to your car’s manual for detailed information on the required headlight bulbs for your vehicle model. Alternatively, visit your manufacturer’s official website for the most accurate and up-to-date information on bulb specifications and compatibility.

    If uncertain or unable to find the information independently, consider seeking professional advice from a reputable auto service centre or a mechanic. 

    Car manufacturer and model

    Who makes your car and its exact model also play a role in headlight replacement pricing. See below for estimated costs for some of the most popular cars in the UK:  

    Car make and modelEstimated cost range
    Alfa Romeo Giulia£10 to £100
    Chevrolet Corvette£15 to £100
    Ford F-150£10 to £70
    Honda CR-V£8 to £60
    Jeep Wrangler£10 to £50
    Mercedes-Benz E-Class£15 to £80
    Nissan Rogue£8 to £40
    Toyota Camry£5 to £50
    Volkswagen Golf£8 to £40

    Bulb quality and brand

    The quality and brand of a headlight bulb significantly impact performance and longevity. Choosing well-established brands ensures reliability and consistent illumination. High-quality bulbs, although more expensive upfront, tend to last longer and maintain optimal brightness throughout their lifespan. 

    Investing in reputable brands not only ensures a safer driving experience but also reduces the likelihood of premature bulb failure, saving money on frequent replacements.

    Dealer vs. garage replacement

    Car dealerships typically offer brand-specific bulbs for replacements. These may come at a higher price due to the association with the vehicle’s brand. 

    Conversely, local garages often provide cost-effective alternatives, using quality aftermarket bulbs that meet or exceed Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) specifications. This allows for competitive pricing without compromising on performance, making garages a budget-friendly choice for bulb replacement.

    Labour times and rates

    Labour times for headlight bulb replacement vary based on the complexity of the task and the vehicle model. On average, professionals may take 15 to 30 minutes per bulb. Rates fluctuate depending on the service provider, location, and whether the replacement is done at a dealership or a garage. 

    Expect hourly labour rates ranging from £50 to £100, inline with any other small in-garage repairs.   

    FAQs

    Can you replace just one headlight?

    Yes, you can replace one headlight at a time. However, it’s recommended to replace headlights in pairs for consistent illumination and safety on the road.

    How much does it cost to replace car headlight covers?

    Car headlight cover replacement costs average £50 to £200, but vary based on your vehicle’s make and model, material, and assembly type.

    Can you drive with a broken or faulty headlight bulb?

    Driving with a broken headlight bulb is possible, but unsafe and illegal. Replace damaged headlights for your safety and that of others on the road.

    How can I track the value of my car?

    graph of a BMWs value
    Tracking your car’s ongoing valuation is a smart move for your personal finances

    If you’re not sure what your car’s value is to begin with, it’s hard to know how much a faulty or replaced headlight might take off the price.

    All vehicles depreciate at varying rates, with no rule of averages accurately describing any one car’s changing value. Motorway’s Car Value Tracker provides a free, reliable monthly price alert for up to six vehicles at once. 

    Follow changes to your used car valuation to choose the best time to sell, and make informed choices about investments in your car’s maintenance.

    Need to sell your car?

    Want to learn more about owning, maintaining, and selling your car? Check out more of our guides here, covering everything from Clean Air Zones to car tax, and plate changes to part exchange.